Category Archives: Travel

Planning a Vacation? Don’t Forget These Essential Items for Your Next Trip

With summer slowly fading away and the holidays right around the corner it can feel like you are stuck in a limbo between reminiscing about what a great fun filled summer you had and starting get excited about all the great things that come with the upcoming holiday season. Whenever I am in this state of mind I always get the itch to start planning for holidays so that I can create some solid plans to look forward to. With a restless mind my first thought is always to plan a vacation. Some people say that vacationing around the holidays is stressful, and that if you are really going to do it right then you have to start planning pretty far in advance. However, I am of the mindset that you are able to get better deals the closer it gets, so if you are just starting to plan now you may have an advantage when it comes to pricing. No matter where you are headed, there are a few essential items you should make sure you bring with you.

Good Walking Shoes

Whenever I go on vacation I always like to spend at least one day walking around on foot. This is the best way to see a city or town sometimes, because you can miss so much when you are in a car. Everything goes by so fast and it is harder to see what is there when you look up. If you are driving the car it might be even harder because you have to pay attention to everything around you while navigating the road. Even worse, is if you are on public transportation that goes underground, you are completely missing out on everything that is going on around you and all of the landscape or architecture that there is to see. Do yourself a favor, and plan a day to do a walking tour. You can join a group with a guide, buy a tour book to go off on your own, or wing it and wander aimlessly soaking up whatever you happen to pass way. No matter how you go about it, make sure you get yourself a good pair of walking shoes from Overstock.com so you can still enjoy the rest of your vacation after spending all day on your feet.

A Durable Day Pack

One of the most essential items you can bring on your next vacation is a durable backpack that can squish down to be packed inside of your luggage. This will come in handy if you are going on a hike, a day trip, or need to stock up at the grocery store. Not only is it environmentally friendly but it is also much more comfortable than carrying around a plastic bag, especially if you have heavy items. There are plenty of options online to choose from and some larger sized travel bags even have a removable day pack attached to turn your two bags into one and maximize space.

The Main Reasons Why People Travel

These are exciting reasons. But there are deeper reasons for traveling that have less to do with what we do when we travel, and more to do with what traveling does to us. These five sets of changes to ourselves are at the heart of what makes travel so compelling.

  • Travel Enriches You, Before, During & After

The anticipation of a trip is almost as stimulating as the trip itself and the memories afterwards. Knowing what you have ahead, and imagining it in detail, lends excitement to life, and relieves the tendency to fall into a workaday rut. The more detailed the image of the trip, the more a future trip will excite you in advance. During the trip itself, daily life can be intense. Living in these moments fully, and noting everything around you, makes for heightened living. Clearly, this kind of intensified experience is a quality of a style of travel that takes you beyond the bus and out into the streets and squares, landscapes and waterways, of the places you are visiting. Independent travel is a world apart from “contained” travel.

  • Travel Broadens Your View of the World

Through travel you gain a framework for the history and significant touchstones that brought you to your current life and point in time. Now you are standing in the evil Borgia pope’s office, surrounded by the very walls that contained the man with sufficient power to write a Papal Bull-a mandate-that claimed all the wealth of the Western Hemisphere for Spain and Portugal, and secured it for the next 200 years. As you pause in the spot where that happened, the events and significance come alive with new meaning. Now you are looking down at the stairs that lead to a tunnel connecting the home of Leonardo da Vinci with the royal palace across street. It was through this tunnel that King Françoise traveled to sit and talk with his genius friend. And now you are in Bayeux, where the French William the Conqueror built his naval vessels to cross the English Channel and claim the throne of England. Each of these experiences broadens your view of the world and your firsthand sense of time and place.

  • Travel Makes You More Vibrant and Interesting

Travel gives you something to look forward to prepare for to study for and later to share. You will bring home stories. Life can get somewhat monotonous if you let it, particularly after you retire and your work life ends. Anticipation is worth at least as much as the trip itself and the memories that follow the trip. How much better to have travel stories and observations to share then to have your conversation limited to your latest doctor visits and your frustrations with the weeds in your lawn.

