Tag: top tips

California’s mountains are ready for fun in the winter AND summer

California is one of the only places in the world where you can spend the morning surfing in the ocean and finish the day carving down a mountain on your snowboard. (Hang on – let me quickly add that to my bucket list!)

Traditionally, we’ve always hit the mountains in the winter and stuck to the beaches during the summer months but this year that’s ALL going to change!

We’re heading to the Sierra Mountains in August which are, believe it or not, more popular during the summer than the winter!

A view of Lake Tahoe during the winter with someone’s face in the way!

How does that work, eh?

Well, all of the cabin rentals in Lake Tahoe, for example, change with the seasons and transform from winter wonderlands to summer stopovers, complete with barbecues ready to smoke that fish you caught on the crystal clear water just hours before.

Back in the day, my favourite part about snowboarding was taking my battered and bruised body (yep, I’m that good on the slopes) into the hot tub and having a beer. When I saw people jump into the freezing cold swimming pool, I thought it was only there for dares and weirdos – I didn’t even think it might be used by normal people during the  summer.

Before kids, we usually avoided California during the high season to snag cheaper plane tickets so, the rare times we were there for the summer, we’d stay and play where the sights and sounds were the opposite to England.


Surely beach life is the Life of Reilly?

It’s a bit like an American coming to England for the summer – they wouldn’t choose to go camping in the New Forest if they haven’t been to London or experienced Stonehenge before. It’s nice, but it’s not for your first trip, unlike Hull on a warm day?!! No contest!!!

Why head to the mountains during the summer?

Now Dylan’s in school we have to take holidays during the summer, or face a very public battle with the UK government. So, after our big trip in 2015 when we went to Disneyland and enjoyed beach days in Southern California, we feel ready to start looking for new experiences.

My new appreciation of rural American culture is great for Alicia, who’s really looking forward to this trip because she’ll get to go back in time to an all-American vacation that’ll remind her of going on holiday as a kid.

So, what will we be looking forward to? Well, the lakes around Tahoe, Mammoth and Yosemite are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Lake Tahoe during the summer. Photo: Erin Toomey

Travelling across the Atlantic Ocean for some ‘nice walks’ would be a snore-fest for anyone under 10 (probably 25, really) but these aren’t normal stretches of water: the shores around American lakes are filled with beach-ready families playing in the sun, while the water is packed with wake-boarders, water-skiers and swimmers.

One of our neighbours in England grew up near Sacramento in California, which is slap-bang in the middle between the Pacific Ocean and Lake Tahoe. Her family always chose the inland trip.

Erin explains: “A day at the lake feels more relaxed to me. You don’t have to worry about sharks or an undertow and, most importantly, the trees and mountains make for a beautiful backdrop to the day.”

A day at the lake is similar to a day at the beach, but with even better views! Photo: Erin Toomey

One of Alicia’s best friends, Jessica, lives in hot – but oh so cool – San Diego. She and her gorgeous family book a week off every summer to head to the mountains.

The Carlson family enjoying Mammoth Mouuntain in the summer!

They say they enjoy it just as much when the snow’s melted as when they’re wrapped up wearing gloves and goggles.

For years, I thought it was the annual Beer Festival that they drove six hours for, but there’s more to it than that, apparently!

“We love it because it is so beautiful and there are so many things to do. We love the outdoors, and it just feels like we are getting away from it all and escaping everyday life,” said Jessica.

“We are spoiled in Southern California and can go to the beaches all the time, so the mountains are a different experience for us with real weather changes, seasons, and different activities offered there that we cannot do at home.”

Jessica and her children visit Mammoth Mountain in the summer and the winter!

What about ski resorts during the summer?

The ski resorts are all open for business and have their gondolas turned on to take mountain bikers to the summits ahead of a high-octane descent.

They also have all of the food and drink that you’d want/expect after a day hiking, plus loads of cool activities for everyone: young and young at heart!

At Northstar there’s miniature golf, pottery and candle-making, plus a guided Wine Walk through the forest. While at Heavenly, you can free-fall down the mountain at 50mph on their 3,300ft zip-line or take a 4×4 tour of the Sierras before tucking into a BBQ buffet back at the lodge!

The Blue Streak at Heavenly includes a 50mph zipline!! Photo: skiheavenly.com

To get an authentic feel for your trip, you can hire a log cabin, during a winter or summer getaway. We loved having our own place – and big space – to unwind when we were there in the snow a few years ago – it’s much better than being cooped up in a hotel room.

There are cabins available for every budget, even as far as $2,000 a night lake-front estates via Luxury Retreats – just remember to book early to save yourself some money!

This is Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe, which was the venue of the 1990 Winter Olympics. Photo credit: Life of Reilly

We can’t wait to see a completely different side (and climate) to the places that we’ve already visited in California.

This summer, we’ll finally get to experience the might and magic of Yosemite, reach the peaks of the mountains we’ve only conquered when they were white with snow, and get that all-American experience at the lakes.

Read all about our summer trip to the Californian – with our two mini people in tow – very soon!


Sponsored by LuxuryRetreats.com but, as you’d expect, all of the words, opinions and experiences are from the Life of Reilly only!

