Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

How adventurous are you when it comes to choosing a destination for your next holiday? It’s difficult to get more exotic than Angkor Wat in Cambodia – so what makes it worth a visit?

This brief location guide might help. Angkor Wat is a majestic temple complex, near the modern-day city of Siem Reap, in the little known country of Cambodia in South East Asia. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

Between the years 1010-1220, the complex was a mega city, estimated to have been home to one in every 100 of the world’s entire population – you can’t get much bigger or more important than that. This is history – but not as you know it. Angkor Wat has to be one of the most iconic and majestic centres of ancient civilisation.

Until very recently, though, Angkor Wat was hidden away in the Cambodian jungles and way off any tourist trail. By visiting now, you can still blaze a trail and Be The First of your friends to visit this awesome piece of history, set in one of the most interesting of countries.

Though it was hidden away for hundreds of years, Angkor Wat is just beginning to attract its share of visitors and the tourist authorities in Cambodia are doing all they can to promote the place as a destination for travellers worldwide. As part of that promotion, it has been important that modern day hotels and facilities are built to designed to be in keeping with the historic majesty of the area – so you won’t typically see any out of place, ugly / modern hotels.

As new hotels and resorts approach completion and start getting their message out to potential guests and tourists, promotional packages are typically offered at discounted prices or upgraded rooms – simply as a way of building up the successful image of a new development.

Sokha Siem Reap Resort

Sokha Siem Reap Resort is just such a start-up – but this is no ordinary hotel. Cambodia’s newspaper, the Khmer Times, headlined the opening of the resort in September 2016, but the complex is growing still.

Close by to the international airport, the final development will offer 776 rooms, suites and villas, spread over a vast 23 hectare site that includes three restaurants, a fully-equipped fitness centre and spa, a huge, salt-water swimming pool, ballroom and convention centre.

The standard, comfort and quality of the resort gives you a thoroughly modern base from which to explore the histories of the area, including of course the temples at Angkor Wat. It really is a question of today meeting the yesterday of many, many years ago.

And the best thing is that, by being among the first to sign in as a guest of the hotel, here at Be The First, we are able to secure very favourable rates on the price of your accommodation – a safe and secure, purpose built resort.

You’re likely to be the envy of your friends, so why not Be The First to go? It’s no accident that’s our name and that’s our purpose.

new-orleans-moxy-hotel

 

It’s not just for Mardi Gras, or even the world famous Jazz and Heritage Festival, New Orleans is the place to visit and party in just about any time of the year.

The icing on the cake – or should that be the sugar-dusted beignet (deep-fried choux pastry) for which the city is also famed – is that BeTheFirst has a listing for the newly opened Moxy hotel, in the heart of the French Quarter of downtown New Orleans.

So temptingly close to the heart of this city, which never seems to sleep, what might you want and expect to do during your stay?

Know where you are

One of the first things to get straight is the name of the place. New Orleans (NO), Louisiana (LA), is more affectionately known to locals as NOLA and its distinctive character is probably more north Caribbean than southern United States.

Know the music

If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that you’ll never be far from the sound of music – it’s everywhere you go, from clubs and bars to practically every street corner.

The Big Easy – as the city is also known – is the birthplace of jazz, which continues to take centre stage in every celebration from parties to funerals. Famous sons of the Big Easy include icons of jazz such as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Buddy Bolden.

Know the food

As iconic as the music, is the food you’ll get to taste. NOLA is known for its Creole and Cajun dishes and its hot and spicy seafood.

Just the names of some of these dishes are evocative of the whole flavour of the city – Gumbo, Crawfish Etouffee, Jambalaya, or the humble Red Beans and Rice.

Know the French Quarter

The vibrant heart and soul of New Orleans, the French Quarter is also known simply as the Quarter or by the French Vieux Carré (Old Square) and is a designated National Historic Landmark.

The architecture here is immediately distinctive, much of it having been built during the period of Spanish rule in the late 18th century or immediately after the Louisiana purchase by the United States in the early 19th century.

