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Travel: The Pros and Cons of Travelling with a Laptop

If you travel for business regularly, you probably take a laptop with you to work on the move; but an increasing number of us are also taking computers on holiday. The availability of WiFi in all but the remotest of destinations now means it’s easy to stay connected when you travel, using a phone, tablet or larger device. We take a look at the pros and cons of travelling with a laptop.

 

 

PROS

Picture this

Sharing your holiday pics used to mean taking rolls of film to Boots and showing physical albums to friends long after the trip was over; now it’s common to share images online direct from the beach. Phone cameras are good for posting quick snaps, but if you’re a keen photographer you’ll certainly want to take your DSLR on holiday with you to capture exotic scenery, holiday portraits, and wildlife images. Taking a laptop too means you can process and upload images while you’re still away – you’ll have a lovely memento, while friends and family back home will enjoy seeing what you’re up to!

Let me entertain you

Pop a couple of films or favourite TV shows on a lightweight laptop and you’ll have a ready-made entertainment system for long flights and train journeys. Take a few more and you won’t have to rely on local television networks or paying for in-room entertainment. While watching TV might not be your favourite holiday activity, a bit of welcome distraction can be especially useful for solo travellers and families travelling with children.

A vital connection

Nothing could be more blissful than getting away from the office completely for a week or two…or could it? The ‘worliday’ (working holiday) is a growing phenomenon and it is becoming more common for travellers to take a laptop away with them to catch up on work emails, check documents and keep in touch with the office. Spending an hour a day clearing emails and dealing with urgent problems can make the transition back to work at the end of a break less stressful; but it’s best to separate work and leisure and limit yourself to a specific time of day for work contacts, perhaps in the evening before dinner.

CONS

Don’t make me weight

With developments to screen and storage technology, laptops and notebooks are coming down in weight all the time. There’s no getting around the fact that a larger desktop-replacement model can still be a cumbersome thing to lug around with you, however, so think twice about bringing a full-sized laptop if your luggage limit is tight. Or check out the new breed of ultraportable laptops: Asus, Dell and all have compact lightweight models to suit a range of budgets.

Take my stuff away

Like any valuable item, a laptop carries a small risk of being stolen when you transport it around the world. To avoid the expense and hassle of a stolen computer, keep your laptop bag with you at all times when travelling (walk with it across your body and keep it next to you on the train or under the seat in front on the plane). If you’re leaving your computer in the hotel room when heading out to the beach, lock it in the hotel safe or leave it with the front desk if there’s no safe or locker. Consider using a cable lock to keep your machine secure when working at a public table; laptop snatches are uncommon but a solid and visible lock will help deter opportunist thieves. If that all sounds like too much effort, leave the laptop at home and find an internet cafe instead.

Travelling with a laptop helps travellers stay in touch when they are abroad. Be sure your travel insurance covers your electronics, just in case it is damaged or stolen during your trip.

Originally published at www.holidayextras.co.uk

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March 31, 2015 Posted by | Features, Travel | , | Leave a comment

8 Facts About India That Might Surprise You

Shopkeeper in India

1. India is BIG

India is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. Reaching almost 2,000 miles from Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the south, and a similar distance from east to west, the sheer scale of India means it is very unlikely you’ll be able to experience the whole country in just one trip. It’s best to select two or three key regional hubs (for example Mumbai, Panjim and Bangalore in the south, or Kolkata, Darjeeling and Lucknow in the north-east) and give yourself plenty of time to travel between locations — you can always return if you want to see more.

2. There are 22 official languages

Along with its physical size, India is renowned for its regional diversity — in language, culture, food and architecture. That diversity makes the country endlessly fascinating, even to those who have visited before — but it can make trying to learn the local lingo more challenging than usual for travellers who like to pick up a few phrases. Make sure you check the local language before you leave (Hindi won’t get you far in the south) and pick up an appropriate phrasebook or two.

