5 Ways to Beat Jet Lag

Many people grapple with jet lag, especially when crossing continents, as circadian rhythms take time to adjust. And for some people – often parents who put their children to bed at a set time every night – jet lag can be a major fear and trauma.

Here’s a few ways you can help beat jet lag.

1: Buy the right flights. For LONG multiple timezone flights, the best flights are usually those that get you to your destination in the morning. Your aim is to sleep in the night that will be night-time where you’re going, and wake up in the morning. Stopovers can really help break the monotony of flights.

2: Last out the day. Unless you’re the type of high-powered meeting bunny that can step off a red-eye and be instantly authoritarian, the first day after a long flight – or multiple flights – is going to be pretty darn rubbish. The key is not to nap: stay awake all day and go to bed at a reasonable time of night given the amount of sleep you’ve missed (or gained).

3: If you haven’t got the right flight, try melatonin: this is a hormone formed by your body at night or in the darkness, while you sleep. Studies have shown that melatonin, taken at the target bed time, helps reduce the effects of jet lag by readjusting the pineal gland – and helping you sleep when you need to sleep.

4: Stay hydrated. Air travel can be really drying – and, particularly with regulations about water on flights, it’s easy not to drink enough. Dehydration makes the grungy feel of jetlag much, much, much worse.

5: Relax bedtimes when travelling with kids. If you put your children to bed at the same time each night, start stretching it later (or earlier) depending on which direction you’re flying: if you fly rarely, or are nervous, spend a fortnight or so extending bedtimes.

Little Bits of Britain Abroad

Vending machine with Walkers crisps and Hula Hoops.Using a US Dollar cash card to purchase a bottle of HP brown sauce may seem like a bizarre scenario, but such is Britain’s continuous cultural influence around the world it’s the kind of thing that happens every day.

The idea of British culture being represented abroad is one that can generate mixed feelings among both Brits and overseas hosts. It can, perhaps unfairly, conjure up images of football fans causing a palaver in continental cities or of Spanish streets lined with signs promoting full English breakfasts and EastEnders on TV.

But that’s just a small part of it. Little bits of Britain can be found in a diverse range of locations across the globe and guess what – the locals love them. Some of these outposts are more subtle than others, some are there as home comforts for the expats and some go some way to satisfying the needs of overseas Anglophiles who just can’t get enough of “Cool Britannia”.

Take Ye Olde King’s Head British Pub, Restaurant & Gift Shoppe (yes, that is the full name) in the upmarket Santa Monica district of Los Angeles for example. The restaurant’s menu includes bangers & mash, shepherds pie and liver & onions.

Los Angeles is of course a magnet for many Brits, with a number of top actors and other film types from these shores settling down there. Do these Hollywood A-listers pop into Ye Olde King’s Head to sit down for Welsh Rarebit? Who knows… but if they’ve had a rough day and want some home comforts they will almost certainly head to the “shoppe” for a selection that includes PG Tips, Walkers crisps and tins of Quality Street.

In another glittering metropolis – the booming city of Dubai – you will find that another British institution is delighting both native residents and newly arrived expats in the Emirate.

Marks & Spencer is a big name there and this is not simply a small concession store giving people a flavour of the trusted store brand. A wide range of fashion, lingerie, beauty, food and homeware products – basically all the things M&S is well known for – can be found. What’s more, this selection can be found at an impressive six stores throughout Dubai and its huge shopping malls.

Next time you are overseas look out for a slice of Britain abroad – it’s not always going to be signalled by flags and bunting, and may well be full of locals enjoying the culture. Just remember you are making international payments though – not all of these places will accept pounds and pence!


Image: Mmm… Forbidden crisps by Dan Taylor on Flickr’s Creative Commons.

5 Top Things to Do in California

Few places occupy a more important place in pop culture than the vast state of California on America’s west coast. Forever associated with sun, surf, and Hollywood, this is the place where America dreams. Home to Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the second largest city in America, California has tons to offer.

Here, we will take a look at some of the best things to do in California:

1. Go Camping in Yosemite National Park

America is the land of national parks and bio reserves, and Yosemite in central California, is one of the most beautiful among them. Spanning an area of 3,100 square kilometers, this gorgeous park is one of the best places to explore America’s natural beauty. Rent a car, get some camping gear, and spend a magical week in Yosemite’s beautiful wilderness. Just make sure to get car excess insurance direct to save yourself some cash in an emergency!