Know the Garden District

Perhaps less well known than the French Quarter and certainly more opulent in its southern charm is the Garden District in the centre of New Orleans.

It was laid out in 1832 and retains a collection of imposing antebellum mansions, luscious gardens and an atmosphere that oozes the charm of the Deep South. It was developed with specific appeal to those southerners who wanted to keep a respectable distance from their European neighbours in the French Quarter.

Know the vibe

The city, the music and its people reflect the melting pot that is New Orleans.

Just the names of the streets and squares are etched in the mind – Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, Decatur Street, Canal Street, Esplanade Avenue and Rampart Street, to name just a few.

There’s an almost incredible range of music venues, restaurants and bars, boutique shopping and even voodoo temples.

A trip to New Orleans will be an experience you’ll likely never forget – so with accommodation starting from just £75 per night, you have no excuse not to indulge yourself!

Iceland Canopy Hotel
Iceland Canopy Hotel

 

At BeTheFirst, one of our aims is to let you be the first to visit a new hotel or location. This month we are looking at Iceland. It is known as the land of ice and fire, but there is a whole lot more in between too.

One of the great things about a visit to this small country, located in the middle of the north Atlantic, is that it’s so different and somewhere few of your friends might have been to before you.

Check out our website to see our latest brand new or recently refurbished hotels on the island, so you can enjoy a luxurious stay at a discounted price. For example, we have a wonderful opportunity for you to be one of the first to stay at the brand new Canopy Reykjavik by Hilton. Situated in the Reykjavík 101 district, Canopy Reykjavik City Centre boasts a restaurant, bar and free wi-fi throughout the property as well as breakfast in your room at no extra charge!

Day 1

Perlan

Don’t take the easy way out by eating breakfast in your hotel, but make the most of your time by heading off to Perlan (the Pearl). You’ll recognise the place from its stunning architecture and get a great orientation of the capital city of Reykjavik, laid out below you.

As cities go, Reykjavik is tiny, with a population of just 120,000 – though some 80% of the country’s entire population of 300,000 lives within about an hour’s travelling time of the capital.

Your first port of call after breakfast should be the tourist information centre where you can pick up a Reykjavik City Card. It costs just over £20 and gives you free entry to most museums, unlimited public transport, entry to most thermal baths and a number of other discounts.

Whale watching

After Perlan, you might want to head down to the harbour and board one of the many boat tours setting off on whale watching expeditions.

These operate from April until September and will take up most of your morning during a trip that lasts around three hours or so.

A quick lunch

Hot dogs are Icelanders’ favourite fast food and you can get one practically anywhere in Reykjavik.

If you are after something just a little more substantial, try a salmon bruschetta in the sunshine on the terrace of the restaurant Uno.

Hafnarhus

This is the name of the historic centre of Reykjavik, where you might want to spend the afternoon visiting the city’s art museum. Situated by the old harbour, you can stop for a rest and enjoy the fresh air and the peace and quiet.

Night life

For such a small and compact city, Reykjavik has a surprisingly varied and vibrant night life.

Take a stroll along Laugavegur and you can take your pick of the many bars, restaurants and parties – they’re likely to kick off from about one or two in the morning.

Day 2

Hallgrimskirkja

You might not be one for attending church services, but a visit to the Hallgrimskirkja Lutheran church in the centre of the city is a certain must do.

It soars skywards and, from the top of its massive spire, offers probably the best view of the whole of the city.

Thermal baths

Iceland is renowned for its thermal baths and you can find them dotted all around the country. Soak in one for an hour and become truly immersed in this culture of ice and fire.

Blue Lagoon

Probably one of the best known of these thermal spas is the Blue Lagoon, situated in a lava field near the town of Grindavík on the Reykjanes Peninsula.

Iceland tours

There are a number of tours and excursions to help you see the whole of the country – including its volcanoes, glaciers and other natural landmarks in the wilderness of the interior.

