Author Archives: Layla Daniels

Layla Daniels

About Layla Daniels

Layla Daniels is a 29-year-old government politician who enjoys listening to music, helping old ladies across the road and glamping. He is intelligent and reliable, but can also be very cowardly and a bit impatient.

Choosing between international Baccalaureate and international A-level school

The school you enroll your child into will determine his performance and productivity. Parents in Singapore are faced with the dilemma of choosing between the numerous schools that are there.

Due to the fact that children from international schools perform better academically, a lot of parents are considering enrolling their children into one of the prestigious international schools in Singapore.

When it comes to choosing an international school, parents will have to choose between international Baccalaureate or an international A-level school.

If you are serious about your child adapting and excelling in Singapore’s education system, you should check out GESS. They offer a wide range of programmes, such as the IB diploma, and cater from kindergarten to high school. For a holistic Singapore International School, you should check out GESS above.

Choosing between these two can be very difficult, obviously because they both have a very high academic standard.

The following article by theasianparent will arm you with all the information you need to choose between them.

International Baccalaureate or A-levels?

The international A-levels has been considered by many experts in the field of education to be the “gold standard” of examinations for a very long time…until now.

A recent story in reports that the credibility of A-levels is under scrutiny after it was observed that the International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification is possibly academically superior, making it the new gold standard to guaranteed entrance to a good university. Read more here

You definitely are not armed with the information you need to choose between these two. But do you know that the students in IB school are doing excellently well academically?

The following article by Sassy Mama sheds light on everything you need to know about IB school in Singapore.

All about IB: Guide to International Baccalaureate schools in Singapore

Founded in 1968, the International Baccalaureate (IB) offers high quality, challenging educational programmers at three different levels in Singapore: the IB Diploma Programme (DP), for students aged 16 to 19, the IB Middle Year Programme(MYP) for student aged 11 to 16. Read more here.

You likely now know a thing or two about the international IB schools in Singapore. At this point, you probably might be wondering how your child is going to benefit from an IB school.

The following article by Bengt Rosberg discusses the benefits of an IB PYP education

The benefits of an IB PYP education

Students at International Baccalaureate World Schools are provided a unique education with a wide array of benefits. IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) students enjoy learner-centered teaching, with an inquiry-based transdisciplinary curriculum model. This means that teaching and learning are designed around what children need, and how they learn best. This stands in contrast to traditional schools, and IB schools ensure that students are not just memorizing key facts. Read more here.

Final note

As parents, it is important that you do some research so that you can determine if an IB or an A-level school will be able to handle the needs of your child. That said, new reports are showing that student form IB schools are doing excellently well academically. Well, the truth is that when you enroll your child in an international IB school he is going develop better and faster.

Tips to Keep in Mind in Choosing a Preschool

Tips to Keep in Mind in Choosing a Preschool

There are several factors parents need to consider in choosing the best pre-school for their child. Parents must give consideration to academics, accessibility, cost, teaching staff training, location, length of day and more so the child could get the most out of his first classroom experience. The decision making could be both exciting and overwhelming for parents so here are some tips to ponder on that could help in the process.

Below is an article by Kayla Webley that discusses the pointers one should keep in mind before sending his/her child in school like

7 Things You Need to Know About a School (Before You Enroll Your Kid)

            The second most important decision you will make as a parent — apart from deciding to have the kid in the first place — is deciding which school for them to enroll in. Make the right decision and you could put them on a path toward lifelong learning, a prestigious college education and a successful career. Choose wrong, and well, you know. Talk about pressure. Luckily for parents, Peg Tyre, author of The Trouble with Boys and a former Newsweek education reporter, has a new book to help parents evaluate both schools and teachers so they can find the right place for their child. Fittingly, it’s called The Good School: How Smart Parents Get Their Kids the Education They Deserve. Tyre spoke to TIME about which questions you should ask when you’re evaluating a school — whether your child is starting pre-K or switching schools in the middle of fourth grade — and why math is key in every grade. Read more …

 According to the article, the relationship between the teacher and the student is actually more essential than any other curriculum. Teachers will serve as the child’s second parents, so it is but important to make sure that your child’s teacher will help him/her grow and develop positively not only in academics but in other areas as well. The next article from Get Ready to Read enumerates more pre-school tips for parents.

