Top European holiday destinations

Meet Rebecca Berzins, a personal Travel Advisor with Travel Counsellors. She has worked in the travel industry for nearly 11 years, travelling extensively throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia as well as parts of Africa, America and Europe. Using her knowledge and passion she is able to match clients with their perfect holiday destination. We asked Rebecca to share her career story and reveal her top European family holiday destinations.

How did you find a flexible, home-working travel job?

I happened across my first job in travel whilst out on my lunch break from my pub job when I first moved to London and saw a small, local travel agency advertising for travel consultants. That makes it sound like I stumbled into this career but it wasn’t an entirely unplanned move – I’d realised half way through studying for a degree in Photography at Bournemouth that travel was my real passion and I’d been searching for a way to get in to the industry ever since. Despite making a fool of myself in the interview when asked to mark on a blank map all of the major cities in Australia (I got it catastrophically wrong) I somehow still got the job! They flew me out to Australia for my initial training and there began it began. A nearly 11 year career in travel focused heavily on Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Firstly in creating, booking and selling holidays to my clients and then moving to brochure content, contracting and marketing.

The birth of my daughter in April 2015 saw my priorities shift somewhat and despite the fact that travel will always remain my passion there is a new love competing for my attentions. So, how to get the best of both worlds? After quitting my job at the end of my maternity leave I took some time to think about what I wanted and joined Travel Counsellors, a leading home-working franchise travel agency. They give me the tools I need to operate my own business from home and here I am – working on my own terms around my family, chasing the elusive work/life balance. It’s fun, hard work and unimaginably empowering.

My clientele is varied and I have the scope to sell the world, but because of the circles I now move in I do get a lot of enquiries from fellow parents looking to catch some sun in Europe with the kids. This is working really well because we work to the same timetable – phone calls during nap times and after bedtime are the norm, plus no one seems to mind if I have a screaming toddler in the background! Selling European family holidays has been a learning curve for me, but a fun one. One of the greatest things about working in the travel industry is that I am constantly learning. Meanwhile my own travel wish list grows and grows with each new destination I research, much to my husband’s dismay!

How has digital technology and social media impacted the way you work?

I cannot image working in the travel industry without technology – from the oracle that is Google: “Yes Sir, of course I know where Zanskar is…” (frantically types it in to Google). To connecting with the multitude of other independent agents out there to draw on each others’ knowledge, expertise and insider tips – I would be lost without the internet.

Since launching my business in December I have been blown away by the strength and power of social media to reach my audience, it has been an invaluable asset. A personal recommendation on Facebook has the power of more than 10,000 printed leaflets – to a small business with a non-existent marketing budget this is priceless.

Technology can also be my nemesis, a sucker of time and the ultimate tool for procrastination. But I know that used correctly it has the ability to enhance personal relationships, not diminish them. I treat my clients like friends, send them a quick text to check how they are or with a weather report to get them excited about their holiday, or reply to an email on the go with a quick thumbs up or smiley face. This is handy as a working Mum but also great for ensuring that I offer that personal service that my business will be built on and remain contactable whenever my clients need me.

Sharing personal posts on social media amongst travel and business related ones only seems to enhance that particular element of my business. People come to me because they want to speak to a human, not another cog in the wheel and they seen genuinely keen to support another mum in business, which is amazing to me.

Being a part of Travel Counsellors means that both my customers and I have access to award-winning technology too, such as the fantastic My TC app, giving my clients the opportunity to view, like and share their trip proposals and bookings all from the palm of their hand. Clients seem to love this mix of highly personal service backed up by first class technology.


TOP EUROPEAN FAMILY FRIENDLY HOLIDAYS

1) Sani Resort, Halkidiki, GREECE

With four separate and distinctly styled properties to choose from this all-encompassing resort is a destination in its own right and has been my top seller since launching in December. Having been there myself I completely know why. Laid back luxury, top-class service and food to die for, but where no one bats an eyelid at a wayward toddler. The unique Babe Watch service means that the Ofsted registered childcare team watch the little ones for half an hour on the beach so that parents can catch some rays in peace. All this means you’ll come back feeling (nearly) as relaxed if you hadn’t taken the kids!

2) Hotel Zafiro Palace Alcudia, MAJORCA

When I think of Mallorca, rightly or wrongly, I think of package holiday hell! Not so at, this genuine 5 star all-inclusive property refuses to sacrifice style for the kids happiness. With short flight times from the UK it’s accessible for families too. Set on a beautiful sandy beach and with a multitude of facilities to choose from, I defy a family not to be kept happy here.

