I am one of sat nav’s biggest fans. It’s one of those gadgets that once you’ve started using it, it’s hard to imagine how you managed to cope for all those years without it. But while sat nav has saved me a great deal of stress and time, the slightest spelling mistake can take you on a long, hard drive in the wrong direction.

That’s what happened to a Swedish couple recently. According to the BBC, the couple set off on a holiday to the Capri, a beautiful isle in the Gulf of Naples. Unfortunately, instead of typing “Capri” into their sat nav, they typed “Carpi”, sending them 400 miles off course to the industrial town in northern Italy. Much to the bemusement of local officials, the couple only realised their mistake when they visited the town’s tourist office to find out the location of the famous Blue Grotto (the fact that they had not crossed a bridge to reach what was supposed to be an island had not given the game away).

So while sat nav can help take the stress out of your travels, the slightest mistake can ruin your holiday. So be careful what you type. And if you have any amusing sat nav stories of your own then please post them!

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I didn’t get a chance to mention it last week, but I had just come back from a great holiday out in the States. My trip around Utah and Arizona back in February showed me just how stunning the vast landscapes of the USA are and I could not wait when my step mum suggested my brother and I come back out in July to go to Yosemite.

We spent our time in Yosemite Valley and our first drive into the valley was one full of anticipation. It’s a fair drive from the park’s entrance and I could not wait to see some of the park’s icons such as El Capitan and, of course, Half Dome.

The meandering roads revealed the forest covered slopes of the valley in increments. But the moment when El Capitan finally revealed itself was glorious – the greyish/white granite monolith excerting it’s magnitude with the might of Half Dome dominating in the distance. These granite peaks are beautiful and definitely the primary draw for the park.

There are a lot of outdoor activities in Yosemite but I was there for the hiking. Our first hike was the 6.5 mile Eastern Valley Loop. It’s an easy hike (which was great for my 11 year old sisters) and gives you the opportunity to get up close and personal with El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls.

But to see Yosemite at it’s most magnificent, you need to get to a higher elevation. And no view could possibly match Glacier Point. Glacier Point can be reached by car but the best way to reach it is via the Four Mile trail (which is actually 4.8 miles) were a fairly strenuous hike involving a 3,200ft ascent will reward you with absolutely stupendous views of the valley, and a fantastic panoramic view that captures Half Dome and the Nevada and Vernal Falls.

Of course, Yosemite’s most famous trail is Half Dome – a 17 mile round trip that takes you up a 4,800ft ascent to the top of the park’s star attraction. The trail leads you past the stunning Vernal and Nevada Falls, infamously finishing with a 400ft scramble up a combination of steel cables and wooden slabs that are seasonally bolted to the smooth granite of Half Dome itself.

Unfortunately, having hiked two-thirds of the way up and negotiated some of the most challenging sections, we did not make it to the top having found ourselves desperately short of water. We did not anticipate that there would be no clean water at any point past the base of Vernal Falls and the 90+ degree heat (Fahrenheit) had accelerated our rate of consumption.

Our learnings – bring more water (or some way of purifying water from the river) and set off earlier in the morning to beat the heat. I’d also recommend heading there in Spring when the weather is a little bit cooler and the waterfalls are at their most powerful. But I’ll be back. Half Dome is a challenge I have to conquer.

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To help keep the children entertained during the school holidays, my colleague Vicky has put together this great guide on ideas for days out this summer. Please let us know if you have any ideas of your own!…

Best for outdoor adventure

For a family fit for adventure, head to Dorset’s Moors Valley Country Park and explore its tree-lined trails on foot or by bicycle. Or for those wanting more of a challenge, why not sign up for a tree-top adventure? Get yourself harnessed and prepare for rope bridges, Tarzan swings, scramble nets and ladders – the Go Ape challenge will really put you through your paces.

Best for battle-troopers

Bring battleships to life by heading down to The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent. Explore three warships – the Victorian sloop Gannet, World War-II destroyer Cavalier and the Cold-War submarine, Ocelot, before discovering The Royal National Lifeboat Institute’s historic collection of 17 lifesaving vessels.

