A cool Yule and a hot New YearWherever you are, whenever you travel,
we’re only a phone call away
At the end of another rollercoaster travel year we’d like to wish you a happy and festive Christmas. There’s been excitement, awards and a few setbacks but most importantly 350,000 happy customers.
So we thank you for your thoughts and suggestions and for all the nice things you have written about us on social media and review sites during 2015. Even after 35 years we never stop trying to improve and we are still finding things that we can do better, thanks to your feedback.
Our apologies too, for the times when things haven’t gone entirely to plan. Travel bookings are complicated and when several different components are linked together things will sometimes go pear-shaped despite the best planning in the world.
'Excuse me, I think they are calling your flight to Majorca!'
In the last three months, for example, we have had customers affected by an ash cloud in Bali, tornadoes in the USA, a Lufthansa pilots’ strike. Heathrow came to a standstill because of a demonstration and there were disruptions in Sharm el Sheikh and the shootings in Paris. And there are thousands of other issues that we deal with on a weekly basis.
Customers regularly tell us what a relief it is to know there is someone on the end of a phone when they’ve missed a plane, they’re stuck at a foreign airport, there’s a problem with their hotel or a family emergency arises which necessitates a sudden change of plans.
They also recognise their advantage over people who have booked online, often stuck in the same places, but without the help of an experienced travel manager to liaise with airlines and hotels to get them out of their predicament.
So thank you for your vote of confidence in 2015 and we’ll look forward to helping you plan your trips in the coming year.
There’s no doubt 2016 will bring a new set of challenges but one thing is for certain. Wherever you are, whenever you travel, we’ll only be a phone call away.
Safety first if you're going soloHoliday tips as more women choose to travel alone
A recent survey showed that 60 per cent of women are open to the idea of travelling alone, now that doing it has lost much of its lonely hearts stigma.
Travelling solo has finally shed its outdated lonely hearts stigma
Women are often the ones who traditionally plan and organise holidays and now many feel more empowered to go ahead and book trips whether they are single, divorced, widowed or leaving a partner at home. But the main reasons holding them back are fears over personal safety and vulnerability.
However, there are plenty of tips and tricks that women can adopt when travelling to ensure they stay as safe as possible. Here’s our list of 10 do’s and don'ts for female travellers:
- Think about how your clothing will fit in with local customs – what are local women wearing?
- Don’t wear expensive jewellery.
- Wear a wedding ring (even if you don’t normally) to help avoid harassment.
- Be wary of new ‘friends’, even if they are fellow holidaymakers. Don’t tell strangers where you are staying or give out too many details about your travel plans.
- If you’re travelling alone you may attract unwelcome attention and you may receive unwelcome propositions or remarks – it is usually best to ignore them and always act confidently.
- Plan your daily itinerary - know where you’re going, what you’re doing and how to get back. Some hotels and hostels have cards with contact details and directions – take one.
- Never hitchhike or accept car rides from strangers. Ask your hotel to recommend a taxi firm and try to pair up with someone you know when travelling by taxi.
- If you are worried about leaving valuables in your hotel room, deter would-be thieves by putting a Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
- When checking in do not give a title such as Ms, Mrs or Miss, leaving your marital status ambiguous.
- Never leave windows open, particularly if you have a balcony, and always lock the door when you are in the room.
As for hotels, while they may seem safe, clean and even luxurious on websites it is easy to fool travellers with some carefully-chosen pictures. Along with the hotels on our website you’ll find contacts of each of our travel managers who has visited or stayed at a particular property and is in the office and available for a chat.
If you prefer to make your own travel arrangements always go to a third-person review site such as TripAdvisor or a backpacking forum like Lonely Planet's Thorntree to see what others are saying about the accommodation.
For female travellers heading to cities, it is best to stay in central, lively areas rather than cheaper ones further out, despite the extra cost. For the safety of having people around you in similar situations, opt for a hostel. You can still book a good quality private room, but you will be surrounded by others in a social environment so you can swap tips and advice or pal up for taxis and tours.
