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TopDog Newsletters - 2016

Must-visit-destinations-for-2017Must visit destinations for 2017

Published: 30 December 2016

With only one more day to go until we say adieu to 2016 our thoughts here at TopDog are naturally turning to what the next 12 months has in store in terms of travel. But with a never ending range of options there’s always the question of where to go. As such the TopDog team have come up with our top five destinations that have a specific reason to visit over the coming 12 months.

Whats-new-in-2017What’s new in 2017

Published: 20 December 2016

With a buoyant and fast-changing travel market, 2017 is hotting up to be one of the most exciting years yet. While sun-seekers will be given more opportunity than ever to get away from it all thanks to increased and cheaper flights, the good news for explorers of the world is that there are still untouched areas ready to experience.

Five-best-winter-sports-accessoriesThe five best winter sports accessories

Published: 15 December 2016

After putting in plenty of hours on the slopes, skiing and snowboarding becomes less about mastering general technique and more about pushing your abilities and getting maximum enjoyment out of your time on the piste. If you’re anything like us though, a week in the mountains always flies by way too quickly and you certainly don’t need things like cold hands or foggy goggles getting in the way of your precious slope-time.

Holiday-gift-ideasHoliday gift ideas for all budgets

Published: 10 December 2016

While we may have had a whole year to suss out thoughtful gifts for our nearest and dearest, with Christmas day now fast approaching, do you find yourself in the situation where suddenly every idea seems to fail before it begins. Thankfully, the world is bigger than our local department store and one present that’s always going to bring a smile to the recipient’s face is a holiday. What could be better than the gift of a trip that’s all taken care of, which offers a chance to relax or explore, linger by the beach or a city café, all with your glorious company too, no doubt.

Las-Vegas-hotelsFive amazing Las Vegas hotels off the Strip

Published: 05 December 2016

With all-year sun and a party atmosphere like no other, Las Vegas is a top destination for a winter break. Don’t let the currency exchange convince you otherwise, especially as an easy way to budget well is to stay off The Strip: the famed line of brightly-lit hotels we associate with Sin City. Even if it’s just minutes away, an off-strip hotel can be just as plush, only without the price tag of better-known counterparts. Choose well and you can pick a hotel that’s a 24-hour party palace, or a welcome retreat from the madness – something you certainly won’t find in the thick of the action.

Local-in-New-YorkHow to be a local in New York

Published: 30 November 2016

If you think London is a fast-paced, jam-packed capital where the locals work hard and play harder, New York is in a different league entirely. It's the world's epicentre of creativity, individuality and ambition with so much available around every block that it's a sensory overload. The ‘citiest’ city of the States, it behaves completely differently to the rest of the country with its own set of rules that befuddles even those from neighbouring states.

Gentle-winter-activitiesGentle winter activities

Published: 25 November 2016

Winter sports are most often associated with high-adrenaline, risky activities and for thrillseekers, there’s no shortage of experiences to try out from snowboarding to dog sledding. But what if you’re still keen to enjoy the winter wonderland experience but in a more gentle way? The good news is that if your idea of a holiday doesn’t involve speeding down a steep slope, there’s still a wealth of activities in snow-capped destinations which don’t compromise anxiety levels.

new-yearsNew Year’s Eve Street Parties Across The Globe

Published: 20 November 2016

There's a watershed moment in everyone's life when they realise there are other ways to ring in the New Year than by paying copious amounts of cash to party in a cramped bar where most of the time is spent trying to get served. If this is the point you’re at, or you’re just looking for a different way to celebrate the NYE countdown, a great option is to head abroad to experience how other places celebrate the closing of one year and the start of another.

Amsterdams-Top-City-HotelsAmsterdam's Top City Hotels

Published: 15 November 2016

Summer or winter, autumn or spring, Amsterdam is a vibrant city for a weekend break. Defined by its intricate network of canals and charming architecture, Holland's premier city is a must-see destination. Even for those who've visited before, the exciting cultural scene, myriad museums and galleries and its relaxed vibe make it an obvious candidate for return visits. It doesn't take long to become accustomed to Amsterdam's layout and one of the first things visitors will note is how easy it is to stay within the closely-knit epicentres of the city.

A-postcard-from-Sri-LankaA postcard from Sri Lanka

Published: 10 November 2016

Truth be told, the Teardrop Island wasn't on my bucket list before this summer. I incorrectly assumed it was outflanked by India, which wasn't a screaming invitation to my pampered sensibilities. But I suppose my arm was ready to be twisted - as soon as a friend said she was visiting a surfing school there and wanted to see the rest of the country after, I'd mentally packed my bags and bought my souvenirs. While we initially thought to drive ourselves for maximum spontaneity, it turns out that hiring a driver and a car for the full tour was the most sensible and economical option. And was it worth it. It meant we saw the full length and breadth of the small island in just two weeks, with enough beach time to return rested. Of all we saw, here are my five Sri Lanka highlights.

