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Pyramid of the Sun view over Teotihuacan, Mexico

The fort of El Castillo at the ancient Maya site of Tulum on Mexico's Maya Riviera. Photo by Jim.

Holiday Ideas March - April

AmericaEuropeAfricaAsiaAustralasia

 

Dangerous Countries

 

Bugbog

Avoid Easter weeks

March - April this year encompasses Easter on April 5 so, as usual, book vacations ASAP for the two weeks immediately before and after Easter Day but preferably avoid those weeks completely for a less crowded, less expensive trip.
In addition beware the famously boisterous US college Spring Breaks occur mostly throughout March with a handful in early April. Breaking chaos reigns mainly in Panama City and Daytona Beach, Florida; Las Vegas; South Padre Island, Texas; Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco in Mexico; Nassau and sailing trips in the Bahamas; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

Cheap Vacation Destinations

Well, all of a sudden European vacations become considerably cheaper thanks to the 'quantitive easing' of the euro (i.e.printing more money) the value of the currency has dropped dramatically, up to 20% or more, so forget London and head for Paris, Nice (Carnival), Rome, Venice, Florence, Seville (Semana Santa), Madrid, Valencia (las Fallas), Amsterdam (Orange Day), Brussels, Berlin et alia.
Or scoot down to South Africa, then back to Asia for Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Mexico is at number nine and Thailand at ten.
The cheapest island in the Caribbean is the Dominican Republic.
The priciest countries are New Zealand, followed by Australia and China.

 

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC at Cherry Blossom time, March/April, USA

The Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC at Cherry Blossom time, March/April, USA. The best times to visit DC are spring and autumn as winter is prone to freezing snowstorms while summertime is very hot and humid. Photo by Al Jazeera.

 

The Americas, March - April

Beaches in southern California should be reaching comfortable highs of around 69F (20C), lows around 50F (10C) while on the other side of the country north Florida's Panama City and Daytona Beach will be showing highs of 77F (25C) and lows of 52F (11C), perfect from Spring Breakers.
Daytona Beach's Official Bike Week - the world's biggest motorbike fest runs from 6 - 15 March, while the notorious American Spring Break, when a few lucky destinations are overcome by shrieking, maddened teens, runs through March with a little spillover into early April.
Holidaymakers who are not delighted to be surrounded by rambunctious teens should avoid these Spring Break Hotspots: Florida's Panama City and Daytona Beach; Las Vegas; South Padre Island, Texas; Mexico's Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco; Nassau and sailing trips in the Bahamas; and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

 

Published on 15 Sep 2014: This outrageous Daytona Bike Week video is a fast paced thirteen minute collection of the sights and sounds of the bike week experience.

 

Other than those other Mexican and Caribbean resorts will be hot for your dollars, though Easter is April 5th and booking accommodation will be difficult around that date too. Mexico offers a lot more culture (in fact this is one of the world's most interesting countries if you go to the right places) and low cost travel options than the Caribbean but budget Caribbean islands do exist and some - such as Puerto Rico - are American territory so US citizens don't need passports or visas.
The Dominican Republic is the best value island with lots of activities and magnificent beaches; the island is huge so you should be able to avoid Spring Breakers on Punta Cana without difficulty.

 

Trek Costa Rica tours logo GAA award 2013

Award-winning Central America holidays. Good value, small group tours of Costa Rica. e.g.Discover Costa Rica Tour; Costa Rica Family Discovery

 

Further south if you're looking for an exotic Latin American experience then March - April should be fine in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Guatemala, Peru and of course Mexico but the weather in the remainder of the South American continent is at its worst.

 

Semana Santa Nazarenos in Seville, Spain

Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Seville 29 March - 5 April, Spain.

 

Europe, March - April

 