Choosing a Preschool: Simple Tips for Parents

            Parents across the country, you can relax. Contrary to what you might have heard, choosing the right preschool for your child is not as difficult as applying for an advanced degree. The key to choosing the right preschool is going into the process prepared. Prepared? Yes, prepared with a solid idea of what you want your child to gain from his or her preschool experience. This month’s feature offers helpful suggestions for choosing a preschool that is a good match for your child and your family, as well as information on some of the most popular types of preschool educational philosophies. In addition, you’ll find links to checklists that you can use when visiting and comparing preschool settings in your area. 

Step One: Think about the Basics

The best way to keep from becoming overwhelmed by the process of choosing a preschool is to think about how the preschool will fit into your daily life. Here are some questions parents should consider: Read more…          

            As parents, you should have at least an idea about the so-called “educational philosophies”. Some of the most popular ones are the Montessori Method, Reggio Emilia Approach, the Waldorf Approach, the Bank Street Approach, and the High/Scope Approach. Knowing these stuff could help in making the right choices when it comes to deciding on your child’s first school. The following article from Young Parents presents several mom-tested tips in Singapore.

8 mum-tested tips on choosing a preschool in Singapore

            What should you look out for when choosing a preschool, childcare centre or kindergarten for your kid in Singapore? We asked eight mothers for their best advice. Learn from their tips. 

“The first preschool I enrolled my older son in was highly recommended by an acquaintance. I didn’t think to enquire about the curriculum, and since the fees were a pocket-busting $1,500 a month per child, I blindly assumed that it was an excellent school.
“After more than a year – yes, it took me that long – I realised that my son wasn’t learning a whole lot. I transferred him to another school, but he struggled for a while as he had a lot of catching up to do. Had I reviewed his first school’s curriculum to start with, he wouldn’t have been at such a disadvantage.” – Collette de Souza, 37, stay-at-home mum with two kids aged nine and seven.
Read more…

With so many schools to choose from, the dilemma could really be huge especially with so many factors one should consider. In all these decision making processes parents have to go through for their children, it is important to note that all these are for the child’s best interest. Parents must also respect the academic, emotional and social capability of the child before sending him/her off to school at an early age.

Benefits that the Spanish Language Provides

As a globally spoken language, learning Spanish provides a handful of beneficial advantages when it comes to different areas in life. It is especially useful in the business industry where one could meet people from different parts of the globe. Whether as an employer or an employee, being bilingual proves to be helpful in building connections with potential clients and leaving great impressions.

If you are looking for a Spanish course in Singapore, you should check out Berlitz Language School. They are one of the most established and oldest language schools in the world, and they offer a wide range of language courses and at varying proficiency levels. If you want to learn Spanish seriously, you should check out their site here:

The following article by Amanda Macias and Gus Lubin enumerates reason why it is important for us to learn Spanish.

6 Reasons Why Everyone Should Learn Spanish

We’ve read the arguments for learning French, but let’s be honest: Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, or any other language with growing global importance would be a better choice.

Spanish may be the best choice of all for a second language, which is why its popularity in schools is soaring worldwide.

Here are some reasons why you should estudiar.

  1. Spanish isn’t a foreign language anymore.

In the U.S., Spanish is rising ahead of any other non-English language at a rapid pace, with a steady flow of new immigrants from Latin America and growth in the already large Hispanic population. According to a Pew Research Center report, an estimated 37.6 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish as their first language and analysts predict the Latino population will reach approximately 128.8 million by 2060, likely making it the largest Spanish speaking country in the world. Proportionally, Hispanics will rise from around 16% of the U.S. population in 2010 to 30% by 2050. There are countless reasons for wanting to improve communications with such a big portion of the country, including things as simple as expanding your dating pool on OKCupid. Read more here…

Now we have seen a handful of reasons why learning Spanish is beneficial. Aside from the rise of Spanish speakers around the world, learning the language also provides help in boosting one’s career and could be useful in leisure especially when traveling to foreign countries. In the next article by Dilek, we could find other reasons why Spanish is beneficial personally and economically.

