It can be really tough to stay active during your holidays. The urge to fly and flop for two weeks can be pretty strong as we so often just need the rest. However, keeping active and making healthy choices can make a big difference in how you feel at the end of your break. Here are eleven top tips for helping you create and sustain those healthy habits whilst travelling.
1. Walk – Walk everywhere
Ever drive past a tiny alleyway or interesting looking building on your travels but you can’t check it out as you’ve already driven past? Problem solved, skip the taxi, bus or car and travel by foot. You will discover so much more about a place on foot. You can indulge your curiosity at every corner. Some of the best travel finds, be it food, local crafts or fabulous people are often found off the main thoroughfare.
Walking around your destination will not only give you a great sense of the place but will help you hit that all-important 10,000 step target. I love my Fitbit activity tracker and am always interested to see how many steps I’ve achieved at the end of a day wandering around a new city. On just one day in Dubrovnik, I managed to clock up 20, 682 steps. I would recommend a fitness tracker to anyone looking to keep tabs on their activity levels.
2. Take the stairs
Climbing flights of stairs can be a great way to get your heart rate up. So, if your room is located on the 9th floor of your hotel hit those stairs. You can always get yourself out of bed early and make a workout out of your hotel’s stairs. Try sprinting up and walking back down for recovery and repeat. This will send your heart rate shooting up and earn you your breakfast.
3. Don’t drink your calories
Need a drink? Grab some water. Fizzy drinks, fruit juice, speciality coffee and energy drinks are packed full of unnecessary sugar. All that excess sugar has to go somewhere. If your body can’t store it as glycogen it is quickly converted to fat for longer-term storage. If you feel thirsty it’s water your body is crying out for.
Holidays can absolutely be a time to chill out and enjoy yourself, however, give a thought to the calories you drink through alcohol consumption. According to the NHS, one pint of 5% beer is 239 calories or one mars bar. Would you really sit and eat five mars bars back to back? A standard glass of wine is about 133 calories or three Jaffa cake biscuits. Yes, I have eaten a whole packet of Jaffa cakes in one sitting, but I definitely didn’t feel good about it afterwards!
I am a big fan of everything in moderation. So, if you can fancy a few drinks in the evening why not increase your activity during the day to help offset any additional intake?
4. Take some simple fitness equipment
Skipping ropes, resistance bands and gliding discs are lightweight and easy to throw in your hand luggage as they don’t take up much space. This means you can get a workout in from the comfort of your hotel room. I would recommend the Pro Box wire speed rope, light durable and super grippy for clammy hands. https://www.pro-box.co.uk/wire-speed-rope-p-781.html.
5. Hotel room HIIT
I think we have all found a new love for online workouts during the pandemic. I have always been a fan of Joe Wicks’ recipe books but now I love starting my day with a quick twenty-minute HIIT. Everyone has twenty minutes, and you don’t need equipment or huge amounts of space. If you don’t believe me, check out The Body Coach 7 days of sweat 2019…7 days of workouts in small hotel rooms.
HIIT workouts are perfect if your hotel doesn’t have a gym or you are on a tight schedule. Twenty minutes of high-intensity interval training will leave you sweaty, out of breath and set up for your day. Give your all for short bursts of activity then catch your breath and go again. This type of training helps sustain an elevated heart rate and is a time-efficient way to burn calories.
For free HIIT workouts check out The Body Coach, Kayla Itsines, Pamela Reif or Chloe Ting on YouTube. All provide lots of free content and give you plenty of choices. If you haven’t got internet access have a go at these three twenty-minute hotel room HIIT’s.
You can download an interval timer from the app store, there are lots of brilliant free options.
HIIT 1. (Work for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds) LEGS, BUMS & TUMS
Single leg bicycle crunches
Side plank (15 seconds on each side)
Slow mountain climbers
HIIT 2. (Work for 35 seconds, rest for 25 seconds) CARDIO & ABS
Running on the spot
Crunches knees raised to 90 degrees
Climb the rope
Imaginary jump rope
HIIT 3. (Work for 40 seconds, rest for 20 seconds) WHOLE BODY WORKOUT
Running on the spot
Shoulder taps from a high plank position
Alternating single leg crunches
Chest to floor burpees
6. Take a walking tour
Without a doubt, this is one of the best ways to familiarise yourself with a new city. Very often you can find a free walking tour or book onto a tour during your stay. This is a fab way to get in the steps without even thinking.
You can always combine a walking tour with a food tour…just in case you need some additional motivation. I would recommend any of the eating Europe food tours. We took the tour through Prague and it was a gorgeous day of walking and eating. We certainly earned our treats that day. https://www.eatingeurope.com/
7. Get active with the locals
Some of the best travel experiences can come from immersing yourself in the local culture. If you’re in South Asia, why not try getting involved with some yoga, take a Flamenco class in Spain or join with some local cricket in India. Between white water rafting in Canada, kayaking on the Rideau Canal, cave swimming on the Croatian coast and learning Bharatnatyam dance in India, I have never regretted getting stuck into activities with local people.
Active experiences can really help you connect with a culture and will enrich your travels as well as burning a few extra calories.
8. Have a good breakfast
This sounds simple but eat a good breakfast. I know the breakfast buffet can be all kinds of tempting with waffles, pancakes and pastries. But, a high protein breakfast will set you up for the day and keep those mid-morning hunger pangs at bay. I would always opt for an omelette, yoghurt and fruit or even egg and beans on toast. Choose something which will keep you tied over until lunch and not leave you flagging at eleven AM. Lots of hotel deals come with breakfast included, make sure you take full advantage.
9. Stay hydrated
Keeping your hydration levels topped up is key. Good hydrations helps your body regulate temperature, aiding digestion, removing waste from the body and can help curb unnecessary snacking throughout the day.
Hydration is hugely important if you are travelling in hot countries and are particularly active during the day. Physical activity and a warm environment can cause dehydration so make sure you’ve got a reusable bottle handy and fill up at any available opportunity.