European Carnivals 2015

Many pre-Lent festivals took place in February this year but don't despair, there are many magnificent events still out there.
The Fallas de Valencia (15-19 March, Spain) is a madly explosive carnival/fiesta combination that will blow your socks off. Locals spend 5 days playing with parades, pageants and moderate fireworks then on the last night they turn off all the city lights and set fire to hundreds of massive papier-maché caricatures stuffed with fireworks around the city. Kaboom.
In Spain again but down south in gorgeous Sevilla we start with the sombre but spectacular processions of pointy-head Nazarenos during Semana Santa (29 March-5 April). A couple of weeks later the city lets rip with La Feria de Abril (21-26 April Fair), a brilliant spring celebration with traditional dress, parades, dancing and boisterous parties in a spectacular environment. Seville Pictures
In the cool city of Dublin have a few drinks during the St Patrick's Festival (14-17 March, Ireland), a wild, green five days, including a huge parade on the 17th.
Mayrhofen hosts the Snowbombing Festival (6-11 April, Austria), aka 'the Greatest Show on Snow', with wild bands and world-class DJs in a fantasy alpine setting.  
If you desire a more mature approach to music try the Budapest Spring Music Festival (10 - 26 April, Hungary),  classical, opera, jazz and folk music from locals and international artists in a fine European city. Budapest Pictures
Meanwhile if orange is your favourite colour and wacky baccy your favourite smoke then take a trip to Amsterdam for Koningsdag/King's Day (aka Orange Festival, 27 April, Netherlands) a massive street and canal-boat dance party, starting the night before. And do wear orange of some description. Amsterdam Photos

 

Published on April 26, 2014: Koningsdag (Orange Day), Amsterdam 2014: The biggest party of the year. The city bursts with orange as Amsterdammer's enjoy the biggest street party and market of the year. Orange-pride, live music, parties, boats and a citywide street market, this is an electric atmosphere not to be missed.

 

Mediterranean Beaches?

Nope, not even in southern Spain where the weather may still be unsettled and the Mediterranean Sea temperature will definitely be cold though sunshine is a good possibility. The best option is to head outside the Mediterranean to the Spanish Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean where they enjoy pretty good weather all year round due to their North African latitude, with high winter temperatures around 21C (70F), lows about 15C (59F) and water temp of 19C (66F). The Canaries can be easily reached by via cheap charter flights from Europe.

 

sheep in the mist on South Africa's famous Garden Route

It's the year of the sheep in 2015 but these woolies on South Africa's famous Garden Route look spooky rather than sheepish.

 

Africa, March - April

North Africa will be brilliant in March/April, the last best months before the heat arrives, so madly colourful Morocco and Egypt will be good value and should present blue skies unless the *Khamsin sand storm arrives. In Egypt the Khamseen generally appears in April but may blow between March and May, perhaps for a day at a time or perhaps for a month, carrying large amounts of sand/dust that will enter all your crevices along with those of your varied devices and raising temperatures by 5C to 20C in half a day. Usually the Khamsin is not bad in Morocco where they have their only little wind, the Sirocco.

Petra/Wadi Rum in Jordan and Israel are usually excellent in this season, neither too hot nor too cold.
Central Africa is not so fine at this time but South Africa's varied attractions, from beaches to wildlife to wines are at their best now, in the southern Autumn.

 

 

A heiffer bowing before the alpha male, Shiva, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

A heiffer bowing before the alpha male, Shiva, in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

 

Asia, March - April

India is heating up and OK in March but less good in April unless hot and sticky is your preffered environment. The biggest initial sights are in the Golden Triangle around Rajasthan.
Nepal is still fine during both these months, the skies are mostly clear, the ancient artefacts bizarre and the walks stunning.
Vietnam also looks good these months as do Thailand's beaches which reach their peak in March and become less attractive in April. Early April is roughly Cherry Blossom time in Japan, a fantastically beautiful season if the weather is willing but in fact it's very changeable. Pot luck.

 

Published on 4 Nov 2014, Japan: As the sun goes down, Tokyo transforms to a wild and exotic playground for those who like to pour on the speed. As a method of expression, the custom vehicle scene thrives in Japan.

 

Queenstown panorama and gondola, New Zealand

New Zealand's Queenstown is the country's adrenalin activities hub, with plenty of space to do them and some very pro-active entrepreneurs thinking up new ways to scare the crap out of you. Queenstown is on the south island. Photo by Matthias Klappenbach.

 

Australasia, March - April

Southern Australia is fine in March, late summer, but cools off rapidly in April. The best season for visiting north Australia doesn't arrive until May so we wouldn't recommend these months to visit Australia unless you had a specific purpose other than wandering lonely as a cockatoo.

However! These are the last best months in New Zealand for incredible walks, beaches, wine tasting, and insane adrenalin activities.

 

Published on July 5, 2014: Six months of wild activities in New Zealand with a GoPro Hero 3+ on a Stick! Dont forget to watch in HD.

 

Dangerous Countries

We don't want to discourage travel but need to point out that in these days of Ebola and quite random terrorist attacks or high levels of crime and violence there are certain regions that could be avoided if you wish to minimise risk as a tourist.

