Category Archives: Travel

Should You Know Best Money Saving Hotel Tips

Which country has the highest-priced hotels?

The immediate answer is the Maldives, according to Hotels.com’s recently released Hotel Price Index. But the real takeaway is that for the past few years hotel prices have been rising across the globe, no matter which country you choose to visit.

The average room rate rose by an average of 3 percent in 2012, with significant gains in the Caribbean (6 percent) and North America (5 percent), according to Hotels.com.

Thankfully, there are plenty of savvy ways to save money on a hotel room today—you just need to know the insider tricks. Many have to do with navigating the increasingly complex landscape of online booking. You’ll find start-up websites such as Tingo, which offers automatic refunds when a room rate drops. DealAngel, meanwhile, will help you decide if that online find is really such a steal. And all the major booking sites are embracing “bundling” as a way to drop rates to unprecedented lows.

Sometimes saving money on a hotel is simply a matter of being aware of where—and when—rooms are at their most affordable. Right now, according to Hotels.com, you can find five-star luxury for less than $250 a night in European cities such as Berlin, Budapest, and Lisbon. Smith Travel Research, meanwhile, pinpoints affordable rates at New York City hotels during July and August (who knew?).

But perhaps the best way to bring down room rates is to take advantage of programs that many hotels put in place in the wake of the recent economic crises, when courting loyalty was key to survival. Joining hotels’ often-free loyalty programs can yield you room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts and drinks, spa credits, free Wi-Fi, early arrival, and late check-in—in short, everything you need to stretch your dollar further. It can even earn you airline miles, thanks to a pioneering partnership between Starwood and Delta.

And if you just want to get out of paying for all those added extras, we’ve got some ideas for you, from how to use Internet phone services to avoid international-call charges to which hotels are committed to free in-room Wi-Fi (hallelujah!) to our favorite extended-stay brands with in-room kitchens.

Tips To Plan Your Spring Break Getaway

Whether you were blasted by bad weather this past winter or you’ve just been pining for an escape, the good news is that spring break has finally arrived. Get a jump-start on your spring break plans — whether they are partying with the college kids or a tamer family getaway to the beach — with these suggestions.
Student Spring Break Tips

* Take a look at organizations like StudentCity who run trips for both college and high school students to popular spring break destinations.

* Looking for that winter wonderland retreat instead of the warm sands, try these student ski getaways.
CollegeSkiTrips.com
Studentcity.com/ski/

* Party like a rock star by heading to Vegas for an MTV Spring Break 2013 epic party with the network’s trademark wild parties, heavy boozing, goofy games and celebrity hosts with events at The Palms pool, Rain Nightclub, Moon Nightclub, Ghostbar and the Playboy Club.

* Why not take your time off and give back? Combine volunteer work with some sight-seeing and relaxation time. Not only can you see the world, you can improve it.
Voluntourism
Volunteer Travel
Volunteering

* Take advantage of student discounts and youth hostels whether you stay in the US or go international.
STA Travel Student Universe

* If you are hitting the road, start saving money for gas now. When it is time to go, visit sites like these to track down the cheapest gas along your route.
Gasbuddy.com
Gas Prices on MapQuest
Gas Price Watch

* Start preparing for your trip now by stocking up on sunscreen, bathing suits and other spring break essentials by shopping online.
Drugstore.com
Everything But Water

* Get that body in shape for the beach by logging some extra hours at the gym, on the treadmill or in downward-facing dog. Track your fitness goals with a helpful fitness app.
Active.com’s 10 Best iPhone Fitness Apps for 2013
Family Spring Break Tips
* Consider a variety of options with our suggestions for a unique family spring break.

* Book a stay at any of Oyster’s top spring break hotels.

* Get spring break budget tips, from MommyPoints.com’s Summer Hull.

* Bypass the beaches for the slopes on a skiing spring break.

* Compare prices on flights and car rentals.
Kayak
FareCompare
Travelocity
Expedia

* Look for spring break special events and discounts available now.
Family-Friendly Mardi Gras
Disney Discounts
Spring Break Blast
Hershey in the Spring

* Forecast the weather.
weathertrends360

* Skip the beach and instead camp under the stars with the whole family.
Camp Jellystone
Camping with Kids

* Can’t get away but need to keep the kids occupied during the break? Enroll them now in a local Spring Break Camp.
Holiday Camps
Spring Break Programs
DC Spring Break Camps

Survive A City Trip With Kids

Sure, city trips with kids may involve fewer cocktails, leisurely meals and lazy mornings than they might do otherwise, but that’s not to say they can’t be wonderfully fun and stress-free. Urban environments offer plenty of activities to suit travellers of all ages and it’s rewarding to see your children getting as much joy out of a city as you do.

However, as parents who’ve tried it know, negotiating busy streets with a demanding entourage – be they toddlers or teens – can be a challenge. Curb the chaos with these tried-and-tested tips.

Get to know the city

Before you go, capture your kids’ imaginations with films and books about your chosen city. Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral will look a lot more interesting to youngsters if they’re on the lookout for its resident hunchback, and the Spider-man series will have them yearning to see New York’s skyscrapers for real.
Once you’re there, look for local guided walks aimed specifically at kids – tourist offices may offer special family trails. If your kids can ride (or fit in a child seat) they may prefer to whizz through the streets on a bike tour. Either way, getting your bearings on arrival makes navigating your destination during the rest of your stay a lot simpler.

Choose the right place to stay

Renting an apartment is often the easiest way to go; you can self-cater when it suits you, keeping mealtimes simple – and you don’t have to worry about disturbing other guests. You also have a bit more space to spread out and relax when you need to take a breather.
That said, staying in a hotel is often fun too; you can take a break from chores and children will relish it as a novelty – just watch their eyes light up when you order room service. If there’s a pool, even better.
Whichever lodgings you choose, location is key. Long commutes into the city eat into precious sightseeing time, so choose somewhere central or find a nearby bolthole with decent transport links.

