We asked 9 influential travel bloggers a series of questions to tap into their knowledge of travelling. On the panel we had:
- Monica from thetravelhack.com
- Abi from insidethetravellab.com
- Becky from globalgrasshopper.com
- Carly from adventuremummy.com
- Kate from babyroutes.co.uk
- Vicky from vickyflipfloptravels.com
- Liz from themumblog.com
- Gretta from mumsdotravel.com
- Paul from aluxurytravelblog.com
1) During your time travelling, what is the single best piece of advice you have been given?
Monica: Pack light and EVERYTHING is easier. It’s easier to get around, you don’t need to check-in luggage, you’re less likely to lose things, and you can take public transport with no bother. Life is so much more difficult when you’re lugging heavy bags around with you.
Abi: I suppose a flippant answer would be to take tissues and toilet paper everywhere but on a more serious note would be to book your trip. One a trip is booked up ready it kind of focuses your mind and provides a deadline. You have to book to go otherwise we all be to busy to go anywhere.
Becky: If you return to a travel destination you’ll have a completely different perspective from when you first visited! It’s very true, sometimes it’s been disappointing but on other occasions it’s been better – travel is all about experiences!
Carly: Research your destination, find local gems, and try to immerse yourself in the culture
Kate: My family recommended I keep a diary during my gap year to South America. Whilst I’ve been hit and miss at following this advice over the years, my diaries and emails that I’ve kept from my gap year in South America are some of my most treasured items. They document a journey not just of ticking off places but of growth, self-discovery and adventure. The act of writing things down also sparks new questions, helps to consolidate your experiences and to give you inspiration for new adventures. These days I document my travels via the Baby Routes blog.
Vicky: You did what was right at the time. This is my life mantra. Often when I’m travelling I’ll wonder why I booked a certain hotel, chose to go to a certain place or did a certain activity. There are so many decisions to be made every day when you’re travelling, there’s no doubt you’ll make a few bad ones. Trust in yourself that you made them for a reason and get what you can from every one.
Liz: Advice I always give anyone travelling with kids is to always take a change of clothes, for any possible accidents, delays etc. And if you’re going on a car journey, a towel. I’ve heard horror stories of people being stranded on motorways when their child is violently ill. A towel is your best friend.
Gretta: Buy annual travel insurance. It saves time and money if you travel frequently.
Paul: It wasn’t so much travel advice, but a friend once said to me (at the time I was due to buy my wife’s engagement ring as it happens!) that you never regret life’s extravagances. For me it extends to travel and experiences more so than material things. Once time has passed we remember amazing travel experiences but rarely do we remember how much they cost.
2) What is your favourite place to visit in the UK?
Monica I love London. You can never get tired of London because there’s just so much to do and there’s this incredible energy. I also love the countryside and North Wales is a gorgeous area of the UK. There’s a little village in North Wales called Portmeirion and it’s incredible. It’s an Italian style village with all this faux grandeur, cobbled streets and unusual buildings.
Abi This is a very tough question as there are so many places. First I would have to say the Coastline around the Gower peninsula in Wales, lots of amazing coastal walks, friendly locals and have lots of fond memories. Second place would be the areas surrounding Bath, this is Jane Austen country the Cotswolds are close by with amazing Thatch Cottage’s and is the typical scenery that everyone has of the English countryside. Third place is Brighton and surrounding areas, the areas that I grew up. It is such a tolerant and creative area.
Becky We love Brighton it’s a hip and happening city that continues to surprise and intrigue its many visitors. It’s always been a fun place too (especially when the sun’s out) but we also love it for its great beachfront, award winning restaurants and thriving art and alternative scene.
Kate Now that’s a tough question. The UK is full of so many wonderful places!
I’ve recently returned from the Isles of Scilly and had a very hard time leaving. It was a complete oasis there – so tranquil, beautiful beaches and wildlife, so few cars and a much less complicated way of living than the frantic lives we lead on the mainland, even if it must be pretty tough at times.
Scotland will also always hold a large place in my heart. I went to university there and fell in love with its countryside character and people. The quiet seclusion of the Glen Elg peninsular on the West Coast or heading off up an empty brooding glen in the Cairngorms have to be some of my favourite experiences. We try to visit at least once a year.
Finally, I am a West Country girl at heart and I still miss the smell of the cows and the unique lush green of the gentle hills of Somerset. Bristol is a fantastic city too. Whenever I return to visit family and friends I always discover some new secret or beautiful spot for a wander.