  • Travel Re-Energizes You

Travel, and the anticipation of travel, recaptures your enthusiasm. You look ahead with excitement instead of experiencing the dulled-over feeling that comes from repetition and routine. Travel challenges you to be at your most effective and focused level. Comfort zones may be comfortable. But it is good for you to be taken out of your comfort zones regularly. Otherwise, your social skills can begin to atrophy, and your ability to think on your feet and solve problems may decrease due to disuse.

Top cruises for a short holiday

As the holiday season comes to an end, days filled with fun and relaxation will soon be a distant memory. As work picks up again and the kids head back-to-school, it might be time to break up your routine with a short cruise. Cruises are a great option if you only have a few days because of their all-inclusive nature which removes the stress of having to plan daily activities, packing and unpacking more than once, allowing you plenty of time to actually enjoy your holiday. To make the most of a few days off and the upcoming long weekends, talk to your personal travel manager about a short haul cruise. Here are a few of our favourites.

Rediscover Fiji

Captain Cook Cruises features options such as a three or four night Yasawa Island Cruise, that come complete with child minding services to give the grown ups that all essential me-time. These short cruises are great for families because they are chocked full of activities on the many islands they visit, ranging from volleyball to snorkelling. Captain Cook Cruises’ team is also made up of many friendly Fijians who are on hand to share local secrets about their country. Also available are various accommodation tiers to suit your comfort level and budget, along with tailored packages to help make the most of your getaway.

Get your tan on in Tahiti

If you have a few extra days, consider a Paul Gauguin cruise that will show you the best of Tahiti in only a week. The small ship is ideal for an intimate honeymoon or couples retreat as it takes you to ports that larger boats can’t access, whilst providing you with five-star luxury including an on-board spa. Whether you want to sit by the pool or roll the dice at the casino, this cruise takes you on a trip of a lifetime from the moment you step on your ship till you disembark. From Moorea to Bora Bora, every day is a new adventure on a different island where you can choose from excursions such as dolphin watching or kayaking on a gorgeous turquoise lagoon.

 Put the New in New Zealand

New Zealand is the ideal short break destination as it is only a three-hour flight from parts of Australia. Whether or not you have previously visited the Land of the Long White Cloud, an eight-day cruise with Coral Princess will offer you an entirely fresh way to see New Zealand. As many of the ships’ stops are only accessible by water, cruising is the perfect way to explore. If you’re looking to walk on the wild side, this cruise has your name on it, giving you time to see the local flora and fauna in the water and on land. Say “kia ora” to the locals as you learn more about the rich Maori culture experiencing first-hand the warm hospitality and traditions of New Zealand’s indigenous history.

Shopping in Thailand for Teens

Thailand ticks many other boxes for families too, with its beautiful beaches and resorts, stunning scenery, cultural experiences and adventure sports. Choosing a holiday that entertains teenagers can be a challenge. Teenagers are not so content with splashing in a pool all day, driving around looking at scenery or the kids club. They have different needs and wants to younger children and adults when it comes to holidays, so choosing a holiday that will keep the whole family happy is important.

Local Shops

Local shops are just a short stroll from most resorts and will immediately appeal to any teenager. Teens can pick from t-shirts, sunglasses, handbags, dresses, sportswear, sports shoes, jewellery, hats, caps, local handicrafts and much more. Vendors make sure that they offer the most up-to-date and popular products to draw in these young shoppers. If local shops are not enough, there are endless shopping opportunities in multiple large shopping complexes and factory outlets, like Bangkok’s CentralWorld.

Markets

Look out for the larger night or weekend markets where you and your teens will experience a fascinating mix of shopping, food and culture. They’ll find everything they have their heart set on, and generally at great prices, from clothes and electronic goods, to souvenirs and fashion accessories.

