Monday, 5 October 2015

Espiritu Santo - Vanuatu's hidden oasis of deserted Idyllic beaches, blue holes and welcoming smiles

Jaz from our Depth Travel Office talked about her trip to Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu on our Travel Talk segment with Radio 612 ABC Brisbane on Saturday 18th of July.

Vanuatu was first discovered in 1606 by a Spanish explorer, Pedro Fernendez de Quiros who sailed into the Big Bay on the large Island of Espiritu Santo. James Cook who arrived on the Islands in 1774 drew the first charts and christened them the New Hebrides. Vanuatu which is divided into six provinces achieved independence under it's present name in 1980.

There are direct flights from some Australian major cities into Port Vila and also into Santo direct. Pacific Cruise companies also use Port Vila as a stop.

Isolated paradises still exist and they are only a 2 hour direct flight from Brisbane! The people of Vanuatu are among the most welcoming I have ever encountered, from the minute I arrived my our group was taken in as one of the family. Living a tranquil life on coconut lined beaches they we eager to share every beautiful corner of their beautiful island with us. We traveled with another family, both of us had one year olds at the time. The beaches are extremely safe for children, the cuisine made life easy with kids, as it is quite bland consisting mostly of fresh seafood and salads. Most accommodation will provide cots for babies, boiling water to clean bottles. Car seats are not a common thing in Vanuatu (our daughters of coarse loves sitting on our laps!) , you could however bring your own if this was of concern.

We spent 10 amazing days on Espiritu Santo lounging about and exploring the island. We opted to stay in quite humble bungalow accommodation, there is a vast range of accommodation on Santo to suit every taste and budget.

The must do list for Santo would be their breathtaking beaches, such as Port Orly and Champagne Beach. Espiritu Santo is quite a large island and all the accommodation options on Santo are very spread out, your best option is to either rent a car or hire a driver for the day to show you around. One thing quite unique to Santo are their Blue Holes. Fresh water inland water holes that have the most incredible coloured water that is sure to take your breath away. We spent hours swinging into the blue holes, swimming and enjoying the scenery.

We did other days tours to Luganville to the local markets and a trip to visit a village where we were witnessed one of the most impressive tribal dances I have ever encountered! They call it the magical water dancing music experience. The woman submerge themselves in a large concrete pool wearing traditional clothing, they then cup their hands through the water the splash around, the music they produce is unbelievable, you would need to see it to believe it!

Espiritu Santo is not a destination with high rises, shopping and day spas. Santo is a place to go and completely unwind. Read a book, spend quality time with the family, enjoy deserted beaches and blue holes and get in tune with nature. It is a destination I will return to one day, I just hope it remains as it is…

Friday, 24 July 2015

Cheap and central family apartments, villas and houses in Europe, USA, South Africa and South America

As +Sandra Skelton is currently escorting some of our wonderful clients on a Canada and Alaska tour she has invited me to guest blog. So here goes.

Cheap and central family apartments, villas and houses in Europe, USA, South Africa and South America.

Chateaux in France, villas in Tuscany, apartments overlooking Copacabana Beach, Condos in Soho…. The options are endless. Families are always dreaming of sharing the beauty of the world with their children. Many are hindered by the expenses and feasibility of travelling with children. i have been a travel agent for 10 years and was a European tour guide for 5 years. I have been blessed to have travelled to over 80 countries, during my adventures I have tasted, smelt, seen, hiked, explored and heard many of the world's wonders.

As we travelled, my husband and I always dreamt of sharing similar moments with our kids. Many said when the children arrived that our traveling days would cease and things would be ‘different’. My strong will and love of travel prevailed… I have developed a strong awareness in the needs of traveling families and am constantly discovering more and more options to make the journey become a reality for my clients.

My husband and I have an 11 month old boy and a 2 ½ year old girl. since the moment they were both born they have traveled. I have lost count of the number of planes my daughter has been on already, she in her short life time has already visited 4 countries and 5 of the 7 Australian states.

During this time I have sought out family friendly accommodation options. The convenience of an apartment in Thailand and private villa in Bali enabled me to prepare bottles, store necessary snacks and spread out. It is poignant when planning for families with small children that there is adequate space and a convenient lay out. For parents to have a holiday they require space! Firstly an apartment/house/villa where the baby can be put to sleep in a safe environment, next they require a chill out zone for the parents to enjoy their evenings, albeit a night in which we are all accustomed too! But a room that allows parents to enjoy a nice quiet glass of wine or a movie without tiptoeing around the tiny inadequate hotel room for fear of waking the children!

Hotels come with the conveniences and inconveniences. Hotels seldom allow over 4 people in one hotel room, and interconnecting rooms can be as rare as hens teeth. For a family with more than 2 children a hotel falls in either the too hard basket or the unaffordable basket, as apartments in hotels can be quite expensive. The convenient side of a hotel is the reception accessibility for all your needs. How do i catch the train here? Where is the closest shop? I need an extra towel please. So my plight when organising holidays for my client is to ensure they feel confident to travel without the support network provided in hotels.I have assisted families with one child up to 5 children traveling extensively throughout Europe. When searching for apartments/villas/condos for my clients i am always considering the following-:

  • Where is it located, is the area safe? is public transport close by?

