We’re full swing into spring and if you still haven’t booked yourself a mini-break then Dr Saul Hillman’s wise words may give you the nudge you need! In part 2 of our ‘Spring into Action’ mini-series Saul explains why our relationships benefit from a get-away and he shares some top tips on how to get the most (for longer) from your spring break, enjoy!
“Given that most people go on breaks with family or friends, there is a great benefit to bonding, communication and solidarity. What we do on a short break is create a ‘shared experience’ with those we are with and this again enhances connections and relationships. When we are on holiday, we will invariably be removed from ordinary daily routines (work, chores, school, family politics, technology) and instead are able to focus upon something different, open up new experiences and broaden horizons.
“Stress is unavoidable and takes its toll at so many levels. Some of these are more obvious such as becoming more irritable, sleeping worse, or more prone to feeling anxious about events that would normally not phase us. However, many of the symptoms of stress are more silent and may be taking their toll in more subtle ways. Our bodies are expert in maintaining an internal homeostasis but we are often very slow in knowing how to manage stress levels.
“For this reason, short regular breaks are a huge tonic to our mental health given that they offer us time to relax, unwind and step away from our entangled and often routine lives. In the same way that children respond to incentives and rewards, adults are no different, and having something like a spring break, whether to a holiday park, a city break, a cottage holiday, or an activity-based vacation, we are likely to find the ingredients that will help us switch off and recharge.
“We often leave long periods between holidays when short breaks can be a great boost given how the benefits of a holiday wane over time, and we need the time to unwind and destress. There are other things that we can do in order to ensure that the effects from these breaks are strong.
Dr Saul Hillman’s Top Tips for you Spring Break… Psychologist, Counsellor & Therapist at the Belsize Health Clinic in Belsize Park, North London.
1. Detach and Switch off – in an increasingly connected world where our time spent on phones and devices is so common place, this perhaps could be the greatest sacrifice, if we left our phone and refrained from checking and responding to emails and other messages, or engaging in any social media. Though this may seem trivial, it is acknowledged to have become a growing addiction and barrier to relationships.
2. Engaging outside – most positive breaks will and should involve some engagement with the natural habitat, whether this is an outdoor activity or pursuit, or something far more mindful which allows one to be in nature.
3. Slow pace – in order to counter the lives that most of us normally lead, don’t feel the pressure to make your break too packed or structured. It is always helpful to allow breathing space which again can allow us to relax, recalibrate and reinvigorate before we return to our typical lives.
4. Plan breaks in advance – as well as being able to obtain bargains in advance, it will undoubtedly be an incentive to have short breaks to look forward to.
5. Don’t just photograph, film with your senses – we are spoiled nowadays for having ways of capturing our lives on camera, but consider reflecting in a more mindful way whilst drinking up the experience.
6. Realistic expectations – accept breaks for what they are and that they may still have some challenges and dips. Of course, breaks are bound to bring with them stresses, whether related to travel, illness, interpersonal dynamics, or so much else, which may diminish the quality of the experience.
7. Don’t be selfless – even if you are holidaying with family or friends, remember it is okay to sometimes say ‘no’ in order to ensure that the holiday is working for you. If you overcommit yourself, you may feel dissatisfied, tired or overwhelmed. Do what works for you.
Dr Saul Hillman (PhD, BACP, GHR) psychologist, counsellor & therapist
So why is a spring break so good for us? We put the question to Dr Saul Hillman, psychologist, counsellor & therapist at the Belsize Health Clinic in Belsize Park, North London. In the first of this two-part mini-series, Saul explains why a short-break is particularly good to take at this time of year.
“Most of us are wrapped up in frantic lifestyles with multiple layers, competing demands and limited rewards on a day to day basis. Whilst we may simply get used to this sort of lifestyle and don’t necessarily always notice the stresses in our body or state of mind, the effects do build up, and we often need to step back, observe and tweak our lifestyle in order to make sure the balance has not gone awry.
“Two large studies confirm this and indicate that taking regular breaks and vacations reduces risk of health problems including cardiovascular disease. Further research at a more superficial level reports that people have more energy, higher degrees of life satisfaction and have fewer general health complaints after going away.
“At this time of the year, with the onset of spring and clocks going forward, we can benefit from longer and lighter evenings. There are strong reasons why a break may be a good move and may also have many positive health benefits. For more than one in ten people in the UK, the winter and darker months between November and March can be challenging to varying degrees with less natural light, together with a range of symptoms that often get clustered together under terms such as ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)’ or ‘Winter Blues’. In essence, the reduced natural light stimulates the release of serotonin, which results in the feelings that we commonly associate with depression.