Benefits of Spanish and its Economic Value

Spanish has become the second most taught language in Europe, replacing French and German, a result of its high demand in international relations.
Although most European countries have been going through a crisis, language education has never been an obstacle for personal development. On the contrary, the business world shows great interest in Spanish speaking people.

Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world in terms of native speakers and considering the number of Spanish speakers spreading all over the world, it is no wonder that the demand for the language is increasing as companies try to reach Spanish consumers. In the United States, many companies use Spanish in commercials and there are many TV channels that broadcast in Spanish. During the last US elections the importance of campaigning in Spanish reached a new level as candidates tried to reach the large Hispanic population via Spanish television and radio. Barack Obama has also mentioned the importance of the Spanish language and his regret for not having paid more attention to learning it. It is commonly believed that within 15 years, the USA will have a Hispanic president.Read more here…

Not only is it helpful personally, but it also helps boost a country’s economy. It opens a wide array of opportunities for individuals and business establishments. One must know and make use of the advantages learning the language provides. In the following article by Studio Espanol, we will further dwell on the gains of mastering the language in the business world.

Top Three Benefits Business Spanish Classes Provide

Often, we think about Spanish language school as a place for individuals to turn when they want to personally enrich their life. Not as many people associate Spanish learning with businesses. However, did you know that having your employees learn Spanish can greatly benefit your business? Here at Studio Español, we work with businesses who are interested in improving their company’s resources through empowering their employees with this useful language. We work with companies of all sizes, as any business can benefit from bilingual employees. Some companies we have worked with in the past are the following:

Whether you are running a large operation or you have a small team of employees, enrolling in Spanish lessons geared towards businesses could provide you a plethora of worthwhile benefits.

#1: Improved Communication With Clients

In many industries, you will be dealing with clients on a global level. When you are looking to make business deals across our country’s borders, it is crucial you know how to communicate with your clients clearly and effectively. Although technology provides an array of translation options, there is no substitute for having employees who speak your client’s native language. When you use a translation tool, you can communicate to a degree. However, language is more complex than the literal, translated word. Read more here.

Learning the Spanish language proves to be useful especially in dwelling with business endeavors. Not only does it help improve client relationship but it also helps in improving communication with Spanish speaking business partners and leads to the empowering of business managers that seek to  progress in their leading skills.

Choosing the Right Preschool for Your Child

Education is one of the most important things that a person must have. Every parent’s dream is to send their child to a good preschool which good teach their child well. There are a lot of things to consider and we have to be extra careful about each detail. We have to know everything about the curriculum and the whole program. We have to see to it that every effort and every penny we are about to spend would be worth it.

One such school in Singapore is My Little Campus, which caters to infants to kindergarten children. They are notable for their primary school preparation programs, that teaches kindergarten children linguistic, Mathematics, Science, and social skills to prepare them adequately for primary school. You should definitely check their site above if you are serious about helping your child.

Young Parents will tell us about eight mum-tested tips on choosing a preschool in Singapore.

8 mum-tested tips on choosing a preschool in Singapore

What should you look out for when choosing a preschool, childcare centre or kindergarten for your kid in Singapore? We asked eight mothers for their best advice. Learn from their tips.


“The first preschool I enrolled my older son in was highly recommended by an acquaintance. I didn’t think to enquire about the curriculum, and since the fees were a pocket-busting $1,500 a month per child, I blindly assumed that it was an excellent school.

“After more than a year – yes, it took me that long – I realised that my son wasn’t learning a whole lot. I transferred him to another school, but he struggled for a while as he had a lot of catching up to do. Had I reviewed his first school’s curriculum to start with, he wouldn’t have been at such a disadvantage.” – Collette de Souza, 37, stay-at-home mum with two kids aged nine and seven


“One of my son’s preschool mates kept kicking and hitting him. Instead of bringing the problem to the attention of this boy’s parents, or making it clear to the boy that his behaviour was inappropriate, the teacher did nothing. Before you enrol your child in preschool, ask how the staff handles problems like these.” – Catherine Tan, 39, events director, and mum to a four-year-old. Read more here.

