The really easy ways to guarantee a hotel room upgrade

The really easy ways to guarantee a hotel room upgrade

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Credit: Matteo Colombo / Getty

Whether you’re heading for the beach, a wellness retreat or a big adventure, there’s nothing quite like hopping on a plane and jetting off on holiday.

And the feeling you get when you check into a nice hotel? Priceless. The fluffy towels, the plumped up pillows, the slippers – what more could you ask for?

Well, actually, you could ask for a hotel room upgrade. However, just asking might not be enough to get you from a standard to a suite.

But there are ways to improve your chances if you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Spa Seekers spoke to travel experts and hotel managers to find out the secrets to getting a hotel room upgrade…

Dress like an influencer

Apparently, looking as though you might be plastering the whole experience all over social media is the key to getting a hotel room upgrade. Hotel managers say that being an influencer (or looking like you could be one) may get you an upgrade, however they’re also ‘trained to spot someone with influence’ so you’ll have to be convincing. Don’t forget to pack the Balenciaga trainers.

Use a fancy name

According to the experts, a moniker that sounds a bit posh will suggest to hotel managers that you’ve got money and that you’ll ‘potentially be extra respectful of a more luxurious room’. Might be worth switching the ‘Miss’ for ‘Princess’ on the drop down menu when you book.

Tweet or email the hotel the day before

Sending a friendly email or tweeting to tell your followers how excited you are to be staying at the hotel is an easy way of sweet-talking them – and it might just give your chances a boost when you get to the check-in desk.

Stay for one night

If you’re city hopping or planning a short trip, staying for one night only might be the key to a hotel room upgrade. It’ll cost them less to upgrade you compared to if you had a long stay booked and they’ll be more inclined to offer it to you.

Shine your wedding ring

Honeymooners are more likely to be upgraded as a token gesture, so apparently if you’re not a newlywed but your wedding ring looks extra shiny it’ll catch the attention of the hotel manager. How does this work exactly? Who knows.

Check in late

This one sounds a little odd, but apparently if you wait around for a bit there is the chance that standard rooms will already be occupied by the punctual travellers who have checked in first. This is your opportunity to swoop in and nab a better room. Easy.

The post The really easy ways to guarantee a hotel room upgrade appeared first on Marie Claire.

Looking for a cheap January getaway? There's a hack for that

Looking for a cheap January getaway? There's a hack for that

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Credit: John Su / Getty

Christmas is just around the corner, and this year it’s all about the countdown – think beauty advent calendars and cheese advent calendars (yep, it’s a thing). As temperatures drop, it’s time to tuck yourself up in a blanket on the sofa, pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and enjoy the Harry Potter movies playing every weekend.

However, once all the festive fun is over there’s that weird block of time between Christmas and New Years where you’re sick of eating turkey sandwiches and Celebrations, and no one knows what day it is.

It’s tempting to book in a nice little getaway to distract yourself from the fact that you’ll be back at work before you know it. But if you are thinking of going away after Christmas there’s one thing you can do that will save you a lot of money. And by a lot, we mean almost £1,000.

Travel expert Ian Crawford from Holiday Hypermarket explains that if you’re after some sun over the festive season it’s best to wait until New Years Day or slightly after.

He told The Sun: ‘Christmas is a peak period for the travel industry and even breaks that depart on Christmas Day can be expensive, but if you can wait for a few more days prices drop considerably.’

‘With this tip, couples can save hundreds of pounds per person – often more than £1,000 for two travelling. In fact, you could save up to £1,000 per person if you travel after New Years Eve.’

According to Crawford, holiday prices to places like Dubai, Tenerife, Cyprus and Gran Canaria could drop by £1,000 if you decide to jet off in the days after NYE as opposed to the week before.

So before you whip your credit card out and splash the cash on a pricey holiday at the very end of the year, wait until the first few days of 2020 if you want to nab yourself a nice bargain. Of course, it does mean you’ll have to use up some of your holiday allowance – but who doesn’t want to start the new year on a nice beach sipping a strawberry daiquiri?

