In these days of online booking and the huge array of travel information available, you may ask yourself why there is still a need for travel agents. There are many reasons why this is a smart choice and using a travel agent to plan travel and book your trips is an upward trend.
If you think that it is only the over 60s who use travel agents to book you should think again. Young travellers are embracing the expertise of travel agents and millenials are as likely as baby boomers to use a travel agent. Travel trade research in both the UK and US show the same results, that travel agents are still relevant in the digital age.
Here are 5 reasons why:
So the only thing which is changing regarding using a travel agent, is the way they offer their services. The high street shop may be in decline but the new breed of travel agents offer their shopfront online but are still a reassuring voice on the end of the phone, contactable via online chat or are just an email away.
Interested in using a travel agent for your next trip or would like to get travel offers sent to your inbox? Get in touch with us today.
Travelling in comfort is so important in these days of bustling airports and high security. This is especially true for the over 50s when travel comfort is a greater consideration than budget. If, like me, you suffer from back problems, the thought of sitting on a plane for hours and struggling through airports with heavy luggage does not fill you with joy! Here are our top tips for getting the most relaxing holiday ever.
1. Arrive at the airport in style
Be chauffeur driven to the airport in a luxury executive vehicle or use the airport's valet parking service. You will arrive at the airport relaxed and stress-free.
2. Send your luggage ahead
Use a service to handle your baggage so you don't have to lug it around at the airport. For example Airportr can pick up your luggage from home so you can pick it up on arrival at your destination.
3. Upgrade your flight
Treat yourself to a more luxurious flight experience. With more legroom, complimentary drinks, seats that turn into flat beds and many other services, a flight upgrade is well worth splashing the cash for. Better still, make sure you are a member of an airline loyalty club, like the award winning American Airlines Advantage club. Business and first class cabins tend to be quieter than economy too, improving the chances of getting some restful sleep. Arrive more rested and refreshed with a flight upgrade - you know you're worth it!
4. Stay in quality accommodation
To ensure a relaxing stay it is important to book top class hotels, villas and guesthouses. Properties should be a blend of comfort, style, great service and value for money. Be sure to do your research on review sites, or have your travel consultant recommend the very best for your budget. Sometimes it can be worth splashing out for the best but it is always worth getting personal recommendations.
5. Use a concierge service
This could be provided by your travel consultant, your hotels, airlines, or a specialist supplier. Find out more about the services provided in this Travel Weekly article. The services offered vary wildly from obtaining tickets for shows, excursions, ferries, etc, to access to exclusive members-only events and services, such as cocktail parties and private yachts. They can even arrange to have your luggage unpacked/packed. Using a concierge can certainly take your holiday experience up a notch.
6. Visit a spa
For total relaxation you can do no better than visit a spa. If staying at a hotel with a spa it is likely that access to the facilities is included in your room price. Treatments will always be additional unless you have pre-booked it as part of your travel package. Spas come in many guises but they all have one thing in common, after a visit you feel fabulous. Should your accommodation not incorporate spa facilities then the reception desk can usually furnish you with details of a local spa. Alternatively your concierge service can certainly book a visit for you.
7. Try a yoga retreat
If you are looking to completely switch off from the hustle and bustle of daily life, check yourself into a yoga retreat. Escapes are from as little as a day and offer a truly holistic experience. Most retreats offer other activities that complement yoga, such as swimming, massage, walking and getting in tune with the surrounding nature. After your peaceful retreat you are sure to come back to everyday life with renewed vigour and optimism.
8. Book a private guide
Unless you are on a group tour with a tour manager to arrange the logistics of your holiday, you may wish to hire a private guide. Not only do you get local expertise as you travel around but it can give you peace of mind in an unfamiliar country. This takes the strain of planning your journey from your shoulders as your guide will take care of all the details to ensure you have an excellent trip.
9. Eat great food
On holiday you want to experience the local culture of your destination. This includes trying the cuisine of the region. Don't just stay in the hotel restaurant, no matter how good the food is, you will miss out on one of the reasons you travel! Ask the hotel reception for recommendations or do some research on the internet to find out the best local eateries. You can even enroll on a cooking class to learn how to make your favourite local delicacies to enjoy at home. If this doesn't appeal you could always take a food tour instead.
10. Wear comfortable clothing
It sounds obvious but it really is important to wear comfy clothes on holiday, especially for travelling. On planes particularly you should wear loose clothing and shoes (ideally wear slippers or socks during the flight so your feet are not constricted). Scheduled airlines, especially if you have upgraded, will generally provide socks, blankets, eye masks and so on to add to your onboard comfort. Otherwise don't forget to pack these essentials. When in your destination be sure to dress appropriately for the climate and local customs.
