Boswells Blog

15th February 2018

How to Make a Travel Itinerary

How to Make a Travel Itinerary

A travel itinerary is like a small database which outlines all of the elements of your trip, from hotel stops to destinations. Even though it can feel overwhelming and time consuming, it's quite easy to make one.

The advantages of having a travel itinerary for you trip are that it actually saves you money and time, as well as avoiding a lot of stress. Just imagine not finding any connecting flights to your dream destination, or no available accommodation once you get there… An itinerary can help prevent problems like these from spoiling your trip.

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Plan

It’s important for you to decide how you’d like to spend your time from the outset. Are you an outdoor person? Will you want to visit museums and other cultural attractions? What will you want to do for nights out, and for food?

Take all of these factors into account and then create a list of everything you want to see and do on your trip. The internet will be your best friend when making a travel itinerary, so start using it now to research your destination. Check out things such as tourist attractions and activities, local holidays, events and markets. Don’t forget to also look for hidden gems, which don’t always make it into the tourist guides!

Based on how much money and time you have, now you can figure out where you’ll be staying and how to get there. You can either choose to stay in a 5-star hotel, or, if you’re feeling more adventurous and frugal, go couch surfing and backpacking! Setting a budget from the start will help you to figure out where you want to stay.

When planning out your holiday, it’s also a good idea to remember to check what to expect from the weather in advance. Will you need gloves, umbrellas, or swimming shorts? If it's likely to be very hot you may want to read up on the best ways to cope with the heat first. Keep your budget in mind at all times too, as you don’t want to plan activities for a whole week just to find out you’re out of money by day 3 once you’re there!

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Organise

Once you have all these ideas written into a list, a great next step is to put them in order of location and priority. It’s much easier, and faster, to visit places in the same area then move on to the next one, rather than going back and forth randomly.

Make sure you allocate enough time for each activity. For example, it might take a whole day to explore a big museum. Consulting online forums and reviews from other travellers is also a good idea when deciding what to see and do.

If you want to get really organised and be prepared, spend time researching your options and always have a plan B. In terms of transport, keep in mind that planes save you the most time, however they can be expensive. To stay within your budget, you can look into trains, boats and rental cars. These can be more time consuming, but also way more adventurous, and a great way to see more of where you’re visiting.

A travel insurance policy can cover you against things such as bad weather, trip delays, lost or stolen luggage, emergency transportation, evacuation and medical problems, so it’s always a good idea to travel with an insurance plan in place. The level of cover needed for your trip will depend entirely on your needs, where you’re going and what activities you’ll be doing while you’re away.

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Store Your Itinerary

There’s a variety of mobile apps you can download to help you with your travel itinerary and stay organised. It’s very important that you have a hard copy of your itinerary first, rather than relying only on your phone. For this reason we would recommend drafting your itinerary on paper before adding it to an app.

These websites and apps make it much easier to store, sort and share your lists. Some of them even go the extra mile by automatically including weather and flight updates, maps, directions, activity suggestions and many more useful features. Some of the top apps of this kind are Tripit.com, TripCase.com, TripHobo.com and Google’s My Maps app. Again, make sure you have a plan B – your hard copy itinerary written in a notebook or journal!

Finally, what you need to do is add essential travel information to your itinerary: hotel reservations, rental car confirmations, important information for tours, trains and buses, and last but not least: information that you don’t want to have to use. This includes your home address, emergency contact details, addresses and phone numbers of your home country’s embassies, consulates etc. Read our blog on travel security for a bit more information on how to plan for a safe trip.

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Relax!

All in all, flexible itineraries tend to be the best ones. Don’t try to micromanage every hour of your holiday, and it’s often good to leave an extra day for the unexpected. It’s very likely that you’ll discover some hidden attraction on the way, plus your trip will be very rewarding if you’re more laid back about it!

Some would argue that creating a travel itinerary is the most important step of a journey. Even though it’s not the easiest thing to do, planning doesn’t have to be a painstaking process either. You can learn to have fun while you plan, and now that you’ve learned how to make an itinerary, you can use the same template for all your future adventures. Happy packing!

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15th December 2017

Top things to do in Oxford for Christmas

Top things to do in Oxford for Christmas

Just because the weather makes you want to stay indoors and enjoy a cup of warm tea, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing else you can do in the holiday season.
Winter is the time for family days out and celebrations with friends, with a plethora of events and activities you can partake in and around Oxford. We picked some of the best things to do for Christmas in Oxford this year and compiled them in this list for you.