2. Visit Venice Beach in Los Angeles

It’s clichéd, expensive, and probably not even worth the hype, but the truth is, no visitor to California should ever leave the state without strolling down Venice Beach in Los Angeles. This storied beach has been the location for countless movies and television shows. This is where Los Angeles’ dreamers and artists and would-be celebrities come out to see and be seen. Visit it for its pop-culture appeal alone.

Golden Gate Bridge, California.

3. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

The vast orange steel stretch of the Golden Gate bridge rising through the fog over San Francisco Bay is one of the most iconic sights in the world. The view from Fort Point on the south side of the bridge is absolutely breathtaking. Pack a picnic basket and have a long, lazy lunch in the Golden Gate Park overlooking the bridge (entry is free). The city that houses the bridge – San Francisco – itself is home to alternative culture in the US and one of the best places you’ll ever travel to.

4. Go Wine Tasting in Napa Valley

Napa Valley is one of the biggest wine-producing regions in the world. It is also breathtakingly beautiful, with vast vineyards stretching across hills and mountainous valleys. A weekend sampling the many wines of the region, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, in a cozy villa nestled amid rolling hills is one of the finest holiday experiences you can have in California.

5. Tour Universal Studios Hollywood, Los Angeles

If there is one theme park in California you must visit, it is Universal Studios Hollywood. Once one of the most important studios in Hollywood, it has now been converted into one of America’s finest theme parks with tons of movie based rides. Here, you can hop aboard the Simpsons Ride, catch Shrek in 4D, head into the popular Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem ride, or take a tour of the iconic Jurassic Park: The Ride. In fact, the theme park is so popular that it ranks no. 17 in the world in terms of overall audience attendance!

This is just a very small sample of the many, many things to do in California. Besides the studio tours and theme parks in Los Angeles, you should also take a road trip along the Big Sur coastline, tour the huge San Diego Zoo, visit the Hearst Castle, and visit America’s lowest point in Badwater, Death Valley.


Words: Catherine de Beauvoir
Image: Golden Gate Bridge by Kevin Cole.

When a Child Is Tired of Italy….

It’s a truism of travelling Europe that – just as in Asia one becomes tired of temples, jungles and even pristine beaches – the allure of churches, castles, and seminal works of classical art can rapidly start to pale. In the Middle East, the issue tends to be ruins and desert – most notably, we found, the ruins.

Yet, as we pootled around Italy, much of it by train, last summer, I like to think I did a rather good job of keeping my spawn unbored. Here’s a few tips on how to prevent tedium on the road, which come to you courtesy of Rail Europe, the Europe train tickets people.

1: EAT – LOTS
Food is a major part of why we travel, and the main reason why we visited Italy in the first place. Taking the time to eat properly, and eat lots, and do lots of foodie tourism worked perfectly for us. As did regular gelato breaks (see below).

2: BRIBE WHEN REQUIRED
I’m sure one day my son will thank me for seeing all the wonderful mosaics at Ravenna, though that time has yet to come. In the meantime, if it takes a gelato or granita as a bribe for every single church, that’s what it takes.

3: GO EASY ON THE CHURCHES
To guard against church fatigue, pick churches really carefully. Some, for example, you might wish to see only from the outside; others you might want to whizz round quickly; very, very few should be compulsorily lingered in.

4: LET YOUR CHILD LEAD WHEN IT COMES TO ART
There’s no way anyone can do the Uffizi, the Accademia or (heaven forfend) the Louvre in a single day, or even several, and there’s no reason to try – particularly not with a child in tow. Pick a few things you want to see, get them to pick a few things they want to see, and otherwise just amble round gawping at what looks interesting. I’m not a fan of group tours, and, unless they’re tailored for kids, they’re an absolute disaster area when it comes to family travel.

5: TAKE POOL AND BEACH TIME
It’s important for anyone to have days off cultural self-improvement, in Italy or anywhere. And it’s particularly important for kids to have down time, where they’re just splashing in a pool or, for that matter, gaming on the dreaded devices.

6: LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES TO THE OBVIOUS
My son didn’t want to climb the Duomo in Milan. He wanted to go to the science museum instead. And it was bleeding excellent. So, too, was our impromptu tour of modern art hangouts in Florence. And I’m very pleased we went to see the Crypt of the Capuchins in Rome.

