Angela Rippon, Helen Skelton and Joe Crowley explore how to make the best of a holiday. Includes a look at the perils of hotel balconies and advice on common holiday ailments.
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Well, it's that time of year again,
when millions of us are flicking through the brochures
and deciding where we're going to spend our well-earned holiday break.
# I am a passenger
# And I ride and I ride... #
We all put our trust and our hard-earned cash in the hands
of the holiday industry, hoping it delivers on its promise.
But, as many of us know to our cost,
dream breaks can turn into nightmares.
I was in that much agony, I knew I'd broke it,
cos it was completely twisted round the opposite direction.
We were actually on the cruise ship.
My nan just suddenly had a stroke.
'So, from uncovering the bad...'
The top of the scale there would be close the pool,
-and this is off the scale.
'To highlighting the good...'
The Holiday Hit Squad is back and we're more determined than ever
to ensure that holiday blues don't mess up your well-earned break.
Coming up on today's programme,
I am investigating how your hotel balcony
may not be quite as safe as you think it is.
The last memory I have, everyone's smiling, happy.
The next thing is I woke up in hospital.
And Joe and I go head-to-head,
as we battle to find the best city break.
Great view, great experience, doesn't cost a penny.
And I get to ride shotgun with the Turkish police.
My girlfriend's had her purse stolen.
-£500 holiday money.
But first, I'm checking into a hotel
that's been driving some Brits bonkers.
# I'm in heaven... #
Now, we've all been there, haven't we?
You look forward all year to your well-earned break in the sun,
but when you rock up at your accommodation,
instead of Hotel Paradise...
..what you've actually got is more Bates Motel.
# Should I stay or should I go now... #
'That's why this series,
'I'm checking in again, to plumb the depths... '
My terror is that a child could fall in and not be seen.
'..and pull back the covers...'
I dread to think what that is.
'..on some of the hotels that have
'been winding the British guests right up.'
I'm guessing you won't be coming back?
Not me, definitely not.
What do you think needs fixing most?
Have you got a bulldozer?
'And, today, I'm in one of our favourite holiday destinations.'
# Should I stay or should I go? #
Cyprus, the third-biggest island in the Mediterranean,
tucked away in the southernmost corner of Europe,
with beautiful beaches and enticing blue seas.
# On an island in the sun... #
No wonder, then, that a million Brits
make their way here every year.
But not everything about Ayia Napa
makes us Brits feel like partying.
Some of you have been telling us that the 200-room
Anthea Hotel hasn't lived up to expectations.
I wouldn't recommend anyone going back there.
I certainly won't be going back there myself.
The quality of the pool was terrible.
I mean, they have all the railing around the edges,
that was all cracked.
And, quite a few times, you'd stand in it, you'd trip,
you'd fall in the pool.
The place ruined our holiday.
It made us feel... We didn't really want to be there,
at the end of the day.
And Kraige is not alone.
Dozens of Brits have been
complaining online about,
amongst other things, filthy pools, dirty rooms
and rating it as
just plain terrible.
Not surprisingly, the owners aren't happy about the reviews, either,
and they've invited us in to help
them identify what's got guests' goats.
# Mama told me not to come... #
'And, when I start asking around...'
HE KNOCKS ON DOOR
'..it seems the answer to that is plenty.'
-Oh, nice door sound.
-How are you doing, guys?
-All right, how are you?
-Can I come in?
-Yeah, no problem.
-Great, thank you.
So, how's the accommodation?
So, you've got a tiny kind of kitchen area here with a bed in.
And then, through here,
you've got another couple of beds?
-Two beds there.
And you've got air-con? How's that going?
Well, it hasn't been working properly.
We went to tell them, three days later, it still wasn't working.
So we went again. Now it's fixed,
but they won't refund us for the three days...
Oh, so you paid upfront for a week?
Yeah, we paid 45 for the air-con?
-48 or 56.
-For the air-con for the week.
And, actually, looking at this, there's
quite a lot of marks on the walls. Sort of footprints and things?
It wasn't us, as well, we just came in...
Toothpaste or something on the wall here.
Toothpaste? You see, it's all up the wall, isn't it?
So, let me get it straight.
You've paid £650 each for flights and accommodation.
So, basically, two grand and you're in this tiny room
that's dirty, the air-con hasn't worked.
Would you stay here again?
No. We would look for somewhere else, definitely.
And if I thought the cleaning in their room was a bit iffy...
# Hot barbecue today... #
When you got to your room, there was takeaway food in the wardrobe?
-It's still there.
-It's still there? I've got to see this.
-Can I see it?
This is it, is it?
Oh, wow, just up there?
I can smell it.
No-one's taken it out of there in a week?
I don't know if I want to do this.
-So, it's just full of food?
That is grim, isn't it?
# Do the funky chicken now
# Do the funky chicken now... #
Rooms here are supposed to be cleaned five times a week,
and towels and bedding changed twice a week.
But these guests reckon their room wasn't cleaned at all
until they complained about it.
'And, even then, the tub of chicken was left behind.'
Well, look at that.
A whole bucket of fast food.
You'd think the cleaners would spot that, wouldn't you?
If these guests' experiences are anything to go by,
all is far from well at the Anthea Hotel.
Time to call in reinforcements.
Vince Matthews is an environmental health inspector
and an expert in rooting out all that is dirty or
dangerous in the hospitality industry.
Right, in we come. That goes in there. Right, where should we start?
We'll just have a look around.
This kitchen place is a good place to start.
This fridge looks a bit dirty over here.
Have a quick look.
All along here is pretty grim, actually.
'And the floor's not much better.'
I can feel it, it's not nice. I mean, look at that.
All that grime and dirt.
I've even managed to pick up a live ant on my finger.
Yeah, no, that doesn't look like it's been cleaned very well at all.
Or, at least, with a really dirty mop or something.