Some of the tips mentioned above are about quality vs. quantity, location, communication, and bullying. Parents should really look into bullying.  They should make sure that they have rules regarding bullying and that they are strict about it. For additional information, American and New Zealand Association will tell us five more tips for choosing a preschool in Singapore.

5 Tips for Choosing a Preschool in Singapore

You arrive in Singapore. You have to find a home, your way around, friends, create a new ‘life’ and of course, find a school for the children. Navigating the world of Singaporean preschools can be overwhelming. There are over 500 preschools in Singapore ranging from the local preschool at the end of the road to preschools incorporated into the larger international schools. Where do you start?

We have compiled these 5 Top Tips to help you steer through the world of preschools and come to the best decision for your family.

  1. What do you want your Pre-schooler to learn?

Before you start you may want to think about what you want for your child now and consider what you may want in the future too. The learning environment you want for your two year old may change when that child is four years old. Always ask a preschool which curriculum they use and make sure this is in line with your thinking as parents. There is a difference between ‘child care’ and preschools that are based on established early year curricula. Some preschools are not based on any definable curriculum or learning methodology. If you believe your child is ready to engage in early literacy and numeracy, ensure you find a preschool that actually introduces this in an age-appropriate manner. Read more here.

The five things that you have to know is what your pre-schoolers want to learn, the qualifications of the teachers are, the ratio of teachers to students, the environment, and if the students look happy. Laura Philomin

More parents enrolling children in pre-school enrichment classes

SINGAPORE — Every Saturday, Ms Carol Kow’s five-year-old son spends his day in phonics and mathematics enrichment classes, followed by a Chinese class — a full day of lessons that add to kindergarten classes he attends on the weekdays.

With limited time to spend with her children as a working parent, Ms Kow has turned to spending about S$3,000 for a term of 14 weeks on enrichment programmes for her children, including her younger three-year-old son.

As more parents are anxious to give their children a leg up in school, pre-school enrichment centres that TODAY spoke to said they had seen a substantial growth in their enrolment figures. At My Little Genius, enrolment figures for its pre-school programmes have jumped from 100 in 2008 to about 500 this year. Another centre, LEAP SchoolHouse, said it had seen an average 30 per cent growth every year over a five-year period, while Stamford Education said there were waiting lists for many of its pre-school courses. Read more here.

Enrichment centres could really contribute a lot to the development of a child. They give children additional knowledge which could be helpful for their future lessons. Instead of letting your children watch television or play games in the computer during weekend, it is better to let them have enrichment classes. Learning is active at a young age that is why parents should make sure that children learn well in school.

Preparing for Preschool

When we talk about our children and what we want for them, most parents would say that one of their dreams is to let their children finish schooling.  That is actually true and nice because it is one of the things that will make you successful. Parents then do everything to make sure that their child enters a good school which could give them good education. As early as preschool, parents should already be mindful of where they would entrust their children’s first formal education.

Mind Champs will give us an ultimate checklist of how we should choose the best preschool in Singapore.

Ultimate Checklist: Choosing The Best Preschool in Singapore

Choosing the best preschool in Singapore for your child is one of the biggest decisions you will make in his/ her tender early years. For many children, preschool is their first venture into formal education that leaves an important impact on the rest of their learning journey.

To help you choose the best preschool in Singapore that fits yours and your child’s needs, here is a handy and comprehensive checklist of 20 things to look out for.

A Focus on your child’s later stages in life

One kids preschool you should look out for is My Little Campus, which caters from infants to kindergarten children. Notable is their kindergarten programme, which has a focus on preparing children for primary school, the most important milestone of education in a child’s education in Singapore. Programmes focus on linguistics, Mathematics and Science concepts as well as life skill needed in the path ahead. You should definitely check them out if you are serious about giving your child the boost he/she needs for primary school.

