Category Archives: Travel tips

Safe Places to travel in 2018

As we draw towards Christmas and some much needed downtime, thoughts turn to plans for 2018 and travel.  In a world increasingly beset by terrorist attacks, volcanic ash and other disasters it can be difficult to pick a place you feel is safe and worth seeing.  So it is good to have an independent source name the top 5.

A recent survey has named the following countries as the world’s five safest to visit.

The latest top 5 safest places are as follows
1. Finland – 6.65
2. UAE – 6.6
3. Iceland – 6.57
4. Oman – 6.49
5. Hong Kong – 6.47
All great destinations. Oman and Iceland are at the top of my list with Finland close behind. I have been to the UAE and Hong Kong so I can give you first hand knowledge and experience here.

Finland offers elegant modern design, fascinating culture and easy proximity to Russia and the rest of Scandinavia, and Finnair hubbing through Helsinki is one of the most efficient airports on the planet.

Many people have hubbed through Dubai especially since direct flights began several years ago out of Adelaide, but take the time to visit.  Plan your visit for November to February for the coolest time of year, but even in summer – which can be brutally hot, everything is air-conditioned right down to the bustops.  A desert dinner under the stars will reconnect you with the vastness of the night skies and the silence of wild places.

Iceland has been on my list to see since I discovered Game of Thrones use it for a great deal of their filming, but fan or not, this is a spectacularly beautiful place.

I put together a tour to Oman a couple of years ago that did not gain traction, but it is time to revisit and put this on your list.  Beautiful, surprising, welcoming and safe, it is  FABULOUS destination.

And Hong Kong is Asia writ large – tall building, tiny villages, a bustling harbour, incredible shopping and fantastic food.

Let me help you plan a great trip to a safe place.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a safe happy break and see you in the new year.

 

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Travel update

There have been a few developments at home while I have been focussing on destinations , so here is a brief summary of the good and the bad.

Bad news – but not very!  The Departure tax for Australia has been raised by $5 to $60.  As this is part of the taxes you pay on your airfare or cruise fare, you probably won’t even notice it – at least I think that’s what the Government is hoping for!

Good news – the reciprocity fee of USD100 for entry into Argentina has been cancelled, so that is a saving for anyone travelling to South America and visiting Argentina.

More good news – As of 01 July Australian travellers no longer have to fill in the green Outgoing Passenger cards.  That’s one less thing to do, and faster times through immigration.  But just ensure all passport details are entered into every international booking to ensure all goes smoothly.    No news yet on the incoming cards.

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Baking Christmas

December 22nd and the final lot of (not gluten free) shortbread is baked and ready to be packed as gifts for family.  It is a tradition which began in 1982 more by accident than design.

In 1982 I took a year off and travelled to Europe for eight months, scratching an itch that has never gone away.  I spent almost three months in the mainland UK over two periods, two weeks in Ireland and the rest of the time in again two stretches in Europe.  Suffice to say that is where the love affair with Europe began and was cemented for me.

Because I knew I was going to be away for such an extended period I made sure of three things.  One – I would write to mum and dad every week – actually I don’t think Mum would have let me go if I hadn’t promised her would. Two I would write down the photos I took so I knew where I had been and what I had taken – I still do – it really helps!  And three – any souvenirs I bought would have to be light, preferably indestructible and able to be posted home, and I would get one decent thing from each country, not lots of things of little value.  Those decisions stood me in fairly good stead (with the exception of the delicate glass Irish harp that was smashed into smithereens courtesy of the mail).

My souvenir from Scotland was a wooden shortbread mould with a Scotch thistle pattern.  It came with a recipe for shortbread and when I returned to Australia and went through the parcels that had been sent home ahead of me, I found it and decided to try out the mould and the recipe for Christmas that year.  It took a couple of attempts before I abandoned the Scottish version and found the Australian Women’s Weekly recipe which is by far better and much easier to work.  I have been making the shortbread ever since.  In some households now Christmas is not Christmas without it.

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Over the years I have added to the mould with biscuit shapes – angels, Christmas trees, stars, snowmen, doves, Christmas canes and stockings, and then my travels added a couple of other shapes.  In Alaska I found a tiny and a large moose or reindeer biscuit cutter and while the slender legs are a bit of a challenge, they have added to the Christmas experience a little piece of Canada and Alaska.

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Travel enriches us so much.  What we take away from it is not just experience and memory, photos and people who become friends; we also collect things that become family traditions.  It was because of the people I met overseas and stayed with, and also because I was away for eight months that the same year I began my annual Christmas letter so everyone would know what I had been up to.

Whatever your Christmas tradition, in cold northern climes, or in a blazing Australian summer, have a wonderful Christmas and I will be back next year with an A to Z of destinations.

No Leave No Life

Are you one of the millions of Australian workers who has weeks of annual leave unused?

We Aussies have one of the highest levels of not taking annual leave in the world – and it is not good for us!

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Annual leave is essential for health and well being.  It allows us to relax and wind down, to rest and recharge.  It allows us to work better when we return because we are sharper and more able to deal with what life and our work throws at us.

It is more difficult to get away when you own your own business, but it is actually MORE essential you do it, because, especially if you are a solo trader, there is only you.  And it can be managed.

While it may not be possible to take the grand vacation of 6 -12 weeks right now in your business, it is possible to take a day and make it a long weekend.  It is possible to top and tail the Easter break and make it a week break.  It is possible to add a day to a public holiday and the world will not fall apart.