7: BUT DON’T MISS THE WOW MOMENTS
Arriving in Venice by train is one of the ultimate travel wows, as you step out of a perfectly ordinary train station onto the Grand Canal. So, too, is one’s first encounter with the Sistine Chapel, and one’s first encounter with the Coliseum. Do the wow stuff – but do it quickly. Because, like you, your kids can always go back, and if you do it right, they will.

How to Choose a Beach Resort with a Teenager

Most family beach resorts can seem focused on younger families.

Kids’ clubs are targeted at the primary school age range; kids’ pools are designed for tots and toddlers; and no self-respecting teenager would be seen dead at most of the kids’ activities in a typical resort.

If you’re planning on visiting a beach resort with a teen – and you don’t want them to spend the entire time on their phone – here’s a few things to look out for.

Good Watersports Facilities
A plain old beach won’t necessarily cut it for most teens. Look for a beach that has a range of both powered and (particularly for the budget-conscious) non-powered watersports – and even tuition. A windsurfing course can be a great skill to take away from a holiday, while children as young as ten, let alone teens, can learn to scuba dive.

Family Suites
Younger children may be more than happy staying in the parents’ room. But the old extra bed approach won’t cut it with teens, who need their space – but if they have a room of their own, you’ll likely only see them at meals. Look for a resort with reasonably priced family suites, or interconnecting room options.

Teen-Friendly Spas
Spa treatments are a great option for some mother-daughter time when travelling with teen girls – and there are plenty of teen boys who won’t turn their noses up at a massage, either. Look for a resort with a spa that’s open to under-18s – not all of them are.

Reasonable Nightlife
It’s a little clichéd, but meeting new people of their own age – and, hell, even the odd holiday romance – can be a major attraction of any holiday for older teens. A resort where dining finishes at 9 and the place is shuttered by 11 might be fun for parents of younger children, but it’s no good for the typical teen.

Close to Town
Some families may be happy spending all their time in a single resort, but that’s typically not the case for older teens. Look for a resort that’s in reasonable reach of a town with some nightlife, or other resorts with nightlife, to allow older teens a little bit of space to grow.

Gobsmacking Sights in the People’s Republic

Speaking as someone who upped sticks and left London for China on two weeks’ notice, I’m constantly impressed by my adopted country’s disregard for doing things by halves. You hear a lot about the break-neck speed of modernisation in the PRC but nothing had prepared me for witnessing it first-hand.

I’m essentially living in an urban version of a nature documentary: one of those where the camera has been sped up to show the progress of acorn to oak tree. I can see and feel the changing landscape on my daily walks to and from work; shiny high-rises and luxury hotels springing from the ground like saplings in granite and chrome.

Meanwhile, metres away, a man selling turtles on long strings saunters by the neighbouring Buddhist monastery, swinging his wares and calling out the Chinese equivalent of ‘turtles, five for a pound, turtles.’ And this is just one small part of one city.

Each of China’s 23 provinces has its own distinct dialect, culture and cuisine. In every one of them, similar scenes of an ancient culture rubbing shoulders with the new, futuristic vision, are being played out.

This makes China an endlessly exciting place to be, no matter what your age or interests. So when a friend contacted me for inside info on child friendly tours around China, it was a stretch to narrow down the options. The following are my personal top five suggestions, ranging from the urban to the remote; the kitsch to the classy; the freezing to the temperate. Enjoy!

1. The Reed Flute Caves at Guilin, whose stalactites and stalagmites form breathtaking cityscapes, bizarre creatures and even a surprisingly realistic Father Chrismas. All illuminated and set against a background of stunning underground lakes. Active kids will also enjoy kayaking and bamboo rafting on Guilin’s Li river, and exploring the rice paddies of nearby Yangshuo on a bicycle.

2. The ice festival at Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, is a must. Every year artists in the north-eastern province use ice, snow and coloured lights to fashion awe-inspiring sculptures, many of which are interactive (giant ice-slide, anyone?). Time your trip to coincide with Spring Festival in February, and round it off by celebrating with the locals, setting off fireworks in the streets.

3. Hardy and adventurous kids will love horseback trekking around the border with Tibet. Beginning from Songpan, treks can last from a day to a week. Experience a taste of nomadic life, leaving behind the jostling city crowds for fresh air and virgin forests, taking in sights such as the Ice Mountain and Munigou Park and sleeping in tents along the way.

4. For the exact opposite of the above, head to Disneyland, Hong Kong. Situated on Lantau Island it’s hard to miss – simply take the Disneyland Resort Metro Line to Disneyland Resort Station.

