Top Ten Travel Destinations in 2015

Who knows where they are travelling to in 2015?

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Well thanks to Lonely Planet we know where is HOT in 2015……

First is Singapore……..well if you are Australian, it’s one of the most popular stopover cities on route to Europe and it has plenty going for it in 2015. Namely that it celebrates 50 years of Independence. So Singapore is putting on a party, its going to have fun festivities dotted throughout the year and it starts on New Years Eve 2014 with spectacular fireworks and light shows….I’m talking big and bold peoples. Singapore has loads going on all year, every year like…….a great noodle market, some high end shopping areas, Iconic Hotels and a pretty diverse range of tourist attractions.

The other countries are as follows some sound appealing and others I have never really considered before but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be seen…….

Namibia – Touted as having the most stunning landscapes in Africa and the place to see  huge sand dunes,  wild animals and African Culture in all it’s glory. Why not?

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photo by bestravel.com

Lithuania – For a mythical Baltic theme and as much ancient christianity history you can handle!

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Nicaragua – Spunky Latin vibes with a great coastal theme. Perfect for those that have been most places and are looking to shake it up next year!

 

 

 

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Photo by visitnicaragua.us

 

Ireland – Pretty, musical Ireland, Blarney Stone kissing, urban spots with loads of atmosphere, haunting history with stunning landscapes plus the whole pub scene – what else does one need?

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photo by cellar tours.com

 

Republic of Congo – Africa is becoming big on peoples travel lists, although this country seems an unusual choice as the north is a little troubled with lots of warnings to stay away. It does have amazing treks though and if you’ve always wanted to Gorilla in the Mist it, then this place is probably right up your alley. 

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Photo by beautyof-theworld.com

 

Serbia – Simply stunning architecture combined with gorgeous countryside and a good dose of Eastern European style plus that Mediterranean climate.

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 Phillippines – Few know the hidden paradise that awaits in this part of the world. Offers all the beauty, beachy, over water lagoony stuff that The Maldives, Tahiti claim for far less moola $$$. 

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St Lucia – Well the Caribbean is always on the list and St Lucia is one of the better islands to partake of some Reggae and jerk chicken! Plus, amazing landscape!!

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photo by socialphy.com

Morocco – sigh*  #mustdo. This place has a lot going for it and I’m talking great medieval history to food to shopping to hotels!! And then you have the landscape…..If you’ve ever considered a Small Group Tour I would recommend it for this destination as you will get a lot more out of the experience. A local tour guide will really open your eyes and hearts to Morocco.

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Turkey – always been popular but it is becoming THE place to go island hopping on a sail boat trip. Much more affordable and breathtakingly pretty…..plus Turkish Delight in much abundance!

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I have no idea how they come up with these lists, I guess it’s someones job to figure it out!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…..

Claire

 

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Exploring Oahu

Mahalo

Aloha

Shaka

Gday….

This little Aussie / Pom is back from her favourite Island destination refreshed, renewed and resigned to the fact that she’ll never be able to afford a house in Kailua!

I can holiday there though….YAY!!

And I did, with my best friend and travel security guard (protects others from me more than protects me), Mark. We had fun visiting Hawaii without the tribe we call children. It was blissfully serene, we could eat when we liked, drink when we liked ,rest, shop, breath ……you get the drift?

FIRST HOLIDAY OVERSEAS WITHOUT THEM MIND YOU (pat on the back)

Enough of that, what did we do on this long awaited trip to tropical heaven….

Heaps…but I won’t tell you everything just my favourite bits for now…….

First photo is of the hugely popular Mai Tai……which it turns out I hated! I spent about $15 USD on that baby, had one sip, pulled a face and gave it to Mark ( he didn’t complain ) so with that little cliche done and dusted I moved on the gentler, sweeter beverages like vast quantities of Champagne and wine! Please don’t let me put you off Mai Tai’s,  every one else I speak to seems to love them so go for it and free tip you can get them for a dollar on the catamaran rides 5 metres from the bar I’m sitting in on the beach (their bright blue though)

 

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Being a TC (travel consultant) I wanted to do a couple of day tours that my customers might want to experience, so I did.

