Have you thought about chucking things in and moving overseas? Or are you longing to escape your life for a while and go on the trip of a lifetime? Most of us have these dreams – but money usually holds us back.
Luckily, we’ve put together a handy list that spells out where’s cheap and where is not to help you choose your next destination. So if you’ve ever wondered about the cost of living and how Australia stacks up, we’ve got the answers for you.
If you’re looking for a real bargain
For a budget-friendly holiday or a whirlwind adventure across the globe, these 15 countries have the lowest cost of living and will set you back the least amount of dollars along the way.
If you’ve got some extra cash to splash
On the other side of the spectrum, these 15 countries are a lot more pricey. Heads up: apparently us Aussies have been blowing a lot more cash than the rest of the world.
- New Zealand
You’ve probably noticed a pattern; it seems some of the most developed countries in the world with excellent health care systems are more expensive and the places exposed to poorer living standards are cheaper. Does this effect your decision?
Personally, as much as I love a fancy hotel and clean streets, what’s the point in travelling if you’re not going to experience a different way of life?
Image via philstar.com
While an upcoming trip can have us all a little over-excited, packing in excess is something we’ve all done at least once. Rather than telling you what to pack (don’t forget that passport), this general guide is all about things you should leave at home.
Unnecessary makeup and skincare
Most airlines only allow 100ml worth of liquids in your checked luggage, so don’t over-do it and pay the extra baggage fees, or worse, have your items confiscated at the airport. De-pot your favourite foundation into a lighter, plastic bottle so you’ll have more space in your luggage. Plus, you can always re-purchase these products at a pharmacy when you land.
It might feel a little tempting (especially if you’re on a long-hair flight), but lugging around a book won’t make your suitcase or hand luggage any lighter. If you’re bringing a tablet, load it with various books to keep you occupied during the trip.
Clothes you’ve never worn
Bringing along that sundress you’ve been hoarding since 2009 isn’t exactly an efficient way to pack your luggage. Make sure your outfits can be worn in a variety of different ways, and that you will actually wear them. Otherwise, just remember all the shopping you will do when you arrive!
It might seem you can’t live without your hair drier, straightening irons, and curling wands… trust us, you can. Embrace beach-hair and save that room for other things in your luggage. Plus, most hotels are equipped with a hair drier, so don’t worry too much.
Most hotels, beaches and resorts come with complimentary towels to use on your stay. Keep a small hand towel in your hand luggage if you absolutely need to, just make sure it dries before packing it again.
Instead of lugging around a string of books in your bag, store it all electronically in your phone. This way, you can easily browse, compare, and travel light!
If your phone is equipped with memory, won’t shut down randomly, and has great optical zoom, them its best to leave the bulky DSLR at home.
Image via Late Rooms
This is what efficient packing used to look for me: I’d take everything out of my wardrobe, I’d consider whether I liked each individual item and if I liked it, in the suitcase it went. With three kids, this packing method is no longer possible. Now I need to pack at lightning speed and zip up the suitcase before the little tsunamis have managed to take everything out again. Unsurprisingly, my luggage has reduced in size compared to when I was single. Surprisingly, I usually manage to find in it everything I need. So what are the secrets of efficient packing?
1. Plan ahead
Make a list of what you need a few days before your trip and add things to it as you remember. Pen and paper will do a great job, but if you want to make use of technology, you can download a packing app. You’ll be able to take notes of your personal requirements and also take advantage of sample lists to jog your memory.
2. Check the weather forecast
This may seem obvious, but I never used to check the weather, until after I found myself on a tropical island with a bag full of long pants; and in Brisbane, in winter and in the middle of the night, without a jacket. I had to learn the hard way not once, but twice!
3. Pick clothes that are practical
When you’re choosing what clothes to take, keep in mind what you’ll be doing while you’re away. Bring more bottoms than tops and pick clothes that you can mix and match. Use accessories to freshen up your look instead of bringing too many clothes and give preference to clothes that don’t need ironing.
4. Wear your bulkiest clothes and shoes during the trip
You will save heaps of suitcase space if you wear your heaviest items. It also helps if you layer them, for example, wear a short sleeve shirt and a jacket instead of a one-piece long sleeve item. Not only will you have less to pack, but you’ll also make sure you’re comfortable enroute.
5. Keep your essentials with you
If you’re checking in your luggage, make sure you have everything you need in your carry-on bag. Even if your luggage is with you at all times, it helps to make the essentials easily available so that you don’t have to pack and unpack your whole suitcase looking for them during the trip.