Go with the flow

Don’t be too ambitious when it comes to itinerary planning. With kids in tow you may not be able to walk as far or as fast as you would on your own – slowing down and staying flexible should minimise moaning and prevent burn out.
Keep kids engaged at museums and galleries with audio guides – many attractions provide narration specifically aimed at younger visitors. If your little ones are prone to museum fatigue, you may find that castles, palaces and monuments hold their attention for longer.
Kids also love squares with fountains, sculptures, street stalls and entertainers. Head to these pedestrianised areas to relax, browse stalls and people watch when you feel the need to slow down.
Have a bad-weather backup plan

Think about the weather when timing your visit. Cold temperatures are manageable with the right clothing but being out all day in the rain can be miserable, and getting stuck indoors away from home may not be much fun.
Luckily, many cities are virtually weatherproof, with a positively splendid wealth of kid-friendly indoor entertainment such as interactive museums, play centres, ice-rinks, bookshops and theatres. When planning your trip, keep a few rainy day options up your sleeve to lift dampened spirits.
Try out quirky transport

Taking unusual local transport is all part of the adventure in a city. Hopping on a boat, cable car, funicular, rickshaw or tram can be a real highlight of your trip and provide a different perspective on a city.
If you’re bringing a buggy, make it a small, light, foldaway one, rather than a monster – it’ll be easier on narrow pavements and for getting on and off your chosen means of transport.
Avoid mealtime mayhem

Time often flies when you’re exploring a city – but you don’t want to wait until hunger hits to start thinking about food.
Weather permitting, picnics are an ideal lunch solution for those who like to be prepared; you don’t have to stress about disturbing other diners, taking too long to get served, or finding something the children like to eat. If you find a local supermarket it’s often cheaper too.
From German sausage stands to jalebi (syrup-soaked batter spirals) in Delhi, good local street food is another quick and easy way to eat. A tactically-timed waffle stop can halt tantrums in their tracks, and it’s always a good idea to keep some emergency snacks in your bag for on-the-go pick-me-ups.
Indulge your inner tourist

Agree on a small budget for your sprogs to each spend on a souvenir, then let them select whatever they like – however questionable their choice. Children usually love browsing street stalls and outdoor markets and will get a kick out of selecting something to remind them of their trip.
Letting the kids get snap happy with an old phone or a disposable camera can help keep them entertained and give you more of a chance to linger in places that would get rushed through otherwise.

Travel Is The Best Teacher

Travel is a force for good: it broadens our mind, develops cultural empathy and gives us a better understanding of the world. We travel with our children because we believe these experiences not only improve their social skills but are key to helping them become decent global citizens.

There’s more to it than that, though. Have you ever stopped to think about the practical skills they learn while exploring the world? Here are eight ways travel really is the best teacher for kids.
Lesson one: prioritise and pack like a pro

Sometimes it’s hard to judge what is a necessity and what is a luxury. Taking responsibility for your own luggage early in life teaches you what you can survive without, and how this varies for different trips. Brilliantly, once this skill is mastered it can be applied to school bags, sleepover kits and backpacks for day trips – freeing up time for the adults too.
Tip for teacher’s pets: avoid essentials dropping off the list by sitting with your kids while they create (write or draw) their packing list and then give the whole family plenty of time to assemble said items.

Lesson two: get from A to B, technology free

With sat navs and busy lives, often we don’t have the time or need to teach our children how to read maps. A trip can be a great opportunity to develop this key skill which involves carefully tuning in to your surroundings (‘what does that road sign say? Is that a park over there?’) as well as deciphering keys (‘this path is yellow!’).
Back home their improved sense of direction and finely honed route-finding skills might even mean your battered old road atlas gets a second lease of life while the electronics get mothballed.
Tip for teacher’s pets: start small by asking children to get you to somewhere only a few hundred yards away, and remember that taking a wrong turn is the best lesson in map-reading.
Lesson three: master the haggle

Understanding why people bargain, that it happens in some places and not others, and knowing how to do it both successfully and respectfully is a pretty tall order. Let’s face it, we all know adults who haven’t mastered this one. So it’s worth discussing haggling before you travel.
This kind of negotiation is important as it hones diplomacy and cultural empathy as well as creating an awareness of basic economics. Let’s not forget, being able to get what you want without leaving everyone feeling cheated is a useful skill to have.
Tip for teacher’s pets: turn ‘haggle practice’ into a fun game with role-play, poker faces and a bit of dressing up – then get the kids to try it for real at a market. You never know, their youthful charm might work in your favour.
Images

Lesson four: money matters

What better way to demonstrate the real-life importance of classroom maths than being able to understand and use a foreign currency? Exchanging money builds knowledge of how things are valued and tests your times tables. And using coins and notes which are different from the familiar helps master handling money at home.
Tip for teacher’s pets: keep up with pocket money while away, but convert it into your local currency. Let bigger children figure out themselves what they can buy; smaller children can have fun playing with different coins.
Lesson five: learn the lingo

Another way to show children the benefit of a skill acquired at school is to take them somewhere with a different native tongue. Within minutes of arriving, children learn that being able to communicate in someone else’s language makes life much easier. It can be as simple as being able to say ‘hello’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
If languages aren’t your forte, the kids will also see what happens when verbal communication isn’t working… and learn how signing and body language can be used to overcome these barriers.
Lesson six: taste the difference

Most people would agree that an appreciation of food and an enjoyment of mealtimes creates a healthy and balanced approach to life. When we travel we explore new tastes, see different cooking techniques and learn how other cultures eat together. Then we come home and resolve to spend more time around the dining room table recreating what we experienced.
Children learn not only to push their own boundaries by trying new things but also that old habits can be easily changed and travel is great inspiration to do so.
Tip for teacher’s pets: prepare your picky eater by explaining what will be different and what will be the same, and agree a rule of ‘try one new thing every day’.
Child holds up a giant crab on a rainy beach ©

