How to Ace Accommodation Arrangements

When it comes to booking accommodation for your getaway or holiday, it really can make or break the whole experience. Without doing the proper research, it can be a bit hit and miss.

It’s important you know a bit about where you will be staying – after all, you are spending your hard earned cash on it, it’s your holiday/getaway and time is limited so you don’t want to be spending it dealing with dodgy accommodation that could potentially ruin your entire experience.

So, what’s the best way to overcome a potential hotel hell on your next holiday?

Here’s what I recommend you do before you book anything:

  • Research – it goes without saying that if you don’t check more than one source of information on a hotel you really want to stay at, then you certainly won’t be informed. Many hotel sites are portals of aggregated content from accommodation or tourism databases and in some cases you will just get the same info over and over again. In other cases, the property itself will and should be the central source of truth. After checking the hotel aggregator sites like Hotels.com, and one of the better ones – Trivago, also make sure you check them against the hotel’s own website. A decent accommodation provider should have a website with information on the property, along with booking facilities and prices online.
  • Right location – location plays a big part in your decision to book, particularly if your stay is centred around an event or attraction. Make sure to factor in things like proximity to airports, railway stations or public transport, hospitals etc where noise levels can be higher – if this bothers you. This tip I call booking by map 😉

    mantra
    Gold Coast
  • Recommendations – they say most people will take a recommendation from a friend before they will take advice from a brand, so check with friends or family on any recommendations they may have for accommodation for the location you have in mind.
  • Reviews – just like recommendations, however these are from people you don’t actually know, so in some cases you may need to take some of these with a grain of salt. Great places to check reviews on accommodation include TripAdvisor and good old Facebook. If a large number of reviews exist for a property, you can get a pretty good idea whether those reviews are genuine or not.
  • Reap Rewards – it may be worth checking some hotel reward programs or perhaps joining some as they can offer some great deals for reputable hotels. Some of these programs include TFE Hotels which covers Adina, Medina, Rendezvous, Vibe and Travelodge Hotels or Club.CuSoon which covers Peppers, Mantra and Breakfree properties. Additionally, you can use rewards like QANTAS Frequent Flyer and credit card related rewards for hotel accommodation.
bne_city
Brisbane

Hopefully these tips help you achieve a great stay when you next need to book accommodation. Bon voyage!

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Essentials You Need to Ensure an Excellent Eating Experience

Ever since Grade 8 Home Economics, I have considered myself a bit of a foodie – an obsession that has grown as I’ve grown older (along with my waistline).

Back in the 90’s, before the evolution of social media and cooking tv shows, food wasn’t a big deal – well not as big a deal as it is now. Instagram has changed the food scene in a way that was unprecedented back when we were making savory scrolls in Home Ec.

Breakfast from Paddock Bakery – Miami, Gold Coast
They say we eat with our eyes and this is true when it comes to making dining out choices with the array of apps and websites available today. The food porn trend seems to be taking hold with generations now living digitally. They don’t want to eat a meal if it is not worthy of taking a picture  before diving in – an age of anticipated memories…anyway I digress…

The good thing is that restaurants and bars are now catering to the digital age and this is where you can take advantage of technology to nail an excellent eating experience – and if not, you have the tools to share your thoughts. Being able to refine what you are looking for is great too – now it is easier for me to satisfy my penchant for American Diner style food.

 

Beer from Pumpyard Bar & Brewery, Ipswich Qld
 
So where do you start in researching where to dine or drink? Well, if I am headed away somewhere, I usually start with a Google Maps search that has the businesses marked, then deep dive from there. In fact, for me, the itinerary is often moulded around food/wine/beer experiences along the journey to maximise the experience.

Chicken Parmy – Bruny Island, Tasmania
The tools you can then enlist on your deep dive can include:

  • Foursquare – an app that allows real time checking in to a restaurant where special deals can be offered to diners who checked in.
  • Yelp – a site/app where users leave reviews on restaurants including photos – word of mouth from a diner is often better than a biased opinion from the restaurant.
  • Pinterest – a site/app where pinboards are pinned with images of all kinds of things people like – food is popular on Pinterest. Great place to get free recipes!
  • Trip Advisor – a site/app that is growing in popularity when it comes to attractions and restaurants (traditionally used for accommodation) where users can leave reviews on the places they have visited to help others make decisions during their travels.
  • Zomato (formerly Urban Spoon) – an app that shows you the nearest restaurants to  your location and also allows you to follow those who review places they have visited, as well as reviewing places yourself.
  • Instagram – an app for images about literally anything, however this has now been embraced by businesses to showcase what they do – including restaurants and bars. You can follow them to see their specials (in a visual way) and see what their menu and ambiance might be like. Instagram seamlessly connects with other networks which has been a big part of it’s success – along with being a purely mobile platform.
  • Facebook – a site/app for networking with friends and businesses. (Everyone is on Facey right?) Many restaurants and bars are using Facebook as their website but also in a similar way to Instagram.

Jupiters Gold Coast – PA Hotel, Broadbeach, Gold Coast
So, there’s just a few tips and tools to help you make the best dining out experience for you. If you have some other awesome tips, by all means, let me know!

Bon Appetit!

5 Tactics That Trump would try when Travelling

Ok, ok we know Trump is loaded, but he got that way because he understands that every penny counts.  In today’s economic climate, we know taking a holiday and getting away from it all can be a financial drain, but one we need to embrace if we want to keep our sanity.

Kingscliff Beach
Kingscliff Beach

With some planning, a little know-how and tenacious research and shopping around, you can organise a pretty great holiday on a budget. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a great holiday, nor do you need to go far away.