Efficient packing doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With some planning you can make sure you have everything you need for a stress-free trip and nothing else!
Image via Pixabay
Travel should be all exciting adventures, stunning sunsets, delicious cocktails and rest and relaxation, right? But what happens if it all turns to shit?
Be alert and alarmed dear reader, for travel crimes against humanity do happen, and when they do, it can be very handy to know what to do in the wake of a heinous travel rip-off. First things first – when you do suffer a horror travel rip-off, the worst thing you can do is stay silent and suck it up.
I only know this myself through bitter experience. I’ve packed a lot of travel into my 40 years and while travel will always be a true passion of mine, I have endured some toe-curling incidents that left me wanting to burn my suitcase.
And while I used to think complaining was a waste of time and energy – the advent of social media teaches us that sometimes it pays to loudly voice your opinion about travel rip-offs.
Case in point: unfortunately for me, I recently got ripped-off by an online booking site I’d used many times with previous success, when my “4.5 star luxury hotel”, as advertised, turned out to be anything but!
When I arrived at said hotel, I felt sick to the stomach at the sight of my grotty room, complete with heinous carpet and mattress stains, disgustingly cheap furniture and a barely-working air-con unit. To make matters worse, my promised luxury “pool view” – which I’d even paid extra for – overlooked a run-down, burnt-out house (I’m being generous here) and the hotel manager was surly at best.
I knew in my heart I was in the wrong place, even before I got to my hotel room. For, despite the hotel’s good, central location (arguably its only virtue), when I checked in, I politely asked the hotel manager what the restaurant directly below was like, to which he snapped: “I’ve never eaten there.” Hmmph.
And, like I say, the situation turned dire when I got to my horror hotel room, which was nowhere near worth the money I’d spent on it. It was an absolute dump! At best, more like one-star worthy. I was bitterly disappointed and fairly livid at being fleeced of my hard-earned.
Incidentally, sadly for me, I’d treated myself to a solo getaway in order to catch up on sleep; a rare night off from two toddlers under three, entrusted to my husband. Long story short: I complained to hotel manager – who couldn’t have cared less and refused to offer me another room.
I then voiced my disgust to my online booking service, which refused to take me seriously and/or issue a refund for my blatant travel rip-off until I sent them photos of the horror hotel via email and then finally, out of sheer frustration and rage, complained on social media when I didn’t get a response.
And, even then, I still only got HALF my money back. Oh the burn?!
In the end, I returned home that same night, a broken shell of a human, into the loving arms of my husband, who poured me a big glass of wine, having already put the kids to bed. And I did enjoy some solo beach time that day. Life wasn’t so bad…
So, what do you do when your dream travel escape turns into a nightmare? My travel rip-off fight-back plan is as follows:
- Complain loudly: Voice your outrage, the quicker the better, to whoever has so ruthlessly fleeced you of your hard-earned.
- Be courteous yet direct. Don’t give in easily. Be a warrior woman: stand your ground! Consumers have rights.
- Always, always take photos of dodgy hotel rooms and/or keep any other evidence of your travel rip-off.
- Turn to social media if all else fails – ain’t nobody got time to be stuffed around, and most travel companies, if smart, do not want a PR disaster on their hands. Post often until you get a response.
- Contact Australia’s competition and national consumer law regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). Visit ww.accc.gov.au or consumerlaw.gov.au.
Do you have a travel horror story? How did you fight for your rights?
Images via driverlayer.com, pixabay.com
Tomorrow (Sunday, March 8) marks the annual International Women’s Day aimed to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. With global guided holiday leader Trafalgar revealing that 77 per cent of its solo travellers were female in 2014, we’ve listed the top female-focused travel trips to help women embrace the female solo travel trend in 2015.
The small village of Demircidere in Turkey has the second-highest rate of working women in the country. The women enjoy an equal status in community relations and open their doors exclusively to Trafalgar guests. The women invite you inside their family homes to share their love of traditional Turkish cuisines and culture in an unforgettable Be My Guest experience. Sitting around the table, you’ll be empowered by the remarkable persona these women share as they interact with you through their native language. In a truly emotionally filled holiday, you’ll be able to walk the pebbled shores of Anzac Cove 100 years on remembering the brave soldiers that lost their lives in Gallipoli. Trafalgar offers single supplement waivers of 100per cent on its 8-day Highlights of Turkey guided holiday departing April 25, June 27, August 29 and October 24. For more information, visit www.trafalgar.com.
