Because you really, really deserve a vacay right about now.
“Your father is ruining the country.”
Camping can be fun, but glamping is the business… trust me.
Dreaming of a spectacular Christmas?
Travelling is something that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Exploring exotic lands, discovering new things, and generally experiencing a change of scene is good for the mind and the soul. However, the one potential hitch is, funnily enough, deciding who to go with. Questions such as how many people, just girlfriends, guy friends as well, lovers/partners – and then there’s sharing vs. not sharing a room, hostel or hotel, compromising on destinations, activities, what airline to fly, blah blah blah. While this may seem like an exciting prospect, pretty soon tempers can fray, to the point where your relaxing escape has turned into one long tantrum before it’s even begun.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution; travel alone.
I mean it. There is such a stigma on gathering a group together to take on the world, but a solo hiatus is often the best thing for you. There are so many wonderful things in the world to do; wouldn’t you rather be accountable only to yourself while you do them? To experience the world on your own terms, without inhibitions? Here are the top 4 reasons why travelling alone is the way to go.
- It’s easier to pay attention
Walking through the streets of a strange city with your friends is always fun. You can chatter and marvel at the sights and sounds around you. That is, the sights and sounds you notice. While you were distracted by your buddy’s gruesome recount of the Tower of London’s torture chambers, you missed the homeless man selling peanuts to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. You missed the daffodils that line the streets of London in the early spring, and the squirrels that poke their adorable heads out from behind the plane trees. If you were meandering through the city accompanied only by your own thoughts and agenda, you would see things that are unique to a particular place, but not usually noticeable.
- Stay out as late as you want
So long as you play it safe, you can leave your hotel room for three days without returning if you feel like it and nobody will anxiously call you at three in the morning, demanding you return to hold back her hair as she vomits away her pre-hangover (yes, I’ve been on both ends of that). When you finally return at whatever odd hour you decide on, crash through as loudly and clumsily as you want. There’s nobody there to wake up angrily and throw a pillow at you (yep, been there too).
- Eat as much as you want
Not everybody has this problem, but I certainly get a severe case of stage fright when I eat out with other people. Maybe it’s the years I’ve spent in the dance world, but I never feel I can fully indulge in exotic food when other people are watching. I know I’m not alone in this. If you’re all by your one-sie, you can go to whatever decadent Spanish tapas bar you can find and eat your way from one side of the menu to the other. The only judgment you will face is from your empty bank account the next morning. Two, four, six, eight; bog in, don’t wait!
- You will make the wackiest friends
In my time travelling alone overseas, the weirdest, wackiest, best-est friends I made were the ones I ran into completely by chance when I had nothing to do. With them I shared some of the most interesting (and sometimes questionable) experiences I have ever had, and remain in contact with them now, even though we are separated by several time zones, oceans, and the odd language barrier. The whole point of travelling is to experience the people as well as the place. What better way to do that than being forced to make friends because you’re travelling without them?
If you’re planning a trip overseas in the near future, you might want to consider just how far those hard earned Aussie bucks are going to get you. Currently, the Australian dollar is labelled the fourth worst currency in the world, meaning exchange rates are grim.
Of course, travellers are feeling the pinch. However, due to the rising popularity of home exchange holidays, accommodation has actually never been so affordable. “Australians are losing up to $20 with every $100 US dollars spent, so any holiday savings you can make will have a noticeable impact,” said Debbie Wosskow, founder of Love Home Swap.
“As travel costs in major cities continue to rise, this year the average hotel room in San Francisco will set Australian travellers back $535. Dubai comes in at $374 and Tokyo at $267,” she adds.
What’s more, if you’re looking for something at the top end of the market, a five star hotel can set you back nearly $1000 per night in places like LA, London and Geneva. Talk about no bang for your buck! This is where home exchange really comes in handy. According to Debbie, the elimination of hotel bills can save the average Australian $5,750 per trip.
“We have more than 70,000 properties listed for home exchange on Love Home Swap from small and stylish to large and luxurious,” she advises. “If you’re looking for an international adventure and thought there wasn’t room in your budget with the dropping Aussie dollar, think again.”
