Category Archives: Travel tips

Internet traps for the unwary

The internet has revolutionized our lives.  It is difficult to imagine life without it now.

But there are somethings best left to the experts.  In the past few days I have had a client who always books with me panic because they thought they would miss out on a fare that ended on a public holiday long weekend.   Instead of calling me -and I look after my clients even on long weekends, he booked an airfare online and only after paying for it realised the layover was something close to 23 hours!

A quick call to me – what do we do?  As I was not holding the booking he had to ring the airline and asked if he could void the ticket.  No sir, that is not possible.  Unlike travel agents who CAN void a ticket on the same day as it is issued, the internet booking engines do not allow that.  Instead he had to pay almost $300 to change to the flights I would have booked him on in the first place had he asked me!

A professional can help you navigate the huge range of possibilities, and even better do it for you, so any mistakes are avoided.


High Season Blues

For many people travel is restricted to high season simply because they work or have children in school at other times.  This means that flights and often accommodation are at premium prices  and that makes it harder to get away at a reasonable price.

There are ways around the worst of this if you are clever.

First – book early.  You can book 11 months and 11 days out from from your date of return so if you know your dates, book as soon as you are able and you should be able to get the best available fare.  The closer to departure date you leave it, the more seats will be sold and the higher the prices will be.

Second – try airlines that go through different places.  If time is not at issue, having an airline that takes you through two different transfer points will often be cheaper than the direct lights with just one change.  And you will be able to take advantage of different stopovers if you wish.

Third – frequent flyer seats are the cheapest if you have sufficient points because you just pay for the taxes.  Getting in as soon as the flights are available is the only way to go at peak times because seats are limited and WILL sell out.

Travelling on Christmas Day is often cheaper than at any other time in December since almost no-one wants to fly on Christmas Day.  That means there will be more seats and prices will be lower.  If you are travelling to the USA, Canada, South or central America you will actually arrive on the same day as you leave so you get two Christmas Days.  It can save you significant amounts of money.shortbread-002

A bit of pre-planning can make the difference between having a great trip without breaking the bank, or even travelling at all.

N is for New Zealand The North Island

New Zealand offers something for everyone.  Compact enough to see in three weeks, diverse enough to spend six months and still not see everything, it is a treasure trove of things to see, do, experience and explore.  Like Canada, this will be a two parter.

If you are going to visit New Zealand and want to do it over two trips, start with the North Island.  Auckland is the main gateway in ( but not the capital city) and the North Island is beautiful in its own right.  At the top of the island the land stretches into the Pacific Ocean with countless beaches and bays and abundant birdlife.  Most tourists will go as far as the Bay of Islands, known for the Hole in the Rock cruise, dolphin spotting and some very classy getaway homes.  It is also home to the Waitangi treaty grounds where white settlers and Maori people forged an alliance to settle the land and to lovely Russell a ferry ride from Paihia great views and some fabulous craft shops.Hole in the Rock Cruise

The coastline will keep surfers happy and walkers fit.  Try Ninety Mile Beach!

Auckland is set on two bays and is as much about water activities as it is about city living.  Known as the City of Sails you can go for a sail aboard an America’s Cup boat or take the regular ferries to waterside suburbs for a look around the craft shops and a coffee at one of the many cafes.  If you are a thrill seeker have a go at the bungy jump in downtown Auckland.  New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world.

Rotorua is famous the world over for its geothermal activity, hot springs and thermal mud pools.  Soak is natural hot water, have a mud pack or massage at one of the spas, and take in the geysers and mud pools at one of the many areas around town.  This is also where you will experience Maori heritage – sample the hangi feast cooked in the ground as it has been for thousands of years – and delicious.
If you want an authentic and less touristy experience of Maori culture the Eastlands area is 50% Maori and a great place to find Maori art.


Within a 90 minute drive of Rotorua you will find Mata Mata, home to the setting and filming of The Hobbit and the Hobbiton area for The Lord of the Rings films.  Take a tour and a ride on Gandalf the bus to the filming area and see the period vege patches, the hobbit holes (doorways anyway) and the tree they tied thousands of leaves to, and marvel at the magic of film.


About the same distance away is Waitomo and its glowworm caves.  There are in fact three caves to explore.  South of Rotorua is Lake Taupo and dominating the landscape Ruapehu /Mt Tongariro.  Walks abound here in this world heritage area, the impressive Huka Falls are worth a look and the activities on the lake are endless.

If you head across to the East Coast from Lake Taupo make sure you fill your tank as there are no fuel stations on the two hour drive across.  Napier on the coast is world renowned for its Art Deco architecture, built after the massive earthquake of 1931 and do take the walking tour which is the best way to see the city.  Birdwatchers will enjoy the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers and Hawke’s Bay nearby has wineries specialising in cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and merlot.

More wineries further south in the area around Martinborough, but if you take the first road signed to Martinborough from the north you will miss the vineyards.  You will however come across a quirky New Zealand landmark – a southern hemisphere version of Stonehenge  Aotearoa.  Oddly enough it is worth the modest entry fee to see the rest of the site and explore the connections to Egyptian, Babylonian and Indus valley astronomy,  Polynesian navigation and Maori Star lore.

The wineries are well worth exploring.  Surfers will want to visit Taranaki and Surf Highway 45 with 100 kilometres of beach and great breaks.  WOMAD is held in March  in New Plymouth along with garden festivals and sporting events.  Check out the galleries and the Te Rewa Bridge.

South again to the capital city of New Zealand  Wellington.  Known affectionately as the windy city, it is home to the Te Papa Museum – absolutely a must see to learn about the seismic activity of the islands as well as its natural history.  Take the cable car ride to the top of Mount Victoria for great views over the city and to visit the Botanic Gardens.  The Zoo is small enough to enjoy in two to three hours and big enough to keep you interested.  You will be able to see endemic fauna here.  The Beehive building is the New Zealand parliament, and close by is the gorgeous Old St Paul’s church, Gothic revival in style with some beautiful stained glass windows.  Like all capital cities Wellington has arts and culture, sporting venues and a waterfront best explored by bike or on foot.

In keeping with the film culture WETA Cave is the New Zealand’s Hollywood, a must see.  And check out the World of Wearable Art festival that has been running for 25 years.

So much more is on offer in the North Island but that would take another entry.  Get out and enjoy it, and if you need help planning and booking your holiday,  I am an email or phone call away.



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.


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.

OPC 001

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.


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.


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!


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.