“On top of this, given that many people have also just left behind a very intense and financially challenging period of Christmas, the early months from January to March can be the most psychologically challenging. Often, we are faced with realities not always matching up to our expectations.
“Short breaks have the potential to release us from the stress cycle in our lives. When we get away, we remove ourselves from the actual physical location of our everyday life, the demands and rituals that pervade it and of course that state of hypervigilance which comes from the busy nature of our lives.
“As we all know and experience, a break can help by interrupting this pattern, defuse any lingering tensions, so that we can also gain a new perspective on what is important in our lives and what we maybe need to tap into more. So many studies support the benefits from taking vacations given how they buffer the stress from our work and home lives.”
Dr Saul Hillman (PhD, BACP, GHR) psychologist, counsellor & therapist
In part 2, Saul shares his top tips on making your short break work harder and better for you, so you feel de-stressed for longer – coming at the end of April!
If you are struggling with ideas to fill the long Easter break, look no further!
Here are some ideas for those with bundles of energy or a thirst for learning!
These theme parks have got something for everybody. They have a combination of nail-biting roller coasters and gentler rides for the younger party members/roller coaster haters.
1) Paulton’s Park – Paultons Family Theme Park Home to Peppa Pig World, has over 60 wonderful rides and attractions included in the price. Paultons has been voted as the number 1 UK theme park for families by readers of Netmums, Which?, Mumsnet and by reviewers on Trip Advisor. The Park is set within 140 acres of beautiful parkland on the edge of the New Forest National Park.
2) Alton Towers – Alton Towers Resort is the UK’s number 1 short break destination and Britain’s Greatest Escape!
Experience the world’s first ever CBeebies Land, home to a range of themed rides, attractions and live entertainment, and a completely immersive experience for children and families.
The Resort offers a world leading Theme Park with ground breaking rollercoasters and endless family fun, two fantastical hotels, a wacky Waterpark, a luxurious Spa and zany Extraordinary Golf.
3) M&D’s Theme Park – Are you a thrill seeker or looking for the perfect family day out? Look no further than M&D’s, with 5 terrifying white-knuckle roller coasters, over 20 kids’ rides and attractions – you’ll be amazed at what they have to offer.
Not only do they offer fantastic theme park thrills, M&D’s indoors is open all year round. With a ‘glow in the dark’ indoor bowling, a massive indoor complex including a gigantic soft play area, bars and restaurants and lots of seasonal events.
You can also discover AMAZONIA, Scotland’s only indoor tropical rainforest packed with exotic animals, birds and creepy crawlies!
4) Thorpe Park – Located in Chertsey, Surrey it is convenient to get to from all over the South of England. There are 27 rides in Park and it even has a number of artificial beaches for those hot spring days we might have (hopefully!)
5) LEGOLAND Windsor – Come and play your part at the LEGOLAND® Windsor Resort – the ideal destination for families with children aged 2-12. With over 55 interactive rides, live shows and attractions including the famous Miniland plus building workshops, driving schools, plus sleepover at the LEGOLAND Windsor Resort Hotel, splash and play in DUPLO® Valley and NEW for 2014, set sail on a swashbuckling adventure to Pirate Shores – there’s a whole LEGO world of playful fun and learning to discover.
1) Harry Potter Studio Tour – The Harry Potter film series made Leavesden its home for more than ten years. As the books were still being released while the films were being made, the production crew saved many of the iconic sets, props and costumes that were created especially for the films – just in case they were ever needed later on in the series.
Once filming wrapped on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2010, the production crew were left with a treasure trove of thousands of intricate and beautifully-made artefacts, many of which wouldn’t have been saved on a typical production.
The team behind Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter wanted to preserve and showcase these iconic props, costumes and sets so that Harry Potter fans could experience the magic of filmmaking first-hand. Many of the original cast and crew returned to reassemble the sets and record their memories from filming, and on 31st March 2012, the Studio Tour opened its doors.
Set adjacent to the working film studios where all eight Harry Potter films were made, the Studio Tour offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore two soundstages and a backlot filled with original sets, animatronic creatures and breathtaking special effects.
Family tickets and tours are still available the week commencing April 12th (at the time this was published).
2) National Space Centre – The National Space Centre is the UK’s largest attraction dedicated to space exploration and space science. As such we have an amazing building filled with rockets, satellites, Martian surfaces and other amazing artefacts. The building also houses experts and a full Space Communications team.