If you’re still concerned about other costs, Skyscanner recently published a list of 7 destinations around the world where the Aussie dollar still holds its own. While places such as New York and London obviously didn’t make the cut, Russia, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia did.
Other hot tips include booking travel tickets in advance, avoiding airport currency change outlets (due to the higher fees) and opting to fly mid-week to nab cheaper airfares.
Where there is a will, there is a way, ladies! Happy travels.
Forget the old saying ‘diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ when it comes to meaningful gifts – a recent survey has revealed that what Australians really want is a surprise, spontaneous trip away.
Booking.com revealed that a “surprise trip away” tops the list of most meaningful gifts (54 per cent), followed by a night out at a fancy restaurant (16 per cent). Just 8 per cent of participants listed jewellery or a watch as their most sought-after gift.
Three out of four people (76 per cent) said a spontaneous trip would put the romance back in to their relationship, with nearly three quarters of female (74 per cent) and 60 per cent of male respondents saying they wished their partner would plan a surprise getaway for no reason.
However, with a whopping 80 per cent of respondents agreeing that spontaneous travel boosts their happiness levels and makes them feel excited (74 per cent), what stops us from making those last minute holiday plans? Pepijn Rijvers from Booking.com said: “We know that our customers want to be able to enjoy a quick getaway without the preamble of a laborious booking process. In fact, more than 50 percent of bookings globally are made within 48 hours of travel, which is why we created the Booking Now app… The perfect room is just two taps away, so with this kind of technology at your fingertips there’s no better time to book a spontaneous trip.”
With over 690,000 accommodations available at the tap of a button via the Booking Now app, you can easily surprise your loved one with a spontaneous break whenever the moment takes you.
Let’s be real – one of the best things about escaping frosty mornings commuting to work to jet off on holiday is the fact that we get to brag about it on social media. And with a little help from full-time traveler, photographer and Cover-More Travel Insurance’s video blogger Dan Moore, you can take the sort of envy-inducing travel pics that will see the likes rolling in quicker than you can say, ‘Another margarita by the pool, please!’
The light stuff
Make sure any light source, sun or otherwise, is coming from behind you, and experiment with flash, but try not to use it indoors as it will wash out your shot.
“Don’t be afraid to try taking shots in all different types of light,” says Moore. “Sometimes dimly lit laneways with a hidden café can be as beautiful as a beach on a bright sunny day.”
Make close-ups count
With detailed shots, as opposed to landscapes, Moore says we shouldn’t be afraid to fill our frame. “Aim for a nice, simple, and tightly cropped photo of whatever it is you’re taking a picture of, whether a person or your latest foodie find.”
“Have some fun with your photo and get creative with your composition. See what it looks like to have the main subject of the photo positioned slightly off centre – people, food, or scenery, like temples or boats on the ocean, can give you a striking shot if you get close and get a little off centre.”
Sunny side up
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love the beauty of sunrise and sunset, and to be honest, it’s pretty hard to take a ‘bad’ photo of these magical times of day.
Moore suggests keeping an eye out for opportunities to use reflection or silhouettes to make your sunrise/set pic really stand out. “Objects, buildings and water that reflect the light can make for amazing shots.”
If you have waterproof equipment, taking underwater snaps can be great fun and can produce some truly breathtaking shots.
Moore’s favourite time to shoot underwater is bright afternoons. “Just under the surface of a pool or the ocean is a great place to capture sunbeams, reflections, and create texture.”
“If you are feeling adventurous, head out for a surf, snorkel or kayak with your camera and don’t forget not to waste rainy days on your holiday which can also produce some amazing watery holiday snaps.”
It wouldn’t be a holiday if you weren’t taking photos of your delicious food discoveries or beautiful cocktails by the pool.
Moore suggests thinking about the shape, texture and colour of what you’re taking a photo of, and says some dishes are going to look great when photographed from above, while others, like gorgeous cakes or drinks, will look better shot from a lower angle.
