When it comes to the holiday season, many of us are happy enough staying inside and keeping warm by turning the heating up to its highest setting, donning our onesies and our fluffy jackets and drinking copious amounts of tea and coffee. However for some, the winter holiday season is all about migrating elsewhere for a warmer Christmas and a more tropical New Year.

Marbella at Christmas

Sunny Spain is an obvious choice for many Europeans as it is not too far to travel but still gets a healthy heaping of sun and sand, even throughout the winter. Marbella in particular is well known for being the ideal getaway for both the general public and celebrities alike. Why spend New Years in Marbella? With a wide range of festive activities suitable for all the family, as well as some culturally rich experiences to enjoy, whether you’re not at all in the holiday mood or you’re a big fan of Christmas, there is something there for everyone.

El Gordo Lottery
In Spain one of the largest Christmas traditions today is to play the biggest Spanish lottery, known as El Gordo Lottery. The biggest draw is on the 22nd of December, which costs around 200 euros for a full ticket or 20 euros for a tenth of a ticket, known as a decimo. Families and friends as well as businesses will often share full lottery tickets in the form of decimos, in the hope that one’s chances of winning will increase.

The biggest prize one can win at El Gordo is about 3 million euros per ticket, which is why the full tickets can cost up to 200 euros! If you happen to miss the El Gordo draw, there is a smaller lottery known as El Nino (the little one) for the Three Kings Day, on the 6th January.

Guided Tour of Vega del Mar Roman Ruins
Get straight back into the swing of things after Christmas for the guided tour of the Vega del Mar Roman Ruins on Boxing day. Starting at 11am this tour provides a fascinating look into the archaeological sites that once played a hugely important role throughout the Roman times.

Eerily, the sites are relatively unknown, so seeing them in all their ancient beauty will be an entirely new experience for most people on the tour; they are not even that well known among the locals! The tour lasts around two hours and was created to raise awareness about these fantastic sites and to help encourage people to volunteer their time and effort into protecting them for future generations to see.

Christmas Eve Christmas Camp at Planeta Explora Museum
While you are free to spend Christmas day itself however you desire, why not head down to the Planeta Explora Museum on Christmas Eve from 8am – 3pm if you have young children? Suitable for ages 3-12, Planeta Explora offers a variety of discovery areas where you can form your own ‘research teams’, carrying out a number of activities that are based around the Spanish education system, but are still fun for everyone involved.

The Three Kings Day
While many places will still be winding down from the New Year’s celebrations, Marbella in itself will be preparing for the Three Kings Day which is a symbol of the culmination of the Christmas season. It is a celebration of the visit of the three kings who brought gifts and worshipped the newborn baby Jesus. It is almost like a second Christmas as children will often write to ‘The Three Kings’ asking for gifts as they would have done to Santa Claus.

On January the 5th a festive parade marches through the town, with ‘Kings’ mounted on chariots and throwing candy and sweets to their audience. Most families will attend the event and it is often shown on TV. In the evening children will clean their shoes and leave them on the doorstep along with a small snack as a welcome for the Three Kings. As with Santa Claus, the good children receive presents whereas the bad children are not quite so lucky.

By Visiting Marbella over the New Year’s holiday seasons you’ll get an exciting insight into the culture of Spain around Christmas time – and if you happen to be holidaying with Christmas mad kids, it is a great way to have two Christmas days at once!

Mike James is the Content Editor for:

www.panorama.es

For every bride and groom, the wedding day is the beginning of their official lives together, a symbol of the happiness and love to come.

It is a day that everyone in attendance looks back on when they think of the couple, hopefully with good memories.

In a world with more travel and long distance communication than ever before, it is not uncommon for the bride and groom to come from places that are far away from each other, making it difficult to find a common locale for the wedding. When a common location cannot be found, many couples decide on a destination wedding.

In the last two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of destination weddings, and not just by couples from different places.

As exciting and whimsical as destination weddings may seem, it is also imperative to have a definite vision of what you and your future spouse want when you are planning. When you are far from home, it may be near impossible to run to the store or try to organize something that you forgot to prepare beforehand.

However, before you start to stress out about the endless details, you need to choose a destination. This can be the most exciting part of planning your wedding, and it is important to know all you can about the potential locations before you get your heart set on one.

1. The Big Island, Hawaii

Of the 13 climates that can be found in the world, 11 can be found here on the biggest island in the chain of islands that make up Hawaii. If you want to get married on the beach and then go snowboarding on your honeymoon, this is the perfect place for you to tie the knot.

Getting married in Hawaii is also more practical than it may be to get marri

ed in a different country. It tends to be less expensive, less stressful, and less of a culture shock impediment while still feeling like a big getaway.

