Top travel meltdowns caught on tape

Airports and travel tend to push people to the emotional edge when things don’t go as planned. We’ve seen quite a few meltdowns in our day due to alcohol (common), sleep deprivation, bad judgement or just plain frustration. We’ve compiled a list of the most shocking or amusing travel meltdown videos we’ve seen in awhile.

Earlier this week, Yan Linkun, a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee member and vice chairman of the Guangdong Yunnan Mining Company, and his family missed not only one, but two flights on the same day. When attempting to board their second rescheduled flight, they were denied as boarding had been closed. What transpired afterwards can only be described as the classic boarding denial meltdown. Every epic bit of this tirade was captured on CCTV cameras, which went viral in China, causing Yan to be temporarily suspended from his job at the mining company.

In 2009, a Chinese woman in Hong Kong missed boarding her Cathay Pacific flight to San Francisco by minutes causing her to unleash a meltdown worthy of a soap opera. The woman’s identity was never revealed, but she did later come forward anonymously and said that reaction to the video had caused her much embarrassment.

In January of this year, a man was restrained by Icelandair crew and passengers after he accosted nearby passengers screaming that the plane was going to crash. With some duct tape and plastic ties, the man was strapped to his seat for the remainder of the journey to New York. It was later revealed that 46-year-old Gudmundur Karl Arthorsson had downed a fifth of spirits he had purchased from the duty-free shop inside the airport. No charges were filed.

A perfect example of when a meltdown is not fun is when it’s the pilot who is the one going mental. In March of 2012, Capt. Clayton Frederick Osbon left the cockpit of JetBlue Flight 191 whilst going on about terrorists, al-Qaeda and other such ramblings. The co-pilot managed to lock Capt. Osbon out of the cockpit and then quickly change the access code, but that didn’t stop a melee from occurring within the passenger area. After passengers and crew subdued Osbon, the flight was diverted to Amarillo, Texas with Osbon being immediately transported to hospital. Later, the outburst was blamed on “sleep deprivation” which fueled a temporary psychotic outburst. Scary!

We don’t know who this lady is or what her deal is, but we like her. We wouldn’t exactly consider this a meltdown, but we hope she is dancing because she got a really great deal on stand-by ticket or an extra packet of peanuts.

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The Carnival cruise from hell

It was only a few weeks ago that we posted on the recent spate of Norovirus outbreaks occurring on the high seas. This week, we’ve been riveted reading about the epic tale of the Carnival cruise that has gone from bad to worse.

It would seem that the cruise industry just can’t catch a break!

In case you hadn’t heard, the Carnival Triumph was supposed to have been a 4-day cruise headed to Cozumel, Mexico. The ship set sail out of Galveston, Texas on a Thursday. By Sunday, a fire in the engine room knocked out key systems including the propulsion, air conditioning and heating, power and sewage.

Left adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, two towboats set out to pull the Triumph to the nearest port that could accommodate her: Mobile, Alabama. Whilst passengers waited for help to arrive, they were subjected to backed up toilets and having to do their business in red biohazard bags, hours-long lines for sandwiches consisting of ketchup and ham slivers on a bun and sleeping on the decks in loungers or mattresses pulled from rooms and placed in lounges and common areas.

Photo from janetshamlian on Instagram

On their way back to being towed to Alabama, one of the tow ropes broke and had to be replaced, which only added to the growing frustration of passengers. Then, once the ship reached land, some passengers were unfortunate enough to have had the bus that was shuttling them to New Orleans to catch flights home break down on the highway.

With that said, I think we can honestly say that this really is the cruise from hell and makes an outbreak of Norovirus a walk in the park.

Thankfully, passengers are being fully refunded the cost of their cruise and any extra expenditures related to  their transport back home. But travel industry experts believe that not only will this experience force everyone to take a good hard look at the growth spurts in the industry as a whole, it should force cruise companies to examine their emergency contingency plans for ships with 1,000+ guest lists (the Triumph had 3,143 passengers and 1,100 crew on board).