And when you are out and about remember some pickpockets may try to slice a hole in your bag to get valuables, so a sturdy slash-proof bag is the best defence against this happening.
My best holiday everActress Joan Collins always travels first class and recalls her first brush with topless sunbathing
How often do you travel?
I'm a gipsy - travel is in my blood. If I stay in one place for too long I get bored. That's when I know it's time to start packing my suitcase . . . not that I could manage with just one as I have so much stuff.
How do you like to travel?
I always like to travel first class, because it is a bit more comfortable. But these days even first class isn't what you would call glamorous. You still have to go through security and take off your shoes, sunglasses and belt. And for some reason I seem to always get picked on for a random search.
Joan Collins: Glamorous as always
After enjoying the sunshine of California in the late 60s I went to Jamaica. Then it was so quiet and unspoilt - exactly how I imagined paradise. I was filming with Richard Burton and, sadly, we didn't really get on. I was younger than him, he was a bit of a wolf, and I wasn't having any of it. That seemed to annoy the hell out of him.
I've been going to the south of France for most of my life. Mummy loved travelling but my dad had to stay behind to look after the business in London. I went with her, my sister Jackie and brother Bill to Juan-les-Pins and Cannes. St Tropez was more risque than anywhere I had been and was the first place I saw women sunbathing topless.
Earliest holiday memories?
Even if we only had a weekend, my mother would want to get away to Brighton, Bognor Regis or Ilfracombe. Jackie, Bill and I would be let loose building sandcastles. There was a bandstand at Ilfracombe and mummy suggested that I go and sing with the brass band. I was up there like a shot. You might not believe it, but I was a right little show off.
I love the feeling of being in a hotel and the excitement of arriving. The Ritz in Paris used to be one of my favourites, but they seem to have been redecorating it forever. Claridges in London is my absolute favourite - it's the most elegant hotel in the world.
Where will you go next?
I'm lucky enough to have seen so much of the world - Russia, Japan, China, Kenya, Australia and Rome in the 1960s, when it was filled with Hollywood film stars. But I'll never get tired of travelling. I want to see it all.
To read the full interview visit www.telegraph.co.uk
Travel GossipA free Joss Stone gig and Contemporary Art in Tehran
Holiday in the Maldives and see Joss Stone for free
Joss Stone will land in the Maldives in February for an exclusive one-night performance at luxury resort Huvafen Fushi on her Total World Tour. In each country Joss collaborates with local musicians playing indigenous music as well as her own songs including hits from her new album ‘Water For Your Soul.’ This concert will be a first for the Maldives and free for resort guests.
A first for the Maldives: Joss Stone will give a free performance
Which? finds cheapest travel insurance
Those folks at Which? must have read our article in last month’s Insight about the difficulties of getting insurance for older travellers. In their December issue they have researched the best rates which we’re delighted to pass on. They recommend Holidaysafe’s Premier Annual policy for couples which costs £78 and £94 per person for 50 and 60-year-olds respectively. From age 65, couples are better off signing up for Nationwide’s Flex Plus bank account with packaged insurance for £120 a year.
Take an X-rated city tour with a porn star
If you are on a mini-break this winter and spot a guide who looks rather familiar, it may be a good idea to keep it to yourself. In a collaboration between the Swedish adult movie maker Erika Lust and the experimental travel company trip4real, you can now book a European city tour led by a porn star. Go biking with Poppy Cox in Berlin, try vermouth tasting with Bel Gris in Barcelona, or explore London with Luke Hotrod. It goes without saying that all interaction is strictly cultural
Abba geeks can go Greek
Just in case everything Abba has passed you by, a Mamma Mia restaurant is to open in Stockholm in the New Year. Modelled on a traditional taverna on the Greek island of Skopelos, where the film was set, it offers diners the chance to tuck into a Mediterranean buffet while all hell breaks loose around them. Singing and dancing to Abba tracks, daredevil stunts, Greek gods and flirty waiters are all promised. And the Money, Money, Money it will cost is £101 per person, including a welcome drink and a costume to get you in the mood.
