From Vegas to Yosemite – A breath of fresh air!

road to yosemite

Firstly, I’ll be posting my Yosemite ‘Must do’ list shortly, so if you’re pressed for time and can’t fathom reading the full post, stalk the photos and maybe that will be inspiration enough.

Secondly, to clear something up… Yosemite National park isn’t where Yogi Bear lives. That would be Yellowstone National Park (If indeed a fictional character lives anywhere at all). You would be surprised at how many Yogi bear jokes were made when I said I was heading to Yosemite, so I thought I’d nip that clarification in the butt right away. Haha.

Now if you’re still with me, allow me to share my Yosemite national park experience with you….

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5 tips to beat Jetlag (seriously!)

world mapJet Lag. It’s a painful reality for most long-haul travellers, and for us Aussies it’s seemingly unavoidable since the majority of our international destinations are on average over 14hrs in travel time, with often multiple time zones to cross before we reach our destinations. (Yawn! Why haven’t they invented teleportation yet?)

Over the years I’ve definitely had my fair share of Jet lag. I remember sleeping through a whole afternoon and evening in Paris, after laying down for a ‘nap’, only to wake up the next morning. Needless to say, upon realising I’d slept for about 15hrs and missed my 1st night in Paris (1 of only 3), I was gutted! Rookie error or what?

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The Great Wall of China, all to yourself!

If you’re like me (and let’s face it, almost anyone with a craving for travel), The Great Wall of China, as one of the worlds most iconic travel sites is undoubtedly on your travel ‘wish list’. It’s definitely up there with the likes of the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids of Egypt or the Taj Mahal, and although I’d never really thought of China as a destination that I’d be personally NEED to visit, I have always wanted to see the Great Wall of China.

I’m lucky enough to have visited China twice now, and after a failed attempt of experiencing the wall in all it’s glory, due to heavy rain and fog (as below), I was hopeful that on my return journey this year, I’d be able to witness the iconic wall that I’d seen in so many images. That seemingly never ending stone structure, snaking it’s way up and over the mountainous terrain, and stretching out across the horizon and fading off into the distance.

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There’s more to New Zealand than sheep & hobbits! (Take 2)

Well…. It appears some spammers got the better of this post, so i’ve had to delete it and re-post! If anyone has any advice for avoiding the SPAM that comes through on here, please let me know…..

Otherwise, here is my post on all things New Zealand…. Take 2!

For this week’s blog I posted the task to my Facebook audience to suggest a travel related subject for me to inspire them about, and the chosen subject is ‘New Zealand, Must do’s’.

There was just 1 response to my call out for suggestions, so Megan… this one’s for you! 😉

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5 tips to staying fit & healthy when travelling!

You don’t HAVE to get the Heathrow Injection!

Posting about staying fit and healthy over the Easter long weekend seems crazy, considering I am about to inhale a hot cross bun and a small army of Cadbury mini eggs, but I always get asked about staying healthy while travelling, so I’ve taken some time to think about it and I thought I’d post it for everyone to read.

Living an active, healthy life is important to me and I try to continue that philosophy while I’m travelling too. We’ve all heard the stories about those travellers who gain 20kg’s upon setting foot in Heathrow Airport (also known as the ‘Heathrow Injection’), and I know of plenty of people who work out HARD prior to a big trip, knowing that they’ll likely gain a few kg’s, but I believe that you can travel for weeks, months and even years on end and not pile on the pounds, as long as you make the right choices.

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about long gym workouts every single day, or skipping local ‘must have’ favourites (like gelato in Florence for instance), so check out my personal Top 5 tips for staying healthy whilst travelling!

 1. Choose active adventures

This is probably the simplest ways of staying healthy whilst you’re away. Not only will active adventures help you keep off any extra unwanted weight, they’ll allow you to make the most of your holiday by experiencing things you may not get to experience in your day to day life!

There are some amazing trips and destinations all over the world that are designed for active people, and that specialise in certain NICHE areas. Activities like skiing, snowboarding, surfing, hiking and biking are just the tip of the iceberg. Even simple walking tours in your favourite city could be an option or signing up for an overseas Yoga retreat (or sunrise class at your Vietnamese beach resort)….. It all encourages you to keep moving, and will ensure that you stay physical and healthy on a trip overseas.