Conducted tours such as this are also given in English.

Game of Thrones

Finally, it would be rude not mention the hugely popular TV series, Game of Thrones, which was filmed in Iceland. If you are a fan of the programme, then organised trips to some of the filming locations are available, so can be incorporated in to your 48 hour break if you wish.

Hotel Atocha Madrid Hotel Atocha Madrid

 

It’s surprising just how much you might be able to pack in within just 48 hours, especially in a city with as varied and fascinating history and culture as Madrid.

If you prepare yourself reasonably well in advance, there is likely to be less aimless walking around between places of interest. If you book your accommodation through us here at BeTheFirst, you’ll not only stand the chance of securing a cut-price rate through an opening offer, but choose a hotel that is also close to the itinerary that suits you.

We currently have two great opportunities in Madrid to whet your appetite – the boutique style Totem and the brand new Hotel Atocha.

So, how to make the most of those 48 hours?

Day 1

Puerta del Sol

Probably the most famous square in Madrid and, since it’s also the most central, a fine spot from which to get your bearings at the start of your stay. The square had a make-over as “recently” as 1860 but still exudes much of Spain’s rich history.

Debod Temple

If it’s ancient history you’re after, Madrid actually offers a genuine Egyptian temple dating back to the 2nd century BC.

Following the 1960s Aswan dam project which would have drowned in its home country, the temple was dismantled stone by stone and rebuilt in the centre of Madrid – so you can take in both Spain and Egypt all within your 48 hours.

Tapas bars

Time for lunch yet? Feeling peckish? Madrid is awash with tapas bars – many of them evocative of a long history in serving steady, local custom.

Pick yours wisely and avoid the obvious tourist traps.

City cycling tour

Fortified by lunch, a great way to spend the afternoon is on a city cycling tour.

There are even tours where you can choose an electrically powered bike to take some of the strain as you pedal between some of the most famous sights, such as the Royal Palace and El Retiro park.

Night life

After you’ve been back to your hotel to take a well-earned nap and to freshen up, a lively night awaits. Madrid’s an especially lively city, so you won’t be stuck for choice. Head off towards Huertas which is at the heart of the capital’s vibrant entertainment scene.

Day 2

Plaza Mayor

It’s likely to have been a long, Latin night, but don’t lose the whole morning by sleeping in.

Start off your day with nothing too taxing by taking in the sights and atmosphere of another of the city’s famous squares, Plaza Mayor. Lonely Plant describes this as one of the prettiest open spaces in the whole of the country.

Lunch at the world’s oldest operating restaurant

Close to Plaza Mayor is the Sobrino de Botín – the world’s oldest operating restaurant – so what better place to stop and have lunch?

Prado Museum

With museums and art galleries, you run the risk of absorbing too many of your 48 hours in one visit.

But you could hardly visit Madrid without dropping in to its most famous cultural palace, the Prado Museum. Among the works of classic European masters are those of Velázquez, Goya, Raphael, Rubens, and Bosch.

Open-top bus tour

You pedalled your legs off on the bike yesterday, so why not do a different city tour from the comfort of an open-top bus today. A tour which takes only a couple of hours might spark interest in other sights and attractions you might want to get back to.

Night life

Last night was probably so good you’ll want to repeat it again for your second night in this liveliest of cities.

Over dinner, why not take in another of those iconic Spanish pastimes, Flamenco.

When you wake up, it’ll probably be time to go home – but not without making yourself a promise to come back soon.

For further ideas, visit the Madrid Tourism website.

bryon-bay-australia

You can always tell that someone comes from a small place, they say, when their idea of a holiday is driving around the island on a Sunday afternoon.

Try doing that in Australia and you’d be there for ever.

