12 winning reasons why shoulder season travel is the best

The “shoulder seasons” are those travel periods that fall in spring and autumn, between the peak and fully off-peak seasons. For those not at the mercy of school terms – like couples, retirees, and families with tots – they can be the perfect times for a villa getaway. Here are 12 top reasons to get booking and jet off this spring:

1. Save on accommodation

There are great bargains to be had on our huge range of villas outside the summer holidays. This spring 2020, you could book a fantastic property for just £500 per week – that’s a whopping saving of £1,500 compared to peak season!

2. Nab your dream villa

There’s much better availability in the shoulder seasons, so you can have the pick of the bunch and snap up that fabulous villa you’ve been eyeing for months.

3. Spend less on flights

Air fares are often lower at off-peak times too, which can significantly cut the cost of your trip even more. Across our destinations, flying in the spring shoulder season is on average £100 cheaper than peak season.

4. Bask in better weather

Love the sun but hate melting in the heat? The shoulder seasons’ slightly cooler temperatures are perfect for sightseeing and adventure, while still warm enough for lazy days spent lounging by the pool.

5. Beat the crowds

You won’t be jostling for space in the museum or fighting for spots on the beach, meaning a much more pleasant experience all round.

6. Skip the queues

Who wants to waste precious time waiting in long lines when you could be fast-tracking straight to the fun?

7. Get around easily

With fewer cars on the roads and less busy public transport, you’ll find it a stress-free breeze to get from A to B when you’re out exploring.

8. Be snap happy

Looking to make your Instagram followers green with envy? You’ll be free to capture those perfect holiday shots without throngs of other people ruining them!

9. Live like a local

With fewer tourists about, you’ll enjoy a more authentic experience of your destination and have better chances to mingle with the locals.

10. Enjoy discounts on foods and attractions

Did you know some tourist spots slash entrance fees and menu prices outside peak times? So you could come home with even more pennies in your pocket.

11. Support the local economy

By visiting and spending money outside the main tourist period, you’ll be benefiting your destination’s local economy – so everyone wins.

12. Help reduce overtourism

Travelling in the shoulder seasons helps distribute the weight of tourism on a destination across the year. And that’s much better news for locals and the environment.

Fancy a bargain last-minute getaway during the upcoming shoulder season? Take a look at our fantastic range of holiday villas still available this spring 2020!

5 easy yoga poses to help you chill on your villa holiday

Want to kick your holiday relaxation up a notch? Then make sure you pack a yoga mat for your next villa getaway. With its peace and privacy, your sun-soaked villa garden is the perfect place to get your chakras aligned while working on your tan. Even better, you can cool off in your private pool afterwards!

To get you started, here are 5 beginner yoga poses to help you relieve those tight muscles and switch off your buzzing mind.* And exhale…

Child’s pose

This easy resting pose calms the mind, busts stress and stretches out the hips, thighs and ankles. And it’s great for winding down after a tiring day of exploration.

Start by sitting on your heels with your knees and feet together. Then roll your torso forward, lower your forehead to the ground and stretch your arms in front of you. Let your body release, breathe, and hold for as long as you like.

Warrior 1

A gentle backbend pose, Warrior 1 opens up the front body and strengthens your legs, arms and core.

Take a big step back with your right leg and go into a lunge with your left knee over your left ankle. Turn your right foot out 45 degrees and anchor your right heel firmly into the mat. Lift your chest, reach up your arms and gaze up to your thumb. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Warrior 2

Warrior 2 is great for opening up your outer hips, inner thighs and groin.

Start with your feed about a leg length’s apart. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in slightly. Bend your left knee directly over your left ankle and extend your arms out to the sides with your palms facing down. Gaze out over your left arm, hold for 1 minute and then do it again on the other side.

Bridge pose

This pose gives your front and back a good stretch while extending the spine.

Lie on your back with your knees bent hip width apart directly over your heels. Press your feet into the mat and lift up your hips and bottom. Clasp your hands underneath your pelvis and press them into the ground. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then slowly roll your spine down onto the mat.