Doing this means you can escape for a few precious days.  Forward planning helps as flights tend to go quickly around holiday breaks, and that’s where a Personal Travelmanager comes in.  Give me a call and I can do all the planning for you.  It saves your precious time, I can find all the good deals and suggest ways to maximise your time away from work.

Think places no more than 3-4 hours flight away.  And from the east coast that includes South Pacific Islands and New Zealand as well as almost all of Australia.  From Adelaide there are direct flights of less than 3 hours to Cairns, Darwin and Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Alice Springs and Tasmania are all within reach.

This year the best Christmas present you can give yourself and your family is the gift of time.  Time spent with them, making memories you will have forever.  Time to relax and rejuvenate.  Do it for your health.  Do it for your family.  Do it for your sanity.  Do it because you deserve it.  And have a wonderful Christmas New year break.

 

Never let the itinerary rule you…

I must be a nightmare to travel with at times!  When I want to see something – especially something I have come back for, and I am told that we would not be seeing it, I do not stay silent.

That was the case when we were told we would not be visiting Fatehpur Sikri.  I was not about to have that and said so.  To their credit Total Holiday Options organised a private tour for me.  Fatehpur Sikri, about 45 minutes drive from Agra,  is a world Heritage UNESCO site dating to the 16th century and absolutely worth the visit.  It is, however, a place to do one on one or one on two with a guide not in a larger group as the hawkers are insistent and persistent in the mosque grounds.

The mosque is both a place of worship and of pilgrimage.  There is a shrine to the holy man of Sikri whose pleas for a son from the Shah at the time were answered.  All in plain white marble and beautifully carved it is where people go to make a wish and to return to if that wish is fulfilled.  A string is added to the web at the time of the request and a string cut when fulfilled.   It does not have to be the same string if you can’t remember which one you hung.

The Palace is much more peaceful and there is so much to see.  The Queen’s quarters where she spent her entire pregnancy, the 5 tiered pagoda influenced by the Chinese, a pavillion overlooking a deep water moated musicians gallery where the royal family would be entertained and the stunningly carved Treasury and Audience chambers are all beautifully preserved.

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The Shah was so grateful to the holy man that he asked what he wanted.  The holy man replied that he did not need anything because God had provided all he needed, but the village could use a permanent water supply.  The Shah duly provided a huge reservoir for the town and this continues to supply water to the town, fed only by the winter rains.

I am very pleased I insisted on seeing this fascinating site.  When you travel make sure that you see what you went for .

Too good to be true?

The old adage is probably right – if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

There are some very enticing ads around offering an all inclusive package to Bali, or Phuket or Penang or wherever for $999 pp – accommodation, all meals, transfers, massages etc etc etc.  They offer 5 star properties and it all sounds fabulous.

And it can be IF you are aware of what is actually involved in making the booking.

Did you know flights are not included?

Did you know you have to pay up front BEFORE they will confirm the booking?

Did you know you may not get your preferred dates?

Did you know if you don’t YOU have to ask THEM for a refund within 2 weeks or they keep your money?

It is just not worth it for most people.

My tip – start with your dates of travel, allowing for some flexibility of you can, then select your resort.

Do you REALLY need all meals?  Most travellers like the idea of exploring the local restaurants and the local culture.  Why pay for something you don’t need?

A package needs to work for you.  Buyer beware,and be canny.  Ask me to put something together especially for you to get best value for money and holiday to remember for all the right reasons.

Rainy day tips

 

Here in Adelaide we are in the midst of a particularly cold and wet winter.  Only a month from spring, it seems like we may never get there.  Walks get squishy underfoot and when it pours down we are less likely to venture outdoors.  Even the cat spends her time well and truly curled up and warm on the couch or my bed.  She’s not silly.

But what happens when the weather turns cold when you are on holiday?  It can be disheartening to see nothing but grey skies and wet everywhere when you really want to be setting out and about and seeing all the place has to offer.

So, some tips for rainy days while you are away.

  1. Dress for the weather. –  always pack a lightweight waterproof and windproof jacket that will save you when the weather turns bad.  My jacket kept me relatively dry in a sudden squall on Lord Howe Island and huddled with my back to the storm I waited it out until it eased and I could set off again.  If you can stay dry the world is not such a bad place.
  2. Investigate the indoor attractions. Museums and galleries, tours over old houses or inside churches and cathedrals and of course shopping malls, all provide shelter and offer insights into the culture and history of your destination.  The vergers at York Minster joke that the Minster is the world’s biggest umbrella as their visitor number swell in inclement weather.
  3. York Minster
  4. Use the weather as a good reason to check out the local cuisine. A coffee or tea in a local café will allow you to stay warm, hydrated and get to meet the locals too.
  5. Look out for the unexpected benefits of rotten weather. On my regular Friday afternoon walk a couple of weeks ago we got caught in the rain and it was cold and wet, but after it eased and we were coming back to our cars, the lavender on the side of the road was fragrant after the rain and was a bonus from the walk.  Singapore’s tropical storms do three things – they clear the streets so you have the place to yourself for a little while, they clean the streets and they cool the air and freshen the greenery.
  6. Use the inclement weather to spend some quality time with your travelling companions. Plan the next day, go over your favourite places so far,  catch up on your travel diary of labelling those photos, or culling the shots you really don’t need.

You could even shock family and friends by sending them a postcard, or emailing them.  The time out might just be exactly what you need.