Lesson seven: have no regrets

Decision-making and the ability to accept you made the right decision at the time (even if it turns out with hindsight to be wrong) are key skills. Travelling is one long exercise in executing a plan: you get advice, read recommendations, talk it through, make a decision, go do it.
Children learn by example and seeing the adults in their life approach decisions by both assessing the risk and being prepared to push themselves out of their comfort zones is a great lesson. Watch as everyday issues such as who to play with or when to do their homework become carefully thought through.
Tip for teacher’s pets: give the children a specific area of the trip to research and ask them to give you their recommendation along with the pros and cons.
Lesson eight: how to live with boredom

Exploring new places generally tends to come hand in hand with long periods of time spent waiting or travelling. The more they travel the more kids learn how to deal with boredom in a public space. You can teach them through role-modelling (how do you personally handle a long journey?) and engaging them in games or conversations which often take on a life on their own. Before you know it, you have self-reliant children repeating back to you the mantra ‘boring is only in your head’.

Long Term Trip With Kids

Ever dream of quitting work, renting out the family home and taking off to explore the world long-term? It’s a step that plenty of parents would love to take but the thought of planning such a mammoth trip can be daunting – especially when it takes all your energy just to get the kids out the door.

It’s easier than you think. Determined to make your family travel dream a reality? Here’s our guide to the basics.

Make the decision and stick to it

There are positives and negatives to a round-the-world trip with kids at any age: travelling with babies or toddlers is cheaper – and there’s no school to worry about – but they’re unlikely to remember much about the trip; older children will form longer-lasting memories but you’ll need to keep up with their studies; and while teenagers can handle more intrepid undertakings, close friendships and looming exams may mean they’ll take more convincing.
Worry too much about the ‘right’ time to go and you might never take the plunge. Just choose a date and get planning. You won’t regret it.
Family watching elephants
Choose a travel style to suit your family

While travelling with babies and toddlers needn’t preclude adventurous travel, some destinations – Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, for example – are more tot-friendly than others. With older children and teenagers you could explore more challenging options such as a camping safari in the African bush or hiking in the Himalayas.
Don’t forget: a round-the-world adventure needn’t involve a multi-stop plane ticket and a backpack; travelling overland in a campervan is a fun and flexible way to travel, or you could even try cycling across a continent or navigating the oceans in a sailboat…
Stay healthy on the road

Looking after your family’s health is of course a top priority. Before you go, arrange the requisite vaccinations and antimalarials in plenty of time, and remember that some jabs (eg typhoid) can’t be given before a certain age. Carry a good first aid kit and discuss in advance what to do in an emergency; comprehensive travel insurance is a must.
While it pays to be prepared, with all the fresh air and exercise you’ll likely be getting on the road, plus new, varied foods and plenty of mood-boosting family time, chances are you’ll all be healthier than ever while you’re away.
Pack light and stock up on the go

Will you be lugging around baby paraphernalia, or are you travelling with older kids who can carry their own stuff? Will you be backpacking or driving? Do you need to worry about seasons or will you stick to warm climates?
Whatever your plans, pack as little as possible. You can buy nappies, baby food and even clothes as you go along – and you may well need to anyway, given the rate at which most children grow.
Must-haves include a comfort object or two for small children, a lightweight sling for babies and toddlers, and a tablet or laptop loaded with games and movies for when the inevitable cries of boredom strike. A small backpack that young children can pack and carry themselves is a great way of involving them in the preparations.
Budget, budget, budget

Running out of cash halfway across the world is best avoided, so work out a maximum weekly budget and stick to it – with money put aside for emergencies and occasional splurges. If you’re on a tight budget, spend the bulk of your time in cheaper countries. You’ll blow through money faster in North America and Western Europe than you would in Southeast Asia or India.
To save cash, try camping or staying in hostels (many of which are family-friendly these days), and cooking your own food rather than eating out for every meal. Couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) or housesitting will save you money while allowing your family to experience life as the locals live it.
Get the kids involved

Letting the kids take part in the day-to-day decision making is all part of the fun. Ask them for their ideas of what to do and where to visit; encourage them to write or draw in a journal daily; or give them their own child-friendly camera to capture the world from their own perspective.
You may need to move slower than you did in your pre-children days. Most kids won’t take kindly to rushing around ticking off high-profile sites; it’s more relaxing for all involved to spend several days, weeks, or even months in each destination.
Arrange time apart

For everyone’s sanity, it’s a good idea to spend some time away from your kids once in a while. Take it in turns to watch them while one of you gets some alone time, hire a babysitter and have a grown-up night out, or treat yourself to a stay in a hotel with a kids’ club. Allowing your kids a break from each other can also save everyone some headaches.
Let travel be their teacher

Travel with school-age children and you’ll have to educate along the way. As well as setting time aside for formal study, draw inspiration from the world around you. Learn about art and history by visiting museums and ancient sites; use a trip to the market as a simple maths lesson; study maps to understand the geography of the countries you’re visiting; or encourage your kids to interact in the local language.

Best Harry Potter Experiences Trip

It’s hard to believe the boy wizard is no longer young, but it’s 20 years since the publication of the first in JK Rowling’s beloved series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Over 500 million book sales and a record-breaking film franchise later, and Pottermania is a world-wide phenomenon, driven by fans eager to connect with the wizard’s wonderful world.