“And be quick,” Moore adds. “Grab the shot when your pho is piping hot or your granita still icy, and never underestimate the fun that can be had when posing with your food mid-scoff or slurp – it is a holiday after all!”
To celebrate their YouTube channel hitting 2 million views and over 1000 subscribers, Cover-More Travel Insurance, has launched the search to find the Ultimate Traveller. Record and share your video adventure for the chance to win a $10,000 travel adventure. There are also GoPro Hero4 and GoPro Hero3+ cameras up for grabs.
Thinking about jet-setting overseas this year? Well, ladies and gents, MasterCard has just revealed the ten most popular travel destinations on the planet for 2015 – and interestingly, the results aren’t exactly as you’d expect.
For the fifth time in seven years, London has been crowned the number one go-to destination in the world, with 18.82 million overnight international visitors expected to travel to the city this year. “I’m delighted that London has proudly held on to this coveted title, as we celebrate another triumphant and record-breaking year for tourism in the city,” mayor Borris Johnson told the Daily Mail.
“With its unrivalled mix of history, culture, culinary gems and cutting-edge creativity, I’m confident that these accolades will keep coming as the capital continues to surprise and excite visitors from all over the world.”
Bangkok came in at number two, with 18.24 million visitors predicted to flock to the Thailand capital this year, while the city of love – Paris – officially took third place with an estimated 16.06 million tourists.
Surprisingly, not all that dazzles, shines, with New York falling short of the top 5 this year after being bumped down to the sixth most popular travel destination. Instead, Dubai has taken preference coming in at number four, followed by a shock contender – Istanbul at number 5. Apparently the city, which is located in Turkey, has seen a rapid increase in the amount of visitors in recent years. Only fitting, considering it is the largest seaport and financial centre in the country.
To finally round out the top ten – drum roll please – Singapore ranked number 7 on the list, with Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong following. The Global Destinations Cities Index, provided by MasterCard, ranks the 132 most visited cities around the globe in terms of international overnight visitors, however they also provide insight into spending.
According to the report, travellers will fork out roughly $US265 billion while in transit this year, with around $US15 billion of that being spent in London alone – an estimated 2.3 per cent increase compared to 2014.
Ann Cairns, president of International Markets at MasterCard told the Daily Mail: “This year’s study helps us understand just how interconnected the world’s cities are and the significant role they play in connecting and empowering greater numbers of people than ever before.”
Which is your top city to visit?
Image via Daily Mail, voyage.gentside.com
Planning your next holiday? We map out 10 of the year’s hottest travel destinations for an Instagram-worthy vacation. Make like a blogger, grab your Canon and Isabel Marant heels and jet off to one of these truly photogenic locations.
Search #Cappadocia in Instagram hashtags and your feed will be awash with dreamy sunrise shots of hot air balloons drifting above the craggy rock landscape of Turkey. This once-obscure location is located in the Central Anatolia Region in Turkey, a short flight from Istanbul.
Recently shot to social media stardom thanks to Australian travel blogger Tuula Vintage, Cappadocia is fast gaining fame for its honeycomb hills and whimsical, fairytale vibe. Book a hot air balloon at day break and grab your Nikon – it’ll to be the ride of a lifetime.
Famed for it’s milky-turquoise water and iconic sprawling stilt huts, the Maldives is a dreamy luxury holiday destination like no other. Thanks to super bloggers like Jasmine Howell of Friend in Fashion and Nicole Warne of Gary Pepper Girl, the Maldives is a hit destination for travellers who want postcard picturesque scenery and brag-worthy surrounds. Just don’t expect to travel on a budget – the Maldives is home to some of the best (read: most expensive) luxury resorts in the world and it’s worth the splurge.
A day trip to the town of Chefchaouen in Northern Morocco will have you seeing blue for days. The small town consists of hundreds of hotels and houses bathed in the same shade of vivid cerulean wash, a tradition credited to its Jewish heritage.
Located a short trip from Tangier on the coast of Africa, Chefchaouen is a perfect stop-over on your way to Fez or Marrakesh. Perhaps don’t wear blue that day.
