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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Relaxation & Romance’

”Holidays will make us happy” says the public

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Taking a holiday is one of the most important factors in your happiness, according to new research.

A survey has found that 90 per cent of people include holidays at one of the five most important things that will make you happy, beating owning your own home and being in a relationship, among other factors.

The poll of 1,000 of its customers this summer by website kayak.co.uk also found that 98 per cent of people would forgo luxuries in order to afford a holiday.

Indications are that, despite the growing economic gloom, the UK holiday industry remains buoyant.

According to Lonely Planet author David Else, "the actual number of people (young and old) travelling the world or taking a simpler/shorter holiday has not been impacted much".

In a recent article for the Times, Nick Hasell says neither of the UK”s two biggest tour operators, TUI and Thomson, have yet to suffer "any fallout from the consumer downturn".

The firms” closest competitor XL went out of business earlier this summer, but this was due to rising fuel costs as opposed to a fall in consumer demand.

Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18807399-ADNFCR

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”Holidays will make us happy” says the public

0

Taking a holiday is one of the most important factors in your happiness, according to new research.

A survey has found that 90 per cent of people include holidays at one of the five most important things that will make you happy, beating owning your own home and being in a relationship, among other factors.

The poll of 1,000 of its customers this summer by website kayak.co.uk also found that 98 per cent of people would forgo luxuries in order to afford a holiday.

Indications are that, despite the growing economic gloom, the UK holiday industry remains buoyant.

According to Lonely Planet author David Else, "the actual number of people (young and old) travelling the world or taking a simpler/shorter holiday has not been impacted much".

In a recent article for the Times, Nick Hasell says neither of the UK”s two biggest tour operators, TUI and Thomson, have yet to suffer "any fallout from the consumer downturn".

The firms” closest competitor XL went out of business earlier this summer, but this was due to rising fuel costs as opposed to a fall in consumer demand.

Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18807399-ADNFCR

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”Holidays will make us happy” says the public

0

Taking a holiday is one of the most important factors in your happiness, according to new research.

A survey has found that 90 per cent of people include holidays at one of the five most important things that will make you happy, beating owning your own home and being in a relationship, among other factors.

The poll of 1,000 of its customers this summer by website kayak.co.uk also found that 98 per cent of people would forgo luxuries in order to afford a holiday.

Indications are that, despite the growing economic gloom, the UK holiday industry remains buoyant.

According to Lonely Planet author David Else, "the actual number of people (young and old) travelling the world or taking a simpler/shorter holiday has not been impacted much".

In a recent article for the Times, Nick Hasell says neither of the UK”s two biggest tour operators, TUI and Thomson, have yet to suffer "any fallout from the consumer downturn".

The firms” closest competitor XL went out of business earlier this summer, but this was due to rising fuel costs as opposed to a fall in consumer demand.

Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18807399-ADNFCR

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”Holidays will make us happy” says the public

0

Taking a holiday is one of the most important factors in your happiness, according to new research.

A survey has found that 90 per cent of people include holidays at one of the five most important things that will make you happy, beating owning your own home and being in a relationship, among other factors.

The poll of 1,000 of its customers this summer by website kayak.co.uk also found that 98 per cent of people would forgo luxuries in order to afford a holiday.

Indications are that, despite the growing economic gloom, the UK holiday industry remains buoyant.

According to Lonely Planet author David Else, "the actual number of people (young and old) travelling the world or taking a simpler/shorter holiday has not been impacted much".

In a recent article for the Times, Nick Hasell says neither of the UK”s two biggest tour operators, TUI and Thomson, have yet to suffer "any fallout from the consumer downturn".

The firms” closest competitor XL went out of business earlier this summer, but this was due to rising fuel costs as opposed to a fall in consumer demand.

Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18807399-ADNFCR

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Happy holidays are technology-free, research shows

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Holidays are an essential way to relieve stress and break free from the demands of busy modern lifestyles, one travel expert has said.New research has found that the key to a relaxing, restful break is leaving technological devices at home or at the office.According to a survey by financial services provider More Than, 37 per cent of people had their holidays ruined by the interruption of technology, made possible by office workers taking their mobiles and email devices away with them.More Than PR manager Carmel McCarthy said: “Take time out and enjoy your holiday, leave the technology at home if you can.”The survey also found that 80 per cent of workers put in extra hours during the week before jetting off, suggesting worries about what might happen in their absence.”Write really good handover notes to your colleagues,” Ms McCarthy added, stressing the importance of keeping the contact with work while you are away to “a minimum”.The UK has long been renowned for having the longest working week in Europe, but the importance of a work-life balance and enjoying the time away from the office should not be under-estimated, Ms McCarthy suggests.”If you can walk away from your job, try and do so,” she said. “It”s really important to get those two or three week breaks in.”Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.ADNFCR-1652-ID-18787933-ADNFCR

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So you’re getting married?