Happy holidays.

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Harry Potter's 'real life' childhood home is on Airbnb (and apparently it's haunted)

Harry Potter's 'real life' childhood home is on Airbnb (and apparently it's haunted)

harry potter real life house
Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

If you’re heading on holiday and want to stay somewhere that’s unique/lavish/weird and wonderful, there are so many offerings on Airbnb – from the dog shaped Airbnb in the US to Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ wedding venue in France.

And if you’re a big Harry Potter fan, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can stay in the Boy Who Lived’s ‘real life’ childhood home as it has been listed here on Airbnb. The De Vere House is thought to be the inspiration for his Godric’s Hollow abode (pre his Privet Drive days) as seen in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part One. 

The property in the medieval village of Lavenham, Suffolk is a 14th century building owned by Jane and Tony Ranzetta who have lived there for 20 years. They have no turned their home into an award-winning bed and breakfast and a room will set you back £110 a night.

harry potter real life house airbnb

Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

The house includes two four poster bedrooms both with en suite bathrooms, TV, wifi internet access, private guest sitting room with log fire and courtyard garden. Plus, a full English breakfast.

However, if you’re easily spooked it might not be the accommodation for you.

Tony said: ‘JK Rowling was well acquainted with the village and we know her friend stayed here while she was in the process of writing the books, it was surely in her mind when she created Godric’s Hollow.

‘The house is often referred to as ‘The Harry Potter House’ by locals and in the media, and a huge picture of our front door can be seen at the Warner Bros’ exhibition on the making of Harry Potter.

‘In fact, one of the property’s resident ghosts, Sir Francis De Vere, is inspiration for the character of Nearly Headless Nick – Gryffindor’s house ghost who was subject to a botched execution while he was alive – and John Cleese’s outfit in the films is remarkably similar to the portrait of Francis’ costume in his portrait.’

harry potter real life house airbnb

Credit: De Vere House, Airbnb

He continued: ‘The whole story is quite peculiar really. Just after we first moved into the house, Jane saw a uniquely dressed man walk through the kitchen wall and into the garden beyond.’


The property is currently on the market with estate agent Carter Jonas for £950,000 and also houses a poltergeist called Becky, apparently.

‘She’s taken wedding rings and other keepsakes before now – but she’ll usually return them if we ask her nicely,’ Tony shared. ‘She has to be treated like a child. We’re quite lucky, usually poltergeists are malign, but Becky doesn’t seem to be.’

Erm – terrifying.

But worth it if you’re the ultimate HP fan? We’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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What to do if you can't sweet talk your way to a flight upgrade

What to do if you can't sweet talk your way to a flight upgrade

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Credit: Buena Vista Images / Getty

With the new year just around the corner, you’ll no doubt be working out how to double your holiday allowance to make the most of 2020 getaways.

And why not? We need something to look forward to while the weather’s miserable, wet and windy.

Whether you’re heading to the mountains on a wellness retreat or checking in to this must-visit Omani hotel, you’ll want to make sure that when you land on the other side you’re well rested (and your skin is benefiting from these travel beauty tips, too).

Obviously, getting upgraded is the dream. Who doesn’t want to find themselves turning left when they board the plane? Surely everyone wants to settle into a nice cosy seat and enjoy a glass of bubbly without a screaming toddler kicking the back of your chair – right?

However, getting a flight upgrade isn’t as easy as just asking the check in staff for one when you’re dropping your bags off (and there’s one thing you definitely don’t shouldn’t do if you want to be in with a chance).

Former flight attendant Lee Cobaj spoke to Skyscanner about what to do if you just can’t get that flight upgrade.

‘It is a bit easier to bag an economy row to yourself. Chit-chat to the check-in staff and ask if the flight is full. If the answer is no, then request a seat in an empty row.

‘You can also ask the cabin crew when you get onboard but wait until the flight is almost full, when they should know if and where the spare seats are.’