5. Pandas. There’s little not to like about these super-cute, super-placid bears and the Panda Breeding Centre, Chengdu, allows you to get up close and personal with them. They will even arrange for you to hold them for a fee. For an extra hit of cuteness arrive early and meet the pure-white newborns.


Lucy McCormick lives in Chengdu, Sichuan province. When not writing or teaching, she spends her time climbing mountains, sipping bai cha in backstreet tea houses and dodging traffic – with limited success – on her bicycle.

The World’s Weirdest Places to Make a Phone Call

Wondering what this strange looking title means? For all those who like going overboard and indulging in some unconventional stuff, this article might prove to be an interesting read. Any comments, suggestions on the same are more than welcome! So here are a few mobile oriented adventures that I thought were worth sharing with our readers.

Ever thought of scaling Everest and carrying a phone with you on the top? Apparently, people these days are actually doing that. Cellular towers in China now offer connectivity atop Everest and imagine the thrill of having to speak to someone, or barely able to connect gives you the motivation to make that climb faster!

Don’t worry about the charges incurred as what you will possibly share from that height will be nothing less than a unique experience. With international calling service taking itself to new heights, several international calling operators offer you dirt cheap rates with excellent connectivity that enables you to stay in touch with your near and dear ones back home, all the time.

International calling services like Rebtel bring to your doorstep free online calling offering across 200 countries. No matter where you are, what you are up to, you can always stay connected with that kind of a service.

Some other places from where you must have tried placing a call is an airplane! Ever switched on your mobile phone while in a place some 1000 feet above the ground or tried taking pictures? Another thrilling experience would be to place a call when backstage being in full view of the audience. Challenging and adventurous enough.

I know of a few colleagues who make the most of free online calling while at work and end up chatting for hours, working like hell, all at the same time ! Placing a call while skiing or paragliding can be a total fun and a different experience all together. How about calling from the most comfortable places of all, where nature’s call just can’t go unattended? Very often, the best of the ideas rock your mind at this frequently visited, unavoidable abode of your home !

A few other places to try and place a call from would be the top of some of the highest towers in the world or, in the future, from some of the deepest places in the ocean, maybe from a submarine?

6 Of The Most Amazing Theme Parks In Europe

For the adventure seeker there are few better ways to explore the world than by touring the best theme parks on offer. Theme parks are big business the world over and thanks to the advent of low cost airlines it is easier than ever to sample the greatest adrenaline inducing parks in Europe without breaking the bank.

Gardaland

Gardaland

This park is in Italy and is owned by Merlin, the same company who own Alton Towers in the UK. It is set within some beautiful natural scenery and is next to Lake Garda. This is the most popular theme park in Italy, perhaps due to being very family friendly, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks the fast and furious roller coasters that any adrenaline junkie would wish for.

Europa Park

Reported to be the most popular park of its kind in Europe – possibly because it is owned by a Mack a company who build roller coasters. This park is very much geared towards families and virtually all of the rides are family friendly.

That doesn’t mean that Europa doesn’t have something for adventure seekers though – in fact it is home to the Silver Star which is Europe’s tallest roller coaster!

Port Aventura 092

Port Aventura

This is perhaps one of the best known theme parks in all of Europe, most notable is the infamous Dragon Khan which boasts 8 full inversions (upside down bits). This massive theme park easily competes with some of the best in the world and the Spanish sunshine and country side make the perfect setting for all this action.

Disney Land Paris

Don’t worry, we hadn’t forgotten this legendary attraction. Disneyland Paris is certainly the best known theme park in Europe and can certainly compete with anything else in the world. It is smaller than its counter part in Florida but is more compact and by some accounts all the better for it.

Visiting Disneyland is a dream come true for any young child, but adults and families alike love the experience and with a whole range of hotels on site you can really make a holiday out of a trip here. Hopefully a good deal with one of those budget airlines will go some way to making up for the cost of getting in!

Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Of course the UK has its share of attractions too and whilst a relatively small theme park, the Pleasure Beach in Blackpool has a huge number of top rate coasters for thrill seekers to try out.

The headliner is the Pepsi Max aka ‘The Big One’ and ok, so it is pretty old now and no longer the biggest in Europe, but this is still an exhilarating ride that never fails to get your heart going.