 Preschool’s Background, Licence and Awards in Singapore

How long has your shortlisted preschool been around, and what license and awards has it received? Check the licences of the school by searching on the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Child Care Link.

The minimum licensing requirement by ECDA is 6 months, going up to 12 or 24 months. If your shortlisted preschool has received a 24-month licence, that’s an indication of its high quality.

In addition, look out for the quality assurance framework Singapore Preschool Accreditation Framework (SPARK) mark, as it is another sign that the preschool provides excellent childcare service. Read more here.

Some of the things that we should look out for and consider are the preschool’s background, parent-centre communication, location and transportation, curriculum, teaching methods, and many others. Now, let us try to look into this Singapore Preschool which goes above and beyond in caring for your toddler. The Finder will tell us about it.

How This Singapore Preschool Goes Above And Beyond In Caring For Your Toddler

Whether you’re a first-time parent or not, caring for your tiny tyke is no child’s play.

Take a tip for two from Kinderland’s specialised infant and toddler care programme, offered exclusively at four infant centres – Hougang, Ministry of National Development, Republic Polytechnic and Sengkang. It provides a supportive and safe environment for your child to develop mentally, socially and physically.


Tiny tots need to eat well to grow well. Which is why Kinderland has its own in-house nutrionist who plans wholesome and healthy food that is customised to the infants’ ages.

Proper nutrition is essential for the children’s development, according to Kua Jo Ann, Kinderland’s Food, Nutrition and Hygiene specialist. “Different nutritious foods are introduced at each stage that benefit an infant’s growth and let him or her learn about different types of food,” she explains. Read more here.

            Kinderland’s preschool program focuses on nutrition, safety and learning. These are actually really important things that a parent must look for in a preschool. Now, let us try to move to a different topic which is about surviving the first day of preschool. The Asian Parent will give us tips about it.

Surviving the first day of preschool

Interest your child

A few days before the start of preschool, let your child pick out his own bag, set of notebooks, pencils and other school supplies. If he is excited about using his new supplies, he’s less likely to cry or get nervous on the first day.

Don’t rush

On the first day of school, you and your child should wake up earlier than usual. Eat breakfast unhurriedly. Go through your child’s normal routine at his own pace so he won’t feel harried or stressed. Allow your child to pick out his own clothes too. If he is comfortable with his appearance, he would be more confident in preschool. Read more here.

The first day of preschool is really an important event because it will also be the first day your child will be entering school and the first day that your child will be away from you for school. The Asian Parent provided us with seven tips to handle the first day of school which includes not rushing. Preparing for your child’s first school really takes effort. You have to prepare them for it and you have to guide them all the way.

Ideas For Master Bedroom Interior Design

Decorative stone is becoming an integral a part of designing homes and other architectural buildings. This style is often referred to as Feng Shui, which is now very popular. In lieu of purchasing costly furniture or to add new scopes to your home, a far more affordable and easier way can be done – purchase some well planned accessories that can bring out the best inside your home.

There is much more to a developing a property than merely splashing money on objects to produce material value. There should be contrast inside the colors, as with all the cypresses and olives. Using the latest advances in 3D technology, even beginners will believe it is an easy task to plan and visualize design ideas.

Completely portable dog houses are the ones given by Petmate. A cottage garden can be d in a lot of ways. Interior designers love to make use of curtains as against blinds, as there is indeed much more to choose from.

Exhibition Designs are important for almost any participating company in a trade show as it will help in attracting crowds and will impact the visitors immediately. Even if the tattoos are tiny, you may be required to pay for it with makeup or airbrush before a shoot or appearance. It means using products which are natural and bring the forest indoors. It can be that easy.