'But there's worse to come in the bedroom.'
This pillow looks particularly dirty.
I can see a hair on the bed, as well.
-I think we've got some matching ones in here, as well.
Oh, my goodness, that's full of hair!
There's loads of it.
This pillow is disgusting, as well!
That is really grim, isn't it?
Well, the mattress actually looks pretty good,
but I don't see any kind of protector on it.
This is really basic, simple stuff, isn't it?
This is a hot room, I'm sweating, people are going to be sweating.
At least protect the bed,
so that people don't inherit months or even years worth
of sweat and grime.
'It's a major thumbs down from Vince for the cleaning.
'But, later, we discover the Anthea Hotel
'poses some much greater risks.'
That really turns the stomach.
We need to speak to the manager about this now.
While you're soaking up the delights of your holiday destination,
you may not be aware of it, but, in most resorts,
in the background, there is a whole team
of dedicated professionals who are there
to pick of the pieces, just in case something goes wrong with your trip.
'And I've got a backstage pass so I can find out just what happens
'if, amongst other things...' OK? Got you.
'..you are one of the quarter of million plus Brits every year
'that need medical help.'
-I got bitten by a mosquito on my heel.
-Blimey! That's it?!
'Or the estimated 19,000
'that call on the aid of the British Consul.'
Their passport was stolen, and they're travelling tonight,
so I need to get this done pretty quickly.
Today, I'm in a Turkish resort that's become a real favourite
with British holiday-makers.
Once considered an exotic location,
Turkey is now Britain's sixth most visited country.
# Hey, ladies, drop it down
# Just want to see you touch the ground
# Don't be shy, girl... #
Topping the list of resorts for UK tourists
is the Mediterranean port of Marmaris...
# Whoop, whoop # That's the sound of da police
# Whoop, whoop... #
'..where I've got privileged access
'to the hard-working local police force.'
There are some 200 police officers here in Marmaris
who keep the peace year round.
In the winter, that's fairly straightforward,
because the local population is about 72,000.
But, in the high season of the summer,
that rises to half a million.
As you can imagine, they've all got their work cut out,
whether they are in cars, on motorcycles or on foot patrols.
'And nowhere more so than the area known as Bar Street.'
'The neighbourhood has been hitting the headlines in the UK
'as a hot spot for boozy young Brits.'
More than 40 bars, clubs and tattoo studios are all squashed
into a narrow street that's barely a quarter of a kilometre long.
The booze here is so cheap!
'And the staggeringly inexpensive drinks obviously
'leave some holiday-makers vulnerable.'
Have you had many shots this evening?
-Just a couple?
-Just a couple.
-Seven or eight.
-Seven or eight?
Because every bar you go in, you get a free shot.
-And how do you feel now?
'The visible police presence here is intentionally low-key,
'but don't be fooled into thinking that this makes them a soft touch.
'The resort has piled money
'into discrete CCTV surveillance systems and, particularly at night,
'there are likely to be as many officers
'on the streets in plainclothes as there are in uniform.'
What do you look for?
-Anything that might be a problem?
We're looking for robbers or anyone.
We don't let anyone hassle the tourists.
-And then you're in to stop the trouble before it starts.
'But, despite their best efforts,
'it's impossible to keep a busy hot spot like this crime-free.
'British tourists, with their holiday heads on, are easy targets,
'and we are soon called to an incident.'
Are you having problems here?
Yeah, my girlfriend's had her purse stolen.
-Little boys asked if they could weigh us.
And while they was weighing us, they stole her purse.
And the children's Galaxy tablets.
Dale and Joanne and their kids appear to have fallen victim
to juvenile pickpockets.
Did you feel them going, or what?
-No, we didn't know until we got home.
-They was little children.
-So we didn't expect anything.
-They were not much bigger than him.
While I was looking down, one of them had their hand in my bag.
-£500 holiday money.
-We've managed to cancel the credit cards.
Guess your weight games or any kind of street entertainment
are a classic distraction tactic used by pickpockets.
And you shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that kids
are not going to be in on the scam.
That's just the false sense of security
that crooks are out to exploit.
HE SPEAKS TURKISH
Did they walk that way or that way?
I'm not sure, cos we walked off that way.
-You walked off that way.
-But we didn't know nothing had happened.
Understandably, dealing with a crime
and a foreign police system is not easy.
-That's the only place where you put your bag down?
That's why you suspect the boys?
When did you notice your wallet was gone?
Um...it must have been about five o'clock.
-You didn't see anything in their hands?
The strain and the language barrier
are all becoming a bit much for Joanne.
Well, I've not got much hope, to tell you the truth.
And Dale and Joanne aren't the only Brits
to fall foul of Turkish pickpockets.
Glaswegian Robert Lennox and his wife Janice
have come into the station to report a theft.
I lost my chain down in the market. Icmeler market yesterday.
How did that happen? Do you know?
Somebody was putting a T-shirt on my neck.
-"That looks lovely on you, sir," yes.
-And away with it.
-That's a terrible thing to happen when you're on holiday.
Looking forward to coming to the country.
It just makes you feel iffy for coming back.
It leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, doesn't it,
-when that happens.
-Oh, I'm so sorry.
Turkey's colourful and lively markets,
like the one that Robert visited,
are understandably a big draw for British tourists.
But, as with any market worldwide,
the hustle and the bustle does not come without risks.
Everyone here is so friendly and they're so lovely.
But in crowds, there's always the possibility of pickpockets stealing.
-Stealing your jewellery. You just have to be a bit careful.
-Trouble is in anywhere, in the world.
-When you have crowds.
Every day, an estimated 400,000 travellers
are victims of pickpockets somewhere in the world,
and Dale and Joanne and Robert all appear to have been taken in
by classic pickpocket scams.
Distraction is the name of the game
for these crafty light-fingered thieves.
So, beware people manhandling or jostling you in any way.
