Archive | City Breaks

Travel – It’s Simple Really – With A Little Homework!

The sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet, once famously said that ‘price is what you pay; value is what you get!’ He was talking about choosing stocks but the principle holds true for practically everything that is traded and travel arrangements are no different. The Internet is an amazing resource which millions of users benefit from and it is certainly a useful (albeit time-consuming) tool that consumers use when they are researching their next trip abroad. The problem with the medium though is the fact that many consumers tend to measure and compare various options — whether they be airline fares, hotel rooms or cruise holiday itineraries etc. — by little more than price, often doing themselves and the services or products on offer, a disservice.

Take air fares for example: Say, someone wants to fly from Dublin to London, a distance of approximately 290 air nautical miles and a flight time that takes around 60 to 75 minutes. Many tend to rationalise that since the journey time is only going to take an hour, why bother to evaluate the pros and cons of which airport is better or which carrier represents greater value for money since they’re not going to be up in the air long enough for any of that to matter! Whoever is offering the cheapest fare surely gets to capture their business?

The fact of the matter is that such ‘details’ do matter! The greater London area is served by four airports (five, if you include Southsea) the other four being Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted. So straight away, they need to question which arrival airport is in closest proximity to their final destination within London as that will have a significant bearing on the following factors:

  • The journey time to their final destination.
  • The roundtrip cost of that ticket
  • The frequency of the service being provided
  • The ease with which they can access the mode of transport from the arrivals terminal. (In Luton for example, you need to queue for a shuttle bus to take you to the local rail station in order to get a regional train service into central London.


Other variables that might also negatively impact on their brief customer ‘experience’ might also include factors that they may not have even thought of such as:

  • The terminal facilities that they can avail of on the return journey (particularly if there is a long flight delay).
  • The efficiency of the security protocols in place (how long it takes to get through).
  • Whether or not the airport in question is more prone to flight delays or cancellations due to adverse weather conditions. (Some airports suffer more from fog than others, for example).
  • The number of check-in desks made available to board flights. (Fewer open check-in desks equals longer queue times).
  • Distance of departure gates from main departure (or arrival) terminals ( A problem if you’re older, unsteady on your feet or nursing a recently injured limb!)
  • Quality/range of duty-free shopping.

And we haven’t even covered the choice of airline yet and which is often determined by your choice of airport. Ask yourself, are any of the following factors likely to adversely affect your enjoyment of your flight between A and B?

  • The size and type of aircraft that you fly on (The larger the aircraft, the smoother the flight — a factor to always bear in mind if you are a nervous traveller)
  • The seat pitch — e.g. the distance from your seat to the seat back in front of you. (An extremely important factor if you are tall and especially if you are going to undertake a flight duration longer than a few hours)
  • The generosity of the free cabin baggage allowance (Also, you may not be able to fit your cabin luggage in the overhead bin of some smaller aircraft)
  • The costs of all those hidden extras such as checked-in baggage, seat assignments, in-flight catering etc.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we haven’t even begun to cover the relative merits of competing airlines when it comes to the friendliness and helpfulness of their staff and their willingness to ‘bend the rules’ occasionally due to human error!

But there’s more: What kinds of conditions attach to each air fare type — particularly in those instances where travel plans become disrupted due to unforeseen changes in circumstances (sickness or bereavement, new job offers, incorrectly booked dates/flight in the original reservation etc.)? Will you have to take out a second mortgage on your property in order to pay for the change fees or penalties?

The fact of the matter is that even the simplest travel arrangements believe a level of complexity in decision making that often goes over the heads of many people with often costly consequences. That’s why using a travel agent to make such arrangements on your behalf often works out cheaper in the end as they act as a devils’ advocate by asking all the relevant questions that perhaps even you haven’t thought of — ‘prevention being better than cure’ — being the order of the day.

There are even more factors to consider than just the above but I think I’ve laboured the point enough at this stage for you to get the general idea. Of course, I’ve only been talking about simple point-to point air fares between Dublin and London. What about those more convoluted routings to far flung destinations around the world where the level of complexity increases almost exponentially because of things like higher intermediate points, maximum permitted mileages, free stopovers, passport and visa requirements, inoculations, personal security issues, monsoon seasons etc., and don’t even get me started on choosing the perfect cruise holiday!

So you see, using a travel agent isn’t just about paying them to find you the cheapest way of getting from A to B. It’s about revealing where the value lies and delivering it to you and in a manner that will enable you to enjoy the process of travelling to your destination so that the journey itself becomes almost (but not quite) as enjoyable as the destination itself!


Something different for the weekend!

Turkey - Istanbul - HolidaysWhere Old meets New in Istanbul – Turkey!

People often assume that just because you work in the travel business, you must have been everywhere. I wish! Don’t get me wrong.We do travel extensive  but what tends to happen is that you end up visiting the same destinations  quite a lot (especially in my case – cruise holiday destinations) — particularly if they feature heavily in the markets that you trade in — and much less so for places that you don’t. Now, personally I’ve hit the states in excess of 50 times now, and growing every quarter. And in that, I still feel like I’m only scratching the surface. By contrast, there are loads of places that I have yet to experience and which are definitely on my ‘To Do’ list. Places like Brazil, Japan, Madagascar, Antarctica to name but a few. In the list of visiting spots, Istanbul I’ve hit twice, and again recently our team in the office have for various reasons ended up transiting Istanbul as they criss cross the globe.  I had never been to Istanbul. We all agree quite simply, Istanbul is an amazing city. It is full of contrasts — especially the contrasts between the new and the old as exemplified by the differences one finds in the areas close to the Hagia Sofia or Topkapi Palace (old) and Taksim Square (new).