Fireworks around the worldFireworks around the world

Published: 05 November 2016

Nicely timed to make us feel less bad about the evenings setting in earlier, Fireworks Night is one of our faves on the annual calendar of UK events. Childhood memories of watching huge colours burst and sparkle in the sky is something that one rarely forgets - and that spectacle never loses its charm. It almost makes us glad that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up Parliament. That said, across the globe, other countries have different celebrations for which they employ some incredible displays, in addition to New Year’s Eve.

Creepy castlesTrick or treat - Creepy Castles

Published: 31 October 2016

The eeriest day is upon us – when supernatural activity is believed to be at its highest and ghosts and ghouls roam the earth under the cloak of Hallowe’en. Although Europe probably doesn't celebrate Halloween with the same fanfare as they do on the other side of the pond, the fascinating Old Continent, with its long and tempestuous history and frightening legends is a great place to experience spooky goings on.

Europe's biggest Christmas marketsEurope's biggest Christmas markets

Published: 26 October 2016

As the nights get darker and the cold sets in, there’s only one way to deal with the depths of winter: book a trip abroad. Our neighbours in Europe, always so useful in summer for visits to their beaches, vineyards and bustling cities, offer another proposition in winter as traditional Christmas markets once again emerge. All over the continent, main squares and long promenades are given over to snow-capped awnings selling a breadth of gifts, artisan food and homemade wares.

How to live like a local in Costa RicaHow to live like a local in Costa Rica

Published: 21 October 2016

The motto of Costa Rica is Pura Vida: pure life. The philosophy of enjoying every day existence works its way through every part of life in this Central American domain, from their relaxed hosting, to their friendliness to strangers. It's what makes the country one of the happiest in the world - though we're sure that its varied natural environments and excellent chocolate also help the cause. When blending in with local life, travellers already have a head start if they're relaxed and stress-free: not a big ask seeing as the 11-hour flight is long enough to put visitors straight into holiday mode. The rest is a matter of detail.

Ski and Snowboard Music FestivalsSki and Snowboard Music Festivals

Published: 16 October 2016

While festivals across the summer months allow revellers to congregate in fun-conducive weather (well some of the time), energetic après-ski weekenders are now proving a worthy competitor too. Skiers and snowboarders have mastered the art of working hard by day and playing hard by night - so much so that their parties have bloomed into bona fide festivals, focusing on high-energy electro and hip-hop music. In the last decade the choice has increased exponentially as festival organisers tap into a dormant market.

What’s new in JapanWhat’s new in Japan

Published: 11 October 2016

Japan has long been renowned for its place at the cutting-edge of cultural trends. That means when it comes to visiting this Far Eastern destination there are always new and interesting things to compete as a holiday highlight. From naked restaurants to bookshops that double as hostels, there’s never a dull moment in the land of the rising sun. So if you are off to this part of the orient, or have plans to do so, and want to stay ahead of the game in terms of your travel tales we have rounded up the newest, best and strangest happenings in Japan.

Five tech-lovers' hotspotsFive tech-lovers' hotspots

Published: 06 October 2016

Holidays don’t just have to be about being supremely active or inactive. It can often be about following your passion across the globe, which works out especially well for lovers of gadgets and tech. With development at the very heart of the industry, seeing places of innovation first-hand can be awe-inspiring. So if your ideal downtime is more about surfing the web than surfing the waves.

Rights when buying flightsRights when buying flights

Published: 01 October 2016

When we spend our hard-earned money on a well-deserved holiday we want to know we have suitable protection should the unexpected happen, which is why travel insurance is so important. However, you have more rights than you may be aware of and thanks to some nifty consumer protection laws you don't have to solely rely on your travel insurance. If you’re buying a flight online it’s good to be aware of the rules and regulations, as when things do go wrong some tour operators and airlines might not be too forthcoming about the details.

How to be a local in MexicoHow to be a local in Mexico

Published: 26 September 2016

Bordering the USA to the north and other Latin American countries to the south, Mexico is blessed with a unique culture, which dates right back to the ancient Mesoamerican civilisations such as the Mayans and the Aztecs. Since then it’s taken on influences from modern developments and social sways, leading to the exuberant culture they have today. For visitors, there’s a lot to take on board; the language isn’t quite like the Spanish we learnt at school and the bright colours, sights and sounds of everyday life are a feast for the senses – let alone their delicious cuisine being a feast for our bellies.