Don't forget, if you have any mobility difficulties you can book airport assistance in advance. This can be done via your travel agent or direct with the airport (check out their website for details). For inbound journeys you cannot book in advance so will need to arrange this with the airline prior to your homeward journey. If you are on a Tasteful Travel tour you will be able to do this via your tour manager.
Sign up to this Blog for news, tips and inspiration and ask one of our experts to call you with further information to book a tour. And remember, comfort is king!
Greece has everything the traveller needs. Awe inspiring sightseeing, miles of beaches of every kind, hundreds of islands to visit and great weather for two thirds of the year. What it also has is fabulous gastronomy. The country still suffers from a terrible reputation for poor food gained from the sub-standard fare served to tourists in mass market hotels, the ubiquitous giros, and the limited menu on offer in Greek restaurants around the world. But Greece's cuisine today is actually fresh and fabulous. Today top chefs are developing a fusion of the traditional with a modern style. This rediscovery of Greek food heritage is winning acclaim and makes Greece a real foodie destination.
Foremost exponents of the reconstruction of well-known Greek dishes are Georgianna Chiliadaki & Nikos Roussos. Owners of Funky Gourmet in Athens, they have been awarded two Michelin stars for their avant guard twist on classics such as Pastitsio (macaroni with mince) and Horiatiki (Greek salad).
Fresh local ingredients are now being celebrated by renowned chefs such as Alexandros Kardasis and Sotiris Evangelou. No mention of top Greek chefs would be complete without Michelin starred Ettore Botrini. His restaurants in Corfu, Athens and now Rhodes set the bar high. Botrini can be seen on the Greek version of 'Kitchen Nightmares' and has published many recipe books. All of these chefs and many more are ensuring that Greek's culinary tradition is preserved but also taken to another level of excellence.
Greece has always produced top quality olive oil, fruit and vegetables and of course seafood. What many people don't know is that the more mountainous regions produce a vast range of cheeses - it's not just all about feta! The meat is some of the most succulent I have ever eaten, despite the preference for serving well done in most tavernas, even today. Instead of taking these great ingredients for granted, Greek chefs are now celebrating them.
Crete has been at the forefront in the revival of traditional Greek cooking since the 1990s. Its produce is excellent due to the long growing season and the Cretan people's connection to the land. Along with other notable regions and islands, Santorini with its fertile volcanic soil, the Peleponnese and Halkidiki with their world famous olives, there is so much variety in produce and cuisine to try in Greece.
All over Greece there are now opportunities for the foodie tourist to experience this first hand. Cookery classes, olive oil tastings, bakery demonstrations and all manner of meals are on offer. From the rustic to the very grand, you can find it all in Greece.
Celebrate the great culinary come back on a Tasteful Travel Greece tour. Get in touch to find out more.
In the past, the airport lounge was considered to be only available to high rollers or business travellers with expense accounts. Those days are happily gone and the airport lounge of today offers the chance to escape the stress and bustle of the terminal and relax in a calm environment prior to takeoff.
Airport lounges vary in the services provided but all will have comfortable seating and refreshments. Most will include free Wi-Fi and device charging whilst some will offer massages, cinema access and a host of other services as airport lounges continue to evolve.
At Tasteful Travel we believe that an airport lounge pass is a great choice and so we are including free passes with all holidays booked with a value of at least £1,500 per party. Any holiday with a lower value we will offer 25% off the lounge pass so nobody misses out.
Here are our top 5 reasons for getting a lounge pass:
Prepare for your flight on a full stomach with complimentary hot and cold food. Packages in lounges vary but there is always access to snacks or meals, soft drinks and a bar. This is particularly good news if you have a long wait or want to share a drink with your travelling companion(s).
2. Freshen Up
Many airport lounges have showers and changing facilities for the use of their customers. Good lounges will be equipped with towels and all the essentials you need to wash the travel grime off and feel like yourself again. This is especially wonderful if you are in transit between flights - it makes the second flight so much more bearable if you feel fresher.
3. Connect & recharge
Need to stay connected to the internet world whilst you travel? Run out of battery on your mobile? Airport lounges offer Wi-Fi facilities and some may have PC stations to logon whilst in transit. Most lounges will have sockets where you can power up your devices and may also have USB ports if you need a wired connection to the internet. No competition in the busy terminal for either computers or Wi-Fi, how great!