3) Natural History Museum – The Museum – with its vast collections and pioneering research programme – is powerfully placed to engage audiences with the science they need to know and the decisions we need to make about our future.
The Museum’s purpose is to challenge the way people think about the natural world – its past, present and future. They aim to stimulate public debate about humanity’s future and equip our audiences at every level with an understanding of science.
Entrance is free however it does accept donations at the entrance that go towards the upkeep of the museum.
4) Deep Sea World Fife – Why not spend a day at the bottom of the sea? Dive into the deep at Deep Sea World with huge sharks, Stella our stingray, tropical fish and much much more! See the wonders of the deep with fascinating Sand Tiger sharks, conger eels and a myriad of marine life as you walk underwater through the UK’s longest underwater tunnel.
5) Techniquest – Techniquest’s mission is to engage people with science and to motivate them to learn more.
Techniquest has a world-wide reputation for creating programmes and exhibits, and their staff includes leading experts in science communication. They develop and sell programmes and exhibits to science centres all over the world.
Techniquest offers interactive experiences that are accessible to all, and that have been enjoyed in its centre by over 4 million people since its inception in Cardiff in 1986.
1) Go Ape! – With locations around the UK you are sure to find one that suits you! Sessions last around 2-3 hours and include zip-lining through stunning scenery. They also offer Segway experiences for you to explore from the ground.
Prices vary depending on what activity you are taking part in.
2) Fell Walking in the Lake District – There are hundreds of walks around the Lake District for both experience walkers, and those who want a more gentle stroll. One of the best walks with stunning views for those who want more of a gentle hike is Cat Bells. Once you reach the top there are amazing views of Derwent Water, Keswick and the surrounding areas.
Visit www.wainwright.org.uk/ for inspiration.
3) Surf School in Cornwall – If you fancy doing something different this Easter, how about enrolling on a surfing camp in Cornwall. There are many different schools to choose from, and the choppy waves in Cornwall make for a great surfing experience.
Take a look at http://www.cornwallsurfacademy.com/ to see their different prices.
4) Kayaking in the Highlands – Take in the beautiful scenery of the Scottish Highlands from a Kayak. There are a number of different excursions that you can take part in ranging from half a day to a 3 day unforgettable camping experience.
Visit http://www.rockhopperscotland.co.uk/trips/ to see their trip availability.
5) Spend a day horse riding on a beach in Pembrokeshire – There are many riding schools on the Welsh Coast that off a combination of country and beach hacks. You can choose a day hack or a half day hack.
Visit http://noltonstables.com/ to start planning today.
There are hundreds of heritage sites around the UK with something for adults and children alike. Many heritage sites have their own adventure playgrounds to keep children entertained between the historical workshops that so many offer.
This Easter many are holding events including treasure hunts and re-enactments, so check out what’s on near you!
Here are a few to get you started:
1) Alnwick Castle – Offering impressive gardens to spend hours walking around, and the stately home itself, Alnwick Castle has been famously used in the early Harry Potter films. The gardens feature one of the worlds largest tree house complete with a restaurant at the top. There are also beautiful ornamental gardens for all to enjoy. Inside that castle, you can take a tour to see what it would have been like to live in it over the past few centuries. They also have regularly changing exhibitions that might take your fancy.
This Eastern learn how to fly a broomstick!
Visit http://www.alnwickcastle.com/ to see what’s on and when.
2) Corfe Castle – Enjoy one of Britain’s most iconic and evocative survivors of the English Civil War, partially demolished in 1646 by the Parliamentarians.
A favourite haunt for adults and children alike, you can’t fail to be captivated by these romantic castle ruins with breathtaking views across Purbeck.
Discover 1,000 years of our history as a royal palace and fortress. With fallen walls and secret places, there are tales of treachery and treason around every corner.
Spot the ‘murder holes’ and count the arrow loops. Feel history come to life and see the wildlife that has set up home here.
This Easter events include a Cadbury Easter Egg Trail and archery demonstrations that you can get involved in.
Visit http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle to plan your visit.
3) Knebworth House – One of England’s most beloved stately homes, Knebworth House is famous worldwide for its rock concerts and as the home of Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton. This beautiful gothic mansion is situated
Knebworth Park offers a great day out for all the family, with fun activities for children, and lots to do for all ages, including Adventure Playground, Dinosaur Trail, a walk through history in Knebworth House and Gardens and special events throughout the summer. Their licensed self-service restaurant offers a delicious selection of home-made and locally sourced lunch and teatime treats.
