A FLIGHT ATTENDANT’S TOP TIPS TO MAKE YOUR NEXT TRAVEL EXPERIENCE A BREEZE [INFOGRAPHIC]

A FLIGHT ATTENDANT’S TOP TIPS TO MAKE YOUR NEXT TRAVEL EXPERIENCE A BREEZE [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

There is no doubt that travelling is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Holidays are meant to be exciting but often, the planning process, the long haul flight and subsequent jetlag can leave us feeling more exhausted than we’d like to be. To counteract these hurdles, it’s handy to have some travel hacks in mind.

So we spoke to Connie Ting, Flight Attendant at Cathay Pacific, to get her top tips on how to make your next travel experience a breeze.

  • Think Ahead

You won’t be going anywhere if you realise that your passport expires just before your travels. Check to see that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from departure date and for the duration of your trip. Some countries have different requirements so be sure to confirm ahead of time. Similarly, check the visa requirements for the destination/s you’re travelling to. Some countries allow you to purchase a visa on arrival and some require a preapproved visa which can take a few weeks (or months) to process. Vaccinations are another important requirement to think about.

  • Pack Smart

Minimise the chances of missing your luggage on the baggage carousel by opting for a colourful suitcase over a black one. Alternatively, tie ribbons or anything that will help identify your luggage when it’s on the carousel. A great space saving and organisational tip is to pack your items into labelled groups and in suction bags. That way you reduce the rate of unpacking and repacking with clearly marked bags for specific countries, weather or occasions.  This also makes it easier when you go through customs and you’re required to open up your luggage. The last thing you want is for everything to topple out of your suitcase.

  • Eat Smart

If you have any special dietary requirements, make sure you state your preference at least 24 hours ahead of the flight. It’s always best to eat a nourishing meal ahead of your flight so you’re less likely to be tempted by the less healthy options at the terminal. If you are trying to find something during a layover, look to see where the flight attendants are eating as a good reference. Make sure you drink enough water before you fly and keep hydrated during the flight. Try and avoid drinking coffee before the flight as this will add to dehydration and may also keep you awake when you’ll want to get some shut-eye.

  • Maximise In-Flight Comfort

Always wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes when flying, especially if it’s long haul. If it gets too cold, you can request for a second blanket but always pack a scarf or cardigan in your carry-on for safe measure. If you normally wear contacts, avoid doing so on a flight as the cabin air will dry out your eyes in no time. Opt for your trusty glasses instead. You can always pack spare contacts in your carry on and change into them upon landing. Other essentials include eye masks (to block out light), a neck pillow and ear plugs.

 

  • Beat Jetlag

It’s hard to avoid jetlag after a long flight, but there are ways to negate the effects. If your flight arrives in the morning, try sleep throughout the second leg so you arrive fresh and therefore are more likely to fall asleep that night. If you have a layover, take advantage of any available airport facilities such as a showers, massages, gyms or nap rooms. Anything that gets the blood flowing is great for circulation, helps keep the body regular and can reduce jetlag.

P.S. Cathay Pacific surveyed Australian holidaymakers on their pre-flight and in-flight travel behaviour and preferences. They’ve captured an interesting snapshot of the findings via an infographic (see below).

Cathay Pacific_How Aussies Travel Infographic_Combined_FINAL APPROVED

 

TripAdvisor Top 25 Landmarks to Visit in the World – Part 2

TripAdvisor Top 25 Landmarks to Visit in the World – Part 2

The 2016 Traveller’s choice awards have revealed the top 25 destinations to travel in the world! That’s a big call for some of the landmarks because there is so much out there to do and see – I am an avid traveller and so far my list of places to visit is not getting any shorter.
In my previous post for Part 1 I gave a breakdown of the top half of the 25 posts and and added my commentary about the destinations revealed. I broke it down into two parts because the original post ended up containing so much information that I wanted to share and write about these beautiful destinations.
In this post, I again will share with you some secrets of my travels to those spots I’ve been to and also once more, I am adding destinations to my  “TO VISIT” column.
This is Part 2, starting from destination/landmark number 12.

 

12. Hagia Sophia Museum / Church (Ayasofya), Istanbul, Turkey
To Visit

 

One of the most memorable locations in a James Bond film and certainly impressive. It is said that this structure changed the history of architecture. In 1953 this building became a museum, but prior to that, it served as an immensely important construction holding many holy relics and changing with wars, conquests and tribulations. Started as an Orthodox Church in 537 AD and when Constantinople was conquered, it became a Mosque from 1453.
Hagia-Sophia-Museum Turkey

 

13. Grand-Place, Brussels, Belgium

To Visit

 A key tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This square is measured 68 by 110 metres. Historically started as a popular market, owned by a Duke, that could continue its trade in all weather. The Town Hall served as a temporary hospital during WW2. The Grand Place continued to serve as a market until 1959 and is still called the Great Market. The neighbouring streets carry the historic existence of the market with names reflecting the sellers; butter, cheese, herring etc.