So, what does this mean for you, a potential cruiser? Well, being that we’re all about saving money and finding amazing deals, we can think of no better time to take advantage of the potential drop in cruise fares, especially on Carnival. As horrible as this may sound, bad press means savings!

At the date this blog was published, we found a 4-day Carnival cruise leaving Los Angeles headed to Ensenada, Mexico for $299 pp. Of course, we expect the prices to come down in the next few weeks, so it’s worth it to keep an eye peeled.

For side-by-side comparison shopping, we like the following sites:

For more in-depth coverage on the Carnival Triumph saga, we recommend these sites:
New York Times
Daily Mail

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Last minute travel savings and where to find them!

If you’re lucky enough to not be tethered to a strict schedule, then you’re a perfect candidate to take advantage of the deep discounts available on last minute travel.

Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to book anything (trains and restaurants, for example) months in advance with strict penalties and high fares discouraging spontaneity. We never did understand this concept. If there are open rooms or seats still available, wouldn’t hotels and carriers be eager to fill up any vacancies?

A little digging shows us that you CAN find great, even fantastic last minute savings on a variety of accommodation, travel and entertainment. Read on to learn more…

The pool at The Langham Hotel, London

The pool at The Langham Hotel, London

HOTELS: Lately, we’ve been keeping a keen eye on Impulse collection. Impulse offers discounted rooms available in UK hotels and B&B’s for anywhere from 25%-60% off the standard rack rate. Just an example of what you can expect, this weekend you can book in at the ridiculously posh five-star Langham Hotel near Oxford Circus in London. A discounted classic room with continental breakfast will set you back a mere £169 a night, 52% off the rack rate of £324 per night – what a steal!

Royal Caribbean cruise

CRUISES: Cruises are a GREAT place to score a last minute deal as cruise lines hate nothing more than a vacant stateroom. If you’re blessed with a workplace that will allow you to take a week off on short notice, then consider the options available with a last-minute cruise. We checked out what’s on offer with Royal Caribbean and spotted a 7-night Western Caribbean cruise leaving on 02 February out of New Orleans, Louisiana for £285 per person. Included in that price is your room, most meals and some beverages. Alcohol and dining upgrades are extra.

With a cruise, you must consider extra costs such as airfare to and from the ship’s initial docking and destination location. This particular cruise starts and ends in New Orleans and we happened to find a roundtrip airfare for around £563 per person with US Airways. All totted up, your total spend will only be £848, minus airport transfers and extras like excursions.

To take the same cruise two months later would cost you £487 per person with airfare costs rising to £680. Of course, your circumstances may be different and you might be able to find a cheaper flight or you may desire a better stateroom, which all adds to the cost. Regardless, you can’t deny the good value for money last minute cruising can be! For comparison’s sake, you should also check out the last minute offers with P&O Cruises, Holland America, Celebrity, Carnival, Princess and a whole lot more!

FLIGHTS: This one is the trickiest to nail. There is no secret to finding and booking last minute flights. You might find a particular sale happens to work in your favour, but the odds of this happening are low. Usually, you can find charter companies who purchase an entire plane’s stock of seats and resell those seats for whatever price they can get. If empty seats are still available close to the time of departure, the charter companies will sell off the leftovers at reduced rates.

Alas, these chartered flights are often for popular package holiday destinations such as Spain or Egypt. If you’re hoping to escape to somewhere a little more “exotic”, you’ll probably be left empty handed. If you’re wanting a place to start some research, we recommend

Billy Elliott the Musical

WEST END SHOW TICKETS: We’ve always had great luck using the TKTS booth located in the southern end of London’s Leicester Square. On the day of a performance, you can start lining up at 10am to snap up unsold tickets at a discounted price. For example, a £67.50 ticket for Billy Elliott will cost you £45; Spamalot is £59.50 for £32.75; Shrek the Musical is £65 for £39.50. You get the idea.

You should note that if you turn up expecting to get tickets to a new show or something that is very popular, you will most likely leave disappointed. If you’re open to seeing something you’ve not seen yet and want to save a few quid, then we can’t recommend the TKTS booth enough.