Best for rock-pooling

Best for rook-pooling, Devon’s Shoalstone beach is a family favourite. This shingle rock beach is a minefield of rock-pools, home to secretive sea creatures seeking sanctuary until the next tide. During the summer months, it is manned by lifeguards, so swimming in the 25 metre sea water swimming pool is safe with care.

Best for car buffs

If you have a budding Jeremy Clarkson in the family then you should head down to Beaulieu in Hampshire for the day. Its world-famous National Motor Museum showcases over 250 vehicles taking you through the motoring ages. Between the James Bond experience, veteran bus ride and go-karting there’s something for the whole family to enjoy!

Best for re-living fairytales

The Beatrix Potter Trail set within the idyllic Lake District is truly breathtaking. Explore the scenes where our childhood favourites Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkins’ tales unravelled. Between the lakes and the trees, prepare yourself for a trip full of adventure and fresh air.

Best for getting ahead at school

It may sound like homework, but a trip to Hampton Court Palace will not only help you get to the top of your class but you’ll be in danger of having one of the best days of your holidays too! Try to memorise all of Henry’s wives whilst attempting to conquer the maze created in 1702! Don’t miss the vast Tudor kitchens; here 800 meals were produced twice a day, so no more complaints from Mum please.

Best for cycling

The Lizard Peninsula, South Cornwall, is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Here, the cycling enthusiast will be spoilt for choice. The famous Penzance to Lizard Point path is a popular trail and at 34 miles it has a difficulty rating of 6/10. The stunning views, stretching as far as the eye can see, will help spur you on!

Best for underground adventure

Aladdin’s cave, eat your heart out! Venture down into the caverns that surround the enchanting village of Castleton. Some say this Peak District village should have been called ‘Caveton’, and its easy to see why; you enter the cave via an old lead mine and then by boat, as the entrance is partially flooded. Once inside you can enjoy the walks round the stalactites, stalagmites and the ‘Bottomless Pit’ shaft!

Best for horror stories

The Edinburgh Dungeon and the Real Mary King’s Close, seemingly haunted with witches, grave robbers and executioners, are guaranteed to get your imagination running wild! Prepare for a day of shocking surprises, ear piercing screams and flashing lights. This is not for the faint-hearted and it is advised that families stick together!

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Following quickly from the Department for Health’s advice that any tourist who contracts swine flu should not travel home until their symptons have gone, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have confirmed that they will prevent passengers from boarding their flights if they suspect them of suffering from the virus. So, if you arrive at the airport suffering with symptons such as a headache, sore throat, runny nose or aching muscles then be prepared to be examined by an airport medical team. If there is reason to doubt, then you will be expected to present a “fit-to-fly” letter from a doctor.

Undoubtedly there will be some concerns about the practicality of this but it sounds like the airlines are taking a sensible and pragmatic approach (or as much they possibly can) and I don’t think you need to worry too much if your nose is a bit runny from a spot of hayfever. But if you do have reason to be concerned and you don’t want anything to disrupt your holiday then it might be wise to consult your doctor before travelling. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

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To summarise my Utah/Arizona road trip I’ve mapped the whole itinerary using Google Maps. I’d recommend clicking on the link below the map so you can view it in full.


View Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA in a larger map

Full content of each leg of the trip (from my previous blog posts) has been added to the map or you can click on each part of the series below:
- Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA – Part 1
- Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA – Part 2
- Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA – Part 3
- Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA – Part 4
- Awesome Road Trips – Utah and Arizona, USA – Part 5

If I could leave you with one tip it would be this – go in March. I say this for three very good reasons:
1. March is much less crowded than the summer (you’ll find places like the Canyonlands practically to yourself)
2. Because of this, accommodation is really cheap (although for the ultimate cheap holiday then head for the campsites)
3. The temperature is perfect. You can head down the Grand Canyon without worrying about having to beat the unbearable afternoon heat, while places like Bryce Canyon are even more prettier when they’re covered in a blanket of snow.

Also, be sure to go for the $80 annual national park pass rather than paying individual entry fees. If you head to as many parks as I did, it will save you money.

And I my tip for car hire: Avis has loads of offices in Vegas so check around for the best price and car availability. It is also much cheaper doing a loop like I did from/to Vegas rather than a one-way to somewhere like Phoenix. The latter option is likely to see the addition of a one-way fee and you’ll have a more limited choice of car.