 

Grand-Palace, Brussels
Image via Booking.com
 If you’ve seen images of this giant flower carpet – it happens every couple of years (in August) on this square. All flowers are begonias, creating intricate colourful patterns on the giant carpet stretching a full 24 by 77 metres, a total of 1,800 square metres. This tradition started in 1971 and due to extreme popularity with tourists, has been carried on to this day, attracting millions every time. 
belgium-brussels-grand-place-flower-carpet

14. Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

visited

 Who can miss the Eiffel tower when in Paris? Constructed for the World’s Fair in 1889, the tower is now more iconic than ever. If you’re visiting, you will no doubt have the temptation to climb to the top of Tour Eiffel but the lines can be very long. I remember waiting upwards of 3 hours in a queue to go up the tower in an elevator. Once you’ve finished at the top observation deck, you will be lining up again to come down. Such the experience! I loved observing the tower from all angles of the city and at night it’s lit up by a sparkling light show. In winter, the bottom floor of the tower turns into an ice skating rink and if you wish, you can also dine at one of the restaurants located on numerous floors.

 

Paris Eiffel Tower
Evening in Paris
paris travel live shop travel blogger
The streets of Paris
15.  Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France

visited

Who can forget the Hunchback of Notre Dame? The famous cathedral that’s downright spooky in some respects. In others, all romanticism and art. The scary gargoyles , were designed by sculptors and used their imagination and creativity to sculpt these  creatures. Their purpose is not only decorative, but they are used to help drain rain water off the roof to protect the walls from getting damaged. One of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, the Cathedral has been around since the 13th century.

cathedral_of_notre-dame_paris

16. Great Wall at Mutianyu, Beijing, China

To Visit

 

“The only construction visible from space.” or the myth, that’s now been broken, says. The wall is more than 2,300 years old and has been rebuilt and re-constructed in parts under different dynasties many times. Most times when we see tourist photos of the Great Wall, it is a section or two of the wall that’s been completely restored for the purpose of tourism. Currently there’s approximately 1/3 of the wall that’s been sited as ‘missing’ due to natural erosion, locals taking the bricks for home building and possibly other types of degradation which occur with age. If you’re interested in visiting there are many recommended parts of the wall to visit, most popular from Beijing. Depending on what type of expedition you’d like to do, all levels of fitness can be explored. More here.
The-Great-Wall-Of-China-
Image via http://www.unknownworld.co/

17. Acropolis, Athens, Greece

To Visit

 

 Another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps one of the oldest on the global list. The Acropolis is an ancient Citadel located on an extremely rocky site at the top of the city of Athens. This area contains a lot of ruins of ancient buildings, with the most famous one being the Parthenon (pictured below). The Parthenon served as a sacred ground and provides a monument of Greece’s Golden Age.
Acropolis Athens Greece
Image via http://www.keytours.gr/

18. Corcovado – Cristo Redentor, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

To Visit

One of the most recognisable landmarks in the World and one of the 7 wonders, with the recent Olympic games 2016, anyone will recall this symbol of Rio De Janeiro. Christ the Redeemer, or Cristo Redentor is a gigantic statue (30 metres tall) of Jesus Christ by a French sculptor.  Mount Corcovado is located in central Rio De Janeiro and is called ‘hunchback’ mountain in Portugese. The submission to have Christ the Redeemer with arms wide open as a symbol of peace was approved in 1920. Now Christian believers can host weddings and baptisms at the chapel atop the Corcovado mountain.

Corcova Rio De Janeiro
Image via http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/

19. Big Ben, London, United Kingdom

To Visit

I remember drawing the Big Ben in art class when I was a kid. It’s a structure I studied in intricate details but have never ended up visiting London. I am sure if anyone is in London, then the Big Ben is kind of unmissable. Located at the North end of Palace Westminster and is now officially called Elizabeth Tower. The clock tower has become a symbol of the UK and is the most popular film location in London. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, presumably named after Sir Benjamin Hall, which weighs more than 13 tons (13,760 kg).  The clock tower looks spectacular at night when the clock faces are illuminated.

Big Ben
Image via https://cdn.getyourguide.com

20. Chichen Itza, Chichen Itza, Mexico

To Visit

 

This is the largest of archeological cities of the pre-Colombian Mayan period, located in Mexico. It’s recommended to visit the site with 1-2 nights to spare and to rise early in the morning to experience the beauty of this city with sunrise and less tourists, similar to Macchu Picchu. Located about 125 km west of Cancun and is a rugged place full of massive pyramids, temples and columns. It is said that the Chichen Itza was the most powerful city in Yucatan.
Chichen Itza
Image via Grayline.com

21.Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho), Bangkok, Thailand

To Visit

The temple is one of the largest in Bangkok and is famous for the giant reclining Buddha (46 metres long) that’s covered in gold leaf.  The Buddha’s feet alone are 5 metres long and are decorated in mother of pearl illustrations. Tourist sites say it is worth walking around the rest of the temple and seeing more golden statues, four chapels and the beautiful courtyard. Wat Pho was the first public university in Thailand and is now a centre for medicine and traditional massage. You can even get a relaxing foot or head and shoulder massage at the end of your visit and it is recommended to book ahead.