We did a City tour including the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, very interesting  tour to do and it isn’t all day  either which is a bonus ( there’s only so long I like to be holed up in a bus). We used Enoa Tours and they were great  – our fearless leader Special K , apparently this is easier than the pronunciation of his name Kaneou (maybe)! Any way he was friendly, funny, informative, knew a heap of history, knew a great hot dog stand….all that stuff that makes a tour guide great.

Tip: Pay the $7 usd for the audio tour at Pearl Harbour it really is worth it and you get so much more out of the museums and memorial.

Your welcome.

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Go to Lanikai, go to Lanikai, go to Lanikai…..

I know I’m obsessed  with this place but truly if you are going to Oahu and not leaving Waikiki……YOU HAVE TO!

And that’s an order. Waikiki is not Hawaii – it is fun, has great shopping, has cheap cocktails (apparently), but it is not the true Hawaii.

 

To get a feel of it you need to go to the Windward side…..you know when you stand on Waikiki all sunburnt and sweaty, with your $1.00 Mai Tai in your slippery fist??? Well stand with your back to the water and look at that Jagged Green beauty of a Mountain Range called The Koolau range, well over the other side only a mere 20 minute drive in car or bus is the Windward side and here lives Lanikai…………..It is beautiful and is very near Kailua ( my other obsession) and has a perfect beach and amazing homes and super chill people  and shaved ice and and and…..just go!IMG_4168

What better why to get to the Windward side than hiring a Mustang convertable!!! Oh yeah very cool fun to be had if you hire one of these babies. We picked up this little sexy number really early from the Hertz rental at the Hyatt at Waikiki across the road from where we stayed and zoomed through the Koolau Range (there’s a tunnel for this purpose) ………

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and into the town centre of Kailua (angels sing) to Lanikai Juice (sunray bursts through the clouds) to get our most fave ever breakfast in the whole entire world……..Acai Amazon Bowls with the works!! Photo below so you get the idea #heaven. To explain in a nutshell click here , it’s faster.

Next we take off to Lanikai Beach (see photo above) for a swim in the gorgeous waters that gently lap the sandy white beach and for me to take photos of all the beach houses that I stalkerishly wish were my own…..Mark never questions me doing this so I believe it’s normal. It’s only when I come home and show my friends and they all question why I’m taking photos of homes I do not know the occupants of, that I wonder if it is normal?

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After our swim we head to our family – yep we have family in Hawaii (jealous much?)  one of our HAWAIIAN  (originally from Canada but with clever parents who moved to Hawaii) cousins  has a fiancé and this fiancé has an amazing wholesale botanicalbusiness in the most stunning location on the Hwy up to the North Shore. Nate (said fiancé ) quite wonderfully takes us on a tour of the beautiful nursery. He cuts down a coconut and shows us how to shuck it and crack it open….Yummo, you can’t get fresher than that!

It’s all very islandy and outdoorsy and I’m feeling quite wild and spontaneous slurping back the coconut water – loved it!

We drag ourself away and head to Waimea Bay this iconic 1950’s style beach town in the cosmic centre of all that is the North Shore. This is where we lunch (under cousins advice) at Haleiwa Joe’s and had the BEST CHICKEN WINGS ever………..So bloody good they put all other chicken wings to shame…..Go  there please! Oh and the waves are sick in winter for those that like surfing and not chicken wings.

This Photo is just down from Nate’s nursery and it is an example of how breathtakingly beautiful this part of Oahu is. Remember that scene in Jurassic Park where the dad and his two children are running down a valley with a dinosaur in chase….filmed it here!

It is stunning and  gets more stunning around every corner.  A drive up here is so worth it and you will want more once you have a taste.IMG_4193

Monk Seal having a rest on the beach, catching some rays I suppose…..she wouldn’t say why she was visiting (quite aloof)IMG_4294

The Koolau range is spectacular.IMG_4331

China Mans hat….Get it? IMG_4333Will be back soon with more ramblings and remember what Pooh Bear said

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Mahalo for reading my post – (such a local now)

 

5 Star and bang for buck!

Staying 5 star is affordable! Don’t scoff, it can be if you’re canny and do it right……
Most of us like the luxury, comfort, service and the facilities a 5 star resort will or should offer, so how do you make it worth the cost and even save a little?