Liseberg

This theme park is situated in Gothenburg right in the middle of the city atop the hill – an unusual setting for a theme park but the result is some amazing views and one of a kind rides. The oldest and most prized attraction is probably the Lisebergbanan, a mine train with a track that follows the hilly terrain and meanders around and below many of the other rides.

Efteling

If you dislike seeing the same old package roller coasters in every park you visit then Dutch park Efteling is for you. The park has a culture of friendly staff, imaginative themes and creative rides. There are not all that many big rides, but the ones that are there are brilliant fun and the whole park is an experience in its own right.

Top Places to Ski at Christmas

Zac skiing in Bulgaria.If you live in a country that experiences sub-tropical climates during the holiday season, you’ve most likely always dreamed of having a white Christmas. There’s simply something about freshly fallen snow on Christmas trees that melts the hearts of even the biggest kids. If you’re planning to take a well-deserved vacation this holiday season, be sure to check out our list of the top places to ski at Christmas.

Whistler, British Colombia

Whistler, in particular the Whistler Blackcomb, is one of the most well-known ski destinations throughout the globe. One of the best things about a ski holiday on the mountain ranges of Whistler is that there is a ski track or field to suit just about any level of skier. Many families choose to vacation over the Christmas period in Whistler, while avid ski enthusiasts like to call the death defying black runs home.

Located just a two hour drive from Vancouver, Whistler is also one of the most easily accessible ski regions in British Colombia, providing even more reason for travellers to hit the slopes this Christmas.

St Anton, Austria

Austria has a reputation for all things elegant, with many rich and famous celebrities choosing to spend their Christmas times in lavish resorts, located amongst the rolling mountain ranges.

When travelling to St Anton, keep in mind that many of the tracks are meant for downhill skiing and those that have quite a bit of experience on the slopes. While there are some flat ski fields, beginner’s areas are quite limited – making this the perfect destination for those wanting a little action over the Christmas period!

Beat the Christmas Crowds – And the Prices!

If you want to take your family on the ski experience of a lifetime, but are wary of the price hikes in the peak ski seasons, why not beat the crowds and prices, by taking an early vacation to a different destination?

Queenstown, in New Zealand, is known around the world for offering skiers some of the best snow conditions from June through to as late as September. Make the most of your kids’ school holiday break and take them on an experience they’ll always remember.

While you may not be skiing on the 25th of December, you’ll be creating happy holiday memories that will last a lifetime. If you want to book flights to Queenstown, be sure to ask about all-inclusive packages that can often save you a great deal of money on ski passes and equipment during the winter ski season.

Why Paris is the Perfect Place for a Pre-Christmas Getaway

The majestic city of Paris lends itself to fabulous Christmas celebrations, as the beautiful buildings and iconic landmarks become adorned with lights and the streets are lined with ornately decorated trees.

This makes the festive period the perfect time to visit on your Paris holiday as you’ll get to see the city at its very best, plus complete those essential Christmas shopping trips in a setting that’s far more pleasant than your local high street!

Christmas decorations start to appear in Paris as early as November, giving you plenty of time to snap up a great deal Paris flights from airlines like Jet2.com. The trees along the Champs-Elysees are usually among the first indicators that Christmas is drawing close as their branches become festooned with twinkling lights, making for a magical walk along one of the city’s most famous streets that you won’t soon forget.

Soon after, the Notre Dame cathedral will take delivery of its Christmas tree, which is always the largest one in Paris and makes for wonderful photo opportunities. Don’t be surprised if you’re lucky enough to witness a marriage proposal at the base of this tree, as there’s just something about Christmastime in Paris that takes the romantic atmosphere to a whole new level!

Skate Under the Stars

One of the most exciting aspects of Christmas in Paris is the opening of the city’s temporary ice rinks, of which there are many and though the locations may vary, they are always stunning. You could find yourself twirling in the midst of the Eiffel Tower or skating hand-in-hand under the watch of the City Hall, all for the small cost of skate hire.

Speaking of the Eiffel Tower, the structure forms the centrepiece to the Christmas celebrations with its lights being changed to seasonal colours, and its 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant is the ideal spot from which to view the city’s twinkling skyline whilst enjoying an early Christmas dinner.

Back on the ground, you’ll need your credit card at the ready to make the most of the city’s fantastic shopping opportunities. From the Galeries Lafayette, boasting ten floors of prestigious designer boutiques and big-name stores, to the many Christmas markets that set up around the city during December, you’re sure to find gifts for every lucky person on your list – and chances are you’ll return home with more than just a few treats for yourself too.