Category: Travel

Six Reasons to Ski Slovenia

Skiing is a bug and I have definitely caught it.

For me, there is nothing more thrilling, rejuvenating or exciting than racing down a beautiful, snow covered mountain whilst trying with all my might not to fall and kill myself.

Skiing is a hard sport to master as an adult (which is why it’s ideal to learn as a child) but one that comes with so many rewards; the adrenaline of speed, the satisfaction of getting better and falling less, the warming tingle and ache from working the muscles and the freshness of mountain air in the lungs. Those wonderful evenings by the fire drinking beer, mulled wine and hot toddies with new friends…. sharing stories until dawn in the deafening silence and darkness of the mountain. For me, a winter holiday offers just as much fun and experience as going away in the summer.

One of my favourite countries is Slovenia, which offers fantastic opportunities for skiing. Slovenia is located next to Northern Italy, in between Austria and Croatia. It’s a tiny country, about the size of Wales in the UK, with a population of just over two million. Slovenia has thick, dense forests, a short Adriatic coastline and defined seasons.

I whisked my husband away to Slovenia for a surprise birthday ski trip two years ago, a whirlwind weekend but probably one of our best trips away. We recently returned, less than two years later, with the new miniature addition to our family in tow. At 14 months old, our little boy isn’t quite ready to ski yet but as soon as he’s capable on his feet he will be going in a set of skis! Children seem to learn this sport so quickly and easily, I’ve seen many toddlers more confident on a set of skis than in their shoes.

There are countless reasons why Slovenia is a great option for a ski break, and here are my top six;

  1. Affordability

Flights to the capital, Ljubliana, are offered on budget airlines and car rental is much cheaper than other areas of Europe. Skiing is an expensive sport when you include both equipment rentals and lift passes, and now the Pound isn’t as strong against the Euro, it’s key you get the most for your money. Skiing in the Slovenian Julian Alps is far less expensive than its neighbouring European countries.

  1. Accessibility

Getting to and around Slovenia couldn’t be easier; the flight time from the UK is less than two hours, with the airport in a conveniently–located central location just north of the capital, Ljubliana.

The roads are well-maintained and beautifully quiet. If you stay in a central location like Bled, which is just 30 minutes’ drive from the airport and has its own ski resort, you can then access the bigger resorts of Kranska Gora in 30 minutes and Vogel in just less than an hour.

  1. Aesthetics

I think it’s fair to say any ski resort is beautiful, after all who doesn’t love looking at dramatic, snow-topped mountains against a crystal blue sky? But Slovenia offers some truly stunning scenery beyond its dramatic mountainous landscape.

Huge, sparkling blue lakes and flowing, emerald green rivers surrounded by lush, Christmas-tree forests; the ease of driving around the country offers some incredible opportunities to see the country’s richest aesthetic assets.

Lake Bled boasts a magnificent Gothic island church, one of the most photographed points of Slovenia. And up on the hill in Bled, the famous Bled Castle looks like it has literally been dropped out of a fairy tale.

The resort of Vogel offers some incredible panoramic views of Lake Bohinj, the Triglav mountains and all the way to the Kamnik and Savinja Alps, while Kranjska Gora offers a postcard-perfect Alpine village in the valley amidst the mountains.

  1. No Crowds

Driving in Slovenia feels like you are the only person on the road and even some of the ski resorts are quiet during the week. We skied at Vogel in the middle of February and I was surprised at how peaceful it was. It felt like we were on our own on some of the runs, literally making the first tracks in the snow.

In comparison to the UK, the country as a whole is much quieter than many other areas of Europe, with a population of only two million (compared to 65.8 in the UK) with only 102 people per square mile. England has more than four times more people per square mile than Slovenia with 420 people per square mile. And Wales (which may be a better comparison due to its relative size), also has a slightly higher population, with 149 people per square mile.

  1. Choice of Slopes

Slovenia has an incredible 49 ski resorts, the most popular ones being Maribor, Krvavec, Vogel and Kranjska Gora.

We visited three; Vogel in Bohinj, Kranjska Gora and Straža in Bled.