Spilling something on you is another ruse.
And some gangs will even stage accidents to grab your attention,
whilst someone else swipes your stuff.
Importantly, if you do find yourself a victim
of any sort of theft, you must go and report it to the local police.
Or else you might find that your insurers
refuse to pay out.
Sadly, it seems that Dale and Joanne will be returning home
£500 and two tablet computers light.
I have to say, it's really good to see you all looking
a lot less stressed and distressed than you were last night.
What's happened since?
They said about the boys, they said unless the boys get found
with the purse or the tablets, there's nothing they can do.
It's going to be hard to put it behind us.
But...these things happen.
'The couple have been issued with a crime number
'so they can lodge an insurance claim.
'But, of course, prevention is always better than cure,
'so Helen has some hints for how to beat the crooks.'
Each week on Holiday Hit Squad,
I'll be tackling some of the Great British holiday-makers'
most common consumer questions.
From how to avoid being clobbered by unexpected costs...
You could end up paying £200 just to have your luggage with you.
..to making the most of your money.
Having ready cash abroad is essential
if you want to have a trouble-free holiday.
And this week, keeping your precious cash
away from those sticky-fingered thieves.
12% of holiday-makers end up getting their things pinched
while they're abroad.
The most popular items - passports, cash and cards.
But you can't exactly carry a safe around with you
when you're walking about in a bikini,
so here's a few tips on how to protect your things.
Firstly, don't make the mistake of thinking
it's safer to leave your valuables in your room.
Thieves know that hotel rooms in holiday resorts
are full of tourists' stuff.
Almost a third of thefts that happen abroad happen from your hotel room.
So if you can't put your treasures in a secure hotel safe...
..you might be better off keeping them with you.
One of the easiest things to do is if you've got your passport with you,
or your credit cards, put them into a zipped compartment in your bag.
Don't leave it sitting in the top so that somebody can just grab it.
If this type of bag isn't your thing,
why not try a cheap and easy money belt,
or, a tamper-proof waist wallet?
Now, this has even got a steel waistband
so that should keep you nice and safe.
Another prime spot for the holiday thieves to strike is the beach.
These days, our beach bags can be worth quite a lot
because you tend to bring things like tablet computers, cameras
and phones to the beach with you.
And if any of them gets stolen,
you could end up losing things that are impossible to replace.
If you are planning a dip and you haven't got someone on dry land
you can rely on to keep guard of your belongings,
a beach safe is a great idea.
If you've got a sunbed or a parasol to secure it to,
you just need something heavy.
Everything goes in the bag, you just tie it on using the steel cable.
But if you can't bear to be away from your phone or your camera,
there is a way to keep it on you at all times.
Even when you're in the water.
Still to come on Holiday Hit Squad...
I investigate the rising trend in potentially deadly balcony falls.
I went to the toilet, looked in the mirror,
was like, "Dad, where's my head gone?"
Joe and I share more fabulous holiday ideas home and abroad.
It's in countless movies, it's a movie set, and it's free!
But first I continue my inspection of that hotel
that's driving Brits up the wall.
So far, we've uncovered seriously sloppy housekeeping...
A whole bucket of fast food.
You'd think the cleaners would spot that, wouldn't you?
'But things are about to get a whole lot more serious
'when we start looking into safety.'
Now, you can see, going along the corridor and that way,
there's a lot of fire doors, which is great. But everywhere I look...
-They're all propped open.
-They're all propped open.
-Doesn't make sense, does it?
-No, it doesn't.
Behind, there's a magnetic catch.
Yes, it's an automatic door closer.
So basically, you put it on there, and then if there's a fire alarm,
it activates and it shuts the door automatically.
So what's happening? It doesn't seem to work.
Which basically means it's either not working or it's been switched off.
Ah. So in the event of a fire, what would happen,
the way things are right now?
The doors would stay wide open, and the fire would progress
quite easily from one corridor to the next.
'Around the site, there are some serious signs of poor maintenance.'
When we first arrived, it was actually spinning.
It was just a blade going round. With no cover at all.
Yeah, not safe at all.
-Quite a big chunk of glass.
-Broken glass. On the poolside.
-And in the pool as well.
-And in the pool.
There's a massive scum mark all the way round the edge as well.
'But most worrying is what Vince discovers on a terrace
'overlooking the pool.'
Sometimes with balconies it's the height. It's not the height here.
No, it's a good height. Provided it can take your weight, if you like.
Then you're not going to fall to the ground below.
If I put not too much weight on this...
-It does this.
-Which is lethal, to be honest.
-It's really dangerous.
I'm not putting a lot of weight into that.
That really turns the stomach.
-That's a serious enough height to do some proper damage.
-Yeah, of course.
We need to speak to the manager about this now.
'And that's exactly what I intend to do.
'While Vince compiles a detailed report,
'I want to take manager Nicholas to task
'over some of the serious shortcomings we've discovered
'at the Anthea Hotel,
'and that potentially lethal balcony just can't wait.'
-And it's just very unstable.
-This is a hospital trip.
-Yes, for sure.
We arrange for somebody who will come
-and raise this concrete up to here.
So this will go into the concrete and it will make it very solid,
-so it will not be a hazard any more.
-So this is going to happen soon?
'So what will Nicholas make of the faulty doors in the hotel corridors?'
Your fire doors, throughout the building, are all propped open.
You have a fantastic system. Why is it not working or switched on?
The time, the maids are in sometimes,
because they go with the trolleys, they use this.
This shouldn't be used, because we need to remove it.
But it's not sticking.
-Is it not turned on?
-Oh, it is on.
If it wasn't turned on, then we should have problem.
I will see what the company who install it say to us.
It just needs someone to look at it, doesn't it?
'Nicholas promises he'll investigate
'why the automated system isn't operating.
'And instruct the cleaners to stop propping open the fire doors.