Buda-reclinado-Bangkok-Tailandia
Image via en.vietnamitsaenmadrid.com  

22. Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE

visited

This is officially the tallest building in the World. The Burj Khalifa lights up in beautiful lights at night and is located next to Dubai Mall. If you’re planning to visit, it’s best to purchase your tickets online as the queues to get tickets can be long and there is also a capped limit on the number of passes they issue per day. You don’t have to go up to the top of the tower to appreciate the height. Just try and crank your neck to see the tip of the building, you won’t believe how far you have to tilt your head back just to see where the tower ends.

Burj-Khalifa
Image via http://travelchannel.sndimg.com/

23. Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia

To Visit

This is what happens when you live in a certain place long enough, you don’t visit the touristy places around where you are. I have been to Canberra but never visited the War Memorial, which made the top 25 landmarks to visit this year. The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941, and is now regarded as one of the most significant memorials in the world. There is an extensive military museum. Every year on April 25th it is Anzac Day in Australia and on this day we remember all Australians who served and died in war and on operational service. Dawn Service, National Ceremony and Last Post Ceremony take place on this day at the Australian War Memorial. 

Australian_War_Memorial
Image via australia.dfns.net

24. Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Australia

visited

I used to work at Sydney Opera House, although our office was located nearby, I still had frequent meetings and saw many shows at the Opera House itself. This structure continues to attract tourists from all over the world and its always interesting to just observe the unique structure from the outside. In all weather, the Opera House looks stunning and if you’re lucky enough to visit Sydney during winter, you’ll see the sails light up in a myriad of colours and media projections as a part of the annual VIVID festival. There are daily tours for the Sydney Opera House – you can explore the insights from all the resident companies, including Australian Ballet, Opera Australia and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and go behind the scenes to view the Concert Hall and Joan Sutherland theatre from the performers perspective.

Sydney Opera House
Image via https://www.homeaway.com.au

25. Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

visited

 

We visited Kyoto after spending a few days in Tokyo and it was quite a change of pace. Kyoto has more historic origins and there are many temples and shrines to visit to learn about Japanese culture. The Fushimi Inari- Taisha Shrine is probably the most famous, identified by the large orange Romon gate and the torii gate covered hiking trail, which starts with two dense, parallel rows of gates called Senbon Torii (“thousands of torii gates”). The hike to the summit of the mountain takes 2-3 hours but you’re free to turn back any time you want.  Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers so you will see many statues of foxes in the shrine grounds. Many visit the Shrine to explore the mountain trails around the area, but when we visited, this was not something that we wanted to do.  It’s funny because I took a photo of the station called JR Inari Station, which is where you get off to go to the Shrine. Inari restaurants and Fox Udon are popular dishes at the nearby restaurants and have fried tofu (said to be foxes’ favourite food).

Fushimi-Inari-Shrine

Image via http://lukezeme.com/

Have you been to visit all of these landmarks? I certainly haven’t but just researching the places I haven’t been to gave me so many new ideas on where to travel next. I hope this article gave you some more information on these Global landmarks. Happy travels!

Go back to part 1 of the 25 Top Landmarks to visit in 2016 to see all 25 landmarks to visit.

 

 

 

 

Best Getaway Places in Australia this Winter

Best Getaway Places in Australia this Winter

Winter gets us Aussies less motivated, needing more sleep, leading less healthy days and sometimes downright blue altogether.
In a recent study by Accor hotels,  1,500 Australians were surveyed on winter habits.
77% reported feeling tired and having trouble waking up, 70% binge watch TV, 59% do less exercise and 56% overeat.

 

While it’s perfectly normal to feel a bit less energetic in winter, if you find yourself neglecting your exercise and healthy eating habbits, you’re probably doing yourself more harm than good in the long run.

 

The best solution to maintaining your physical and mental health this winter is to become more consious of eating habbits and being more vigilant with exercise. Join a gym that has fun classes so you don’t have to run outside in the cold. Classes will motivate you to participate more and if you are attending with a friend you can hold each other accountable.

 

An additional feel good is taking a short trip somewhere warmer than where you already are!
There is nothing like breaking up the winter cycle with a little bit of sunshine.
After all out of the Aussies living in warmer areas like Queensland only 38% reported feeling blue compared to their Canberra residing counterparts out of whom 58% reported mood downturns in winter.

 

Alternatively, challenge yourself in trying something new e.g. If you’ve never skiid before, opt in for a weekend getaway at a ski resort and get a couple of lessons. New experiences and fun physical activity like skiing and snowboarding in winter are bound to kick in some positive vibes into your routine.

 

If you don’t have much leave, it’s best to stay around Australia. We are lucky to have so many options to travel around, most great destinations are only a few of hours away!

 

Queensland is my top pick for getting away in winter because the further north you go, the more it feels tropical and warm.