Kingswear Castle in Devon

LANDMARK AND NATIONAL TRUST PROPERTIES: If you want a crack at staying at some of the UK’s most unique and historical properties (castles, follies, gatehouses, stately homes), the Landmark Trust is your ticket to do so. Whilst the properties are extremely popular, you can sometimes sneak in on a last minute weekend or mid-week stay and snag a bit of a discount to boot.

Alternatively, if you’re on more a strict budget, you can always opt for a National Trust cottage. Whilst you won’t find any castles buried amongst their inventory, you will find plenty of stone cottages that ooze charm, farmhouses teeming with history and memorable places that will be hard to forget.

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Meet me in Palm Springs!

Palm Springs holidayPalm Springs, located in Southern California, was once the preferred winter getaway for celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Located 110 miles east of Los Angeles, Palm Springs is within easy reach by car or air with many major airlines serving Palm Springs International Airport (PSP), such as Virgin America, Delta, US Airways and more.

The best time of the year to visit is from October through May. The dry desert landscape makes sure that autumn and winter are still quite comfortable. December and January, the coldest months, still benefit from balmy 21C average high temperatures. On the flip side, summer here is extremely hot, easily a scorching 40C and up.

Palm Springs has always, and will always, be known for golf. There are a whopping 130 courses spread out in the area! From professionally-designed courses that would make Rory McIlroy weep with joy to the smaller, public courses that are great for novices, Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley won’t leave you at a loss on where to play.

If golf isn’t your thing, there are plenty of spas, tennis courts, shopping, restaurants, events, casino gaming and outdoor activities to pique your interest. Below, we’ve picked a few of the real gems that makes Palm Springs such a fabulous place to visit.

PGA West golf course

Palm Springs was at the peak of popularity between the 1930s to the 1950s with many movie stars calling it home. Celebs such as Tony Curtis, Bing Crosby and Elvis all owned homes here. Nightclubs and restaurants were plenty and the town was hopping with activity in the colder months. As all good things come to an end, the place fell out of favour with the jet set in the 1970s and soon became a victim of neglect.

One thing about Palm Springs that has started a mini-renaissance of sorts is the interest in the many examples of mid-century modern architecture. The area is chalk full of it! If you’re looking to spend a bit of time in the area, you can rent one of these architectural wonders for your next holiday. If you’re keen on seeing more, the Palm Springs Modernism Week allows you to take guided tours of some of the most iconic buildings and homes in the area.

Joshua Tree National Park

If you’re fond of hiking, I can’t recommend enough the amazing Joshua Tree National Park located about 50 miles or so away from town. The varied terrain is peppered with a variety of cacti and succulents with the star attraction being the Joshua trees themselves. Not only that, there is camping, stargazing, hiking, rock climbing, nature walks, geology tours and a whole lot more. The park’s website should have all the information you’re looking for regarding a day trip or an overnight outing.

For those that are big fans of contemporary music, the Coachella Music Festival is the must-see event of the year. The festival takes over the polo grounds in nearby Indio for two weekends in April and has seen top artists grace the stages, such as Prince, Paul McCartney, Blur, Radiohead, Jay-Z, Beastie Boys and a whole lot more! If you’re going to get tickets, book your accommodation early as rentals in the immediate area fill up fast.

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Palm Springs with mentioning its roots in the film industry. Many movies have been shot in the area - Sahara (1943), American Gigolo (1980), Ocean’s Eleven (2001) and many, many more. The Palm Springs International Film Fest is an almost two week gala that brings out stars and industry types from Hollywood en masse to celebrate film in the run up to the Oscars.

Coachella Music Festival

We could go on and on about how much we love the area, but you should really get out and see it for yourself. The things we’ve mentioned above only scratch the surface of what there is to do in the area. Ultimately, Palm Springs has a vibe that is relaxing and you’re sure to dig what the local lifestyle has to offer you in the way of a holiday.

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Attack of the Norovirus!

