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.

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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.

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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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.