Tree pose

Tree is a great one-legged standing pose for beginners that can help you improve your balance and focus. What’s more, it’s great for strengthening your ankles, legs and core.

Stand with your feet together and weight distributed evenly. Engage your abs and slowly shift your weight onto your right foot. Lift your left foot and place it onto your inner right thigh. Bring your hands into the prayer position and focus your gaze on a fixed spot in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.

Looking for the ideal holiday to destress and get away from it all? Check out our biggest ever range of villas available for booking in 2020.

* If you have any health conditions or injuries, do seek medical advice before trying any of the yoga poses described in this article.

On the Gourmet Trail. Croatia: Truffle Pasta

This tasty and simple dish is from Croatia and is the ideal dinner for a night in at your villa.

Ingredients

150g Fuži

30g butter

100g cream

40g Truffle sauce

Pinch of salt & Pepper

Garnish

Drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil

Grated Parmesan Cheese

 

Method

1. Put fuži into a pot of boiling salt water and cook until al dente

2. On another stove, at the same time, heat butter into a pan on a low heat. Once melted down, add cream, truffle sauce and season with salt & pepper. Stir well.

3. Once the pasta has cooked, drain it and pour into the pan with the sauce. Mix well.

4. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of Truffle Olive Oil

 

Dobar Tek! (Enjoy your meal!)

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year, New You? As we look ahead to 2019 we’ve asked some of the Villa Plus team what their 2019 resolutions are.

Nick Cooper – Founder and Co-owner

Don’t put off next year what you can do this year.

Sandra – Area Manager Tenerife

Get back to the gym and get my bikini body ready for summer 2019. I also want to do a paraglide! In Tenerife they have tandem flying on a daily basis and this is on my bucket list!

Serene – Travel Team

This year I’d love to go to Puglia and I’d like to be more adventurous and try something new like rock climbing!

Alberobello Puglia Italy_87 WEBSITE

Kim – Admin Co-Coordinator Majorca

My best friend of 50 years and I always buy birthday and Christmas presents for each other. Our resolution is to STOP and use the money on a holiday together. No more perfume, fluffy jumpers or slippers this year. It’s booked – we’re going to Iceland and I cannot wait!

Keith – Senior Customer Service Executive

They say “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”. Therefore I plan to travel as much as possible to as many new destinations as I can manage.

What is your resolution for 2019? Let us know in the comments below.

 

By Maddy Morgan

Hilarious Villa Plus holiday complaints and requests

We’re dedicated to making sure our customers have a fantastic time on holiday, so it’s no surprise that some unusual requests and complaints are sent our way every now and again. From inflatable animal treatment practices to shop opening times, here are some of the most comical demands and gripes we’ve received to date.

Funny holiday complaints

Real complaints from real customers.

The local people

Local people? Going about their daily lives!? How outrageous …

  • The villa was beautiful, but is situated in the middle of a normal domestic area with normal Spanish people going about their normal lives.
  • Why do the local shops close in the afternoons? We needed to buy things during siesta time, so this should not be allowed.

Univited guests

Because ducks need holidays too.

  • There were lots of ants in the garden – the ants were coming under the door, which was locked!
  • We were unhappy that we had to share the pool with a lizard.
  • Ducks were nesting on the island in the middle of the pool, and sometimes even paddled in the pool.

“A client complained about us using an inflatable Dolphin in one of our TV ads. We explained that it’s not real, but the client said we still shouldn’t be depicting the use of animals in our ads and would be reporting us to the RSPCA!” – Villa Plus Insider

Kitchen nightmares

Well, how do you peel your avocados?

  • You should provide breakfast bowls as well as soup bowls, eating breakfast out of a soup bowl is so awkward.
  • Whilst the villa was equipped to adequate standard, there were no glasses large enough to take a large can of beer.
  • The kitchen arrangement is not very useful to folk of limited stature – I am tall, so we coped.
  • We could only find placemats made from raffia.
  • There were no egg cups – we had to fashion some out of breadsticks.
  • There was no information given on how to make homemade pizza.
  • We were disappointed to find no avocado peeler in the villa.

Mind-readers apply within

Seriously, we could do with one.