Customised shopping experiences

You can also take advantage of the many tailors that are available in Thailand. Venessa’s son got a stylish suit made to fit for his formal for a quarter of the price that he would pay in Australia. If your teen has a picture of their dream outfit or gown, a tailor can easily make these in a short amount of time to fit them perfectly. Before you head to Thailand, be sure you ask your personal travel manager to recommend a reputable tailor.

Shopping tours

Another great option is booking an organised shopping tour. On these tours you are accompanied by a local guide who will take you to both the most popular shopping spots throughout Thailand and to some of the lesser known areas. They will assist you with getting the best bargains and often help negotiate extra discounts with some businesses.

Be shopping-ready

When planning a shopping holiday, make sure your teenagers take empty suitcases and comfortable shoes. Practice bargaining skills with your children before you go – this will make sure that they are confident negotiating prices in the markets and enjoy the process. Familiarise them with the exchange rate, practicing how to convert money and budget so they don’t blow all their money at the first store.

Top Places to Celebrate Your Honeymoon and Anniversary

Oahu, Hawaii

Referred to as the “Heart of Hawaii”, it’s easy to see why this island is a popular getaway for so many. Not only does its picturesque beaches and legendary sunsets look like they came right off a canvas, it is also home to amazing nightlife, endless amounts of water activities such as surfing and snorkelling, and shopping outlets to suit any budget. To truly experience the glory of Oahu, hire a car for a day and explore the island at your leisure. Must see destinations include Turtle Beach, Diamond Head lookout and the legendary Giovanni’s shrimp truck. But what really makes this island special is its local people, whose friendly nature welcomes visitors from far and wide.

Phuket, Thailand

Whether it’s sipping a cocktail by the beach whilst admiring the crystal blue waters, enjoying a traditional Thai massage, or trekking through the forest on the back of an elephant, Phuket is a paradise fit for all. Aside from the fact that this tropical destination has warm weather all year round and a vibrant nightlife like no other, it is a city enriched with culture and deep rooted traditions. Visit one of the many amazing temples scattered across the city or travel by tuk-tuk to the mighty Big Buddha statue where you can receive a blessing from a monk. Be sure to check out Phuket Town’s weekend night markets, enjoy some much-needed R&R and become immersed in the culture of this beachside city’s beautiful people.

Lisbon, Portugal

Think ancient castle-like buildings, narrow cobblestone streets and vintage shops, set alongside palm trees and beautifully warm weather – Lisbon is an enchanting ancient city getaway. Its 19th century style riverside markets, lively art community and beautiful cathedrals make for great exploration. Looking for a relaxing beach day?

Further afield, travel to Portugal’s southern-most region, Algarve, a coastal haven all about leisure and relaxation. The beach at Praia de Dona Ana is a must. Take in its white sand and pristine blue waters, and then head into the town for a delicious lunch at one of its many cafes and bars. The many picturesque coastal cities found along Algarve are summer havens combining a touch of old world charm with the vibrancy of Portuguese culture.

Byron Bay, NSW

A little closer to home is the coastal town of Byron Bay known for its immaculate beaches, amazing scenery and laid back lifestyle. While visiting this coastal paradise, check out Cape Byron Lighthouse and watch the sun rise above the horizon. From kayaking to surfing, bike riding to scuba diving, the adventurous side of you will be begging you for more, and when you get tired from all these endeavours, take a break and lay back on the beach or call into one of many quirky shops and cafes. Whatever it is you’re looking for, Byron Bay will impress, creating a serene environment for you and your significant other to both rest and play.

Flying Tips

The mere thought of spending hours on a plane in-between a snorer and a fidgeter can be enough to keep you working away at your desk. But rest assured, with our well-travelled network of personal travel managers, our seven heavenly tips for flying will help get you from A-B with ease.