10. Plan your snacks
The breakfast buffet can be a brilliant time to stock up on some snacks for the day. Very often you’ll be able to snag a couple of pieces of fruit to keep you going. I would recommend packing some trail mix or nuts. These are excellent sources of energy and will keep you feeling full much longer than a quick fix sugar hit.
11. Hit the water
Getting onto the water can bring a whole new perspective to your travels. Whether you swim, kayak, canoe or paddleboard, getting active in the water is a great way to build in physical activity and make some fabulous travel memories.
I would love to know any top tips you have for staying active whilst travelling.
Thanks to Coronavirus many of us are setting aside plans of a trip abroad this year and choosing to explore our own fair country. With campsites, air b n b’s and hotels seeing a boost in bookings here are nine top tips for getting our packing just right.
Choose the right luggage
Soft sides holdalls are the way forward. Easier to pack, easier to manoeuvre in the car, better hand luggage, what’s not to love. You can always squeeze a little more in around the edges. You can wear your trainers or walking boots for the journey to save on shoe space. I love a bright holdall, and my North Face bag has never failed me.
British weather is unpredictable. Biblical downpours followed by blistering sunshine, who knows what you’re going to get. Cotton layers and wicking fabrics are brilliant if you are walking or hiking. I would also recommend a pack a mac. Small, lightweight and easily fits in your backpack. It is the perfect solution for those sudden downpours.
Whether you are hitting up the coast, lakes or opting for a UK city break; you’ll want to get your footwear right. 48 hours pounding the pavement, fell climbing or beach walking in uncomfortable or inappropriate shoes is going to taint your otherwise lovely break. We’ve all felt the constant nag of a burgeoning blister with the dread that you’re still an hour walk from home. Nothing says I’ve had a lovely holiday than the blister limp and ten days of flipflop wearing. So, get your footwear right.
Ditch the heavy toiletries
Leave the big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser at home. You don’t need the extra weight, and you can save on space. Dispense your products into smaller bottles before your trip. They will easily fit in your luggage and if they are under 100ml you can easily check them through airport security in your hand luggage. For an eco-friendly option check out these gorgeous travel bottles.
To minimise the amount of clothing needed for your trip try to pick a couple of key items which can be dressed up or down with just a few key accessories. I would always go for neutrals, black jeans or navy chinos can be great for daytime wandering or evening drinks. If you are heading off for four to five days, I recommend the 54321 method. Five sets of socks/ underwear, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one interchangeable accessory.
Reusable water bottle
Whether you are planning an epic hike or just a stroll around the town I would always take a water bottle. Not only will you save on an unnecessary trip into a shop, but it’s a small step towards doing your bit to reduce our single-use plastic consumption. I adore my Chilly’s bottle, and they have so many quirky patterns and colours you’ll be sure to find something you’re proud to take out and about.
This was one of the greatest purchases I have ever made. A microfibre towel is perfect for throwing in your backpack. It’s quick-drying, and sand resistant, after a quick shake and rub down you’re good to head off home. Just ten minutes hung up or laid out in the sun to dry and this handy travel staple is ready to go again.
Even if you’ve booked into a luxury hotel, it is still a good idea to ditch the multiple plugs. Instead, I would opt for one plug with USB outlets. This will allow you to charge at least 2 devices at once. Just make sure you pack the right cables.
An OS Map
If your staycation plan involves exploring the local area or countryside, I would make sure you’ve got a copy of an OS map. Whilst maps on your phone are fine there is no guarantee you’ll have signal in remote places and online maps tend to sap your battery. With depleted battery life, you’ll find yourself in a tricky situation if you do need to call for help. Having an accurate map will help you plan out your routes. It is also invaluable if you find you’ve lost the trail or can’t see the footpath signs. There has been a huge rise in calls to emergency rescue services in many of the UK’s national parks and countryside areas recently. Make sure you are well prepared if you are keen to explore and make sure you hike within your capabilities and comfort zone.
When my husband finally popped the question in 2015, we got down to planning the wedding pretty quickly. After 7 years together I had already got some fairly clear ideas about the wedding…that ‘one day’ Pinterest board had been getting some serious attention from about three years in. But, whilst I knew the guest list, dress designer, style of cake and theme the venue proved much trickier to pin down. Like many other brides, I was stuck with the little sister conundrum. My older sister had a beautiful wedding at the best hotel in our home town. Despite her flawless wedding, I knew I wanted mine to be different. It wasn’t until my husband and I starting seriously thinking about our plans that the idea of tying the knot abroad started to take hold. It was, without doubt, the best decision we made. So, if you are planning your dream wedding abroad, I hope these top tips will help with some of those all-important decisions.
Is it legal?
Naturally, we assume that when we get married it’s legal, right? Wrong! You should ensure that your marriage in one country will be legally recognised in your country of residence. Every country will have different rules, and it might be difficult to have a legally binding ceremony if you are not living in that country. There are, sadly still some countries who do not permit same-sex marriage.
We opted for the island of Tenerife for our big day, but we had to complete a legal ceremony here in the UK first. We decided to make a thing of our legal ceremony, and it proved to be a lovely opportunity to share with our close family. The ceremony was no longer than 40 minutes and was held at the registry office of my home town. Our parents, siblings and family who could not attend the main event in Tenerife were present.
Having completed our legal marriage in the UK we were free to have a civil ceremony in Tenerife. Make sure you check the local laws in your chosen destination; you don’t want to be caught out!
2. Choose the right time of the year
Many couples tend to plan their big day to coincide with warm sunny days. But just because July and August tend to be some of the finest months weather-wise here in the UK, that may not be in the case in your chosen destination. If you’ve got your heart set on a Caribbean wedding you might want to skip July and August as that’s hurricane season or New Zealand where our British summer is their winter.
I would also consider checking out the top temperatures of your chosen destination. Whilst a tropical downpour or frigid temperatures may put a dampener on your big day, swelteringly heat may be just as much of an issue, particularly if you are inviting older guests.