 

Great Barrier Reef
 Butterflyfishes and turtle

 

Stretching over 2,000 km, the Great Barrier reef is indeed a incredible natural wonder. If anything, it’s better to visit Cairns in winter, because the temperatures a cooler (ranging between 26-27 degrees celsius, vs low to mid 30s in the summer) and the water is meant to be clearer so when it comes to snorkelling and diving, the two most popular activities at the reef, you’ll surely get your money’s worth. There are more than 1,500 fish species, 134 species of sharks and sting rays and more than 30 species of marine mammals – the reef is always full of life.
It’s important to remember that theReef is very fragile so its important to educate yourself on some practices while you are there.
Protecting the reef tips:
- Wear a wetsuit rather than putting on sunscreen that damages the reef
- Take all rubbish with you
- Never rest on coral or disturb marine life
 
Hamilton Island

 

scenery-hamilton-island-qualia

 

The largest island in the Whitsunday group of islands ( There are 74 islands in total) which has it’s own airport making it easier to fly directly onto the island and start enjoying the warm temperatures as soon as you get off the plane.
There is a vast range of accomodation on the island, including the very luxurious Qualia resort. Read the Daily Telegraph review here.
Hamilton Island is the perfect getaway destination. The island is big enough to cater to all your holidaying needs, you can engage in popular water sports, and activity as well as shopping, tours and of course choose from a range of incredible dining options.

 

Daydream Island
 daydream island living reef

 

Daydream Island is located an hour’s ferry ride from Hamilton Island and is the only living reef resort in the World. Here you can get up close and personal with sting rays and bamboo sharks. You’ll be accompanied by lots of marine life as you’re having breakfasts and dinners in the main restaurants – the reef runs all the way around the dining and living facilities making it incredibly interesting to observe fish and other creatures moving through their daily cycle. There are 3 main restaurants on the island offering decent dining options. There are also many free activities such as open air movies and fish feeding. There is also a mini golf park, a spa and a a marine biology education centre on the island. So if you’re keen to learn more about Nemo, Dory and baby stingrays, this is definitely a fun place to visit.
Lizard Island

 

lizard island australia
Lizard Island is a bit of a luxurious experience and is located in the most northern part of Queensland directly on the Great Barrier Reef. There are 24 powdery white sand beaches, a luxurious spa which I reviewed here 

 

You can snorkel and dive right off the beaches and enjoy the exclusivity of this resort with a private villa.
This kind of getaway would not be cheap but could be saved for a special occasion, or if you really wanted to spoil yourself.

 

Airley beach 

 

Airlie beach QLD

 

Traditionally a backpacker’s good time town, Airley beach is fast becoming a more upmarket destination – its still a very beautiful and incredibly affordable destination however. There are myriads of accomodation options from hotels to Air BNB. The beauty of staying in Airlie beach is that you’re not paying for the exclusivity of island resorts but you are still super close to all the Whitsundays action. Options here are to take day trips to the islands, go sailing and explore all the local eateries, bars and boutique shops. If you need to you can always zip back to Brisbane.

 

Noosa
 Noosa Australia

 

Noosa is located a bit north of the gold coast and in winter, it won’t be as warm as Airley beach or Hamilton island. With temperateures ranging from 20-25 degrees during the day, it’s still warm enough to swim but in the evenings you’ll have to get a little rugged up. There is plenty to do and see in Noosa. Apart from the beautiful beaches, you can enjoy the town and explore nature walks, Australia Zoo and the many shopping destinations .

 

Gold Coast

 

Gold Coast High Rises and Beach

 

The Gold Coast is a popular schoolies destination for all Australian school kids. In winter, you are not risking running into hoards of graduating teens and so your trip is guaratneed to be more relaxing! The Gold Coast boasts beautiful beaches, lots of entertaining venues including bars, pubs, casinos and nightclubs. If you’re into all of that, it’s good to stay in Surfer’s paradise as there are my options for apartments and hotels really close to the main esplanade and the beach. The casino (Jupiter’s) can be entertaining during the night with lots of shows and dining options. If you wanted a more quiet day/evening, rent a car and head to Broadbeach which is only 10-15 minutes away. There are more upmarket dining options available and it’s also a quieter more relaxing space.

 
 

Image Credits:

 
 
 

TripAdvisor Reveals Top 25 Landmarks to Visit in the World – Part 1

TripAdvisor Reveals Top 25 Landmarks to Visit in the World – Part 1

The TripAdvisor 2016 Traveller’s choice awards have revealed the top 25 destinations to travel in the world! That’s a big call for some of the landmarks because there is so much out there to do and see – I am an avid traveller and so far my list of places to visit is not getting any shorter.

I am curious to see the full list and give my commentary about the destinations voted as the most impressive to visit. I can share with you some secrets of my travels to those spots and for myself – I am keen to see what spots I haven’t been to yet and those will definitely be added to the “TO VISIT” column.

Let’s go!