1. Long flight? Get the best seat.

If you’re looking at a long haul flight, forking out a few dollars to select the seat that you feel the most comfortable in will be well worth it. Window seats go fast – not only for the view but also for extra comfort the side of the plane provides when you’re trying to sleep. If you’re a passenger who struggles to keep still, you’ll prefer the aisle so you can escape your seat without having to disturb anybody. Families are often seated in the first few rows of the plane. Avoid this area if you’d like a little more peace and quiet as kids can understandably become restless.

2. Prepare your entertainment.

Load up on podcasts, e-readers, music and apps, and make sure you have all your chargers with you so that you can keep your gadgets powered up throughout your journey. Some planes are now fitted with USB ports so check ahead with your airline.

3. Carry on must haves.

The list of carry-on “must haves” is seemingly endless, but these are the imperatives for every traveller:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Travel neck pillow
  • Travel toiletry case (toothbrush, toothpaste, face wipes moisturiser, lip balm and deodorant)

4. Sleeping saviors.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine on long haul flights. Use your travel pillow to support your neck and use the plane pillow for lower back support. Invest in some quality noise-cancelling headphones as regular ones won’t drown loud speakers, snorers, laughers, criers, and jet engine noise./ (the latter is more common than you think). You can also use these headphones to play soft music, audiobooks or meditation music to help you sleep away the hours.

 5. Hydration is everything.

There’s no magic number, but two litres per day is standard – you wont regret it. Just make sure you’re aware of your closest toilet. If drinking water seems a bore, try electrolyte drinks, these flavoursome beverages will help maintain a healthy vitamin and mineral balance.

6. Stretch

Inflight exercises are important to keep the blood flowing and to prevent swelling and numbness. Simple stretches in your seat can do the trick, but ideally you should stand up and walk down the aisle of the plane to get the blood moving. When to move your body will be different for everyone, so use your bathroom breaks as a periodic opportunity to stretch your legs.

New York’s Best Kept Secrets

New York, New York, it’s a heck of a town… We asked our personal travel managers to share some of their best-kept secrets hidden within this incredible city. Here are seven to keep you busy during your next visit.

  • Hidden Subway Station at City Hall

New York’s first ever subway station, City Hall, is buried underneath the city’s oldest government building and has been inactive since 1945 due to infrastructural shortfalls for transporting passengers. It’s well worth venturing down to the station’s platform to admire its elegant and breathtaking design. Where: City Hall Park, Civic Center Area of Lower Manhattan, NY 10007

  • Secret gardens of Rockefeller Center

Most locals and tourists have stopped by Rockefeller Center to gaze over the city, shop, dine, and ice-skate during winter. However few have journeyed up to its rooftop gardens. Majestic in their unexpected tranquillity, the secret gardens are the perfect place to take a time out from the buzzing streets below and breathe in a fresh, new perspective. Where: 45 Rockefeller Plaza, NY 10111

  • Hidden Waterfall at Greenacre Park

This pocket park in Midtown East has leafy corners, fragrant flowers and an enchanting, tumbling 25-foot-high waterfall. The appeal of this park is its incongruity, wedged between looming buildings. The park was created by the Greenacre Foundation to provide New Yorkers with “some moments of serenity in this busy world”, and “Project for Public Spaces” lists it as one of the best parks in the world. Where: 217 E 51st St, NY 10022

  • Miniature Fairy Doors

If you stop and look down while waiting to cross the street you may notice tiny fairy doors alongside the bases of lampposts, signs, window ledges and brick walls. These quaint little creations are crowd sourced art installations designed by fans of the renowned performance artist, Cynthia von Buhler. Most contain a tiny QR code located in the peephole, which when scanned lead you to Buhler’s Speakeasy Dollhouse project. Where: scattered throughout the New York City

  • Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal

A little known feature hidden within the Grand Central Terminal is the Whispering Gallery. The unusual design of the walls allows sound to travel across the domed ceiling, so that two people standing at diagonal arches can hear each other’s whispers. Where: 89 E 42nd St, NY 10017