'And talking of the cleaners...'
I've seen a few different guest rooms,
and I'm not convinced that the cleaning is consistent
throughout the hotel.
And one example, unfortunately, was that there was fried chicken
left in a cupboard before guests arrived.
The rooms are cleaned for sure five times a week.
It didn't come to my attention
that something was found in a room after departure.
I've spoken to guests who say they only got their room cleaned
when they complained,
and yet you're saying they are cleaned five times a week?
I went to see three boys who were from Wales
and there were footprints all up the walls, toothpaste on the walls.
And I believe it wasn't them.
And they're paying quite a lot of money for their room.
And that doesn't seem right to me.
For sure, if this happened, it's not right.
We can see, the boys, we can send somebody to check it again.
Good news. One more thing in here, can we go through to the bedroom?
Now, I did notice on here, you have a mattress protector,
which is fantastic. And it's sort of waterproof and that's brilliant.
That's the only one I've seen.
I haven't seen any other in any other rooms.
All of the rooms should have, unless it's sent for washing.
But even that time, should be replaced.
I swear to God, every room I've looked in,
all the people are sweating straight onto the mattress.
If we need to order new ones, it's something which has to be done.
'I'm encouraged that Nicholas appears to be taking our findings seriously,
'and is promising quick action across all the areas we've identified.'
My language skills aren't great,
but I definitely heard the word air conditioning in this phone call.
Some things are being fixed immediately.
And he's even said he'll refund the Welsh lads' air conditioning
charge for the time it wasn't working.
But I'm not going to take his word at face value.
Later in the show,
I'll be back to make sure he's put his money where his mouth is,
not least when dealing with that potential death trap of a balcony.
It can happen in a flash.
One minute you're enjoying holiday heaven, the next minute,
you're plunged into holiday hell.
So every week, I'm going to be investigating
some of the potential hazards that, frankly, could happen to any of us.
From the shattering...
If people go down head first, you're looking at, possibly, fatality.
..to the terrifying.
The vehicle turned over and the lioness was approaching.
I'll discover that you aren't always as safe as you might think.
Today, a deadly problem that shows no signs at all of going away.
Having a balcony is something that we'll often pay a premium for.
But just last year,
seven Brits were killed as a result of falling from hotel balconies.
And as we saw earlier at Joe's hotel,
maintenance or construction quality might not always be
as we'd expect back home.
Today, I'm off to meet Lee Charie,
who had horrific head injuries following a fall off a balcony
in a hotel in Thailand.
Like 800,000 of us every year,
32-year-old Lee had been enticed
by the exotic delights promised by a Thai holiday.
He'd been on the island of Koh Tao,
enjoying the fantastic swimming and scuba-diving there.
Until one evening, disaster struck.
Lee, I know you won't mind me saying this, but it's pretty obvious
just looking at you, you have had a horrendous accident.
You were out with your friends that night.
What is the last memory you have?
We was basically saying see you later to some girls that we was with.
Um, everyone's smiling, happy.
I think we were all looking at going back anyway, saying our goodbyes.
And, yeah, ready to get our heads down.
And you think that you went back to the hotel to go to bed?
But you have no memory of actually going back
-or what happened next?
Lee was found in an alley,
seven metres below his hotel balcony.
He'd clearly fallen and had sustained a terrible head injury.
The Thai doctors were forced to cut away a quarter of his skull
to cope with the swelling in his brain.
Lee's dad, Peter, flew out to Thailand and Lee's first
memory after the accident is of seeing his dad in front of him.
I was like, "You all right, Dad?" He was like, "Yeah, you all right?"
I was like, "Yeah, what you doing over here?"
And he was like, "I've come to see you."
And I was like, "What, all the way in Spain?"
And he was like, "We're not in Spain, Lee, you're in Thailand."
I went to the toilet. Had a look in the mirror.
I was washing my hands, I was like, "Dad, where's my head gone?"
I didn't have a clue what had happened.
He was like, "That's why I've come over here."
No-one can be sure how Lee fell.
But it's clear that the height of the balcony wall
was far from what you'd expect here in the UK.
It was like a balcony shared between three, maybe four rooms.
With a wall, probably between a foot and two foot in width.
This is about...
-..the size of the wall. You can just...
-You can sit on it.
You can, like that. Probably about this width as well.
Lee is gradually recovering from his terrible accident,
and hopes that soon,
he'll have a plate inserted to fill the gap in his skull.
But he's hoping that his experience can be a warning
to other holiday-makers of the dangers that balconies can pose.
Well, it seems pretty clear that building regulations in Thailand
come nowhere near the standards that are required in Europe.
So, I'm off to meet an expert now
who's going to tell me exactly what those standards are
and should have been in this case.
Jeff Wilkinson is a building inspector
and consultant with 30 years' industry experience.
So, Jeff, what are the minimum standard regulations
when it comes to the height of a balcony and its design,
to keep people safe?
One of the concerns obviously to start off with
is that there is no Europe-wide, there is no worldwide standard.
The UK regulations require a minimum height
for the guarding of 1.1 metres.
If we take a quick look here,
just to show you what 1.1 metres actually look like.
You can see, that is 1,100
from the surface of the balcony to the top of that.
The reasoning behind that is about the tipping point of the human body.
Your body is naturally heavier on the top half than the lower half.
So the centre of gravity is going to be above a metre in height.
So you're not likely to accidentally tip over there.
-You can't, can you?
-It's going to restrain you.
Also, you've got to look out for the fixings.
They need to be secure and they need to withhold some horizontal force.
-So if you lean against it...
-What about the design itself?
Here, we've got glass so that people sitting down can look out,
because you want to see the view.
The rules in the UK are a maximum spacing of 100mm.
-Which is what that is?
-Which is what we've got here.
Also, as soon as you start having horizontals,
it creates a ladder effect.