1. Macchu Picchu, Peru

visited

Yes, I love that the 1st place on the top 25 list is Macchu Picchu. I was there in 2010 and I’ve never seen anything like this landmark again, and probably never will.

travel blogger machu picchu

What you learn about the incredible civilization and witness the sheer genius design, build and functionality will blow you away. The best time to go is super early in the morning. I remember waking up at 4am, taking the bus on top of the mountain from the village below. If Macchu Picchu has been on your To See list for a while, I would encourage you to go see it as soon as possible. Reason being is that this landmark is so old and there are so many tourists that no doubt there will be further erosions (just like the Egyptian pyramids) and the structure won’t be the same in the next 10 or so years. I am sure when we went the site was not the same as it was a decade before that, but the point is things don’t last forever, especially such ancient civilisation places.

Unfortunately, all our photos taken on camera got lost when my laptop got stolen in 2012 but I found a couple of pics on Facebook, thus the lower quality so I apologise for that.

2. Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi, UAE

To Visit

Just looking at the photos of this beautiful Mosque makes me want to travel to Abu Dhabi and wander through this gem of an architectural pioneer. As a number 2 on TripAdvisor’s list, it’s easy to understand why global travellers have rated this landmark so highly. I’ve been to Abu Dhabi but only through the airport in 2011 and there was a lot of construction going on. The airport was incredibly new and the Etihad airline was luxurious and premium. I think my next stint to Central Asia or my home country of Kazakhstan visit will have to involve a detour via Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh-Zayed-Grand-Mosque-UAE

3. Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

To Visit

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It was constructed in the 12th century and was a Buddhist temple. A portugese monk that visited in the 16th century said that the temple “is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.” And this is what I am going to stop doing – trying to describe it with a pen aka my typing and just pop this one on my ‘To Visit’ list quietly.
angkor wat unesco

Image via http://whc.unesco.org/

4. St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Italy

visited

Part of our honeymoon trip at the end of 2012, a visit to Italy couldn’t be complete without going to Rome, a city so full of history with literally layers of centuries in historical importance. The Vatican is an area within Rome’s borders and is considered a separate country. St Peter’s Basilica is where the pope lives and governs through Vatican law. St Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest active churches in the world and is vastly decorated with artwork and marble, containing many tombs where popes have been buried and notable sculptures.

St Peter's Basilica Inside Travel BlogInside the St Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica facade

5.  Taj Mahal, Agra, India

To Visit

Definitely on a top priority on the  “To Visit” list. One of the most romantic structures with such a story of love attached to the mausoleum of Taj Mahal. Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal ( “Crown of Palaces” in Persian) for his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died at the age of 39 during childbirth. The Emperor was so devastated by his wife’s departure that he introduced a 2 year mourning and ordered to build the Taj Mahal as a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess. It took 22 years to build and the structure, since 1643, has continued to mesmerize and inspire lovers around the globe.taj-mahalImage via http://www.tajmahal.org.uk/

 

6. Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain

To Visit

Historically,  Spain and many parts of Europe used to be occupied by Muslim rule and myself and my husband have previously visited the Seville Cathedral, in Spain, as a part of our honeymoon trip in 2012. The cathedral has the base of a mosque and updated with Catholic church structures. It’s a hybrid of a sort that combines Muslim and Catholic faith in one beautiful structure. Looks like Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba has retained it’s Muslim roots, even in the title. It’s important to understand the history of specific architectural structures and very interesting to learn how these change, under which influence. I would love to visit this Mosque - Catherdal as the interior looks artistically incredible.

MOSQUE_CATHEDRAL_OUTSIDE_ALHAKEN_01
Image via http://www.artencordoba.com/
mosque cordoba spain
Image via http://www.oddcities.com/
7. Church of the Savior on Spilt Blood, St Petersburg, Russia
visited

At -30 degrees celsius, during my cousin’s wedding photoshoot, we got out of the bridal party limo and managed to snap a few shots of the famous cathedral. Although I must admit, I didn’t go inside, we did explore the area of St Petersburg while visiting for 1 week. Don’t forget that it’s not just the cathedral that you’ll be visiting if you haven’t done so yet, it will also be the Hermitage, The Mariinsky theatre and the various other famous landmarks and museums to learn more about Russian culture and history. I speak Russian as my first language so it was quite easy for me to get around, but I would recommend a tour guide if planning to visit Russia as the language can be a real barrier when you’re travelling around.travel blogger st Petersburg Spilt blood cathedral

8. The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

To Visit
If it wasn’t for the Traveller’s Choice awards from TripAdvisor, I wouldn’t have found out about this landmark in a hurry. We’ve been to Spain in 2012 but only visited Madrid, Seville and of course Barcelona. Judging from the photos of the Alhambra in Granada, the landscape looks a lot like Seville and Granada is geographically located along the same latitude. The Alhambra is grandiose and has so many Muslim incriptions, works of art and decorations.
alhambra-granada
Image via http://www.vooila.com/
Palace_Wall

Palace Decorations at the Alhambra

Image via http://www.historylines.net/

9. Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, Washington DC, District of Columbia, USA

To Visit

Haven’t been to Washington DC. In the States I’ve only ever been to California and Seattle. Basically the West Coast has been explored, but not anywhere else. It is imperative that on the next visit to the US, we see New York and perhaps Washington DC. Do you remember that famous movie scene out of Forest Gump when Jenny jumps into the DC Memorial pool to be re-united with a new Vietnam war veteran? It would be incredible to visit this spot and admire President Lincoln in his gigantic chair.