3. There’s more to Indian cuisine than Chicken Tikka Masala

A trip to India will acquaint you with dozens of delicious dishes that aren’t easily found in the UK. Up in the hills you’ll find delicate steamed dum pukht slow-cooked in a sealed pot over a low fire; simply-cooked fresh fish in Kerala and Goa; and scrumptious masala dosa all over the south. One of the best ways to experience Indian cooking, especially if you’re spectacularly hungry, is an all-you-can-eat thali — a huge pile of rice served with several different kinds of curry and vegetable, topped up whenever your plate looks empty. Hard to beat for taste and value, the best are found at roadside cafes and served on a fresh green banana leaf.

4. Kolkata is a great city to visit

Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) was for many years associated with poverty and overpopulation, particularly following India’s war with neighbouring Bangladesh in the early 1970s. In the last quarter of a century, however, Kolkata has seen profound economic and infrastructure development, and today is a beautiful and fascinating city rich with history and culture. Don’t be afraid to visit — and don’t limit yourself to the tourist centre of Sudder Street, either. Kolkata has much more to offer than backpacker hostels, and it’s a great place to begin a mountain trekking holiday in West Bengal.

5. You won’t be able to find a decent cup of tea

For a country that produces a quarter of the world’s tea, India as a nation really doesn’t seem to know what to do with the stuff once it’s grown and processed. Indian chaiwallahs overwhelmingly serve tea powder boiled in sweetened milk for upwards of an hour and left to stew all morning to produce a substance almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. If you’re a fan of tea brewed the way God intended, it’s best to self-cater, using your own tea bags.

6. You can have a great trip to India without ever venturing into the “Golden Triangle”

Countless visitors to India spend their first encounter schlepping between Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Varanasi according to an itinerary promoted by external agencies as a trip through the very best India has to offer. This tactic has led to the “Golden Triangle” becoming one of the most overcrowded, over-touristed, overpriced and underwhelming portions of the entire subcontinent. Not only are there other parts of India, there are other parts of India that are substantially friendlier, more beautiful, less polluted, and less generally stressful than these four cities. If you’d like to visit Rajasthan, try heading further west to the peaceful holy city of Pushkar or the lovely lake city of Udaipur; or why not approach Varanasi from Kolkata (see above) rather than Delhi?

7. The Taj Mahal isn’t the only beautiful building in India

The Taj is without a doubt India’s most iconic architectural site, and many people travel to the country simply to view it. That’s a shame, because there’s a wealth of other buildings and sites in the country that often get overlooked in the Taj’s shadow. The Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu is a striking example of Dravidian architecture; the Ellora caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra are full of stunning rock-cut sculptures; and the 16th-century Mattancherry Palace in Cochin, Kerala is well worth a visit for its painted murals and polished wooden floors. Look beyond Agra, and India’s wealth of architecture might just surprise you.

8. Most Indians really do just want to help

The Golden Triangle (see above) and Delhi in particular are well-known among travellers for the number of commission-merchants and scam-artists whose primary motivation is to separate unwary tourists from the contents of their wallets; visitors to these areas are wise to be cautious. Outside of the major tourist centres, the majority of Indians really do want to help you have a good experience of their country; it’s not uncommon to be invited to somebody’s house for tea or dinner, and travellers to India often make lifelong friends with local people they meet on the road. Use your common sense and follow your instincts, but remember that the majority of Indians genuinely do want to give visitors a warm welcome.

Originally published at www.holidayextras.co.uk

July 1, 2014 Posted by | Features, Travel | Leave a comment

Top 7 Airport Faux Pas

The tickets are here, the taxi is booked and you’re all set for your holiday – now you just have to get to the departure gate unscathed. Here’s our hassle-free guide to airport etiquette so you can arrive on the other side of your journey relaxed and ready for fun.

Depressed traveller

1. Trying to take prohibited items onboard

It’s surprisingly easy to end up with an item in your hand luggage that shouldn’t be there – a bottle of water you thought would be a good idea for the flight; a pair of scissors that you forgot were at the bottom of the pencil case you grabbed on your way out the door; or a pair of eyebrow tweezers in your makeup bag that you had no idea could be considered an offensive weapon. Every day, hundreds of items are confiscated from unwary travellers by airport security staff – so make sure you check all the pockets in your handbag or hand luggage, and buy items like water and suncream once you’re safely flightside. And watch out for surprising items on the prohibited list – we once lost a delicious reblochon cheese that was deemed trop liquide by a Swiss security guard.