Straža, on the edge of Lake Bled is a small resort with access right from the town centre of Bled. The slopes offer incredible views of the Lake and the surrounding mountains and is great for beginners, offering mostly easy runs and a ski school.

Kranjska Gora is set in an Alpine village in the North West of the country, very close to the border of Austria. The resort is great for beginners, offering a wonderful ski school and slopes for skiers of all abilities; from small baby slopes to larger off-piste areas where you can avoid the crowds and make fresh tracks in the snow.

Kranjska Gora is a busy resort, so be prepared for long-queues for the lifts. This is partly due to it hosting annual ski jumping and World Cup skiing, but it’s also due to its location; set in a beautiful Alpine village with some fabulous restaurants, cafes, pizzerias and quaint Christmas markets lining the square. Many of these bars, restaurants and hotels sit right at the bottom of the slopes, providing great options for Après-Ski and family-friendly choices for breaks from the slopes during the day.

Vogel, in Bohinj, is accessible by cable car, lifting skiers 1500m up the mountain with incredible views before skiing even begins. Vogel offers some of the best skiing conditions in Slovenia as moisture from the Adriatic hits these mountains first. Even as a beginner; I found skiing through fresh, real snow (as apposed to the added man-made snow on the other resorts) made a huge difference to my skiing experience.

Vogel is great for beginners as it offers nursey slopes and trails to practice on before hitting the bigger runs. While there aren’t as many restaurants on this resort as Kranjska Gora, there are some quaint and cosy places on the mountainside offering quality local food, as well as a huge terrace to enjoy a drink and spectacular views whilst soaking up some winter sun.

  1. Cuisine

You can get exceptional food all across Europe, but not once in our now two visits to Slovenia have we had one meal we were disappointed with. I’m not a picky eater by any means, but after living in San Francisco, traveling to various countries and working in restaurants for years, I like to think I have a fairly sophisticated palate.

Slovenians like to eat good food; their cuisine is influenced by its neighbouring countries of Italy, Austria and Croatia. Traditional food is largely based on meat, seafood and freshwater fish, cereals, beans and dairy. Think steaming hot bean stews, beef broth, fresh pan-seared fish, local meats and cheese, fresh bread, the famous schnitzel sausage and sauerkraut, local forest honey and extra virgin olive oil.

There is an encouraging and sustainable farm-to-table approach in Slovenia and many restaurants only serve their own local wines, all of which I found delicious.

I’m really sensitive to the taste of water and in Slovenia, the tap water has a mineral taste to it, if it indeed tastes like anything at all. But it’s certainly missing that chemical, chlorine note to it that I frequently taste in our water in the UK.

A trip to Slovenia is a convenient, family and budget-friendly way to experience the wonderful culture and culinary delights of this beautiful country in Europe. Check back soon for my reviews on hotels and restaurants in Slovenia.

 

What about you, have you ever been to Slovenia? Any comments? Share below!

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Baby-Proof Travel: Seven Steps to Simplify the Journey

We’ve recently returned from a week-long winter break in Slovenia and despite having an extremely energetic and curious child who hates to sit still, traveling with our one-year-old, Seb, was much easier than I had envisaged. When you have a baby, traveling anywhere becomes all about convenience, minimising stress and being time-effective, and I have to say we managed to achieve that pretty well on this trip.

Somehow, I packed for a week-long holiday for the three of us into two and a half bags (Seb was allowed a very small bag). I packed everything we needed, I had no intention or need to buy anything when we arrived. This was a massive achievement for me as (ashamedly) I’m a hoarder and I take too much stuff everywhere I go.

How was it possible I managed to go away for a week and not check any bags at all?

Clever packing and some very obvious, simple but effective tricks;

  1. Pack Light & Pack Smart

Traveling on budget airlines always ensures appealingly low fares, but unfortunately almost always includes high extras; the airlines make their money by charging these “extras” at extortionate prices at the airport, for example if you are even an ounce over your allocated baggage weight.