Welcome-to-Hawaii

Year-round, the temperature on The Big Island is in the 70’s and 80’s. However, it is important to consider that the winter and spring times are tourist season, and that it is less expensive to get married in the summer or fall on The Big Island.

2. Napa Valley, California

For those who love good quality wine, Napa is the perfect place to have a destination wedding. In addition to being a picturesque area, there are hundreds of other things to do in the Valley.

Whether it is activities to keep your guests busy or things to do on your honeymoon, you’ll have no problem keeping yourselves entertained in your spare hours. There’s an abundance of vineyards, wine tastings, spas, resorts, and golf courses for everyone to enjoy.

The best and most beautiful times to visit Napa are October and the summer months. Although it is California and can be warm during the day, it is important to remember to bring a sweater for being out and about at night.

3. New York City, New York

It is no secret that most girls dream of a New York City wedding. The big buildings, the city atmosphere, the bright lights, and the cosmopolitan devil-may-care attitude are all things that make New York City unique and inviting.

Anytime is a great time to get married in New York City, whether it is fall in Central Park or the first snowfall in one of the high-top buildings that create the city’s skyline.

new_york_skyline

When you’ve got a spare moment or during your honeymoon, there is an abundance of entertainment for you and your guests, from shopping to touring the monuments to seeing a Broadway show.

4. Anguilla, The Caribbean

This tiny Caribbean island, just 16 miles long and 3 miles wide, is one of the most exclusive places in the world to get married.

It is an extremely expensive place to get married and to honeymoon, but for good reason. Things that might spoil the scenery such as casinos, high-rises, and cruise ships are not allowed near the island. This keeps the beaches pristine, with white sand and crystal clear blue water on all sides.

Although it is a foreign country, the residents of Anguilla are known for being extremely hospitable, especially when people are celebrating something as exciting as their wedding.

The temperature on the beach is in the 70’s and 80’s year round, but it is important to consider that hurricane system in Anguilla is from June to November.

5. Amalfi Coast, Italy

Although Italy is an extremely popular place for a destination wedding, and there are millions of venues across the country to tie the knot, this small village close to the ruins of Pompeii is extremely special.

While everyone else is getting married on just any other beach, the Amalfi Coast offers the sweet smells and serenity of a citrus grove. Moreover, in the backdrop of the lemon and orange trees, there is a coastline full of colorful boats and quaint bungalows built into the mountainside.

Not only do you have many photo opportunities, the area around the Amalfi Coast is full of shops, restaurants, beaches, and historical areas to be explored. The recommended times to get married in Italy are from April to June or in September and October. Although the weather is summery in August, that is the time when most Italians leave to go on vacation, closing up shops and restaurants and taking a little bit of the authentic feel out of being married in Italy.

6. Ireland

For many girls, their idea of their wedding can be summed up in two words: fairy tale. Amid the castles, cliffs, and gardens of the rainy country of Ireland, a fairy tale awaits.

If you’ve always thought that your dream of getting married in an actual castle is just that: a dream, think again. Hundreds of Ireland’s historic castles are available to rent for your wedding.

Although the occasional drizzle is virtually unavoidable, Ireland makes up for a rainy day with its beautifully constructed churches, lush golf courses, and countless breweries. The best time to get married in Ireland is from May to September, but keep in mind that the rainy season is more or less a permanent thing.

7. Paris, France

What better place to get married than in the City of Love?

Getting married in Paris not only gives you a special, historical, and beautiful locale, it also changes the entire feeling of your nuptials. It lends a carefree and wistful atmosphere that neither you nor your spouse will ever forget.

lovers-paris-evening-van-gogh

Paris is known for its locals and their friendly attitude towards weddings happening in the city. It is said that once you step into the city, your feelings are amplified, and all you can think of is love, and that the locals are more than happy to help you celebrate.

There are countless old churches with dramatic gothic architecture, as well as bountiful historical venues such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre to use as backdrops or as stops on your honeymoon.

8. Loire Valley, France

For those who find the city of love a little too cliché for a wedding, there’s always this charming little village rolling with vineyards, castles, and some of the world’s most charming people.

The Valley is only two hours from Paris, and is just miles from the town of Chateau d’Ussé, said to be the town the French fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty” is based on.

April through June or September through November is the best time to go, although it is always beautiful in Loire Valley. The rainy season tends to run from around mid-November to February, so try to avoid any dates in those months.

9. Rome, Italy

From April to June, hundreds upon thousands of couples book cathedral after cathedral in Rome to be married. One look at the city explains its popularity. The sheer duality alone is enough to make even the most stubborn spouses agree.

In the heart of Rome, there are more historical and artistic monuments than in any other city in the world. The photo opportunities on the day of your wedding are endless.