Here are some broad generalisations on where NOT to go on vacation. Avoid:
All Africa except for Morocco, southern Egypt, Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Madagascar, Mauritius.
All Middle-East except for Jordan, Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi.
Russia, Ukraine.
Pakistan, Philippines, North Korea, Indonesia, India for solo women travelers, eastern China.
Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Haiti. Some regions of Mexico, especially off the tourist trail.

US State Department Travel Alerts

UK FCO Travel Advice

 

Whatever, wherever, safe travels!

Holiday Deals

Trek America discounts (USA, Canada, Central America)

 

Grand American Adventures (USA, Canada, Latin America)

 

Travel Money

Buy goodies or pay bills (checks) with credit cards when on vacation as they provide insurance as well as delayed repayment but don't draw cash out from ATMs with them (unless it's a new-wave, no-fee card). Interest starts accruing immediately and bank exchange fees in addition to the ATM fee may be unreasonable.

It's better to buy foreign cash at home from a commission-free provider though, of course when you travel you'll have to carry a fat wad around, so the best solution depends on the security of your holiday destination. If you travel a lot and want to get cash from an ATM do some research on transaction fees and get the lowest fee debit (not credit card) card you can find.

Gap Year travellers might consider also acquiring a prepaid Travel Money Card (aka Currency Card) which can be loaded with any amount of any currency before travelling and then topped up by family or friends while the Gappist is still in the big nowhere. Compare prepaid Travel Money Cards.

And of course never pay for anything abroad in your home currency (the exchange rate will be absurd), insist on paying in local currency.

To summarise, buy stuff abroad with a credit card, but try to pay off the balance each month before interest charges blow the wheels off your trolley; get cash from ATMs with a debit card.

Finally, don't go short of travel insurance if you're going to be participating in any kind of marginally dangerous activity, or even a non-dangerous activity in a third world location, that's NOT the way to save money! Use your brain while it's intact!

 

 

Social networking while traveling

Keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues while traveling abroad has become so much easier thanks to the internet and social networks.

Travelers logging onto social networks while abroad should ensure that they properly log out before leaving an internet café or similar because in some areas of Africa, East Europe and India it's not unknown for a watcher to access a tourist's Facebook (or similar) account after they leave and send a desperate message to family members about an accident/hospitalisation and needing money urgently. Money transferred of course disappears into a mystery account and no one's the wiser, for the time being.

 

Travel Phones

Making calls to family and friends while traveling used to mean looking around for a phone booth, using phone cards and spending a fat wad, especially for international calls, but these days varied devices are used not only for keeping in touch but also booking transport, entertainment, restaurants, accommodation and more.

Best value communication abroad

1 - Cross-platform mobile instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, facebook Messenger and Snapchat which allows users to exchange messages or chat from anywhere worldwide free of charge, so long as each party has access to wifi. WhatsApp Messenger is available for smart phones, such as iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing at no cost.
WhatsApp is not the only super-app on the planet, for example LINE has 50 million registered users in Japan and 300 million worldwide. LINE currently offers not only instant messaging but voice/video call for free. WhatsApp will soon allow voice service having been acquired by Facebook.

2 - Sign up with the new breed of free VoIP [Voice over Internet Protocol] providers such as Skype, Rebtel, Tango and Google Voice/Google+Hangouts which offer free or cheap international calls on a laptop/smart phone/or even iPod Touch. These cost nothing user to user or a small charge for calling to non internet phones such as land lines or mobile numbers.
We're especially impressed by international video calls from an iPod Touch in a wifi zone to a PC via Skype, incredible sound quality and pretty good pictures, though the quality can be erratic depending on the strength of the signal. Use wifi or 3G connection where possible. Be aware that you cannot make or receive emergency services with VoIP.

3 - Travel with your own GSM cell/mobile phone if it works over the cellular data network type at your destination. Buy or rent a pre-paid sim card at home or on arrival and change the card over immediately.
The main drawback is the number will be new and you may have to own an unlocked phone so either get yours unlocked or buy an already unlocked extra phone. This system is convenient and you only pay for what you use if you buy the right package.
Alternatively check out your provider's deals for using the extended service outside of your registered country.

4 - Not a cheap options but if your purpose is limited to emergencies, buy or rent a prepaid phone, online or at the airport on your arrival.

5 - Old fashioned but check out the new generation phone cards to call just about anywhere, though public payphones are disappearing and so it's hard to find one that works properly when you need to make a call. Also others can't to reach you, unless that is precisely your point!

 

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