Just a handful of companies that offer ‘active travel’ itineraries include:

http://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/the-intrepid-experience/trip-themes

http://www.gadventures.com.au/travel-styles/active/

http://www.peregrineadventures.com/browse/activity

Personally I ensure that every trip has some kind of active component and as the above examples show, It can be as complex as a hike to Mt Everest Base Camp or as simple as adding a city tour by bicycle one day, and a Kayak around the lagoon the next. So, as much as we all love a chilled out beach holiday every now and then, I urge you to choose an active holiday every once in a while… or at least make some time every day to get moving!!

 2. Pack your own healthy snacks for the journey 

snacks

Have you eaten that sugar loaded plane food lately or been stuck in transit with nothing but McDonald’s or 7 Eleven for company? Don’t get caught out! Pack healthy snacks that you know will satisfy you during those long flights or car journeys and avoid the convenience of salty, fatty snack foods and soft drinks.

On a recent short trip I toasted a couple of bags of natural almonds and walnuts in sea salt, and baked a few batches of almond meal cookies, that I took with me on my travels. Not only were they the perfect go to snack when I needed a little something to get me through, but it was relatively small in size, and didn’t take up too much room in my luggage.

There are so many yummy, healthy and natural snacks you can make yourself, so get inspired!! Check out this awesome selection of recipes that ‘Girl Meets Nourishment’ has put together, and get preparing!

http://girlmeetsnourishment.com/real-food-travel-snacks/

Trust me, plan ahead, and don’t get caught out. That’s when reaching for a bag of crisps is going to be the only option.

3.  Fresh is best!

We all know fresh is best, so I urge you to seek out the local delicacies based on the environment that you are in, and try to eat what items or products would be most readily available to the restaurateur or chefs in that location.

For example, when in areas that are on the ocean (like Thailand, Indonesia, the Caribbean etc..) seek out fresh, local seafood or the ‘catch of the day’. Chat to the chef’s and find out when the catch was brought in or if they’ve had it frozen. If you’re in the middle of the country, and you’ve got yummy veggies or delicious organic Beef to feast upon, go for it! Use your surroundings as a guide to what you eat.

An awesome example of this was a great Café in Rarotonga that I stumbled across called the Moorings Fish Café. They prepare the menu daily based on what seafood they were able to catch that morning on their daily fishing run. They only had so much and they’d shut up shop when they sold out, so nothing went in the freezer, and It was all prepared fresh daily. Loved it!

If you can, another great idea is to immerse yourself in the cuisine and do a cooking class on your travels. Not only is it a great day out, but you’ll learn a skill and see exactly what’s going into your food!

Keep it simple… Think logically about where you are, and what would be the freshest, most available products and stick to those. If there is a local delicacy, try it! Chances are it’s something they prepare daily and will rarely cause you any real harm.

4. Self-catering accommodation can save the day

I know that most of us won’t want to cook whilst on holidays, but trust me if you have accommodation that has a kitchenette or even just a microwave it can save the day if you’re struggling to find something healthy and decent to eat.

On my recent trip to The Cook Islands it was hard to find anything open after 2pm that wasn’t a fast food place, so a pot of water to boil some eggs and a cuppa served its purpose to fill myself (and my always hungry boyfriend) up, until it was time to hit the restaurant for dinner.

Most destinations are catering more and more to clients looking for that balance between self-cater, and restaurant variety. Even luxury properties are offering self-contained ‘villa’ style accommodation, which personal chefs (the works!) so there is truly something for everyone.

  1. SLEEP!

hammock life

Sleep is the most UNDERRATED health benefit in the world, and ensuring that you get enough sleep whilst you travel is vital.

I know jet lag and time zones can make it tricky, but try adapting to any time zones as quickly as you can, and ensuring that you are still getting your 7-9hrs a sleep a nite.

Not only will it ensure that you are fresh and ready to get the most out of the experiences the following day, but there are commonly known links between sleep and your immune system, so this is one of the BEST ways to protect against picking up any nasty travel flu’s, as the LAST thing you want whilst travelling is a cold. So hit the sack!

 

I guess to wrap all of this up, my final thought would be enjoy everything in moderation!

As I mentioned right at the start of this post, I’m all for getting out and enjoying your indulgences whilst you’re away, after all FOOD is a huge part of your overall travel experience and can sometimes be the BEST part of a city or cultural experience, but remember to enjoy all things in moderation.