Outside of the city, there are castles, churches, and ancient ruins to discover and use as backdrops for your dream wedding. Beyond the wedding, there are endless ways to stay entertained and fall in love all over again.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

It may seem taboo to get married in Mexico on the white sand beaches, but maybe everyone else who has already done it is just on to something.

In addition to the white sand beaches and the crystal clear blue water, Cozumel is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs in the world. This opens up a whole new realm of creative wedding possibilities and/or honeymoon activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving.

Because getting married in Cozumel is such a popular thing to do, most of the resorts have special employees to help you plan your special day, making it easier for you and your future spouse.

While it may seem that anytime is a great time to get married in Mexico, remember that Cozumel is also a popular place for Spring Break during the months of March and April.

Regardless of the location you and your future spouse choose for your destination wedding, keep in mind that it is all about you two. Although the opinions of friends and family are important, it is your decision in the end, and the most important people there are you two! Happy travels and congratulations!

If you need any further wedding planning advice, pay a visit to www.weddings-magazine.com!

The writer, Kate Stefenaski, just loves to talk about weddings, and frequently blogs and researches everything about planning the absolute perfect wedding online. If you wish to learn more about her you can visit on Google+.

If you dream of packing your bags, booking a flight, and taking off to wander a foreign part of the world for a few weeks or months, why not just do it? Travelling is no longer only a pastime of the rich and famous, and it is easy for young explorers to save up a bit of cash and backpack their way through their dream destinations.

With many cheap options for long term travel, such as WOOFing, Couchsurfing, volunteering or working abroad, anyone can have an adventure abroad!

backpacking

If you are thinking of going backpacking, here are some fantastic websites that will help you along your journey.

WWOOFING – http://www.wwoof.org/

How would you like to experience shearing sheep in New Zealand, picking olives in Italy, or herding Cattle in Canada? WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and this fantastic program will connect you with a family on an organic farm in dozens of countries all over the world. In exchange for a few hours of help around the farm per day, you will enjoy free accommodation with the family and delicious home-cooked meals. It’s a great way to spend quite a bit of time in a country, without having to spend anything on accommodation. WWoofing is a wonderful way to get in touch with the rural traditions and family life of your destination country, and the laid back and quiet pace of living in tune with nature is refreshing.

Couchsurfing – http://www.couchsurfing.org/

The amazing grassroots movement of Couchsurfing has totally changed budget travel. On this website, you can create a profile about yourself (after undergoing the security verifications) and then search to find hundreds of people in dozens of countries throughout the world who are willing to offer you a place to sleep in their spare room or couch for free. If you make new friends quickly, this is a great way to travel for almost no money. Also, you can offer your couch to interesting visitors from other countries as well.

Au Pair World – http://www.aupair-world.net

Do you love working with children? Why not become a nanny in another country? This is a great job experience and, like WWOOFing, gives you an idea of what family life is like in another culture. This website will help you connect with families who are looking for an au pair, and give you tip for your search.

The Backpacker – http://www.thebackpacker.net/

An essential website on any travel-lovers bookmark bar, this website is a superb resource for travel tips, experiences, and adventures all around the globe. There are many free travel guides for cool destinations, travel stories shared by other backpackers, an index of nightlife around the world, and hostel listings which cover 149 countries.

Go Abroad

One of the best ways to see the world is by studying, volunteering, or working abroad. Rather than just skimming the surface as a tourist, these experiences allow you to truly integrate into the foreign culture and get a deeper and more meaningful experience. Go Abroad is a very helpful guide for anyone who is looking for an opportunity such as this. Whether you are looking for study abroad programs, volunteer trips, language schools abroad, or jobs abroad, this is the place to go!

Cotswold Outdoor

Cotswold Outdoor started life in 1974 as Cotswold Camping, selling a range of basic camping accessories from a small outbuilding in the Cotswolds. Nearly 40 years later, the company is an award winning multi-channel retailer with over 65 thriving stores in the UK and more to come.

With over three decades of experience in outdoor retail, Cotswold Outdoor offer one of the most extensive and comprehensive ranges of outdoor clothing, products and equipment. Selecting from over 250 internationally recognised brands to bring you the latest in outdoor technology and styles. Not only this, but each product is carefully selected and tested to ensure a high level of quality and value for money for our customers.

Hostel Bookers

Ah, the hostel! Whether you are tucking yourself into a bunk bed next to a dozen other travellers, chilling in the TV room when you get sick of the beach, or cooking with international friends in the communal kitchen, hostels are the ultimate hangout for the outgoing young traveller. Not to mention that their rock bottom prices almost always beat traditional hotels! This website allows you to compare prices for hostels all over the world, as well as read reviews, check the location, and even book online.

Don’t just dream about travelling the world, just go for it! You will discover that thanks to the great resources that can be found online, it is much easier than you ever thought.

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