The good news is that many of these happen every year so if you miss one this year start planning for the next. Merry Christmas from Boswells.

In Oxford

Oxford Christmas Carol Concert Evenings

Christ Church Cathedral ChoirMany of the University Colleges have world renowned choirs and orchestras or ensembles who give concerts at Christmas. Isn't that a great opportunity.  You can see most events on The Daily Info we've created just the right link for concerts until christmas or Music at Oxford.  

The choir pictured is Christ Church cathedral Choir courtesy of Music at Oxford.

 

Oxford Christmas Market

Oxford Christmas MarketThe iconic Broad Street isn't just home to Boswells but to numerous markets and events throughout the year, with one of the most important ones being the Oxford Christmas Market.
It features beautifully decorated wooden stalls offering a great selection of Christmas gifts and seasonal treats, with over 50 different exhibitors to choose from!
Apart from this, local choirs and bands will also be present, performing Christmas carols up until the last day of the market, December the 17th.

Did you know the market has a website too https://www.oxfordchristmasmarket.co.uk/

Christmas Ice Show

Oxford Ice RinkProduced by local skate couches who work at Oxford Ice rink along with skaters and their families, the Christmas Ice Show is an amazing celebration of both the festive season and of the popularity of ice skating in the city.

The theme for the 20172017 edition of the show is “Around the world in 80 minutes”, with the event taking place at Oxford Ice Rink.
Featuring international, national and local skating champions alongside over 150 local skaters, this show is an important member of the city’s Christmas events repertoire.

“The coaches, Ice rink team, skaters and families put a lot of work into making this show one of the premier Christmas events in the county and I would encourage everyone to come to the show and get in the Christmas spirit” said Vincent Harley, General Manager of the rink.

Further afield

Le Manoir At Christmas

Le Manoir Carol Concerts

Belmond le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons is a hotel established in 1984, situated on the outskirts of Oxford, in Great Milton.

Every year they throw some magical Christmas Carols concert evenings with various choirs and singers. These events will be hosted by a well-known personality and will combine a feast of musical enchantment with all the delights of Raymond Blanc’s cuisine.

Each evening includes a Champagne Laurent-Perrier reception, a concert at nearby St Mary’s Church, plus a four-course dinner with accompanying wines, coffee and petits fours.

Read all about it on their website.

The glorious photo of Le Manoir to the left is by Paul Wilkinson Photography Ltd

Blenheim Lights FestivalChristmas at Blenheim

Blenheim Palace, the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough and birthplace and ancestral home of Winston Churchill, is hosting a wonderful lights festival once again, after its success last year.

Its 2000 acres of ‘Capability’ Brown landscape and Formal Gardens will be crossed by a wonderful light trail, winding through the landscape and allowing visitors to discover and interact with various festive scenes and seasonal experiences, while highlighting the palace’s rich history.

The festival is onto January 1st so perhaps a trip out between Christmas and the New Year is in order?

You can read all about it on their website. 

Santa’s Grotto at Frosts Garden Centre

Santa and ChildTake part in a grotto adventure at the Frosts Garden Centre of Millets Farm!
Lasting for around 45 minutes, key activities include singing with the elves, making reindeer food ready to sprinkle on Christmas Eve and listening to a story read by Santa himself in his own cosy living room. Children love a good Santa's grotto and this is a great one.

With lots of other surprises included, this is a marvellous way to spend the 24th of December with your family outside of the house. You can read all about it on their website.

Whether you will spend Christmas alone, together with friends or accompanied by your family, we hope you make the most out of these handpicked Oxford holiday activities. Just remember to bring some warm gloves!

 

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15th December 2017

How to decorate your Christmas tree

How to decorate your Christmas tree

Have you ever noticed how wonderful it looks when you pass a house with a majestic tree in the living room window, glowing in the night, waiting for gifts to be laid under its ornaments? For some of us, decorating a Christmas tree is one of our favourite things to do during the holiday season to create that lovely impression. For others it is a bit of an onerous task that they dread. Which is a shame so if you are not sure how to decorate your Christmas tree or where to start, then read on!

Setting up

There are many possibilities when it comes to decorating your tree and you can easily get creative in the process!