Whilst you can never predict the weather, it is always best to be prepared. Despite choosing the island of Tenerife in October, where the average temperature is comfortably in the mid-20s degrees and they only see a maximum of 2 days rain during the month…of course, it rained on my wedding day! But a few showers and some excellent work by the wedding team meant that our day was still absolutely perfect.
3. Choose the right destination for you
It sounds obvious, but it’s important to pick the right destination for both you and your fiancé. If you hate sand but think the pictures of your beach wedding will be magnificent, don’t do it. Whilst the pictures may be beautiful, do you want to spend the day being uncomfortable with sand in places that only a good shower can sort out? If you have, a gorgeous English rose complexion, is the Middle East in July a good idea? As hard as it is, try not to get caught up in beautiful pictures of other people’s weddings. Yes, they are good for inspiration, but your day has to be personal and right for you.
4. Visit your venue
As soon as our mind turned to a wedding abroad there was only one contender for our big day. The Abama hotel on the island of Tenerife. This hotel has been a family stable for many years. It was where my husband and I had our first holiday together and it is somewhere we both feel so relaxed. Despite having stayed at the Abama more than seven times in as many years I had never stayed intending to scope it out as a wedding venue. So, nine months before the wedding my mum and I booked a week at the venue. The trip aimed to finalise some decisions, meet face to face with the wedding planner and her team and to sample some of the dishes we had decided on. This trip was enormously important to clarify some of the questions I had. Although I had eaten in the restaurant and admired the view from the terrace, I still needed a walk through with the wedding planner to visualise what it would be like on the day.
If you have selected a location but not a venue then a recce trip is essential. With the help of your wedding planner, you should have a shortlist of possible venues which will need a personal visit. Only by standing in the place and visualising your plans can you truly get a feel for a place to see if this is right for you.
5. Check your flight times and book a transfer
Make sure you consider when you want to arrive at your destination and when your guests will be arriving. If you are jetting off across the world, you’ll want to make sure that you and your guests aren’t struggling with jet lag. I would recommend arriving a few days before the wedding. This will give you and your fiancé time to meet with the wedding planner and go over any last-minute details. Arriving in advance will also allow you some much-needed downtime before the big day.
It is also worth considering the transfer times from the airport to your venue. I would make sure you have a transfer booked from the airport. You’re going to have some significant luggage and items to be handled with care. A properly organised transfer will not only give you peace of mind but also help set the tone for your wedding stay.
6. Think about your luggage
Normally when booking a flight, you automatically have one 23kg bag allocated to you. You’ll need to book another bag if not two. Be prepared to pay for these extra bags as it can come as a nasty hidden cost, but making sure everything gets to the venue safely is worth it.
In the month leading up to the wedding, I hadn’t quite appreciated how much extra stuff we were planning on taking with us. As more and more parcels starting arriving at my house it was clear a third checked bag was needed. We decided to take out our place settings, table plan, confetti, orders of ceremony and lots of other decorations. We were keen for everything to have a very personal touch, but we did need a clear plan on getting everything transported. We opted for carefully packing a heavy-duty plastic box and checking that into the hold, it worked perfectly and all of our hand-crafted efforts survived the journey.
Finally, my fiancé and groomsmen had the brilliant idea to play golf on the morning of the wedding. The hotel had a championship course, so it would have been rude not to. If you are planning on travelling with golf clubs, don’t forget these will also need booking onto the flight and will come at an additional cost.
7. Think carefully about your dress
For any bride, your dress is a big deal. If you’ve had your heart set on that big poufy princess ballgown with the sweetheart neckline since you were seven, you might want to give thought to how practical a dress of that size and weight will be to transport. A call to your airline will help you make the right choice for transportation. The last thing you want is a bag of crumpled dress with no hope of steaming it out before the wedding.
You should also consider if your dress will suit the climate of the country you are jetting off to. If you know the temperature is going to be thirty degrees plus do you really want to be wrapped up in a heavy tulle ballgown?
You might also want to think about where your ceremony is going to take place. If you’re tying the knot on the beach, make sure your dress choice is practical for being on the sand.
8. Consider accommodation options for you and your guests
Many venues will provide you with a room rate deal for your guests. They will likely ask upfront about how many rooms you want to reserve for your guest. At this point, it is worth having an idea about who will be staying at your venue and who will be staying elsewhere. You might even want guests to give you an indication of this on their RSVP.
One thing to consider is the cost of your venue compared to other local accommodation. If guests have paid for their flights it might be, they are looking to save on the accommodation so the venue may not always be their first choice. Make sure you provide guests with other reputable options near your venue.
Finally, you and your fiancé will want to decide if you want to stay at your venue or jet off into the night to a more intimate location. We opted to stay at our venue. Not only was our suite stunning, but there was something extremely special about being able to have breakfast and socialise with our family and friends who had stayed on after the wedding.
9. Use a wedding planner
The experience, local knowledge and not to mention the language of a wedding planner is invaluable. A good wedding planner will have contacts with local suppliers and in all the relevant trades needed for your wedding. It is also likely using a wedding planner might enable you to access discounts and deals which you might be unable to secure on your own
Many hotels will have a dedicated wedding planner if weddings are a big part of the hotels business. Make sure you can easily communicate with each other and that you are happy before forging ahead with the relationship.
10. Be adaptable
Yes, it’s hard when you have the perfect vision of your perfect day however for you to enjoy the process you will need to be adaptable. Booking a wedding abroad can throw up lots of different challenges which you might not consider, like the types of flowers or food available or the beach being closed due to strong winds or high tides. You can’t control everything. If you have an experienced wedding planner then let them take some of the slack, let other people help you and guide you to the best outcomes for your day. I had never envisaged rain or strong winds on my wedding day but rain it did right up until the time of the ceremony. With the ground wet and strong wind still in play, our wedding planner decided to move our wedding breakfast indoors. Best decision ever and I didn’t even make it. Whatever happens on your day go with the flow and don’t sweat the small stuff.
