How did sandcastle art become the best? Find out.

Do you remember your first family holiday to the beach as a child, playing in the sand with a bucket and spade in hand? You could let your imagination run wild and build the most impressive sandcastle complete with a moat. Great memories, right? For most of us, this was just some fun we had every time we headed to the beach, but for others this is a skill that has been perfected over the years.

Check out these impressive sandcastles 

1. Levante Beach, Benidorm

Take a stroll along the seafront as you find masterpieces dotted along the promenade. The attention to detail is amazing and we can only imagine how long they must have taken to build.

2. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

With 35 miles of sandy beaches, finding sand for the sculptures isn’t a problem. Head down to the beach to see the artists in action. It’s an incredible sight to watch them sculpt, pat and pile the sand, knowing something remarkable will come of it.

3. Pera, Portugal

Known as the city of sand, you’re instantly met by recognisable idols from the big screen. Keep an eye out for the 30 foot Marilyn Monroe which stands tall next to Charlie Chaplin and Liza Minnelli. Now, take a look at these photos – they are exceptionally lifelike.

4. Bourgas, Bulgaria

Visiting Bulgaria in July and looking for something different? Make sure you grab yourself a ticket to this festival of sand sculptures. Here mermaids, pirates and other magical creatures are crafted.

5. Bay of Bengal, India

The World Cup fever has taken over and the artist Sudarshan Pattnaik has created some special football-inspired pieces. If making a stadium wasn’t enough, Pattnaik has sculpted the World Cup trophy and football as a good luck gesture for all teams competing.

Have you seen some quirky sand art? Comment below.

Top 8 Holiday Tips With Teenagers Part 1

Teenagers are one of the most difficult age groups to please when choosing a holiday they’ve reached the age where they want to be independent from their parents, and yet you still need to make sure they are safe and happy. I have a 16 year old so I understand how challenging it can be to find something to keep everybody happy, however we always manage to have really good family holidays, so, here are my tips on how to enjoy a holiday with teens.

1. Waterparks are great if you are travelling in a family with mixed ages. They can all enjoy themselves on the slides and it is a good bonding experience with younger siblings.

2. Another good tip is to involve them in the planning of the holiday. Ask them where they would like to go and what they want from the holiday. Let them help you decide on a holiday that will suit the whole family – this will make them feel more grown up, and they’ll appreciate you recognising that they are not young children anymore.

3. My teen never shows the same enthusiasm as me when going on holiday, so I try to build up her excitement by doing a plan of action. A couple of weeks before we go I start looking at trips and activities that we can do and we plan together what we like and ones we can afford to do once we are there.

4. You can also make use of any interests they may have. For example if they are good photographers you can make them official photographer of the holiday, if they like music they can create a playlist to listen to on the music player or if they are into fashion they can help with planning the holiday wardrobes. Whatever it is, you can find a way to get them involved.

5. It is good to set some ground rules before your holiday, so that you as parents can explain to them what you expect from them and give them the opportunity to say what they expect from you. This way you know what may embarrass them and they have had prior warning on what they can and can’t do.

6. Trade activities – On family holidays it is difficult to organise trips and activities to please everyone once you are there. When I go away with my family, we agree before hand to organise and plan our activities. For example, if I want to go shopping and my daughter wants to go swimming, we comprise and do one activity in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This way we still get quality time together and are both happy.

7. When the kids are little it is fine to let them share a room with their parents, but as teens this may become awkward. If possible try to book a separate room for older teens but if you not comfortable with this or if they are younger teens then a good idea is to book a hotel that provides family rooms with sliding partitions. Apartments are a great solution as they generally have a separate bedroom and then a lounge area with sofa bed or pull out bed. Lagoon Studios and Apartments in Corfu for example have 2 bedroomed apartments that sleep 5.

8. Not ideal for everybody, but it may be worth allowing them to take along a friend. Taking a friend will give them a chance to get excited together and they will be less likely to say they are bored once they are on holiday.                 