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Having recently attended a marvellous, heartwarming, wonderful, life-changing, fairytale-of-a-wedding in Oxford, I’m feeling inspired to go ahead and…

Wedding Magdalen Chapel

…write a blog about beautiful places to get married!

Some picture perfect places to tie the knot…

1. Magdalen College, Oxford.

The picture above was taken in the Magdalen College Chapel in Oxford.  I am partial to this wedding venue not only because the chapel and college grounds are absolutely stunning (see blogs about Magdalen and May Morning for more photographs) but also because, as is the case with many college weddings, the ceremony, dinner and reception venues are all located under one (beautiful!) roof.

After the ceremony, we filed out onto Cloisters Quad for a bit of late afternoon champagne action; this was followed by a four course meal in the portrait-lined, Harry Potter-esque dining hall.  And the evening ended in the Old Kitchen Bar, the oldest room in the college—lots of character, lots of fun.

We set off the next morning after breakfast in Batwillow Meadow, where we enjoyed live music and leisurely punting (What exactly, you ask, does ‘punting’ entail?  Read this blog.)

2. Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

For the smal scale family wedding, any tiered town on this beautiful stretch of Italian coastline will do.  My personal favourite would be Positano, which many of you may recognize from the hit feature Under the Tuscan Sun.

Positano Amalfi Coast

Positano is one of the most charming, romantic towns that I encountered during my five month visit to Italy: the views are amazing—pastel architecture, rugged terrain, turquoise water—the people are lovely, the restaurants are quaint, and the cuisine is delectable….

Where to tie the knot?  There are plenty of venues scattered across the town, including a local Wedding Hall, a Baroque Cathedral and, of course, the beach!

3. La Jolla, California

You are definitely missing out if you have never seen this most gorgeous area near San Diego.  La Jolla (pronounced “La Hoya”) is, in my opinion, the perfect destination for the eloping couple.

How would you like to say your vows on a cliff overlooking a sparkling bay full of seals?  In a secluded beach cove?

Known for its incredible shoreline, abundant sea mammal population, pristine views, clear skies and gorgeous weather, La Jolla boasts some of the most amazing scenery on California’s coast.

La Jolla coastline

Why wait six more months?  Even three more weeks? Hop on a plane, say “I do”, and stay for your honeymoon….or forever (you’ll certainly want to!).

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Prince Harry, Part II: Mahiki Madness

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I was pumped when my close friend from college announced that she would be having her “hen party” (British term for bachelorette) at MAHIKI (reportedly Prince Harry’s favourite club).  We thought for sure that we would have some royal/celeb sightings at this famous London hotspot.  What geeky American tourists we are…

You know, in all honesty, we could have seen Madonna, Harry and the Dalai Lama by the time we finally hit the dance floor…that is, after emerging from our tropical “submersion” in champagne-filled treasure chests, flaming booze lava fountains and enormous conch shells, spilling over with red rum fruity goodness…

But let’s back up for a minute…

Mahiki Hens: the adventure begins…

9:33 pm:  Eleven, dolled up twenty-somethings arrive to the door of London’s most famous club.  One sparkling bride-to-be, flanked by eight fellow Americans, one Canadian and two authentic “hens” (only one Brit and one Aussie in attendance…but we called it a hen party anyway…). Three are giggling, one is hobbling on crutches (me), and two are scheming re: the fact that we have missed the free entry cut off time by 3 minutes—how to get around this?

9:34 pm:  “Ten pound entry fee, five hundred pound minimum per table” asserts chic, blonde woman at door. 

I repeat, woman at door. We definitely aren’t getting around this…

9:35 pm: Julia Allison, long time friend of bride-to-be reveals her true colors as celeb. mag columnist and lifestyle/entertainment guru.  So much for her night of undercover debauchery with the girls.  Julia flashes biz card, dishes PR schpeel to chic blonde woman, who, after 38 seconds of conversing with Julia, officially loves us.  “Such lovely girls…’ she coos.  Free table, complementary drinks—yes, yes can all be arranged.

We’re in.

9:40 pm:  We are escorted to a large, tropical bungalow-esque table by a camp cabana boy waiter.  We keep our eyes peeled for Harry and co.

9:50pm: Against our better judgement, we order THE TREASURE CHEST (pictures to come ASAP).

10:00pm: THE TREASURE CHEST arrives, filled with ice, fruit, an unidentifiable concoction of hard liquor and 11 straws.  A pirate queen’s dream come true.  Camp cabana boys pour champagne into chest.  We assemble into a giggling circle and sip.

10:10pm: Still sipping…

10:20pm: Still sipping…

10:30pm: Is this a bottomless chest?