  • It is your duty as a tour operator to advise us of noisy guests before we travel.
  • The games room didn’t have the games we liked in it.

EB1_5813

We’ll try better next time

We’re not sure how our team didn’t anticipate these problems really.

  • I took the wrong exit off the first roundabout which led me onto the motorway, from which there were no instructions on your directions to get back on track.
  • The washing machine did not clean properly with the dishwasher tablets we bought especially from England.
  • I appreciate that the villa is described on your website as ‘Car Essential’, but there really is nothing within walking distance of the villa.
  • Why can’t you change the light bulbs before they expire?

“We had a complaint from a guest in Alcudia, who insisted that they had booked a pool with “blue water”, and their pool didn’t have it.” – Villa Plus Insider

Odd holiday requests

As told exclusively by our Villa Plus Insider.


“A client once requested that we send a truck full of hot water to their villa to fill up their pool, as they wanted a heated pool. Needless to say, we had to explain that this was not possible!”


“A few years ago, a client wasn’t happy to have the villa booked without a proper brick barbecue (the villa only had a metal one). Our resort manager went to the builders’ merchants the weekend before they arrived and subsequently built them the barbecue. The same clients wanted a limo for the transfer and when they got home complained that it had cloth seats – limos always have leather seats!”

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“At Villa Camp du Bosch, the clients were staying in our Very Villa. Although we do not advertise a “heated pool” on the facilities list, they mistakenly thought that all of our pools were heated. So, they asked us to provide them with wet-suits for the pool, as in their opinion, the pool was too cold to swim in!”

Dropping the ball

The following is not a request or complaint story. It’s simply a tale too good to keep to ourselves.


“This is a decade-old story: a new rep walked into a villa to greet clients and was met by an elderly gentleman racking up his billiard balls on the billiard table. Imagine her shock and horror when she noticed two balls too many on the table … the said gentleman was stark naked!”

Taking Children Out of School for a Holiday

Term Time

Have you ever been tempted to take the kids out of school to take them on the trip of a lifetime? Perhaps work commitments get in the way, you’ve found an amazing mid-term deal on a holiday to Spain, or maybe there’s a package on a family getaway to France that you just can’t pass up.

As we start to think about where we’re off to on our travels in 2019, the debate about whether it’s ever ok to go on holiday with your children during term time is starting up again – and according to our research, it’s one that doesn’t seem to be settling any time soon.

At Villa Plus, we asked 2,000 British parents to see what the general consensus seems to be now. Here’s what everyone’s saying about running the risk of fines for a family break.

70percent

The Big Getaway Debate

If you think it’s fine to take the kids away for a little break, you’re not alone. When it comes to taking our children out of school during term time for a holiday, almost three-quarters (70%) of the parents we asked think it’s ok to take our children out of school during term time for a family getaway.

Timing-wise, over a quarter (26%) say that a getaway of up to seven days is an acceptable length of time to keep them out of school, while a surprisingly high 14% think taking them away for seven to 14 days is ok.

Most parents who are happy to book their holidays mid-way through the school term say they do so because they don’t have a choice when they take holidays and also because it’s cheaper to book at this time. In addition, many said that travel is just as important as education and a few days doesn’t hurt.

However, those who are opposed have their reasons for holding off until the school holidays to book their break. These parents believe children have enough holidays and that too much learning is missed if they are taken out of school. According to them, the only acceptable time to keep the kids off during the school term is for medical reasons or bereavements.

Sheffield

Challenging Times

While many of us are in favour of going on holiday during term-time, with a whopping 100% of parents in Sheffield saying it’s fine, almost half (46%) would challenge a fine for doing so.

In addition, the numbers of those who would query a fine vary across the UK. In Bristol, 75% wouldn’t think to challenge a fine while over half (58%) in Cardiff and over a quarter (37%) of those in Leeds would.

Grandparents

The Grand Getaway

Interestingly, the over-65s are the most lenient age bracket who are happy to take their child out for up to 14 days (50%). Their younger counterparts aren’t so sure, however.