Remember a holiday with teenagers does not have to be a challenge. It is a perfect way to spend quality time with them and a refreshing change to them spending time on their laptops and games consoles. My daughter and I enjoy our family holidays together and we come home with lots of good memories and stories to tell. Travel is also a great educator.
Tell us about your experiences travelling with teens? Do you have any tips?

Why Turkey?

Just like Marmite, when it comes to Turkey people love it or hate it. Some people just don’t understand what it is about this destination that keeps millions of holidaymakers flocking to its shores each year. Here is just a few of the answers to the question why Turkey…


You want – White sands, long beaches and calm waters.

You think – Beach lovers often think the Caribbean is the crème de la crème for shorelines but with a heavy price tag and the chance of a hurricane it might not be the best option.

Why Turkey – Olu Deniz beach is arguably the most photographed beach in Turkey, if not the world, due to its natural beauty. It can get busy in summer months so if you fancy something quieter Butterfly Valley is just around the corner. Cleopatra Island has world famous beaches and is under conservation by the government or if you want somewhere off the beaten track you can visit one of the many smaller beaches dotted along the Med.

Historical sites

You want – Cultural hotspots, ancient history and character and charm.

You think – History and Egypt go hand in hand thanks to the ancient ruins and tales of Pharaoh’s but with hundreds of tours running every day it can be a little congested.

Why Turkey – Ephesus history dates back to six thousand BC and is one of the most famous Greek cities of ancient times and quite possibly one of the best outdoor museums in the world. Pamukkale meaning Cotton Castle in Turkish is located around 2.5 hours’ drive from Kusadasi. These mountainside mineral baths have been formed over thousands of years by rich mineral springs and are perfect for a refreshing and soothing dip.


You want – Lots of designer shopping

You think – Paris, Milan and New York

Although Paris, Milan and New York are ranked as some of the best shopping destinations in the world, but I don’t think many of us have the bulging purse or wallet to match those price tags. For all you shopaholics every day is shopping day in Turkey. From bazaars to market stalls you truly will be in a shoppers’ paradise. Remember to release your inner Del Boy and be prepared to barter, all part of the fun! Make sure you travel light with your luggage so you have room for all of your bargain buys on your return home. As copyright laws are a little slack in Turkey just remember all your purchases may not be what they seem.


You want – Food to tantalize your taste buds

You think – Italy and France.

Most destinations have speciality dishes, Italy has pastas, and France has frogs’ legs and Turkey is no exception. With a variety of colourful restaurants where you can sample the delightful home cooked Turkish dishes such as homemade bread, kebabs, kofte and not forgetting meze. If you still like to have a taste of home don’t worry, there are plenty of international food chain outlets.

Things to do

You want – Lots of water activities and excursions.

You think – Sailing, snorkelling and water sports all scream the Caribbean.

Turkey gives the Caribbean a run for its money when it comes to water sports.  All you adrenaline junkies will be more than satisfied with the vast selection of thrills and spills on offer. You can go parasailing or jet skiing, or what about a refreshing dip on a banana boat? If relaxation‘s your thing, how about a good old scrub in the traditional Turkish baths? Or maybe just a lazy day on a boat trip exploring the beautiful coastline. You will never be short of fun excursions to keep you entertained.

Fancy a slice of Turkey? After all  It’s not just for Christmas. Check out our cracking deals


Rainy Season – Your Essential Guide

At it’s all about booking your holiday last minute up to 8 weeks before, so you want to be certain that the weather will be great when you get there. Long-haul holidays are certainly on the up as you get better value for money compared to European All Inclusive holidays. Sometimes holidays can be cheaper when it’s ‘rainy season’ or ‘hurricane season’ because the thought of rain whilst you are on a sun lounger does not make you want to reach for your passport.

When does it rain in the Caribbean?

The Caribbean is known for its perfect relaxation getaways, stunning beaches and luxury hotels and booking last minute holidays here could save you hundreds of pounds. People also choose to travel during hurricane season to save even more money whilst others prefer to avoid these months and not to risk bad weather on their holiday. Here is the low down on the Caribbean seasons…

  • Rainy season, also referred to as the hurricane season, is from June to November
  • These months often see higher humidity levels and downpours late in the evening.
  • The rainy season peaks from early August through to the end of October, where downpours are more likely and frequent.
  • The most popular months to visit the Caribbean are between December and April when the rainfall is at a minimum and the temperatures are in the 30s.