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
It sounds like the description of a far-off location in an Indiana Jones film: a cluster of hidden underground lakes surrounded by lush jungle and dripping green vines. No, it’s not fiction. It’s a cenote, an eerily beautiful natural sinkhole found commonly in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
Cenotes, pronounced ‘se-note-tees,’ are natural pits that occur when limestone bedrock collapses to reveal underground water. Once used by the Mayan people for sacrificial offerings, you can now access many of these sublime pools easily and take a dip.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre is a #nofilter dream. Imagine row upon row of pastel pink and gelato tangerine buildings, perched over azure water. This iconic destination on the Italian Riviera should be top of anyone’s European bucket list.
To capture an iconic travel shot, pack your hiking gear. This rugged coastline is best seen from the winding, steep trails that dot the cliffs.
Burning Man Festival, Nevada Desert
Move over Coachella, the must-see event rising to the top of every traveller’s list is Burning Man Festival. Held once a year in Nevada’s desolate Black Rock Desert, this festival isn’t for those who value their creature comforts.
Built with the values of inclusion and gifting, those who go to Burning Man Festival must bring a gift or service that is used as a currency in place of money.
When it comes to fashion, Burning Man Festival is your chance to go all-out. Latex, sequins, capes and leotards are the norm at the desert event, perfect for dramatic Priscilla Queen of the Desert-like snaps.
Pamukkale, meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, certainly lives up to its mysterious name. Located in Southwestern Turkey, this unique city is best known for it’s white hot springs which form in terrace-like pools. The travertines are made from carbon minerals left by the flowing water and was believed to have ancient healing properties.
This site in unlike no other, so pack your best white bikini and relax in the warm turquoise water. Bliss.
The Pink Lake, Western Australia
Western Australia’s Pink Lake became a dramatic backdrop for a collaboration between blogger Nicole Warne of Gary Pepper Girl and cosmetic giant Lancome. Ever since those stunning images of Warne bathing in the rose-hued water surfaced on social media it’s been short-listed as a dramatic location to visit.
Located in Port Gregory in the State’s mid-west, the vibrant colour of the water is created by bacteria that has become trapped in salt granules – not so glamourous. While not worth a long-term stay, the Pink Lake is a good stopover when exploring the state. The odd natural phenomenon is truly breathtaking.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Nature-lovers should add Plitvice Lakes National Park to the top of their travel to-do list. This stunning destination is located in Central Croatia, a day trip from popular port town Split. Best known for its impossibly clear, aquamarine still lakes and cascading waterfalls, exploring Plitvice is like stepping into an alternate world.
Often confused with Krka National Park, Plitvice is slightly harder to reach, but is well worth the effort. While travellers can swim in the water at Krka, Plitvice forbids any disruption to the serine lakes, which means the ecosystem remains virtually untouched. Wander the winding wooden boardwalks to see an abundance of fish, frogs, lizards and even the odd blue dragonfly.
Images via Sussan Mourad, Tuula Vintage, Gary Peppy Girl, Caravansary, Friend in Fashion, Leahliyah.
Zambia, blessed with breathtaking natural wonders, a wealth of wildlife and the perfect sanctuary for honeymooners.
According to the Royal Livingston, “On the 16 November 1855, David Livingstone (Scottish missionary) first laid eyes on the waterfall that would define his life story, and that of an entire country. Visible from over 30km away, the Kololo people with whom he had travelled downriver called it Mosi-oa-Tunya – the smoke that thunders. As the first European to witness this magnificent site, he decided to name it Victoria Falls in honour of his Queen. At the Royal Livingstone Hotel on the banks of a river that flows through the soul of the continent.”
Your own African honeymoon waits to be told.
Stay: The Royal Livingston Hotel
Eat: Try their traditional dish nshima, made of maize (corn) with goat curry, delish.
Drink: Locally brewed beer or their sunset cocktails on the deck
Spa: Couples massage overlooking the Zambezi River (OMG!)
Discover: Cross the border to Botswana and cruise/4WD the Chobe River seeing all the Big 5 in their natural habitat.
Zambia offers an unforgettable honeymoon experience, where you explore the real Africa.