The World Economic Forum recently ranked Norway, Finland and Sweden as the best countries for gender equality. The survey measures opportunities available for men and women in four critical areas – economic opportunity, health, education and political empowerment. Experience the Scandinavian culture first-hand when meeting Arild Nydegger Øvre-Eide on Trafalgar’s 14-day Scenic Scandinavia & its Fjords guided holiday. Arild is one of the fifth generations living on her family owned farm, Ovre-Eide. A working farm since the Viking Age, Arild’s family bought the property in 1870 and has continued to pass it down generation to generation. Arild will share her experiences of working on the farm as well as her ambition to teach students the skills of becoming bakers or pastry chefs. Dining with her family, you’ll discover their passion for using Norwegian products in their dishes that are locally grown to ensure the economic growth within their community.
Unpack once as you cruise the breathtaking rivers of Europe enjoying scenic views and indulging in all-inclusive luxury. Travel with Uniworld Boutique River Cruises on the new S.S. Maria Theresa on the 15-day European Jewels itinerary and experience a world of history, culture and art as you journey along three great rivers. Spend the day absorbing the musical background in Vienna, get active with complimentary bicycles to discover the banks of the Danube or relax onboard with a good book. Uniworld offers single supplement waivers on select itineraries and departures, for more information visit www.uniworldcruises.com.au
Recalibrate and connect with your inner goddess in India. Women who spend their days juggling commitments and children can’t help but unwind amongst the temples and monasteries in the foothills of the Himalayas. Be soothed by the serenity in the home of the exiled Dalai Lama with Adventure World’s Journey to Himachal Pradesh. The 8-day journey is priced from $1,514 per person including accommodation, many meals, transportation by private vehicle, sightseeing with local English speaking guides and train journey between Shimla and Kalka.
According to a survey released by Lastminute.com.au, a third of Australians are planning to travel solo in 2015 with meeting new people, cultural immersion, freedom, and getting to know themselves better listed as the top reasons to take a trip alone. Take a step in the direction of the popular novel and new film ‘Wild’, and find yourself during a hiking trip through Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park. Rise with the sun and take in the beauty of Bryan’s Beach, Wineglass Bay and Bluestone Bay before following the track used by the Oyster Bay Tribe through the pristine bushland, you’ll be captivated by the rich and diverse nature that surrounds you. On AAT Kings’ 5-day Tassie Trails – Freycinet Experience Walk, you won’t be completely alone. On this world-class hiking trip, you’ll enjoy the company of up to 10 people, luxury lodge accommodation, scenic boat cruises and delicious Tasmanian food and wine.
The top end of Australia should be a travel destination on everyone’s bucket list. Home to some of the most stunning scenery Australia has to offer, the NT has a unique blend of flora and fauna, which must be seen to be appreciated. From exotic waterfalls, landscapes and wildlife to ancient Aboriginal rock art, there’s something for young and old to see and do.
What makes it even better, is that they also have superb glamping accommodation options. Some of which you don’t even have to get out of bed to witness the incredible sunrises! No, it’s not too good to be true, it’s a reality!
Here we are featuring four of the regions top rugged, yet ritzy venues. From romantic couples getaways, to family friendly safari tents, it seems the top end is the place to go and experience the best glamping options on offer. Rather than just finding a place to lay your head, opt for a once in a lifetime experience.
Bamuruu Plains Wildbush Luxury
Looking for a hint of romance? This luxury getaway provides the perfect privacy for couples looking for that romantic escape. With only nine bungalows available, guests are able to escape to a place of intimate isolation. Each bungalow overlooks the floodplains visited by a many unique flora and fauna, such as Magpie Gees and Plumed Whistling Ducks.
This is the ultimate natural Aussie outback experience so don’t expect technology. Sorry the mobile won’t work either. There are binoculars and species guides for sitting back and thoroughly enjoying the experience. The food options are reflective of the region, so if you’re into Australiana, be sure to check it out.
Fancy waking up to breathtaking views of Uluru / Ayers Rock from the comfort of your bed? Flick the switch, the curtains rise and there it is! This intimate 15 luxury tent venue ensures interrupted views of the iconic landmark from each tent. King sized beds, air-conditioning and even complimentary use of an Ipad and MP3 makes this the type of glamping experience something even a princess could endure!
After a long hot day of sightseeing, you can relax poolside then head into the outback for a gourmet four-course dinner under the spectacular glory of the milky way. If you have been searching for a way to propose or celebrate something special, this experience is certainly worthy of investigating.
Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge
This boutique lodge is glamping at its best, complete with token campfire. There are only ten spacious luxury tented cabins on offer, so intimate numbers are assured. With king size beds and air conditioning, the owners are catering for your comfort. It’s set in a secluded and picturesque corner of Kings Creek Station with easy access to Kings Canyon.
In the evening you can experience a three-course gourmet dinner with Aussie flair! Sample the fresh homemade damper, served with platters of beef and barramundi or kangaroo and lamb, all served with the chef’s choice of vegetables and salad. Yum! Complete the day by sitting back and relaxing in front of an outdoor campfire.
Wildman Wilderness Lodge
For a family option, consider Wildman Wilderness Lodge. They have 10 family friendly safari tents, complete with two single beds, plus en-suite. The beauty of Wildman is that it is easily accessible to both Darwin and Kakadu, located on the stunning Mary River Wetlands. It too is home to exquisite local bird and wildlife.
An added specialty of the lodge is a fisherman or woman’s dream! You can catch your own Barramundi and then have the chef cook it for your dinner. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the ideal fishing experience!
Lonely Planet recently named Singapore its top country to visit in 2015. The nation, which gained its independence from Britain in 1965, will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee, making it the perfect time to get that bit extra out of your travel experience. The city will be full of celebrations and specials marking this important anniversary, but in case you’re not convinced, here are five reasons you should visit this burgeoning urban paradise.
Singapore is known for its multiculturalism. Its population hails from Malaysia, India and China and one of the largest expat communities in the world. This mix of cultures results in an delicious range of eateries, from market-style street food, to cosmopolitan brunches in hip cafes. You must try laksa in Katong or the Tian Tian Hainanese chicken and rice in the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre.
Hip and trendy
This young city is at the forefront of trendy bar and nightlife experiences, with a number of alternative neighbourhoods to explore. Plan a day as a local hipster with brunch and boutique shopping in trendy Tiong Bahru, then make your way to Katong for a night out. There are also plenty of arty spaces in Singapore but a brand new National Gallery will open in 2015, set to house unique and historic art works from across the continent.
Singapore has a breadth of tourist attractions to please the whole family. If you’re travelling with kids – or even if you’re not – there are plenty of fun tourist sites to keep you occupied. Take a trip to Sentosa Island and Universal Studios, wander around Merlion Park, visit the world-famous Singapore Zoo, or spend the day at Marina Bay. If you’re into sports, Singapore is one of the oldests hosts of Formula 1 Grand Prix events and, in 2015, will also host the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Games.
Singapore is the cleanest city in the world. It is notorious for its strict laws on pollution, like being in possession of chewing gum (illegal) and the abundance of public, open-air no smoking zones. However, this small sacrifice means the rest of us can enjoy an eco-friendly experience of Singapore and take in its pristine green spaces and gardens.
The high life
Be forewarned that Singapore is one of the most expensive cities in the world. However, the price tag comes with the lifestyle. There are great luxury hotels and resorts, as well as shopping and dining opportunities. Stay in style at the ship-shaped Marina Bay Sands or historic Raffles Hotel, or try one of the many hot new editions, including the Sofitel So Singapore or the Patina Capitol Singapore, set to open mid-2015.
Images via Shutterstock, ladyironchef.com
The best thing about websites like Airbnb is that they allow you to find unique accommodation all over the world. People offer travellers their homes, yurts and windmills to stay in, giving the adventurous souls an alternative experience of untouched locations. If you’re lucky, you might even find an entire island to call home (for a few nights at least).
Live like Marie Antoinette in this 17th century chateau in rural France (pictured above). Relax with a cup of tea in the library, or take a stroll through the surrounding forest and gardens.
Live like a local on the canals of Amsterdam in a traditional houseboat! It may be a houseboat, but this inside looks like a renovated Manhattan loft. It will certainly be a cherished experience.
Uschi, the restored vintage bus, is located on the secluded Cala Comte beach on Ibiza. Enjoy a beautiful sunset with your significant other, dine at the nearby beachfront restaurants, then retire for a secluded night under the stars. A stay here will definitely make a holiday to remember.
Taking “lake house” to a new level, this cabin has its own island for you to explore. Take a group of friends this Halloween weekend and have the getaway of your life. What happens on the island, stays on the island, right?