great-washington-dc-memorials
Image via http://www.castle.myuniversals.com/
10. Milan Cathedral, Milan, Italy
To Visit

I haven’t been to Milan. In Italy I’ve visited Rome, Venice, Sienna, Pisa, but not Milano. Milan is a city famous for fashion, ecommerce, culture and arts. It is also home to the 5th largest cathedral in the world, Milan Cathedral or Duomo di Milano, and the 2nd largest Church in Italy, 2nd to St Peter’s Basilica. The Cathedral was built in Gothic style which originated in 12th Century France. Gothic architecture characteristics include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttress. (Reference from Wikipedia page)

MilanCathedral

 Image via http://www.wondermondo.com/

11. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California

visited

The last time I visited San Francisco was in 2007 or 2008. It’s a beautiful city but this famous red bridge is definitely an icon which we often see in Hollywood films and this structure, built in 1937, has a certain romantic flair. It is possibly the most photogenic bridge in the world and can be explored by driving, walking, biking or hiking. I remember it being really windy – San Francisco can be quite cold because of this bay wind, so bring a jacket and a scarf when visiting and take lots and lots of beautiful photos!

Golden_Gate_Bridge
In part 2 I will continue down the list to the rest of the landmarks rated as Top in the world by TripAdvisor users.
I hope you can leave some comments, if you wish, on stories and experiences you may have visiting these landmarks.
Happy travels!
x

Go to part 2 of TripAdvisor Top 25 Landmarks to Visit

 

 

Top Apps to Download Before You Travel

Top Apps to Download Before You Travel

As a travel blogger, I spend some time travelling around and have been known to rely heavily on my phone for all sorts of helpful information. I am not sure how we used to function without phones but a lot of people I know  even have 2x phones they carry around with them (me!). I am currrently enjoying a long weekend in Bali but I left one of my phones at home! Luckily, the 2nd one still made it and I started thinking about why I rely on my phone so much when I travel and what apps I find useful.

Here are my top useful Apps when travelling internationally:

XE Currency

XE app

A great app to have when travelling internationally. If you’re like me, all of the decimal points when converting currency can be confusing and stressful especially when you’re presented with a bill that has too many zeroes and almost everything is done in cash. In these situations I just go to this app on my phone and enter the currency vs AUD and then the world makes sense again. This app also works offline by saving the last updated rates which works great for me because I hardly ever have roaming data.
Free, Available on iOS and Android

 

Google Translate

Google Translate app

You may not be a foreign language pro, but this app helps you translate the basics no matter where you are. The benefits – you only have to download one app, because if you’re travelling through a few countries, that saves you having to download one for every language you encounter.

Just like with the currency app, choose your default ” Translate From” and “Translate To” languages and you’re in business. You most likely won’t be able to have a conversation with a local using this app, but at least you will avoid the worry accidentally going into the wrong bathroom because you are not sure what it says on the door. Cool feature – you can hold your camera up to a word– such as a sign, or a menu – and the app will translate it for you.

Free, Available on iOS and Android

 

Kindle

Kindle app

I usually use my Kindle app on my iPad mini when I travel but recently I started also reading books through my iPhone 6. The font is big enough and it saves you having 2x devices in your carry on. I also like that this app connects across my Ipad and mobile so when I am on a particular page and have read ahead on mobile, logging into the iPad app, it will remind me that I’ve read a few pages ahead and will ask if I want to skip to that part. Is there anything better than getting immersed in a good book – especially when you’re travelling? I would argue no, but happy to hear your alternatives.

Free, Available on iOS and Android

 

VSCO

VSCO app

I use a few phone editing tools when I travel. I don’t know how to use photoshop so mobile apps that edit my photos are best for me! VSCO is a really popular app to use for Instagram photos because let’s face it, the filters Instagram gives us are not that great! It takes a bit of getting used to and also can seem a bit fiddly if you’re not used to editing photos on your phone, but over time you’ll see why you’ll get addicted to using this app for photography – Instagram worthy or not.

Free, Available on iOS and Android

 

Messenger App – Yabb

Yabb app

Yabb is a free messenger app to keep you connected to friends and family while travelling. Jump onto a WiFi network and use this app to message or call anyone in your contacts – completely free. You can also search and send  Youtube videos within the app and there is a handy “Whisper” feature to help give your messages more privacy and you can even set a ‘self destruct’ setting to remove private conversations within a time limit.

Free, Available on iOS and Android 

 

Hotel Tonight

Hotel Tonight App

If you so happen to find  yourself in a hotel that looks nothing like the one you pre-booked  from photos online (True story!) or if you AirBnb apartment is strangely creepy (Friends’ true story!), see if you can use your Hotel Tonight app as a great last minute way to find accomodation.  The app works by connecting your location search with unsold rooms at the top hotels to then give you really great rates, at last minute. See the full list of cities/hotels HERE.