We’d also be here for ever if we tried to tell you everything there is to do on this island continent, so here is the briefest location guide:

  • the natives speak English – but with a distinctive local turn of phrase;
  • with such an immense land area and mile upon mile of coastline, you’re never going to run out of places to visit or things to do, whether energetic or indulgent relaxation;
  • Sydney might be an obvious place to start – and some people might even confuse it for Australia’s capital, but that’s Canberra;
  • if there are two iconic sights that define Sydney, they are likely to be the Opera House and Sydney Bridge;
  • when your feet hit the ground, you’ll be looking for somewhere to stay – so why not treat yourself to a few nights in one of the city’s newest boutique hotels, the Old Clare? Here at Be The First, we’ve been able to take advantage of the promotional, discounted rates frequently offered by freshly opened hotels as an incentive for first guests;
  • whilst you’re staying in Sydney, you might want to take a day trip into the nearby beauty spot of the Blue Mountains – with vistas too numerous to mention, but including the Three Sisters, the dramatic Jamison Valley, Mount Solitary, Echo Point, Wentworth Falls and Lincoln’s Rock;
  • we’ve sealed a similar deal with another newly opened hotel, this time at the Byron Resort and Spa, near Brisbane, the capital of the Australian state of Queensland and the most easterly part of the country. Byron is well-known for it’s beautiful beaches and coastal surf culture;
  • travel further north still and you’ll arrive at the city of Cairns in the steamy tropics of Australia;
  • Cairns is a popular spring board for visits to one of the greatest wonders in the world, the Great Barrier Reef – a diver’s paradise and a great place for personally guided boat tours for the less intrepid;
  • Australia is the land (down under) of vast open spaces and vast distances, so why not get a sense of that sheer distance by flying the 5,467 km (some 3,400 miles) from Cairns all the way to Perth, the capital of Western Australia;
  • as the distance suggests, Western Australia opens up a completely different world and lifestyle.

Visit Australia and you’ll never run out of things to do – just don’t attempt to drive around the island of a Sunday afternoon!

las-vegas

Las Vegas – who hasn’t heard of the place, who doesn’t want to go there! If you can imagine it, Las Vegas finds a way of letting you do it. Hit the place and let your fantasies run wild.

Even if you can only spare 5 days to go there, then you still experience this unique place and have memories that last a lifetime. Our mini location guide suggests some of the attractions that lie in wait during a 5-day visit:

Casinos

  • what would Las Vegas be if not for its casinos – and the glamorous W hotel has one right next door, so you don’t need to go far to get off on the right foot;

Do a city tour

Big wheel

  • this is no place to keep your feet on the ground, though, so you might prefer the “High Roller” for a bird’s eye view of the city;
  • at 550- ft. tall, this big wheel is said to be the highest in the world, with 28 all-glass viewing pods each holding 40 people;

Sky-diving

  • but this is Las Vegas and the place to go wilder than a tame bus tour or the local version of the London Eye – so why not try your hand at sky-diving;
  • this being Las Vegas, you don’t even need to mess up your hair in the open air and you don’t have much of a head for heights anyway – so try your hand at sky-diving indoors;

Do a world tour

  • Las Vegas is famous for its themed hotels. You can do a tour of the world whilst not leaving the area – (Think: Paris and the Eiffel Tower, Italy’s Lake Como the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Central Park and much, much more);

Machine guns

  • in this most American of cities, no self-respecting visitors is likely to pass up the chance of getting their hands on the power of a machine gun;
  • there is an indoor shooting range, just 10 minutes off the famous strip, where you can blast away to your heart’s content with machine guns, other automatics and historic weaponry.

Do a desert tour

It may be hard to believe when you are in the hustle and bustle of the city that Las Vegas is actually built in a desert. This means that you don’t need to go far out of the city if you want to experience desert life.

There are a number of tours including the Death Valley Tour where you’ll travel through the scenic Mojave Desert, and visit the Ubehebe Crater, the remnants of a long-ago imploded volcano. You also get to visit the Rhyolite Ghost Town too.

Just 5 days?

Only 5 days in the city? It’ll probably feel like a lifetime. That’s just the stuff that the Las Vegas dream machine is made of.