DON’T forget that you are lucky to possess the possibility to live in a residence using a yard that can be turned into something magical. There are some tips and tricks to rendering it a bit easier, but many would suggest having it done by a professional to save lots of yourself the time and cash that might be necessary to fix mistakes. Curtains don’t have being for your traditional household, they can work just also in a modern apartment with floor to ceiling windows. There are a few guidelines to which makes it a bit easier, but most would suggest having it done by way of a professional to save lots of yourself the time and cash that might be needed to fix mistakes. The number might seem small however the overall profit has reached 87 million m A study has predicted annual growth of 2% in volume by 201 The growth in the UK alone it is estimated to become around +8%.

Go with a theme by using interesting family room paint schemes. There needs to be contrast inside the colors, as with the cypresses and olives. For instance, you may hang a photo depicting people eating or of food within the kitchen, or attach a label to the entry way reminding the patient to lock doors.

Photo Sources: Casa Batllo – Photograph by David Alan Harvey. home-decorating-reviews. . interior decorating and design in Lake Tahoe.

Gap Year Gaps: Island Hopping in Greece

A year can be a long time – just because you’re working or volunteering abroad doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a vacation. In a new feature, Gap Year Gaps will explore the best ways to break up your gap year with some extracurricular travel.

Gap years are all about cramming in as many once-in-a-lifetime experiences as you can into a twelve-month period. So whether you’re working in an orphanage in Romania or learning Italian in Milan, you’ve still plenty of time to get out there and explore the wider world. To that end, we’re taking a look at exploring the vast archipelago that constitutes the Greek islands this week.

Whether package holidays are your thing, or you prefer just to hop on a plane and fend for yourself once you reach your destination, the Greek islands cater to travellers of all tastes. While certain islands have gained an undeserved reputation for partying and excess in recent years, the Greek islands as a whole have way more to offer than just cheap booze and musty clubs. Here are a couple of reputation-defying vacation ideas:


History buffs looking at holidays to Greek islands inevitably hit upon Rhodes as a destination, given its wealth of ancient ruins and artefact-laden museums. The fabled Colossus of Rhodes might be long gone (though talk persists of it being rebuilt), but there are plenty of incredible historical sites to visit – such as the acropolis of Lindos, an ancient coastal citadel dating from 300 BC that changed hands between the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Ottoman Empire. Beyond the World Heritage delights of Rhodes City, intrepid hikers will find that the island is filled with unspoilt terrain, with rugged ravines and hidden beaches that demand exploration.


The volcanic island of Santorini is about as far away as you can get from the clubs and general hubbub of cities like Faliraki and Malia. The island’s several villages are all built around the caldera of a volcano, yielding incredible views, while the rest of the island is relatively untouched, so you don’t have to travel far to find spots of unspoilt Mediterranean beauty – such as the island’s black, white and red beaches. If you’re interested in avoiding the tourists, avoid the villages of Fira and Ia during the summer, as cruise liners dock here daily and offload their cargo. However, once the sun sets (or peak season ends) and the tourists depart, Fira and Io remain charming hillside towns with excellent local food and a laid-back attitude.

Crete Package HolidaysThe largest of the Greek islands, Crete is easily the most diverse, both in terms of landscape and in terms of attractions. Outside of the big cities, Crete is a walker’s paradise, with highlights such as Samaria Gorge (Europe’s largest), the ruins of ancient Knossos, and Europe’s only palm tree forest on the east coast of the island. Given the island’s popularity, coupled in with substantial transport infrastructure for an island of its size, last-minute cheap Crete holidays are fairly easy to find all year round. Though be warned: Crete is host to around 25 per cent of Greece’s entire tourist trade, so avoid the north coast of the island and its monolithic hotels and cocktail hours if you prefer the pastoral and historical.

12 Blogs Of Chrismas Day One in Lapland

Every winter, as many as 200,000 Brits travel to Finland’s Lapland to meet Santa Claus, go skiing, snowmobiling, ride reindeer-pulled sleighs or experience a husky safari. Santa’s village is located on the Arctic Circle, north of which the sun can be seen even at midnight during the summertime.

During the winter, however, the sun stays below the horizon for most of the time and in midwinter, or the twilight period, light is provided by the moon and stars as well as the magical Northern Lights and a clean, bright cover of glistening snow. Santa’s village is particularly popular amongst families, who can visit Santa’s main post office, the Christmas exhibition and Santa’s Ice Park as well as taking part in other wintery activities.

