Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Packing! Bag yourself a beautiful bag!

Friday has arrived and I am bursting with a more intense Friday feeling than usual!  Yes, you guessed it, I am soon to be jetting off on my last-but certainly not least-summer holiday of the season!  I am smack in the middle of the packing dance, twirling between wardrobe and bag and back,  up and down and in and out........  Unlike many others I actually enjoy packing.  The whole process puts a spring in my step, a song in my throat and a sparkle in my eye......for me the holiday begins when the bag comes out!  

Of course some bags induce this premature holiday euphoria more than others..... Here are some of my top picks for pure bag bliss!

The vintage case by Dandelion Daydreamer photographed above is the ultimate accessories for a chic weekend break.  This case costs $126, but if you mention the Top Tips for Trips Blog on purchase you will get a 10% discount!  

I lobe these these 'Winter Meadow Holdalls' from Cath Kidston at £85 for the carry bag and £110 for the wheel version.  

You will definitely turn some green eyes at the airport with one of these fabulous Bow Trolleys from Topshop for £80!

This Fleurie Trinny Holdall from Urban Outfitters can be carried by hand or wheeled along beside you.  .€59. 

I love this retro case from River Island for £59.  A stylish solution for carry-on luggage.  

Another great place to find luggage is TK Max.  There is always a great selection of designer weekend bags and luggage sets at bargain prices! I have seen some fabulous carpet bags-Mary Poppins' style- there in the past, as well as some high vis suitcases!  Usually their luggage is in limited quantity so you should have no problem locating your unique bag on the conveyor belt at the airport!  

Happy packing!


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My favourite place in Ireland is..........the Howth Peninsula!

Faced with the abundance of aesthetic beauty and cultural allure that  Ireland has to offer, it is difficult to choose a single favourite place. If coaxed however, the location I hold dearest of all has to be the seductive Howth peninsula. 

                       Map from Howth is Magic

Connected to Dublin by the sandy Sutton tombolo, Howth epitomizes much of Ireland's magnetism in its own splendid microcosm. With over 10KM of pebbly coves and dramatic cliffs encapsulating the gorse-adorned Howth hill and surrounding meadows, the peninsula enjoys a captivating mix of pastoral and maritime charm. 

                                   Rhodedendrons of Howth, photo from Howth is Magic

                                                       Red Rock, Sutton. Photo from Howth is Magic

Peppered with intoxicating viewpoints and garnished with its own bird-sanctuary island, the headland is a treasure chest of scenic delights. A grand castle with a pirate past and a sprinkling of historical buildings, lighthouses and Martello towers are well nested into the landscape, hidden gems for the avid walker. 

                                  Photo from Howth is Magic

Not so clandestine are the attractions of the bustling harbour village; Here one can watch the fishermen busy at work and admire the colourful lines of sailing boats bobbing in their docks, as the splash of greedy seals and chorus of garrulous seagulls fills the air. When spent you can sit into a cosy pub to enjoy a rejuvenating drink, fresh fish and friendly talk. Bliss.

       Photos from Howth is Magic

For information on visiting Howth click here.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Winter Can Wait Until Autumn Arrives

All the signs of Winter are upon us.  The days are getting shorter, darker and growing colder.  Each morning brings with it the waking realisation that Summer has surreptitiously slipped away and Winter is waiting just around the corner.  And it is. Hibernation is imminent.  

However, amid the rush to fix the heating, buy the pack of black tights and dust off the wooly coat, we often forget that the very corner we dread turning is in fact one of the most naturally beautiful periods of the Irish calender.  In our panic to brace ourselves for Winter we often race through Autumn without giving it a sideways glance.  

If you are guilty of this then take the time out to appreciate Autumn this year. Stop and absorb the rich colour and character of the season.  It is truly evocative and inspiring.  So much so that you will find yourself living the days until winter rather than counting them :)

My top tip for Autumn.....Fall in Love with it!

