Anyone that has read what I’ve written on ALTB or triptease will know that I like the finer things, but to be honest, some of the most memorable trips haven’t been in 5* hotels – there is so much more to having an awesome break than spending $$$.
That said, we’ve just booked a holiday to the UAE in February to warm ourselves up a little and choosing the right hotel was a minefield… but I think I did it… Here’s hoping.
In the UK I just love self catering. It’s funny, I stay in so many UK hotels with work that I think the concept I just associate with work! That said ME London and the Drunken Duck went along way to proving otherwise…
I think on a stay cation it is important to be able to get away from the part and type of the UK that you normally see (people watching isn’t always relaxing however much fun it is) and so quiet time in the country delivers that! There is a massive choice of top end self catering – basically think of the space like a recently abandoned hotel, where the fire was left on and the champagne is on ice!! More space, much cheaper, can choose your own wine and you can go out locally and enjoy restaurants and pubs and local butchers and delicatesns! You can sleep in every morning and not worry about whether you put the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door!
Boutique Retreats and Norfolk Hideaways offer some absolute gems in the West Country and Norfolk respectfully. Often some of the posher hotels have lunch offers and so just because the cottage has a cooker doesn’t mean you need to use it all the time – try Coombe House, Old Coastguard, Chewton Glen and the shed for a start!
Staying in the UK I particularly like that you can pack whatever fits in the car and there is hence no worry about fitting it into a suitcase or worrying about a change in temperature.It also requires a lot less planning as we know our own country so well! It is also good in that in most parts of the country there are friends to be met up with. Just last weekend we were in Anglesey to see some of our best friends – we take it for granted that we can stay, catch up and enjoy a location that is so remote. Probably one of the best weekends of the year, but there was no need for a hotel – we had fizz, lie ins, giggles and stunning views and the drive home to the south coast didn’t even stress us out we were so relaxed!
When everywhere is 5 hours driving time from home, to be honest you don’t even need a full week off – a long weekend (and we’ve done extensive research of course) is as relaxing as a full week away if planned well! Another good thing about being on holiday at home – someone will know the area at you know and word of mouth works!
The UK gets a bad rep for weather, but we had 2 weeks off in June and October and spent them in Cornwall – it rained occasionally and you know what – there are plenty of nice tea rooms, galleries or pubs to visit when it does!
Be ready when it stops and you’ll have empty beaches and footpaths!
We know the UK schools holidays which is even better – so it is easy on a stay cation to avoid peak times with confidence!
Now how about abroad…. I think there are a few key things to a memorable trip! I do like to start in an airport lounge, moving swiftly to a flat bed on the plane!
The travelling bit shouldn’t be tiring and this ensures it isn’t, and air miles ensure it doesn’t cost a fortune! That said, it isn’t the be all – but so far booking with air miles haven’t prevented me taking trips where I want! And that also helps with the luggage allowance – I always pack for every eventuality – of course you need a jumper in the Caribbean…
I used to plan big trips with military precision and using a spreadsheet, but I think I have got a bit more savvy in my old age (got ID’d today, so not so old apparently!).
We always seem to move around when we are abroad – so in Jamaica we stayed at Strawberry Hill, The Cove and Round Hill and in Oman we were at the Shangri La then the Chedi (similar for Dubai – desert Anantara, Abu Dhabi Shangri La and XVA in Dubai). This means you see more of the country travelling between bases and also you aren’t putting all eggs in one basket! I never book hotel day trips – in most places you can do better under your own steam or a local guide.
I do read the guidebooks intensively and trawl through twitter and other travel reviews. That gives a long list of ideas. My husband then reads this and the guide on the plane and we’re sorted – following our noses but knowing what should be round the next corner! We have been known to book a restaurant in advance – so we’ve dented our credit cards seriously at Equinox in Singapore and Chateau Eza in France! We’d been looking forward to the treat for weeks in advance and weren’t disappointed on either occassion!
We always make sure we see where we are visiting, learn about the culture and meet the locals. We often get up early to beat the tourists – we saw the grand mosque in Oman privately and in Singapore found Sentosa completely empty!
What I love most about any trip however is being surprised! So when we were in Oman, we expected Chedi to surpass the Shangri La – it did in many ways, but the staff at SL were just amazing and we could never have imagined how well we would be looked after!
When in the UK, it is always best when the cottage has the sorts of things you never knew you needed – rugs, maps etc – or source a local coffee or beer that they leave for you on arrival rather than a bottle of Waitrose wine! Added to all of the provisions brought from home and hey presto – you’ve arrived at perfection!
And when staying with friends – well, if they stay up until 11pm waiting your arrival and then greet you with Tattinger, you kind of know the weekend will be awesome!
It is the little things that make any trip memorable – whether self catering, in a 5* hotel or staying with friends! Knitted together it just leaves you needing another holiday that’s even better!