11. Book early & send save the date cards
If you want friends and family to be a part of your wedding then plan and book early. Guaranteeing your guest list can be a little trickier when marrying abroad. You are not only asking your guests to take several days off work but accommodation and travel expenses will be considerably more expensive than if you were celebrating in your home town. The more notice you can give your guests the better.
I would recommend having your save the date cards made/picked out or ready to go as soon as you confirm your venue. We booked our venue in October 2015 for an October 2016 wedding and had save the date cards sent to our guests by November 2015. Giving our guests a year to save and book proved helpful when finalising numbers.
As soon as you can, send your guests as much information as possible about the venue, location and what I expect from being part of your wedding party. I was not particularly tech-savvy in 2015 so we went for a good old-fashioned guest brochure of information. If I were planning my wedding now, I would set up a wedding website where my guests could easily access everything they need. You want to make the whole process as easy for your guests as possible. If everything they need is in one place you will spend a lot less time fielding individual questions about the same issues; leaving you free to focus on the big stuff.
12. Pinterest, Pinterest, Pinterest
As I have previously mentioned I was a wedding Pinterest fiend even before getting engaged. However, my late-night swooning over naked cakes adorned by fresh flowers and the perfect table settings came in really handy when communicating with our wedding planner. Although our wedding planner had fantastic English, many of her suppliers had no English at all. Pictures are a brilliant way of showing exactly what you are looking for.
Your carefully crafted Pinterest mood boards will help the wedding planner and suppliers gauge your tastes and vision for the wedding. My flower board came into its own when I was told that due to the season in Tenerife and the types of flowers grown in that climate, I would need to reconsider my blousy peonies and tea roses. As heartbroken as I was the florist whipped some beautiful bouquets and buttonholes with local flowers based on the ideas from my Pinterest board. Never regret those late-night pins.
13. Carefully consider your guest list
Immediate family are likely to make the trip for your wedding however will work colleagues who you’ve only known for nine months do the same? An invitation to a wedding abroad can be a big ask financially and time-wise for many. You’ll want to streamline your list as much as possible before you send out your invitations. Never invite guests assuming they will say no anyway, you may be surprised who suddenly messages to say they have booked their flights.
14. Wedding insurance
Worldwide pandemics, volcanic ash clouds, wildfires…if we learn nothing else from 2020, we should expect the unexpected. Whilst the unpredictable can be stressful, taking out wedding insurance should help to alleviate some of the stresses around of the things which are totally out of your control. There are lots of insurers who offer wedding insurance, make sure you compare what each is offering to make sure it best suits your needs. We opted for John Lewis Wedding Insurance as it was the best deal at the time. For more detailed information on wedding insurance check out the link below https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/insurance/wedding-insurance/
15. Set aside some extra cash for additional costs and fees
In addition to shipping and luggage costs, you will also be paying deposits to the venue and potentially external suppliers. This means there will be bank transfer fees and exchange rates to contend with. To avoid any hidden charges, make sure you educate yourself on the exchange rate between your currency and that of your destination. It is also worth finding out from your bank what their fees with international transfers are. For more information on sending money abroad check out the link below.
Finally, weddings can be a bit of a bottomless pit when it comes to money. There will always be something you have forgotten or a small detail which needs correcting. Having a fund for these last-minute costs can be helpful and can ease your financial stress about the process.
16. Think about your honeymoon
So, you’ve chosen to get married abroad, but what about your honeymoon? Lots of couples will want to stay on at their venue or think about exploring more of the country you have chosen. This will not only save you money but will extend this precious time.
It might also be worth thinking about other countries you can easily access from your destination. With shorter flight times than you would get from the UK, it might be a good time to explore somewhere a little further afield.
Alternatively, you can drag that wedding vibe out for as long as you like. We decided to take ten days including the wedding in Tenerife but then chose to focus on travel for the first year of our marriage. Every month for one year we sought to jet off for a city break. These short frequent trips combined with an anniversary return to the Abama was perfect.
17. Think about planning time with your guests before and after the wedding
One of the best decisions we made was to stay on at the venue with our closest family after the wedding. This precious time was so chilled and a lovely way to come down from the big day. In truth, it felt like the whole ten days was our wedding. I can remember saying that I totally understood why brides got upset the moment the wedding was over. So, if you can stay on and drag it out I absolutely would.
Getting the chance to talk to everyone at the wedding can be a challenge on the day when you are being called for photos or dragged away for a myriad of other reasons. Two days after the wedding we were lucky, several family members and friends had stayed on at the hotel, so we decided to host a drinks party in our suite. It gave us another opportunity to properly speak with everyone for longer than a few minutes and was the perfect send-off for some of our guests.
18. Relax & enjoy your day
Without a doubt planning your wedding can be a stressful time, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey. Planning your time of celebration with your fiancée and family can be so rewarding so make sure you take step back and keep the process as fun as possible.
I would love to hear your destination wedding stories, so happy planning and good luck for your big day.
I vividly remember a warm June Saturday morning in 2015, desperately trying to finish my masters’ dissertation when my parents dropped the news that they were moving to Ottawa, the Canadian capital for a year. After the initial surprise sunk in and after a few tears about being so far away from my mum, I put my planning hat on and got stuck into organising some holidays.
Ottawa is located in southern Ontario, a short drive from the city of Montreal and the US Border. Ottawa’s unique position means that it is one of the coldest cities in the world with average temperatures in January sitting around -10 degree however summer temperatures can hit 25-30 degrees centigrade. With such a vast range in climate, Ottawa has something fabulous to offer in every season.
Here are thirteen reasons why Ottawa should be on your Canadian bucket list.
Get active on the Rideau Canal
Originally built for military purposes to provide a safe supply route in the event of war with the USA, the canal has been a focal point of life for the people of Ottawa and the millions of tourists who visit each year.