And while Las Vegas is big, bold and glitzy, it doesn’t have to be expensive to stay in one of the luxury hotels there, thanks to the way in which many sections of the hospitality industry work.

When a new hotel opens, it needs to advertise its presence and make sure of a steady stream of first guests through the door – it’s their way of getting across the message of it being a great place to stay. As an incentive to attracting those first guests, a lot of hotels offer special, promotional discounts.

Finding those hotels and arranging those first bookings is our speciality here at Be The First so why not browse our site and see what we have to offer?

 

ottawa

 

Ottawa is probably one of those capital cities you don’t often put towards the top of any tourist list; but it is one of Canada’s many unknown gems – in a gloriously scenic setting, next to the river of the same name. It is alive and chic, and is where English and old-style French cultures meet in both language and lifestyle.

In this mini location guide, we’ll suggest just a few of the many things you might do during a 7-day stay in this stunning city.

Byward Market

Parliament Hill

  • just a short stroll up from the market you’ll find the seat of Canada’s national parliament – with some of the formal pageantry that goes with being a major Commonwealth country;

Museums and galleries

  • Ottawa – like any city of a million or more inhabitants – boasts its fair share of museums and galleries;
  • in this case the emphasis tends to be on the country’s rich cultural history – and the unique blend of English-speaking, French and native populations;

Rideau Canal

  • one of the most picturesque routes to walk in the city is along the banks of the famous Rideau Canal – a designated World Heritage Site no less;
  • the canal winds its way through the main shopping areas of the city until it reaches the Ottawa River with which it converges though a series of impressive locks;
  • these are right next to Parliament Hill, so you can join the canal here right after you’ve visited the seat of government;

Festivals

  • the Rideau Canal is also the site for one of Ottawa’s major festivals – during most of February – when it seems as though the whole of the city buckles on its skates and takes to the ice;
  • major music festivals include Ottawa Chamberfest, TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, and Bluesfest;
  • if you’re in the city on the 1st of July any year, you also get to join what is probably the country’s biggest and rowdiest party, Canada Day;

Food

  • in what is likely to be a pretty busy itinerary, you’ll want to stop for food and snacks and drinks along the way;
  • Ottawa has it all, from pubs to fine dining, in one of the most up and coming culinary scenes in the world.

Finally, next year (2017), Canada celebrates 150 years’ of being a nation – there are lots of special events and celebrations planned in Ottawa that you can enjoy and you can find out more here.

Where to stay?

Whilst these suggestions are just a taster of what Ottawa has to offer, hopefully it has given you some ideas of where to go. Now, where to stay?

One of the latest hotels to open in the city is a high-rise development that gives amazing views from one horizon to the other of this fascinating capital. Because it is just opening its doors to business, the Andaz Ottawa Hotel, in the centrally located Byward Market district, is currently offering special deals and discounted prices to the first of its guests via Be The First.

You can find out more about this chic hotel and the superb offers we have for you by clicking on the link above.

You put them in. You put them out. You shake them all about. And then you put them in again. Does that sound like you when you’re trying to pack your bags for a holiday?

Indecision and haphazard choices might leave you in a last minute panic to stuff your suitcase with the first things to lay your hands on.

But last minute, fast packing does not have to mean the frantic panic of the desperate. Here are a few last minute fast packing tips on how to pack efficiently and calmly – and still get away at the last minute:

Organisation

  • you don’t have to make a fetish of it, but a little organisation is likely to go a long way;
  • it won’t take long to jot down a list of the things you need to take and lay them out somewhere that you can take an overall look to check whether anything is missing;
  • that’s the time when you might want to compare the things you’ve chosen with the things you’re likely to need for the place or place you’re going, the type of accommodation in which you are staying and the weather when you get there;

Versatility wins out every time

  • the more likely you are to wear something, the more likely it is to win its place in your luggage;
  • rather than one-off fashion statements – which you might rarely if ever get to wear – therefore, choose clothes that can be mixed and matched to suit a whole range of different occasions;
  • combining your wardrobe in this way saves time packing and space in your bags, yet still allowing you to look your best – something that might be important if you have booked your luxury hotel through us here at BeTheFirst;