4. Be entertained
While away the hours of boredom waiting for a flight in the airport lounge where you can watch TV, listen to music or read their newspapers and magazines. It's a good alternative to shopping. Some lounges even have cinemas to help to speed up the pre-flight wait.
5. Peaceful surroundings
The ambience of an airport lounge is designed for relaxation. Chill out on comfy chairs and sofas and even nod off away from the seething crowds outside. Business people can get work done and leisure travellers can get a great start - or end - to their holiday.
Unwind in an airport lounge with a complimentary pass when you book a tour with Tasteful Travel.
Let's dispel the myth that Greek wine is all Domestica and Retsina. These days Greek wine offers award-winning, quality drinking. The 'Wine Roads' are routes through the wine regions of Greece, brought to you by an association of wine makers. The idea is that you can explore your chosen region by travelling in a logical way from winery to winery.
One of these routes is the Wine Road of Northern Greece. Actually it is a collection of routes with suggestions of beauty spots, historic places and museums to visit, as well as the best vineyard tours and tastings. Try the 'Wine Route of the Olympian Gods', 'Wine Route of Naousa' or, as we did, the 'Wine Route of Thessaloniki'. There are plenty to chose from and you can find full details on the association's website here.
Thessaloniki is one of the world's eternal cities. With its roots in Classical Greece, it thrived during the Byzantine era and lived through the Turkish occupation, as can be seen by the historic monuments, castles and churches scattered throughout the city. Excellent museums, particularly the Archaeological Museum which houses relics from Alexander the Great and the Byzantine Museum with its fascinating insight into more than a thousand years of history. Don't forget to swing by the White Tower, the symbol of the city which dominates the coastal landscape.
But Thessaloniki is not just a city living in the past. It has a beating heart of markets, bars and restaurants, as well as exciting night life. It also has access to nearby seaside and mountain resorts making it the ideal hub for a holiday or tour.
One of the highlights of this wine route for us is a visit to the Geravassiliou winery and museum. Take a tour around the vineyard and taste the award-winning wines in the cellar, set amongst ancient amphora and Venetian chandeliers. Your wine expert is informative about the grape varieties or blends in each wine. As part of your tour your guide will take you around the museum, mainly consisting of Vassili Geravassiliou's (the owner) collection of wine bottle openers. This gives a fascinating insight into the history of this humble tool, from ancient to elaborate. Other exhibits explain the wine maker's art.
A visit to Geravassiliou is a complete celebration of wine. And you might even meet Mr Geravassiliou!
Another bright day greeted us on the day of our departure from Thessaloniki. After a hasty breakfast we set off for the first visit of the day to nearby Kalamaria. This leafy suburb was quiet and pleasant and the route to it took us along the coast road past one of the old royal summer palaces, now used by state officials. Of course we had to swing by the symbol of the city, the White Tower before turning back to Kalamaria. Thessaloniki has invested in regenerating the seafront. There are now themed areas with fountains, trees and decked areas. A stroll along past the Tower is now essential on any visit to Thessaloniki.
Although supposedly just dropping by for a coffee, we were treated to home made ‘tiropita’ those delicious crispy cheese pies with filo pastry. A good cup of Greek coffee was offered too. What a treat. Refreshed after our short visit we set off to visit a relative in a care home on the outskirts of Thermi, a small town on the hills near Thessaloniki airport. After getting lost and the stupid GPS in my phone trying to direct us across a field and into a factory yard, we finally arrived at our destination. Although a little remote the home is set in lovely grounds and there are fabulous views of the city from the balconies. We were pressed to have some chocolates and remembered happier times before setting off for Halkidiki.
The main motorway passes the outskirts of Thessaloniki with its light industry and many furniture outlets before reaching Tsantali winery. After this I always feel that the scenery becomes more green and picturesque. Scattered vineyards are in evidence but much more so are the hundreds of olive groves producing the famous big fat Halkidiki olives. The soil here is red and the contrast between the red and the green and grey of the olive trees is really beautiful.
Arriving at our small hotel at the top of the first leg of Halkidiki (an area known for its 3 parallel peninsulas or ‘legs’), I felt at peace. It is such a lovely part of the world. The azure of the sea meeting the deep green of the pines and flowers everywhere.