My husband insisted we needed to check a large bag to take all our things. I insisted we did not. So in the interest of saving us the £80 it would cost to check ONE bag, (yes ONE 20kg bag cost £80 on top of our fare), I researched exactly what we were allowed, then packed and repacked until I had efficiently gathered all our needs for the week into three bags; mine, my husbands and a small one for Seb.

When you fly with an infant you are (usually – check with airline) allowed to take a collapsible stroller or pushchair free of charge, and one small bag for them, both of which came in very handy for us. We needed a stroller footmuff for Seb as we knew it was cold in Slovenia but we kept it attached on the stroller when we folded it at the gate – one less thing to pack.

Packing to maximise space can be easy when you pack well; rolling clothes instead of folding helps to maximise every bit of space. Three outfit changes were enough for the week (we mixed and matched) and I packed extra under-layers for Seb in case of any accidents. Worst case scenario we could always hand wash anything during the week.

Thankfully, one of my favourite non-toxic soaps come in miniature-size; Dr Bronner’s Mini Castile Liquid Soap is perfect for traveling. One drop goes a really long way, it’s gentle for all the family and even performs great as shampoo.

Since my makeup brushes take up more space than my actual makeup itself, I carried them separately in one of the huge pockets of my ski coat. It’s amazing what you can fit in the pockets of a ski coat, I can actually fit whole cans of beer in them. (I learned this handy trick a long time ago.)

  1. Wear the Heavy Stuff

Because we were going to a cold country we needed warm clothes but to maximise space we wore our bulkiest items for the flight; thick sweater, ski coat and winter boots. This might sound unpleasant, but we used the stroller to carry everything through the airport (including our coats) and were actually grateful of the extra layers when we stepped out from our tiny plane onto the tarmac in Ljubliana at -3C.

  1. Take a Baby Carrier

The best thing we did on this trip was to take our Ergobaby Carrier. It meant I could carry Seb through the airport and have my hands free while my husband used the stroller to carry our bags and coats. Carrying your baby or toddler in a sling also means they’re restricted, they can’t crawl away and they tend to be happier when they are carried (no sudden meltdowns halfway through security). I use the Ergobaby Original which is possibly my favourite of all baby-related products. It’s made my life so much easier. (Read more here.)

Because the sling has pockets I was able to fit my phone, passport, bank cards and boarding pass, therefore eliminating the need for another bag for myself, and even a few extra nappies. Yes, I even managed to pack nappies; I counted how many Seb needed for each day and stuffed them one-by-one into any remaining space in our tiny suitcases. But having some extra in the sling meant I didn’t need to risk disturbing (and therefore spilling) the entire contents of our full-to-the-brim bags in the airport. If I hadn’t packed nappies I would have simply bought some when we arrived at our destination, but I’m quite picky about the nappies we use so another safe-saving tip would be to simply order them through Amazon and have them delivered to your destination.

 

  1. Stay at the Airport

This mostly applies for morning flights or if you live a distance from the airport, which unfortunately we do.

Seb’s never been very happy in the car so we didn’t want to face a two-hour journey with him plus the work of getting through the airport, then the flight. So we stayed in a hotel at the airport the night before. When you combine an airport stay with parking it can actually work out only slightly more expensive than parking alone, so for the convenience it’s well worth it.

  1. Check in Online

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

6.  Arrive Just in Time and Board LAST

I’ve never been one for getting to the airport early, but with a baby even less so. Babies get bored easily so you don’t want to spend half an hour on the aircraft before it actually takes off; by this time your baby will likely be bored and restless. And that’s before you even have to strap them in!

We gave ourselves just enough time to get through security with a few minutes spare to get coffee and use the bathroom, then went straight to the gate. We didn’t hang around the airport long enough to give Seb any time to get out and crawl around, we kept moving. Also, because we got on last they were happy to take our bags into the hold and we just walked straight to our seats, avoiding any queues. Babies hate queues. Unless they’re asleep that is.

7.   Be Prepared for Popping Ears

It can be difficult for a baby on an aircraft when they need to pop their ears, so we need to encourage them to swallow often. I tend to chew gum on take-off and landing but since this isn’t exactly appropriate for a baby (it would look a little trashy to have our baby chewing gum), I fed Seb during this time. Breastfeeding, a bottle, snack or any other drink will work.