-So, you could actually walk up them.
-Treat it like a ladder.
And children will be tempted to do exactly that,
so you want to try and ensure
that if it's an area where children are likely to be,
that is the wrong type of guarding.
How much responsibility do tour operators have to ensure
that balconies and safety standards are being applied in the hotels
to which they send British holiday-makers?
I think it's absolutely vital. You're taking money.
You need to ensure that the hotel that you're sending someone to
is fit for purpose.
But it's not just the balconies themselves
that are contributing to the tally of serious or fatal falls.
Later, the dangerous balcony bravado
that continues to cost an alarming amount of British lives.
There's a whole new trend in the holiday industry,
and it's called staying put.
Which is exactly what around 40 million of us did last year,
because we holidayed in the UK as well as, or, in some cases,
instead of, going abroad.
And that's twice as many as just two years before.
But can Britain really compete with the rest of the world?
# Round, round, get around
-# I get around
I've packed Helen and Joe off to find out.
# I get around
# Get around, round, round
# I get around... #
From foodie breaks...
Root vegetables, rabbit you skinned.
It's actually really nice, isn't it?
..to thrill-seeking adventures...
This is so cool. So cool!
..they're going head-to-head
in a battle of vacation versus staycation.
Tonight, a city break...
MUSIC: "Hey Ya" by OutKast
..and each of them
has got a budget of £1,200 to create a long weekend for two.
This week, I'm tackling the foreign leg,
and with all the cities on the world to choose from, where did I pick?
# Hey, ya... #
Well, New York, of course!
This place has everything.
It's got culture, history, fashion, it's got energy,
There's so much to see - this is just Time Square.
I don't know where to begin!
Oof, it's making me queasy.
And what about me? Well, I've gone for something completely different.
I've come here to Bristol, one of the highlights of the Southwest.
It's a fantastic modern city,
yet has a brilliant, rich and diverse history.
Now, you might think this is an unfair fight.
The mighty American metropolis versus the pride of the West Country.
But remember, because I've had to blow a bundle on flights,
I've got peanuts left to enjoy the delights of this city.
So, apart from a small budget, budget for food and accommodation,
I'm going to be doing NYC for free.
-# I need money
-That's what I want
# That's what I want... #
I won't spend a dime on transport or entertainment...
..while I can afford to create a much more luxurious package.
And as this is supposed to be a city break for two,
I decided to go all-out for romance.
# I'll take romance
# While my heart is young and eager to fly... #
I might be all on my lonesome,
but I think Bristol's got the power to fan any couple's flames.
All right, this is your room, Mr Crowley.
And for a romantic break, I haven't skimped on the accommodation.
Because, as I've learnt to my cost in the past,
nothing dulls a partner's ardour more than a poky B&B.
Well, I certainly knew I'd have to go it some
to beat Helen on this holiday.
Hope I haven't gone too far...
This suite, with its own private terrace, is £219 per night,
but there are of course plenty of other options
in the city for those on a tighter budget.
# These vagabond shoes... #
Talking of tight budgets, I'd have to plan ahead
to get the most bang for my buck in this city of sky-high hotel prices.
Booking in advance on the internet
can get you a room in this ultra-modern budget hotel
for £105 a night.
It's a little bit like stepping into a sort of sci-fi film.
It's very clean, it's very modern.
They're called cabins,
so they're kind of saying upfront that this is going to be small,
but it's not THAT small.
Big, comfy bed.
I mean, that is better than a lot of beds I've slept on.
And you've got everything that you need.
And yes, Joe, it's not exactly a lovey-dovey romantic environment,
but that's not what my break is all about.
This is for a couple, or friends, even,
who'll get their buzz from the city streets.
# New York, New York... #
And my hotel is right in the thick of it, which is a good job,
because I can't afford a cab.
I, however, CAN afford to splash some cash.
Because if a hotel room like mine fails to give you a romantic high,
there are other ways for a couple to get their kicks.
# Love is in the air
# Love is in the air... #
Bristol is, of course, renowned
for its world famous hot-air balloon fiesta.
And there are a number of local operators that offer flights
over the city, a fabulously amorous thing for any couple to do,
I'm sure you'll agree.
It is, of course, weather-dependent, so if, like for me,
the conditions don't play ball with you, there's an alternative way
to view this beautiful city in an equally uplifting fashion.
MUSIC: "Fly Me To The Moon" by Astrud Gilberto
What a green and pleasant land we live in.
It's stunning, it really is.
None of this urban concrete jungle of New York.
It'll cost upwards of around £300 for two
to get this unique view of the city.
This is so exciting.
You've got the suspension bridge just there,
the floating harbour laid out in front of us.
You can see all the boats. It really is a very exciting view.
It's just so beautiful.
All right, moneybags.
But I'm not going to let my mini budget hold me back.
It's time for dinner and a show.
Two amazing things to do in New York - have a burger
and do something on Broadway.
If you want to combine those for time and money, this is the place to come.
-Hello! Welcome to Ellen's Stardust Diner.
-Follow me, OK?
Not only do you get your all-American fast food fix here,
but you're entertained by professional Broadway performers
who are all in between jobs.
This is amazing.
And it's a chance for me
to pick the brains of the Marsden family, who are here on their hols.
It's quite an expensive flight to get here.
But have you managed to find anything to do that doesn't cost anything?
Central Park, John Lennon's memorial... Grand Central Station.
There's all sorts to see. It's just a wonderful place.
As long as you're prepared to walk.
-Has it been worth it? How would you rate this holiday?
-Every penny, yeah.
-Every penny, yeah.
It wasn't cheap for us, but...
-Every penny, every blister's worth it.
-Every blister's worth it.
I'm going to take their advice straightaway.
# Walk this way... #
Come this way.
We are entering one of the most impressive public buildings
in the world.
Three quarters of a million Americans come through here every single day,
because it's a train station - but not just any train station.