After such a busy day we didn't want to venture too far for dinner so drove the short distance to Gerakini Beach and the excellent taverna Anemomilos (the windmill). Since we had been fed everywhere we went today we decided to share a mossaka and a ‘horiatiki’ known worldwide as Greek Salad with a carafe of the very passable house red wine. Artisan bread and oil were brought with the salad to start. The moussaka was one of the best I have ever eaten, and believe me, I’ve tried a few! It was home made and to the chef’s own recipe. The service was excellent and the whole experience extremely enjoyable. Anemomilos is right opposite the Ikos Olivia 5* hotel and the hotel gives the taverna their seal of approval as they issue their guests with discount vouchers. More about the hotel tomorrow.
Today is a day of visits to relatives and friends so we make sure we have some time to relax before the running around begins. Instead of heading to the centre, round Aristotelous Square (named after Aristotle who came from Halkidiki just down the road from here), we decide to go for coffee at the port. On the way we passed jewels of turn of the century architecture amongst the less delightful blocks of flats.
Once Thessaloniki was full of such beautiful buildings but a huge fire in 1917 destroyed about two thirds of the centre of the city.
Along the seafront there are a few 'Belle Epoque' buildings and deco masterpieces can also be found. Stroll around the centre of the city and you will stumble across wonderful old buildings wedged between the ubiquitous flats. What you will also find are remains of the Byzantine city walls as well as Roman ruins, such as the Arch of Galereus and the Emperor Galereus' Palace. It is an ever fascinating place to walk around for those interested in history but here there is something for everyone, great shopping, sightseeing, cultural events and much, much more.
The port has been redeveloped as a cultural hub with several museums near the wonderful Passenger Terminal building. Although still functioning as a commercial port, Thessaloniki no longer has the same amount of maritime traffic as it once did. There are still ferries operating but nothing like from Piraeus and mainly in the summer to the Sporades islands for example. Cruise ships put in at Thessaloniki but again, not in large numbers. So Thessaloniki made a smart move by regenerating the area and capitalising on the fabulous views you get of the city from the port area.
To the left of the magnificent Passenger Terminal building and facing the sea is the Kitchen Bar, our destination for coffee and later a spot of lunch. We sat outside watching the pleasure boats on their harbour tours and the huge container ships at anchor. The weather was sunny with a few clouds to make it interesting. To our left the whole of Thessaloniki and close by Aristotelous Square. My frappe (iced coffee) tasted delicious looking at that great view. Basking in the sun in great surroundings is what holidays are all about.
We enjoyed a spot of lunch at Kitchen Bar, American style diner with a Greek twist. Food is plentiful and tasty. Knowing how large the portions are we only ordered one ma in course and a salad and were totally full. The pork souvlaki was succulent and the salad unusual, including baby figs, Cretan hard cheese and beetroot leaves, as well as spinach and cranberries. Bizarre combination I hear you cry, but it worked.
Tearing ourselves away from the view we whizzed back to the apartment for a quick change. Next stop Panorama, upmarket hilltop suburb of Thessaloniki. Here we visited relatives and were pressed to eat some 'spanakopita' and 'tiropita' (spinach and cheese pies respectively) made by the mother in law in Crete. Despite being pretty full from lunch the pies were so appetising that of course they had to be tried. To go with our coffee we also had to try some 'glyko', home made fruit in syrup, also known as 'spoon sweet'. In this case we were treated to strawberry glyko, a bit sweet for me but yummy nevertheless.
Last stop in our packed programme was with another friend who we had arranged to meet near Parorama in another picturesque village on the heights. Our destination was Zografou, a cute cafe bar which offers a great range of herbal tea, particularly Krocus Kozanis, made with saffron. Of course they also serve wines, beers and snacks. I stuck with a lager and this time chose an Alfa, which is not at all bitter and very easy drinking.
We had a pleasant time catching up with news of friends, work, etc, and said our goodbyes fairly early as our friend had to get up early next morning. Frankly we were pretty relieved as we were whacked! Mind you before we left, in true Greek tradition, our friend gave us a huge box of cakes as a gift. The patisserie box was full of the local speciality of 'Panorama trigono', filo pastry triangles with syrup and custard. My diet is suffering but it is all too good not to eat!
The way home was a bit exciting as we went the wrong way up the road and ended up winding down the big hill on some windy single track roads - terrifying in the dark. But the view of the city lights as we returned to civilisation was amazing. And so to bed...
Feeling a little more refreshed we got up and made breakfast. Barley rusks with olive oil and tomatoes called dakos (something we learned in Crete), olives, boiled egg, soft cheese and fresh bread. Did I mention the cucumber and lashings of olive oil? So delicious and certainly beats a bowl of cereal.