In 2017 the UK is celebrating in style, with events, exhibitions and homages galore. That’s on top of permanent attractions including Oxford colleges, Victorian shopping arcades and a Highland viaduct.
See artworks, props and plays in the West End

Arguably the biggest event in the anniversary celebrations is a special exhibition at London’s British Library, running from 20 October 2017 to 28 February 2018.
The British Library, with St Pancras visible in the background © Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images
The British Library, with St Pancras visible in the background © Pawel Libera/LightRocket via Getty Images

Exploring the Potterverse from many angles – from medieval manuscripts on griffins and manticores to rare treatises on wizardry and treasures straight from JK Rowling’s own archive ­­– this is sure to be huge. Tickets go on sale in spring 2017 (watch bl.uk/harry-potter for exact dates).
South of here in the West End, the Palace Theatre is the venue for the wildly-popular Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts I & II, which takes up the wizard’s later life as an ‘overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children’. Tickets aren’t easy to come by but it’s worth checking the website (harrypottertheplay.com) for future releases, and returned and cancelled tickets also frequently come back up for sale.
Hunting out Hogwarts in London
Not only is London home to the biggest events of Harry’s 20th, it’s base camp when it comes to Potter film locations.
The King’s Cross area alone boasts two mandatory stops on any Potter pilgrimage. King’s Cross Station, an atmospheric wrought-iron grand dame of Victorian architecture, is the site of platform 9¾, mythical departure point of the Hogwart’s Express. A luggage trolley ‘disappearing’ into the brick wall beneath the platform sign makes for perfect photo opportunities. Be warned, the queue to take this shot can be long: things are quieter later in the evening. And there’s no need to bring your own wand or Gryffindor house scarf, the adjacent Harry Potter Shop – a wood-panelled cornucopia of wizarding necessities modelled on Ollivander’s Wand Emporium – has you covered.
Step out from King’s Cross onto Euston Rd, walk a few steps west, look up and you’ll find yourself gawping at the looming Neo-Gothic façade of St Pancras International Station, another Victorian masterpiece, and the immediately-recognisable exterior of ‘King’s Cross’ in the film versions of The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets. A hotel (the St Pancras Renaissance) now occupies the front of the station, but you’ll probably spot some Potterheads trying to get selfies against the ornate red-brick backdrop, or find the exact spot Harry and Ron parked their Ford Anglia in The Chamber of Secrets.

Where the magic comes to life

Every Harry Potter film was shot at Warner Bros’ vast Leavesden studio complex, which sits on a former airfield near Watford – accessible by train from Euston, a short walk from St Pancras. In 2012, part of the complex was turned into The Making of Harry Potter, five warehouses packed with sets and props used in the making of the films, and one of the UK’s biggest attractions.
You’ll find everything from the Great Hall to Dumbledore’s office here, alongside Dobby, sickly-sweet butterbeer and a gasp-inducing scale model of Hogwarts that was used for exterior shots. Unsurprisingly, it’s regularly booked out for weeks in advance so plan your dates early.
A wizarding bank and a secret well

The grand Edwardian interior of Australia House on the Strand is equally recognisable as the interior of the goblin-run Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Adding real interest to the site was the discovery of a 900-year old sacred well in the basement, still drawing potable water from an underground river. As it’s the office of the Australian High Commission in the UK, you’re more likely to find no-nonsense security guards than goblins attending to your needs, but you can duck your head in during business hours if you have identification on you.
Diagon Alley and Leadenhall Market

Like most London Potter locations, Diagon Alley is a composite: while its fictional location is off Charing Cross Rd, the filmic equivalent is set in the elaborate wrought-iron interior of Leadenhall Market, a covered Victorian market towards the eastern end of the City, London’s historic heart and now its financial district. Once inside, hunt for the blue door in Bull’s Head Passage, used in the films as the entrance to wizards’ watering hole The Leaky Cauldron.

The best of the rest in London

A number of other London landmarks feature in the films, including Tower Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and Westminster Station in The Order of the Phoenix. The Millennium Bridge was destroyed by Fenrir Greyback and a group of Death Eaters in The Half-Blood Prince, while Piccadilly Circus can be seen in The Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
These are easy to take in if you’re doing a bit of sightseeing already, but if you’re keen to dig deeper it’s worth checking out walking tours such as the popular Tour for Muggles (tourformuggles.com) and the Brit Movie Tours Harry Potter Walk (britmovietours.com). You can also download a free pdf (the-magician.co.uk) to follow a route written up by Londoner Richard Jones.
Another spot for a classic Potter fan shot is the reptile house at London Zoo, the world’s oldest scientific zoo (founded in 1828). Sprawling across the northern end of lovely Regent’s Park, it’s here that Harry first discovers his talents as a ‘Parselmouth’, when a python strikes up a conversation with him.
Books, ferrets and 13 prime ministers in Oxford

Centred on one of the world’s oldest universities and studded with historical and architectural riches, gorgeous Oxford is also rich with Potter locations.
Perhaps the one most appreciated by Potterheads is venerable Christ Church college, founded in the time of Henry VIII and alma mater to no fewer than 13 British Prime Ministers. The college’s grand staircase features in both The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, while its cloisters also pop up in The Philosopher’s Stone, and the magnificent Great Hall directly inspired the Great Hall of Hogwarts.

More rich associations can be found in the 17th-century Bodleian Library, home to the second-largest book collection in the country (after the British Library). The delicately-vaulted interior of its Divinity School, the oldest extant teaching room in the world, crops up as the Hogwarts infirmary in four separate films, while Duke Humfrey’s Library proved the ideal double for the School of Wizardry’s own library in The Philosopher’s Stone.
Lastly, there are the Cloisters of New College, where ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody turns Malfoy into a ferret in The Goblet of Fire. Its name is misleading – it was founded in 1379.
Visiting the real Hogwarts

But no single place can so proudly claim to ‘be’ Hogwarts as Alnwick Castle, in the Northumbrian town of the same name. This splendid and much-filmed pile first dates from the late 11th century and has been repeatedly extended over the years. The ancestral home of the dukes of Northumberland, it plays a starring role in both The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets.
Knowledgeable Potterheads can point out the place where Harry took his first Quidditch lesson, or where he and Ron crash-landed their flying Ford Anglia. Alnwick makes much of its credentials, with behind-the-scenes tours, Potter-inspired characters in full costume and broom-flying lessons, as well as occasional special events that you can plan your visit around.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Further north, the last place on a truly dedicated fan’s UK itinerary should be the splendid railway viaduct at Glenfinnan, near Loch Shiel in Scotland. Part of the iconic West Highland line, this impossibly photogenic late-Victorian viaduct forms a towering curve above the River Finnan, and has been used in no fewer than four Potter films. It also overlooks the place where, in 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in defiance of the British crown, and the Jacobite Rising began.