Istanbul is not for the faint hearted but if you give it — or more specifically, its inhabitants — a chance, you’ll be paid back in spades! Estimates of the cities’ population vary widely but you can confidently assume that it’s in excess of 15 million! That’s a lot of people and Istanbul spreads out in all directions as far as the eye can see across mountains, rivers, headlands, inlets and ultimately continents! If you’re into your history then you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven as the city is like Rome on steroids and encompasses rich remnants of not one but multiple civilisations that have called the area home since before recorded history began.

The opening of the last Bond – “Skyfall” featured the Grand Bazaar, you’ll also find Istanbul in “The World is not enough” and “From Russia with Love”. Istanbul is frequently picked off in cinema as a featured location. Istanbul is a true cultural melting pot, and this is reflected in the cities amazing architecture.

And the best news? It’s cheap to get to with the national carrier Turkish Airlines (a great carrier!) often offering roundtrip airfares for less than €200 return per person. There is also excellent value in hotels with alittle homework. The obvious “name brand” hotels can be expensive, but, we’ve picked off plenty of great value. It’s also a shoppers paradise and a world-renowned centre for leather goods, ceramics and high quality textiles and rugs/kilims. Do yourself a favour and get yourself out to Istanbul before the population of the city increases and you have to haggle with another million or two of their country men!


Grand BazaarGrand Bazaar 2

London Holiday Breaks – We Could Be Here Forever!


There is just so much to it! Where do you begin? As Irish people, we’ve been almost attached to London since travel began. We’ve emigrated, enjoyed and built London as natives of Ireland.

London was my own first “destination” as a travelling soul. And there’s not been a year in 30 years I’ve not been there. Recently I had the pleasure of flying VLM from Waterford Airport to London Luton and scooting into the City via the excellent train service. Entertainment in London is endless – from Thorpe Park – the often forgotten but tip top theme park to the varied museums, fantastic shopping, and really – the buzz. Even in the recession, London buzzed.

You can do London on a budget – even allowing for sterling. Here are some notes colleagues and friends have contributed on the subject.

With the Euro now only buying you 75 pence sterling (as of 02/02/’15), London has become even more expensive than it normally is so all the more reason to choose your accommodation carefully — particularly if staying in town for a couple of days. As with all large cities, choosing your location carefully is extremely important if you don’t wish to spend half your time getting from A to B and whilst the term ‘central’ is a relative one in a city the size of London, I don’t think anyone would disagree that the South Bank is about as central as it gets! Located right beside the London Eye (it is literally outside the hotel), the Premier Inn County Hall ticks all the boxes in terms of location. It is just a three minute walk from the nearest underground station at Waterloo (the entrance on Belvedere Road. Not York Road) and is located directly across the river from the iconic Houses of Parliament. The hotel is slightly unusual in that it does not have a traditional reception area but rather a series of self checkin/checkout kiosks with two lectern-type desks from where extremely helpful staff assist guests with enquiries or requests. The rooms are all soundproofed and they operate an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast along with a left-luggage facility where you can leave your bags if you have a flight later on in the day and want to fit in some last minute sightseeing or shopping. The entrance is located around the back of the huge County Hall building which looks like it has been recently given a major clean so you need to approach it from Belvedere Road which is a Cul de Sac. The Jubilee Gardens are located just beside the hotel and the London Aquarium is housed in the same block, just around the front by the Thames. At around £100 per room per night on average, the Premier Inn represents excellent value for money, given its superb location, friendly and helpful staff and proximity to many of London’s major tourist attractions. The hotel also has a bar. The hotel is located at the rear of the building shown at the lower left of the photo accompanying this blog.

Check it out the next time you’re in town.

Getting to London – costs to remember –

From Heathrow – you can take the tube – approx 50 mins and you’ll be pretty close to the absolute Heart of London. Cheap by Heathrow express the alternate – but very fast way of getting to the centre.

From London City – London City is a breeze. Based in the Docklands, the only airport actually “IN” London. Again easy striking on the Dockland Light Rail/Underground means – you can save money essentially by paying lower train fares. So when you look at the cost of getting to London, the airfare into London City might be a touch higher but factor in the bones of £30.00 of a difference.

London Luton – you can buy return train tickets for less than £20.00 into London which is dead handy. Combine with a 6 zone travel pass on the underground and you have a weapon of mass travel! From Airport to St. Pancras should take approx 1 hour total time – allowing for hanging around. There are also frequent bus services to Victoria Coach station – and again are very economic.

Gatwick – the Gatwick express is simplicity itself into Victoria. Not cheap – but it runs every 15 minutes from Gatwick and takes 30 minutes.

Contact us and we’ll help put together your London break…

Picadillt Circus London