This Easter there are many events to keep both adults and children entertained. These include an Easter trail in the Gardens & Park, a jousting demonstration and for grown-ups the East of England Food Festival.
See http://www.knebworthhouse.com/ to see when the events are on.
4) Wollaton Hall and Deer Park – Wollaton Hall is was designed by Robert Smythson and built by Sir Francis Willoughby between 1580 and 1588 for his family. Now a prominent Grade One listed building, the stunning Hall houses the city’s Natural History Museum along with reconstructed room settings.
Standing on a natural hill three miles west of Nottingham City Centre, Wollaton Hall is set in five hundred acres of spectacular gardens and parkland. The hall was used as the setting for Wayne Manor in the 2012 Batman film, Dark Knight Rises.
Take a tour of the museum and see an impressive display of specimens that equate to almost three quarters of a million.
As well as the zoology, geology and botany displays, you can also take a tour of period rooms and see what life was like in the past.
If touring the hall does not tire you out take a stroll around the grounds, which is home to hundreds of deer, or visit the Formal Gardens.
This Easter visit the Easter Craft Fair or take part part in an Easter Bunny Trail.
Visit http://www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/article/22178/Wollaton-Hall-and-Deer-Park for more information.
5) Caldicot Castle – Caldicot Castle’s impressive structure is surrounded by an idyllic 55 acre country park.
You will be able to travel through time and discover the home of Welsh castle life, from medieval times to the twentieth century. The castle was developed in Royal hands in the Middle Ages and restored as a Victorian family home.
The River Nedern winds its way through the park and the wildlife pond is home to a variety of wildfowl. Explore the medieval towers and take in break-taking views of the parkland’s and surrounding area from the battlements. You can see the 12 pounder muzzle-loading HMS Foundroyant’s Canon in the courtyard. Come and unravel the mysteries of the dark chilling castle dungeon. Caldicot Castle is reputed to be haunted by a number of ghosts. Who will you see before you leave?
This Easter come and experience what life would have been like in the 14th Century and be entertained by a gruesome battle re-enactment.
To learn more visit http://www.caldicotcastle.co.uk/
Let us know what you’re up to this Easter, and if you need a place to rest your head between all of your busy days let us know if we can help you find a hotel.
1) 295 days is the average time to ‘make’ Christmas dinner before it reaches our plate.
2) 10 million turkeys were consumed last year in the UK.
3) 7 out of 10 dogs get spoiled from their puppy parents every Christmas.
4) A spider web found on Christmas morning is believed to bring good luck in The Ukraine.
5) Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” released in 1942 is the best-selling Christmas song of all-time.
6) Due to international time zones, our modern day Santa Claus actually has 31 hours to deliver presents to all the children of the world. But to do so, he’ll need to travel at a rate of 4,796,250 MPH!
7) The Christmas gift wrap used in the UK every year would cover the island of Guernsey.
8) Rudolph should probably be depicted without antlers as male reindeer shed theirs in winter.
9) Artificial Christmas trees have outsold real ones since 1991.
10) If you received every gift in “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” you’d have 364 gifts!
On the 12th day of Christmas Hotel Voucher Shop gave to me… a Lumie Bodyclock Iris (RRP £160)
Lumie Bodyclock Iris (RRP £160) – combines light therapy with aromatherapy for the first time. It comes with two separate chambers to make it easy to switch between a relaxing oil like lavender for sunset and an uplifting one like lemon for the morning. This luxury product also comes with remote control and a range of sleep/wake options.
Enter 12DAYS at checkout to receive 10% on Lumie Bodyclock for today only!
PLUS we’re offering everyone a 10% discount if you purchase a HotelVoucherShop voucher using discount code ‘Day12’.
Here’s the fourth Christmas gift guide, with some wonderful ideas for the people you love most in your life.
What could be better than some quality alone time just the two of you, in a beautiful hotel? Create those special memories that you will treasure together by treating them to a get-away with a HotelVoucherShop gift. With over 78,000 hotels in over 5,000 destinations in the UK and Worldwide it’s the gift of choice. Here are some great get-away ideas for your loved one…
Treat the man in your life to a golf break in Stratford-upon-Avon.
For the more active break, head to the slopes of Andorra and enjoy a fun-filled ski break.
Our city breaks will excite and delight! Stay in the quirky Shankly Hotel in Liverpool and explore all the city has to offer.
Or how about a cultural break to Cambridge and go punting down the river and stroll around the cobbled streets. Explore quaint passages set around the historic market place and colleges, where a unique and relaxing shopping experience can be found.