This is Grand Central Station.
I bet you're already thinking, "I've seen that!
"It's in that movie, it's in that movie..."
It's in countless movies.
It's a movie set, and it's free!
# Just gimme a kiss... #
Genuinely, without sarcasm, I really wish Joe was here,
because I want to try this thing where you whisper into the walls,
and apparently it bounces across the ceiling
and you can hear it in the other corner.
And I'm not the only one who thinks this - look over there.
Guys, will you go into the corner and whisper?
How is your holiday going?
'Good so far.'
Oh, yes, I can hear him!
'Where are you from?'
England. Where are you from?
Now, you guys are clearly here as tourists,
-cos you're doing the tourist thing.
What, for you, makes New York interesting?
I just love its busy-ness.
It's in your face, it's hectic, it's the city that never sleeps.
# New York
# Are you tuning in?
# New York
# Are you tuning in? #
So far, I'm right up to the wire with my budget,
but I've still got loads of free New York City adventures
to come later in the show.
Feeling nervous, Joe?
Don't worry, Helen, my budget's still looking fairly healthy.
And while you run yourself into the ground,
I'll be taking things at a much more pleasant, leisurely pace.
This is supposed to be a city BREAK, after all.
I reckon after three days slogging it round on your trip,
you'll need another fortnight's holiday to recover.
Earlier in the programme,
I started looking into the appalling number of deaths
and serious injuries that occur as a result of falls from balconies.
Now, one unfortunate victim was Lee Charry, who had horrendous
head injuries as a result of an accidental fall in Thailand.
It's clear that the height of the wall on Lee's balcony
fell way short of what we would expect here in the UK.
But it's not just poor balcony design that's costing British lives.
Last year, seven deaths and several serious injuries occurred.
And many serious accidents appear to be as a result of ill-judged
Despite the horror stories, over the last couple of years,
the terribly dangerous holiday craze of "balconing",
leaping from balconies into swimming pools, has been growing.
So, just what are the holiday industry doing to help protect us,
either from our own foolishness or dodgy balcony construction?
Gillian, the statistics for the number of people
who have accidents on balconies - badly injured, killed, even -
are growing every year,
which suggests that ABTA members are not taking this seriously.
We're taking it very seriously, actually.
We launched a campaign with the government at the end of the summer
last year, when we saw this was becoming more and more of an issue,
to try and prevent these accidents happening.
Although they are quite isolated, as you say, when they happen,
they can be very tragic,
so we really want to try and prevent them as much as we can.
So, what are you doing as a trade association
to ensure that your members actually try and tackle this issue?
Well, as a trade association,
we've produced guidance with the Foreign Commonwealth Office,
created posters, we've done a radio campaign,
we've got posters for our members to hand out in their welcome meetings,
when the reps - particularly in the youth resorts -
when they hold their welcome meetings,
to warn people of the dangers of mixing drink and balconies,
and what can happen.
We've been working since 1999 on the issue of balcony heights,
and we have guidelines in place
giving recommendations for balcony heights and what they should be,
and the distance between different railings.
Because although in the UK we have very good health and safety
in building regulations,
it's not always to the same standard in destinations abroad.
You don't want people to spoil their holidays -
they pay a premium for having a balcony in their room,
-and they've got a balcony because they want to look at the view.
But you've got to get that message across, haven't you?
Are you absolutely convinced that you and your members
are getting that message across
as firmly and as seriously as clearly it needs to be?
Well, we're doing a lot in resorts,
but this is a relatively new campaign,
and we will be assessing it at the end of the year with
the government to see whether more action needs to be taken.
Clearly, the consequences of a balcony fall can be tragic,
but if you just use a little bit of common sense,
you can avoid coming a cropper.
So, don't simply assume that your balcony is safe.
Check the fixtures and fittings for signs of disrepair.
If you've got kids,
make sure that they can't fit through or climb up the railings.
And beware of any balcony furniture that they could use to stand on.
Balconies and booze are not a good mix.
Don't lean over balconies or climb between them,
and it should go without saying, don't jump from them.
And be aware that if you have an accident
while under the influence of drink,
it could very well invalidate your insurance.
Fortunately, most holidays run problem free,
but there are all kinds of medical mishaps that can
get in the way of us having fun in the sun.
And that's why the Holiday Hit Squad beach surgery is open for business.
MUSIC: "Guaglione" by Perez Prado
Over the course of the series, Dr Chris van Tulleken and I
will be on call for British holiday-makers
experiencing some of those common...
-You're here for the ear.
It hasn't popped from the plane.
..and not-so-common holiday ailments.
-I'll get the screen.
-Yeah, that's probably the best thing.
-Do you mind stepping out of this, Helen?
-That's all right, yeah.
-You all right?
But first up today is Jo,
with what she thinks is a mozzie bite that's mysteriously on the move.
Why have you come to see Dr Chris?
I noticed the day I arrived -
I thought, "Oh, I've been bit by a little mozzie."
Which raised itself and did the normal thing, and over the days,
I've noticed it's travelled that little bit further down my hand.
-It's had a good feast, that one, hasn't it?
I'm just thinking that maybe his family have joined in!
Fortunately, Dr Chris is an expert
in the sometimes weird world of travellers' illnesses.
When you got here, did you go to the beach?
-Did you, yeah?
It might be - and you're not going to like this at all -
is a thing called cutaneous larva migrans.
-Do you want to know what that means in Latin?
So, basically, that means a running skin worm.
And when dogs poo on beaches...
Dogs can have worms in their faeces that can get through the skin,
the larvae can get through the skin,
and they migrate around the human skin.
In the dogs, the worms can find their way to the bit of the body
they need to reproduce in, but in humans they get lost,
they can't find their way through the skin,
so they wander around under the skin,
and they get intensely itchy, and then they die
-and it's not a problem.