During your working year, it’s so easy to become absorbed in your career diary; planning the meetings you’ll be in and the paperwork you have to fill out, and often holidays and time off are forgotten because work commitments seem more important. Many of us are guilty of bringing work home, checking emails and systems on our laptop after our other half has slipped into slumber.
Stop. Breathe. Relax. You need it. Employees are entitled to holidays every year, but many are not taken due to a dedication to the job and fear of what may happen while away. No one will think badly of you for loving your job and wanting to do well in your career, but not taking your annual leave and overworking yourself puts a strain on your health, your mindset and your relationships, which can counteract all the effort you’ve been putting in.
To excel in a working environment, it’s crucial to have a healthy and positive work-life balance. Striking a harmony between letting go of work and giving into holiday relaxation can often be the most difficult part, but is essential to allow yourself to recuperate and refresh.
Before we get onto the positive effects of taking a holiday, let’s sort out the negative effects of not taking a holiday, especially on your career. It has been found that not taking proper holidays actually makes you less productive and creative than your holidaying colleagues. Over working yourself also creates added stress and over-tiredness, which can affect your sleep, moods and thought processes. Living on coffee can’t sustain you forever, so take a week off and get on a plane to a fun destination.
Having mini breaks of 3-4 days are better than not having holidays at all, though it may not give your enough time to switch off. Taking longer holidays throughout the year, such as a two week break, is a better way to free yourself from work priorities, rather than just taking a long weekend. Two weeks not only allows for travel time, which equates two days of your holiday, but it gives you time to allow your mind to relax and slowly let go of career-related buzzing in your mind. It may take a couple of days to liberate yourself, to which a long weekend doesn’t allow.
Taking a holiday really does great things to your mind. It allows you to divert your mind from work to the cocktails at the Tiki Bar in front of you, your stress levels lower and it allows you to handle stress and priorities better when you do return to work. This is not only better for your heart, but also your mental health and sleeping patterns, especially if you get a few extra ZZZs while you’re away.
It also allows you time to reconnect with your partner and family, meaning better communication and interaction. You can make great memories and rediscover passions or try new things, depending on where your holiday takes you.
One positive aspect of taking a holiday, that many people overlook, is going somewhere new, experiencing a different culture and learning a different way of life. If you’ve been dreaming of a place, take that holiday and get over there to see what it’s like! Learning about a different country or state is great for your brain, and gives you excellent stories to tell your colleagues when you return.
What’s that? You’re already filling out your annual leave forms? Good for you!
Images via dareoutloud.com and prco.com
If you’re into looking at beautiful places and interesting people, look no further than your Instagram feed. Start your travel bucket list in 2015 with a bit of inspiration from these talented Instagram travel photographers.
Murad Osmann has travelled around the globe with his girlfriend (@yourleo) and each shot shows her – always fabulously dressed – seemingly asking the photographer to follow her into the beautiful scenery.
While Mustafa has done a bit of globe trotting recently, the bulk of his beautiful images were snapped in his homeland of Turkey.
Couple, Dave and Deb, have travelled all seven continents and 90 countries and share their colorful adventures with nearly 22,000 Instagram followers.
See everything, everywhere with award winning travel photographer – Gary Arndt. He’s been to more than 100 countries – so when we say everywhere, we means it!
A Holland-based, Norwegian photographer, Marianne Hope will add a much-needed dash of Northern Europe to your Instagram feed.
In my opinion, the ultimate travel photography Instagram account. Get to know their resident photographers – like the owner of this adorable shot, @amivitale – and learn a bit about the world in the process.
For a touch of India in your Instagram feed, follow this aggregator of photographs of this wild and wonderful nation. Color and character guaranteed.
With The Bachelor having come to a (controversial) close, single women everywhere would be right in reconsidering their options in finding a long-term beau. Good news is you don’t have to put yourself on reality TV to find love, travel expert and Contiki managing director Katrina Barry gives us the low down on the best places for all the single ladies to holiday where there is not only shopping, spas and amazing food but possibly some eye candy.