While it’s not quite the same as first class luxury, the extra space is very welcome – especially if you’re on a long haul flight and you find yourself wedged into a variety of uncomfortable positions whilst trying to watch Finding Nemo.

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Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you?

Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you?

Instagram is full of life hacks and #goals, but there is one particular hashtag redefining the idea of a home and inspiring a new generation of nomads

Getty Images

Words by Claire McCrory

With over six million tags #VANLIFE sees people sharing images of their kitted-out vans- think a VSCO version of ‘Pimp My Ride’.

There are also many YouTube channels dedicated to documenting the van lifestyle, one of the most notable is Jennelle Eliana, a twenty-year-old boasting nearly two million subscribers, despite having only posted her first video three months ago. Jennelle posts van tours and everyday life, such as the practicalities of showering whilst living in a van.

Although a house on wheels is not a foreign concept for Brits, with VW camper vans  and caravans being a traditional summertime favourite for many- with 550,000 touring caravans in use in the UK. Moving a step beyond holiday home and taking up permanent residence in a converted van is becoming an ever-growing trend.

The Office of National Statistics suspects that half the UK workforce will be working remotely by 2020, so by that logic, it makes sense that one might choose the added flexibility that comes with #vanlife.

Simon Doran, 29 and Dee Barber, 28, from Hampshire hit headlines recently with their #VANLIFE . They spent £14,000 transforming a builder’s van into their home. They say living in the van full time saves them £900 a month and have subsequently started a business converting vans for other people. In fact, Simon claims he’ll never go back to a 9-5 job,’ I wouldn’t give up the freedom this gives us’.


In the age of ‘insta-envy’  some people are constantly inspired to break out of their daily routine online. Maybe the modern nomadic, #VANLIFE is the most practical way to get out of the rut of a daily routine, and get a few good Insta pics along the way.


Getty Images


story by Claire McCrory



The post Could #VANLIFE be the right life for you? appeared first on Marie Claire.

Hit Gran Canaria for sun, sea and heavenly spa treatments

Hit Gran Canaria for sun, sea and heavenly spa treatments

In search of a wellness boost, Tracey Nightingale travels to Gran Canaria and discovers delicious food, heavenly spas and beautiful landscapes

There’s more to Gran Canaria than year-round sunshine. This balmy isle in the Canary Islands, off Africa’s north-west coast, is also becoming a wellness hotspot, thanks to an abundance of spas offering treatments from massages to thalassotherapy (based on the benefits of seawater), and some of the world’s purest aloe vera. And it’s just a four-hour flight from the UK, which makes it the ideal destination for a long weekend of pampering and autumn sun.

Within an hour of touchdown, my sister and I have checked into the Seaside Palm Beach in Maspalomas on the south coast and are sipping chilled cava on a sunny terrace while admiring the view. Beyond the sweeping staircase and al fresco restaurant below is a large, shimmering lagoon-style pool surrounded by towering palms where guests are lounging on sunbeds under neat white parasols catching the last of the day’s rays.

An uplifting kaleidoscope of colour in the lobby

Set within a verdant palm grove, this five-star Design Hotel with three swimming pools, a superb spa and bold, uplifting interiors is clearly the perfect place to recharge the batteries. Beyond the curved concrete exterior, the hotel, which first opened in 1975 and was redesigned in 2002, is a celebration of 70s style with funky multicoloured striped sofas in the lobby, kitsch bright purple and red interiors in the bar and jazzy zigzag patterned carpets and vintage furniture in the 328 bedrooms. Our room also has a balcony with a gorgeous view of Maspalomas’s famous giant sand dunes and wide, breathtaking beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s tempting to take a stroll along the shoreline, but we shelve the idea for another day and head downstairs instead to La Bodega tapas restaurant where we order sundowners and dine on tasty Canarian wrinkly potatoes, dates with bacon and honey and stuffed peppers with king prawns.