The cruise industry this Christmas season has been ravaged by the nasty Norovirus bug. Reports have come in regarding outbreaks on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, P&O’s Oriana and Princess Cruise’s Emerald Princess just to name a few.

According to Health Protection Agency (HPA), Norovirus cases this year are up by 72% compared to this time last year. With numbers like those, it’s estimated that Britain has already seen 1 million or more of the population affected by the virus this winter alone. For a more detailed explanation on the science behind Norovirus and how quickly it can spread, we like this article from science writer Carl Zimmer writing for National Geographic.

I’ve already fought the bug myself once in November. I was out for a whole week with what can only be described as “death on two legs”. I was spending so much time in the bathroom, I was considering sleeping in the tub to save time on the continual dashes to the toilet. It’s horrible and second only to the common cold in most frequently caught bugs.

Bar none, Norovirus is a large inconvenience at the best of times. To have the worst of the virus’ symptoms (vomiting and diarrhoea, for the uninitiated) run their course in 2-3 days is seen as a blessing. If you can escape a Norovirus outbreak unscathed, you’ve been anointed with beautiful genes and I’d like to talk to you about donating your DNA for research.

Regardless, the fact is this: Norovirus is so unbelievably contagious, vacation destinations, especially cruise ships, are under a microscope for cleanliness, and rightly so!

Cruise ships are under increased scrutiny because the ones participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vessel Sanitation Program are required to report any outbreaks affecting over 2% of the crew and passenger head count. Any reputable cruise line takes part in the program, so you can rest easy if you’ve booked a trip with one.

In any place where you have a lot of people in tight spaces sharing food (buffets, anyone?) and touching public surfaces with hands they may or may have not washed after that last trip to the restroom (ew!), you have a recipe for a viral outbreak of any kind, really. You just hear about cruise ships more because they are obligated to report sicknesses, whilst resorts and amusement parks are not.

With that said, I certainly don’t mean to stir up any anti-cruise sentiment. I once have travelled on a cruise when a Norovirus outbreak was present. The cruise line alerted passengers of the potential for another outbreak as the ship had carried infected passengers and crew on the trip prior. Before embarking, passengers were given the option of getting a full refund and returning home if they wished.

My family and I pressed on and none of us caught anything but some sun on the pool deck. We heard of people being confined to their rooms if they thought they came down with something and you weren’t allowed to serve yourself at the buffet. Other than that, we weren’t bothered one bit. The pools were open, the sun shining, the alcohol flowing.

Ultimately, when you look at the percentages - 204 of 2,613 (7.81%) passengers on the current Queen Mary cruise – your risk of catching something is low. Cruise lines and the CDC are meticulous in nipping the spread of any type of infection, but there is always a small risk of someone getting something.

If you have a cruise coming up in the near future, how can you protect yourself from catching it?

First, personal hygiene is paramount. Washing your hands thoroughly and often can help. Packing a bottle of disinfectant spray such as Dettol can also assist in killing off the virus on common surfaces in your room (bathroom, doorknobs) or on the ship. Although, at the risk of looking slightly mental, Dettol wipes might be more discreet for use in public.

Most importantly, avoid sharing food, drink, eating utensils or even glasses with ANY of your travel companions. Exercising extreme caution can make or break your success in beating Norovirus.

If you do catch Norovirus on your cruise, are you entitled to compensation?

Usually, cruise lines will only offer some sort of partial reimbursement or refund if the ship’s trip has been altered in any way due to an outbreak. Of course, to be 100% sure you’re entitled to one penny, you should always check the fine print on your tickets or contract to ensure this is the case. You might be entitled to nil.

Lastly, almost all travel insurance does NOT cover you in the event of sickness whilst your cruise is taking place. If there is an insurance company that offers this type of coverage, we’d love to hear about it.

If you do get sick prior to embarking and you have to cancel your plans because of it, you may be entitled to compensation. Again, and we can’t stress this enough: ALWAYS read the fine print before you purchase any travel insurance to be absolutely certain as to what rights you have.