Stretching for two hundred and two kilometres, the canal passes through wildlife reserves, conservation areas and the city itself. With such a wide variety of landscapes to enjoy the Rideau canal offers something for every season.
During those bitter winter months, the Rideau Canal transforms itself into the world’s largest naturally frozen skating rink. Many local’s countdown the autumn days until the canal freezes over and they can get their skates on. The skate way becomes a bustling highway for commuters into the city and families are out in force enjoying the canal.
In summer the canal becomes a hot spot for picnics, walks, biking and paddling. It is without a doubt the lifeblood of the city and one of the best things to explore during your time in the city.
2. Hike in Gatineau Park
If you need some green space and time out from the big city then head to Gatineau Park. In just fifteen minutes from downtown Ottawa, you can bask the glory of this 90,000-acre parkland. Gatineau Park is home to hundreds of hiking trails, swimming spots, snowshoeing trails and cross-country skiing routes. Gatineau Park is the ultimate outdoor playground.
These beautiful hills provide the perfect vantage point in the summer months for panoramic views, secluded coves and old ruins. The wide variety of hiking trails provides something for every level of experience and skill. If you are looking for a leisurely Sunday morning stroll then I can recommend the Pink Lake circuit. This 2.3km hike is super chilled and has some spectacular scenery and wildlife. This is a great trail for families although there are several sets of steps, something to bear in mind if you have a pushchair.
Here are a couple of things to note to help you plan your trip to Gatineau Park:
Parking: Car parks are available for nearly all of the hiking trails but there is a fee when parking between June and September at the beaches. If you know you’ll be spending a decent chunk of time in the park then I would recommend looking at a parking pass https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/parking-passes#entry:261:url
Emergencies: If you find yourself needing some assistance then you can call the 24-hour emergency line on 613-239-5353 alternatively if you need some help although it’s not an emergency you can call the visitor centre on 819-827-2020 or 1-866-456-3016 (toll-free). The visitor centre is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
Sunday Bikedays: If you are planning your trip during the summer months, take note that every Sunday morning nearly all of the parkways are closed to cars. This allows cyclists, inline skaters, runner and hikers free run of the trails. For more information and to check your route use the bikeways information page https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/sunday-bikedays.
Toilets: This can be an important one if you’re not a fan of a wild wee. At the start of your chosen trail, there should be a facility you can use. There are also public toilets at all of the beaches.
Dog Free Trails: Before setting out with your four-legged friend it’s best to check that the trail is dog friendly. Some of the hiking trails do not permit dogs, this is to protect and preserve the delicate ecosystems and natural flora and fauna of the area. Please respect these trails and double-check before letting your pooch off the lead.
3. Visit the Glebe
The Glebe neighbourhood is located south of downtown and is bordered by the Rideau Canal on the south and east sides. The Glebe plays host to Lansdowne Park and TD Place Stadium, home of the Ottawa Red Blacks football team (that’s American Football…not British Soccer). The whole stadium area was regenerated in 2012 and is now the vibrant hub of the Glebe neighbourhood. Shops, bars, restaurants, skate park, open green space, playgrounds and even a bustling farmers market; the Glebe is the perfect place to take a stroll, grab lunch and spend an afternoon chilling with a coffee in the park.
If you’re feeling a little more energetic you can hire kayaks from Dows Lake Pavilion. The pavilion is just a short walk through the Glebe. A kayak is a great way to spend some time exploring the Rideau canal from the water. For me, this was one of the best afternoon’s we spend in the Glebe, although I have to say I am a pretty poor paddle partner as I am far too easily distracted by the scenery. If you’re anything like me, make sure you give your buddy a heads up they will be doing most of the work or you can always opt for single kayaks.
This was the neighborhood where my parents set up home. It’s got a real community vibe and coupled with welcoming locals it should be on your Ottawa bucket list.
4. Visit parliament hill
Sitting atop parliament hill is the imposing gothic structure of the parliament building, with similarities to the UK parliament and the parliament building of Budapest the Ottawa parliament buildings have been the seat of government since 1866.
During the summer months, there is even a changing of the guard ceremony which is well worth a watch. The parliament also offers free daily guided tours. Tours last from 40 minutes to an hour depending on which part of the government buildings you want to explore. Tickets for tours can be booked ahead of time https://lop.parl.ca/sites/Visit/default/en_CA/#include_html
If history and politics aren’t your things then parliament hill still has something to offer. In the winter months, the whole building becomes a giant canvas for a light and sound show, it really is quite mesmerising. Alternatively, if you’re visiting in summer and fancy reconnecting with your body and the great outdoors, then yoga on the hill is for you. Every summer Parliament Hill welcomes seasoned yogis and novices alike to participate in uplifting midweek yoga throughout May, June, July and August. Don’t forget to pack your yoga mat!
5. White water rafting
This has to be one of my all-time favourite adventure activities I’ve ever done. If you like that slightly nauseating but intoxicating feeling of starring potential death or physical injury in the face then white-water rafting should be on your list. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other. We booked up a day adventure rafting with Owl Rafting. This family-run business is located right on the Ottawa river to the west if the city, an hour drive from downtown.
The adventure rafting package was medium intensity meaning that despite our incredibly skilful guide doing the steering we were in charge of paddling the raft. Our trip lasted eight hours and included a BBQ supper which was just the ticket after a day on the river.
The Ottawa river is widely considered to have some of the best white-water rafting in the world. Professional rafters and kayakers flock to the river to challenge themselves on its class five rapids.
To make the most of your rafting experience you absolutely need water shoes (no flipflops…if you end up in the water, you’ll be hard-pressed to find them!), swimsuit, a dry change of clothes, sun cream and a towel. It’s also worth considering your swimming capability; although you are wearing a life jacket and are surrounded by trained guides you really should be comfortable being in the water…the possibility of falling out is real.
6. Visit the Fairmont Chateau Laurier
This imposing fairy tale castle sitting on the banks of the Rideau Canal has played host to royalty, world leaders and countless celebrities. Built in 1912 the hotel has some of the best views of the city and is one of Canada’s most iconic landmarks.