Palm groves surround the lagoon-style pool at Seaside Palm Beach, Gran Canaria

The following morning, breakfast – a bountiful buffet of freshly squeezed juices, fruit, eggs cooked to order, cured meats, cereals and pancakes – is served on the main restaurant’s sprawling terrace. We fill up on omelette and local fruit, then follow a winding stone path through beautiful landscaped gardens past a giant chessboard and tennis courts to the spa area, an oasis of calm with a sea-salt wellness pool including underwater jets, swan neck fountains and massage seats. If that’s not relaxing enough, there are also saunas and a salt cave – and if you’re feeling energetic, an outdoor gym. Yoga, meditation and tai chi classes are also available. I arrive at the spa for my Diamond Roses ritual, a nourishing treatment involving energising exfoliation followed by a heavenly massage, then float to my sunbed for a snooze under an umbrella.

We could easily spend the entire weekend lying horizontal on a sunlounger under the palms, cooling off with an occasional dip in the pool, but we’re eager to explore, so we take a 25-minute drive up the coast to the Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel to check out its thalassotherapy centre.

Take the plunge in Gloria Palace Amadores Thalasso & Hotel’s fitness pool

Located between lively Puerto Rico and quieter Amadores beach, this large hotel built into a mountainside and modelled on a cruise ship features two pools and an outdoor glass elevator to transport you to the seafront. We stop for a lazy lunch in the hotel’s restaurant at a table with a magnificent ocean view before heading to the fitness pool. After being handed white robes, plastic Croc-like shoes and shower caps (not my most stylish look), we hit the changing rooms. Swimsuits on and ready to go, we lower ourselves in. The circuit consists of 29 hydromassage stations from thundering waterfalls and water jets to crosscurrent swimming and cold plunge pools. Following an exhilarating circuit, we dry off on a microbubble sunbed overlooking the sea, then return to Seaside Palm Beach feeling refreshed, invigorated and ready for the barbecue buffet.

The next day, we’re looking forward to our trip to Puerto de Mogán. The 18-mile journey takes us along the island’s main road, which twists through a series of tunnels cut into the dramatic, arid landscape. Flanked by sun-scorched mountains, this picturesque fishing village is home to a sandy, crescent-shaped cove and a buzzy little harbour full of bars and restaurants where boats ferry tourists to nearby beaches. We’ve missed the Friday morning market, but there are plenty of boutiques to explore as we wander the pretty, narrow streets past traditional whitewashed houses adorned with colourful, cascading bougainvillea.

Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa is home to 450 species of sub-tropical plants

If you decide to stay in Puerto de Mogán, Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa, five minutes’ walk from the village, has typical Canarian architecture and is set in tranquil botanical gardens. Stepping inside, the lobby has an atrium with waterfalls and wooden bridges over streams. Outside, guest rooms overlook the two swimming pools or pretty courtyards bursting with tropical plants and cacti. There’s also a cute church and a fascinating archaeological site, as well as the gorgeous Inagua spa with serene garden and mountain views.

Chill out in the Inagua spa at Hotel Cordial Mogan Playa

We spend a blissful couple of hours here, hopping from thermo pool to steam room, Jacuzzi and daybed before indulging in the best head, neck and shoulder massage I’ve ever had. Feeling thoroughly de-stressed, we take a leisurely late lunch at the poolside restaurant, where we feast on papaya, prawn and avocado salad, patatas bravas, fried squid, and seafood ravioli.

Dine al fresco at Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia

On our way back to Maspalomas, our driver tells us about Gran Canaria’s lush interior full of pine forests, mountains and valleys, and I wish I could stay longer to explore more of the island. Our final evening is spent dining under the stars at the luxurious Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia. We tuck into delicious fresh fish and vow to visit the sand dunes before we fly home. The following morning, we keep to our word. As I scramble to the top of a dune and look out across this epic desertscape to the Atlantic’s roaring surf, I make a promise to myself to return.