3) Martinhal Sagres Resort, PORTUGAL

Oozing style and luxury this 5 star design hotel lives and breathes the moto “if the kids are happy the parents will be happy too”.  Situated just outside laid-back Sagres it has arguably one of the best spots in the Algarve. The property has a range of accommodation options from self-catering houses to all-inclusive luxe suites, great for larger families and family groups travelling together.

4) Almyra, CYPRUS

With their unique Baby-Go-Lightly service the modern, minimalist Almyra in Paphos represents great value and is the epitome of a stress free holiday. Parents can pre-request anything from baby baths and bottle warmers to baby bouncy chairs and potty’s before arriving saving precious baggage space and leaving behind the feeling that you’ve packed everything but the kitchen sink.

5) Grand Palladium White Island, IBIZA

Ideal for hip young parents not yet ready to forgo the glitz and glamour of their holidays of yesteryear, the Grand Palladium White Island is right on the beach and offers something for the whole family from toddlers through to teenagers. Guests can also use the all-inclusive facilities of the Grand Palladium Palace next door meaning the holiday can be as laid back or as busy as you like.

6) Princess Yaiza, LANZAROTE

The Canary Islands offer fantastic value right now compared to other areas in Europe, and with guaranteed sun outside of the peak summer holidays it’s the perfect destination for families with younger kids wanting to make the most of taking holidays before they get restricted to term times. The rooms at the Princess Yaiza Suite Hotel gives families plenty of space and a separate living space ideal for when the kids are tucked up in bed.

7) Domes of Elounda, CRETE

Overlooking UNESCO heritage listed Spinalonga island the 5 star Domes of Elounda is in an enviable position with the only sandy, private, natural beach in the area of Elounda, known for luxury within Crete. Their pre-bookable Ofsted registered crèche takes babies from as young as four months plus alongside a complimentary kids club for the older ones really giving the parents the opportunity to put their feet up and unwind.


Rebecca is following…

Sam Cleasby from sobadass.me was one of the first women who showed me that social media and blogging is not just a frivolous thing. It can have a meaningful, positive and deep impact on people’s lives. She works tirelessly and is a tower of strength and female awesomeness to many women suffering from similar health issues or body issues.

I live locally to Frankie from Doing It For The Kids, the online forum for freelance parents. She had a vision. She made it happen. To me that is powerful and I have learnt a lot about social media just by following what she does. I am excited to watch her project grow and know it will bring great things.


Rebecca’s work

travelcounsellors.co.uk/rebecca.berzins
instagram.com/rebeccaberzinstc
facebook.com/RebeccaBerzinsTC

Something for the weekend

Meet Claire Robinson, a travel blogger, digital trainer and consultant based in the Cotswolds. An established career as an advertising creative enabled Claire to go freelance as a creative copywriter seven years ago to work more flexibly around her daughter. As well as writing her travel blog Weekend Candy, running training courses and launching her digital consultancy, Claire has found time to share her story and her Spring weekend recommendations with us.

Tell us about yourself

By day I’m a freelance copywriter for digital and advertising agencies, then by night I’m the founder and owner of a travel blog about weekend breaks in the UK and Europe. I’m not quite sure how I ended up here, but I guess it had something to do with doing English at university, followed by a creative writing MA. I’d always wanted to write (particularly about travel) and kind of fell into my first writing gig with a small nutritional company after university. From there I went to a publishing house, then to advertising agencies where I worked in the creative department and came up with ideas for advertising and digital campaigns. I went freelance about seven years ago to help fit in with being a single parent to a beautiful girl. I didn’t know if freelance would work, but I’m a big believer in ‘leaping and building your wings on the way down’. Thankfully it worked (big yay) and I’m still freelance with a good base of clients. My blog Weekend Candy, started after I won Eurostar as my freelance client. I was writing travel destination content and it reignited my passion for this sort of writing. In the old days, to be a published travel writer you’d need to be featured by a magazine or newspaper but digital has changed all that (very big yay!). Knowing this, I gobbled up books about blogging and went on courses about starting and running a blog – then I just did it. I pressed publish on my first piece and have never looked back!

How has digital technology and social media has changed the way you work?