-That sounds really attractive(!)
It's estimated that up to 740 million people in the world get
infected with hookworm.
They usually occur in more tropical developing countries
with poor sanitation.
Some parts of Africa, South America or South East Asia.
If you think there's a risk,
you should avoid walking barefoot on the beach and handling the sand.
I saw a patient who lay down without realising it
in dog muck on the beach
-and he must have had a couple of hundred worms in his back.
Luckily for Jo, this beach is clean as a whistle,
so Dr Chris thinks her bite is more easily explained.
If I had to bet a hundred quid on it,
-I wouldn't bet on hookworm under the skin.
I think you've got a bite there
and this is inflammation going down the lymphatics.
I think for that, at the moment, since you're living with it, I would
do precisely nothing and ignore it
and crack on with your holiday, which is what you seem to be doing.
OK, no problem. Thank you very much indeed for taking a look at it.
If you're worried you might have a hookworm infection, your GP
can usually clear up the problem in a few days with commonly used drugs.
Also throwing herself on the mercy of good Dr Chris is Jean Walker, with
an embarrassing ailment that reoccurs every time she comes on holiday.
-Chris, this is Jean.
-Hello, Dr Chris.
-Jean has got a bit of an annoying problem, haven't you?
-I've got a rash under both breasts...
-OK, tell me the story about this. When did it start?
-Er, two days ago.
-OK. When did you get to Spain?
-Er, a week ago.
So it just happens every year and I don't know what causes it really.
-Does it ever happen in the UK?
-No, just when I come out here.
OK, so this is a really common problem.
Do you want to show me where it is, if you don't mind?
OK, so this is the inframammary crease, which is
just the skin fold under the breast.
-Has anyone ever given this a name for you?
It's called intertrigo.
-This is absolutely classic.
You've just got a red spotty rash.
That's fine. We can try and preserve some of your dignity.
Basically, this is really common. Boys and girls get it.
I've had it in any creases
when you go to especially hot climates where you get skin
folds that don't allow air circulation,
and you get sweat and build up of just dirt and dead skin.
You get this red rash called intertrigo and sometimes it's fungal
and sometimes it can lead to other infections,
so you can get a skin infection.
Some people with diabetes get it a bit more frequently
and those with diabetes are more likely to progress to an infection,
but you can treat it in some really simple ways.
-So, weak solutions of vinegar work if you just dab that on.
If you use tea bags to dab it on and then dry it carefully after that.
You can use some talc. And then, what is your bra made of?
-Are you wearing a cotton bra?
-This is a cotton bra.
Yeah, so cotton bra's a good thing to wear,
and just doing anything you can to allow air to circulate.
You can even put some cotton gauze in the fold just to keep it dry.
So would you suggest to go topless on the beach?
-Well, that's up to you, but, yes.
-I'm quite happy to do that.
Lying topless on the beach, especially so that
if you lie down and the breasts move up, that's no longer a crease
-and allow a bit of sunlight on it.
-Don't burn it.
That would be a really good remedy, actually. I hadn't thought of that.
OK. That's my excuse for going topless now.
I think this is the first time I've ever advised anyone to
medically go topless on the beach.
# It's too darn hot... #
Anti-fungal treatments like nappy rash cream can work
but can sometimes exacerbate the problem.
It might sound like an old wives' tale,
but a cold tea bag compress really can help,
as can a weak vinegar solution.
But the most important thing
is to keep the area dry and well ventilated,
hence Jean's bold plan to let it all hang out!
Earlier in the programme,
I sent Joe and Helen off in search of holiday heaven to see
if Britain really can compete with the rest of the world
when it comes to how we spend our very hard-earned holiday dosh.
Well, this week, the challenge is to find a city break for two
for less than £1,200.
This week, I'm championing Britain's cause and I'm suggesting using
the money you'd save on air fares to splash out on romantic
relaxation in the historic West Country city of Bristol.
While I've gone for something much less romantic
and much more high-octane.
# New York
# Concrete jungle where dreams are made of... #
New York, New York, but because I've blown
most of my budget on flights and accommodation,
I've got to find all of my fun for free, but there's plenty to be had.
There are free board games to play, free books to read.
What's not to love?
All the major museums have days or times where entry is free
and, despite New York being absolutely enormous,
if you've got a bit of energy and some comfy shoes,
central Manhattan is a very walkable city.
OK, so welcome to the Today programme.
This is a free thing to do in America
and I will be amazed if Joe can top this.
# It's a beautiful day. #
For more than 60 years, visitors of every age from around the world have
been coming to the Rockefeller Plaza to witness one of NBC's top shows
and hopefully get their mugs on TV.
You stand a better chance of getting on TV if you've got a sign.
Oh, my sign's in! Yes!
I can see my sign!
I've just had a really unique American experience
and it didn't cost me a penny.
And there are even free tour guides known as greeters who can take
you under their wing and pass on their priceless insider knowledge.
Would it be fair to say that hanging out with
a greeter like yourself is a way to get under the skin
of New York, see something different and hang out with a New Yorker?
Definitely. That's the whole idea of the programme.
Get to know a real New Yorker.
While Helen's getting blisters
hot-footing it around noisy New York,
I'm suggesting a more relaxed and intimate experience for you
and your nearest and dearest in Bristol.
# Beyond the sea. #
This restaurant is a converted boat floating in the heart of the city
and a dining experience guaranteed to pluck your heart strings.
Isn't this special?
Just sitting above the water, great view, light
glittering off the top of the water.
And it seems my romantic radar is spot on.
Now, nosey-parker that I am, I've just overheard this couple speaking,
and I think this is quite a special place for them,
so I'm just going to go and say hello.
Excuse me, guys, do you mind if I just interrupt you for a second?
I just overheard you talking.
-I understand this is quite a special venue for you. Is it?
-It is, yes.
-What happened here?