Easy you read my post………

Most ( in fact I’d say all ) hotel chains have reward schemes these days and they are usually free to join….do so and they will offer you great discounts and even great bonuses like “priority checkin”, club access etc giving that little glam edge over the mere mortals standing in that long winding queue (the horror!!!)

Also when you are registering at checkin a great way to save some dough is to ask if there are any upgrades available….please don’t expect this for free, it can happen (a bit like finding a golden ticket in your Wonka bar can happen!) but rarely does. You might get a greatly reduced rate though, turning that teensy tiny City view room into a spacious Ocean view room for just a little extra!

Hot Tip Time

Ask about their Executive Club.

What is a this you ask and why would I want it?

Well you might not want it but bang for buck you can save money sometimes if you get a good deal. The Executive Club that 5 star hotels offer is a divine little enclave that you have private access to and will offer a deluxe continental breakfast, refreshments, plus in the evenings (perhaps from 5pm until 8pm) you get a great selection of hot and cold appetizers and all the wine and beer you can drink!

At the Moana Surfrider in Waikiki they have a fabulous Beach Club which offers all this and more. We got a discount at the desk for booking it there and it worked put at $50 USD a day for up to 2 adults and 2 children. It can actually save you quite a bit on breakfast and dinner costs. Alcohol in resorts and holiday destinations can be pricey, having a couple of wines and appetizers will decrease your need to buy more later. We found that the appetizers were more than enough on most evenings and we didn’t feel like dinner at all!

The Beach Club is also at the beach level allowing us to watch the glorious sunsets on Waikiki every evening sitting on a breezy verandah and sipping a cold glass of wine.

Below are a few photos of the Beach Club

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It’s food for thought, if you have a hankering to stay in a gorgeous resort on your next holiday it may be more achievable than you imagine.

Anyhow I’m off to enjoy the sunshine of Hawaii so…

Mahalo

Dining and Whining

Dining with children can be a headache in your own country where exotic might be whether they should have chicken salt on their nuggets and chips or tomato sauce? Take them to a foreign country and sit them down in a tiny Warung with choices like Babi Guling, Nasi Goreng and Betutu Belek and you soon learn which of your little ducklings are have adventurous palates and which ones think rice with anything other than ham and peas in it is weird!

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Well I’m throwing out a ray of hope for all the parents of the world who take their little darlings continent hopping…..DON’T GIVE UP!

It does and will improve, I think the earlier you expose them to different cuisines the sooner they grow to have an appreciation and a palate that can handle “something different”. With the exception of the US and early airport transits where the only viable option is a McDonalds brekky, I really try to stay away from the global fast food joints on holidays. Exploring local cuisines is a big part of holidays abroad and it should be indulged in and explored. Some of the most memorable dining experiences I have had have involved street food in strange and beautiful places. You can’t beat a sweet treat in a local market or a delicious wonton noodle soup while waiting for a train in Thailand.

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Children are miniture recepticals to their environment and if you are adventurous, keen and open to trying local cuisine chances are your children will be too. One piece of advice would be – please don’t take it personally if they insist on eating nothing but boiled rice and bottled water for the entirety of your trip. Bland carbs never killed anyone (well I do have a sad story about a hideous research team that fed cats nothing but white bread – it didn’t end well!) and sometimes you just have to relax, enjoy your holiday and let your offspring see you having fun eating local produce.

If your concerned about food poisoning and hideous unnamable bugs attacking your bowel rendering you a jellied, shaking, sweating heap trapped in the loo for days……you should be worried! Anywhere that isn’t a developed country is so much more likely to make you sick than our “food safety conscious” country. Naturally you should be smart about where and  what you eat, I’ve found a good guide to how great a place will be is by how many locals flock to eat there. Usually these stomach upset (while inevitable) are often easily managed and don’t last too long. Hey if we coped in Thailand with four children with diarrhoea and a eight hour flight ahead of us, you will too.

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On the bright side, remember that in any travel experience the best and most vivid memories are the ones that were vastly different to your everyday life. Laughing about that meal you shared in an exotic location and drooling over the seafood dish you shared at a floating restaurant will delight you and your family for many years.

Enjoy

Bali for me

Seriously, is there anywhere I don’t like?

