Jill Starley-Grainger takes over our Facebook!

We learnt this week that a third of Brits will make their New Year’s resolution for 2017 to travel more, and for almost half of the nation their top travel resolution for the year is to visit a place they’d never been before.

To help you achieve these Travel New Year’s Resolutions, travel expert Jill Starley-Grainger will be taking over our Facebook on Thursday 12th January, to answer some of your travel questions!


Jill is the former commissioning editor of the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, and now works as a freelance journalist specialising in travel. She frequently writes for magazines, websites and newspapers, and helped to relaunch Which? Travel.

So, if you have any burning travel questions that need answering, such as how to travel on a budget, tune into Travel Republic’s Facebook page between 2-3pm this Thursday and talk to Jill!


Update: Jill answered your questions, and we’ve rounded up some of the best.


Angie Logan: My partner is a full time wheelchair user. When we have booked “disabled friendly” rooms as advertised 9/10 the rooms have been unsuitable. Why can’t the hotels state measurements for basic things like height of bed, door width, bathroom facilities e.g. wet room – I could go on and on!!!

Jill: It can be quite frustrating because different countries have different laws around this – and some have virtually none at all. That can make it very tricky for you to ensure you’re getting what you need.

Some travel agents, including Travel Republic have specialist teams who can provide advice and assistance for disabled travellers so you can be sure you’re getting a trip that meets your needs.

The government also provides some advice here.

Also, see Tourism For All’s website, which provides some useful information:

Cheers, Jill SG


Matt Newland: Hello, I’m thinking about going to Dubai this year. When would be a good time to visit and have you any advice on keeping costs down. I have heard it can be very expensive. It would just be the two of us travelling. Thanks

Jill: Hi Matt. Great question. Dubai is the perfect choice for winter sun, but it’s not necessarily a budget destination. Below you can see the weather averages for the year. While travelling off-peak will save you some money, you can see that in summer, temperatures are scorchio! Better to go in winter, early spring or late autumn. And to get a deal, the best advice is to book in the sale. The January sales are on now, so you’ll probably find some bargains for Dubai.

Cheers, Jill SG



Alessia Horwich: Hello, I’m going to Japan in March and as well as Tokyo and Kyoto I was thinking visiting Osaka might be fun. What is there to do there? Thanks!

Hi Alessia. Japan is one of my favourite destinations, so in my opinion, you really can’t go wrong. I adore Kyoto – best city on earth 😉 – but Osaka makes for an excellent citybreak, too. The city is best known for its street food, and it has miles of markets in the city centre.

One of its specialities is octopus croquettes, which you can get for about five for £2 at almost any street shack. They make them fresh there, so they will be piping hot.

Another must-try is okonomiyaki, a fluffy egg omelette served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it’s typically made at your table with your choice of ingredients added as they cook.

Sayonara! Jill SG


Michal Ciszek: Hi Jill . I just booked my Cyprus Holiday with travel republic l. I am so excited about my trip that would be In 3months . Can you please tell me 2 top attraction that I need to see. Thank you

Jill: Great choice. Paphos is joint Capital of Culture this year (with Aarhus in Denmark), so see their website for upcoming events:

If you’re interested in history, the island is home to three Unesco World Heritage Sites:

And if you’re keen to just relax and have fun with the family, you might want to head to Fasouri Watermania in Limassol, a water park.

Have fun! Jill SG


Olivera Ignjatovic: Hi Jill, What would your advice when planning to travel on a budget? I have dreams of traveling across Europe & America in the future but not a massive budget (maybe a car for a road trip). Thanks.

Jill: The best way to make your budget stretch further is to book as far ahead as possible and plan as much of your trip as you can. This allows you to get the best deal, so you’re getting the cheapest available room in the hotel or the cheapest seat on the plane, for example.

This also allows you to give friends who might want to join you plenty of time to prepare and get excited about the trip, and if you have someone with you, even just for parts of the trip, it can help cut costs by sharing hotel rooms, sharing taxis, etc.

Research beforehand also helps you find useful tips. For example, if you read travel articles, you might discover the cheaper way to get into top sights – this is often by booking ahead online, but there can be other tips, too, such as free museum days or the times when places might allow visitors in for a discount, often near the end of the day.

Consider mixing up your days, too, so you have a couple of super budget days, where you eat sandwiches for meals, then cushion it with a nice meal and a nice hotel on the other day.

Cheers, Jill SG


Mason Hawthorne: Hi Jill, I’m interested in doing a bit of travel around Europe, was wondering what your thoughts are on group travel tours vs a do-it-yourself/ backpacking style experience?

Jill: It really depends on your personality. Some people far prefer to have everything sorted for them. It does make seeing lots of places easier, and you know you’ll get to see a fair bit.

However, if you prefer to make your own decisions about what to doeach day, then certainly DIY is the way to go. You could take some of the pressure off by occasionally booking guided day tours so that, at least for that day, someone else has done all of the planning and research.

Cheers, Jill SG


Vivienne Austen: Hi, I was wondering what you think of cramming in as much sight-seeing as you can vs. taking the time to absorb atmosphere of a few select places?

Jill: Honestly, my preference is to see one or two things in depth rather than cramming everything in. Of course, some people really like tick-box travel, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you get a lot of out of zipping into and out of many major sights per day, then go for it, but I find it a bit exhausting, and at the end of the day, I struggle to remember much about the places.

So for me, I try to stick to visiting one major sight a day, then one smaller sight or attraction at most, but sometimes not even that. A sight plus a neighbourhood walk to see the local architecture, and some lovely cafes and bars, and I’m happy.

Cheers, Jill SG


Chloë Dungate: Hello Jill, I’m looking at flights to NZ and keep seeing ‘ABTA bonded’ or an ABTA logo…what does that mean and is it important? Do I need to fly with an ABTA member?

Jill: If you’re booking flights only, then you should ensure the airline or travel agent is ATOL licensed. This covers you if the airline goes bust:

However, ABTA provides some additional protection on top of this. You can search here to see if the company you’re thinking of booking with is ABTA bonded:

But in either case, it is vital that you have travel insurance because neither of the above covers you for many of the expensive situations travel insurance will cover you for, such as medical emergencies.

Cheers, Jill SG


Jessica Bennan: Hi, What is the best way to travel with kids? That is, to get a good family deal (especially during term breaks) and while on holidays, make the best time possible for kids and ourselves too.

Jill: To get a deal on term-time holiday isn’t always easy, but the best way is to sign up to newsletters of your favourite travel agents so that you are alerted to deals as soon as they come out. And once you know where you’re going, visit the local tourist board website to see if they have special offers for families, such as coupons for two-for-one travel on local transport or discounted passes or meals for children.

Cheers, Jill SG


Wayne Williams: I am in my mid-thirties and never been on a back-packing holiday. I feel like I might be too old to have this type of holiday but do you recommend if it is something I should do?

Jill: It depends on if you like hanging out with lots of uni students now. If so, then this could be the trip for you. If not, then you can expect to be awakened in the wee hours by the parties going on in the room next door.

Having said that, some hostels are trying to target an older demographic, so if you go for one of the trendier hostels – and ideally during term-time, when students will be back in halls – then you might have a brilliant time and meet loads of interesting people.

Alternatively, booking on an escorted holiday aimed at solo travellers might be a good way to kick off your holiday with like-minded adults.

Cheers, Jill SG


James Liasi: Where is the best holiday destination to relax on the beach?

Jill: So many of those to choose from! Thailand, Caribbean, Canaries, Florida. It largely depends on when you want to go, and what kind of food you like. For winter sun, I’d go for Canaries, Caribbean or Thailand. If later in the year, then Mallorca, Greece, southern Spain – honestly, the world is your oyster here.

If you want a bit of city life with your beach life, then my favourite city beaches are San Sebastian in Spain – great tapas, gorgeous old town, good value and beautiful city-centre beach – and Los Angeles, which is lined with stunning beaches. So you can barhop at night, sightsee in the morning and lounge on the beach all afternoon.

Cheers, Jill SG


Alison Lewis-Jones: Could you give me some recommendations on hotels and things to do in Budapest that are a little indulgent but won’t break the bank? Also where is best place to eat local cuisine?

Travel Republic I adore Budapest. You’re not going to spend a lot of time in your hotel, so I would just find something in your budget and not worry about it too much.

The city is split by the Danube River, with Buda on one side and Pest on the other. I far prefer staying on the Pest side over the Buda side, though. Buda is pretty, but it’s also fairly quiet, with not a lot to do, apart from a stroll around the castle.

As for what to do, the city is great value for money, but you must visit one of the public baths. You’ll rarely pay more than £20 for a day pass, and you can spend several hours swanning from pool to natural thermal hot tub to sauna. Here’s a list of them:

While you’re there, check out the ruin bars, too. These bars are inside ruined buildings, and have a very bohemian vibe. Summer is the best time to visit because many of them add pop-out garden bars then, too:

Cheers, Jill SG


Amy Linares: Hi Jill, where are some good places to help inspire me to finish my book? Somewhere with beautiful architecture preferably!

Jill: Closer to home, you might want to try Edinburgh. It was the first City of Literature.

And if you go during the annual book festival, you should get lots of inspiration.

But if you want somewhere quiet to allow you time to think, then you can’t go wrong with somewhere in the countryside in France. I love the Dordorgne region, where you can find adorable villages to stock up on produce at the market, then retreat to your villa for the rest of the day to write away, with beautiful countryside sprawling all around you.

Cheers, Jill SG


Nicole Huber: I’m back from Christmas break, but already thinking about my next holiday!! What destination would you recommend for a quick recharging break?

Jill: What about a cheeky spa break in the UK, Spain or Portugal? You can get some great deals this time of year, and so you could nip out for a long weekend to relax and recharge for a bargain price – win win!

Jill SG


Irena Pupelyte-Trout: Hi Jill, I have booked a long haul holiday to Asia, connecting flight goes from Heathrow to Doha, does the route go through Syria and Iraq? It used to, flying with Qatar. What are airline policies on this these days?

Jill: Airlines change their routes regularly, depending on the weather and other issues, including political ones. But this information is strictly confidential for safety reasons. However, if you are particularly concerned, then calling the airline might get the answer you are looking for. Some airlines have come out publicly to say they won’t fly over certain places, but they rarely give an exact time frame for this, so unfortunately, it’s not something you can ever be sure about,

Having said that, just because something might appear to be the shortest route, that rarely means it’s the one the airline takes. Weather patterns and jet streams have a major effect, so often, a longer route will actually take less time.

Cheers, Jill SG


Sian Morris: Hi we are off to Orlando in April, is it cheaper to get tickets for disney and universal there? Maybe day passes?

Jill: Hi Sian. It’s usually much cheaper to get tickets in advance, but this is often only allowed if you are booking multi-day tickets.
See travelrepublic.co.uk/attractions for tickets.

If you book your tickets in advance, don’t forget to take advantage of the Fast Pass perks that come with them.

Cheers. Jill SG


Joey Michelle Danagher: Any ideas for family holidays 2 adults and 2 children have been to Spain and lanzarote and florida looking for something different please

Jill: If your children are aged 8 or over, then have you considered safari in South Africa? Most safaris allow children over this age, and if you stick to the parks in the Western Cape, then you probably won’t need malaria tablets, either, since only Kruger, the east of the country, is considered a high-risk area for malaria.

For an affordable safari option, do a self-drive into Addo National Park, which is about seven hours drive from Cape Town, along the Garden Route (or an hour longer via my preferred option, the Whale Coast route, which takes you right along the coast, with a decent chance of seeing Southern Right Whales from the road at certain times of year).

South Africa is also a great value destination right now, thanks to the favourite rand/sterling exchange rate.


Jill SG


Faye Amber Bryan: Where is the best place to go for a budget friendly but as luxurious as poss honeymoon?

Jill: Have you considered Thailand? It’s remarkably good value right now, and it ticks all the boxes for luxury, value and romance. Or what about South Africa (see above!)? Stay in a hotel on the Indian Ocean in or near Hermanus, then pop into Addo to see elephants and other wildlife. The national park entry fees are remarkably affordable, yet the wildlife is just as wild as in a private reserve – if not more so!

Enjoy! Jill SG