I was still so tired from the early morning and flight delay that I declined to accompany Peri into the city centre. He had business to take care of so the thought of sitting in government offices for the morning didn’t fill me with get up and go. On his return we set off for a late lunch along the seafront in Nea Krini (part of Kalamaria). We wanted something more traditional than yesterday so headed for an ‘estiatorio’, an eatery in between a taverna and a classy restaurant. After driving down the strip and then back up we decided on Okeanis. They have a menu which changes from day to day.
The food was certainly plentiful and it was excellent Greek staples such as ‘kokkinisto’ (beef stew with tomatoes - kokkino means red) and 'bakalaria me skordalia' (cod with garlic sauce). We were not hungry enough for starters as we know of old how huge the Greek portions are! Instead we settled for a main course each and a salad. This time we chose the ‘horta’ which is wild greens, a bit like spinach but with a more bitter flavour. We added plenty of lemon juice and olive oil and started on it whilst we waited for our main courses.
The kokkinisto came with oven baked courgettes - delicious - and so filling I only added the ubiquitous bread rather than ordering some kind of potatoes as well. The cod was battered and was really light and the cod succulent, with the accompanying skordalia piquant with raw garlic. Good job we both had some!! And what did we drink with this feast? Retsina from one of the oldest and best procurers in Greece, Malamatina. Crisp, cold and supremely refreshing on a hot day. It is the perfect choice for lunch. To finish the meal what better than fruit and ice cream as a gift from the restaurant?
Back to our apartment to get changed and then our with friends to a bar at the marina, Erotikos. No, it is not a girlie bar as the Greek word ‘erota’ is only concerned with romance. The bar is cool, music not too loud so you can chat, and there is a good selection of Greek and international beer. I chose the Fix, one of the oldest breweries in Greece. Brewed in Athens, this lager is light and yeasty with great flavour and no real bitterness. Refreshing and morish, I managed to drink all of a large bottle on my own - usually unheard of! It was great to catch up with old friends, especially in lovely surroundings.
As usual Thessaloniki provides great cafe and restaurant culture and I’m loving it. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings in this exciting city.
After not one but 3 different delays which kept us on the tarmac at London Gatwick for over an hour longer than expected, we finally took off for Thessaloniki. Don’t you love computer systems?! At least we were on the very early flight so still arrived in Greece for lunchtime.
Having hired a car we stepped out of the air conditioned airport into the wonderful hot sun. This is the perfect time to visit as the blazing heat of the summer has mellowed but you are still guaranteed uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures of approx 24oC.
We’re staying in the leafy suburb of Kalamaria within walking distance of the sea. To blow away the cobwebs we went for a walk around the area. Of course we headed for the beach! My husband remembers swimming there as a boy but tells me that nobody does so now. But we can see some of the huge Bay of Thermaikos which Thessaloniki stands on and we found a picturesque spot. It just so happens that, past the quaint little fisherman’s church, is one of the city’s best clubs, Remvi, which is also a trendy bar and restaurant.
Of course we were starving by this point so took a table in the restaurant which boasts a fabulous view.
The food at Remvi is modern but uses some unusual local produce. There is nothing of the traditional taverna about the menu but instead some Greek mainstays like meatballs, have been reinvented as chicken meatballs with the taste of wonderful fresh herbs and served with game chips. I had the grilled octopus which was soft and delicious. The salad we chose to go with our meal was ‘herbs from Ammouliani’. Ammouliani is a small island off the coast of Halkidiki, about a 2 hour drive from Thessaloniki. Neither of us knew what would turn up but the huge salad was of a cooked vegetable which we had never eaten before. It was a little like samphire but tasted quite different. It was almost bitter but not unpleasantly so and I could not compare the flavour to anything else. Dressing the greens were crushed tomatoes, a soft cheese which resembled cottage cheese but tasted a whole lot better, and a vinaigrette. Interesting and tasty. It was too hot for wine so we shared a large bottle of Fix beer. Deliciously refreshing.
We declined the dessert as we were full but we stopped at a local patisserie for cakes for later. Thessaloniki is the city of patisseries. Almost every corner has one. They generally serve homemade ice cream as well as cakes (works of art!) and the fabulous chocolates. We swung by the supermarket and stocked up as we decided to go self-catering this time.
And so to bed! Exhausted after the long day of travel, the hot sun and the walking. I wonder what delights tomorrow will bring…