We found that 19% of 35 to 44-year-olds and 32% of 55 to 64-year-olds think it’s never acceptable. With these stats in mind, it looks like grandparents may have to spend some time convincing their children that they can take the grandkids away.

Only 42% of those aged over 65 would challenge a fine, though. This implies that the older generation are happy to foot the bill if it means they can get away with the children.

Would you allow your own child or children to take time off from their studies to go away with grandma or to spend some quality family time with you all? Would you challenge a fine for doing so or would you accept it as part of the risk of taking them out for a week or so?

Best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays

There’s something idyllic about cycling along a clifftop track while the sea gently crashes beneath you. Apart from that and the whizz of your hubs, the world seems mysteriously quiet. It’s moments like this that make cycling holidays in the Mediterranean region so appealing.

Between Spain’s Costa del Sol and Cyprus’ eastern shores you’ll find some of the best Mediterranean places to visit for cycling holidays. Here are a few that any cyclist should tick off.

Spain – Costa del Sol

Like the name suggests, Spain’s Sun Coast largely makes for brightly-lit rides which, depending on when you visit, can get a little hot, so bring a hydration pack! One such Costa del Sol cycle starts from the small hillside town of Mijas.

Study a few maps then make for La Cala Golf Course, a popular spot for golfers that’s south of Mijas. The route entails a mixture of arid single-track and two-lane roads, suited to either hybrid bikes or cross-country models. Like all great bike rides, it’s a mixture of ups, for a challenge, and downs, which leave you with a little more time to enjoy the stunning Andalusian views. Once you get to the river near the golf course, stop for a picnic, made up from the kitchen of your self-catering holiday rental, then prepare to do it all again on your way back to Mijas.


Image by Antonio, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Spain – Costa Blanca

Many professional cycling teams use the Costa Blanca as a training hub in the winter. The smooth surfaces here appeal to road cyclists who thrive on gradual climbs, speedy descents and flat stretches.

One of the most renowned climbs in the region is known as the Coll de Rates. You can easily access it from nearby towns, like Javea and Calpe. From Coll de Rates, make your way to the village of Parcent, where the route starts off with a light incline until you reach the summit. Soak up the verdant views of the surrounding region then replenish with a refreshing drink and get ready for a leisurely cruise back down.


Image by Phillip Capper, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Greek islands – Crete

If you’re ever struggling to tackle a Greek hill, promise yourself a big platter of mezes when you finish your ride to spur you on. Other than the end-of-ride meal, however, Greek island cycling makes for unbeatable holiday memories on routes you’ll always remember, many of which are found on Crete. A lot of Cretan roads are large and quiet, too, resulting in a wholly tranquil experience when you’re speeding across the island.

While it’s perfectly easy to trundle along these roads at your own pace, a real test of endurance is to brave the near-90km journey from Chania through the inland hills to the stunning village of Kallikratis. From here you’ll be able to see much of the island’s enticing coastline. Make sure you bring a camera, then capture the moment with a panoramic shot which’ll always remind you of your Crete cycling holiday. If you don’t fancy doing it over again, though, get a holiday companion to drive over and take you back to your villa rental.


Image by Andy Montgomery, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Cyprus – Paphos

Cyprus serves cyclists a selection of island routes for many different preferences. The city of Paphos and the surrounding resorts of Coral Bay are home to road and off-road paths suited to everyone from the everyday commuter to the endurance junkie who craves another fix of kilometre-rich coastal roads.

For a real challenge, cycle into the Troodos mountain range from Paphos. The journey itself is roughly 65 kilometres and is mostly downhill, making for a highly enjoyable and breezy trip. It’s suited to both road and off-road cyclists – just make sure your trusty steed is fitted with a good set of brakes for when you need to stop!

Take the time to soak up gorgeous Cypriot views, like that of the Diarizos river, which you’ll encounter along the way. It’s the fourth largest river on the island, although every twist and turn makes for a serene spot for a sandwich and a bottle of water. Failing that, you can always dip your feet in the river to help cool off before hitting the road again!


Image by Tomasz Huczek, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Mediterranean destinations have all the right ingredients for a cycling holiday – sun, scenery and a fair whack of sandy strips where you can put your feet up after a long day of pedalling!

