Answering the question… ‘Where is your favouite destination?’

They say that there is almost nothing more beautiful than watching someone talk about something they are truly passionate about. Whether it’s a person, a place or what they ate for lunch, their eyes light up, and their hand gestures become animated, they describe every detail in such a way that you can feel their heart sing with the joy that they are able to share it with you.

Talking about travel and sharing my experiences with my family, friends and clients on a daily basis is like that for me. I’m not sure if people can actually hear my heart sing (that would be weird), but I can feel it. Knowing that I’ve have the opportunity to share my passions with someone else truly makes my soul smile.

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25 travel tips that I live by !

passport

‘When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money’ [Susan Heller]

As someone who has been working in travel now for over 13yrs (eeeek) and who has done her fair share of personal travel, I get asked for all kinds of travel related advice on a daily basis.

There is easy stuff like ‘What forms of currency do i take?’ or ‘Can you offer any crafty packing tips?’.

Then there are the more serious queries regarding visas, passports and security questions.

Then there are the questions from inexperienced travelers like ‘Do i need a passport to fly to New Zealand? (um.. yes. It’s another country)…. And then there is just the plain weird, and kind of sad… ‘Are there any airlines that still allow smoking? If not, i guess I’ll never see my family again’. (Yep, a client couldn’t fathom flying 10hrs without having a smoke, and would therefore never see her UK family again)   😦

All of these questions highlight to me that there really is a lot to know about packing your bags and heading off overseas. It also shows me that yes, I do actually know what I’m talking about when it comes to travel and that there are so many smart travel ideas out there that I wished I knew before I took my 1st trip.

I could write a list as long as all the cities I’ve been to, but I’ll limit it to 25 travel tips that I personally live by and that may help you out. The last 5 are my personal tips (and philosophy) to live by, so here goes:

PLANNING AND PREPARATION

Pic courtesy of tenontours.
Pic courtesy of tenontours.

1. Enlist the help of a professional!

Travel agents aren’t a thing of the past and we aren’t here to rip you off. If you take the time to find a great agent, build a relationship and explain your travel needs, they will have your best interests in mind, they’ll do the hard work for you, and create the perfect holiday or vacation for you.

Yes, some of you may love to sit online for 7hrs a day researching your next holiday, checking every hotel and all the reviews, then price match every travel site you come across…  and If this is you, then go for it! But most of us are time poor and want actual credible advice, so a good travel agent will be able to be your one stop shop. They’ll recommend the best destination or hotel for YOU, sort you out with essentials like travel insurance AND they will be able to get you great value, If you let them.

We use professionals for everything else we do (especially when you’re spending the kind of money a big trip can sometimes cost) so why wouldn’t you use a professional to plan the holiday of a lifetime?

2. Book in advance.

It DOES save you money. In Australia there is really no such thing as standby seats or last minute specials on airfares. The earlier you book, the more you save, as there are multiple prices for each class of seat on an aircraft. As the plane fills up the price goes up! There are also some amazing early-bird deals on tours, hotels and packages if you are able to book and often pay in advance.

3. Don’t believe every on-line review you read.

With online reviews being a travel ‘tool’ that people rely on, hotels, restaurants and sightseeing companies go to great lengths to ensure that their business has positive reviews… and raking highly on review sites is their number #1 focus.

There are companies out there who specialise in writing fake reviews. Businesses & hotels give freebies to people to post a positive review and employees are encouraged to post their own positive reviews (hmmm). Last year Trip advisor changed their slogan from “Reviews you can trust” to “Reviews from our community” for their reviews section, after an investigation of allegations that millions of Trip Advisor reviews may be fake.

So beware. Talk to friends and family (or your travel stylist) about your destination, where they have stayed, eaten and visited.

4.Check your documents.

Don’t forget about passport validity & visas. You’ll be surprised how many people show up to an airport with an expired passport or without a visa. You need at least 6 months validity on your passport to leave Australia, and there are more and more countries who have some form of Visa requirement, so check it out!

PACKING

peru 2

5. The lighter the better!

I’ve done the world trips with big bags, surfboards and snowboards and It’s a pain in the ass, and airlines aren’t as kind as they used to be. They charge for everything and I’m talking exorbitant excess baggage fees. If you are traveling with sporting goods, don’t assume the airlines will take it free, as most will not. Do your research or enlist the help of a professional (Note 3rd shameless plug 😉 )

6. Layer layer layer.

Layers are the best way to stay warm and then get cool again. Have you been in a position where it’s freezing outside, but then you sweat your butt off once you step inside a store, restaurant or museum? Wear clothes that you can peel on and off easily to keep your temperature perfect.