Free, Available on iOS and Android

 

If you have any cool apps you can recommend to me, please let me know on my Insta @liveshoptravel or in the comments below!

x

 

10 Things To Do Before Going On an International Holiday

10 Things To Do Before Going On an International Holiday

As you know I love to travel! I usually pick locations that are not too close to home and seek out a different location to travel to and explore when I can.

Recently we went away to South America. The countries visited were Argentina and Chile. Our itinerary included 8 flights within a 2 week period and the long haul flights were: Sydney – Santiago and the same way back (14 hr direct flight).

I’ve collated here a list of top 10 things you should do before getting on an international flight. I’ve collected these tips over the years and most of these are based on personal experience and learnings.

1. Book You Travel Insurance

Last year around July I went away to Bali. (Blog post here). I travelled with my mum and we had a fantastic holiday. The morning of our return to Sydney, the flight got cancelled due to a volcanic eruption. This volcano continued to erupt for a few more months and at the time meant we couldn’t get home for an additional 6 days. That’s 6 days of accomodation, expenses and food. If unplanned, these 6 days could have accumulated to a spend that could set our budgets back significantly. Luckily I had booked travel insurance before the volcanic eruption began. I booked the entire trip (accommodation and flights) through Expedia and selected the travel insurance which appeared on the website. This travel insurance covered us for an additional 10 days with equivalent cost accommodation and expenses. This meant that the trip back was still stressful but less so because we didn’t accumulate additional expenses we could not afford.

There are always things that can go wrong with travel, so book your Travel Insurance every time you travel and make sure to read the fine print to be covered for natural disasters. At present most insurance companies won’t cover acts of terrorism and depending on where you travel, some countries incur additional charges. The majority of travel insurances will cover things like cancellation of flights due to unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters.

Bali, Fairmont hotel (Photo by Dhika)

 

2. Check the Visa or Entry fee requirements for the country you’re travelling to

We’ve travelled to Argentina once before in 2010 – both my husband and I on New Zealand passports. It turns out that if you travel on an Australian passport, there is an entry fee into the country of around $150 AUD ($100 USD). When we got off the plane in Buenos Aires from Australia in 2010 half of the plane went straight to a counter to pay a reciprocity fee and we didn’t have to pay anything.

This year, my husband travelled on his Australian passport and we thought we would just pay the fee once we landed in Argentina. Apparently the rules now changed over and you have to pay the fee online, print out the confirmation and bring it with you at check-in at the airport. So when we got to the counter at Qantas, we couldn’t check in without the confirmation. Luckily we could still pay at a Flight Centre counter. If this was a night time flight and Flight Centre wasn’t open, I don’t know what we would do. So tip #2, make sure to check what you need to enter the country you’re travelling to – whether it’s a visa or a reciprocity fee and how to get that sorted before going to the airport.

 El Bariloche, Argentina

3 . Invest in a Good Carry On Bag

If you’re travelling for a few weeks and your holiday is quite packed, chances are you’ll be doing day trips somewhere where you won’t need your full luggage. Suitcases can be too bulky for some locations too. When we went to Peru, there was no need for our suitcases so we left them in the hotel for the few days we were exploring the Macchu Picchu and Cuzco. In that case, it’s best to invest in a good sized carry on bag. Both mine and my husband’s favourite recently is a duffel bag on wheels.  These bags are compact but usually can expand. You can easily pick it up and carry by the middle straps (just like a gym bag) or when you’ve got other bags or are just chilling in the airport, you can wheel it around. A domestic carry on sized duffel bag is big enough to fit all your in-flight essentials and is handy enough to take on overnight trips when needed either domestically or at your destination on another continent. I found a lot of cool bags on this site: Bagstogo.com.au

El Bariloche Argentina Travel Blog

El Bariloche, Argentina

4. Put A Packing List together for both Carry on and Checked luggage

When you don’t have enough or too much time to pack – it can be equally frustrating. What do I need to pack? Can I keep it light and what gear do I need to bring? The first rule is to create 2x lists. 1 packing list for your carry on and 1 list for your check in baggage. I usually go through days (with undergarments and socks), activities and weather conditions. If you pack enough socks and undies for however many days you’re going (2 weeks is actually pretty feasible), you won’t need to do laundry as often as you think. For activities, think of the most active you will be and the most ‘fancy’ ie are you going hiking and will you also be going to at least 1x nice dinner venue on your trip? Important to pack for both. The in-between clothing should be smart casual – and most importantly – layers! Also don’t forget to pack your medicine – if you need it – into the carry on with you.

I like to bring Hydralite tablets on board, even if you can’t bring a full water bottle on board. Bring an empty bottle and ask the flight attendants to fill it up with water. Dissolve 1-2 tablets in the water and continue sipping while on board. Airplane air is incredibly dehydrating, so it’s important to keep hydration in when flying long haul.