The restaurant, Wilfred’s is widely known as one of the finest culinary experiences in Ottawa but the gastronomic glory isn’t limited to the main restaurant. The recently renovated Zoe’s and La Terrace also offer first-class food and service in a slightly more relaxed environment. But if you haven’t got a spare night for dinner then you should definitely reserve an afternoon slot for afternoon tea. Exquisitely presented cake, sandwiches and steaming hot tea, the Chateau Laurier gives you everything you could wish for in a proper afternoon tea.
Dining aside the hotel presents a historic display, located on the main floor. The display is free to view and documents the history of the chateau and the city.
7. Cruise the canal
Taking a cruise from Chateau Laurier to Dows Lake is a great way to learn about the history of the city and the canal. The cruise takes you past some of the cities best landmarks including City Hall, Lansdowne Park and the National Arts Centre.
Located in the heart of downtown Ottawa, the ByWard Market is one of Canadas largest oldest markets. In addition to the fabulous range of indoor stalls, you’ll find the outdoor vendors selling their wares in blistering sunshine and sub-zero temperatures 363 days a year.
If you need of a lunchtime snack or just fancy a wander through the stalls the ByWard Market is sure to inspire your taste buds and curiosity. If you’re visiting during the months, I would suggest finding a stall serving beaver tails…fried doughy goodness covered in your choice of sweet or savoury topping. Nutella covered sugary dough is the perfect pairing for a chilly afternoon stroll through the city.
9. Dow’s Lake
Dow’s Lake is a small man-made lake surrounded by Commissioners Park. Every year the park sees the ground explode with colour in the celebration of the Canadian Tulip Festival. Over 300,000 tulips bloom along the lakeside in May making this one of the most beautiful times to visit Ottawa.
There is also a large pavilion at Dow’s Lake where you can hire kayaks, canoes, and paddleboats. There is also a changing facility for skating in the winter.
You don’t have to be activity keeno to enjoy Dow’s Lake, you can simply enjoy the lakeside views from any one of the three restaurants.
10. A pint at the Chelsea Pub
Few things are better than finishing a long trail hike and finally sitting down with a cold beer, salty chips and a heart attack inducing cheeseburger. If you’re salivating at the thought then the Chelsea pub should be right at the top of your post-hike list.
This family-friendly pub offers gastro style food, cocktails, beers and all the usual soft drinks. The pub has been a pivotal part of Chelsea village life since 1875. This place is anything but a secret, in the summer months, you can find the wide terrace, enclosed beer garden and indoor space packed with guests. So, if you need an après hike pick me up it’s worth calling ahead to secure a table.
11. Check out the museums and galleries
As the Canadian capital, Ottawa is awash with world-class museums and galleries that rival the likes of Paris or London. There are no fewer than seven national museums, you are sure to find something to capture your imagination and a place to while away an afternoon. Take your pick from social and military history, world-class artwork, technological and natural wonders and aircraft collections, the choice is yours.
My top pick for culture vulturing in Ottawa has to be the National Gallery. Welcomed by the giant arachnid Maman the gallery has an extensive collection of Canadian art and photography as well as European works from ranging from artists such as Picasso to Hockney. The National Gallery also holds a large collection of First Nation artwork.
If art isn’t your bag then the Ottawa is home to the Canadian Museum of History, the Aviation and Space Museum or the Canadian Science and Technology Museum all make for a brilliant day out with the family. If you want to sample multiple museums during your stay in the capital, I recommend a museum passport. The museum passport will help save you money during your trip as for $35 you can gain access to any three of the seven national museums. http://museumspassport.ca/
12. Visit the Nordic Spa
Tucked away near the village of Chelsea is North America’s largest spa. With ten baths, nine saunas, one infinity pool, one saltwater pool, restaurants, treatment rooms and lounges it is easy to spend a whole weekend having some ‘me time’ at this nature enveloped retreat. Located only twenty minutes outside of Ottawa it is easily accessible and definitely worth a visit.
The Nordic Spa experience is all about improving your wellbeing and promoting relaxation. For me, the last few months of lockdown have taught me that I can afford to slow down and prioritise myself. Self-care is not about being selfish. So, if you have the time during your trip then take some time out and focus on you.
13. Catch a show at the Ottawa Little Theatre
The Ottawa Little Theatre is Canada’s oldest community theatre. With performances throughout the year from September to July, there is something for all audiences. Drama, comedy, farce, mystery and family adventure are all on show at the Ottawa Little Theatre. A visit to this charming theatre is well worth an evening during your trip to the Canadian capital.
I hope that you have found some inspiration here for your trip to Ottawa. I am always on the lookout for new experiences, so please let me know if I’ve missed something brilliant off the list. I am in no doubt that Ottawa now has a firm place in my family and we will be visiting again soon.
Glaciers, fjords, the Aurora Borealis and spectacular natural topography beautifully mixed with a unique sense of identity and culture. It’s pretty clear why Scandinavia ranks highly on people’s travel bucket list. It’s a new year and a new decade, what more reason do you need to get an adventure booked up? I know I am guilty of endlessly perusing the flight and holiday sales…just in case! So, in case you need a little inspiration here is 15 unmissable things to see and do in Scandinavia.
Watch the Northern Lights in Norway:
Without a doubt, the Northern Lights is the main attraction in Scandinavia. The best place to catch a glimpse of these dancing absinthe coloured lights is in northern Norway, in the Arctic Circle.
But this elusive contemporary dance in the night sky is tricky and highly dependant on weather conditions. For your best chance at spying the lights, I would book a trip between October and February.
For a luxury lodge experience in the Arctic Circle check out Lyngen Lodge. This gorgeous place has so much more to offer than being a blissfully secluded place to watch the sky dance from the warmth of a hot tub.