Vicky The more time I’ve spent away from London the more I love it when I go back. I’m originally from the countryside, which I love, but there’s just nowhere in the world like London. There’s so much to do there for free, so much history and so much buzz on the streets. I’m seriously debating moving back.
Liz I’m a Londoner born and bred and I never get tired of exploring this wonderful city – there’s so much to see and do, plus of course wonderful museums, galleries, architecture, and places where there’s always something going on, like the South Bank. Outside London, though, I’d have to say the South west – particularly Dorset and Cornwall. The British coastline is staggeringly beautiful.
Gretta My favourite place to visit in the UK is London because it’s so different from the rural village where we live and there are so many interesting things to do there. It takes about 30 minutes to get to London by train from our nearest rail station and I usually go there once or twice a week.
Paul I’m biased since I live here, but the Lake District has to be my favourite place. We are blessed with some of the most beautiful scenery and a quieter pace of life than the likes of London.
3) Where in the world was your best meal?
Monica Thailand. I love Thai red curry
Abi I don’t normally like answering best questions but this answer is easy. It is the El Cellar de Can Roca restaurant in Girona, Spain. At the time it was voted the second best restaurant in the world and has recently been awarded first position. I had the most amazing caramelised olives served from a tree and some unbelievably tasty Bon Bons http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners/El-Celler-de-Can-Roca
Becky A locally grown salad in Napa Valley, California. So fresh and tasty!
Carly Kathmandu at the K2 restaurant, best steak dish after a 17 day trek to Everest Base Camp!
Kate Greece is one of my favourite places for food, purely for its simplicity and freshness. Fish and squid straight out the sea and grilled on a wood burner, honey cakes dripping with golden sugar syrup, fresh figs warm and succulent eaten straight out a paper bag bought from a boat-top market… it’s food at its most simple and best.
The Greek Salad we ate perched on the edge of a turquoise sea in the small town of Asos, Kefalonia has to be one of my most enjoyable lunches. Nothing pretentious about it – just huge sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh tangy feta and sharp red onions. The Greek sunshine does something magical to flavour of those ingredients. It’s impossible to recreate at home.
For something more complex I would have to say India is a favourite too. I have visited three times now and it never fails to amaze me how anyone can make lentils taste so amazingly good. I tasted my first Butter Chicken in a run-down restaurant in a small town in Northern India. It was an unremarkable place in every other way and in true Indian style, there was no cutlery. It will remain etched in my memory though for the astonishingly delicious creation that I ate there that night. Eating with my hands and experiencing that dish through an extra sensory dimension only heightened the experience.
Vicky A few months ago I went on a sailing trip from El Nido to Coron in the Philippines. Every day we were eating fresh fish that they’d caught on board. All the food on the trip was amazing, but the meal that will stand out for me forever was porridge day. It wasn’t just any old porridge, they’d made a big vat then the staff climbed the trees to get fresh coconuts to serve it up in. When I realised what they were doing my mind was blown. It was presented with some locally produced honey and mango, and I was in heaven.
Liz Some of the best food I’ve eaten has been in Asia; particularly Japan, which is surprisingly affordable – you can get deliciously fluffy pork buns for a few quid, as well as exceptional conveyor belt sushi; and also the food in Hong Kong, Singapore and Vietnam is amazing. My No 1 rule when you’re looking for a restaurant abroad is to go where the local people are eating. I’m also a big fan of American cuisine. And Caribbean. Basically I’m a total foodie.
Gretta I can’t choose one best meal but I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy and the food there is always fantastic. This year we’re going to the Emilia Romagna region for the first time so maybe my best meal is yet to come – it’s reputed to be Italy’s foodie capital.
Paul As you can imagine, I’ve had the opportunity to eat at many wonderful restaurants around the world so it’s difficult to pick a ‘best’. One recent one that stood out for me was dinner at the newly-opened Aman Tokyo. Each dish was excellent, but particularly the Hokkaido scallops with sea urchin. You can see the food here: http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2015/02/28/short-stay-aman-tokyo-tokyo-japan/
4) Does any place stand out as having the friendliest locals?
Monica I’ve just returned from the Isles of Scilly, a group of beautiful islands off the coast of Cornwall in the UK. The locals there are so incredibly friendly. They were welcoming and kind and also a lot of fun to spend time with.