Canada Jump Liveshoptravel

Yukon, Canada

5. Make a copy of your passport + bookings (Itinerary, hotel bookings) and Upload to Google Drive

Your passport is the most important document when travelling. It is the only thing you need to get home in most instances. If there is a lost passport, there will definitely be panic! You can’t always prevent your passport from getting lost, but you can make electronic and hard copies of your passport. With that at least you can go to any consulate in a foreign country and show ‘proof’ that you lost your document. The worst case is probably that you’ll have to wait a few days to get a new passport, but you will get home. We usually carry the print out version of our passport, flights and hotel bookings + upload all scanned copies to a Google drive folder. Remember to save to be accessible OFFLINE, that way you will always have access to your documents even without Wi-Fi.

Yukon Dog Sledding Liveshoptravel

Dog Sledding in Yukon, Canada

6. Check whether your airline provides entertainment on board through an app

Most airlines now offer entertainment through an App. You can then use your own devices to watch movies and shows through the airline network on the plane. For example, Virgin Australia don’t have TV screens on a lot of their planes, but have the Virgin In Flight Entertainment App. The catch is if the Wi-Fi in the airport is not strong enough (and in most cases it’s incredibly weak signal but also there is a limit on download) you won’t be able to download the app in time you get on board the flight. Then you have nothing to do on the plane except eat and sleep (good luck with that in most cases!). So whatever airline you’re flying with next, have a look online if they offer an entertainment app on their flights and download it beforehand on all your devices. That way if your next flight doesn’t have screens but has an app, you’re ready to go.

7. If you have an tablet, download the Kindle app and load it up with e- books 

There will always be downtime when travelling, not to mention all the waiting around at transit spots wherever you go. I used to bring a few books with me, but now I preserve my luggage space for warm clothes and other items. Reading is an activity that can in most instances be achieved peacefully on holiday, so instead of lugging around heavy books (I am a big fan of paperbacks, but when I travel and finish reading a book, I always want to leave it somewhere just so I don’t have to carry it back!) download the Kindle app (or equivalent) and load it up with as many e-books as you like. Amazon for Kindle do a lot of specials on books on particular days of the week so sign up to their newsletter and you can always find something at good value at the online store. I have a mini i-Pad and read a few books at the same time with this app and love it!

Glacier Argentina Travel Blog Glacier Spotting, El Calafate, Argentina

8. Call your bank and tell them where you’ll be travelling to

Why? Because in most cases when my bank sees a transaction from Mexico on my account, they will block it! (No offence Mexico!) It has happened to me so many times that I make sure I call my bank when I am sitting at the airport gate, ready to take off, just to make sure I have access to my own cash while overseas. Usually the standard info your bank needs is what countries you’ll be visiting and what dates. That way they can put a note on your account to not block any transactions from those regions as international payments always look ‘dodgy’ to our banks. It’s also a good idea to add a credit balance to your credit card i.e. transfer some additional funds so you go into CREDIT. The reason is that a lot of overseas banks won’t work for your EFTPOS or Savings card and only some international or BIG national bank ATMs will support withdrawal with a foreign bank card. When you’re travelling you won’t often see the ATM you need, but most of the ATMs accept VISA or Master Card. Chances are you can withdraw money from your VISA card and if it is in credit, you won’t be charged ridiculous credit card fees.

9. Invest in some noise cancelling headphones for long haul flights

I highly recommend these if you want to sleep on the plane. If you are not a sleeper anyway, you’ll still want to get these for long haul flights. A lot of the post plane ‘tiredness’ comes from the cabin pressure but also the actual noise that the engine makes. No matter if you’re travelling in business class or coach, you will still come off the plane kind of tired and with a headache because of the humming background noise on every plane. Good quality noise cancelling headphones work to drown out the humming and if you watch movies on the plane, it feels like you’re just watching them in your living room. The sound is that much more clear and you will be able to enjoy your viewing choice without the addition of a crying baby or a snoring passenger next to you. I have the Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones and highly recommend them.

10. Check in online so you can sit together

My husband and I got a surprise one time we were checking in for our Mexico flight with United Airlines. It was a 14 hour flight Sydney – San Francisco, connection San Francisco – LA, and then LA- Cabo, Mexico. In total around an 18 hour flight. We were 2 hours ahead of departure time and the United Flight attendant told us we couldn’t sit together as the flight was fully booked and the only seats left were in different rows. That was completely unexpected because with a 2 hour ahead of departure arrival there are usually lots of spots for 2 people to sit together. I didn’t really feel too excited to sit next to a random for 14 hours if this was mine and my husband’s holiday. Only through refusing to leave the counter did we manage to be sat together – it was such a big deal. What we then found out was that airlines like United ‘block’ a lot of their seats for frequent flyers and there are usually a few rows at the front of the plane that can’t be taken up by someone without a mileage status. Did you ever notice how when even choosing your seat online, the front of the plane is always booked out? All airlines do this and that’s why on particular flights, no matter how early you arrive at the airport you and your partner might not sit together. The only way to change that is either to get to Silver or Gold levels with your points or to check yourself in online the night before your flight. Good tip!

Catcus Mexico Liveshoptravel

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Happy travels everyone! I hope these tips will come handy the next time you go on holidays. Travelling is the most amazing thing you can do for yourself – every time I travel I find out something new about the world and myself.

Stay safe!

x