  • How are my clients traveling around europe? if by train is the station close to the accommodation? if driving, is the parking provided at the premises?

  • The ease of entry to the apartment. if i book an apartment on level 5 is there a lift? if the client is travelling with small children and a pram ideally they need ground floor access or a lift (and a lift that fits a pram!) In Europe this is not always the case)

  • If in a rural location, how can i ensure the clients are submerged in the local culture? are there local markets, food supplies, cooking schools?

  • Choosing a base to explore an area such as tuscany. identify all the highlights clients wish to see and recommend a central location to base themselves.

  • The bedding configurations and layout of the house or apartment

  • The physical size of the apartment, checking the square meter measurements will ensure the photographers have not created illusions.

  • The price! I never want to scare my clients off traveling due to price!.. there are endless options to suit all budgets, tastes and travel styles.

For me sharing the world with your children is one of the most enriching gifts you can ever give to them. Through the tiny eyes of my daughter who is almost 3 I can already see the impact that travel has had on her development. From wandering local markets, to riding elephants, jumping crocodile tours and long tail boat to Thai Islands each has given her a little more depth to what the world has to offer. More importantly the time you spend with your family beyond the world of resorts is authentic. I believe there are holidays and traveling. Holidays are to sit on the beach and sip cocktails and play in the swimming pool. Traveling is to submerge yourself in culture, have a life changing experience and remove yourself from your comfort zone (just a little bit ;-) )

Apartments, villa and condos give families the opportunity to live the life of the city they are in, have a base to come back to and escape when the endless walking around tourist sites has become to much to bare, a place to prepare new food bought from the local market you stumbled across in the morning and the space to enjoy some quiet family time and discuss the experiences you are having.

Depth Travel have a passion for creating unique holidays that go beyond the standard package you see in a passing window. i pride myself on listening to the client and tending to their needs. giving my client the confidence to take their children traveling is a very rewarding experience.

I will post another blog soon and thanks for reading this one!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Travel Tips

I had a great session on 612 AM ABC Radio Brisbane on Saturday, talking on Travel Tips.  We had lots of fun and some wonderful suggestions from listeners calling in.  Below is some suggestions that came through if you have any more send them through.
  • zip lock bags are a great option for keeping luggage and toiletries organised plus also keeping dirty clothes separate and stopping any leakages through your luggage.
  • use zipper mesh bags to segregate your luggage.
  • check your Passport Validity for the countries you are visiting, as some have a minimum 1yr validity.
  • check phone plan for global roaming and other options for sms/data.  Buy local prepay phone or data on arrival at destination.
  • take digit scales with you to check your luggage weight and save on that airline excess.
  • take suitcases with 4 wheels for ease of moving around.
  • take your own bottle for water, whether on flights or general day to day travelling.
  • always drink bottled water to avoid any stomach upsets.
  • check local customs.
  • pack an esky bag in your suitcase. You can use to put wine, cheese, crackers or any food in for your day trips (eg. rail trips through Italy), can also be used to give a bit more protection to anything fragile in your suitcase)
  • if travelling with someone, split clothes between suitcases.
  • take a pashmina/scarf when you are flying to give you the extra warmth, which can then be used to cover bare shoulders when visiting some churches plus many other uses.
  • smell pure peppermint oil on a tissue for those upset stomachs, sea or air sickness.
  • vicks, eucalyptus oil on tissue to help clear blocked noses on flights.
  • don't stick with the tourists, get off the beaten track and explore.
  • leave copies of your passports, itineraries or agents contact details with friends.
  • utilising a cloud based email, documentation system so you can access your emails and copies of documents anywhere in the world you have internet access.
  • take the hotel business card or have them write in local language to make easy for your return.
  • try not to look too much like a tourist, blend with the locals
  • check local weather and pack appropriate attire.
  • cull photos on the way so you have less to go through on your return, which you can then convert into a wonderful coffee table book.
  • check via points on your airfare as you can generally use as a stopover to explore another destination.
  • universal adaptors
  • take a power board so you can charge more than one thing at a time.
  • change your clocks to local time and avoid sleeping during the day.
  • day time flights on long haul flights, especially when you arrive pm into destination you can slip into the local time zone.
  • make sure you link your credit cards to any frequent flyer programs to build and utilise points.
  • take a pack of Berocca Vitamins, mix with water for a quick vitamin hit for when the diet has not been as per normal at home.
  • take your head phones for listening but also blocking our aircraft and other noise.
  • take disposable slippers you can wear on the flight and then toss after or wash and reuse (we all know what some of those economy class toilets can be like after a long flight - yuk!).
  • compression stockings for DVT.  Get up, stretch and move around the cabin.
  • register your travel with
  • roll not fold clothing, seems to crease less.
  • go for a walk when you get there to re-energise and refresh.
  • pack a mini type first aid kit with small scissors, sewing kit, bandaids. peroxide etc.
  • take clothes which don't need ironing and have similar colouring so they can all work together.
  • dry shampoo, dry toothbrushes.
  • small tissue box for flights.
  • if you cant carry it yourself, don't bring it.

The link to the Travel Talk session is here if you wish to listen. Travel Talk