Find The Truth Behind The Legend Of King Arthur in Britain

The story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is one of Britain’s most enduring myths. Whether you seek the Round Table in Cumbria, Excalibur in Snowdonia or Arthur’s resting place in Glastonbury, nothing brings the legend to life like a visit to one of the many ancient sites across the country with links to his tale.

The real King Arthur

Arthur’s story is full of romantic embellishments, and historians have identified many figures who could be the real king. Was it Owain Ddantgwyn, who ruled the Dark Ages kingdom of Powys around 500 AD and was victorious against the Angles, Saxons and Picts? Or Riothamus, a 5th-century Roman British leader who fought against the Goths?
If King Arthur existed, he would have been a Dark Ages warlord, not a late-medieval knight, but his legend is

The truth is, no one knows which (if either) of these warriors the legend was based upon, but that hasn’t stopped the story from becoming woven into folklore. Ever since its popularisation in the 12th century, the legend has inspired countless writers and artists, from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s solemn poetry to the surrealism of Monty Python, and most recently Guy Ritchie’s blockbuster King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (released on 24 March 2017).
A legend is born

With any good story, you must start at the beginning. According to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century work Historia regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), Arthur was conceived on the site of Tintagel Castle in North Cornwall.
Much of what was taken as fact from Geoffrey’s book at the time has now been dismissed as a cocktail of legends, family stories and his own fervent imagination, but the association has stuck.
The castle ruins date from the 12th century – it may even have been built as a ploy to tap into interest in Arthur’s story and draw pilgrims here – but it’s dramatic nonetheless. The location would have been an important trading post during the Dark Ages, when Arthur is said to have ruled, and relics from this era are still evident.
If the tide is out, you can step inside Merlin’s Cave, carved into the bedrock beneath the castle, which is just about mysterious enough to pass as a plausible hideout for the famous wizard. Be warned: you’ll have to clamber down the rocks onto the beach to access it.
Chasing Camelot

According to Geoffrey’s depiction, Arthur held court in Caerleon in south Wales. The Roman amphitheatre, which today forms part of the excellent National Roman Legion Museum, provides a handy embodiment of the Round Table, but it’s far from the only place to vie for the title.
Target practice at Caerleon’s amphitheatre. The real King Arthur may have been a Romanized Britain fighting Saxon

Cadbury Castle in Somerset has been linked to Arthurian legend since Tudor times. Excavations of the Iron Age hill fort show that it was indeed fortified at the time Arthur is said to have lived, and that it had a degree of wealth, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility, although if the recent claims of a retired Bangor University professor are to be believed, the real site could have been at a small but strategically important Roman fort on the outskirts of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
Visitors to Scotland’s capital would be forgiven for thinking the hill that looms large over Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat, is in some way linked to Arthur’s legendary court. Evidence is scarce and it’s more likely that the name is a corruption of ‘archer’s seat’, but the walk up the crag still offers arguably the best perspective on a city packed with history.

One other popular theory is that Camelot was actually in Carlisle, in Cumbria, with Arthur’s Round Table a Neolithic earthwork henge located outside the city. If you do make the pilgrimage here, tie it in with a visit to Hadrian’s Wall, which was where Arthur’s last battle, Camlann, was said to have been fought, though historians disagree about whether it was near Birdoswald Roman Fort or Castlesteads, just outside Carlisle.
Lancelot and the Round Table

Near England’s northeastern tip, Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle is, according to 15th-century writer Thomas Malory’s account, the castle of Lancelot, the greatest knight of Arthur’s court – and the man who ultimately betrayed him with his beloved Guinevere. Its imposing walls house several rooms of wonderful Italian art.
At the other end of England, while the magnificent round table that hangs in Winchester Great Hall in Hampshire does look the part, it most likely dates from the 13th century and was restored during King Henry VIII’s reign – hence King Arthur’s striking resemblance to the Tudor monarch.
Shropshire’s claim

This rural county between Wales and the Midlands has more King Arthur sites than most, perhaps because one of the contenders for the ‘real’ Arthur did actually hail from near here. If Owain Ddantgwyn, known as ‘the Bear’, was Arthur it’s likely he would have ruled from Wroxeter, now a small village outside Shrewsbury, but then one of the most sophisticated cities in the country.
The King Arthur Trail (shropshiretourism.co.uk) highlights many places of interest including mystical Whittington Castle, where some say the Holy Grail once lay hidden in the castle’s chapel, while the nearby Bronze Age Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle (english-heritage.org.uk), on Stapeley Hill, is known locally as the site of the famous ‘sword in the stone’ – the legendary moment when Arthur proved his right as king by retrieving the sword.
Epic adventure

There are countless sites across Wales with Arthurian connections, including Llyn Llydaw and Llyn Ogwen, both in Snowdonia National Park, which both claim to be the watery resting place of Arthur’s sword, Excalibur. Llyn Ogwen is a popular stopping off point for people attempting the dramatic scramble up Tryfan.
Tryfan is one of Snowdonia’s most recognisable peaks and the legendary final resting-place of Sir Bedivere, the knight who returned Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake – it is also one of the locations for Ritchie’s film.
Away to Avalon

According to the legend, the injured Arthur was taken to the magical island of Avalon following his bloody clash with the usurper Mordred, and both he and Guinevere are buried there. Popular culture puts the real Avalon at 7th-century Glastonbury Abbey or nearby Glastonbury Tor, which would have towered over the marshy Dark Ages landscape like an island in the sea, and is regarded as one of the most spiritual places in Britain.
Other possibilities for Arthur’s resting place include Bardsey Island, off the northwest tip of Wales – said to be the burial place for 20,000 saints – and Craig y Ddinas in Brecon Beacons National Park, where Arthur and his warriors lie in wait until they are called upon once again to defend Britain.