I’m even starting to bore myself. Traveling in a group with my husband and children and friends I realized something….I’m easily pleased.

That’s a good thing right?

I’m enjoying my last day in Bali poolside at Alam Shanti in Ubud, the sun is shining, water glistening and my skin is tingling all over from yet another bloody good vacation.

This is my second trip to Bali in 18 months and it just gets better with each visit in my opinion.

I absolutely love Ubud, next time Mark and I have already investigated staying in Ubud for two weeks in a lovely, simple villa for as little as $45 USD a night people!! It’s not fancy but it has aircon , a pool and breakfast included……..

Ubud has a vibe and feel I like, even though I live on the coast I’m not a ocean going girly, in fact I rarely swim in the ocean (maybe once a year if I’m honest) I’m not comfortable in that environment. My brain is constantly imagining unseen creatures waiting to latch on to my lilly white skin and either sting or take a chunk of it for lunch. So I can never truly enjoy the benefits of sea swimming…

Ubud is fun, rural, not too far from everything and has soul. I get why people come here to find themselves, getting lost at Yoga or meditation retreats. I understand why some people come here and never leave, it has a vibe that screams renewal, revival and creativity. The locals are so friendly and will gladly show you where they live and how they live for little if anything in return. We visited a local compound (this basically means Home for more than one family, although all related) of one family and I sat in the kitchen with the grandmother watching her cook. Just so you know these kitchen are crazy hot, I must have shed a kilo in water just being there for ten minutes. Below are a few photos I wanted to share…

Little old me poolside at Alam Shanti

Mean poolside at Alam Shanti

Sitting on some steps at the palace in Ubud, contemplating deep thoughts like……is it too early for my first Sangria??

Palace in Ubud

This was our bedroom in the villa at Alam Shanti, this one is called Indus and was stunning.

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Turns out turning 40 wasn’t so bad after all!

Travel Tip Tuesday

There once was a girl who liked to look at reviews of the hotels she would be staying in, the restaurants she would eat in and the many places she would visit on her holidays. It was interesting to read about other travellers experiences and she felt it was a worthwhile thing to do. Then one day she drove herself bonkers because she was the type of personality who could be easily affected by others opinions, some of her old school teachers may even have described her as a little bit “flakey” although really her parents and loved ones knew she was actually very smart just a little bit romantic when it came to real life…..

Not sure who that story pertains to?

In all seriousness, I love review sites, they can be such an amazing tool in planning a trip. Frankly I’m surprised when people don’t use them. I do think that you need to be careful to keep a clear perspective and remember that anyone who takes the time to write a review does so from their own bias.

So I guess my tip is:

Sure use reviews to check out people’s opinions about where you are heading just keep in mind that they are only opinions.

Also if generally all the reviews are quite good and you only have one or two bad ones then generally you could put it down to the fact that those bad review writers perhaps just got unlucky and went on a bad day or they are the sort of people who are never happy with anything and would probably find something to fault if the Queen invited them to stay at Buckingham Place (the boiled eggs for breakfast would be to hard or something).

Happy Reviewing

Travel Tip Tuesday

Travel like a local!

Market Time – lets grab lunch!

How often do you go on holidays and say “I want to eat where the locals eat?” or “I want to hang where the locals hang?”.

We visit destinations with our guide books attached to our hips and dedicate our time to the time-honoured tourist trail that our forefathers have mapped out for us, which like Lemmings we obediently follow.

Well throw away those travel guides and pre booked tours and travel like a local.

Here’s how

* Base yourself in one area for a reasonable amount of time. This way you give yourself time to explore the local surrounds. You can become familiar with different areas and really get a feel for a place. Spending a month in one city will let you build a relationship with that city.

* Shop in the local supermarkets and open air markets where the locals shop. This will give you a new outlook on the regions food and what hits the tables most nights of the locals that live here. Ask questions at these places, “which restaurant do you like to eat in?”, there’s a good chance it won’t be the same one all the tourists are frequenting. Try the food that the locals eat, it is a part of the cultural experience, in my opinion if you have a fussy palate or are too rigid in your expectations of what a meal is – you will miss out big time, we don’t have to enjoy everything we eat but it can b interesting to at least know you’ve experienced Fried Grasshopper or Escargot.