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Charming Christmas getaways

Some cities are just better during the holidays. Whether you think Christmastime isn’t as fun without snow or you just like a place with phenomenal shops in which to check everyone off your gift list, we’ve put together a list of our top cities with that Christmas charm that just gets you in the mood every time.

For serious department store shopping, New York City can’t be beat. With the exchange rates working in our favour, your money goes a little bit further here. Unfortunately, you’ll have to get everything home in a suitcase, so you’ll have to be careful about just how much you buy. Top stores include Barney’s, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Bergdorf Goodman’s. The basic rule is if New Yorkers shop there, it’s got to be good.

Of course, there’s a lot more to do than just shop. You can see a Broadway show, ice skate in Rockefeller Center,  hang out at the Carlyle Hotel (maybe spot a celeb or two), indulge in frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity, while away the hours at MOMA or the Empire State Building. Bottom line is the Big Apple is chalk full of choices! If you like variety, this is a do-not-miss destination.

On the other side of the pond, Paris can give New York City a serious run for the money. The City of Lights really comes alive during the Christmas season with top stores like Galeries Lafayette and Le Mon Marche’ going the extra mile with festive decorations and lights.

Walking down the Champs-Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe provides a wonderful photographic opportunity as the trees on either side of the thoroughfare are lit up with fairy lights. There is also a Christmas market nearby from Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde filled with goodies from near and far, yet still so very French. The French way of celebrating Christmas is a much more laid back affair, and Paris can be a refreshing alternative if you are more fond of holiday atmosphere.

What would Christmas be without a traditional German-style Christmas market? Two of the best are situated in two of the most charming towns in Europe: Salzburg, Austria and Cologne, Germany.

Salzburg, also known as the home to The Sound of Music film, is just as charming in the summer as it is in the winter. If you’re fortunate enough to visit when there is snow on the ground, it’s even better. In the centre of Salzburg, you’ll find their Christmas market packed with food stalls and local artisans. It’s not large, but you can easily spend a few hours eating and shopping your way from one end to the other.

Salzburg sits near the Flachau ski area, home to nearby ski areas of Obertauern, Skiwelt Amade, Gasteinertal and Großarl. Salzburg makes getting to these resorts easy with their Snow Shuttle that runs from December to March and costs 14 Euros pp. The Shuttle operators can wrangle ski passes and other excursions on your behalf.

Lastly, Cologne is a quite a gem. Germany’s fourth largest city plays host to a monster of a market that fills up almost every walkway and alley with food, crafts and decor stalls. There are even a few open air ice rinks if you’re keen to try. Cologne makes a stunning backdrop to a winter getaway with the market just being a bonus. Christmas really gets the star treatment in this city all December long.

The city centre is stunning with most views being dominated by the Gothic “Kölner Dom” Cathedral. You have your pick of museums, theatre, opera with the old combined with the modern. Cafes, bars, restaurants are plentiful, everything for a city dweller to relish and much more!

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Reunion Island, a jewel in the ocean

Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island is a little gem of an escape that combines discovery, stunning landscapes, hiking, extreme sports and gastronomy with a vibrant mix of people and colourful culture. L’invitation au voyage begins …

The diversity of landscapes
Reunion is a land of contrasts. From East to West, you will see wild vegetation in a desert environment to tropical, white sand beaches. The island covers an area of ​​2500 km², but what should you see first?

The best thing is to go around the island for a day, see and enjoy the most popular landmarks while making pit stops along the coast.

Reunion Island is primarily a volcanic island. The Piton de la Fournaise, 2631 meters in height, is the active volcano of Reunion. Entry near the volcano is regulated considering the safety risks that may be involved, but a visit should be at the top of your To Do list! Different flows that have occurred since 2001 are visible and are differentiated by signs when you go through the road between Santa Rosa and Saint Philippe.

Lovers of camping and hiking will be happy to have a wide variety of walks of varying distance on offer. Three picturesque areas of the island, Cirque de Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos, are lined with towering walls of vegetation. They are located inside the island. The Salazie is most accessible by car. To get to Cilaos, it is preferable that you are accompanied by a driver since the road is notoriously difficult. Finally, Mafate and the area surrounding the the village are timeless spaces that have nothing to do with the hustle and bustle of the coastal cities.