Digital technology has made it possible to live my dream: travel, write and share my stories with others. I think it’s incredible that people with a passion can now turn that into a viable online business, it’s so exciting, so liberating. It’s wonderful watching and sharing in others successes online.

I love the way digital has broken down traditional barriers: we’re no longer tied to 9/5 or an office desk. We can work from just about anywhere. One day I hope to be fully remote, working when I want, where I want – that’s the next part of the dream. I also love the instant gratification that comes with working in a digital medium as opposed to print. I can see immediately who’s read my posts, who likes my stuff, the affect my work has had (if any!).

Social media is my closest friend! It’s the lifeblood of my blog, driving traffic my way, but more importantly, allowing me to connect and reconnect with exceptional people, readers and long lost friends. I love that I’ve friends via social who I’ve never met but feel close to because I follow their online lives.

I’m a huge fan of live broadcasting and ‘stories’. Both are great for my brand because they give people real insights into me and my life. It also allows them to see behind the scenes of the work I do. I think that helps people feel connected to my brand and, hopefully, deepens their loyalty to me.

Social has also allowed me to co-found a group called Cotswolds Bloggers and Influencers – connecting brands with local bloggers for mutual benefit. We started it with a Facebook group and the group is growing rapidly. We host social events and will be launching training sessions and Insta-walks soon, too. All thanks to the power of social.

TOP WEEKEND CITY BREAKS FOR SPRING

BRISTOL: FOLLOW THE BANKSY TRAIL

DO THIS: Zip straight to Bristol’s gritty graffiti core with a Where the Wall Banksy Street Art Tour. Led by street art legend (and Banksy mentor) John Nation, it’s two hours of brilliance serving up works by Banksy, Inky, Stik and Nick Walker.

SEE THIS: Cruise around Stokes Croft for a while longer – the tour ends here – lapping up the eclectic vibe before heading to Bristol’s historic waterfront. Bristol Harbourside today is almost Parisian in its cosmopolitan style. Trendy bars, shops and galleries flag the dock where the city once traded with new colonies. Cross to the M-Shed where Bristol’s past and people are innovatively celebrated in three exhibit-filled floors. Don’t forget to check out the famous Banksy The Grim Reaper on the First Floor just outside the Bristol People Gallery.

EAT HERE: Fill your belly with a distinctly modern crust in Pieminister, Stokes Croft. Industrial in décor, inventive in design, it’s got enough hipster pies to satisfy the most fussy pie-lover.

STAY HERE: Retreat to the enchanting Boutique Arthouse B&B five minutes’ drive from Bristol’s city centre. Run by art lecturer Sadie Spikes and her husband, it’s a B&B that’ll leave your soul nourished and your spirits forever lifted. I can’t wait to return.

DISCOVER MORE: What to do in Bristol in 2 Days

EDINBURGH

DO THIS: Walk the The Royal Mile, said to be the oldest street in the city. It snakes through the old town from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood house flanked with shops selling tartan, whisky and shortbread; restaurants, bars and cafes; and historic monuments. Afterwards, pay a visit to Edinburgh Castle. It costs £16.50 to get in, but is worth the fee for the treasures inside.

SEE THIS: Take a tour of Greyfriars Kirkyard – the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk church near Grassmarket. It’s alive with history and character and is particularly famous for Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal police dog that wouldn’t leave his master’s grave for 13 years.

EAT AT: Scotland is synonymous with whiskey. So to mark the partnership, eat at the Whiski Rooms restaurant where they serve seasonal Scottish food. And if you want a dram of whiskey on the side, you’re in the right place: tastings are also on offer.

STAY HERE: Just a 10 minute stroll north of the hustle and bustle of famous Princes Street, you’ll find Nira Caledonia – a boutique, luxury hotel nestled quietly in a high-class, historic neighbourhood. (Romantic Getaway Packages start at £176.)


Claire’s following…

Paris in Four Months
For her beauty, style and astronomical success I have to say Carin Olsson. I love her pictures and watching her Instagram Stories. She’s definitely my go-to Insta-Crush for inspiration and to stay on focus in that medium. She’s also my injection of Paris beauty when it’s a grey day in the muddy Cotswolds!

Melyssa Griffin
A true girl boss and entrepreneur. She went from designer to creative coach in a relatively short space of time. I love the in-depth, no-nonsense, smart-talking, free value she gives to women who want to rock their online business. I’ve bought a couple of her courses and find her a real inspiration.