7. Take a scarf or shawl

They come in super handy. Remember Europe is a little more conservative than Australia, and throwing a scarf over your outfit will instantly dress it up. A scarf or shawl is also handy for any countries where you should dress more conservatively, like the middle east or when visiting religious monuments.

8. DO dress to the local customs.

Just because it’s hot outside and YOU don’t care that you are wearing short shorts on the streets in Egypt or India, the locals care and you will be stared at and judged. You may also be limited in terms of the places you visit, so do your research and respect their customs. That’s what travel is all about.

9. Take a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage.

Trust me… If you’ve ever had a bag go missing, or a drink spilled on you inflight, you’ll thank me.

ON ROUTE!

Pic courtesy of www.travellingpanties.com
Pic courtesy of http://www.travelingpanties.com

10. Dress warmly & comfortably on flights.

Just because it may be hot outside, doesn’t meant the flight is the same. It normally get’s cool on the plane, especially on overnight flights, and if you’re flying low cost airlines.. they won’t give you blankets (for free anyway). Pack a jumper or shawl to keep you warm. Oh, and consider the weather at your destination… what will it be like at the other end? Be prepared.

11. Allow plenty of travel time.

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the airport and for transits, as security is a lot tighter these days, and there is almost nothing more stressful than almost missing your flight.

12. Inflight essentials.

An empty water bottle, your own healthy snacks and an eye mask will make any flight WAY more enjoyable. Staying hydrated, not eating the processed sugar loaded plane food (if you can avoid it) and getting as much sleep as you can is key to avoiding jet lag.

13. Avoid Jet lag.

Force yourself to adapt to the time zone at your destination. If you arrive in the morning after a long flight, drink loads of water, get outside & do your best to stay awake until a more normal bed time. It will help you to adjust to the time zone more quickly.

MONEY MATTERS

globe_money

14. Varying forms of currency.

Ensure you have at access to at least 3 different forms of currency. Some cash, a Debit/Travel money card and a Credit card. You don’t want your debit card to be eaten by an ATM and find that there are no currency exchange offices in site. Don’t get caught, and be prepared and take different forms.

Oh, and don’t forget to notify your bank that you’ll be overseas. They’ll freeze your cards if they suspect suspicious activity, and an international transaction is often flagged.

15.Stash your cash.

As lame as it sounds… DO be that traveler that stashes money and an extra debit/credit card in your socks at the bottom of your bag. When you travel a lot it’s easy to become blaze about things like theft and loss of luggage, but trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

16. Blend in.

DON’T be that traveler who wears a money belt that is plainly visible to everyone and anyone. If you wear one, keep it completely concealed. Don’t fish around in it with it out for all to see. You make yourself more of a target than anyone else who may be carrying a normal purse or a backpack.

17. Pre purchase your foreign currency.

Buying currency at the airport is a rip-off. Exchange cash once you get to your destination or order it in advance. I normally order mine through Travelex.com.au, when I’m organising my Travel Money cards. They have great rates, and when you get the travel cards they give you multiple cards (in case one get’s lost or stolen) and you can transfer your own money onto them super easily.

TRAVEL APS (For your smart phone) 

Pic - Mobile App Testing
Pic – Mobile App Testing

18. Trip Advisor ‘City Guides’

Super handy when you’re in a random city, so download the map for where you are going. It lists loads of info like hotels, restaurants, activities etc.. and it works offline so if you find yourself lost, you can use the maps (which uses the GPS in your phone) to help navigate you to where you need to be.

They also have some cool suggested walking itineraries around the city, so perfect if you’re happy to explore on your own.

19. Stay in touch.

WhatsApp, Viber or Skype are perfect aps to download, as they’ll allow you to text, call or video message friends and family whilst you’re away. It’s free when you’re hooked up to WIFI or a 3G network.

20.  Talk the talk.

Google translate is awesome if you’re in a foreign country, as it allows you to type a phrase and it will translate it for you Or you can use the speaking function. There are over 50 languages, and will be sure to help you out of any tricky situation when a language barrier is involved.

Finally, here are my TOP 5 MYTRAVELUST travel tips!

peru 1

21.Get Lost! 

Put down the maps, wander around and explore. Without a guide & Without a map. Follow your nose and do what YOU want to do  and not what a guide book tells you to do.

Cities with a good metro system are perfect for getting lost, as you can’t ever really get THAT lost. All you need to do is find the closest metro station and boom… you are found again 🙂

22. Talk to strangers (but trust your instincts).

Travel is the best way to make new friends, meet new and interesting people and experience how other cultures live their day to day lives.