It is in the western part of the island you will find the most popular beaches: Boucan Canot, Roches Noires and Hermitage, to name a few. If you like quieter places in the south between St. Joseph and Grand Bois, Grand Anse Beach is a beach to visit. Surrounded by vacoas and casuarina trees, it is a place much loved in Reunion to picnic with family and enjoy the water. Swimming at the beach is tranquil as it has a natural boundary surrounding the area composed of large volcanic rocks.

Cultural richness
A few years ago, the Reunion Office of Tourism used the slogan “The World’s Reunion” to praise the multiculturalism of the island.

Throughout its history, the island of Reunion has been the territory of several communities: Indian Tamils, the Chinese and the Malagasy, descendants of French settlers. Reunion Island today remains a very mixed and diverse community.

The miscegenation on the island is evident by the diversity in the places of worship. Located in Saint Denis, Noor al-Islam Mosque, built in 1905, is the oldest mosque in France. Inspired by Indian architecture, its refined decor is marked with  copious amounts of green and white.

A few kilometers from the Noor al-Islam Mosque is Saint Andrew, a city populated mainly by people of Tamil origin and the Hindu Temple of the Colossus. Although the best time to see the Hindu festivals is the month of January, the Temple of the Colossus is an experience not to be missed. This is the opportunity to see Hindu places of worship on French soil without visiting the Indian subcontinent. The colours, the statues of the gods and the size of the temple will leave a lasting memory.

Finally, on your getaway to the volcano, make a stop at St. Rose at Notre Dame des Laves. This church was miraculously surrounded by lava during the eruption of Piton de la Fournaise in 1977.

Paradise for gourmands
One thing is common on Reunion:  people love good food!

From cocktails to dessert, it is imperative to taste the Reunion specialties: samosas, plugs, sarcives (pork or chicken cooked in barrels with honey and soy sauce) plus carris chutney, mango josé, victorias pineapple, honey candy… the list goes on! We shouldn’t fail to mention the rum, which is a large part of the history of the island.

Do not miss the restaurant Cape Naughty located in Saint Philippe. You could taste something new, such as palm gratin, the specialty of the house.

The view from the lagoon, Cocoa Beach, in Saint Gilles is a perfect destination for relaxation after a day of hiking. Cocktails and parties that follow spoil anything in the appreciation of the place.

Every Saturday morning, the Reunion street markets, as they are known locally, are traditional places to experience the city life of old. The market of Saint Paul, in addition to having an open market where you can find local fruits and vegetables, has a section dedicated to the arts and crafts of Reunion and Madagascar. This is the place where you can stock up memories!

After seeing all this, sit on the terrace of a bar truck with your sunglasses and order a beer and a tray of dodo plugs. It’s time to enjoy the view of the beach of Saint Paul. That’s the taste péi*!

*péi : country in Creole

Getting there
From London, your best bet is getting to Paris and taking a direct flight to one of two Reunion airports: St. Denis De La Reunion Gillot (RUN) or Saint-Pierre De La Reunion Pierrefonds (ZSE). Air France, CorsairFly, Air Austral and a variety of charter airlines fly direct to Reunion Island for approximately £600 per person RT.

Why not start booking your Reunion Island getaway right now?

- Myriam Moby
Kelkoo France

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Selling the illusion: staged vs. reality

Hotel photos are meant to make a property look shiny, clean and attractive. After all, this is the slick merchandising used to sell a customer on a hotel’s rooms, pool, restaurant and other amenities. You wouldn’t book a hotel without photos, would you?

If you’ve done your fair share of travelling, the reality rarely lives up to staged, professionally taken photographs on a website. With popular travel sites like TripAdvisor, hotel guests are telling it like it is and even sharing their own photos of properties they’ve stayed in, warts and all.

If you truly want to know what you’re in for before you book a hotel, B&B or hostel, check independent websites to make sure you’re getting what’s advertised.