To book a wellness break in Gran Canaria, visit Gran Canaria Spa, Wellness & Health

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The Perfect Last Minute Getaway in Formentera…

The Perfect Last Minute Getaway in Formentera…

When I told friends I was off for 36 hours in Ibiza, most of them looked horrified assuming I was off for a non-stop rave in San Antonio, but they could not have been more wrong…

Gecko Beach Club Hotel

Taking in the sparkling sea from my ‘downward dog’ pose in the yoga tent, I had a true pinch-me moment of gratitude.  Whilst everyone in the UK was facing the drudgery of a drizzly Monday morning commute, I was bathed in the warm Formentera sunshine, remembering how to breathe & learning how to quiet the stereotypical working girl ‘monkey brain.’  This is Gecko Beach Club Hotel in a nutshell, a haven of luxury wellbeing on Formentera’s prettiest coastline.

Having left London on an early morning flight, by lunch time we’d already reached the hotel, our transfer made all the more seamless by one of Gecko’s staff aptly named ‘Angel’, who transported us to our boutique stay via air-conditioned minibus directly from the ferry port (an equally pleasant 30 min ride in warm sunshine straight from Ibiza).  On arrival, we shed our autumn layers and indulged in Sangria with a delicious lunch of local fresh fish in the chic all white beach side restaurant, just a stone’s throw from  the beautiful Platja de Migjorn beach.

Formentera is famous for its bohemian vibe and a delight to explore, albeit at a leisurely pace – it’s the ideal antidote to bustling city living & its sister party island. After a lazy day on the beach gazing into the crystal clear azure waters & occasionally taking advantage of the hotel’s free paddle boards, we set out for a late afternoon adventure.  Gecko’s super friendly team, headed up by the talented Joost Kruissen, gave us great recommendations, including taking a trip to the famous local hippy market, La Mola.  Just a short taxi drive up meandering hills, as somewhat braver tourists & locals zipped past us on their scooters –all tanned legs & sunkissed complexions…on our return journey it also provided the most spectacular sunset views.  Walking around the artist’s stalls we shopped for jewellery, gourmet food and wine taking in ice cold Coronitas at sundown whilst the local musicians gathered a small crowd in the centre as kids & grandparent’s alike tapped their feet along to the beat.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a decadent dinner of local dishes such as traditional gazpacho & paella alongside more modern fusion dishes; all beautifully crafted by Chef Juan Diego Craywinkel and his team.  Highlights included the lobster stew & the delicate Asian crab salad, but we both agreed that the Iberico ham was hands down the most succulent we’d ever tasted.

In short, our late summer sojourn at Gecko was a slice of heavenly relaxation– with every detail perfectly catered for and wrapped up in the caress of 26 degree sunshine. Needless to say, I’ve already planned how we can trade in next October in London to move here permanently for the Autumn season…!

The hotel


Gecko Beach Club Hotel

The rooms


Gecko Beach Club Hotel



Gecko Beach Club Hotel

The Best Bit

If you’re after a real respite away from the crowds and desperate to grab some vitamin D in the late Summer sun, Gecko is undoubtedly the place for you.  Whilst famous for its fantastic yoga retreat (with several opportunities a day to relax or power up in classes) the hotel caters to everyone’s passions. From relaxing massages in the outdoor spa, to adrenaline-charged water sports & boat trips on the Mediterranean sea, or simply enjoying the beautiful beach and magical pink sky sunsets. Gecko has it all, with views that were simply magical.


Gecko Beach Club Hotel

Don’t Miss

Super chic shopping in the hotel’s private boutique where handpicked pretty charm jewellery sits alongside a delightful capsule edit of glamorous beachwear, and the latest best picks from dreamy Parisian label Mes Demoiselles.


Gecko Beach Club Hotel

While You’re There

Definitely pop into the local town Sant Francesc for Instagram-worthy restaurants. Indulge in the yummiest tapas ever at the wonderful outdoor Bona Espina, surrounded by cactus. Whilst there, watch the stars through the camo canopy whilst sipping cocktails and don’t forget to pick up a Fashion blogger must-have oversize straw bag at one of the many shops and boutiques.