There is nothing wrong with eating a slice of steaming hot, spicy, cheesy, New York style pizza (or 2) whilst in New York, just don’t have it everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Balance your meals (like you would at home) and ensure that you are also drinking loads of water. This combined with an activity or two every day and you’ll escape the dreaded holiday weight gain, and there will be no need to safety pin your shorts back together when you’ve busted out of them!

What are the travel health tips you live by? I’d love to hear all about what you guys do to stay fit and healthy on the road!!!

Thanks for reading!

Kate xxx

The Cook Islands – A brief encounter!

Palm trees and Kayaks
Palm trees and Kayaks line the shore of the Aitutkai Lagoon Resort & Spa!

I recently posted all about my recent visit to the Cook Islands, (Read it here http://mytravelust.com/2014/04/02/the-cook-islands-where-smiles-are-free/  ) but I was asked to compile a little Q&A on the trip, so I thought I’d share a little more with you about when to go, what to do, where to stay, and all of my personal highlights.

 

So, here you have it…. a brief Q&A of my experiences in the stunning Cook Islands!

WHEN TO GO? You can visit the Cook Islands anytime that you want to escape the rat race of life, but the driest season is from May to October!

PLANES, TRAINS, AUTOS? Air New Zealand operate a weekly direct flight to Rarotonga from Sydney, with modern aircraft, friendly service and an excellent variety of entertainment on board. It was actually one of the best flights i’ve had in a long long time. oh, and the safety demo is pretty cool…. for once every passenger on board was watching it. Check it out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQDip9V49U0

PACKING ESSENTIALS? A bikini (or two), a camera (duh!) and a BIG SMILE to match that of the locals.

MONEY MATTERS!The currency is New Zealand dollars and credit card facilities at restaurants and stores are limited, so have access to plenty of cash. Change or order some before you get there, otherwise there are a couple of ATM’s and a Western Union that does currency exchange. Office hours are a little weird though (Island time remember) and the ATM’s were a little unreliable, so cash is KING!

MUST DO? A visit to Aitutaki. Even if it’s just for a day trip, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. It is a true Island paradise and worth every extra dollar $$.

MUST STAY? The Aitutaki Lagoon resort. Set on one of the worlds most beautiful lagoons, it has something for everything. From paddle boards to kayaks. Crab races to fire dancers… even the most active of travelers is well taken care of here. Every villa is set on the beach, with stunning views and there is one mega Honeymoon pavilion that looks to die for!

HIGHLIGHT? Diving with turtles and some of the prettiest fish i’ve seen. If you don’t scuba dive, then there are plenty of Snorkeling tours or Lagoon cruises so that you can experience the spectacular underwater world of the Cook Islands.

MOST LUXURIOUS MOMENT? The simple things in life…Sipping on my stunning Island cocktail, in a hammock under picture perfect palm trees, whilst taking in one of the most beautiful sunsets i’ve ever seen.

MOST DELICIOUS MEAL YOU HAD? The freshly seared Tuna Salad from the Moorings Fish cafe in Rarotonga, was divine!! They prepare the menu daily based on what seafood they we’re able to catch that morning on their daily fishing run. They only had so much and they’d shut up shop when they sold out, so nothing went in the freezer, and It was all prepared fresh daily. Loved it!

SIGNATURE DESTINATION DRINK? All of the resorts have their signature cocktails, but nothing quite beats drinking a freshly picked, chilled young coconut from one of the local trees. Tap into the goodness!

BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE? Remember it’s ISLAND TIME over there, so don’t expect things to happen in a hurry. Take a leaf from their book and chill out. There is nowhere to be in a hurry, so sit back, take it all in and relax!

IF MONEY WAS NO OBJECT ? Arrange a private plane to take you and your loved one out to a remote island for the day. You can arrange private picnics or scenic flights over the stunning area, and have it all to yourself.

WHO SHOULD GO? Honeymooners, Wedding parties, Couples, Families … Everyone!

FAMILY? ROMANCE? RELAX? ADVENTURE? Family, Romance, Relax AND Adventure, there is something here for all of you!

WHAT DID YOU BRING HOME? About 1000 photos of Aitutaki, as it was literally THAT stunning!

HOW DID IT ENRICH YOU? the people of the Cook Islands make it the special place that it is. Their smiles are genuine and their hearts are big! Embrace their way of life and they’ll open their home to you!

There you have it …. a more condensed version of my experiences, and a couple of extra pics to check out.

As always, I would love love to help get you there so get in touch is you need an expert travel stylist 😉 kate@richetravel.com.au

Kate xx

photo new 3

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