Below, we’ve taken some extreme examples of photographs that showcase the illusion versus reality.

Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill

Through the magic of Photoshop, the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill has taken somewhat of an artistic license in their façade photos. On their website, the iconic Capitol Building looks so close, you could throw stones at it.

In reality, it is a bit farther down the road – .2 miles to be exact. Whilst we can’t fault the Hyatt for their sleek and updated interior decor (it’s very nice), we will shake a finger at them for being a bit cheeky with the old cut-and-paste technique. C’mon, Hyatt! Aren’t you a bit above this type of trickery?

Mandalay Beach at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino

The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas has one of the most unique and memorable pools on The Strip. Constructed to resemble a beach, the sandy shores of this 11-acre water complex surely are a welcome oasis in the desert.

Unfortunately, the hotel photo of Mandalay Beach makes it look like you’ll have the place all to yourself. The reality is that this hotel and pool is the largest in popularity and space. 3,302 guest rooms see to it that the pool is never this empty, making the fight for a sun lounger an Olympic event.

Hotel Club Florence

Located smack dab in the middle of Florence, Italy, the Hotel Club Florence is a hit and miss with guests. Why? The hotel is undeniably affordable and they’ve recently undergone a partial, yet chic renovation that includes the reception, dining and meeting spaces located on the ground floor.

Regrettably, only some of the rooms have also been kind enough to receive the same level of TLC. If the reviews on TripAdvisor are anything to go by, getting one of the redone rooms is a toss of the dice. There is no mention of the chance you may get a non-renovated room (their website sidesteps this detail) and you’ll paying the same regardless what state the room is in. Because of this, the Hotel Club Florence easily earns a spot on our naughty list.

Blue Moon Hotel

The pool at Miami’s Blue Moon Hotel is a perfect example of advantageous photo cropping and use of fish eye lenses. Whilst their website does clearly state that they have a “splash pool”, the photo leads you to believe that the pool patio extends indefinitely beyond the confines of the picture’s border.

In reality, the pool area is located at the rear of the hotel and abuts an alleyway where surrounding businesses do their loading/unloading and store rubbish dumpsters. We can’t complain about the Blue Moon itself as it’s tastefully decorated and modern, but the pool area is quite small for a hotel with 75 rooms. Oh well! You’re probably better off going to the beach, anyway.

Our advice to avoid properties that tend to stretch the truth a bit, use a reputable travel review site like TripAdvisor, Oyster, Hostelworld or Holiday Watchdog. Do your homework and never book a room based on the hotel’s website photos alone. You’ll be glad you took the extra time to suss out the truth first before booking.

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Sex and the City Hotels

Sex and the City (Carrie moves to Paris)
At the end of Season 6, you may remember Carrie jetting off to Paris to be with Aleksandr Petrovsky. Per usual Carrie style, she checks herself into the opultent Hôtel Plaza Athénée located in the Champs-Élysées area of Paris. We’re wondering how she could afford it after buying all those pairs of Jimmy Choos as rates for this stunning 5-star hotel start at €635 (£506) a night.

The cost is a drop in the bucket when you consider what you get in return: three restaurants (one owned by award winning chef Alain Ducasse and one open seasonally), two bars, plus the Dior Institut spa, room service around the clock, a wine cellar, fully stocked mini-bars and even a pillow menu with six types to choose from. Nothing has been left to chance here and it shows – definitely a Carrie-worthy property!

Sex and the City: The Movie (Carrie’s non-honeymoon in Mexico)
This portion of the movie was actually filmed in a private home on the Malibu, California coast. Who knew? Since you can’t rent the home for your own “Mexicoma”, you can find a suitable alternative in the One & Only Palmilla Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Cabo, located on the Western coast of Mexico, is surrounded by the azure blue seas of the Pacific Ocean making this a top spot for sport fishing, golfing and those looking to escape the cold winter weather. Amenities include golf, tennis, basketball, water sports, a spa, four restaurants, one bar and, for a nominal fee, use of the Palmilla’s private yacht for jaunts around the Sea of Cortez. Rates for a deluxe room start at approximately $850 (£535) per night with optional meal plans purchased separately. Although, we advise you still shouldn’t drink the local tap water to spare yourself from having a Charlotte-type accident.