This is rather obvious and most smaller airlines even charge a penalty for not checking in online, but just having hand luggage and no bag to check meant we went straight through security to the gate, with no one even needing to look at our bulging bags. Once we arrived at the aircraft the stewards gladly took our bigger bags into the hold which meant we didn’t need to have them with us in the cabin. Essentially, we ended up checking our bags for free. Of course this isn’t a guarantee on a flight so otherwise be prepared to fight for space in the overhead bins. If this is the case, having a baby on your lap should get you a little sympathy from nearby passengers.

 

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Everything we took for a weeks winter holiday

I loved this experience of forcing myself to simplify and minimise my life for a week. Now, if only I could replicate this in my everyday home life….

What about you, any tips for traveling with children you’d like to share? Thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Top Ten Tips for Healthy & Comfortable Long-Haul Travel

Whether you like flying or not (and I happen to love it), there are a few simple, easy, but effective measures I always take for the journey, making it just that bit more comfortable while ensuring I (hopefully) don’t arrive looking like I just spent a week sleeping in the same clothes in a tent.

I’ve flown a fair amount in the last ten years, always on long haul flights, and the few details I add to my regime ensure I have a relaxing, enjoyable and most importantly, comfortable flight

  1. Immune Support

While it may sound obvious, I cannot stress this enough. Airports, airplanes, dirty hands, air conditioning and the overall number of people you are likely to come into close contact with en-route, does not make for a happy immune system. Especially adding on the physical strain of jet leg. Support your immune system with large doses of vitamin C and echinacea. The trick is to take them consistently, not just once or twice. I would take three times a day, the day before, day of and day after travel. It might sound like a lot, but in my experience it’s foolproof.

  1. All-Natural Hand Sanitiser                                                                                                                  

I make a spray bottle of this myself with 6 drops each of frankincense, lavender and melaleuca (tea tree) essential oils, mixed with equal parts aloe vera, water and coconut oil (or any other carrier oil).  It’s a wonderful, natural hand sanitiser that is also moisturising, cleansing and immune supporting.

  1. Lip Balm

The air conditioning on the plane can make your lips dry and crack, so I aways carry little pot of Carmex. Actually I carry a little pot of Carmex everywhere.

  1. Underwear

I don’t want to get too personal here, but do not underestimate the benefits of having a spare pair of underwear and socks. Enough said.

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste

This is vital!

  1. Make up and Face Wipes

Your skin can suffer terribly when traveling so I like to take a small stash of face wipes so I can take my makeup off on the plane and reapply it for landing. I use Bare Minerals powder foundation and blush, these two pots and a sample size bottle of mascara means I can fit in the basics for hand luggage.

  1. Relaxing or Night Time Tea        

I swear by these teas and always drink them when I’m flying. Sleeping pills are fine as long as you know you can actually sleep. But if for some reason you can’t, you could end up at your destination feeling drowsy and disorientated. This relaxing tea is all herbal, it makes me feel relaxed and a little sleepy, without any drowsy side-effects.

  1. Eye mask        

Of course it will block out light, but a silk eye mask will also help to avoid redness and puffiness around the eye, and it feels fabulous next to your skin.

  1. Sweatpants, and a Blanket or Hoodie

I always take a warm sweater or large scarf and some light sweatpants. If the air-conditioning is low on the plane it can get cold and if you’re not flying international you are not guaranteed a blanket. I change into them just before I get on the plane. Sitting in jeans can get uncomfortable after a while, and everything else just gets horribly creased.

And finally…

  1. Blag it    

Some call it gift of the gab, I call it just being proactive. This has worked for me in getting an upgrade a few times when I’ve been traveling solo, so it’s worth a try. Enroll in the frequent flier program before you fly, and at check-in – try to speak to a real person, not a machine – tell them you are a bad, nervous or sick flier. (It’s not lying, I can often feel nauseous from airplane food….!) No airline wants a sick passenger, so the least you should get is your window or aisle preference, and you might just be fortunate enough for an upgrade.