I'd like to arrange a walking holiday (for about a week) in the Lake District of England next year. I'd prefer to book an organised tour with a small group, where my luggage and accommodation is taken care of. I'm happy to camp but would prefer to stay in pubs or B&Bs. Can you recommend any reputable walking tour operators?
The gorgeous Lake District is a splendid choice for a walking holiday. You will be enthralled by the high mountains, deep valleys, stunning lakes and charming villages. There are dozens of walks for all competence and fitness levels, from peak and ridge walks to valley and lake walks.
Highlights of the area include following in Wordsworth's footsteps and admiring the wonderful views on the Fairfield Horseshoe; following the ancient Roman road over the summit of High St (that's a mountain); and climbing Scafell Pike on a clear day.
At the top end of the tourist market, English Lakeland Ramblers offers a six-day package including five days' walks and some sightseeing. For US$2750 ($4910) you stay in luxury accommodation and all meals, admission fees and ground transport is included. It also offers an all-inclusive six-day guided walk for US$2875.
Curlew Guided Walking Holidays has a variety of walks costing around US$400 per week.
There are alternatives to multi-day guided walks. National park rangers organise a series of guided day walks throughout the year. Details are available from tourist offices in the region.
You also wouldn't have any trouble finding a private mountain guide to show you around for one day or a number of days. They advertise in tourist offices, hostels, B&Bs and outdoors shops.
Easing travel traumas
Our 18-year-old daughter is currently planning a six-month overseas trip to Southeast Asia before continuing with her studies. I have to admit that we're more than a little worried about her travelling overseas for the first time (even though she's travelling with a friend). She's been saving hard and has her heart set on the trip. However, my husband is having second thoughts and I'm wondering if you have any advice on what we should do.
Every year, thousands of teenagers head overseas on their first big adventure, but as a parent it's perfectly normal to have concerns.
There are a few basic but important steps both you and your daughter can take before she heads off on her big OE. The number one thing that will help make the trip a success is good research and planning.
Your daughter could put a trip itinerary together, which includes a basic budget breakdown. Although this is sure to change once she's on the road, it's important to have a base to start from.
As a first-time traveller, it's essential that your daughter does some research into her destinations - culture shock will be one of the big challenges she'll face, and a little knowledge of local customs will help her ease into the swing of things.
This is also a good area for you to look into as a parent, as it will provide a little insight into the experiences your daughter will encounter.
Another idea to prevent you from worrying too much is to ask your daughter to set out a schedule for texting or phoning home, and make it clear that she has to stick to it. Also, get involved in the nitty-gritty stuff like travel insurance - this is the kind of thing that might seem boring to your daughter, but it will put your mind at rest to know that she is covered for any emergencies.
Backpacking in South East Asia means there are sure to be times when things don't go according to plan. Homesickness and loneliness (even when travelling with a friend) affect most first-time travellers at some point, so the better her planning and preparation, the better she'll be likely to cope with any lows.
Lastly, it would be good for all of you to have a read of the travel advisories put together by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (MFAT).
Bad place to berth
We are to join friends taking delivery of their new canal barge being constructed in Constanta, Romania, in May 2009, and will be sailing from this point through to Belgrade, Serbia. However, they have been informed by a local skipper that there are no stop-off jetties or tie-up areas to enable us to sightsee along this route until Austria! Can you give us any information about this?
Unfortunately, it appears that the information your friends have received is correct, as the area of the Danube between Constanta (Romania) and Belgrade (Serbia) is not known for its accessibility to pleasure cruisers.
Navigation charts are mostly geared towards much larger industrial vessels, and they provide little if any information on anchoring and berthing for smaller vessels. Nautical assistance appears to be almost nonexistent.
Unfortunately, berthing opportunities for private barges also appear to be very scarce. Even where berthing is a possibility, getting to a nearby town to pick up supplies, let alone sightsee, could prove difficult due to a lack of transportation. Language problems could also arise when dealing with authorities.
While all this might seem negative, the proposed trip does have the potential to be a great knockabout adventure. However, if your idea of a holiday is to relax and do a bit of sightseeing along the way, you might want to opt for an organised river cruise instead, or think about sailing with your friends along a more tourist-friendly route - from Vienna to Amsterdam, for example.
If you do venture into Serbia, be sure to read MFAT's travel advisory.
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