Prices for Caribbean holidays can be lower during these months, and the beaches will be quieter. Not a bad trade-off for a spot on rain.


Does it rain in Aruba?

Aruba is an unusual Caribbean Island as it sits below the hurricane belt north of Venezuela. This allows you to enjoy a Caribbean holiday without the worry of hurricane season.

  • The best month to visit Aruba is May as it has the least rainfall. The so called “rainy season” starts in late October and ends around the beginning of January.
  • The rain tends to be very short leaving you to catch the rays for the rest of the day.
  • There is no chance of a hurricane anytime of the year because Aruba lies to the south of the hurricane belt, although it can be a bit windy. Perfect if you like kiteboarding.

Thomson only fly to Aruba between May and October. Travel in style on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Gatwick


Mauritius is warm all year round although the best time to travel is between November and May.

  • The chance of tropical cyclones increases in May
  • Summertime is from November to March when it is hot however it can be wet and humid.
  • The winter is cooler lasting from May to November with lower humidity levels and temperatures maintaining 24°C.

When to Travel to Cape Verde

Cape Verde lies off the coast of Africa and on the same latitude of the Caribbean which has proven a popular choice for us Brits

  • Cape Verde has an even climate throughout the year.
  • August and September experience some downpours, which turns the normally desert landscape to lush green.

Cape Verde can be very windy and many holiday reviews advise in taking pegs to clip down your towel to your sun bed. The wind will certainly work that tan!

Orlando Florida

For the thrill seekers who flock to the sunshine year in year out you’ll know Florida has a great average temperature of about 25°C annually. Rainfall and especially thunderstorms are common all year in Florida as it’s in the subtropical climate zone.

  • The wet season starts late spring in May and June lasting through until November.
  •  Summer time is the same as the UK and is typically hot and humid.
  • The hurricane season lasts from June until November and peaks in August and September.

Prices will be lower during this time but be mindful that the risk of experiencing bad weather is higher. Many operators don’t fly to Orlando during the winter months, but there are some scheduled airlines such as BA and Virgin that operate

Phuket rainy season

Thailand officially has three seasons, hot, cool and wet however Phuket is warm all year round. The monsoon season lasts for two months, September and October. During this time it is very hot and wet with around 35cm of rain per month – equivalent to 160 days worth of rain in London.

  • The best time to visit Phuket is between November and March.
  • Temperatures are generally in the mid 30s and rainfall is at its lowest.
  • February is the best month to travel with hardly any rainfall and low humidity.

We have availability on direct flights to Phuket from November until April on the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Monsoon Season in Goa

Millions of tourists head to Goa each year to see the beaches, experience some of the Indian culture and of the great weather it has to offer outside the monsoon period.

  • Monsoon season starts in early June until September when the weather tends to be hot and wet.
  • Goa has the full Indian monsoon with sudden downpours and tropical storms
  • Most of Goa’s annual rainfall is received through the monsoons. The heaviest rain falls in the month of July.
  • The best months to travel to Goa are from November to March.

When you take off in Summer 2015 all Thomson and First Choice longhaul flights will be on the Boeing 787, and like scheduled airlines, your drinks will now be complementary.

Now we know what weather you can expect, take a look at what’s departing in the next 8 weeks at

The secret beaches of Europe

Europe is blessed with thousands of stunning beaches but if you’re anything like me and prefer your own little sandy cove or stretch of secluded beach, instead of sharing one with hundreds of other holidaymakers, then keep reading.

With the help of our customers who are in the know we’ve compiled a list of the top five hidden beaches you should visit – just don’t tell everyone about them.

Marathonisi, Zante

Where – Off the southwest coast of Zante, Greece.

Why – The main beach is a breeding ground for the Caretta Caretta Turtles giving you a great spot for wildlife watching. And with no inhabitants Marathonisi is a perfect place to escape the tourist trail.