2. Going over your baggage allowance

Stuffing more into your suitcase than your baggage allowance permits can be a costly mistake to make – and an almighty pain to rectify, as you’ll have to either jettison excess items there and then or retire from the check-in queue to reorganise your belongings. Excess baggage problems are more likely on bargain flights, which typically have a lower allowance per person, so pack light and think twice about bringing heavy souvenirs home in your cabin baggage – it might be worth using a shipping service instead.

3. Wearing too much metal

It’s unlikely that you’ll want to travel in a suit of antique armour, but outfits featuring a lot of zips, studs or buckles will set off airport metal detectors and cause you a lot of unwanted hassle. Keep metal detailing to a minimum if you want a swift walk through security – and don’t forget shoes may need to be removed too, so avoid 16-hole laceups and choose something easy to slip off and on again. Don’t make jokes about drugs or bombs when passing through security – staff are obliged to investigate anything perceived to be a threat and you may be questioned or even arrested.

4. Getting too tipsy pre-flight

It might seem like a fun idea to get your holiday off to a flying start with a couple of rounds of margaritas – and nervous flyers in particular might like the idea of a shot of Dutch courage before the flight – but getting squiffy can mean you’re not paying attention to important information like gate changes and boarding calls. A couple of pints can also become very uncomfortable on the bladder once you’ve been sitting on the tarmac for forty minutes – it’s best to wait until takeoff before getting into the holiday spirit.

5. Being late to the gate

Seasoned travellers often wait for the last call before moseying up to their departure gate to avoid waiting around in a place with no amenities – but if you’re flying from an airport you don’t know well, it pays to check how far the gate is from the main departure lounge. Running through the airport with your name being called over the tannoy is not a good look for anyone – and if you’re very late, a flight crew on a tight schedule is very likely to take your luggage off and depart without you. In large international airports it can take 20 minutes or more to get from security to the gate, so check in advance and make sure you factor in enough time – and avoid falling asleep before you’re onboard!

6. Misplacing important travel documents

Everyone knows the most basic of travel mantras, “Passport, tickets, wallet”. You can get by in almost any country as long as you have these about your person – so don’t make the very real mistake of leaving your passport in the Terminal 4 toilets, or dropping your boarding pass while shopping in Duty Free. Early starts, jet lag and general travel stress can cause you to be dozier and less vigilant than usual, so make absolutely sure everything is where it’s meant to be before leaving for the airport and again after presenting your passport and tickets or boarding pass at check-in and security.

7. Going overboard with the smellies

Duty Free can be a beguiling place – so many lovely items to sample, sip and spray! But spare a thought for your fellow passengers when wandering through the fragrance aisle – excessive perfume or cologne can be a noxious thing to sit next to for eight hours. If you’re genuinely interested in testing a fragrance before purchase, stick to a small squirt on the wrist or inside elbow rather than dousing yourself in the scents of twenty back gardens. Your co-travellers will thank you for it.

Originally published at www.holidayextras.co.uk

June 21, 2014 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment

Europe’s Best Hen and Stag Do Destinations

1. Berlin, Germany

Berlin

Image by Zoetnet under Creative Commons license.

If your bride or groom is serious about their dance music, there’s only one place on the continent to go – Berlin, the clubbing capital of Europe. For no-holds-barred techno, head to converted power station Berghain on Friedrichshain in the East of the city, or for lighter house, disco and indie try Cookies on Friedrichstrasse in the centre. Should your dancing feet get tired there’s plenty more to experience in Berlin, from Trabant tours and the Brandenburg Gate to paintballing and indoor go-karting. The German capital is a city steeped in history, where you can party as hard as you want to.

Best for: dancing the night away

2. Dublin, Ireland

The friendly city of Dublin has long been a favourite of pre-wedding revellers year-round. In the winter, there are plenty of cosy firesides in the city’s many pubs where you can enjoy a slow, velvety pint of locally-brewed Guinness. Outdoorsy types will enjoy getting a round in on one of Dublin’s many spectacular golf courses, and there are lots of opportunities in the area for freshwater fly fishing. A visit to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Guinness brewery – find out what goes into the famous stout and then have fun sampling the end product!