Top five revolving restaurantsTop five revolving restaurants

Published: 21 September 2016

Few dining venues will impress like a revolving restaurant. Since the first one opened in Dortmund, Germany in 1959, they've proved so popular that they've sprung up in numerous places, with China taking the top spot for its sheer number of rotating towers. Unlike a standard dining experience, where the food is the main draw, it’s the venue and the birds-eye view you get that helps literally makes diners feel on top of the world.

Under the surface...Under the surface...

Published: 16 September 2016

The sky’s the limit when it comes to new travel experiences – or so it was until recently. Now, travellers hungry for new experiences are turning their gaze into the depths of the ocean to gain ever more diversity from their holidays. Thanks to technological advances and our increasing interest in underwater life, practicalities no longer stop us from enjoying the watery world that awaits us, even without donning a wetsuit.

Best hikes in the AlgarveBest hikes in the Algarve

Published: 11 September 2016

If you thought the Algarve was just good for indulgent holidays, think again. While the beaches are tempting enough to suggest a lazy holiday, those who make the effort to explore the area will be richly rewarded.The southern Portuguese area is home to devastatingly beautiful scenery with rustic coastline, alluring beaches, expansive countryside and distinct cultures ingrained in its fabric.

Beaches in the AlgarveBeaches in the Algarve

Published: 06 September 2016

Portugal's southern tip is a known hotspot for its beaches - and for good reason. The popularity of the area with Brits began with the discovery of its rugged cliffs hiding miles upon miles of postcard-perfect beaches. Now, the secret's well and truly out and many of its busy beaches have amenities and atmospheres you'll dream about all year. But beside these stretches, hidden gems lie ready to be explored by more curious travellers.

Europe's best city walking toursEurope's best city walking tours

Published: 01 September 2016

Autumn's just round the corner and travel fans know what that means: cheaper airfares. For those planning their autumn adventures it's also a great time to explore a city through a walking tour. Especially on the continent as the season's weather means that you'll neither be roasting nor needing to wrap up warm - and there's less crowds to contend with too. A walking tour can offer insights which are easily missed or left out of the formalities of guidebooks. Plus it's a fun way to meet fellow tourists and pick the brain of a local for restaurant recommendations afterwards.

In search of the autumn sunIn search of the autumn sun

Published: 27 August 2016

If you feel the summer has flown by and left you without enough Vitamin D to last you through the winter, fear ye not... It's the perfect time to fly away in search of some UV action (while remaining ‘sun-safe’ of course) - and the good news is that there's no shortage of options. Whilst it may feel like we are hurtling towards colder days and longer dark nights, there are places nearby with plenty of heat left in the sun late into the year. Of course further afield, many sun-drenched destinations are coming into their own after their winter, making it the ideal time to take a long haul flight.

How to be a local in IndiaHow to be a local in India

Published: 22 August 2016

Incredible India attracts more than its fair share of backpackers and culture seekers - not only because of its bustling cities and exotic heat but also because of its different way of life, which is far removed from western mentality. One of the largest and oldest cultures in the world, it's evolved to its own tune which means that visitors should prepare to adjust their expectation of what's “normal”.

Hit the road...Hit the road...

Published: 17 August 2016

As many a Hollywood movie demonstrates, road trips provide rich experiences to write home about. Getting from A to B should be more than functional, and that's especially the case when discovering a new country: the most authentic aspects will be found using a car rather than a tour bus. Of course, not all countries are particularly easy to drive in, India and Italy are two examples of where you may be best off leaving it to the locals.

Beaches with a differenceBeaches with a difference

Published: 12 August 2016

The seaside is a delight at the best of times. The calming sound of the sea, stretches of sand and soul-replenishing vistas are common enough to give beaches their restorative reputation – and even when the sand isn’t postcard-perfect, coast still often trumps no coast. But play with the formula a little and they become even more delightful. Thankfully this curious planet of ours has plenty of examples where slight differences have led to some fascinating and very unique beaches.

Making a splashMaking a splash...

Published: 07 August 2016

Forget the local swimming pool – there’s much more to the common pool than the rectangle of water we use in our daily lives. Internationally, it’s a chance to show off creativity, natural surrounds or – in most cases – the decadence of the hotel in which it’s located. Whether your aquatic preference is to watch the sunset over a crystal-clear infinity pool, or to dive into a rooftop pool with a city skyline in the background, there are a wealth of one-of-a-kind pools that water babies will adore.