Circa 10:40pm: Cabana boys arrive with two flaming “volcanoes” of booze.  And, of course, 11 straws.  We’ve just (barely) finished our treasure chest, and the bride is drunk.  My fractured foot is, magically, “all better!”……

??:??pm: Cabana boys return with two of  the largest conch shells I have ever seen, filled with red, fruity mystery punch.  One of which is now the centrepiece of the bride’s work desk back in Oxford.

??:??pm: Dance floor…

Circa 12:15am: Bride and her crew from Oxford realize that they are not going to make it to the station in time for their 12:15am train home (why they booked a 12:15 train, I will never know….).

??:??am:  … ???

Right, so, in conclusion, Mahiki is an absolute blast; however, I will probably never be able to go there again: I’ll never be able to top our amazing hen party adventure—I’ll never again receive the same, superb degree of service (thank you, Julia!)…  

Well…maybe I’ll go when I get married.  Or next time Harry comes to town.  Or both, if you catch my drift? J

 

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Couples are biggest ”travelling groups” in Britain

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Around 58 million overnight trips were made by couples last yearAround 58 million overnight trips a year are made by British couples, making them the largest "travelling group" in the country, VisitBritain has said.

Elliot Frisby, a spokesperson for the national tourist agency, explained that the UK has "a rich variety of different appeals that make it ideal for all kinds of traveller … [including] a coastline that offers sandy beaches for walking, riding or building sand-castles, as well as ones perfect for romantic walks".

In addition, the country has "centuries of history and heritage attractions as well as a unique culture with events, ceremonies and more quirky traditions, rooted in music, film and literature", he said.

And on the subject of literature, Mr Frisby recommended: "Cosy up with a loved one for a break on the Yorkshire moors as immortalised by Bronte”s Wuthering Heights, or in Whitby in the north east with its gothic associations, cliff and beachside walks."

Earlier this week, VisitBritain partnered with high street bookseller Waterstone”s to offer visitor information to tourists in the UK.

Relaxation and Romance – Wining and Dining – Dine in some unforgettable settings including the Eiffel Tower and in the shadow of the New York skyline.
ADNFCR-1652-ID-18755460-ADNFCR

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PERFECT HOLIDAY CONTEST FINALISTS

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Thanks to those who participated in the 2008 isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest! We were overwhelmed with enthusiastic responses and sincerely apologize for the delay in posting the finalists. But we’ve finally done it! Hooray! The top 5 entries have been selected, and it’s time to VOTE!

FYI: though we could only select 5 finalists, we truly enjoyed reviewing your (100!) entries. We admire your imaginative efforts; thus, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the bulk of entries that did not make it through to the shortlist. We have explained why certain types of entries were not selected and have included some relevant travel tips to assist you in actualizing your dream getaways!

If this sounds boring to you ( – it’s not, actually!), you can skip straight to the action, and:

CLICK HERE to VOTE for one of the TOP FIVE ENTRIES

…as selected by our team of travel writers and product specialists. Go ahead, do it! But remember, you can vote once, and once only!

SOME TRENDS AND TIPS:

(By the way, we’ve listed the finalists at the bottom of this blog in hopes that you will actually read the rest of what we have to say!)

…right, so we learned a great deal about your travel desires and needs from reading your entries—namely that most of you are in need of a good, long holiday! There were also some recurring themes:

1. “It’s not where you are, it’s who you are with…”
A large number you would prefer to spend your precious time away from the office on a romantic getaway with your significant other. Your descriptions of destinations were often very imaginative, but also quite vague, as you focused on the experience that you would have with the love of your life—just the two of you—isolated in paradise. These entries were fantastic (and heartwarming) but were also, unfortunately, more difficult to judge as sometimes we were not sure where, exactly, you aimed to go on your holiday! We suggest visiting the Romantic Retreats section of the isango! website to transform your, ahem, ‘daydreams’ (wink!) into reality.

2. Family First.
A large percentage of you have young children and thus face difficulties with planning to please multiple parties. For you, the ‘perfect holiday’ is one that is free of logistical nightmares: your entries thus tended to be long lists of things that you wanted to avoid (long queues, large crowds, flight delays), rather than of things you actually wanted to do. Though we can do nothing about rubbish airlines (except to complain right alongside you) we can help you to avoid ‘on the ground’ family feuds by encouraging you to plan a detailed itinerary prior to departing. Start with our list of Family Tours under the Activities section of our website, which can be narrowed down, for example, to theme parks and self drive tours.

Others of you focused on the needs of your parents and grandparents, wishing to fulfill their dreams by taking them to parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. We suggest starting with our Seniors category and narrowing your options down by country, or city, from there. (You can also always contact one of our friendly customer service reps if you have any questions!)

3. Some of you are, well, CRAZY…
Really, wow. You submitted some fantastically wild travel ‘plots’ (- you know who you are!). Check out some of our quirkier blogs for more unconventional ideas and inspiration.