This dome is on a 12-acre property in Woodridge, New York – far beyond the reach of civilization. Having said that, you’ll still get free high speed wifi! You’re welcome to bring a large group and crash all over the large floor (if you provide the mattresses). You can also buy eggs and veggies grown on the site!
Images via Airbnb
We have all heard of the Inca Trail, or bucket-listed the Everest Base Camp trek, but what about the other walking wonders of the world? These trekking holidays are the best way to take in unique scenery and discover hidden treasures, unseen by the regular tourist crowd. For those with a keen sense of adventure and an enviable fitness level, consider putting these atop your travel list.
Lycian Way, Turkey
The Lycian Way is a 509km (316 miles) walking track along the south coast of Turkey. It is estimated to take 25 days to complete the mountainous trek from Oludeniz to Antalya. It is best to visit in Fall or Spring as the Summer is far too hot for strenuous exercise in Turkey! You will find accommodation in small villages along the way and public transport is also available for those lazy days. Discover Lycian tombs, byzantine ruins, forests, and one-of-a-kind views of the Mediterranean coast.
Camino De Santiago, Spain
This is considered one of the easier trekking routes and is suitable for the amateur hikers or walkers. Don’t get excited yet, the trail, located in northern Spain, is 800km (497 miles) long. Fortunately, you can keep yourself amused with beautiful rustic villages and historical experiences along the way. The Camino de Santiago is typically a pilgrimage but, in recent years, has become quite tourist-friendly. Accommodation is competitive and privacy limited, but you will make plenty of friends along the way, with whom you can relax in the evening over a bottle of Spanish red.
Routeburn Track, New Zealand
Ever wondered what Frodo felt like on his trek from Hobbiton to Mordor? This 32km (20 mile) trek will take you through the heart of New Zealand‘s south island – the filming location of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. While no filming was done on the trail itself, the familiar green hills, snowy peaks and crystal lakes will still take your breath away. For families or people not keen on walking, you can do day trips to parts of the trail.
Bungle Bungles Piccaninny Gorge Trek, Australia
Australia has some of the most unique landscape in the world. This isolated, 5-day camping trek will take you on a journey through Australia’s Indigenous culture and the remote wilderness the first people call home. The gorge is surrounded by red and black “beehive” rock formations, with plenty of caves and waterholes to be discovered throughout the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park.
Haute Route, France/Switzerland
This trail is more commonly a cycle route. But walkers can also enjoy this unique, up-close and personal experience of the Alps. As you can imagine, the incline is relentless. You will constantly be going up or down and you will need some serious leg muscle to get you through. But this is one of the most glorious walks or rides in the world. Unless you would prefer a ski trip, you should do this walk in Summer.
Planning your next trip but don’t exactly want to break the bank on just the airfare alone? There are many different ways to travel around the world without using up all your hard-earned cash. From booking hotels, or even eating out, below are just a few suggestions to have the best trip at a great price.
Do your research
One major way to save some money is to avoid staying or eating at tourist-targeted facilities. Most of these places are not only a rip-off, but take advantage of travellers since they are new to the city or country. Make sure to do your homework before booking that trip, and write an extensive list of places to go and also to avoid before you jet off.
If you can easily get the time off work, it is cheaper to travel in the off-season since prices are often more affordable. If you’re travelling to Europe, this means that it’s best to make the visit during the months between October and April. These seasons see a lot less travellers which is also better for those who wish to still see the world without a large price-tag attached.
Many countries in Europe offer cheap tickets if you choose to pass-through via train, instead of flying. Interrailing is a popular way to visit almost every inch of Europe without spending too much money. Tickets are extremely affordable and passes can range anywhere from $56-$390 for a global 10 day trip.
Youth hostels are very popular alternatives to hotels since they are cheaper and more affordable if you choose to stay in one place for a limited amount of time. Accommodations don’t necessarily have to be considered first-class to make your stay worthwhile, so find somewhere safe and cost efficient to leave your luggage and also stay the night.
Pre-plan your trip with a guidebook which will not only help you around the city, but also give a rough idea of how much things cost. Most are usually equipped with useful local lingo which is important if you’re travelling through numerous cities in a short amount of time.
Rather than wasting your money with international calls to loved-ones back at home, simply purchase a local phonecard for each city you visit. This will not only be cheaper in the long-run, but also won’t allow you to be carried away during a phone call since they are capped at a certain price. Easy to find since they are sold at almost every news stand.
Pay in cash
Although using a credit card can usually offer a good exchange rate, pay with cash since most local shops or stalls only accept money as a payment method. Always carry some type of cash on you, just in case of emergencies or if you can’t access your cards.