Put yourself out there, step outside your comfort zone and interact with people. Accept random dinner invites, or go on a day trip with some new buddies… but trust your instincts. If it feels weird, dangerous or awkward then it probably is, so don’t put yourself into a situation that you wouldn’t be able to get out of.

23. Keep a travel journal – and use it.

Trust me, It may seem like a pain at the time, but it’s the most amazing thing to re-read once you’ve returned home or even years later. In the digital age it could even be an online travel journal. Some great online ones include:

www.mytripjournal.com/traveljournal  

http://www.travelpod.com/

I prefer the good pen to paper, but the choice is yours.

24. Put the camera down (even just for a moment).  

There is a fine line between having great snaps of your trip, and living the whole trip from behind the camera. Take a moment to step out from behind the camera lens and experience that moment, in the moment, without worrying about capturing it for later. Yeah, you may want great photos (don’t we all) but what’s the point of trying to capture it & only experiencing things through a lens in the first place?

25. Don’t stress!

Shit happens and on most trips i can almost guarantee that something won’t go to plan… but everything works out in the end.

Sometimes the most tricky situations end up be the funniest moments of the trip! They help to bring you closer to your traveling companions and they’ll certainly be the stories that you will share with people when you get home. Traveling is the BEST thing you could ever invest your time and money into, so go with the flow, and make sure you enjoy every minute.

~

There you have it! Some of my fave travel tips.

Some I’m sure you’ve heard before, but maybe there are some new ones in there that you can take note of, so i hope they were helpful.

I’ll do a follow up with more of my tips down the track, but If there are any specific tips or destinations you’d like advice on, feel free to contact me.

Please also SHARE with us any tips you’ve picked up on your adventures. I’d love to hear your ideas as some of these can mean the difference between a great experience, and a miserable one so do let us know!

Kate xx

Get lost in the city that never sleeps! New York, New York.

Happy Friday everyone! It’s now officially the AUSSIE DAY LONG WEEKEND…. Well, almost!

For this week’s post, I was once again open to suggestions for destinations that people wanted to hear about, and I decided on Nicole’s suggestion of NEW YORK!

While there isn’t much that is left unwritten about the city that doesn’t sleep, I wanted to remind myself of the diversity that is offered in this spectacular city, and perhaps ignite the fire in you to get to the East Coast of the USA… especially if you’ve never been to the States, and if you’re one of those people that just think of New York as ‘just another big city’.

When I hear the words ‘New York’, it conjures up such a mixture of image and emotion.

I firstly think of the iconic sites…. Yellow cabs, the bright lights of Broadway and the Statue of Liberty (to name but a few). Then I recall the noise of honking traffic and the shuffle of thousands of footsteps on the pavement. Then there is the emotional connection of remembering 9/11 and the toll that it took on such a untouchable city (or so it seemed). Then I begin to reminisce about my time spent there with friends & the hours we spent laughing and exploring all that New York had to offer. For me New York is the quintessential city destination, and while it’s easy to think that all big cities are the same, New York is unlike no other.

My #1 tip for New York…. GET LOST!

There is nothing like getting lost in a big city, and New York is one of the best (and easiest) to do it in. With the extensive Subway network to guide you, you’re never lost for long, but the beauty of New York doesn’t lie on its tour buses or on guided tours. It’s hidden amongst it’s many boroughs and villages, and unless you take the time to get out, wander and explore, you’ll miss the very pulse of this spectacular city.

So, where to start? That’s a tough one, as there is SO much to see (and do) and it would be impossible to see it all in a normal visit to New York, BUT to give you a guide, here are but a few of my favorite Manhattan neighborhoods, and a couple of other favorite city highlights.

Midtown

HUDSON

This is the New York ‘mecca’ for any traveller with a ‘To do list’, as this is where you’ll find all of the Iconic attractions like Broadway, Times Square, The Empire State Building, The Chrysler building and the Rockefeller Centre. There is theater, shopping, dining, museums, and so much more! Don’t let all the bright lights distract you though… there is still SO much more to New York!

Stay at the Hudson Hotel, an innovative, stylish and utterly cool hotel. This boutique hotel is a gem & just steps away from Central Park.

Central Park

central park

It’s impossible to go to New York and NOT visit Central Park. There is something to see around every corner, and activities a plenty. At any time of the year you’ll find everything from baseball, softball, chess, fishing, music ,film festivals and so much more… but my favourite…

If you are there in winter, put your skates on and take to the ice rink or if that doesn’t inspire you? Rug up, grab a hot dog (from the street stands of course) and just take a walk, or even better, a hansom cab ride around the park. (That’s a traditional horse-drawn carriage for those not in the know!)