*Read a book about a destination. Not a guide-book but a personal account of someone who has lived for a period of time where you are travelling to. Chances are their book will give you insight into local life and also fill you with courage as you feel inspired by their brave adventure. Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald and Escaping by Henrietta Taylor are a couple of books that might stir your desire for a more authentic overseas experience.

* Loiter!  I wouldn’t generally advocate loitering in public places but as you are in a new and unusual place and if you want to experience life as the locals do, you should really hang where they hang. Read a book in the park, watch a chess game, sit on a bench and watch the world go by, someone may initiate a conversation with you. If you regularly grab a churros and coffee for breakfast from the same vendor and eat it in the same park you will become familiar, people will recognise you and start throwing smiles and comments your way. This can really make a difference in how you experience a destination.

*Learn the language. Why not do a language course whilst travelling, base yourself in Rome for a month and learn Italian Elizabeth Gilbert style. This gives you a chance to immerse yourself in communicating with the locals, even if your hopeless, most will appreciate the effort you make.

Buena Suerte & Adios

 

Travel Tip Tuesday

Here’s what’s great about travel in my book.

Discovery…

Often today’s western traveller has expectations that when we roam the world our destination will live to an expectation that we saw plastered on the glossy brochure at the local travel agent. Sometimes when we get to that destination it doesn’t quite have the same glossy finish. The turquoise sparkling water and white sandy beaches might exist but don’t look quite as picturesque with rubbish, crumbling buildings and stray dogs interrupting your vista!

These are the times when instead of being critical, annoyed and disappointed we should look for the beauty elsewhere. Embrace ‘discovery’ and all it can offer. When all you’ve seen of a place is from behind the lens of a camera it can often turn out to be quite different.

To me it is the experiences we have from exploring a little of the beaten track, getting to know the locals, eating where they eat, shopping where they shop that can often uncover experiences that stay with you well after you return home.

So today’s tip is to always pack a good dose of your adventurous self and be at all times open to….

Discovery!

Enjoy the world my little explorers xx

What if’s, whilst at sea…

There is always a first time for everything and I have a first coming up this Christmas.
I shall be embarking on this:

A floating city…..

Trying to determine how I feel about this?

While I’m obviously excited to be going on any holiday with my family, especially one that will take me around the New Zealand coastline on a luxury liner. I am a little uncertain of what to expect.

Will I feel claustrophobic in my inside stateroom for 14 nights?

Will I be in a buffet nightmare with hoards of hungry people piling high plates with curry, stew, potatoes and pastry’s to ensure they make the most of their included meal rate??

How will travelling with my husband and children, my parents, Mark’s mum, Mark’s sister and her husband, and three sons plus her husbands Mother, go?

What if I get seasick?

What if I get an invite to the Captains table and don’t have the appropriate sequined dress to wear?

What if after getting hideously drunk at the Captains table I fall overboard, trying to get back to my room?

What if we sink????

Silly thoughts that occasionally arise –  in truth I cannot wait, I always love doing something new and given my new aspirations and study to become a travel consultant, it will be handy to have had the experience of cruising.

Who knows I might get hooked!

The cruise company we have settled on is The Royal Caribbean group and their mega ship, The Voyager of the Seas ( well their mega ship is the enormous Allure of the Sea, but the Voyager is HUGE too). The Royal Caribbean group are having a summer season in Australia, with Voyager being the big banana in the crown coming to Oz. The cruising phenomenon has really sky rocketed here in Australia with travelers booking more cruises than ever.

This ship is awe-inspiringly large, as tall as a 14 storey building, restaurants, bars, pools, outdoor rock climbing wall, theatre, ice skating rink, a shopping promenade the length of a football field!! It’s hard to imagine…

If anyone has cruised I would love some tips on cruise life…

Roll on Christmas!

Travel Tip Tuesday

Snap Lock bags!!

Do not underestimate the value of these light- weight clear plastic bags in travel…..

Great to put leaky bottles in, medicine, protect important documents with and not to forget……awesome for holding snacks!

Just stuff a few or more in your luggage pocket and I guarantee you will be happy to have them on hand at some point in your trip.

Tres Bon Voyage