The Blonde Abroad
Kiersten Rich was the first travel blogger I came across and had the sort of fizzy, feel-good blog that I aspired to. She’s always full of beans and her articles and pictures are so vibrant that you totally get sucked into her travels.


Claire’s work 

weekendcandy.com
instagram.com/weekendcandy
twitter.com/weekendcandy
facebook.com/helloweekendcandy

Workshops
I’m fortunate to be working on many exiting projects at the moment. The first is two workshops I’m running with Lucy from On the Luce. We’ve co-founded Cotswold Bloggers and Influencers and are now offering training to aspiring bloggers and businesses. Our first two sessions, Blogging for Business and Social Media Booster, are being held at Meggies in Stow on the World. Click here to book tickets: cotswoldsbloggers.co.uk/training

The Business Suite
Secondly, I’m also setting up a digital business suite for SMEs who want to start rocking their online presence, called The Business Suite. Once launched, it’ll have online courses, free downloads and bags of free advice about blogging, social media and websites. To sign up click here: weekendcandy.leadpages.co/weekend-candy-business-suite

Top tips for aspiring travel bloggers

Heather Cowper is a professional travel blogger based in Bristol, writing at heatheronhertravels.com. In the nine years she’s been travel blogging Heather has worked with many leading travel brands and destinations, regularly speaking at conferences about blogging and social media. Heather has a great deal of knowledge and expertise in this field and is involved in several blogger collectives, including: Travelator MediaBristol Bloggers and Influencers and Bristol Travel Massive.

Heather Cowper headshot

How did you became a travel blogger

I started my travel blog heatheronhertravels.com over nine years ago after an inspirational trip with a couple of girlfriends through Ecuador and the Amazon basin. While I was there I would post photos on Flickr (this was before the social media platforms were so established) so that they could be seen by my friends and family. On my return I remember asking one of my work colleagues who was into all things technical “So how do I get into this blogging thing?” and with a few pointers I was away. For a long time I just did it for fun but gradually I become more serious about the blog and a year ago I decided to become a full time blogger so that I could devote all my time to the blog and associated projects in blogging and social media.

How has digital technology and social media changed the way you work

When I started out, the blog was seen as the main hub that you wanted to bring readers back to. However, over the years I’ve been blogging, so many new platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat have emerged, as well as Facebook and Twitter, and I have different audiences who are following my travels on each of these platforms. These days it feels that you need to have a presence everywhere to be a serious blogger. It’s more about sharing your content where the audience is, rather than always trying to bring them back to your blog. I seem to spend half my life on my iPhone, flipping between social channels to check what’s going on, posting photos from my travels and responding to reader queries.

heather cowper
Heather in Burgundy

What are your top tips for aspiring travel bloggers who want to make a career in the industry

When I started out the travel blogging community was so much smaller and it felt as if it was possible to know everyone. These days of course there are so many new bloggers and so I think it’s more difficult, although not impossible to build a career this way. My top tips for aspiring travel bloggers are:

  • Take a while to work on your website’s design, build your audience and to find your voice, as this will help you to gradually refine your niche. I wouldn’t rush into making a career directly from blogging, as it’s a hard slog and there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s better to take things at a sustainable pace and learn your craft, while working out what your audience responds best to.
  • Take a look at the skills you may have, perhaps in writing, photography or social media that you could use to build up a freelance income stream by working for other people. Most full time bloggers earn at least 50% of their income this way and this will support you financially while you built up your blog’s traffic to the substantial levels required to make money from advertising or affiliate sales.
  • It’s good to attend travel blogging conferences and events where you’ll meet both other bloggers for support and PR professionals who may want to work with you. Conferences are a great way to improve your skills and knowledge while networking and having a fun time – otherwise it can be a lonely occupation sitting in front of your laptop.

Heather’s following…

I love following travel bloggers who share my passions of food, culture and sightseeing and who bring their work to life with colourful photos, videos or great writing that inspires me. Being in my 50s I also tend to gravitate to bloggers who are at the same life stage as me – I love reading the work of inspirational older women rather than being impressed by 20-somethings doing yoga poses on the beach.

 

 

 

Zoe Dawes at The Quirky Traveller

 

 

Kathryn Burrington at Travel with Kat


Heather’s work…

heatheronhertravels.com
twitter.com/Heathercowper
facebook.com/Heatheronhertravels
instagram.com/heathercowper
pinterest.com/heathercowper
youtube.com/user/Heatheronhertravels
linkedin.com/in/heathercowper