Sex and the City 2 (Abu Dhabi)
Because the Sex and the City film crew were denied access for filming in the UAE, Morocco was substituted in Abu Dhabi’s place. The hotels used for filming were a combination of the Hotel La Mamounia and the Taj Palace in Marrakech.

The Taj Palace was under construction at the time of filming and only exteriors were utilised. The hotel actually opens on 1 December 2012 with rates starting at approximately £300 per night excluding any meals. While details on the Taj website are few, we’ve found that the printed hotel brochure shows the property to be quite promising!

The La Mamounia oozes opulence out of every pore. From the suites to the spa, the four restaurants, five bars and the immaculately manicured grounds, you’re reminded of why this hotel is a standard favourite with the international jet set. The most inexpensive rooms start at approximately £425 a night and the three bedroom riad with private pool costing a whopping £7630 per night. But once you view the photos of this one-of-a-kind property, you’ll definitely see why it’s worth every Moroccan dirham!

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A sunny Christmas holiday

Abu Dhabi beachIf you’re not fond of the holidays and you’d like to get away from it all for a week, you’re often left paying premium prices for airfare and rooms between Christmas and New Year’s. Prices are easily 50% or more during this time versus the summer.

While top summer destinations like Spain and Greece are significantly cooler during December, you might have to go a little further and spend a little more to get that guaranteed sunshine. Other options are the Middle East, Mexico, Gambia, the Red Sea and Florida.

So, who has the best deals on Christmas sun this year? We’ve scoured the ‘net to find the best airfare plus room packages (and the best customer rated properties) from Abu Dhabi to the USA.

All prices quoted are for 2 adults sharing plus airfare from London unless otherwise stated, 22 December 2012 – 29 December 2012. Prices are accurate as of publication date on 1 November 2012.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – £1894
Abu Dhabi is blessed by fantastic winter weather (an average high of 26C in December) making this destination a top pick for those looking for lazy days on the beach with a book followed by exciting nightlife, shopping and dining. The Le Meridien is located on the beach and is within five minutes walking distance to the Abu Dhabi Mall. We found a package for two, excluding meals, for £1894 on

Banjul, Gambia - £2172 leaving from Manchester
The beachside Laico Atlantic Banjul Hotel is a quiet, small hotel that, while not big on frills, offers its customers a quiet, relaxed atmosphere with a private beach. With three bars and three restaurants onsite, you shouldn’t be short on choice at mealtimes. We found an all-inclusive package for two with Thomas Cook that also covers airport transfers.

Cancun, Mexico – £2718 leaving from Manchester
The all-inclusive Temptation Resort & Spa sits on one of Cancun’s best beaches. Because of the “adult nature of the onsite entertainment”, the invitation to stay is for guests aged 21 and over only. If you’re looking for a bit of cheeky fun with vibrant nightlife, then this is the place for you. Past guests rave about the pool, the five restaurants and six bars. We found a Thomas Cook package leaving from Manchester for £1359 pp (£2718 total).

Miami Beach, FloridaMiami Beach, Florida - £2448.27
The Tradewinds Apartment Hotel in Miami Beach scores high marks for its quiet, non-touristy location and its close proximity to the beach front (about a 600 foot walk away). World-famous Ocean Drive is easily accessible on foot, bike or by taxi. The Tradewinds is also popular with travellers who rave about the smartly decorated rooms and free shuttle bus from Miami International Airport. We found an airfare plus room deal for £1224.14 per person on

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt - £1,179.82
The Falcon Hills Hotel receives favourable reviews from travellers on independent review sites. We found a package through that included breakfast, but you’re on your own for lunch and dinner. While this hotel isn’t on the beach, there is a shuttle bus that will take you to nearby Na’ama Bay for shopping, dining and sunbathing.

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