Photograph by Edward Vullard

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Mystery city-breaks abroad in October for just €250 pp.

The summer may be coming to a close, but this doesn't mean that the airports are!  If anything it becomes cheaper and easier to fly!  Autumn and Spring are more than filler periods between the ski and sun seasons.  They have their own holiday genre, and it happens to be one of my favourites.  Say hello to the city break!

City breaks are a great way to experience Europe in short, affordable stints.  To get the best value from your trip I would recommend booking your flights and accommodation as far in advance as possible.  If you want to go on a mini-break in October then I recommend getting it sorted now.  I have already seen some great deals and destinations on offer.  For now I am going to keep them a secret, but I will let you in on this great special offer from Mysterytrips!

Weekend Away in Europe for €250 pp.  Available for various dates in October.  


Flights (From Dublin, Cork or Shannon)
2 nights 3* hotel accommodation
Destination guide (sightseeing, eating out, shopping etc.)

We have some fantastic destinations up our sleeves!  If you want a super surprise this October than click here!  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Guide to Dublin's Beaches

Dollymount Strand

Although Dublin is located on the sea, its coastal status is often overlooked by visitors to the capital.  When tourists think of Irish beaches they often envisage the sweeping shores of Kerry (as portrayed in Ryan's Daughter), the rugged Atlantic coastline of the Aran Islands or the surf havens of Lehinch and Strand Hill.  The beaches of Dublin do not always spring to mind.  They are generally undersold as a reason to visit Dublin.  However tourists to the capital may find themselves relatively shortchanged if they leave without having experienced some of the picturesque and plentiful pebbly coves and unspoiled stretches of golden sand that are on offer.  

This thought struck me yesterday as I paddled through the gentle surf that lapped up on  Burrow beach in Sutton.  It was a calm sunny day and the atmosphere was relaxed and joyful.  It's not often we experience weather worthy enough of a full day at the seaside.  But this was the exception.  If you are lucky enough to be visiting Dublin on a similarly fabulous day make sure not to simply sweat it out in the city centre.   Below is a guide to the great beaches that hug the Dublin.    if, like many, you experience more typical Irish weather on your visit to Dublin do not dismay; the beauty of these beaches can be appreciated all year round. They make evocative backdrops for long pensive walks and offer some of the most stunning natural scenery in the county. 

Balcarrick Beach, Donabate
Balcarrick Beach is a long sandy strand of about 3.5km.  Over the past 30 years a large dune area has built up.  Facilities include a good sized car park, a lifeguard station and public toilets.  The beach is a 20 min walk from Donabate village, which is serviced both by train and by the No. 33B bus.  

Burrow Beach, Sutton
The Sutton tombolois a narrow strip of land connecting Howth head to mainland Dublin.  Burrow beach, sometimes referred to as the 'hole in the wall' beach, makes up one side of the tombolo.  Its golden sands, which face onto Ireland's Eye, stretch for about 1.3 km between Sutton and Howth DART stations.  For a  peaceful seaside experience get off the DART at Sutton.  Disembark at Howth if you fancy a walk around the pretty village and harbour, a traditional fish n' chip supper or a refreshing pint after your day at the beach.  Burrow beach has public toilets and a Lifeguard service.  

Burrow Beach

Dollymount Strand, Dublin 3
Dollymount strand is located close to the city and can be easily reached by bus, bike or car.  Simply head north of the Liffey and follow the coat road towards Clontarf.  It is a very long beach that is popular with walkers, kite-flyers and learner drivers!  Bull Island, a  UNESCO biosphere reserve and bird  sanctuarym is in the hinterland, making Dollymount a popular spot for bird watchers and nature conservationists.  Dollymount strand is lifeguarded from June1-August 31 from 10am until dusk.