Northern Lights

Lapland’s pure and clean snow cover provides a magnificent setting for all kinds of activities and adventures; those who visit Lapland say that more memorable adventures are hard to find. Most of these adventures pass off without incident, but things do sometimes go wrong. The most serious accidents, in addition to skiing injuries, happen on snow mobile safaris. Snow mobiles have powerful engines and can travel at over 100km an hour – and without a seatbelt on difficult terrain many Brits have lost their lives. The competitiveness of groups of younger men in particular can have catastrophic consequences.

Another thing to remember when visiting Lapland is the quickly changing temperature; the weather can be fairly mild one day, but plummet to minus 35°C (minus 31°F) the next. It is important to check the temperature every morning and to dress accordingly. In fact this is a national pastime and if you spend any length of time in Finland, you will notice that Finns are obsessed with the temperature and thermometers are everywhere: outside every home, on billboards, shops… It is easy to see why this is so – it is not uncommon for tourists to return from reindeer and husky safaris with severe frostbite and even hypothermia. So do dress warm, wear several layers of thermal clothing and plan your activities carefully – if the day is particularly cold, it may be a good idea to postpone your trip into the wilderness.

Down south in the consular section in Helsinki, we also deal with dozens of Brits every winter who intend to get married in Lapland. Kakslauttanen near the Russian border, just over 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, is a particularly popular destination for British couples. If you do want to get married in a snow chapel and spend your wedding night in a futuristic glass igloo, do remember to prepare well and have all the paperwork in order. Sometimes during the excitement of wedding preparations British couples forget that they must produce a “certificate of no impediment” when getting married in Finland. Please check our website for more information on how to obtain one.

On the whole, wintery Lapland is a wonderful place to visit. So come and visit Santa Claus, but wrap up well and do take care whilst you’re here!

Laura Hakala, Vice Consul, Helsinki

Gap Year Gaps: Skiing in North America

A year can be a long time – just because you’re working or volunteering abroad doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a vacation. In a new feature, Gap Year Gaps will explore the best ways to break up your gap year with some extracurricular travel.

Everyone needs a holiday – even if you’re on a disaster relief project in Jamaica or teaching English in Canada, a ski holiday with friends can make for the perfect break.

We’ve scoured the range of ski holidays available this winter and settled on easily the best two resorts in North America: Vail Ski Resort in Colorado, and Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. Both resorts offer established and beginner skiers the chance to experience skiing on inspirational slopes, and the opportunity to explore other sports and activities, in breath-taking surroundings.

Vail Ski Resort

Whistler Ski Holidays, CanadaVail Mountain is a massive 5,289 acre resort nestled in Colorado – the largest single mountain resort in the US, second only to Whistler Blackcomb in terms of total trails in North America. There’s a slight bias in the number of trials geared towards advanced and expert skiers, making it the perfect spot for the seasoned snowhounds to hit the slopes. That’s not to say beginners don’t get a look in, with a variety of ski lessons and entry slopes to suit skiers of all ability levels.

In a first for USA ski holidays, Vail Resort is taking inspiration from the world of video games this season – each ski pass will be equipped with a radio transmitter, which will track things like your total vertical feet skied and upload them to the web. The purpose? You’ll earn special virtual achievements and gain levels like in a video game. In future, Vail Resorts says it will be expanding the programme to allow dedicated skiers to unlock special rewards and resort perks. Neat, non?When it comes to the best skiing holidays in Canada, let alone North America, Whistler Blackcomb is pretty much at the top of the list. Certainly, its statistics speak for themselves. The resort is 50 per cent larger than its nearest rival, its lift about to cope with 65,507 skiers per hour, while an amazing 2 million visitors hit the slopes annually – making it the most-visited ski resort worldwide. It even sports an epic vertical run of some 11km (or 7 miles if you prefer) – a world record until 2009.