So here are my 5 Tactics that even Trump would try when travelling:

  1. Subscribe to airfare sales – each airline has their sales each week on different days and times. Some have a happy hour, some have a Friday frenzy and others are always on sale – granted you may have numerous add-ons to pay for and the quality of the experience may differ. Subscribe to their sales so that you are in the know when the cheapest fares are released.
  2. Auto club member discounts – if you are an Auto Club member, like RACV, RACQ, NRMA – regardless of your level of membership, there are a myriad of discounts on accommodation, attractions and experiences you can take advantage of to reduce the cost of your next getaway. Visit your state’s Auto Club website for details on the discounts you can get.
  3. Frequent Flyer/Loyalty programs – If you make the most of gaining frequent flyer points every time you buy the groceries or pay your bills, these points can be used towards flights, accommodation or even luggage or a spiffy camera. Make your money work for you even while you are spending it! Taking advantage of loyalty programs with hotel chains/tourist parks are also a great way to save on accommodation and often have sales. Check out the frequent flyer provider’s website for further details on what you can redeem your points for.
  4. Dining out like a ninja – Invest in an Entertainment book or app where you can redeem offers to save on dining out. It also helps to do some research on local pubs and restaurants and knowing when it is happy hour or when two for one specials are available. Facebook and Instagram, along with a trusty Google map can help you find the right dining spot for you. Using apps/sites like Foursquare and TripAdvisor can also help here too.
  5. Research and shop around – Google is your best friend here. The more prepared you are to research, shop around for the best prices possible and plan, the better your chances are of saving a few dollars along the way. I tend to make a bucket list of what I want to experience at a destination and then work around that based on price and location.

Sounds like a lot of work huh? Well, not really – planning is all part of the process of going on a holiday of any sort. It’s the anticipation that cements your intention.

Cedar Creek Falls - Tamborine Mountain
Cedar Creek Falls – Tamborine Mountain

Subscribe to check out my upcoming blog on apps and sites that we all should use when holiday planning.

Top 10 Tricky Travel Tips to Traverse Tasmania

There’s rare moments of serendipity when all the things you love in life are combined, a bliss, a happiness that is unparalleled.  For me, it happens every time I get the chance to go to Tasmania, or Tassie as we affectionately call her.

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Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Why? Well, the combination of the scenery, the location, the food, the wine, the beer and all other alcohol created here, the attractions, the weather, the clean air, the chance of snow, the friendly locals, the wildlife and more.

So, when the opportunity came up to take part in a Virgin Australia competition as a ProBlogger attendee, I thought this post could serve as my entry by showcasing what I have learnt during my travels professionally as a Travel Agent and personally through my ubergeek ways of organising getaways.

Richmond Bridge, Tasmania
Richmond Bridge, Tasmania

For the last 3 years, we have made an annual pilgrimage to Tassie, with a clear purpose and focus each time and despite this, we have still not seen and experienced all the State has to offer.

Here are my top 10 Tricky Travel Tips to Traverse Tasmania:

  1. Plan your itinerary – get a rough idea of where you will go and when to make the most of your time – especially useful if going for more than 2 days.
  2. Be prepared for the weather – parts of Tasmania have snow not just in winter. Also as a smaller land mass in comparison to mainland Australia, the weather can change quite a lot in a day so be prepared. Beware the black ice!
  3. Check if any events are happening during your visit that you can take advantage of – even just the humble farmers market should be a part of your experience.
  4. If you are doing a fly/drive holiday and hiring a car from a hire car company, use a GPS that they can supply or better still, pack your own so you don’t have to pay for it. Using your mobile for navigation in some areas can be tricky due to limited phone signals.
  5. Follow the local authorities on social media to keep in touch with what is happening around you – Police, Weather, Council, News – getting in touch on a local level keeps you informed and aware.
  6. Look up – yes look up! Due to the close proximity to the South Pole, Tassie is also lucky to experience what is known as Aurora Australis, where the night sky gets tinged with pastel pinks, greens and yellows. Learn more from the Aurora Chasers if you want to track them.
  7. Taking your own car? Awesome! This has a myriad of benefits, like taking as much stuff as you like, and bringing awesome things home. Also allows you to pack your own food to save money – great if you have a car fridge! This of course means you will need to get on board the Spirit of Tasmania. My recommendation here is to do a day sail or book a cabin – especially if you have a dodgy back.
  8. Talk to a local – Taswegians love a chat! I have nicknamed them Chatty Kathy’s because they love to chat about everything – especially Tassie! You can learn so much about the area – it’s ok, they don’t bite!
  9. Don’t underestimate distance – this is something I am religious about. You should see the spreadsheets, itineraries and budgets I put together for every trip to run like clock work. There’s nothing worse than getting your hopes up for that brewery or winery and they are closed by the time you get there. Factor in time for stops and finding interesting things along the way, as well as weather conditions. Even though Tassie is a small state, there is a lot to pack in.
  10. Budget for National Parks – if you are a nature lover and you are keen to check out the pristine, world heritage forests and waterfalls, then make sure you include this in your budget. There are fees to enter National Parks in Tassie – try and tackle more than one in a day to get the best value for money. Check out the fees and options via the Parks & Wildlife Service.
Cruising on Dutch Tall Ship - Yukon, Franklin Tasmania
Cruising on Dutch Tall Ship – Yukon, Franklin Tasmania

Though these are only 10 Tricky Tips, I could share a million more! There’s nothing better than the challenge of planning trips for me, whether they be near or far away.

If you want to learn more about Tassie, head to www.discovertasmania.com.au and don’t forget to check out the Virgin Australia Happy Hour every Thursday from 4-8pm AEDT.