Best pubs for trad music in IrelandBest pubs for trad music in Ireland

Published: 02 August 2016

It is undeniable that one of Ireland’s top tourist zones is Temple Bar in Dublin. And why not: it’s an area of cobbled streets, lined with pubs serving Guinness direct from the factory just down the road, with craic well into the night and live music too. But it’s not just the hot spots of Dublin where you will be able to sup a pint and listen to some vibrant traditional Irish music. Irish trad or just trad for short has been making a comeback, whether it's the metal-turned-trad group Lynched or celebrated ‘supergroup’ The Gloaming, there’s a resurgence which shouldn’t go ignored.

Hikes in New ZealandHikes in New Zealand

Published: 28 July 2016

We are blessed with a huge choice of trails, terrain and high peaks all across our own green and pleasant land as well as throughout Europe. So some would be forgiven for thinking that they would need an extraordinary reason to head all the way to New Zealand for a spot of trekking. However, its majestic scenery, as shown off in the Lord of the Rings films, is reason enough to get us packing. The inimitable vistas of mountain ranges and silver lakes with not a soul in sight help to attract 200,000 UK visitors every year.

How to be a local in ItalyHow to be a local in Italy

Published: 23 July 2016

Theoretically, Italy should be an easy place to figure out, as its central geographic position would suggest it has a European state of mind. But hold on to that assumption, because there are few places in the world so passionate - a theme which runs through Italy like the Tiber. Arguably it's Europe's capital of hedonism, with quality wines, indulgent food and enjoyable living meaning its residents live by an enviable set of rules.

Good times in the Big Easy...Good times in the Big Easy...

Published: 18 July 2016

Party lovers will be all too familiar with New Orleans, or N'Awlins as it is sometimes affectionately known. There's drinking in the streets, the bars never close, music is everywhere and the regional cuisine is called soul food for good reason. Yet its eventful history means there's much more to New Orleans than its main tourist draws. Mostly thanks to its unique mix of nationalities in the same port town, it's full of customs and traditions that single it out from other famous destinations.

The world’s prettiest lakesThe world’s prettiest lakes

Published: 13 July 2016

Lakes are Mother Nature’s way of telling us that some vistas are so incredible we need to see them twice. These bodies of water are defined by their expanse and the grounds that enclose them, leading to a calm atmosphere and often water with properties we rarely see elsewhere. As pockets of natural beauty and tranquillity, they’re a huge draw for travellers who make the journey knowing that pictures can’t do justice to the 360 degree scenery.

Head away to a health retreatHead away to a health retreat

Published: 08 July 2016

Try as we might, there’s no denying that looking after our physical health is becoming more and more a ‘normal’ part of everyday life. The popularity of running and cycling are at an all-time high and health retreats are on hand to enable us to focus our energy on self-care. The number of overseas health retreats is quickly growing with many specialising in different USPs - some are known for yoga, others for their intensive boot camps. Such is their popularity that fitness fans are now using them as a ‘top up’ to the gym as well as being a great excuse to really get away from it all.

Iceland: new for summer 2016Iceland: new for summer 2016

Published: 03 July 2016

If Euro 2016 has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected from Iceland. The tournament's underdogs have proved that the Icelandic people are full of surprises - just like the country itself, which boasts delights of nature like active volcanoes, bubbling geysers and the Aurora Borealis. Far from being sore losers, their slick performance, national unity and enchanting war cry may have inspired more than a few of us to think about visiting this fascinating country.

Raise a glass...Raise a glass...

Published: 28 June 2016

The allure of a vineyard tempts more than wine lovers. Who wouldn’t like to spend a little time in the rustic groves of a rural outpost, where matters of passion and taste form the basis of daily life? Given the popularity of the experience it’s no wonder that vineyards are doubling up as attractions in their own right, many with tours, tastings or in-house accommodation - all the better for road trippers. The TopDog Insurance team has rounded up some of the world’s best vineyards where you can eat, drink and be very, very merry

How to be a local in VietnamHow to be a local in Vietnam

Published: 23 June 2016

Vietnam’s rich and tumultuous history means it has a range of influences - it’s been occupied by France, Japan, China and America, and all have contributed to the unique feel of this growing tourist destination. As such, this expansive country is a world away from its neighbours Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. As soon as you step off the plane, you’ll notice it in the airport; they use a version of Latin script as introduced by the Portuguese. Then, a quick walk around any main town will tell of a coffee culture that rivals Paris, yet their makeshift restaurants lead the way in Asian street food.