Amazing Malta

The islands of Malta and Gozo are brilliant for a family holiday, packed with fun places to visit whatever your children’s ages. The islands’ small size means everywhere is within easy reach. In the space of a day you could fire a cannon at a fort and later relax at the beach, or visit a film-set theme park and then take a dip in a lagoon.

Sandy beaches and swimming spots

One of Malta’s best beaches for families is soft-sanded, sheltered Golden Bay. Older children can try activities such as stand-up paddleboarding, sailing or windsurfing, while the gentle slope of the beach makes it easy for younger kids to safely paddle in the sea. The whole family can go boating around the craggy, cave-pocked local coast from here too. Neighbouring soft-sanded Għajn Tuffieħa Bay is also good for families, though slightly wilder and less accessible, as the approach is down more than 100 steps.
Malta’s many rocky bays, such as Għar Lapsi and St Peter’s Pool, are better for older children, provided they can swim, as they have deeper waters. St Peter’s Pool in particular is a great teenager hangout, perfect for showing off by leaping off the rocks into the refreshing sea, and evening barbecues. The resort of Sliema also has a long rocky beach, suitable for older kids, but with shallower pools that work for younger children.
The most family-friendly sandy beaches on Gozo are the copper-red sanded Ramla Bay and dramatically pretty San Blas Bay. Rockier bays such as Wied il-Għasri and Mġarr ix-Xini are photogenic, hidden-feeling coves that are also good for swimming and snorkelling. Dwejra, on Gozo, is another wonderful spot for kids of any age, with fantastic rock formations for clambering around, and access to the Inland Sea, a sheltered sea lake that’s great for swimming and boat trips.
The trip to the small, almost-deserted island of Comino is great for all the family, starting with a fun boat trip, usually stopping to explore coastal caves, followed by plenty of time to explore the island and swim in the Blue Lagoon.
Bringing history to life

There are a bunch of thrilling museums and sites to visit with kids in Malta. Among the best is the recently rebooted National War Museum housed in Fort St Elmo on the tip of Valletta’s peninsula, which has engaging animated displays that bring the island’s long and dramatic history to life. Various audio-visual exhibits around Valletta use special effects to immerse visitors in the islands’ exciting history, such as Malta 5D where history comes complete with smells and moving seats.
At Fort Rinella, just outside Valletta, you can watch historic re-enactments and even get to fire a gun or a cannon. In the small city of Vittoriosa, just across the Grand Harbour from Valletta, the prison cells in the Inquisitor’s Palace have some intricate graffiti on the walls inscribed by bored prisoners, and Fort St Angelo has been restored, with hands-on interpretative exhibits. In Mellieħa, to the northwest, there are fascinating Air-Raid Shelters to explore, tunnels dug by hand to shelter the town’s population from WWII bombs.
The prehistoric temples at Haġar Qim in southeast Malta have a breathtaking setting that is ripe for exploration, with some coastal trails, and the visitor centre offers the opportunity to try carving different types of stone, as well as a 3D audiovisual introduction. Nearby, the prehistoric Għar Dalam Cave is deep and mysterious, full of stalagmites and stalactites.
Theme parks and watersports

The film set for the 1980s film Popeye has been turned into fun theme park Popeye Village, where you can take a boat ride, and make and star in your own short movie. A perennial favourite for kids is the Splash & Fun water park, with flumes making for a fun day out in the summer sun, whilst the smaller free Buġibba Water Park is best for children under the age of 12. Built in the shape of a starfish, the Malta National Aquarium, just outside Buġibba, has huge tanks of mesmerising fish.
All of Malta’s main resorts offer watersports such as sailing, kayaking and windsurfing, and the islands are an ideal place to learn to dive. All the local dive schools offer taster ‘bubblemaker’ programs for kids aged 8 to 10 and over, offering the chance to find out what it’s like to breathe underwater.
Eating out

Children are welcome at most restaurants, though more upmarket places often only accept older kids. There are often kids’ menus that tend to offer nuggets, pizza, etc, but you can always ask for a half portion of a starter dish (portions are huge in Maltese restaurants). With a wide range of cuisines on offer, children are bound to find something they’ll like. Maltese food is strongly influenced by Italian cuisine, so there’s pizza and pasta galore, and some kids will love the national dish – fried rabbit or rabbit stew.
Accommodation

There are masses of self-catering options around the islands, as well as child-friendly hotels with facilities such as pools, beach access and beach clubs. Try to schedule at least a few days on Gozo as there are lots of self-catering farmhouses with pools to rent and it’s even easier to get around than Malta. Smaller boutique hotels in Valletta usually only accept older children.
Transport and other tips

The easiest way to get around Malta and Gozo is to drive, but the local bus service is reliable, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive. Buses are frequent between major towns, but only roughly hourly to and from smaller places. Ferries run between Malta and Gozo, and you can take tourist boats over to Comino.

Adventure in The Wintry Canadian Rockies With Family

There might be no better time than winter to round up the kids and head to the Canadian Rocky Mountains for some unforgettable adventures. Pack plenty of pull-overs, bribe the little ones with hot chocolate, and grab enough outdoor paraphernalia to ensure you remain upright in this vast and powdery playground. That includes skates, skis, snowshoes, cleats, snowboards, and maybe even an off-road fat-bike.

The best downhill skiing in the Canadian Rockies
Many Canadians start skiing as soon as they can walk. As a result, the Rocky Mountain area has plenty of facilities for children on its slopes. For a full-on downhill experience, the local national parks (Banff and Jasper) are particularly well-endowed offering four major ski resorts with several others perched temptingly on the periphery.
Top of the pile in more ways than one is Banff’s Sunshine Village wedged high up on the Continental Divide and famed for its heavy snowfalls and ski-in hotel. Next comes diminutive Mt Norquay, an under-the-radar day-use area located just outside Banff town.