The Need To Know:

Click here to visit the website

Address: Playa de Migjorn, Ca Mari 07860, Formentera, Islas Baleares, España

Rooms: 30

Restaurant? Yes

Pool? Yes

Spa? Yes

Gym? No

Rates: From €235 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis

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Switzerland is currently the most popular European honeymoon destination

Switzerland is currently the most popular European honeymoon destination

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Credit: Aleksandar Georgiev / Getty

Getting married in 2020? You’ve probably already picked the perfect wedding poem, you’ve scoured the internet for sustainable wedding ideas and you’ve secured a date during the best month to get married (according to the stars).

So now all you’ve got to worry about is the honeymoon. Where do you and your other half want to go to celebrate?

Mauritius is a popular choice. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s honeymoon was rumoured to be an idyllic mountain retreat at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, Canada. And Gwyneth Paltrow apparently brought her ex-husband, Chris Martin, on her honeymoon with Brad Falchuck.

Your call if you want to take your former partner with you, but, er, wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t.

However, if you’re looking for honeymoon destination inspiration then it seems that Switzerland is the place to go.

According to Pinterest, the usual European hotspots – Italy, France, Greece – are being shunned by newlyweds in favour of the mountainous country. Pins for Switzerland as a honeymoon destination are up 856% since 2017.

And why not? It’s close to France and Italy if you do want to country hop during your trip, the scenery is beautiful (think lots of gorgeous lakes and mountains), and – of course – raclette. And chocolate.

If you’re tempted, it’s only a short flight from London to Zurich (1 hour 40 mins), and flights are super cheap.

And if you’re not going on your honeymoon, go anyway. It looks like a delight.

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In need of a wellbeing makeover? Head to Kamalaya in Koh Samui NOW

In need of a wellbeing makeover? Head to Kamalaya in Koh Samui NOW

Spend your days rushing from one task to the next, feeling overwhelmed by the demands of work and home life? Join the club says Trish Halpin, who embarks on an incredible week of change and transformation


My friend Debbie is one of those super successful, multi-tasking business women who never seems to run out of energy or enthusiasm for life and all it’s possibilities. For the past few years she’s been raving about Kamalaya, a wellness sanctuary on the Thai Island of Koh Samui, where she takes herself for one week every year and returns home with her batteries fully recharged, her mind relaxed and her body revitalized. When she suggests I join her for the next trip with a couple of other friends, it takes me a while to convince myself that, yes, I can leave my husband and kids on their own for a week, and that actually, I work really hard, so maybe I deserve this? If I can channel even a tad of Debbie’s feel-good energy while learning how to slow down and live a less frantic, more considered life, it will be well worth it.

So I’m super excited when the four of us meet in Bangkok airport – Debbie having flown in from Italy, Jacky and myself from London and Gaye all the way from Canada. Together we take the forty-five minute flight down to Koh Samui on the south-eastern side of the mainland, then it’s just a twenty minute drive to Kamalaya, where I hope to say goodbye to my burned-out self.


The Kamalaya philosophy is all about optimal wellbeing for body, mind and spirit, with each of these three elements being nourished through food, treatments and activities throughout your stay. Nine different wellness programs are offered, from detox and optimal fitness to sleep enhancement and embracing change. I’ve signed up for Asian Bliss, a mix of Ayurvedic treatments, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Thai therapies, not only because it’s recommended for stress (my middle name), but also because my energy levels are at zero and it sounds like the easiest one on the list.

My first appointment on the afternoon we arrive is a wellness consultation and Bio-Impedance Analysis, during which I’m attached to a machine to have key health markers, such as celluar integrity, fat and lean mass and hydration levels, checked. My wellness consultant Leila analyses the results (all of which are surprisingly OK, but there’s always scope for improvement) and asks me how I’m feeling about my life and my health, and what goals I’d like to set for the week. Where to start? The short answer is to feel less exhausted, less overwhelmed all the time and able to shift that constant feeling of heaviness weighing down on my shoulders.