Be that annoying person that pays LESS for the same trip

Find cheaper flights and holidays – Seven Top Tips

January. It’s the month that no-one really likes: Christmas is over, you’re broke, you’ve eaten too much and you’re back at work, depressed – searching for something to look forward to.

January can put most people into a glass case of emotion. Source: Jalopnik.com

January can put most people into a glass case of emotion. Source: Jalopnik.com

What adverts do we see in the middle of every TV show?

Tanned people, skipping in slow-motion across an idyllic beach; Arnold Schwarzenegger “vel-coming” everybody to California from a table on a rock-pool; or the latest “viral” idea from a package holiday company with an annoying kid dressed as a shark dancing to a cool song that won’t stay cool for much longer.

They all make you want to throw your remote at the TV!

It’s time to go hard, or…go on holiday!

January? Really?

Booking a whole year ahead is the best time to get a good deal but it’s pretty hard to afford, and plan, another holiday while you’re still kicking sand out of your shoes from the last one.

In January, the travel industry applies pressure everywhere you look to “help you” beat the January blues, but I think it’s a pretty good month to book your tickets – especially with everyone in ‘sales’ mode.

Dylan cockpit web ready

Dylan found a cool way to save money: become a co-pilot!

You see, the big airlines (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic etc) usually have their sales on in January – it’s nearly impossible to find seats cheaper after this. The smaller airlines try to compete and the package holidays are still well-priced for the summer and will only get more expensive (unless you’re going to go for a late 1990s ‘Teletext Last Minute deal’ where you turn up at the airport with just a passport and a suitcase).

As I’ve said before, I always look around for the best deal on everything because I like using the money that I’ve saved to help pay for the next big purchase.

I’ve booked at least one long and short haul trip every year since I met Mrs R on a revolving dancefloor in Mexico in 2004 (that story will need its own blog post) and I’ve never paid the full price.

If you’d rather not have the hassle of spending a couple of hours on your computer to save a few hundred quid, go and book your holiday now (or skip to Tip 6) but to be fair, if you’re that kind of person you’re probably not still reading this article, anyway!

For everyone else, here are the Life of Reilly tips to help you save some hard-earned cash:

Top Tips to save money on any trip

1. Grab a beer or glass of wine

Good tip, huh?! You’re going to be on your computer for a little while, so get relaxed and settle down for some super-searching.

If you’re looking at a long haul trip, I think it’s best to book your Flight and Hotel separately (there are exceptions) but if you’re going for a two-week, all-inclusive trip in Europe, then stick with the package holiday theme.

2. Go to a big-name travel company/airline’s site

If you’re flying long-haul find a guide price at the airline that you’ve got most Air Miles with, whether that’s British Airways, Virgin Atlantic or Delta.

If you’re looking for a package holiday, go to a major holiday company website, like Thomas Cook or Thomson. They usually have a really nice, user-friendly layout with great photos, videos and easy to understand pricing so you can pick a resort that you want to search on some no-so pretty sites.

Note down the prices of the dates that you want to travel. Make sure you check a midweek flight, as these are normally cheaper.

3. Check the comparison sites – and ours!

You may have found a good price for your British Airways flight in their sale but you can usually buy it cheaper through a smaller travel company. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to put the flight you found – and dates – into a Comparison site, such as Skyscanner (flights only), Travel Supermarket (flights and packages) and LastMinute.com (flights and packages).

This should have knocked a couple of hundred off the total flight price, and maybe more than a grand from a package. They will tell you the company that the cheapest offer is with: note that down.

Our website also gets sent loads of great offers every month. So make sure you check our Voucher Codes page to see if you can save some money with our help!

4. Go to that cheapest site

Now you know where the cheapest flight is from, head on over and see if it’s even cheaper via their own website. Sometimes they give the best deal to the comparison site, but quite often they don’t. You may not have heard of this company you’re looking up but the comparison sites should only send you to legitimate companies. If you’re worried, keep an eye out for the ABTA and ATOL logos.

You should now know where your  best deal is. Don’t get the credit card out yet, we can still save more!

5. Check the online big-boys (flights only)

Quite often, the internet travel giants, Expedia, Opodo, eBookers, Booking.com etc, will have special exclusive deals with an airline, so just check one of these to make sure you’re not missing a bargain.

6.  Get some cashback

Did you know you can get cashback on most major purchases? We’ve got more than a grand back via Top Cashback in the last few years. There are others out there too, Quidco is the other big one.

Choose one of these providers – unless you’re more thrifty than even I am and you want to check both – and search the name of the company that offered you cheapest deal, whether it’s Virgin Atlantic, Thomson, lowcostholidays, they’re usually all on there!

You could get anything between 1% and 15% cashback, just for clicking through this site and then booking in the normal way! We got £65 ($95) off our flights to California last summer – and money off hotels, car hire, airport parking etc.

7. Seal the deal

Now it’s time to book your dream holiday! Congratulations – think of us when you’re spending that extra money at your swim-up bar!

You can go through the same process again to add a hotel, car hire, airport parking and Travel Insurance and more.

Let us know how you get on and how much you save on our next trip!


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