However, the prize for the most family-friendly ski resort in the Rockies has to go to Lake Louise. Named for the robin-egg blue lake that enamours hikers and honeymooners in the summer, Lake Louise is the second-largest ski area in Canada (after Whistler) and offers an impressive web of 145 varied runs including lots of beginner terrain. Adding to its kudos are a tube park, bags of ski schools, guided wildlife tours (on snowshoes), and the finest snow-encrusted mountain views you could ever wish to see. In the unlikely event that your kids get bored or knackered, stick them on the Lake Louise gondola, a spectacular 14-minute cable-car ride worthy of a National Geographic documentary. If they’re really young, there’s a reputable childcare facility at the mountain base that offers kinderski classes for three- to four-year-olds. The resort’s only real drawback is that, despite its size, it gets pretty busy (read: long lift lines), especially at weekends. Crowd-haters might want to head to smaller, quieter Nakiska in Kananaskis Country just outside the national park, a favourite among in-the-know families from the nearby city of Calgary.

Cross-country skiing in Canmore and beyond
People with kids often dismiss cross-country skiing as too difficult, the lofty preserve of ridiculously fit Norwegian Olympians with hearts the size of elephants. But, while it might not have the rollercoaster appeal of downhill, cross-country skiing has a long Canadian heritage and it’s the only effective way to explore the Rockies’ rugged trails in winter.

A good initiation to the sport’s energy-efficient push-and-glide technique is the Canmore Nordic Centre. Nestled in the crock of the mountains to the west of town, this huge trail centre was originally developed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. In summer it’s one of the most comprehensive mountain-bike parks in western Canada, with over 65km of trails. In winter, many of the trails are specially groomed for cross-country. With its well-mapped network of terrain graded for different skill levels and anchored by a warm clubhouse that plies refreshments and offers equipment rental and lessons, this is one of the safest, family-friendly ski resources in Canada. The national Olympic team regularly use it for training.
With your confidence cemented at Canmore, the whole cornucopia of the Rockies is at your disposal. The real beauty of cross-country skiing is that it allows you to venture out and explore less crowded corners such as Yoho National Park in BC or the Great Divide trail at Lake Louise. Think of it as a faster, more fitness-enhancing version of hiking. Kids with their low centre of gravity and innate sense of balance will master it as readily as adults.

Skating
Skating is a national obsession in Canada and one of the most sociable ways for families to keep warm. Forget traditional rinks. Indoor skating is considered anathema in the Rocky Mountains, where ponds and lakes etched against a backdrop of heavenly scenery regularly freeze over for months at a time. You’ll never want to skate inside again once you’ve experienced the beauty of the world’s most spectacular ice rink, aka Lake Louise, framed by an amphitheatre of glacier-covered mountains.
Further north in Jasper, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge sweeps a large floodlit area for skating on Lac Beauvert, as well as another Zamboni-cleared oval on nearby Mildred Lake. Enterprising locals set up benches for sunny relaxation, while spontaneous hockey games erupt and free hot chocolate reinvigorates shivering youngsters.

Fat-biking
Fat-bikes are sturdy off-road bicycles with over-sized, low-pressure tires that are ideal for riding through snow. They’re perfect for Jasper National Park, Banff’s wilder, steelier northern neighbour. Jasper is revered by insiders for its extensive network of multipurpose trails. In contrast to stricter US parks, cyclists experience few limitations here and, over the years, the park has developed some of the most varied and technically challenging bike rides in North America. These trails have recently experienced a winter renaissance thanks to the relatively new sport of fat-biking. Jasper has plenty of fat-bike options from easy ambles through the Athabasca Valley to bracing workouts that will stretch, challenge and entertain teenagers and young adults. Numerous local operators rent bikes.

Ice walks
In winter, many of the Rockies’ iconic waterfalls freeze solid. Equipped with rappels and ice axes, fearless climbers can be seen tackling the slippery behemoths with breath-taking agility. Those with more modest ambitions (and who may have kids to entertain) can study the trippy ice formations, including ice caves, on a guided ice walk while observing the climbers vicariously. Wildlife sightings, an oft-forgotten winter attraction in the Rockies, will keep children happy along the way. Excursions to Banff’s Grotto Canyon and Jasper’s Maligne Canyon are organized by local tour operators. Warm boots and cleats are provided.

Hit the hot springs
Up here, the ultimate post-adventure winter indulgence is a hot bath, preferably taken in a steaming outdoor pool where you can still feel part of your frosty surroundings. The Canadian Rockies has three hot springs, two of which remain open during the winter. First is the family pool at Banff Upper Hot Springs, which sits at the base of the Sulphur Mountain and looks out at the giant geology lesson that is Mt Rundle. Quieter and less famous is Radium Hot Springs in BC, where, unlike Banff, the pools are odourless. Radium’s westerly location also provides a good excuse to explore the snowy wilderness of Kootenay National Park.

Should You Know Travel gear we can’t live without

Time for a little Lonely Planet show and tell. Travel gives us a chance to escape our everyday trappings and routines. But that makes it easy to grow some pretty strong connections to those few things we take do take along. In fact, it’s easy to look at regular little items – maps, water bottles, luggage – as beloved constant companions in these ongoing journeys.

With that in mind, we checked around Lonely Planet to learn about some personal favourite travel items of the most well-travelled staff in publishing.
Tom Bihn Travel Tray
I’ve got a Tom Bihn collapsible bag that’s always on my nightstand holding my phone, passport, a small flashlight, and glasses in case of a middle-of-the-night emergency. Late night in London one year, during Super Bowl Sunday back in America, I was evacuated during a small fire. I remember thinking ‘What are the odds I thought it through enough to be prepared for such a situation and it actually happened’. It’s gone everywhere with me ever since. It’s great to know the essentials are always there to grab and go.
At REI one day, I was eyeballing a cheaper jacket at the shop and asked the salesperson what he thought about the quality. He told me something that was either an outdoor truism or a clever sales tactic: ‘Don’t think about a rain jacket like a piece of clothing. Think about it as equipment that’ll protect and last a long time’. I caved and got the higher-end jacket and never looked back.
This thing has kept me dry from ocean spray and Hamakua Coast rain on the Big Island of Hawaii, and offered defense against crosswise sleet in British Columbia. It’s great for anyone heading to mild-to-hot climates where rain is likely. It’s perfect for active travellers because it’s lightweight and can be jammed into a backpack for long hikes.