Whistler Blackcomb

When it comes to the best skiing holidays in Canada, let alone North America, Whistler Blackcomb is pretty much at the top of the list. Certainly, its statistics speak for themselves. The resort is 50 per cent larger than its nearest rival, its lift about to cope with 65,507 skiers per hour, while an amazing 2 million visitors hit the slopes annually – making it the most-visited ski resort worldwide. It even sports an epic vertical run of some 11km (or 7 miles if you prefer) – a world record until 2009.
Technically two mountains (the Whistler and Blackcomb resorts merged in 2007), Whistler Blackcomb caters to all levels of skiers and snowboarders, and is home to a mind-blowing 200+ trails, five terrain parks, one super pipe and one half pipe. While the resort’s world-class ski and snowboarding facilities are deservedly renowned, it’s Whistler Blackcomb’s extensive après-ski amenities that keep folk coming back. When you retire from the powder, there’s Whistler proper, a picturesque fairytale village located that supports the resort with over 130 restaurants and 200 shops.

So Why Wait?

Whatever you do on your gap year, remember that you have to look after the most important person, you. You do deserve a break from it all from time to time, so why not take your friends on a group ski trip to relax and unwind? It could just be the best decision you make this winter.

Uncharted: Japan’s Hinterland and Snow Monkeys

Uncharted: a new series dedicated to exploring the hidden gems of the globe. We’ll help you find secret destinations that elude the majority of travellers. Today’s entry takes us to the remote countryside of Japan to meet an amazing relative.

Japan is becoming a very popular destination for people on gap years. Thanks to the boom in cheap Asia flights, huge numbers of plucky travellers come here to work on volunteer projects or to learn Japanese. If you have a week off from your course or project, you should definitely consider heading into Japan’s hinterland. With a wide variety of climates and geographical features you’ll discover some amazing uncharted locations, fantastic views and, if you look in the rights place, the amazing Snow Monkeys of Japan.

Into The Mist

Japan AirfaresJapan is a huge country with a wide range of climates and rugged geographical features. Indeed, over 70% of Japan’s area is unsuitable for agriculture or inhabitation. This has resulted in densely populated cities, and a sparsely populated countryside. If you take the train from the cities and into the hinterland you will discover an amazing world of dramatic scenery and panoramic views. Mountains, mist, tiny towns and encounters with friendly locals will be your reward if you choose to explore these remote destinations. One particular area to check out is the Central Highlands, which is home to the Japanese Alps; hiking up some of these stunning mountains will literally take your breath away.

If you do head into a remote area make sure you have a guidebook, a camera, some good hiking boots and a bit of the local language – great hikes and conversations in broken Japanese await you if you leave the cities and choose to wander into the countryside.

A Warm Bath On A Cold Day

Japanaese MonkeysCheap airfares have made getting to Asia relatively easy. However, you wouldn’t want to come all this way without seeing some spectacular wildlife, and if you head into the Japanese countryside you’ll have the chance to see something very special. Japanese Macaques are the northernmost living primates (apart from humans of course) and must survive winters which get as cold as -15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit). Not only are they hardy, these animals are incredibly clever. So smart that they found a solution for their frosty habitat: a nice warm bath. In Snow Monkey Park, which is located in the Nagano prefecture, you’ll be able to see them as they bathe in thermal spas. By huddling in these locations the monkeys can survive the cold hard winters; it’s not all torment though as you’ll see the monkeys splashing and playing in the warm waters. Snowball fights have yet to break out amongst the primates though, if we understand Darwin correctly, it’s only a matter of time.

Such an amazing site would normally be tracked out by thousands of visitors per day. However, the thermal pools can only be accessed by a two kilometre path. This trail in combination with the park’s remote destination, mean you’re likely to be one of only a few visitors to the site.

Unchartered Japan

So if you are in Japan on a volunteer project, a course or just there to sightsee, be sure to get out to some of its more remote areas. There are literally thousands of tiny unheard of destinations which will prove to be rewarding for their views, people and food. Make sure you don’t miss out on the Snow Monkeys, and be sure to let us know if you see them throwing snowballs.