Abi There are good and bad areas to all places that you visit. Cities seem to be busy and unfriendly, as you venture out to the countryside the locals tend to become friendlier and as you venture out to the more isolated areas the people tend to be on the more eccentric side. the city the broke the rule was Tokyo. I found the locals extremely welcoming and helpful.
Becky We’re in love with Cuba, Havana – the people there are so vibrant and fun.
Kate Costa Rica, without a doubt. The Ticos have a saying ‘Pura Vida’ or ‘pure life’. It’s not something Granny says once a year, it is something they live and breathe by and it reflects their optimism at life, the appreciation that no matter how bad things get, they are still fortunate in the grand scheme of things, a relaxed and laid back way of approaching life. This is reflected in their attitude to those around them, including foreigners. Nothing is too much trouble, no one is considered unworthy of a few minutes of their time. It’s a very friendly and welcoming place to travel and I can’t wait to go back with the children.
Vicky Again I’d say the Philippines actually. People there are so genuinely friendly, not like they’re forced to be in shops and in public service in England, but it was like they genuinely cared about you. They Filipinos I met were great fun from the off too. The Philippines is somewhere I’d love to go back to and spend a few months.
Liz I can’t actually think of anywhere I’ve been that doesn’t have super friendly local people. But in Cambodia the people are incredible, they have an extraordinarily generous spirit, which when you consider everything that country went through in the recent past is humbling.
Gretta I went to Athens for the first time last year and was so struck by the kindness of all of the locals that we met there that I wrote an article about it. But generally I find that people are friendly in most places as long as you’re friendly to them.
Paul In the mid-nineties I spent some time working in Greenland and found the people there to be very friendly – always smiling and waving, and keen to help in any way that they could.
5) What was your first trip abroad and have you been back since?
Monica My first trips abroad were to Menorca as my uncle had a holiday home there. We went nearly every summer when I was little. I was around 10 the last time I went but I’m keen to go back and re-live some childhood memories and check out the things I didn’t appreciate when I was so young.
Abi Saudi Arabia was my first trip abroad due to family commitment and I did travel back due to this. First destination I chose to go by myself was Crete as a student. i havent been
Becky It was a package holiday to Spain when I was a very young child. We’ve been back to Spain but now we only travel independently!
Carly France, we went many times when I was younger camping, I don’t think I have been back since though!
Kate I went on so many holidays as a child that I genuinely can’t remember which was my first one. We spent a lot of time in France though, with lazy holidays revolving around visiting markets, traipsing to the boulangerie for pain au chocolat every morning and long barbeque dinners every evening. When my husband and I got married we took both our families on a similar trip to the Mandarin region to choose the wine and bubbles for our wedding. It was a lovely experience and a perfect way to kick off the wedding preparations and spend more time together. We put photos of our trip on the back of the bottles of wine for our wedding and still have one or two. They bring back fond memories.
Vicky My first trip abroad was to Euro Disney when I was about 10 years old. Loved it. I did go back a few years later on a school trip and I expect to revisit again sometime in the future. I still remember the awesome Small World ride, Space Mountain and the awesome Christmas parade through the park. I actually went to Disney World in Japan this year and loved that too. You never get too old!
Liz My first trip abroad was to gorgeous Madeira and Porto Santo with my parents when I was 10; although I’ve been to Portugal many times since I still haven’t been back to Madeira – it’s definitely somewhere I’d like to visit again.
Gretta My first trip abroad was camping in France with my parents and siblings when I was about 10 years old. I was so horrified by the hole-in-the-ground lavatories that I can’t remember much else about that trip. I’ve been to France many times since, including on camping trips with my own children.
Paul As a child until about 14 years of age, we used to go on camping holidays to France every year – usually to the likes of Normandy, La Loire and Brittany. I have been back a few times since with my own family and hope to visit again soon.
Travel advice from the experts. Thank you to all contributors.
Nick Russil https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickrussill/
Athens photo by Alehins https://www.flickr.com/photos/alehins/
Cambodia photo by Davidlohr Bueso https://www.flickr.com/photos/daverugby83/
Napa Valley photo by Malcolm Carlaw https://www.flickr.com/photos/lightsamples/
Port Meirion by Smabs Sputzer https://www.flickr.com/photos/10413717@N08/
Suitcases Image by: gideon https://www.flickr.com/photos/malias/
London Image by: August Brill https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustbrill/