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Top 5 romantic (but COVID-friendly) last-minute Valentines getaways revealed

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A last-minute Valentine’s Day trip might be essential if you and your partner are desperate to escape the UK’s dramas and chilly weather.

However, many travellers are still nervous about ever-changing restrictions and unsure where to try for their romantic getaway.

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To help plan a stress-free trip to remember, Quotezone.co.uk has rounded up some of the best Covid-restriction friendly Valentine’s Day getaways both home and abroad.

1. Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re looking for the perfect city getaway to sight-see with your partner, Lisbon is a one-stop shop. From beautiful cobblestone streets to cultural and historical attractions plus delicious local wines and delicacies, this mid-February escape can turn a dreary winter into an enjoyable and sunny one.

Even better, from 1 December people from the UK have been allowed to travel to Lisbon for essential and non-essential travel, meaning that a romantic trip is still on the cards. Further, mandatory negative tests will be dropped for those who are fully vaccinated.

If you do opt for Lisbon, be sure to check out:

  • Miradouro de Santa Luzia
  • Pink street
  • Praça do Comércio
  • Lisbon Castle
(Image: Gaurav Jain on Unsplash)

2. Amsterdam, Netherlands

If a quiet break is high on the agenda, Amsterdam is a must-see. Although the Venice of the North is holding onto some restrictions, including a 10pm curfew, limited capacity at bars and restaurants, and social distancing rules – this tulip filled gem is packed with culture and provides the perfect excuse for a quiet and restful getaway.

The plethora of options available to couples means you’ll never be bored. A go-to for couples is touring the canals on a pedal boat – but for a dose of culture, attend the theatres such as Pathe Tuschinski – or, if you’re looking to save some money, stop by the Concertgebouw for a free lunchtime classical concert.

(Image: Colin Watts on Unsplash)

3. Cotswolds, England

If you and your partner are looking to avoid airports and longer travel times, the Cotswolds could provide the perfect balance. Its stunning natural backdrop, and relaxed pace of life, provides the perfect staycation for a couple looking to escape the chaos of city life.

As of 27 January, making your way through the Cotswolds shouldn’t be an issue, as Covid passes are no longer required and face masks are no longer mandated anywhere – however some venues may impose their own restrictions.

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The Cotswolds is home to many top tourist attractions, including the 1,000-year-old Warwick Castle. But if you’re looking for something more niche, try hunting for antiques in Circencester or for a boozy night for two, be sure to visit Britain’s oldest inn, The Porch House.

(Image: Marko Hankkila on Unsplash)

4. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Voted one of the most Instagrammable* spots in Europe, Dubrovnik will not fail to capture the perfect romantic moment with its stunning scenery.

Most of Dubrovnik’s main attractions are open in winter, but note the reduced hours, generally closing at 3pm. That said, a walk around the medieval City Walls can be exceptionally impressive on a winter’s day especially without the big crowds.

Getting into Croatia shouldn’t be an issue provided travellers from the UK can present one of the following documents on arrival:

  • Proof of vaccination, or;
  • a negative Covid-19 antigen not older than 48 hours, or;
  • a negative PCR test result not older than 72 hours, or;
  • a doctor’s certificate of recovery from COVID-19
(Image: Jad Limcaco on Unsplash)

5. Paris, France

The ‘city of love’ is the obvious choice for Valentine’s Day, given it’s filled with flowers, champagne and chocolates but Paris is also many couples’ go-to destination for its wealth of history and world-famous cuisine.

Even though Paris often comes with a hefty price tag, there are cost-effective options to make a memorable Valentine’s weekend. From taking a trip to Versailles and having a picnic in the Champs de Mars to enjoying the sunset from the rooftop of Galleries Lafayette, the options really are endless.

However, be warned, travellers who are not fully vaccinated will need to self-isolate on arrival in France for 10 days. Those that are fully vaccinated must:

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· Present a negative PCR or antigen test result taken within 24 hours pre-departure if aged 12 years and over.

· Provide a completed ‘sworn statement’ (déclaration sur l’honneur) form self-certifying you’re not suffering from symptoms associated with coronavirus and have not been in contact with confirmed cases in the preceding fortnight. This can be found on the French government’s website.

Greg Wilson, Founder of Quotezone.co.uk, comments: “Countries across Europe are all at varying stages of dealing with Covid, creating confusion for many travellers who are unsure of where and how they can escape for a winter break. Our research will hopefully help make things easier for those looking to leave January behind and plan something to look forward to in February.

“Of course, it’s still important to exercise caution when travelling abroad. Covid-19 hasn’t ended just yet and trips abroad may still be impacted through illness or restrictions. If you are planning on getting away this Valentine’s Day do consider buying travel insurance when booking the holiday, rather than when the trip starts. This should ensure you are compensated if anything prevents you from travelling.” 

(Lead image: Juan Ordonez on Unsplash)

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Farming union urges Welsh Government to grant holiday let exemptions to diversified farm businesses

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has written to Welsh Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans MS urging the Welsh Government to seriously consider an exemption from the revised letting criteria for diversified farm businesses.

In his letter, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “To date, the FUW strongly believes that the implications for diversified farm businesses have not been fully considered while making the decision to increase the number of days a property is actually let from 70 to 182 days during any 12 month period to be eligible for business rates.

“It should be remembered that the Welsh Government has encouraged farmers to diversify over recent years to make farm businesses more resilient in light of future changes to agricultural support policies, and that in what is believed to be the vast majority of cases, the conversion of farm buildings into dwellings has only been possible for self-catered accommodation purposes under Section 106 conditions.”

FUW say that it is clearly understood from its members that for many diversified farm businesses, actually letting self-catered accommodation units for at least 182 days per year will be practically impossible given the nature of farming – which generates the largest proportion of income for such businesses – and the sheer competitiveness of the holiday let market.

“In light of the above and given that farmers who have genuinely diversified into on-farm accommodation provide the same type of accommodation as speculators from urban areas who invest in properties to let them out, and people wanting a second home who subsidise payments by letting it out as an AirBnB or something similar without reducing Welsh housing stocks or causing house prices to rise, such businesses must be supported in light of current and future challenges rather than being burdened with further barriers and stricter thresholds,” he said.

“Therefore, now that the Welsh Government has decided to increase the letting criteria to 182 days, the FUW would stress the need for self-catering accommodation units which are located on agricultural holdings or subject to Section 106 conditions to be exempt from such changes.

“I urge you as Minister for Finance and Local Government to seriously consider the above as you keep measures to address the impacts associated with second homes and short-term holiday lets under review and seek to avoid any unintended consequences,” he added.

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(Lead image: FUW)

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Tourism

Tourism fund helps new Swansea accommodation providers

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Economy Minister Vaughan Gething has seen for himself how Welsh Government funding is helping local entrepreneurs develop new, high-quality accommodation in Swansea and Mumbles.

The Oyster House, Mumbles has opened its doors in time for half-term, after receiving loan funding of £2m from the Wales Tourism Investment Fund. The 16-bedroom boutique-style hotel and restaurant has created 29 full-time equivalent jobs.

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Developer James Morse said: “Having developed phase one at Oysterwharf and seeing the number of visitors it attracted, I realised an upmarket boutique hotel was needed in Mumbles. The hotel and restaurant, which are operated by City Pub Group, provides individual designer-style rooms with sea and village views and luxury fittings and equipment.”

In Swansea city centre, Llyr Roberts saw a gap in the market for a city centre hostel and opened the Cwtsh Hostel in November 2021. It has recently received a five-star hostel grading from Visit Wales, making it the only five-star hostel in South Wales. The hostel was supported through the EU-funded Micro and Small Business Fund.

Llyr Roberts and Vaughan Gething MS at Cwtsh Hotel in Swansea City Centre

It caters for backpackers, explorers, families, schools and freelancers and has pod and private accommodation, electric bike hire and offers guests and visitors introductory Welsh classes. Mr Roberts said he sees the project as an opportunity to grow and diversify the visitor market in the area.

He said: “Cwtsh Hostel wants to make Swansea a destination and attract people from all over the world to the area. Money from the Welsh Government has made the dream of opening a City Centre Hostel a reality while creating 7 jobs in the process. Backpackers and tourists on a budget now have a home in Swansea and I’m sure they will promote Swansea to people all over the world.”

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething, who visited both businesses, said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to support these two very different accommodation businesses in Swansea – both delivering very high-quality products and expanding on what the area has to offer, as well as creating jobs and supporting the local economy.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult couple of years for the visitor economy. However, the outlook for the summer looks much brighter and research shows there is higher confidence levels in the sector and the public anticipates taking more overnight trips in the next 12 months than in the previous 12 months.

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“I wish these two businesses every success for the future.”

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Pets

According to 73,000 pet owner reviews, Swansea is one of the pet-friendliest holiday destinations in Wales!

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dark yellow labrador retriever lying on the sea shore

More and more pet parents are taking their furry friends on holiday with them, but finding out which locations are the pet-friendliest can be difficult.

Holidaymaker demand for pet-friendly destinations has soared in recent years; in 2021, Airbnb reported a 65% increase in searches for pet-friendly holiday lets on the site.

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As such, Petplan analysed over 73,000 reviews made by pet owners on Booking(.com) to find out which locations in Wales and Great Britain are the best locations to go on holiday with your pet.

75.6% of pet owners who had holidayed in Swansea left the highest-rated reviews (7 and above) on Booking(.com) – meaning Swansea is one of the best holiday destinations for pet owners in Wales!

Monmouthshire ranks as the best destination for holidaymakers with pets with 83% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners. 

Powys ranked as the 2nd pet-friendliest holiday destination in Wales with 82.2% of positive reviews and Blaenau Gwent ranked in close third (81.1%). 

Herefordshire is the best place in England to go on holiday with your pet with 88% of highly-rated reviews from pet owners.

Perth and Kinross is the best location in Scotland for holidaying with pets (85.3% of highly-rated reviews). 

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Pet owners ranked The Scottish Highlands as having the best restaurants (93%), Cheshire as having the best quality rooms (100%), and Cumbria as having the best views (83%). 

Before you set off on holiday with your furry friend, check out our top tips to make travelling a much smoother experience for humans and animals alike.

1. Do your research before you travel

If you’re thinking about taking your pet on holiday, it’s really important that you do some key research beforehand. Before you book a hotel, make sure that it’s definitely pet-friendly.

If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need to look at any entry requirements for the country you’re visiting. Requirements vary by country: for example, some require rabies vaccinations or tapeworm treatment. Legally, all dogs in the UK should be microchipped, so if you’re taking your dog on holiday you should also keep their microchip certificate on hand.

Researching the documents you’ll need to have on hand when you travel, like a pet passport or health certificates, will make crossing borders and getting through customs much smoother. Quarantine times for pets can be very lengthy if you’re travelling internationally and your pet doesn’t meet entry requirements, so research this thoroughly beforehand.

If you’re flying by plane, be sure to check the airline’s policy about travelling with animals and their history of handling pets.

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2. Prioritise your pet’s wellbeing and safety

Your pet’s health and wellbeing is really important, so before you make any travel plans, consider whether your pet would be a good candidate for travelling. Consider your pet’s temperament and how well they cope with travelling, prolonged periods away from home, new people, places, and experiences, and how well they are trained. Look into alternative options like leaving your pet at a boarding centre or finding a house sitter if you feel that your pet would find accompanying you on holiday stressful.

If you do choose to take your pet with you, pet insurance should cover your pet in case a trip to the vets is needed while you’re on holiday. If your pet is prone to motion sickness and travel anxiety, it may be worth discussing with your vet any possible medicines that will ensure your pet has a more comfortable journey.

If your pet has existing health issues, a vet can discuss this with you and prescribe enough medication to last your entire holiday. A vet will also be able to advise of any recommended vaccinations and treatments to protect against potential health risks endemic to your destination.

3. Pack appropriately for your pet

Before you head off, put together a pet travel kit containing all the things your pet will need on holiday. You’ll want to include enough food and treats for the duration of your trip, your pet’s favourite toys, comfortable bedding, leads and harnesses, waste bags, and first aid supplies. If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll also need to pack relevant documentation (like health certificates and pet passports) for them.

Make sure your pet has fresh water available at all times, too; if you’re travelling in the car, a ‘no spill’ water bowl or bottle might be a worthwhile investment.

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4. Prepare a suitable travel carrier

If you need to use a travel carrier for your pet, give them some time to get used to the carrier before you hit the road. The travel carrier needs to be well-ventilated and spacious enough for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably.

Make sure that you place the travel carrier somewhere out of direct sunlight and away from cold draughts, and that it’s secured by a seat belt. It’s a good idea to place your pet’s favourite toy and a comforting blanket inside the carrier as well.

5. Give your pet ample rest stops

There’s nothing worse than being on a long road trip and needing to use the loo. If you’re driving a long way, make sure you stop frequently to give your pet time to stretch their legs and go to the toilet. If you find a safe place en route, play some energetic games with your pet so that they can burn off some energy before getting back on the road. If you’re flying abroad, make sure your pet has time to go to the toilet before it’s their time to board.

6. Try to keep a regular routine

It will be much easier for your pet to adjust to travelling if you keep their routine as close as possible to what they’re used to. Try to feed them and take them out for toilet breaks and walks at the same times you would do at home. Make sure that fresh water is always available to them, which is especially important if you’re holidaying in a hot climate or you’re doing lots of energetic activities.

7. Watch for signs of stress

While some pets may find travelling a breeze, others may find the experience stressful. Be sure to watch out for signs of stress or motion sickness in your pet so you can make them more comfortable. If you’re on a road trip with a dog, watch out for excessive panting, yawning, dribbling, vomiting, or restlessness.

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If you suspect your dog is anxious, take frequent breaks on your trip. Getting your dog used to short car journeys first (with the help of positive reinforcement) can make it easier for them when it comes to going on a longer road trip. Specially designed travel sprays can also be effective at helping your dog feel calmer in the car.

If your pet is prone to travel sickness, make sure to feed them a light meal before you set off on your journey. Consult your vet before travelling to see if there is any medication that might be able to help your furry friend feel better.

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