Thinking about bringing your beloved bicycle on your next getaway? Here’s how to go about taking it onto an aeroplane.

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Villas with table tennis – how to make the most of your facilities

 Few sports are as easily accessible as table tennis. You don’t need lightning-quick reflexes or the hand-eye coordination of Andy Murray to enjoy the rush of a good ping pong rally – just a little perseverance and the right facilities. Luckily, villas with table tennis tables are easy to come by. Here’s how to make the most out of them with three fun games.

Image by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

1. Round the world ping pong

If you’re holidaying in a bigger property with friends or family, then get everyone up and active with this fast-paced, inclusive variation on traditional table tennis. You’ll need one ball and a minimum of two bats, although if everyone playing is able to have one, then it’ll make the game that little bit easier.

Form a circle around the table tennis table. One player starts by hitting the ball across the table, before proceeding to move clockwise around it. The aim is to keep a rally going without making any mistakes, all the while continuing to rotate around the table in a circle.

Each participant starts with five points, and they lose points when the ball goes out of play on their turn. Players are disqualified when they lose all their points, so keep your wits about you and battle it out until you’re the last one standing!

2. Single-player ping pong

Let’s say that a fellow table tennis aficionado can’t quite tear themselves away from the poolside lounger (they’re on a relaxing villa holiday, after all), but you want to get a few rallies in before dinnertime. Not to worry, just play against yourself.

Fold one half of the table up 90 degrees so it forms a vertical wall which you can hit a ball against, then lock it in place. Don’t attempt to do this alone, though – ping pong tables are heavy, and you don’t want to risk injuring yourself.

Once everything’s in place, brush up on your topspin or nail that forehand smash once and for all. Who knows, maybe those extra few hours practice could be what it takes to make you the formidable player you’ve always dreamt of becoming.

3. Ping pong squash

Combine two much-loved racket sports and get ready to really utilise all of your reflexes. Place the table against a wall, with the net remaining at a 90-degree angle to the wall. With one other player stood by the opposite side of the net, hit the ball off the wall so that it ends up bouncing on their side. Play out the rally until one person either misses the ping pong ball or bats it out of play.

Things can really speed up when playing ping pong squash, so don’t be surprised if it takes you a few games to get the hang of it! Once you’ve cracked it, though, you’re in for endless hours of entertainment, honing coordination skills that’ll serve you well in other ball games.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with a traditional game of ping pong. Set aside a few hours with an opponent and smash, backhand and spin your way to 21 points.


Image by Porsche Brosseau, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Ready to smash and spin your way through a ping pong-filled holiday? Look at Villa Plus propertiesand find one which suits you.

By Lara Scott. A former executive at a major hotel chain, Lara Scott is a freelance travel writer and journalist. She says her previous career gives her extra insight into both sides of the tourism industry.

5 romantic nights in for the best ways to propose on holiday

The best ways to propose on holiday are personal and based on what your partner loves. Stick to those two all-important mantras and you shouldn’t go far wrong. To stay on the safe side, it’s a good plan to brainstorm a handful of proposal ideas. For your convenience, here’s some engagement inspiration to get the ball rolling, all revolving around romantic nights in.

1. Make it all about them

Image by WineCountry Media, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

Selfless love is often the most romantic, so dedicate an entire day of the holiday to making everything about them. Start by preparing a surprise breakfast in bed, then visit those attractions they’ve been banging on about all holiday. All the while, spoil them with flowers or dishes which they love.

When you get back to your holiday rental, run a candlelit bath and indulge in a glass of bubbly. Once you’re nice and tranquil, get down on one knee…

2. The classic proposal

Of all the ways to ask for someone’s hand in marriage, this is the easiest. Spend an evening in your holiday rental and cook up a storm –  why not go all out with a three-course meal which they won’t forget anytime soon? Add some champagne, their favourite romantic movie, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a truly idyllic proposal.

This is a classic for a reason – it’s simple, beautiful and not overly obvious that something special is just around the corner.