Travel in groups
Even if you’re travelling with a partner or in a large group, it is best to stick together. Not only will this be safe, but will save you all a lot of money on food, accommodation, and transport costs. Many tours still charge people travelling on their own a small fee anyway.
Ask for a discount
It depends where exactly you are shopping or staying, but many times asking for a deal or cheaper price will often save you some money. This works well especially if you’re buying from a small shop or stall, or staying at a countryside hotel with a group of people.
Image via Travel Blat
We’re all looking for the best deals when it comes to travel, so rather than scouring the interwebs, daily deal emails and social media for the right advice, we have tapped into the expert knowledge of those in the know. A panel of high-flyers, consisting of Mark Hodgson, general manager of Escape Travel; Tom Walley, executive general manager of Flight Centre; and Monique Van Gelder, national marketing manager of Cruiseabout, have shared some of their insider expertise:
Flights and accommodation:
• Choose a holiday package that combines flights with your accommodation. Not only are these more convenient, but the price is based on wholesale rates which work out to be a better value option, plus they often have a specially negotiated saving or added value attached.
• Earlybird offers. It is standard practice in the travel industry for airlines to release ‘earlybird’ fares in September for travel to Europe, so keep an eye out for these by signing up to travel agent newsletters to get the jump on the best deals.
• Visit a Travel Expo prepared to purchase. With the help of a travel expert onsite, you’ll get the best deal possible and a wealth of advice in the process. Flight Centre holds expos for key destinations such as Europe and USA/Canada/Alaska every year to coincide with earlybird season, and if you book on the spot, you’ll get the best price of the year.
• Choose alternative stopover airports when travelling long haul to avoid hefty airport taxes. Bangkok Airport is a cheaper stopover option than Singapore or Hong Kong when travelling on to Europe.
• When flying in and out of Europe, consider using alternative departure airports to save money on your return flight. Most return airfares include a multi-city option and your travel agent can help you choose the best route option to avoid paying excessive airport taxes. Airport taxes vary from city to city and London has one of the highest, so for the return journey consider flying out of Paris where the airport tax is far less and the overall price of your ticket, even with the inclusion of a cheap one-way Eurostar journey from London to Paris, will be less that a return flight departing from London.
• Pay it off. Escape Travel offers a flexible payment plan with its nine-month interest-free finance option which lets travellers book a holiday well in advance to secure the best price, but pay off their holiday in a series of easy payment.
• Work around the peak season by opting for the ‘shoulder’ period either side of peak travel times as these are generally cheaper, but still a desirable time of year to be travelling to your intended destination. For example, peak season for a Greek Islands holiday is July and August, but the shoulder season in June is much more affordable and the weather is just as good.
• Midweek is a great time to travel if you can be flexible with your dates. Flights are generally cheaper at this time as they are less popular that at the start and end of the week, plus you can often pick up a cheaper hotel deal with many properties offering discounts for stays during the week.
• Take note of the seasons for your holiday destination, as there are bargains to be had when avoiding peak travel times. For example, Thailand is a great year-round destination and travellers can pick up an excellent deal when travelling in the low season months from May to September when many resorts offer significant discounts and ‘stay-eight-nights-pay-four-nights’ type deals are standard.
• Book childcare upfront. For resort-bound families, make sure you consider what daycare facilities you will need on the ground before booking the cheapest upfront package price. Avoid additional expenses such as fee-based kids clubs and baby-sitter rates by reviewing the different complimentary in-resort child minding facilities and factoring this saving into your total holiday cost before making a decision.
• Don’t assume you are restricted to the airfare options listed online. Your travel agent has access to a host of deals unavailable to the general public and can advise on the best value route network for getting from point A to point B based on your budget, or create a custom built round-the-world airfare that may represent better value for a multi-stop holiday.
• ‘Double Dips’ are unique to Flight Centre and are a great way to double your holiday fun by visiting two places on one low fare. You can double up in Thailand with Phuket and Bangkok, double your beach time in Fiji and Hawaii or combine city stays in Los Angeles and New York or Hong Kong and Singapore. Visit in-store and ask your Flight Centre expert about double dips for more information.
• Steer clear of peak times. If you can, avoid school holidays and special event cruises, such as those over Christmas and New Years, as these cruises are priced at a premium.
• Take advantage of earlybird cruise offers for the season ahead as you can pick up discounted rates for travel in the following year, discounted or even free airfares or other bonus inclusions like extra onboard credit not offered outside these earlybird booking periods.