Bursting through the waters of the Oslo Fjord rises the sharp angular iceberg of the Oslo
Opera House. Famous for it’s innovative and creative design the Opera house attracts scores of tourists and locals keen to experience the architecture, world-class opera and dance for themselves. The smoothly undulating oak interior perfectly partners the vast open light-filled entrance. This inspirational space truly feels like a catalyst for creativity. Guided tours encompass the main auditorium, backstage areas, workshops and design studios. Tours are given in a variety of languages. Don’t forget to book in advance to secure your place on a tour; places are limited to 25 people per group.
Whenever I travel, I am always on the lookout for fabulous food. I found myself on a freezing cold squally night in Copenhagen stumbling upon the culinary delights which lurk on Paper Island. Paper Island, affectionately named after its history as a paper storage facility for the Danish press is located in the middle of the harbour right next to the Opera House and Royal Playhouse.
Paper Island is a mecca for Danish street food. Your senses can get lost wandering through rows and rows of vendors each emitting scent to make your mouth water. Pulled pork, seafood, Burgers, Burritos, Vegan bowls and more, there is something to suit every appetite here.
I can thoroughly recommend snagging a spot by the huge open fire, grabbing a beer and a surf and turf burger with cheese sauce for a total foodie win.
4. Stroll through Tivoli Gardens at Christmas:
If you’re like me, I often struggle to feel ‘Christmassy’ when the festive season comes around each year. After a trip to Copenhagen in the first weekend of December, I came home totally ready to hang my wreath up and get on it with my present shopping. My new found festive feeling was in part, thanks to Tivoli Gardens and their gorgeous festive light display.
Tivoli Gardens has the charm of an old-fashioned amusement park with the beauty of historic buildings and sprawling gardens. There is something for everyone; a trip during the festive period is a must. Just make sure you grab a warm cup of GlØgg to keep your hands warm as you take in the atmosphere.
Adults, children, old, young, this one doesn’t matter as the Vasamuseet is a Stockholm attraction for all. The Vasa was a behemoth 17th Century warship, who, thanks to some very sketchy calculations and poor measurements managed to sink to the bottom of the Stockholm harbour on its maiden voyage. The Vasamuseet is absolutely fascinating and seeing the ship in all its miscalculated glory is mind-blowing. The scale of the preservation is spectacular, coupled with the detailed exhibits you’ll want to make sure you’ve got at least two or three hours for this Swedish gem.
6. Discover proper Swedish meatballs:
No offence Ikea, but the best Swedish meatballs are best eaten squished up alongside other savvy diners who know the secret eatery that is Bakfickan. Bakfickan is a cosy countertop restaurant serving traditional Swedish cuisine. The restaurant is located just opposite the Opera House. To bag one of the 28 seats, you need to pick your time carefully. Tables can’t be booked online so do consider your plans ahead of time. We went at around 8.00 pm on an evening when there was nothing showing at the Opera House. At this time, we snagged the final two seats at the main bar and those behind us were unfortunately turned away. A meal at Bakfickan was a true highlight of our trip to Stockholm.
7. Go Husky Sledding through in the Arctic Circle:
Sitting in a traditional sledge, wrapped in reindeer pelt with only the sound of the dogs heavy breathing and the sledge gliding through the soft powder I found a true sense of wilderness. Despite my husband busily ‘driving’ the dogs and our convoy of four sledges I genuinely felt totally isolated. The landscape was stunning, the sky heavily laden with snow narrow tree-lined paths crisscrossing through the forest only to emerge onto a vast tundra framed by trees and mountains. I was amazed by the speed and coordination of the dogs, combined with an outdoor camp lunch of locally caught salmon and hot sweet GlØgg it was the perfect wilderness activity.
8. Find some Hygge:
Hygge is a Scandinavian word for the mood of cosiness, the art of being comfortable and focussing on feelings of wellness and contentment. I am never more contented than when I’m warm, comfortable and have a hot beverage in hand. Warm cosy independent coffee shops and tucked away tea houses are in no short supply in the Scandinavian cities I’ve visited. So, if you find yourself with an hour or two to spare, grab a good book and hunker down with a hot beverage. My favourite coffee shops are El Fant in Helsinki and Sara’s Art & Coffee in Stockholm.
9. Wallow in the Blue Lagoon:
Chances are that if you’ve booked a trip to Iceland a visit to the Blue Lagoon is on the list of things to do on your trip. Rightly so, however, get in line and plan your visit carefully! All visits must be booked in advance and a trip to the Blue Lagoon can be pricey. The standard package which includes entrance, towel, mud mask and drink of your choice costs ISK 6990 around £43, other more luxurious packages are available must booking is advised with all additional treatments or spa experiences. The Blue Lagoon is open year-round however timings are dependant on the season. With a little prior planning and forethought, an afternoon wallowing the warm milky waters of this man-made lagoon is not to be missed. A note for the ladies…bring plenty of moisture-rich conditioner; the water contains high levels of silica which play havoc with your locks.
10. Listen to the roar of Gullfoss Waterfall:
Gullfoss is part of Iceland’s golden triangle and is easily visited with any local tour company. Gullfoss is roughly translated as ‘Golden Falls’ and consists of two vast cascades. A trail leads your round the falls, allowing you to experience this magnificent natural spectacle from a variety of different perspectives. The trail can be completed in around an hour. Gullfoss is an easy day trip from Reykjavik and a must-see during a trip to Iceland.
11. Take to the water:
Whatever part of Scandinavia takes your fancy you’ll never be far from water. Where ever I am I always try to experience some part of the city from the water. I often find it gives you a completely new perspective on the city. I would particularly recommend a boat tour around Copenhagen departing from Nyhavn. The boat tour takes you through the canals and city waterways it was even felt like a much more intimate way to view the statue of the Little Mermaid. I would also recommend a Fjord cruise around Oslo, sadly when I booked onto a fjord cruise in March I hadn’t accounted for the -13 degree conditions but, the boat sold hot GlØgg and I just about managed two twenty-minute stints on deck before diving inside to warm up. Boat tours are easily booked from the waterfront.