Spice capitals of the worldSpice capitals of the world

Published: 18 June 2016

Travelling abroad is a feast for all the senses. Exotic smells and tastes can conjure up images of a delicious local eatery tucked away in the corner of a far-flung place, perhaps even a mouth-watering dessert at a fine dining restaurant. That's especially the case for holidays in destinations famed for producing a particular spice. Mainly located close to the equator so enjoying warm temperatures, these places mean culinary enthusiasts can visit a favourite foodstuff in its natural habitat, finding out about its history and growing conditions, and sampling the highest-grade examples of the ingredient.

City beachesCity beaches

Published: 13 June 2016

Many of us have limited holiday time and, as such, can find ourselves wrestling with the well-known dilemma: the exciting buzz of a city break or the relaxing option of topping up the tan on the beach?. Well, with proper planning you can do both. Imagine spending the day listening to the soothing sound of gently crashing waves in a cool breeze, before hitting the town that evening or exploring a sprawling urban cityscape by day, followed by a sunset stroll along a golden stretch of sand.

Five neighbourhoods to visit in TorontoFive neighbourhoods to visit in Toronto

Published: 08 June 2016

Canada's largest and arguably coolest city, Toronto was built on waves of immigration and it shows in the diversity of its neighbourhoods. In a short time, its two and a half million residents have developed their locales to reflect both its unique history and its modern day prosperity. From Little Portugal to the Toronto Islands to Greektown, visitors can spend weeks exploring the unique delights of each area.

Five reasons to visit Cuba this yearFive reasons to visit Cuba this year

Published: 03 June 2016

When people think of Cuba they probably think cigars, Castro and Che Guevara, but holidays there these days are more of a revelation than a revolution. Today's Cuba is flourishing as a tourist destination and has all the modern comforts you would expect to find in the Med - not to mention 300 days of sunshine a year and an average temperature of 25 degrees! As it opens its doors further to the western world, 2016 is set to be one of the best years yet for tourism in Cuba.

Top tourist attractions in South KoreaTop tourist attractions in South Korea

Published: 29 May 2016

A staggering 19 million tourists made their way to South Korea last year, and with good reason as its home to 12 UNESCO Heritage sites, a wealth of ancient history, urban grit and even a tropical island. Its unique culture fuses east and west traditions, plus it’s world-leading in technology, clubbing and female golfers - 38 of the top 100 are from Korea. Of the broad range of attractions, the TopDog Insurance team has narrowed down the very best to give a flavour of South Korea’s delights - though if it’s actual flavour you’re looking for, ignore this and make a beeline for their delicious street food.

How to be a local in PeruHow to be a local in Peru

Published: 24 May 2016

When manners and formality are important in a culture, it matters even more that visitors adopt the host country's etiquette. That's certainly the case in Peru, where the indigenous tribes have built their reputations through their proper treatment of others. That's not to say they're a stiff bunch, just that they value traditions and aren't so fond of the 'anything goes' approach. The South American country itself is an awe-inspiring destination with the Inca Trail its biggest draw, but the Nazca Lines, Colca Canyon and the beautiful city of Arequipa also help to entice over three million visitors a year.

Five food markets to visitFive food markets to visit

Published: 19 May 2016

For a true insight into the culture of a city, here’s a tip: visit its food market. It tells you more about its traditions, work ethic, kindness and food culture than guide books ever could. From early morning, markets of all shapes and sizes buzz with activity, not only because of market traders keen to do an honest day’s work, but from locals on the lookout for the best ingredients at the most reasonable prices.

Travel gadgets for under £50Travel gadgets for under £50

Published: 14 May 2016

Just a few decades ago however the main items on your checklist would have been clothes, toiletries and a good book. Today however, thanks to technological advances we are surrounded by, and in some cases rely on, gadgets. The world of travel has not escaped this evolution as the increasing need for portable essentials has posed a real challenge to designers and inventors in terms of developing items that are compact and lightweight. With new products being released onto the market all the time we all like bang for our buck have rounded up some of the best budget buys for under £50.

Europe’s must-see football stadiumsEurope’s must-see football stadiums

Published: 09 May 2016

With the hotly anticipated Euro 2016 just around the corner, the world of football and travel once again collide, as fans lucky enough to bag a ticket warm up for an exciting trip to France. But why wait for a tournament to roll around? Footie fans can tackle themed holidays at any time. Even out of season, the major football stadiums are kept open for tours, allowing those who’ve come to the city to score a look at the hallowed grounds. For sports fans, a stadium visit can kick off a trip to a new city, with a new culture to absorb and different sets of sights, bars and restaurants to explore.