  • Remnants of the Berlin Wall

Subtly installed alongside a courtyard in Midtown East, lies a piece of the Berlin Wall. This 12-foot high, 20-foot long historic remnant has been transformed into a work of art by German artists Thierry Noir and Kiddy Citny. It includes five original concrete slabs of the wall that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. Where: Parley Park, 3 E 53rd Street, NY 10022

  • Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island

Resting on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island located in the middle of the East River lays remnants of a Gothic Revival structure, the Smallpox Hospital. Originally constructed for the treatment of smallpox, this architectural gem was eventually abandoned in the 1950s. It is now a picturesque ruin where visitors can take a step back in time and witness the beautiful edifice in its naturally aged state. Where: Southern tip of Roosevelt Island, east of Manhattan Island, NY

Tips to Camping in Style

In recent years glamping, short for ‘glamorous camping’, has skyrocketed in popularity. This trend has been driven by an increasing desire for travellers to seek natural and unique experiences without sacrificing comfort. A wealth of boutique glamping spots have sprung up across Australia in recent years, making for a great stop on a self-drive holiday. You can even ‘DIY glamp’ provided you know the tricks of the trade. To satisfy a yearning for both the great outdoors and the finer things in life, we’ve compiled tips from our network of personal travel managers to help you to glamp in style.

  • Embrace the notion of a campervan

A king bed, fully operational kitchen and a hot shower at the end of the day can make a world of difference to your camping trip. Not just for retirees or backpackers, campervans can be tailored to suit your individual needs, with luxury and budget options available.

  • Comfort is key

The quintessential symbol of relaxation is the humble hammock. Consider bringing along a basic hammock, which can easily be strung up between two trees providing hours of tranquility and ambience for your campsite. Other easy-to-pack luxuries include an outdoor area rug, full sized pillows and a blow-up mattress.

  • Wine and dine your way to glamping heaven

Baked beans and trail mix don’t have to be staples on your glamping diet. With a little preparation, fresh bread, cool drinks, crisp potatoes and even lasagna can be at your fingertips if you pack a two burner camping stove and 12V car fridge. Remember to pack your favourite bottle wine and some glasses, and you’ll be saying ‘cheers’ to the outdoors in no time.

  • Lighting

Sometimes the moonlight just doesn’t cut it. A spotlight is the practical option to keep you from walking into every object in your campsite at night, but why not try fairy lights instead? They look beautiful under the night sky and if you’re travelling with kids they’ll love them too. Just make sure you choose a campsite that has power outlets.

  • Plan your entertainment

You can only sing Kumbaya so many times around the campfire. Don’t forget your iPod and some portable speakers for some decent tunes. It’s also wise to pack some classic entertainment like cards, board games and that novel you’ve been trying to finish.

  • A good night’s sleep

The holy grail of camping is a good night’s sleep. If you’re not opting for a campervan, start with the basics such as a plush inflatable mattress and weather appropriate sleeping bag. Take your snoozing to the next level by packing your favourite sheets, blankets and pillows to make sleep time that little more pleasant.

Unique Hotels Around the World

It’s easy to get fixed upon the usual considerations when booking accommodation; affordability, comfort and location are all important factors. However, sometimes it’s worth branching out a little and investing in a hotel which offers something outside the square. From unusual to eye-popping, here is our roundup of five of the most unique hotels around the world.

  • IceHotel, Sweden

Sweden’s IceHotel, nestled in the small village of Jukkasjarvi, is made of natural ice and snow from one of Europe’s last wild rivers, the Torne River, 200km north of the Arctic Circle. Each winter, its hallways are lined with ice art, flittering chandeliers drip with icicles and an atmospheric ice bar is frozen at a constant -5°C. You can also ‘sleep on the ice’, tucked up within plenty of warm bedding. Beyond the hotel, chase the Northern Lights, and try husky-sledding and snowmobiling. Naturally, the hotel melts and returns to Mother Nature in spring, but it will pop up again the following winter.