Holiday firms charging more for children than adults
Thomas Cook and TUI have been slated by the Daily Mail for overcharging families. They found that a family of two adults and two or three kids were sometimes being charged up to £600 more than an identical number of adults staying in the same hotels next Easter. Coincidentally, most examples picked out by the paper were during the school holidays and both companies said they were investigating the discrepancies. Conversely, the paper found that in Florida a group of adults were paying more than a family. So the message is clear. If you are going on a package holiday do your sums carefully.
Decadent art goes on show in Tehran
Dozens of paintings by artists including Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon and Jackson Pollock have gone on display at Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art for the first time since 1979. The wife of the former Shah amassed the collection in the 1970s, but many art works were seen as Western decadence by former revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini and hidden in basement rooms. The exhibition could add to the allure of Iran for British visitors who have been arriving in growing numbers since the summer's nuclear deal and Foreign Office decision to relax travel advice to the country.
Statement of the devious
The hotel group Hilton Worldwide is advising guests to check credit card statements for evidence of theft after admitting that some of its card readers have been infected with phishing viruses. The periods under scrutiny are April to July this year and November to December 2014.
Cut down on the booze
Airlines are being urged to limit the amount of alcohol they serve to passengers amid growing concerns over in flight drink-related incidents. The aviation minister Robert Goodwill suggested that carriers focus on the most 'trouble prone flights', with Government enforcement if necessary. He said that one airline had reported 360 incidents already this year.
Don't take a pounding on the piste
If you are planning to go skiing in Italy this winter you had better be extra careful . . . or take plenty of holiday money with you. Charges for first aid and rescue services are to be made for the first time this season after cash-strapped resorts scrapped the free or subsidised schemes that have been operating up to now. The call out cost will be £140 in the Valle d'Aosta and £70 in the Alto Adige region.
Horns of a dilemma
Animal rights campaigners have reacted with horror at South Africa's decision to overturn the ban on rhino horn trading. This decision follows a legal challenge by two rhino farmers who claimed that there wasn't adequate consultation before the ruling came into force in 2009. Ministers denied that scrapping the ban would lead to poachers being able to sell rhino horn legally, saying that a permit would still be required. The decision is being appealed.
Quirkiest hotel of the monthGet back to nature in Queensland's tropical rainforest
Set amongst the tropics of North Queensland, Silky Oaks Lodge boutique hotel has all the secluded feel of I’m A Celebrity about it, but instead of dreaded Bushtucker trials, you’ll be faced with regal spa treatments and unrivalled hospitality.
Unlike the celebrities, you’ll relish this unique experience to explore this marvel of nature with activities aplenty. Enjoy guided walks of Daintree National Park, exciting kayaking opportunities on the river and even snorkelling as you find it all less of an ordeal that the TV makes out!
You’ll feel immersed with the surrounding rainforest from the get-go, with tree house accommodation serving as the perfect introduction, before the award-winning Tree House Restaurant gives you time to admire the views in idyllic circumstances.
It’s just a shame Ant and Dec won’t be there to welcome you.
Do we have to spell it out?Airlines follow letter of the law
You’d be surprised how often we have to deal with misspelled names. It can be when someone is booking a group and the person they’ve known as Fred all their lives turns out to have a passport with a totally different first name which he has never used. Or it can be a single letter that’s wrong.
Misspelled names can cost you dearly, check, check and check again
If your name is Davies for example, make sure you don't leave out the 'e' - for your ticket issued in the name of Davis won't get you on the plane, as Graham Davies discovered to his cost when he booked a multi-leg flight to the Philippines recently with an online travel agency. He ended up forking out an extra £801 for a new ticket.
And it's not just surnames. Sally Chaplin forgot that her first name Kathryn appeared on her passport which cost her another £140 when she booked directly with Spanish Airline Vueling. They insisted that she pay the full fare to Florence again, despite her ringing within hours of making the booking and correcting the mistake.
You could be forgiven for thinking that in these days of e-tickets simple mistakes like these could be rectified easily and without cost (or possibly with a small admin fee), but that isn't usually the case.