Best places in the world for the midnight sunBest places in the world for the midnight sun

Published: 04 May 2016

It's a delightful anomaly of this planet that every summer a certain slice of the world lives in constant sunlight. So rather than the usual night-day pattern there's varying degrees of sun with each day rolling into the next. While the Yin to that Yang is that these areas are subject to all-day darkness in winter, there's a real benefit from summer tourists keen to experience this natural phenomenon. As such, many towns have grown to accommodate those lucky enough to reach the Arctic Circle (for there are no habitable places close to the Antarctic). We list five destinations to experience the midnight sun.

How to be a local in SwedenHow to be a local in Sweden

Published: 29 April 2016

Abba, meatballs, Ikea, smorgasbord, saunas, massages, beautiful landscapes and vibrant cities are just some of the things that may spring to mind when you think of Sweden. The country is also seen as a place that offers those that live there an egalitarian and relaxed environment and this is borne out by its societal code of conduct termed Lagom which loosely translated means 'just the right amount'. And while the Swedish are in general an easy going lot, there are still some important cultural dos and don'ts that are best to be aware of before you visit. The TopDog Insurance team lists five aspects worth bearing in mind.

Travel through Westeros and Essos...Travel through Westeros and Essos...

Published: 24 April 2016

Game of Thrones: From the costumes to the set design, there's a reason it's won 26 Emmys over the last five years. For travel fans, it's worth watching for the locations alone. Roaming across seven very different kingdoms, Game of Thrones has already made stars of some of its scenic locations, from the frosty scenes in Iceland for the world beyond The Wall, to the lusty heat of Dorne, inspired by and filmed in Seville, these stunning locations are pivotal in bringing the world of Westeros and Essos to life. Just beware of low-flying dragons...

Unique golf courses to tee off atUnique golf courses to tee off at

Published: 19 April 2016

When it comes to golf, location matters. Yes, climate is important too - teeing off in warm, sunny weather is a formidable way to spend a day. But it's also to do with the surroundings, and there are some expanses in far-flung countries that really lend themselves to delivering stunning landscapes which remind golfers that they really are far from home. From glacial golf to putting on the greenest greens, the world's most unique courses have to be seen to be believed. So the TopDog Insurance team has rounded up a few golfing holidays where breath-taking scenes and memorable experiences are all par for the course - quite literally.

In-tent on luxuryIn-tent on luxury

Published: 14 April 2016

Luxury camping with a difference (also known as 'glamping') is well and truly a part of the travel scene now. Shunning the usual city locations or countryside retreats, the emphasis is on experiences and sites that will allow guests to wake up in unique locations that hotels either can't, or have a lot of difficulty in trying to, replicate. As more travel outlets move to favouring character over convention, the TopDog Insurance team has picked out five great places to indulge our need to get back to nature and sleep in the great outdoors and where a holiday to remember is guaranteed before it's even begun.

Cycling in the CityCycling in the City

Published: 09 April 2016

It might not be an obvious choice, but bikes are often a perfect mode of transport when taking a city break. It helps that government-funded bike schemes are popping up in many destinations and cities are investing more in safer cycling systems. And these changes are reflected in Copenhagenize Design Company's bike index: for the fifth year running they've totted up the figures, pros and cons for the main cities across the world, and produced a top 20 list of cycling-friendly cities. The TopDog Insurance team team has picked out the most popular destinations on their list for a two wheeled adventure.

Veggie vacationsVeggie vacations

Published: 04 April 2016

One of the delights of travel is discovering new dishes and flavours you’d be hard-pushed to find back home. Whether influenced by regional ingredients, cultural specialties or talented individuals, inventive dishes you sample abroad can often be a holiday highlight. It’s never more the case than in vegetarian dining. By its very nature it has to be creative, so it often attracts chefs ready for the challenge of dishing up something different and delicious. Whether you’re veggie or not, here’s five meat-free restaurants around Europe you may want to put on your itinerary.

The art of travellingThe art of travelling

Published: 30 March 2016

Though art is rather subjective, there’s generally a consensus on those paintings that have significant resonance and cultural impact. We’re so used to seeing the world’s most famous masterpieces as posters, postcards, in books and even in parodies, that we sometimes forget that they’re actually somewhere on this planet. And, in many cases, if we wanted to, we can see the originals up close and personal. Art and travel do have much in common. Both can be considered to expand the mind and broaden your horizons, and for some the experience can be life-changing.