Do you get a real tree, or an artificial one? Getting a real tree means that your house will really smell like Christmas, making it easier for Santa to find your house. However, this also means that you will have to get a new tree every year and spend extra time to find the right one.

On the other hand, an artificial tree can come with built in lights and can be reused a few years in a row, even if it’s not ‘the real deal’. There's no right or wrong answer just what's right for you.

It’s a good idea to set up a budget beforehand, take into account the time it will take for the whole decorating process and ensure that everything is safe during and after you decorate it. Also, look around your house and decide where it’s best to set up your Christmas tree. Don't forget to leave room not just for presents but think about where you'll be giving them out if that's part of your Christmas day tradition.

A good tip is to set up the tree the day before the decorating day, no matter what type of tree you go for. You will give the branches time to settle and be able to observe whether the tree’s structure is sound and if the stand supports it. You should also make sure all the lights are working before you stringing them all up!

Theme

The most important stage in a project is planning, and this is no different when it comes to decorating the Christmas tree. Try and visualize the way you want the tree to look in the end. Spend some time to narrow down your choices and pick an overall colour scheme that you like. It will help you maintain a consistent design for the tree and throughout the house and ensures you won’t end up buying things you don’t even need or like.

Toy Soldier OrnamentsFor a traditional look, go for Christmassy colours, such as red, gold and green. If you’re feeling more minimalistic and contemporary, try going for a maximum of 2 or 3 colours, for example white and silver. Of course, you can take artistic freedom and mix whichever colours you like! Brown, blue, purple and orange are a few other popular choices.

Whatever you choose obviously impacts your hanging decorations choices. You could have a very specific them like our Nutcracker ballet soldier ornaments or just generally want to choose plain baubles for a clean contemporary look or ones with imagery for a traditional or victorian theme.

 

Lights

Do this first! Once you have your lights up on the tree, it makes it much easier to hang the rest of the decorations, compared to doing it the other way around. It’s also a good idea to wind them while they are lit up, so you can see what they look like as you go.

LED Star Tree TopperUsually, tree lights come in two wire strands colours: white and green. Choose the one that matches your tree, in order for it to be less visible. There’s also a variety of colours to go for, such as cool white lights, warm white and multi-coloured ones. Choose the ones that match your theme and also don’t be afraid to mix them! You can even add a lit up tree topper like this stylish star design.

Many people have their own techniques when it comes to stringing the lights. Our best suggestion is to start from the bottom of the tree, winding them around the inside of it working your way up. After reaching the top, wind the lights around the outer branches while going down. Voila!

Garland and Tinsel

These come in many forms, from plain to fancy and from monochrome to multi-coloured and if you watched last years BBC Inside the Factory program you'll know that much of the tinsel sold in the UK comes from a single factory in Wales.

TinselIt’s good practice to add them from the top to the bottom, to avoid branches bulging between tightly secured strands. Thin, beaded garlands look best hung from branch to branch; thicker paper, ribbon, or foil garlands look best wrapped loosely around the entire tree. Ribbon, beaded, or metallic garland all look great. Pick the one that goes best with your theme.

Some people prefer the easy way and just cascade them over the top of the tree, rather than wrapping them around and around looking for that even and balanced look. If done right, this can come outlooking pretty and it saves a lot of time. However, keep in mind that it best works with simple beaded garlands.

Ornaments

The next step in decorating a Christmas tree is to hang your Christmas ornaments. Place your favourites first, in key positions across the tree in order to showcase them. In order to give it depth, hang the bigger ones closer to the centre of the tree and the smaller ones towards the outside. Ornaments positioned towards the centre of the tree add a feeling of depth and give a more interesting display.

BaublesMake sure you space your ornaments evenly around the tree, taking into account weight distribution and going for a balanced look. Be sure to balance ornaments by size too, not just colour. You don’t want one side of your tree to end up with all large or small ornaments. Don't hang ornaments on the tips of branches as it makes them droop which breaks youe even look and in a worst case scenario they will fall off.

It’s all fairly straightforward when you follow this simple rule: add lights first, then garlands and tinsel and, finally, your tree decorations. Just remember to take a step back every once in a while, so you can get a better perspective and see your progress. And now your Christmas tree is almost done: all there is left to do is to decorate the tip with a Christmas tree topper and the base with Santa’s gifts! Have fun!

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