Often we are able to change a name, either free or for a modest charge, but don't bank on it. For many airlines your mistakes, however minor, have become a lucrative profit centre.
You can understand some degree of strictness on their part - they don't want customers being able to sell on tickets for profit. But that is no consolation if you have made a genuine and simple error while making a booking.
The moral is: Check, check and check again that your name has been spelled correctly when you receive a confirmation. And if you choose to book online, type very carefully.
What people are sayingA selection of customer comments from Trust Pilot
I had to go to Dubai in a hurry. Adam fixed it.
My son was sick and I needed to get to Dubai asap to make sure all was well. Adam understood my concerns, urgency and also the importance of getting a good price bearing in mind I had just been made redundant.
I called him on Thursday, he held my options on Friday. He gave me his personal number and was just about to call me when I rang him and booked my trip on Saturday. I then flew on Sunday. The BA flight was effortless with great seats and I’m happy to report that my son is well and happy that I came out to provide support. Thank you Adam. God bless you.
Susan Greig gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot
Complicated itinerary for New Orleans and a cruise
I had excellent service from Elliot who put this trip together for me when I struggled to cope with the complexities of connecting flights.
He always returned my calls, looked out for flight sales to reduce the cost and gave me a lot of help with seat reservations. I usually put my own travel together but now realise that using a good agent can actually give better value, more security and a font of information!
Anthony Clark gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot
Having peace of mind is priceless
Whenever I need to book a holiday I phone Stuart at DialAFlight. His knowledge is top notch and his pricing very competitive. Virgin had quoted me a price for a 9 day package to Orlando with a car, flex plus park tickets and so on.
Stuart put together the same deal for nearly £300 less than Virgin! He then organised for me to fly to Bangkok with EVA on the evening that I landed back at LGW so I wouldn't miss the Macau Grand Prix. I then needed to get back from Thailand 2 days early and he sorted it out with one phone call. The peace of mind is priceless
Jahan Scott gave DialAFlight 5 stars on Trust Pilot
What's on offer?A selection of this month's top money savers...
Two-stop Malaysia with Shangri La- 1 FREE night
Whisk yourself away on an exceptional Malaysian retreat and experience double the luxury with this 5* Shangri La twin centre. Begin with 2 nights at Shangri La Kuala Lumpur before heading to Shangri La Rasa Ria to slow things down with a great 7 day escape in paradise. 10 nights for the price of 9 from £1015pp. Valid April/ May 2016
Save 50% at Constance Belle Mare Plage, Mauritius
Enjoy 7 nights on a half board basis at this sensational hotel which sits peacefully on a beach of soft white sand and turquoise water. Flights with Emirates are included as well as transfers, all from £1235pp. Valid March 2016
Save 50% on a 5 star Maldives escape
Escape to a blissful private island in the heart of the Indian Ocean staying in 5 star style at Amari Havodda. With a picturesque setting right on the beach, delicious food and a tranquil spa, it's an ideal place to recharge your batteries. We include full board, transfers and flights all from £2075pp when you travel Feb- Mar 2016.
Save 35% at elegant Cobblers Cove, Barbados
A member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux, Cobblers Cove is one of the best-loved hotels in the Caribbean. Located in a secluded area on the northwest coast of Barbados, the hotel is perfect for foodies looking for rest and relaxation in the Bajan sunshine. 7 nights from £1225pp on a BB basis flying with Virgin Atlantic. Valid 2 May- 24 Jun 2016.
Book early for summer 2016 savings in Tenerife
You don’t have to travel long haul for some 5 star pampering in the sunshine. Enjoy 7 nights for the price 6 at the 5 star Sheraton La Caleta Resort & Spa, Tenerife with our offers which includes flights with British Airways from £489pp.
Save £100pp on an adventure around Costa Rica
Embark on an 11 night Adventures & Wildlife in Costa Rica tour and save £100pp with our offer. The country has a Disney like cast of exotic creatures ranging from howler monkeys to toucans, the surf is prime, the beauty is staggering and the sluggish pace seductive. From £1975pp staying in superior accommodation with flights included. Valid Apr/ May 2016.