Sweet encounters of the chocolate kindSweet encounters of the chocolate kind

Published: 25 March 2016

Easter is upon us once again and, along with the religious celebrations and the extra-long weekend, it provides a reason (if one was needed) to eat chocolate. Lots of chocolate - in myriad forms and stylistic concoctions, from eggs to truffles! Whilst Britain produces plenty of chocolate to be proud of, there are many other confectionery capitals where you can indulge your love of this sweet treat. From history lessons to walking tours, plenty of places offer enough choccie-related activities to feed your inner child and satisfy your adult curiosity too.

Bon appétit for Parisian indulgence!Bon appétit for Parisian indulgence!

Published: 20 March 2016

The French capital is often considered the spiritual home of gourmet cooking - renowned as it is for Le Cordon Bleu, a true bon vivant attitude to food and the headquarters for the Michelin Guide. It’s fair to say that the city attracts a lot of visitors on the strength of both its culinary heritage and the quality of restaurants it has to offer. Those who like to indulge their passion for food while soaking up French culture have a wealth of options, from day trips into Brittany or Normandy to truffle hunting and browsing the specialist kitchenware shops like E. Dehillerin, La Bovida and MORA.

Respecting JapanRespecting Japan

Published: 15 March 2016

Daffodils are always a welcome addition to Britain's landscape as the splash of colour is a sign that spring is on its way. But there are few places in the world as renowned for capturing the essence of nature's spring beauty as Japan. Here the season is practically an institution as the country celebrates its sakura (cherry blossoms), which sees parks, streets and gardens awash with marvellous pale pink blooms and their sweet scent perfumes the air. For the many western visitors intent on seeing this natural wonder, it's an added bonus to experience a culture so unlike our own.

Portuguese pamperingPortuguese pampering

Published: 10 March 2016

We're not quite sure what it is about the Iberian haven of Portugal but it's fair to say that it holds an edifyingly large share of relaxing retreats. Perhaps it's because the Portuguese love of life and comfortable pace means they're experts in unwinding or maybe the dramatic scenery and warm weather. Whatever the reason, it's clear that the standard of spas and resorts in this country is very high and keen aficionados would do well to pay Portugal a visit. From medical stays to luxury packages, those looking for an escape from it all will undoubtedly find an ideal retreat out here.

Europe's most scenic hikesEurope's most scenic hikes

Published: 05 March 2016

Across Europe we really are spoilt for choice by the sheer breadth of scenery available, from the frosty tundra of Scandinavia to the beautifully diverse British countryside and dramatic sun-drenched coasts of Spain. In the east, the gentle Southern Carpathian Mountains of Romania and Serbia complement the more rugged uplands of the central Alps. All of this is fantastic news for hikers, who can take their pick of sites to suit their tastes - not only in terms of accommodation options but also the environment of their walking route.

Skiing for startersSkiing for starters

Published: 29 February 2016

Channel 4 reality show The Jump is ramping up to its finale and as well as being drawn in by the trials and tribulations of the celebrities taking part, what it's really made us want to do is to hit the slopes. If you've also been inspired and you're just starting out on your winter sports adventure 'carpe diem' - as today is the perfect day to *leap* into action (see what we did there...) and get that trip booked! To help, the TopDog Insurance team team has picked out five resorts which are perfect for those taking their first steps, or should that be slides, on the slopes.

Curious celebrations and fun festivalsCurious celebrations and fun festivals

Published: 24 February 2016

Wherever you go, you're bound to find a festival or local gathering that celebrates something peculiarly specific or fetes a singularly strange subject. India's dye-throwing festival of Holi, England's annual cheese-rolling event and Spain's La Tomatina are just a few of the festivals that may seem a little on the odd side. When it comes to some of the world’s other, more bizarre, festivals, be warned that they can get strange. But participants and tourists alike love the energy on display as well as the ability to revel in the idiosyncrasies and the tradition that most of these events have.

Mother's Day Pamper PackagesMother's Day Pamper Packages

Published: 19 February 2016

Surely mothers - with their lifetime of patience and love - are worth more than a phone call on Mother's Day which this year falls on Sunday 6th March? We'd even question whether a beautiful bunch of flowers could properly acknowledge their contribution. We say that because travel is the language we speak, and reckon the best way to say thank you is by treating them to a getaway where the tables are turned, and it's they who put their feet up for the weekend. While we know you can't put a price on a mother's love there are deals out there that won't break the bank either.

Parks to set pulses racingParks to set pulses racing

Published: 14 February 2016

Adrenaline-seekers can bungee jump and zipline to their heart's content but for everyday fearlessness, there's little to beat an adventure park. Designed for folks of all ages, head-spinning rollercoasters and heart-pumping rides have become exponentially more daring as each park tries to outdo the others in order to claim to be the biggest and best. Park design is a much more involved affair these days, as they all vie for visitor numbers and to make your trip as much of a 'whole-of-holiday' as possible. The top parks continue to expand their sites and range of offerings, giving you so much more to explore.