Enormous scarf
I’ve got this huge cream linen scarf that I take on every trip – it’s really thin so it packs down easily, but it can expand out into a blanket. I’ve found it so invaluable that I now own the same scarf in a variety of colours and patterns! I’ve sunbathed on it in Cadiz when I forgot to pack a beach towel, wrapped it around my head, nose and mouth when camel trekking in the Sahara desert, used it to cover my shoulders for temple visits across Southeast Asia, and used it as a cosy blanket for long overnight bus trips in Vietnam. I picked my scarf up from Accessorize, a fashion accessories brand in the UK, but they can be found in shops and markets around the world.

North Face Refractor travel bag
This is a great all-in-one-bag for the short, 3 to 4-day trips I often have to take. It worked particularly well on a trip I took to Key West, where I had to take a tiny plane to the island and move quickly and efficiently through Miami’s labyrinth of an airport to make a tight connection. For longer trips, this is always my carry-on bag. It feels like a backpack but with the easy packing benefits of a traditional suitcase, thanks to the clamshell design. A dedicated laptop compartment makes this bag perfect for work or holiday trips.

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
My fellow travel editors introduced me to the miracles that are packing cubes – it’s incredible how much of a difference they make when you are prepping for a trip. They not only save space, but they also keep you organized (no more messy bags two days into your trip!). As a former chronic over-packer, these things have changed my travel life – I’ve traveled all over the Caribbean with this gear (Dominican Republic, Curacao, Puerto Rico, Cuba) and I haven’t had to check a bag in over a year! I particularly like the Eagle Creek cubes because they have strong zippers and a nice shape that easily fits into a small duffel bag.

SIGG Water Bottle
It took me a long time to fork out for a SIGG but I have discovered now that it pays to get the real deal. It’s light when empty. It keeps cold water properly cold for ages, and the cap screws in perfectly, which is good when you’re just generally not that perfect (no more lakes in the bottom of my bag!). I got my first SIGG at a travel store but, since I’m as vague as I am klutzy, I lost it after a year. I grabbed my next one online (where you’ll find more design variety) immediately.
I remembered on a previous trip to Malaysia being appalled by the amount of plastic that travellers were leaving behind. But almost every hostel and restaurant (and even some street corners in Chiang Mai) has clean filtered water available where you refill your own bottle. Plus I saved money!

MATT PARISH | Senior Content Producer
Michelin North America Road Atlas (2004)
I can get my phone to navigate me to a parking spot 3,000 miles away at this point, but I still insist on taking this battered old spiral-bound atlas from 2004 on every road trip I take. Its strange configuration is part of the charm – all pages are at the same scale, disregard state borders, and take you on a snaking journey across the country as you flip through the book. It’s gotten me across every state in the lower 48. But the real reason I cherish it is the collection of familiar creases, rips, torn-out sections and hand-scrawled notes throughout the pages reminding me of old adventures, spontaneous camping trips, and near-miss refueling stops. Print maps are still great for practical reasons like scoping out the big picture when your GPS is spoon-feeding you step-by-step directions, or for providing essential backup for when the tech breaks down. I feel lost if I don’t see one lying around in the car.

Doc Martens
My war-wound red Dr. Martens aren’t just a pair of threadbare bovver boots; they’re the Swiss Army Knife of the footwear world. Scuffed, scratched and dirtier than a miner’s fingernails, my three-year-old DMs are river resistant and plough through snow like a Russian freight train. They also look like they’re handy in a fight.
I’ve hardly taken off my Docs since I bought them: they’ve roughhoused in rural Wales; bog-waded across Switzerland; and earned a winter tan on the golden sands of Praia da Marinha, Portugal. Their best asset though? There’s room to squeeze a sneaky bottle of scotch inside them if you ever go to a gig.

Tablet/e-reader
The right reading material is an important part of any trip, and e-readers have changed my life. No more heavy bags, or limited reading options! Bonus: It’s also a convenient way to carry your guidebook (Lonely Planet, of course).
The advantage with some books are obvious– reading a bio of Peter the Great in St. Petersburg without having to lug around all 800 pages of it, for instance. E-readers also make it easy to score copies of books discovered on the road. After learning about Ivo Andric in the Balkans, I was able to download The Bridge on the Drina in English for the plane ride home.

Joby DSLR Tripod
I couldn’t lug a full-length tripod down the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, so I opted for a 9oz, 10-inch tripod with bendy legs and grippy rubber feet. I could attach the thing to fence posts or tree branches to get good, stable shots. It came bundled with a camera purchase, and I never thought I’d get this much use out of it. I take it everywhere my full-length tripod can’t go. I’d recommend it to everyone, no matter the equipment – from smartphones to point-and-shoots, GoPros to full-size DSLRs.

MATT PHILLIPS | Destination Editor
Mammut 3mm static cord
I taken this cord everywhere – hiking the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska, paddling the Yukon River in northern Canada, backpacking through India, Nepal, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, and travelling solo through more than two dozen countries in Africa.

It worked a treat to hang up food away from bears when camping in the wilds of Alaska and Canada. And when travelling through Asia and Africa, it proved its worth on a daily basis: as a clothes line; to hang my mosquito net, whether from a tree in the Sahel or a pair of rusty nails in Uttar Pradesh; to secure my bag on the roof of trucks and buses; and even to replace broken shoe laces (one reason that now, 18 years after purchasing it, the length is down from 8m to 5m!).