Download our Couples & Loved Ones gift guide here.
Vouchers can be purchased from http://www.hotelvouchershop.com in denominations of £10 up to £1000 at the value you desire. Really treat your loved ones and gift a get-away this Christmas.
On the 11th day of Christmas Hotel Voucher Shop gave to me… a pure cotton mattress protector 2 pure cotton covered pillows
Experience wonderful, revitalising sleep thanks to Warren Evans bed makers. Win one of their pure cotton mattress protectors, providing optimal comfort and natural breathability to your mattress, and two of their premium pure cotton covered pillows, filled with duck down and feathers, for many nights of blissful, sumptuous slumber.
PLUS we’re giving 10% off any voucher orders with code ‘DAY11’
People often say they sleep better when they’re away – time-out from the daily grind is always good for the soul but perhaps sleeping on a good bed and mattress is also making a difference? Here’s how to create a hotel-feeling, luxury bed in 5 easy steps thanks to our friends at Warren Evans bed makers.
Your pillow should help you sleep and keep your head, neck, shoulder and spine as close to its neutral alignment as possible. Choosing a
configuration of softer and firmer pillows can work well. Combine our firmer Popular pillow, with a border for added structure, and our medium feel Premium pillow, filled with duck down for comfort and support.
Mattress Made in Heaven
The key to waking up feeling great is sleeping on a mattress that gives you and your partner the right amount of support and comfort. An IPS or memory foam mattress is best for a couple, as the springs or foam work independently and respond and mould to every contour of your body. Our popular Superior mattress at 4000 springs is designed to give individual support whilst minimising the effect of “roll” between partners.
Enhance, revive and improve the longevity of your mattress with a quality mattress topper. Adding a topper gives your old mattress a new lease of life, providing the softness the mattress fillers may no longer offer. Our range of Warren Evans toppers and protectors with luxurious natural fillers gives you choice when it comes to density and feel.
Ensure you have a thick enough duvet, in breathable, sumptuous cotton, to keep you warm this winter. The natural properties of cotton help keep your body temperature at its optimum so you sleep comfortably. Our Warren Evans pure cotton duvets come in a range of thicknesses and with buttons attached at each corner, you can double up and fasten two duvets together to give additional warmth if required. And there’s nothing better than jumping between freshly washed cotton sheets for that quality, hotel-feel!
Beautiful Big Bed Frame
Bed size plays a big part in your quality of sleep, especially if you have a partner! Our Warren Evans National Sleep Naturally study found that couples sharing Kingsized beds or larger are 51% less likely to be woken by their partner (4 nights a week or more) than those in a double bed or smaller. And 87% of those people who blame their bed size on their partner waking them are sleeping in smaller beds. You should both be able to rest both your hands behind your heads, without your elbows touching.
Get up to 50% off in Warren Evans’ January sale from 15th January to 1st February!
You can win a Warren Evans mattress protector and two of their premium pillows in our 12 Days of Christmas competition – look out for it, it’s coming tomorrow!
On the 10th day of Christmas Hotel Voucher Shop gave to me… two tickets to ‘The View from the Shard’ with Champagne & a 12-month Gourmet Society membership
‘The View from the Shard’ is a premium visitor attraction at the top of the European Union’s (EU) tallest building, and London’s newest landmark, The Shard. Designed by Master Architect Renzo Piano, the Shard redefines London’s skyline and has become a dynamic symbol of London.
At a height of up to 800ft or 244m, we offer spectacular views over London for up to 40 miles. It is almost twice as high as any other vantage point in the city, and the only place where visitors can see the entire city at once.
PLUS we’re offering everyone a 10% discount if you purchase a HotelVoucherShop voucher using discount code ‘Day10’.
On the 9th day of Christmas Hotel Voucher Shop gave to me… £100 worth of Hotel Voucher Shop vouchers.
£100 to spend on all things festive* at leading fashion retailer bonprix!
Merry Christmas one and all! The festive season’s in full swing, so what could be more amazing than £100 to spend on fabulously flattering party frocks at bonprix.co.uk? Or maybe you’re in need of wonderful gifts for all the family but just can’t face the busy high street crush? Whatever your Yuletide needs, we’ve got a huge range of excellent value fashion and gifts at incredible prices, ready and waiting to be delivered direct to your door. And because there are so many brilliant value items, your £100 is sure to go a really long way! Good luck!
*^ Terms and conditions apply. See bonprix.co.uk for details.