12. Relax in traditional Finnish Sauna:
There are few things more traditionally Scandinavian than a hot sweaty sauna. On various trips to the Scandinavian capitals, I have stumbled on small wooden huts on the water perfectly placed for a pre/post-work relaxation. If you’ve ever had a sauna at the gym or spa I can guarantee a proper Finnish sauna is very different. No scented candles, mood music or fancy lighting what you do get is dim lighting, the scent of fresh Birch and natural tar to a perfectly peaceful accompaniment of nothing. Blissful silence. And as if dreamy relaxation wasn’t good enough, I would definitely recommend giving yourself a gentle brushing with the birch twigs, it’s fabulous for your skin.
13. Check out Oslo’s Ski Museum:
Piercing the Oslo skyline is Holmenkollen ski jump and museum. The ski jump is one of my favourite winter events to watch, there is something particularly alluring about those moments suspended in the air… although I’m not sure I’d ever have the courage to give it a go! Dreams of flying aside the museum and tower are open 365 days a year with the latter offering panoramic views over the city. The museum is dedicated to 4,000 years of skiing history and Norwegian polar exploration. A definite must for any winter sports enthusiast or simply enjoy the views from the top. Adult admission is 140Kr and opening hours are between 10 am – 4 pm in the winter months and 5 pm during the summer.
14. Marvel at Munch’s’ Masterpieces:
We’ve all heard of ‘The Scream’ but Edvard Munch has so much more to offer. If you’re looking for a thoroughly immersive monographic experience then put the Munch Museet at the top of your list for your trip to Oslo. We had visited the collection in Oslo before it closed for relocation to its new home in Bjørvika which is due to open in Spring 2020. A visit to the new Gallery which is spread over a vast thirteen floors is top of my list for a return visit to Oslo.
15. Explore Suomenlinna Sea Fortress:
Built in the 18th Century by the Swedish this Finnish fortress is easily accessible via ferry from Helsinki’s market square (Kauppatori). There is usually a ferry every fifteen minutes so it is pretty easy to plan your trip. This garrison island offers walking trails, museums, military bunkers and even a World War Two submarine. There is plenty on offer to keep you busy for a few hours, this is definitely one Finnish attraction worth carving out time for.
Avios points have, for me become a bit of salvation and a slight preoccupation. On long rainy days when I’m stressed out with work and desperately need something to look forward to; there is nothing more satisfying than realising a sneaky warm weekend break will only cost me a fraction of the price due to my Avios squirrelling.
Here a few top tips for earning these fabulous little travel nuggets which might help you maximise your collecting potential and help you get that next trip booked.
Interestingly flights are not the most lucrative source of Avios collection for me, however, they are of course a great way to collect points. Flights additionally offer you Tier points which are important for members of the BA Executive Club to help you move through the loyalty tiers. Each loyalty tier offers its own perks whether that’s access to the lounge or priority boarding. Regular flights are the key to keeping your loyalty tier. I have even been tempted to book a flight simply to bag the all important tier points.
Avois points can also be collected from flights taken with airlines in the One World Alliance. Carriers like Cathay Pacific, Iberia, American Airlines and Quantas to name a few allow you to find the most suitable flight whilst keeping your Avios points rolling in.
British Airways has an extensive range of hotel partners who you can collect Avios with without having to be a member of their specific reward schemes. Their partners include Airbnb, Shangri La Hotels & Resorts, Booking.com and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group amongst others. Earning Avios through hotels has lots of potential and is definitely one option I need to exploit further.
This source of Avios income is definitely one of my favourites. I can often be found, mostly on a Sunday afternoon; because no one wants to think about work on Monday morning busily scrolling through the BA Holiday Finder. With 1 Avios point available for every £1 spent the BA package deals can be a good option for collecting points.
BA holidays are an easy go-to when I’ve been looking for weekend city breaks. With hotel and flight included in the price, I am free to focus my efforts on planning the activities rather than trying to sort flight and hotel logistics. Check out the BA Holiday Finder here https://www.britishairways.com/travel/holiday-finder/public/en_gb
By far and away the BA American Express Card is for me, one of the best ways to earn Avios points. I am not really a credit card person however we invested in the BA American Express card at a time when we were renovating our house and paying for a wedding. Naturally, neither of those things come cheaply and we had some large outgoings. With this in mind, we thought to earn Avios through our payments was a win-win.
We opted for the BA American Express Premium Plus card. This offers 25,000 Avios as a welcome providing you spend £3,000 in the first three months. The card has an annual charge of £195. However, for every £1 spend you get 1.5 Avios and with every £1 spent on BA flight and holidays you get an additional 3 Avios. We have absolutely identified this as a brilliantly easy way to earn Avios to fund our itch to travel.
One of the biggest perks has been the BA Companion Voucher. A 2 for 1 travel voucher award when you spend £10,000 with your BA American Express card. The voucher entitles you to a second seat on the same flight and class as another person. Taxes, fees and charges still apply, but you do make a great saving. We have just booked up a return business class trip to Croatia with our Companion Voucher for a mere £80. With another voucher in the stocks, I’m already eyeing up something a little more long haul!
This option is fantastic. If you’re an online shopper, you can connect with your favourite brands via the Avios EStore where you can shop over 800 brands as you normally would. You can collect up to 30 Avios for every £1 however there are always deals and offers. As of August 2019, you can snap up 10 Avios for every pound with Selfridges & Co or 4 Avios per pound with John Lewis. You’ll be surprised how quickly the points can accumulate…maybe try this one out with some of your online Christmas gift shopping?
From June 2019 there were some changes to how you can collect Avios when purchasing fuel. However, you can still cash in the Avios with fuel purchases at Tesco, if you have a Tesco Clubcard. Scan your Clubcard to receive 600 Avios for every £2.50 in Clubcard vouchers which you then exchange to Avios. A genuinely good option if you are a Tesco shopper and are already a Clubcard holder.