Best for: a night on the craic

3. Soldeu, Andorra

Skiing, Andorra.

Is the bride or groom getting married between December and March? If you have an active group of friends and want to do something a bit more memorable than barhopping, try a short ski break in the stunning (and stunningly good value) resort of Soldeu in the Pyrenees. Blessed with an excellent snow record and a large ski area with over 50 runs to suit skiers and snowboarders at all ability levels, Soldeu is a great place to enjoy a sporty winter break. After sunset, there are plenty of apres-ski options from traditional inns to cocktail bars and a nightclub; and Caldea, Europe’s biggest thermal spa, will help the party look and feel their best before the big day.

Best for: winter weddings

4. Bodrum, Turkey

Bodrum, Turkey

Looking for a beach destination with a difference for a long weekend away? Picturesque Bodrum, on Turkey’s Aegean coast, offers golden sandy beaches and a warm welcome. Once you’ve soaked up the sun to your heart’s content there’s lots more to explore in this friendly resort – swimming, snorkelling and watersports; world-class shopping; and the fascinating archaeological sites of Ephesus and Didyma – great for history buffs to explore. In the evenings you can dine on delicious fresh-caught seafood and Turkish mezze – with or without live music and dancing.

Best for: beach babes and sun worshippers

5. Barcelona, Spain

Located on Spain’s sun-soaked Costa del Sol, Barcelona enjoys balmy weather year-round; but there’s far more to the city than its pleasant beach or a dip in the Mediterranean sea. Art lovers will enjoy an afternoon in the Picasso Museum, where thousands of paintings and sculptures by Spain’s most famous artist are housed in a palatial medieval building that is worth a visit in itself. Elsewhere, the works of Catalan artist Antonio Gaudi dominate the city, from the public gardens displaying his designs to the immense Sagrada Familia, which boasts superb views over Barcelona. A short train trip out of the city takes you to the mountains and the monastery of Montserrat – the cable car ride up is spectacular. And when it’s time to unwind at the end of the day, head to the main pedestrian thoroughfare Las Ramblas for a jug of sangria and a plate or three of tapas. Perfecto.

Best for: a weekend of culture

6. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam canals.

If the phrase “culture vulture” doesn’t describe your bride or groom tremendously well, you might prefer a more traditional stag or hen weekend in the hedonist’s paradise in the heart of The Netherlands. We could try to tell you that Amsterdam is a strikingly pretty city, with its network of waterways and attractive historic buildings; or that you can see priceless works of art by the Dutch Masters including Rembrandt and Vermeer in the Rijksmuseum. We know that’s not why you’re going to Amsterdam. That’s OK – we won’t tell.

Best for: classic debauchery

7. Krakow, Poland

The attractive former Polish capital city of Krakow is chock full of historical delights, from the colourful Wawel Cathedral to the narrow alleys of the Old Town. It’s also reputedly home to the highest density of bars in the world, with a typical pint costing a very pocket-friendly £1. Thrillseekers can enjoy a spot of white-water rafting on one of Europe’s biggest rapid courses; or if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a bit of a gunslinger, Krakow offers both target shooting and paintball. If that’s not your style, how about a more sedate cruise along the Vistula river?

Best for: Eastern European charm

8. Milan, Italy

Shopping in Milan

Image by Christopher John SSF under Creative Commons license.

Paris has its fans, but the true European capital of shopping is the lively north Italian city of Milan. Head to the stunning glass-roofed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II near the Duomo; this 19th is home to Prada’s flagship store as well as Gucci and Louis Vuitton. Just a short walk away, the Via della Spiga boasts Italian favourites Armani, Cavalli and Dolce & Gabbana. If these stores are a little rich for your wallet, try factory outlet Il Salvagente on Via Fratelli Bronzetti in the east of the city for hefty discounts on a great range of designer gear – you and your party are sure to be the best-dressed guests at the wedding!

Best for: a pre-wedding spending spree

Originally posted at www.holidayextras.co.uk/hxblog

 

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Travel | Leave a comment