How – You can only access this island by boat so you will either need to book with an organised tour or privately hire your own speedboat.

Things to do – Cave diving and snorkelling are popular here but this little island is not good for the adventurous, it is designed more for those who want to forget about the world.

Places to eat – There are no restaurants, snack huts or bars here, but a small speedboat circles the island offering juice, water, ice creams and sandwiches. Personally I would recommend taking a picnic with you.

Punta Molentis, Sardinia

Where – Southeast coast of Sardinia

Why – The small bay has safe swimming waters as there are no waves or currents, making it safe for young children and non-swimmers to splash about.

How – The best way to get here is by car. You can park at Spiaggia Punta Molentis and walk down to the bay which will take you about five minutes.

Things to do – The left side of the bay is distinguished by its bright white sandy shore where you can simply relax and be guaranteed peace and tranquillity. The right side of the bay has large granite stones that lead into the water and is perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving with an underwater world waiting to be explored.

Places to eat – During high season there is a restaurant that opens up and serves locally caught seafood. There is also a kiosk that sells ice creams, snacks and drinks, though this isn’t always open. Again, I would suggest you pack a picnic.

Cala Varques, Manacor, Majorca

Where – East coast of Majorca

Why – The gorgeous white sandy beach is surrounded by pine cladded hills and crystal clear waters that are ideal to swim in.

How – You can get here by boat or by car. However, if you choose to drive you will need to walk for 15 minutes on a rocky footpath to get to the beach.

Things to do – To the south of the main beach in one of the low lying cliffs is a network of underwater caves that you will be able to explore. Follow the cliffs round and you will come to a smaller beach that is very popular with nudists. The sea is ideal to swim, dive and snorkel in. Don’t forget to bring a towel to sit on as there are no sun loungers on the beach.

Places to eat – There are no shops, kiosks or restaurants so please pack plenty of water and a picnic.

Elafonisi Beach, Crete

Where – Southwest Crete

Why – Famous for its clean water and pink sand due to the millions of pink shells that, over the years have been broken into millions of tiny pieces by the waves and because of this Elafonisi is protected by a EU environmental programme.

How – You can get here by car, bus or boat. There are plenty of car parking spaces or if you’d prefer you can get a bus from Chania bus station. You can get a boat from Paleochora that takes about an hour and leaves every morning from 10am.

Things to do – From Elafonisi beach you can walk through the shallow water to Elafonisi Island where you will find a small beach. Its sand dunes are decorated with sand lilies and jupiners which similar to cedar trees. You will also find endangered turtles on the island. At the breaking point the water creates a small lagoon. The water here never exceeds one meter, which is ideal for small children to splash around in. If you walk along the south side of the peninsula you will find plenty of quiet and hidden coves, and there are some coves for naturists. Snorkelling is very popular due the clear waters, and the frequent high winds encourage people to come and practice their windsurfing skills.

Places to eat – There are a few snack bars on the beach that sell sandwiches, ice creams and drinks.

Butterfly Valley, Fethiye

Where – Southwest coast of Dalaman, Turkey

Why – This stunning valley is situated between two striking cliff faces and leads to an unspoilt beach with a backdrop of lush mountains. The area is a well preserved nature site with over 25 different species of butterfly. There is no construction or land development allowed in the valley.

How – There are two ways to reach the valley. The easiest way is to get the boat from Olu Deniz, which takes about 30 minutes and runs every two hours. There is also a speed boat that runs whenever you might need it. Alternatively take the Dolmis from Fethiye bus station and get off at the top of Butterfly Valley, then trek down to the beach which takes about 40 minutes. Be aware that this is a difficult hiking trail that is not suitable for the unfit, prams or wheelchair users.

Things to do – Swimming and snorkelling are very popular due to the clear waters. There is a hidden waterfall that you trek to and try and spot the famous Tiger Butterfly. I would advise that you wear suitable footwear as the rocks can be slippery. You can go camping in the valley and it is possible to hire tents if you didn’t bring your own.

Places to eat – There is a small kiosk in the valley that sells snacks, drinks and ice creams.

Have you visited any of the secret beaches of Europe?