Leila talks me through the Asian Bliss programme: I’ll be having two treatments a day ranging from scrubs, herbal compresses and Taoist abdominal massages, to acupuncture, reiki and one to one meditation. She also recommends what to eat (as a vegetarian, I need to up my protein intake for better energy) and explains how important it is to calm down the nervous system through holistic activities, such as yoga, meditation and Qi Gong.


Finally, she advises me to think about just two or three things to take home at the end of the week, rather than expecting to replicate everything that happens here when I’m back in the real world. This could be changing a few habits, making a few tweaks to my diet or continuing with a holistic practice.

That evening I have an Ayurvedic massage that certainly ticks the bliss box, and I sleep for eight straight hours, which is so unusual for me, not to mention unexpected given the jet lag situation. I wake up feeling ready for Kamalaya to work it’s magic.


‘Nature is the number one healer,’ according to Kamalaya founder John Stewart, so it’s no surprise that the gardens, pools, beach and open air treatment rooms are beautifully landscaped and extremely tranquil. Stewart built his paradise ten years ago into a steep hillside after discovering a monk’s cave, which still remains at the heart of the resort as a place for guests to light a candle and spend a moment of reflection. As lovely as my room and balcony are – simple styling in natural materials such as wood and stone – outdoors is where I want to be. So much so that I even come to think of the hill climbs as a bonus work out.


Maybe it’s the monk who’s to thank for the feeling of calmness and spirituality that permeates Kamalaya, but there’s another factor that definitely helps – wifi access is restricted to your room (one hour free per week) and there are discreet notices everywhere asking guests not to use phones. The effect is startling – on a personal level I manage to forget about my phone (apart from guilt-induced checking in with the husband and teenagers) but seeing fellow guests dining, relaxing on a beach, or going into an exercise class without heads bowed and fingers frantically tapping helps me to relax as well. I’d never considered before just how on edge and alert I usually am to everyone else’s pings and dings, never mind my own.

Food, according to Stewart is the number two healer, and eating becomes a revelation. I consider myself to be pretty healthy, I’m vegetarian, I get more than my five a day and enjoy food far too much to ever consider a trendy diet or punishing detox, instead subscribing to the ‘a little of what you fancy’ philosophy. Here, the menus are designed to be nutrient rich and flavoured with healing herbs and spices. You can choose from the vegan ‘Detox’ menu – healthy salads, broths and curries – or ‘Ideal Weight’, which bolts on a portion of protein such as fish or tofu.


Sitting down to our first dinner, I am genuinely concerned that the modest portion of lemongrass and coconut stew with a protein side of tempeh is never going to fill me up, and I’ll wake up ravenous in the night. When I finish though, it hits me that for the first time in forever I feel pleasantly full rather than stuffed, and understand what Leila meant when she advised me to eat until I’m 85% full. Usually I have carbs – pasta, noodles, rice, bread – with every meal and always finish every last morsel on my plate. I have none of these types of carbs throughout the whole week, which makes me realise if I eat the right kind – grains, legumes, squash – I’m going to feel a whole lot better.

Breakfast the next day starts with four rather challenging shots, tumeric, kale, wheatgrass and sweet potato, followed by fruit, eggs and avocdo dip. Within a day I’m feeling lighter, within two, my stomach looks visibly less bloated. Add in a Thai compress massage and yoga class and I’m positively floating.