• Save money by asking your cruise consultant about special rates offered to seniors and military personnel. P&O and Princess often offer military benefits such as extra onboard credit for local cruises, while RCI and Celebrity Cruises have seniors’ rates that can be quite a bit cheaper.
• Sign up to agency newsletters and follow their activity on social media to see the latest deals the moment they are released.
• Try a one-way cruise. Travellers more interested in the cruise experience of life on the ship rather than sightseeing at different ports can pick up a cheaper cruise by opting for a repositioning cruise. These are one-way cruises designed to take the ship from one destination to another at the change of the cruise season and feature fewer stops on the itinerary, meaning passengers also save money by staying onboard.
• The ‘guaranteed cabin’ option is often the cheapest way to go if you know the category of cabin that you’re after, i.e. inside, outside, balcony, but are open to being located anywhere on the ship. Passengers pay more for their cabin when selecting its exact location on the ship – like the specific deck or away from the lifts – but those that choose the guarantee option receive at least that cabin type and can sometimes score an upgrade.
We discover some of the purest, and most beautiful, untouched destinations in the world.
The hidden beach of the Marieta Islands, Puerto Vallarta
Hidden from view and protected from the outside world, this secluded slice of paradise is located just off the coast of Mexico. ‘Playa De Amor’, or as it’s more romantically know, the ‘Beach of Love’, is thought to have formed as a result of volcanic activity over thousands of years. To get to this hidden gem, tourists must first swim through a cavernous tunnel that opens up onto the sandy beach and crystal blue water. Now a national park forbidding fishing and hunting, the islands are protected and therefore home to some rare and remarkable marine life, so snorkelling is definitely one for the bucket list.
Jiuzhaigou Valley, China
This remote region of Northern Sichuan in China stretches over six hundred square kilometres and is regarded a holy mountain by the Tibetans. The majestic Jiuzhaigou Valley is home to nine Tibetan villages, seven of which are still populated, and is filled with breathtaking scenery. Think multi-level waterfalls, lush forest, snow capped mountains and colourful crystal clear lakes. Difficult to reach by land, the valley is one of the less frequented scenic spots in China, and one of the purest! It is also home to a variety of rare and beautiful plants and animals, including the endangered Giant Panda and Golden Monkey.
When it comes to breathtaking scenery and pristine nature, it doesn’t get much fresher than Iceland. This ruggedly beautiful landscape is filled with adventure – glaciers, waterfalls, streams, lava fields and mountains – and a clash of ecological variants which make the land so intriguing. Channel your inner Viking and enjoy the rawness of nature by taking a dip in a geothermal pool such as the famous ‘Blue Lagoon’ volcanic hot springs, or camp out for a front row seat to view the Northern Lights, one of nature’s seriously spectacular phenomenons.
For a hit of culture, you can’t go past Sri Lanka. An increasingly popular travel destination thanks to its beautiful beaches, welcoming people, and affordability, Sri Lanka remains vastly undiscovered due to a history of civil unrest and natural disaster. Sitting like a tear drop in the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is brimming with culture and home to several World Heritage sites and some of the world’s most incredible ancient cities; from Anuradhapur’s ancient ruins, the stone carved buildings of Polonnaruwa and Digamadulla to the rock-top fortress of Lion Mountain. Witness afternoon elephant gatherings and enjoy the serenity offered by unscathed pristine white-sand beaches.
It’s the world’s fourth largest island and sits off the coast of southeast Africa. Rainforests, trekking, beaches and diving make this undiscovered gem a dream destination for lovers of the outdoors. Half the fun is getting to these attractions. Madagascar alone is home to five per cent of the worlds known plant and animal species, and one of the few places on earth with extensive land diversity; you can go from rainforest to desert in just 300km. Boasting 250 islands, hundreds of kilometres of barrier reef and a pristine coastline that wraps the whole island, much of Madagascar’s population and culture is yet to be touched by western society, offering the purest cultural experiences. Free from public transport, enjoy the views as you meander along the various lagoons and swamps of this inspired destination!
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An ATM that dispenses freshly-baked cupcakes? Sounds like a dream come true!
LA’s much-loved Sprinkles bakery has launched the first of its 24-Hour Sprinkles ATMs that are soon to pop up all over the country. Simply scroll through all the flavours (Red Velvet? Chocolate Marshmallow?) then swipe your credit card and watch as a mechanical arm selects your cupcake, which is dispensed in a pretty pink box at the bottom of the ATM, just like cash!