A world of Easter holidays!A world of Easter holidays!

Published: 09 February 2016

Easter: we all know what that means - a double Bank Holiday coupled with school holidays. Not forgetting that, for many, there is a distinct religious aspect to this time but with a four day weekend to play with, it's pretty much a perfect time for a chance to take a break and jet away. That's especially the case as there are a variety of celebrations happening across the world over the weekend. A lot of places see Easter as a very important time culturally and treat it accordingly. Many of these festivals have evolved from religious rituals but, whether cultural or social, they've become global attractions in their own right.

Two holidays, one trip!Two holidays, one trip!

Published: 04 February 2016

We know you like some ‘bang for your buck’ when it comes to travel. Money buys experiences and the further you're able to stretch your cash, hopefully the more enriching life will be. Of course, value for money extends beyond just insurance - these days it's getting easier to search out deals on hotels, pick the right restaurants and, indeed, select a destination. But why limit yourself to just one? Plenty of travel hotspots are so close to each other that it's actually possible to soak up the best of one famed area before a short journey takes you to a brand new place to explore. Lots of value plus efficient use of annual leave!

Winning travelsWinning travels

Published: 30 January 2016

As saintly as our intentions may be at the start of the year, some of us will likely be flagging in the fitness stakes by the time Easter comes around… even before the chocolate eggs are opened! To keep up the motivation, many dedicated distance runners create goals for themselves by booking onto an organised run. Anything will do to keep spirits and efforts up - from a 5k fun run all the way to a lofty marathon. If you’re going to put yourself through the gruelling training for the fabled 26.2 miles (42.2km), then maybe you should reward your efforts by running somewhere that indulges the traveller in you too.

Be canny with your currencyBe canny with your currency

Published: 25 January 2016

Holidays - we all look forward to our time away. And while it’s great when we finally arrive at our chosen destination, let’s face it most of us are not so keen on the amount of planning and hard work that goes into enabling us to get there in the first place. From researching where you want to go, to then finding the best deals on accommodation, car hire and flights, followed by packing all the paraphernalia, we’re sure at some points we all ask ourselves “Is this worth it?”. Yes! Included in any pre-travel check list is currency, which in itself can be a bit of a lottery in terms of when’s best to buy and also where to buy from.

European Capital of Culture 2016 (Part II) - WroclawEuropean Capital of Culture 2016 (Part II) - Wroclaw

Published: 20 January 2016

Following our focus on the Spanish city of San Sebastian, we now turn the spotlight to its compatriot European Capital of Culture (ECOC) for 2016 - Wroclaw in Poland. With an amalgamation of Austrian, Prussian and Bohemian influences, Wroclaw is a city filled of architectural marvels along with interesting history and culture to explore. Being Poland’s fourth largest city, it’s not just a cultural wonder but also a major commercial, industrial and educational hub.

European Capital of Culture 2016(Part 1) - San SebastainEuropean Capital of Culture 2016(Part 1) - San Sebastain

Published: 15 January 2016

With its scenic setting, gothic style old town, Basque heritage and an amazing programme of festivals and events, it’s no surprise that, along with Wroclaw, Poland, the Spanish coastal city of San Sebastian has been named as European Capital of Culture for 2016. Located in the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain, San Sebastian lies just 12 miles from the border with France. The city, called Donostia in Basque is situated on the beautiful Bay of La Concha and surrounded by Urgull, Mount ulia and Mount Adarra.

A real break from the normA real break from the norm

Published: 10 January 2016

January can be the perfect month to take stock and think about what the next 12 months has in store in terms of your travel plans. But will those plans involve a mix of short breaks and a couple of week-long holidays? Or are you itching to get away over a much longer period? Whether it’s termed backpacking, a gap year or a sabbatical, taking a leave of absence over several months is a great way to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and culture of a place, while creating life long memories. The TopDog Insurance Teams has pulled together a list of to quench your wanderlust in 2016.

The Five Happiest Places in the World to Beat the January BluesThe Five Happiest Places in the World to Beat the January Blues

Published: 05 January 2016

Hello January! While the New Year is well and truly here, are you feeling a bit deflated? The removal of Christmas decorations, the return to work, the slimmer wallets, the rigid diet - it’s little wonder the January blues is an actual condition, which one in twenty people suffer from. But it needn't be all doom and gloom when the world's your oyster, and certainly when there are statistically happier places where the cheery local folk will provide a genuine warm welcome to help turn that frown upside down.

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