-We got married here five years ago today.
Congratulations. You'd recommend it for people visiting Bristol?
Yeah, it's something a little bit special, I think.
We just knew it was the right place for us.
I'm heading out on the water too.
The Staten Island Ferry is a free commuter service that
carries 20 million passengers a year,
but for a canny tourist like me,
it's a brilliant boat trip with stunning sights absolutely gratis.
There's Manhattan. There's the Statue of Liberty. Great view.
Great experience. Doesn't cost a penny.
I'll see your commuter ferry
and raise you one of the world's most historic ships.
It was the first iron hull propeller-driven ship to
cross the Atlantic.
In essence, it was the world's first great ocean liner.
And Brunel's SS Great Britain truly captures
the romance of the steam age.
# Rock the boat, don't rock the boat baby. #
I've got no doubts I'll be OK,
but that Helen Skelton wouldn't make it past this line.
The freedom to roam this great ship above and below the water line
makes it an acknowledged world-class must-see.
This attraction is just so compelling and so exciting.
But don't take my word for it.
This Aussie couple have come halfway round the world
and are two very happy tourists.
-Oh, it is absolutely fantastic.
It would be one of the best exhibitions I've ever seen.
-Would you recommend this?
Don't miss out because that was brilliant.
Then, of course, there's historic theatres and backstage tours.
To come here is absolutely a gift.
Not to mention a good old English afternoon tea
by the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Maybe not as big as the one in Brooklyn,
but every bit as beautiful.
The big question - where does one begin?
I reckon Bristol punches well above its weight for a bustle-free
romantic city break.
I've got a few quid to spare from the £1,200 budget.
I feel pampered, rested,
and I'm sure if I hadn't been on my own, totally loved up too.
Oh, bless him!
I'm right on the money with my budget.
I have had to use a lot of thigh power to get around, though,
and I've survived on a diet of bagels, hot dogs and pizza slices,
but that was all part of the fun.
I'm exhausted, but I will be on a high for weeks.
Sorry, Joe, but I reckon I've beaten you hands down on this one.
Now here's a dilemma.
Bristol versus New York.
No contest, Joe?
On paper, I know it sounds a little bit unlikely,
but here's the thing.
Not everyone wants it sort of big and bustly and quite full-on.
If you want to explore a city in your own time,
you want something a bit smaller, something a bit more leisurely,
somewhere you can really treat yourself cos you're not
paying for the flight, then I would thoroughly recommend Bristol.
No disrespect to Bristol, I just don't think the two compete.
There is excitement in the pavement in New York.
Well, you two seem to have made up your mind.
I'm just sticking up for British cities and Bristol is fantastic.
Well, I can say I spent quality time in both cities, but when it
comes to Christmas shopping, Joe, I know which one I'd rather be in.
I don't need to get involved in this debate. You two fight it out.
I'll just sit back and watch.
Now, I might have been thrilled with my accommodation in Bristol,
but it wasn't quite the same story
when I visited the Anthea Hotel in Cyprus.
Well, eight weeks later, I'm back to see
whether manager Nicholas has heeded mine and Vince's recommendations.
How have you been getting on?
The list, we check all problems which you saw that we needed to improve,
and I believe we're finished with the list. Everything should be OK now.
Wow, everything! That's very promising.
-Let's have a look round, shall we?
'The first thing that's immediately obvious is a marked difference
'in cleanliness, which Nikolas says is a result of him
'completely restructuring the housekeeping regime at the hotel.'
So, when I was here before, my bed had a mattress protector,
but a lot of beds didn't.
'Now I'm told they all do.'
Good, we're on the same page. We'll carry on.
'But, even more importantly,
'Nicholas appears to have taken our safety concerns seriously.
'The automatic fire doors, once propped open
'and malfunctioning, are now fixed.'
In case of any incident with having a fire, they close automatically.
Close automatically. Proper working fire doors. Fantastic.
'And all around the hotel, maintenance is vastly improved.'
This is the thing that was really worrying me last time.
What have you done?
As you can see now, the whole base is in the concrete
and it's very secure and it's very safe for all our guests.
Last time, I couldn't put my weight on there
and now I can.
Well, I've got to say, I'm very impressed with Nicholas
and this hotel.
They've taken all our suggestions really seriously
and now I think they're in very good shape for next season.
I reckon I'd call that a result.
Well, that's it from the Holiday Hit Squad for this week.
Coming up on next week's programme:
I go toe-to-toe in a battle with Joe to find the best family beach
Oh, we've got a huge one!
-It is absolutely stunning. There's no other word for it.
I investigate how a trip to a water park can end in a smash,
as well as a splash.
I was in that much agony, I knew I'd broke it
because it was completely twisted round the opposite direction.
And I check into another hotel that's been driving Brits barmy.
What would you say to people looking to come to this hotel?
-No, don't come.
Till then, from all of us on the Hit Squad, bye-bye.
Angela Rippon, Helen Skelton and Joe Crowley explore how to make the very best of a holiday break and along with the toughest hotel inspectors in the business investigate how to make sure holidays across the globe live up to their promise.
Angela investigates the perils of hotel balconies, hearing from a young man whose fall from a balcony in Thailand left him with horrific head injuries, and is on call with the Turkish police in the holiday resort of Marmaris where she meets a young family who have fallen victim to juvenile pickpockets.
Joe calls in expert help to reveal the hidden horrors of a Cyprus hotel which has been slated online by British holidaymakers, while Helen gives tips on how to avoid the holiday crooks and assists Dr Chris van Tulleken in a pop-up beach surgery, helping British holidaymakers with common and not-so-common holiday ailments, including what appears to be a mysterious moving mosquito bite.
Plus, reporting on some of the very best holidays at home and abroad, Joe and Helen go head-to-head to find the best city break. In the battle of vacation versus stay-cation, can Bristol ever hope to compete with New York?