Chelsea

chelsea

Known for its rocking nightlife in converted meatpacking warehouses, long standing gay scene, tree lined streets & art galleries, Chelsea is a rad little place to get lost. Eateries, Bars & Flea markets will keep you entertained for hours.

Stay, The Gem Hotel. A boutique hotel in this stunning neighborhood, this is hospitable and unpretentious. It’s the perfect home away from home in the crazy city that is Manhattan.

Harlem

harlem gospal

Immerse yourself in African American history with a trip to Harlem. From Soul food to Gospel, it’s definitely worth a visit on a Sunday morning to attend a church service. The Gospel choir’s passionate preaching and energetic performances will have you in awe and you can’t help but leave feeling completely uplifted, whether you’re spiritual or not!

Stay? If you do decide this is where you want to be, then stay at Aloft Harlem! One of W hotels sister brands (managed by Starwood) this property Is  in the centre of Harlem (dubbed New York City’s most happening neighbourhood!) and just steps from the famous Apollo Theatre, Central Park, and major express subway stations.

East Village

thompson les

Renowned for its punk-rock & immigrant history, the East Village is now effortlessly cool and offers trendy bars, bookshops, dining (of course) and shopping. There is a plethora of chic hotels in this area too, and offers a great base to explore all areas of Manhattan.

My hotel choice, Thompson LES. A unique boutique hotel, offering an inter city oasis in the form of a vibrant outdoor terrace with a rooftop pool. Thompson LES is located near the intersection of Houston and Allen streets, providing easy access to all the best Lower East Side attractions and activities.

SoHo

crosby st

Shopping, culture, architecture,  galleries and restaurants ensures that SoHo is one of Manhattans mist fashionable suburbs. Plan your dining arrangements well in advance, with well-known restaurants in high demand.. You may even spot a celebrity or two!

If you want to check out some of the famous architecture of SoHo, head to Greene Street. Here you will find five blocks of cast iron buildings that were built between the years 1869-95, and now help to put SoHo on the architectural map. Around Greene St is where you’ll find many of the mentioned galleries, shops, boutiques and art studios.

Stay – Crosby Street Hotel. English elegance in the middle of New York, and located on the gorgeous cobbled streets of Soho. A stunning boutique hotel, in an excellent location with everything on your doorstep.

Greenwich Village

Cornelia st cafe blog

Take a step away from the high rise buildings, and wander the cobblestone streets of Greenwich Village. With small sidewalk cafes, old school jazz clubs and independent retail stores, Greenwich Village offers an escape in New York like no other. Cornelia Street Café is a must! The simple yet delicious food, crafty drinks and live performance space has cemented this cafés success since the 70’s!

Oh, and if you’re into music you have to explore Bleeker St, known for its live music & comedy venues. You could also lose an hour or two in Bleeker St Records, where you can pick up vintage vinyl records and cds of both mainstream and underground music.

Cross over to Brooklyn!!

brooklyn flea market

Brooklyn offers a bit of everything and is New York’s second most populated borough. Like Manhattan, it’s made up of its own unique neighbourhoods, and there is plenty to see and do. Wander across the Brooklyn Bridge, head out to Cony Island or lose yourself at the Brooklyn Flea market (recommended by fashionista Olivia Palermo as one of New York’s BEST locations to find vintage bargain!).

It’s fun to get off the beaten track in New York and find wonderful places to shop or browse, and Brooklyn is certainly one of those places.

Explore some of the city’s secrets!

city-hall-station-new-york

There is a Hidden Subway station beneath City Hall, that has been inactive and closed to the public for almost 65 years… yet is renowned as an architectural marvel!  Antique tiles, archways and sky lights make it a stand out as far as subway stations go, and it remains relatively untouched since its closure. Sadly they don’t offer tours down here, but you can still see it (from the subway itself) by taking the #6 train to the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station, but don’t get off. The subway turns around at the City Hall station loop, which will give you a glimpse into New York’s yesteryear.

There is also the Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal if you happen to find yourself there. The famous marble archway, located in front of the Oyster Bar & Restaurant, holds remarkable acoustic properties so that when two people stand in opposite corners, and whisper into the wall, they can be hear all the way across the other side. It’s known to be popular with marriage proposals and whispering sweet nothings for just your partner to hear. Nawwwww!

grand central station

So there you have it. A small glimpse into what I love about New York and the variety of experiences it has to offer, and if you’re inspired to get over there and need a hand let me know, because there is truly something for everyone.

In the words of Alicia Keys ‘There’s nothing you can’t do, Now you’re in New York!’

Like I said…. I’m sure I’ve missed something so tell me, what is your favourite thing to do in New York? I’d love to hear your recommendations on where to stay, shop, eat, drink and explore!

Thanks for reading, Kate x

Times square edit