Now, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for!

THE FINALISTS:

1. Hanlie Burger, ‘Shipwrecks, Sand Dunes and Desert Elephants’.

2. Louise Brown, ‘Northern Solitude’

3. Sarah Berl, ‘Spelunk!!’

4. Marian Redmond, ‘Campania Felix’, and

5. Sarah Stocks, ‘Tropical Rainforest? Or is it?’

A huge CONGRATS to Hanlie, Louise, Sarah, Marian and Sarah—and all of our participants—for dreaming up such fabulous ‘perfect holidays’! We cannot thank you enough.

Please vote here, and to pass this email along to all of your family and friends!

You can also check out more blog coverage of the contest here.

Thanks again for participating!

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Romantic Dream Getaways

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Ok, so I’ve learned a thing or two about our loyal readers and customers after plowing through some of the recent ‘Perfect Holiday’ contest entries…

Namely that you are a bunch of sappy romantics!

Seriously, though, we’ve received some descriptive and inspiring responses to our call for entries (to win a £500 isango! voucher), many of which I will posting on the blog in the coming weeks. To keep up with the competition entries, just select the ‘Perfect Holiday’ tag under ‘TOPICS’ on the right hand side of the page – we will be posting entries frequently.

Today’s Topic: Romantic Getaways.

OK lovebirds, I’ve done some research in response to your *heartwarming* descriptions of paradise.

Your entries, my suggestions….here goes!

1. ‘SILVER SMILES’, by Diane Russell.

“Toronto is a place I would love to see – all that colour, the lights flickering across the waters. Flying in a helicopter across Niagara falls…imagine the spectacular view!…WHY, you ask? Because the 20th of August 2008 is our Silver Wedding Anniversary. 25 years…WOW, that sounds like a long time.

( – Indeed!)

But I can honestly say, with my hands on my heart, that he is the man I always want to be with. We have a partnership, we share, and we work together to achieve our goals. LOVE is the word.

( – Awwww, how sweet…)

Romance in Toronto – this would be an experience of a lifetime…warm beaches…just our kind of paradise – the ultimate romantic escape for the perfect Silver Wedding destination. To be able to indulge ourselves in luxury…just closing our eyes and dreaming about the perfect week vacation…our perfect romantic getaway…”

Niagara Falls View

OK Diane, that’s quite a tall order – your 25th Wedding Anniversary! I’ve come up with a few activities that seem to meet your criteria:

1. Helicopter ride over Niagara Falls

Diane, this exhilarating flight over the Falls will provide you and your hubby with all of those magnificent views that you have been dreaming about! (You also may want to consider the Evening Light Tour of Niagara Falls).

2. 30,000 Islands Scenic Cruise

In response to your comment about ‘warm beaches’ (which, I must admit, I was initially confused by as I have never been to Toronto!), after some research, I discovered an island hopping excursion that sounds absolutely amazing…

The Miss Midland 30,000 Islands Boat Cruise departs daily from Midland, Ontario (which is just a scenic coach ride away from Toronto). You can explore one of the most scenic parts of Lake Huron, the Muskoka-Georgian Bay. The protected islands of this region can only be reached by boat and are supposed to be spectacular…

And on to our next entry…

2. Untitled, by Joy Lontine.

“I wake up to jungle sounds and sun streaming in an open window. Pour myself the perfect cup of coffee and step barefoot onto the deck which overlooks azure waters in the Caribbean Sea. I take a walk with the love of my life down to the palm tree lined secluded beach, picking the perfect ripe mango off a tree along the way. He and I slice the mango which is still warm from the sun and have the perfect breakfast. We board a small boat which is equipped with our scuba gear and take it to a secluded cove where we dive in warm, crystal waters. After an afternoon of diving and napping on the sands, we return to our bungalow then set out for a night on the town with the locals. We dine on succulent lobster which has just been caught that day. We dance barefoot to steel drums enjoying our mojitos. After enjoying a glass of champagne under moonlight, we kiss goodnight and anticipate tomorrow!”

Joy, have you ever considered the Florida Keys? I’ve visited them several times with my family—the islands are all quite beautiful, and if you do some good research, you will be able to find the secluded little resort that you have your heart set on.

And, from Key West, you can take this Caribbean Cruise, which similar to the one that you described (I have been on a snorkeling trip from Key West myself – it was amazing!)

You can choose from either a day snorkeling outing, which includes the equipment, or a ‘Champagne Sunset Sail’, which includes the booze… (or do both!).

Your dream vacation sounds very plausible and affordable.

Good luck!

More Romantic Getaway Ideas?

Send in your wildest, most imaginative holiday ideas (here), and we will attempt to match your requests with some exciting tours and excursions.

Dream big!

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