Front Strand Beach, Balbriggan
Front Strand Beach is located near to Main Street in Balbriggan. It has a beautiful coastal walkway known locally as 'The Nuns' Walk', which leads onto Blackrock, Balbriggan’s second beach. arnoid Éireann, Inter City Service facilitates the town of Babriggan and the mainline train station leads directly onto the strand.   It is within easy access of the M50 and M1 motorways and is served by the the No. 33 bus. Toilet facilities are provided to the south end of the beach with access for the disabled.

Killiney Beach
Killiney beach is a sheltered, stony beach about 800m in length.  It boasts a beautiful view of Bray head to the South and the exclusive Sorrento Terrace estate to the North.   Killiney beach is popular with locals for fishing and swimming, partly as a result of its dramatic drop off, which allows immediate entry to deeper waters without a long wade in  The beach can be accessed from the car park – although limited parking is available – or by bus or DART.

                                                                  Killiney Beach

Loughshinny Beach
Loughshinny is a small seaside village located in North County Dublin. The beach here is a sheltered cove with an active fishing harbour and a picnic area. There is a car park next to the beach, which can also be reached by the no.33 bus.  It is a 20 min walk from the bus stop in the village.  

Rush North Beach
Rush is a small seaside town in North County Dublin. Its North Beach is approximately 1 km in length. To the southern end of the strand is a small park and an active fishing harbou.  The no.33 bus stops about 5 mins from the beach and there is also a car park for drivers.    

This beautiful cove is a small but irresistible spot that is popular with young families making the most of the  summer sunshine. Of course the main attraction has to be James Joyce’s Martello Tower.  It is believed that Joyce wrote the first chapter of the seminal and highly aclaimed Ulysses from the gun platform on the roof.  Sandycove is on the southside DART line.  

James Joyce's Martello Tower

Seapoint Beach, Dun Laoighaire
 Seapoint is located near to the port town of Dun Laoghaire in County Dublin. The beach is flat and shallow and the area is suitable for swimming at high tide. There are many rocks. To the south of the beach, the sea covers some of these rocks; you should take extra care swimming in these parts. During the summer months the north of the beach is well-liked by swimmers and to the south canoeing, surfing and jet skiing are popular. The beach is life guarded throughout the summer season. It is easily accessible for cars and by public transportation.

Skerries North Beach
Skerries North Strand is a covelike beach, 1.2 km in length, adjoining the picturesque harbour area and the Red Island Coastal Walkway. On a clear day the North Antrim coast can be seen from the beach with a fantastic view of the Mountains of Mourne. Iarnróid Eireann, Inter City Service facilitates the local village of Skerries; the North Beach is approximately 10 minutes walk from the station.  Skerries town is also served by the No. 33 from Dublin City Centre, the North Beach just a 2-minute walk from the bus stop.

Skerries South Beach
Skerries South Strand is a long sandy beach approximately 2.5km in length. There are 3 islands situated off the coast.  The Rockabill lighthouse is some 16km offshore. There is also a beautiful esplanade & ample coastal walkway adjacent to the beach which ends at Red Island.  There is a children's playground and a 100 space car park.  The beach is located a few minutes from the town. Follow the same public ransport directions as above.

Velvet Strand North Beach, Portmarnock
The Velvet Strand is a long sandy beach, approximately 5 km in length, consisting of large sandy dune areas.  The dunes are a hit with kids and the beach has enjoyed a popular staus over the years.  It is located next to a golf course and faces Burrow Beach in Sutton.  There are public toilets located at the northern end of the beach and also a large public car-park .  You can also hop of a No. 32B or No. 42 right at the beach.  

Portmarnock Beach

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Talking Travel on Dublin's Spin 103.8 FM

Tune in to Plan B on Dublin's Spin 103.8 FM today at 1:30 PM to hear me talking travel with Michelle.  We will be discussing how to get the most from your package holiday, as well as some ideas for vacations in Ireland.  If you miss the show you can find details of the interview here @ The Top Tips For Trips Blog soon!  

To listen live click here.  