3. The sunrise/sunset proposal

Image by Kent Larsson, used under CC License (CC by 2.0)

As the title suggests, push the boat out with an early morning sunrise or tender sundown, then once the rays of light shimmer and glow, pop the big question. Other romantics might decide to choose a beach or landmark, but you can do it all from the comforts of your balcony with your soon-to-be fiancé. You could even combine this idea with parts of the so-called ‘classic proposal’, swapping dinner for breakfast if you’re opting for the early start.

4. Reach for the stars

For this one, choose secluded accommodation with a clear view of the open night sky. A private villa with a balcony, for example, makes for the perfect backdrop to this momentous occasion. You’ll need to wait for a starry night though, otherwise you won’t get the full effect.

Get cosy on the terrace for a few hours cuddled under the stars. If you have binoculars or a portable telescope, use them to help you both get a better perspective of the stars. Point out constellations written on love legends and share the stories with your partner. Casually throw in your own story (without being too overt), then propose.

Not clued up on the cosmos? You could do no wrong by checking out Perseus and the Andromeda, Orion and the Seven Sisters, or Altair and Vega.

5. Surprise them with loved ones

Imagine you’ve been on your romantic villa holiday together for several days. One evening, having spent another day exploring your chosen destination, you return to your villa as usual. Only this time, your partner’s friends and family are in wait! Muster your courage, pop down on one knee and let them know how much they mean to you, then enjoy the blissful moment together.

Got the lust for love? Check out Villa Plus rentals geared towards couples

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.

Villa honeymoon ideas: inspiration for cunning newlyweds

When many people imagine their perfect honeymoon, they envision nights in a hotel’s most luxurious suite, complete with a hot tub, rose petals and some bubbly. Yet this style of honeymoon can be both expensive and lacking in adventure. A villa honeymoon, on the other hand, gifts newlyweds the ideal blend of comfort, convenience and affordable luxury, with some great views thrown in the mix.

If you’re looking for a villa honeymoon to remember, follow these tips for a loved-up, unforgettable trip from day one.

Daytime exploration

crete-holidays-harbour

Staying in a hotel makes it easy to book yourselves onto guided tours and excursions. But if you’re seeking a little more adventure, get off the beaten track and go exploring! The romantic Greek island of Crete is littered with secluded spots, such as Frangokastello Beach. Why not use your villa as a base camp for uncovering them?

Charming towns like Gouves provide an attractive opportunity to observe the authentic Cretan way of life, sample traditional food and spark up conversation with the locals. To put it frankly, other methods of accommodation just don’t offer the same opportunity for adventure.

Romantic evenings at home

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Villa honeymoons on Spain’s Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol give you the benefit of your own private space, while still keeping you close to the action. If you’re sticking to a budget, or simply don’t fancy going into town for the evening, bring the fun home with an indulgent night in.

Start with an alfresco meal on your balcony or terrace, then take your drinks into the hot tub or pool. For the ultimate touch of luxury, source a couple of bottles of local sparkling wine (Spain is famous for its cava) and chill them in the fridge of your rental in advance of your romantic evening.

Fantastic food

One of the key benefits of a private holiday villa is that you’re able to prepare food yourself. That means you can enjoy the local supermarkets, greengrocers, delis and the enticing ingredients they have in stock.

Tempted by dreamy Canary Island destinations like Tenerife? Then immerse yourself in the local cuisine by picking up kitchen staples like gofio (a flour added to all kinds of soups, stews and desserts, although it’s also eaten as a dough mixture) and goat’s cheese, which is normally eaten fresco (i.e. without being left to mature).

You can also try your hand at cooking Canarian specialities like mojo, a spicy sauce that combines garlic, chillies and paprika with vinegar, oil and other seasonings.

World class views

Whichever honeymoon destination you end up choosing, villas set in a hidden hilltop spot will make your stay truly special. Instead of being cooped up in your hotel room or jostling for room at the shared pool, you’ll be able to stretch your legs, enjoy some alone time with the fantastic view and, best of all, take a siesta under the sun.

It’s the recipe for a truly idyllic honeymoon. Once you’ve tied the knot, why not take a look at some romantic places you could visit?

By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family focus, and she is in the middle of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.​