If you are planning on heading through Utah and Arizona then have a great trip. You’ll be experiencing some of the world’s most epic and stunning landscapes.

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Surfer in Saunton SandsMost people think of Cornwall when surfing in the UK is mentioned, but it’s a little known fact that North Devon has several of the best surfing areas in the UK, let alone the South West. Not only is the surfing fantastic but Devon is a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, with two national parks (Exmoor and Dartmoor).

The hub of surfing life in Devon is Croyde Bay, considered a world class surf break and setup, with local surf schools for beginners. You’ll find beautiful sandy beach, dunes, campsites, ice cream shop and the all important pasty shop (yes Devon loves the Pasty too!!). Its all you need in this unspoilt village gem.

But when the surf is “On” at Croyde it’s a place for only the most experienced surfer, a barrelling beast of a wave that will break boards. That’s if you can paddle out! So check out Putsborough Beach to the north. It has several miles of sandy beach heads all the way up to Woolacombe. To the south is Saunton Sands and miles of empty beach, sand dunes and white water where beginners can perfect their surfing technique. When you’re done you can eat at the Sands Café by the car park. And if you want to really treat yourself then stay at the Sands Hotel, which is kind of like Monaco, on a cliff top, in Devon!

If surfing isn’t your thing then there are the National Parks to explore, with villages such a Lynmouth & Lynton (btw, the best point break in the country is at Lynmouth), Clovelly, Bude and Ilfracombe to name just a few.

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How well do you think you know our world? My colleague Vicky is keen to find out so she has put together this survey. Come back in a week for the results!

Click here to complete the survey

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Today our staff tell us their top 5 best of British hidden gems…

Minack TheatreThe Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall

“I’ve been to an open air theatre before, but The Minack Theatre is something else! Picture yourself on a clifftop in Cornwall on a Summer night, where you sit on terraced ledges cut into the rock itself, and look out as far as the eye can see to the panoramic backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean. Add musicians, actors, costumes; maybe a spot of drizzle, a light sea breeze, and the sound of waves rolling in, just to add to the atmosphere. What a spectacularly natural way to enjoy theatre!

Among the performances this Summer are A Midsummer Nights Dream; La Traviata and A Chorus Line; and the best bit is that all tickets are under a tenner!

Even if you can’t get to see a performance, I still recommend a visit – the views alone are stunning, and there’s a lovely beach just next door!”
Donna, Avis HQ

The Forbidden Corner, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

“The Forbidden Corner truly is a hidden gem. A place of mystery and excitement, filled with anticipation of what may be around the next corner! As you drive through the big iron gates up the drive to the castle building you will be transported to another world. A world of cheeky little imps, mazes and watery fun awaits you. A labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises in the heart of The Yorkshire Dales. Recently voted best children’s attraction in Yorkshire. Entrance by pre-booked tickets, by telephone or on-line. You will not be disappointed! I have taken my daughter many times and each time we have found something we missed the time before. Adults will become children for the afternoon, giggles and hoots will ensue. When finished you can have your lunch in the picnic area by the lake. Children will have great memories of fun times”
Georgina, Avis Leeds

Keswick, Lake DistrictKeswick, Lake District, Cumbria

“I have been visiting this wonderful town since I was a little girl and I go there as much as I can. There is always a great atmosphere especially on market days, down every cobbled street there is something to discover.

And if you are feeling a bit more adventurous, you can hire a rowing boat and enjoy the scenery with the family. A definite must is to have afternoon tea in the quaint tea shops with there homemade jams for sale and the smell of fresh bread as you enter the door, there is even crazy golf for the kids! There is a vast choice of accommodation from family run Bed & Breakfasts to luxury hotels on the lake. Keswick is a pleasant drive with vast rolling hills on each side, and it’s just a 2 hour drive from Manchester airport travelling straight up the m6 motorway so it couldn’t be easier to visit this little Gem of the lakes!”
Hannah, Avis Manchester

Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, Nottingham

“The oldest Pub in the world is situated in Nottingham. Its called the Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem. Allegedly the crusaders drank here prior to their jaunts around the world! It is built into the caves that run underneath Nottingham and is nothing like any other pub in the world. Well worth a visit if you are in the area and remember to only have one if you

BluebellsBluebell Woods, Ashridge Estate, Buckinghamshire

“A magical place which could have come straight out of a fairytale. Walk through an enchanted wood containing a blanket of Deep Blue flowers. Recently used for filming the new Robin Hood film staring Russell Crowe. The flowers are only out for a short period around Easter. One of the most romantic places on earth”
Scott, Avis HQ

For more information on our Best Of British: Top 5 Hidden Gems, visit our website www.avis.co.uk.