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Top Ten Tips to booking a last minute package holiday

Suddenly August is upon us and shock horror some poor souls have gotten here without going on holiday!  With Autumn racing ahead and the sun simmering down there are just a few short weeks left to fit in a sun holiday.  If you are starting to panic that the next time you feel extreme heat it will be from your radiator, then fear not.  There is light for you, lots of glaring sun and flashing neon that is....

It is too late to take advantage of low-fare flights with Ryanair/Aer Lingus.  With just a few weeks of summer remaining flights to sun drenched destinations are at peak price.  Add in accommodation and you are looking at a fairly hefty sum-before a penny of spending money has been parted with.  If you are budget restricted then forget a DIY trip and look instead to a last minute deal from a package holiday provider.  As well as being cheaper you will enjoy the luxury of having checked luggage included in your ticket!  Here are my top ten tips on how to get the most from your last minute package holiday deal.    

1.  Although going with a sun holiday provider is better value, be prepared to go on the 'generic package holiday'.  Most of the destinations available will be to purpose built pleasure zones so if this is not your cup of tea don't force it-you'll come home with a tan, but also a headache.  If you're more culture vulture than poolside playboy it might be an idea to replace your quest for the sun with an Autumn city break or a trip around Ireland.  

2.  To get the best possible deal hold off on booking until it is literally last minute. 

3.  Check out shop windows as well as the internet; often the best deals will be found here, plus you have direct contact with the travel agent and will therefore be more informed about your package.  

4.  Be flexible with your dates. 

5. Don't be too picky about where you want to go.  To benefit from a last minute deal you have to be willing to go anywhere.  If you have your heart set on Gran Canaria, but all that is on offer is Korfu don't be too are likely to have a similar experience on either island.  

6.  Don't make your journey time longer in the pursuit of something more exotic.  While Tunisia and Egypt sound mystifying, the Tunisia and Egypt you will be sent to are more NAFFrica than Africa!  

7.  When  booking your last minute deal you will be given the name of your hotel/holiday apartments.  Most are fairly standard, but it is a good idea to check out the reviews of the establishment on the internet before booking.  Try searching  on Trip Advisor or similar travel forums  to see what others have thought of it.  

8.  If you are travelling with children then it is best for EVERYONE that the hotel/complx you are staying in is family focused with plenty of activities and clubs for the kids.  Put them first when choosing your package.... then you can put your feet up!  

9. Make sure you are aware of your travel itinerary and transfer schedule before you book.  You could end up missing a day of your precious week through inconvenient travel times. Try to get an itinerary that maximises your holiday hours rather than eating into them.  

10.  Wherever you end up make sure to take it with a pinch of salt and enjoy it!  You wanted sun and now you have it!  Buy the Lilo, go to the water park, eat in themed restaurants, do the free shots, dance on the podiums!  

So there you have it.  My guide to booking a last minute package holiday.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Turkey's Done!

Greetings all and apologies for my lack of correspondence over the past couple of weeks.  My first absent week was spent on a girly holiday in Turkey, the second in recovery.   This was my first 'fun in the sun' type trip in about 8 years and the prospect of 7 days sunbathing and slurping cocktails with the girls had me giddy for weeks.  In the excitement, much of it being at the luxury of packing a proper suitcase, I forgot to let you all know that I was off!  Or that I was home, but not quite 'holidayed' enough to get back to work!  

It seems nothing much has changed about 'the week in the sun' formula since I last tried out this type of trip. We drank until breakfast, slept through lunch, ate dinner at bedtime and came home with a fresh set of shiny, happy holiday snaps (censored on the plane of course ),voices hoarse from constant chat and late night crooning, pink skin turning brown and a host of 'authentic' Turkish delights.  For us Turkey did exactly what it said on the tin.  After the sixth day however the tin was empty and we were ready to head home to our own private recovery pits!  

Back in one piece now and back to work!  Expect lots of great stuff coming up on the Top Tips for Trips Blog over the coming weeks including some great deals and destinations to see the summer out!  



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