Watch a video of how it works here!
Lonely Planet said: “South America seems to be on every twenty-something’s wish-list. I’ve heard great reports about Peru and also less-visited destinations like Bolivia.”
Top tip: How about at language-study schools abroad? It’s cheap and great fun.
Volcanoes of Guatamala
The coast of Croatia
Lonely Planet said: “Islands and beaches to rival Greece, great scuba diving, medieval towns, delicious food, decent wines, lots of activities such as hiking, rock climbing, yachting. The place is bulging with beautiful churches, castles and museums, and there’s probably a festival or carnival every day. It has that ‘something different’ feel which people are often searching for, and it’s safe to travel around. It’s got everything!”
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Lonely Planet said: “The history, the beaches, the diving and the not-too-touristy cities”, plus the forests of eastern Cuba recently received World Heritage listing. Meanwhile Barcelona’s appeal lies in its vibrancy, beaches, culture, style, good food and great clubs.
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Lonely Planet said: “This could be the city of the new millennium… beautiful, cosmopolitan Shanghai. A stroll along the Bund and you could be in any European city. Head down an alley and you’re smack in the middle of the Middle Kingdom.”
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Lonely Planet’s talk2us staff are devoted specifically to answering travel questions, responding to product feedback and making sure travellers? insights and suggestions reach the authors. The most popular branch of Lonely Planet’s content-focused Web sites is the Thorn Tree, an online bulletin board that receives over 5000 posts a day and is a great resource for single travellers. Check out www.lonelyplanet.com.
50 Essential Destinations for Your Lifetime
Those of us who love to travel and explore the world seem to have a built-in travel checklist that we mentally tick off as we visit the famous places on it: the Mona Lisa at the Louvre – tick! The Colusseum – tick! Here’s my choice of 50 Essential Destinations to try and squeeze in during your lifetime, some of which you may have already ticked off, and others you may not have thought of.
- Drink champagne by Ayers Rock at sunset.
- Spend a week in New York City.
- Ski at a European or North American alpine resort.
- Drive along the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
- Take a luxury cruise.
- Stay in a French chateau, preferably one with a vineyard attached.
- Snorkel or scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef.
- See Holland during tulip time.
- Go to the top level of the Eiffel Tower in the lift.
- Do a trek in the Himalayas or the Andes.
- Catch a peak-hour train in Tokyo.
- Visit at least one Disneyland.
- Stand on London’s Westminster Bridge at night for the best view of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
- Walk a long a cliff-top on the ruggedly romantic Cornish coast.
- Survive a ride in a tuk-tuk through the streets of Bangkok.
- Visit the Elvis Chapel in Las Vegas.
- Go on safari in Africa.
- See the sights of Rome (without having your pocket “picked”).
- Enjoy a concert of Mozart’s works in Vienna.
- Visit a red-light district in a major city. Paris, Amsterdam and Hamburg and Bangkok are particularly eye-opening.
- Ride a bike in Copenhagen.
- Visit the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
- Spot someone famous in LA.
- Take a long walk in the Scottish Highlands.
- Chill out in Antarctica.
- Check out the view from The Peaks in Hong Kong.
- Lie under a cherry blossom tree in Japan.
- Visit at least one perfectly idyllic island, perhaps the Maldives, Seychelles or Bora Bora.
- Go topless on the French or Italian Riviera.
- See the Kremlin in Moscow.
- Take a photo of the crowds taking photos of the Mona Lisa in The Louvre, Paris.
- Stay on a kibbutz in Israel.
Visit Rio during Carneval.
- Experience at least one train journey of three days duration, or more.
- Check out the waves in Hawaii when Pipeline’s pumping.
- See the mosques of Istanbul.
- Fly over the North Pole.
- Go to a casino and nightclub in Monte Carlo.
- Travel to at least one Greek Island.
- Shop in a Moroccan bazaar.
- Stand at the border between Canada and the
- United States at Niagara Falls or at the border between Brazil and Argentina at Iguazu Falls.
- Visit the Taj Mahal in India.
- Experience springtime in Paris.
- Go white water rafting in Nepal.
- Visit at least one of the world’s deserts.
- See the Parthenon in Athens.
- Sail a yacht in the Caribbean.
- ‘Float’ in the Dead Sea.
- Rent a villa in Tuscany.
- Join the Mile High Club (if anyone has done this, or knows anyone who’s actually ‘joined’, let us know!)