It’s not what you pack, it’s how you pack it

  • having bought yourself some time by being properly organised, you can also give some thought to the way you pack things in your bag;
  • there is an age-old debate about whether to “roll or fold” – there are pros and cons to both – but if you think about either rolling or folding your clothes neatly, you are likely to be able to pack more, and faster;
  • there are packing aids and systems which claim to make your packing more efficient;


Valuables

  • there may be good reasons for packing some items of particular value – your jewellery, for example;
  • but it is worth double-checking whether everything that goes in your bag really needs to be taken on holiday with you;
  • if it is not going to be used, it is not something you are likely to miss – and expensive items or those of sentimental value run some risk of being lost, stolen or damaged when you are travelling;

The weigh-in

  • when you have finished your last minute packing, put the bag on your bathroom scales to weigh it;
  • take into consideration the weight of the suitcase/carrier – the trend for hard-shell cases takes its toll on your weight restriction and can mean the difference between adding those favourite high heels or not;
  • excess baggage charges have a way of taking you by surprise and adding an unwelcome extra expense to the cost of your holiday – so weigh it in advance, to make sure you are within the limits.
  • There are still ways to pack efficiently and fast at the last minute – follow some of these tips and you are quickly off on your travels again.

    And don’t forget, at BeTheFirst, we have lots of last minute luxury travel deals you can take advantage of, so not being packed is no excuse!

  • Who doesn’t like to travel? It broadens the mind, so they say. But most of all, it’s just a whole lot of fun.

    The only – big – fly in the ointment is how much you are going to have to shell out for the accommodation you need along the way. After the cost of your tickets, accommodation is likely to big the single most costly element of your travel plans. Cut down on those costs and you get to travel further, more often and with extra pounds – or the local equivalent in your pocket.

    So serious is the quest, that budget travellers have tried it all: they’ve taken a leap in the dark with sites like Airbnb, the discomfort of couch surfing, barebones hostels, sleeping in barns and – according to the Expert Vagabond – taken to learning to travel at night and sleep on the go to avoid accommodation costs.

    BeTheFirst

    It doesn’t have to be this way. Saving money on your accommodation costs doesn’t have to be a one-way ticket to purgatory – so why not enjoy all the creature comforts of a top-notch luxury or boutique hotel and still keep money in your pocket for enjoying the holiday?

    That’s all very well and everyone’s dream, but how is it possible? That’s where our name comes in – it’s no accident that we’re called BeTheFirst.

    If you manage to be the first among the guests to visit a new, or newly refurbished, hotel, there’s a very good chance of your taking advantage of especially competitive rates, promotions and discounts because the establishment is eagerly trying to build up a reputation and standing. And that means filling as many of its beds as possible.

    In the hotel industry bed-occupancy is king – just take a look at the importance given to such figures by the EU’s Eurostat research on bed occupancy in hotels.

    A soft opening also gives a hotel the chance to iron out any creases in the accommodation or service offered – hence why you can enjoy luxury accommodation at a realistic price.

    How we work

    Through our site, you are able to make reservations at major hotels before they open, or re-open, for business. Since these are the establishments likely to be competing most keenly for your business, it may pay you to be one of the first through the doors and bag your room at the most favourable rate.

    In the industry, this period immediately before and after the time a hotel opens its doors after construction or refurbishment is known as a “soft-opening”. We have lifted the lid off this little-known trade secret, so that you can share in all the benefits

    We have already homed in on the pick of the best – so you don’t have to spend the time looking for them. Our selection of competitively priced but 5-star accommodation spans the whole range of hotel types and locations. All you need to do is to pick the one that suits your mood and needs for your next trip – and leave it to us to make sure that where you rest your head at night is not going to cost you an arm and a leg in the morning.