As Paris Fashion Week closes the French capital once again claims the title as the fashion mecca of the world. From flea markets, Galaries Lafayette and the Champs Elysees fashionistas won’t just be in shopping heaven. The city of lights also claims a 2:1 male to female ratio so save some energy for a glass of Champagne at the end of the day and work on your French skills.
Known for its mosaic of beautiful colours Istanbul is not only the perfect pamper holiday but is fast becoming one of Europe’s hottest destinations for under 35’s. Channel your inner goddess and spend your days being pampered in one of the hotel Turkish baths or traditional Hamam, not only will around four hours of massages, facials and baths only cost about $80 but you will be feeling fabulous to go out and meet some new people.
If your ideal holiday is all about getting the local experience then there is no better place than Edinburgh. The Scots have not only made the cut as one of the friendliest cities in the world but also lay claim to hometown hotties like Gerard Butler and Richard Madden. After a day of sightseeing head to the local pub and taste test the local delicacies, you will be one of the locals in no time.
4. Greek Islands
If you are craving adventure, sunshine and good times you can’t go past the Greek Islands for your next holiday destination. Spend the day soaking up the sun, exploring the island by quad bike or paddle boarding on the Aegean before relaxing at one of the many beach front restaurants or bars.
If food is your forte then Barcelona is the best place to be, kick start your day at La Boqueria market and work your way around the market stopping for tapas at the dozens of restaurants and food stalls before taking advantage of the social dining scene at night to share a glass of sangria with new friends.
Contiki’s travels to all of these destinations plus more check out the new 2015 Europe program available now. For more information, visit www.contiki.com or phone 1300 266 845.
Summer in any major city is a hot bed for petty crime. Naïve tourists are easy targets for local con artists, but luckily, the internet is here to help you read up on well-known scams before venturing abroad. You should definitely do your research and invest in travel insurance before going anywhere unfamiliar, but we have a few tried-and-tested tips to avoid being the victim:
- Don’t keep anything in your pockets – you will get pickpocketed
- Lock your bags when possible. Some brands now sell backpacks with inbuilt codes and locks, but this isn’t always necessary. Make sure your handbag has a zip or a buckle – something to prevent people just sticking their hands in! Always keep it close, never put your bag on the ground, and don’t hang it over one arm – it makes it easy to snatch. Also, to be extra safe always lock your luggage, even in your hotel room
- Be aware and on alert. Learn about local scams. For example, some people often use crying or lost children to engage your sympathies and distract you while they rummage through your luggage. Make sure you always have one eye on your belongings
- Store things in the hotel safe. It isn’t exactly rare for things to go missing from hotel rooms, but they are usually the safest place. Keep your luggage locked in your room, and put things in the safe where possible
- Scan a copy of your passport and identification documents before you leave. Keep a printed copy with you, but email yourself a copy before you leave, just in case
- Try and blend in. Tourists generally stick out like beacons. We are easy to identify with our daypacks, maps and comfortable footwear, and thus become natural prey. I have a rule to never look at a map in public. Be sure to study the map before you leave your hotel, and if you get lost, don’t panic. Look like you know where you are until you find somewhere without crowds to have a look
- Watch what you’re drinking and who you’re drinking with. It’s great to have a night out, meet new people and enjoy yourself. Just keep your wits about you and don’t travel anywhere at night on your own
- Know the price of a taxi and distance to your hotel before arriving in a new city. Every airport will have fake taxi drivers looking to rip you off. Know the average price and settle on a fair before you get into the cab
- Keep emergency cash and a credit card. Don’t have all your money in the one place. I would always carry emergency cash in my bra or shoe when I went out for the day. I also had a spare credit card secure in my hotel room. I would recommend carrying small amounts of cash
- Be flexible. Prepare for the worst and know what to do. Don’t beat yourself up over a stolen wallet – if that’s the worst thing that happens, you’ve gotten off easy. Be ready to cancel credit cards and know how to contact your consulate
- Try to learn a few phrases in the native language, be friendly and smile! Making friends and finding help will be a lot easier
- Research, research, research! You can never be too certain.
Image via Mashable