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The second installment in our Best Of British series promotes our top 5 festivals…

T In The ParkT In The Park, Belado, Kinross-shire, Scotland
10 – 12 July

“Major event held every year in Perth and Kinross. Many high profile bands attend the weekend festival. This year’s line-up is incredible: Kings Of Leon, The Killers, Blur, Bloc Party, Elbow, Snow Patrol, Lily Allen, James Morrison…”
Gordon, Avis Stirling

Latitude Festival, Henham Park, Southwold, Suffolk
16 – 19 July

“Forget Glastonbury and V, Latitude in Devon is the civilised festival goers choice. Listen to the best independent bands in the world, take in live readings from Britain’s best authors and soak up the atmosphere of a festival where you won’t end up thrashing around in a sea of drunk mud-covered teenagers. The perfect weekend!”
Mark, Avis Oxford

Kent County ShowKent County Show, Kent Showground
17 – 19 July

“Kent’s largest outdoor event with something for all the family. Show jumping, livestock, arena displays, shopping, trade stands and food and drinks”
Duncan, Avis Maidstone

Maidstone River Festival, Maidstone, Kent
24 – 25 July

“New and used boats for sale, live bands on the river front, with stalls, home-made boats and rafts, games on the river, and fun fair rides. On the last night they let off fireworks from the Fremlin walk shopping complex”
Duncan – Avis Maidstone

Gay Pride Brighton and Hove, Brighton, East Sussex
25 July – 2 August

“This attracts up to 500,000 people each year and is a celebration for the gay community but also enjoyed by many families and young children”
Jen – Avis Crawley

For more information on our Best Of British: Top 5 Festivals, visit our website www.avis.co.uk.

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Below is our top 5 British seasides. Do you agree? Do you a recommendation of your own? Let us know your thoughts!

Northumberland Coast1. Northumberland Coast
“Miles of open, empty beaches, beautiful, clean sand, dunes to explore, views out to the Farne Island bird sanctuaries and nearby attraction of Bamburgh Castle. In the summer, when the sky is blue and the sun is shining you can relax on your own acre of beach with no-one to kick sand in your sandwiches or drop ice-cream on your tummy.

When it’s cloudy and the wind is blowing you can lose yourself with a spot of kite flying, take the dog for a lengthy walk or simply breathe in the clean fresh air. When you’ve had enough of the beach, head to Seahouses for some chips and a boat trip to the Farne Islands to see some of the largest sea-bird colonies in the UK”
David, Avis HQ

2. Hayling Island
“I love Hayling Island because you not only have the normal seaside fair and the beach, you also have one of the best fish and chips shops I have ever been to, you have some good pubs and restaurants and a small shopping area”
Ruth, Avis Southampton

3. Leysdown – Shellness-on-Sea
“Very traditional Londoner’s holiday, great beaches lovely scenery, arcades and cafes and good old traditional Fish ‘n’ Chips. Shellness also boasts its very own nudist beach! (For the more daring)”
Duncan, Avis Maidstone

4. Morfa Nefvyn, Lymm Peninsula, North Wales
“Beautiful golden sands and a pub that can only be reached along the beach on foot. Perfect for lazy days in the sunshine”

Brighton5. Brighton
“The atmosphere is superb, cheap food, lots of bars, nightlife is fantastic for all ages”
Jen, Avis Crawley

“The shops in the lanes are quaint and full of history with jewellers, and little shops to tempt everyone. On summers evenings this is a great form of entertainment”
Gemma, Avis Crawley

For more information on our Best Of British: Top 5 Seasides, visit our website www.avis.co.uk.

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