  • The Manta Resort, Zanzibar

If you enjoy five-star luxury, tropical islands and close encounters with nature, then The Manta Resort on Pemba Island in Zanzibar is an ideal destination for you. Sleep surrounded by tropical fish four meters below the surface on a private floating multi-deck island; sunbathe and stargaze on the top deck; or pack your snorkel gear and a picnic for a half day boat excursion down to the picturesque islands of Njao or Fundo.

  • Äscher Cliff Hotel, Switzerland

Hidden in the far reaches of the Swiss Alps, this 170-year-old hotel is built into the side of a cliff-face, and can only be accessed by a combination of cable car and hiking. Meaning Mountain-Guesthouse, the Swiss call this hilly escape ‘Berggasthaus’. While the facilities of the hotel are humble, the view is unmatched and well worth the hike, with unfettered vistas of the Appenzell hill-landscape, Sankt Gall, Thurgau and Lake Constance. Ascher Hotel is open from 1st May until 1st November each year.

  • Montana Magica Lodge, Chile

Deep within the southern Andes is an exotic volcano-like structure, embellished with moss and vines. This is Chile’s Montana Magica Lodge, and it comes with its own lava-like waterfall which ‘erupts’ each day. Sitting within 300,000 acres of private nature reserve, the intimate 13-room hotel is only accessible by foot and guests must first bridge a gap via a swinging rope to enter. While you’re there, fly through the Patagonian rainforest via the longest zip line in South America and relax in hot tubs carved from tree trunks.

  • Hotel Whitepod, Switzerland

Hotel Whitepod offers the best of eco-tourism and luxury travel. Perched more than 1,700km above sea level in the Swiss Alps, Whitepod hosts 30 guests in high-tech tents (or pods), separated by wooden platforms. The environmental footprint of this snowy accommodation may be low, but the opportunity for indulgence is high, with luxury furnishings, wood-burning stoves, private ski runs, forest walking tracks, sundecks and a sauna at hand. The hotel is open year-round, so you can be flexible when timing your visit.

Tips For Travelling With Teenagers

As your kids leave their tweens and enter their teens, travelling together may require a different approach in order for the entire family to stay sane while travelling. Our personal travel managers have put together a list of helpful tips to ensure your teenagers are as excited about your next holiday as you are.

  1. Involve them in the planning process

Although some teenagers may respond with the iconic “whatever”, it’s important to give them the reins in some way. Discuss the destination with them or have them choose the activities for a day. This not only teaches teenagers about compromise, but also the more involved they are, the more enthusiastic and engaged they’ll be.

  1. Choose accommodation wisely

If your budget allows, try to give your teenager some privacy when holidaying together. This may mean more than one tent, or separate hotel rooms.

  1. Let them pack their own bags

Giving your teenager the opportunity to pack his or her own bags is a great way to teach accountability and help them feel more independent. So long as the weight restriction isn’t exceeded, understanding how to pack efficiently, and carrying around what you’ve packed, is a great learning experience.

  1. Fuel their adrenalin

When planning your holiday, aim to include some activities that will release some of their energy and fuel their adrenaline. Depending on their age, jet boating, scuba diving or zip lining are all great ways for the whole family to experience something new, while involving the teens in something they can brag about to their friends.

  1. Accept the smart phone, but take action to avoid ‘roaming’ fees

It can be frustrating always seeing your teenager looking down at a screen, particularly when there’s something more exciting going on in real life. However, if asking them to leave their electronics at home doesn’t work, you can compromise on periods of time when screen time is acceptable. For gamers, work with them to come up with times like these that suit everyone. As well as this, be sure to turn off all roaming and international services, only connect to trusted hotel Wi-Fi networks or even purchase a local SIM card. After all, they’ll never ditch the digital world entirely.

  1. Take time to relax

Sleeping in seems to be a prerequisite of becoming a teenager. If possible, avoid activities really early in the morning, and let them have a little sleep in every now and then. Depending on their age and where you’re visiting, letting your teen stay back in the hotel while you explore lets them (and you) have a bit ‘me time’.