Asian Bliss, it turns out, is not quite so blissful after all. The programme is scheduled to ease you in with the lovely treatments, and after a few days, they become more health focused with the introduction of acupuncture and a Thai Theraputic massage. The 90 minute session is one I will never forget, mainly because it makes me want to scream and vomit, but also because it fixes a shoulder injury I’d been struggling with for the best part of six months. Sasi, a young and tiny Thai doctor, kneels over me as I lie on a mat, while her bionic thumbs, knuckles and elbows knead knotted muscles and free my shoulder. The pain is intense and I have to breathe, talk and laugh my way through it, otherwise things could get very messy. An hour and a half later I leave the treatment room feeling slightly stunned, amazed at my pain free shoulder – and with a big girl crush on Sasi.

The staff at Kamalya are without doubt it’s secret weapon. Recruited for their caring qualities, as much as their professional skills, they are kind, gentle and intuitively know what you need before you do. On the beach, Kris and Wit magically appear with ice-cold ginger tea, fresh coconut water, or a little dish of frozen grapes. At the breakfast buffet Viktor has the patience of a saint talking me through the seven different types of vegan milk (from soy to sunflower seed) not once, but twice. When therapist Anya, gently presses my eyes to signal the end of a head massage I find it surprisingly moving. Compassion is the word that springs to mind, and reminds me that it’s not something I see – or practice – a lot in my every day life.

Perhaps the biggest moment of self-awareness though, occurs during my one to one meditation sessions with ‘Life Enhancement Mentor’ Rajesh, in which he asks me what I do to look after my mental health. Er, absolutely nothing? I’ve always been a bit of a gym bunny (in more recent years converting to yoga and pilates) and ensure exercise is always part of my weekly routine. But looking after my mind – well, it doesn’t even cross my mind.

That’s all about to be remedied as Rajesh teaches me Pranayama breathing, a controlled breathing exercise to oxygenate the whole body and strengthen the nervous system. In the second session the next day we repeat the breathing exercises and follow it with a meditation, in which my mind becomes completely still and I tune in solely to my breathing. Have I really sat completely still for the best part of an hour? Yes I have. Rajesh sends me on my way with a breathing practice to incorporate into my daily life, which is definitely one of my takeaways.


As the week comes to an end, all four of us feel like we’ve been on incredible personal journeys, and a group one – this is probably the first occasion we’ve spent time together that didn’t involve booze. I vow to commit time every week to my mental well being. I also want to be more tolerant of other people and less irritable when I’m on the Tube for my daily commute and I’m going to stop fretting about what’s happening tomorrow when there is so much to experience today. I leave with more words of wisdom from Stewart:

‘You can’t change your nature but you can change your habits’.

Kamalaya’s Seven day Asian Bliss programme, including treatments, meals, airport transfers and accommodation in a Hillside Garden view room starts at £3,600. For details, email

The post In need of a wellbeing makeover? Head to Kamalaya in Koh Samui NOW appeared first on Marie Claire.

The Home Office is advising people to renew their passports before November

The Home Office is advising people to renew their passports before November

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Credit: PeopleImages / Getty

You’ve worked out how to double your holiday allowance next year, you’ve booked some bargain flights thanks to the Emirates sale and you’re well equipped for your getaway with the best sun cream and some chic oversized summer hats.

But before you put your out of office on, hop on the plane and prepare yourself for a stay in your swanky Airbnb, there’s something you really need to consider. Your passport expiry date.

The Home Office is now advising that if you plan to travel to Europe after October 31st you should check when your passport expires. Currently your passport only needs to be valid for the length of stay, however going forward it’ll need to be valid for at least six months from the dates of travel.

So if your passport expires in May 2020, you won’t be able to use it after 1st November 2019. If it expires before May, you’ll need to renew it as soon as possible.

The government has been texting British passport holders warning them to renew before November, but only those who put a mobile number on their passport application will receive the message so it’s worth letting your family and friends know incase they haven’t been informed.

If you’re unsure whether you’ll be affected, there is a free government tool to check here.

It was unveiled as part of the government’s Get Ready For Brexit campaign and affects anyone with a passport from the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

As it may take up to three weeks for your new passport to arrive it’s advisable to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

The post The Home Office is advising people to renew their passports before November appeared first on Marie Claire.