Saturday, 15 October 2016

Las Vegas

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The Town that never sleeps!

One of our clients the wonderful Alan Anderson and his gorgeous wife Mandy recently visited Las Vegas.  He is our Guest Blogger, enjoy!

My wife and I visited Las Vegas for 3 nights in late September 2016. The Vegas visit was arranged by Depth Travel and followed a cruise that ended in Montreal, Canada, so we were keen for a relaxing break. After collecting our luggage we decided to catch a cab to our hotel rather than the cheaper option of a shuttle. Beware the long taxi queues but they are efficiently managed and cleared in about 15 minutes.

Having never been to Las Vegas we were completely in the hands of the Depth Travel 
staff. Their recommendations were spot on. 

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We had a spacious “Strip View” room at the wonderful Bellagio Hotel overlooking their famous fountains which erupt for 5 minutes every half hour from 3pm to 8pm every day. Bellagio is right in the middle of the strip opposite Planet Hollywood and the “Magic Mile of Shops” and next door to the famous Caesars Palace Hotel. The Bellagio is huge and cost $US1.2b to build.

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We had dinner that evening outdoors in a Mexican-themed bar/restaurant outside Planet Hollywood so we looked straight down the strip. It was people watching par excellence and as the sun set the people seemed to get crazier. Just below us we watched two men in Army trousers but no shirts and amazing “six packs” offering to have their photo taken with women whom they raised above their heads while sporting the US flag. We were not sure how much they received for each photo opportunity but they never stopped for the two hours we watched them.

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The next day we went to the Grand Canyon with Grayline. We were originally booked on a bus but were offered seats in a twelve seater Mercedes “Sprinter” for an extra $US200.00 (plus taxes of course). We jumped at the opportunity to spend more time at the Grand Canyon while getting back to the hotel several hours earlier than the bus. The Grand Canyon is a breath-taking must see and the Skywalk is sensational even for those who hate heights (its only 4,500 feet straight down!) Guano Point probably has the best views of the Colorado River so don’t miss that one.

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On the last day we walked along the strip and went up in the (faux) Eiffel Tower which has amazing views, watched the gondolas in the amazing Venetian Hotel and had a drink in the incredibly atmospheric Margaritaville Bar at the Flamingo Hotel. We also shopped at the Magic Mile of Shops before reluctantly leaving the Bellagio.

Las Vegas Strip Map

Friday, 14 October 2016

Japan Family Travel Blog by Jaz!

Our wonderful Jaz, currently on maternity leave did a family trip to Japan prior to the current baby.  Below is her story on their fabulous trip.

Japan? At this time of year? With a 1 and 3 year old? Are you crazy? My husband and I thrive off adventure, so the challenge of travelling on a 9 ½ hour flight with our two babies in to Japans chilly winter seemed very appealing. Japan has always intrigued me……. The people, the culture, the shrines, Temples, gardens, busy cities and delicious food. We spent 12 amazing days in Japan and it never failed to impress.

The biggest challenge when travelling with young children is finding the perfect balance between what makes them happy and what makes you happy! Number one priority is ensuring they were comfortable for our long days out most being from 8am to 6pm. We purchased a very basic small double stroller which was a godsend, we also bought the children their own special blankets each from home that they used daily in their strollers for comfort and sleeps when required.

Japan train stations are quite easy to manoeuvre through once you have the handle of it, 95% have lifts (those which do not there are endless people wanting to help carry the pram up the stairs with you). 

Pedestrian space is large and Japanese are very welcoming to families. Even over the New Years holidays, deemed the most busy time in Tokyo, we were able to navigate our way through the crowds seamlessly with our double stroller. 

The only recommendation I have moving forward is ensure your children are awake at lunch time, our dream of having a quiet lunch whilst they slept in the pram was crushed on day one when we realised that seldom can you find a restaurant that can accommodate a pram with sleeping children! Best you wait till they are awake and fold it up at the door!

The second is research into activities for the children. 

Each day we chose one special thing for them to do such as feeding the monkeys outside of Kyoto. This involved a 45 minute uphill hike for mum and dad with children in ergos on our backs to get them to their monkeys! But the smiles on their faces were worth the pain and the views were spectacular! 

Seeing the snow for the first time in Nagoya, hiring a toboggan for a few hours and building their first snow man. Investigating local festivals……..

We were fortunate enough to be a part of a community festival to make sticky rice, the children loved it. It is amazing to watch your children interact with other children when they both speak different languages. The language barrier does not hinder like it does adults, my three year old spent the day playing with children who all spoke Japanese to her and she loved every moment of it, at the end of the day they are all children and if they are playing and smiling…….. they are happy!

Letting them walk and explore food markets, tasting new and unusual food…………. A quick stop at Tokyo's best toy shop to let them play…….. a morning at the zoo, aquarium, tallest building in Tokyo….. all these things give them something to look forward to and they enjoy it! My husband and I want our children to fall in love with travelling so we have found the best way is to find a balance. 

We wandered through museums and shrines when they are asleep (as best we can!) Plan one very special kids day, ours was Disneyland which was absolutely fabulous!!!!

Accommodation can be tricky in Japan to accommodate children. 

There are endless children friendly hotel but some of them have quite a high price tag on them. We opted for privately owned apartments where we had the convenience of a fridge and microwave for our one year olds bottles. 

We also stayed in home stays which was a very unique experience. Staying with a Japanese family gives you the chance to really experience Japanese culture. We slept as one big happy family on a large floor futon, which is very common in Japan.

We ate meals on the floor at a traditional style Japanese dining table. We shared storeys back and forward about how life in Japan is so different to Australia. 

My children played with their children. It was a lovely way to travel for those who don’t need their own space and want to meet new people. 

The biggest benefit over a hotel room was being able to put the children to bed in the room, then head downstairs to adult company. Something which you are unable to do in a hotel room. Parents would know the world of tiptoeing and whispering around small children once you get them to sleep in a small hotel room, does not make for a very nice evening time for mummies and daddies!

Are we exhausted after our 12 days?…….. Yes!........ Would we do it all again?..... Yes!

Letting your children run free in a new country, asking questions about why this is like this, why do they wear that and what are they doing……….. is exciting! 

My three year old was constantly excited about the heated toilet seats…… she was not too happy when she zapped her bottom with a thick stream of water from hitting the bidet button when I was not watching! 

Receiving gifts and attention where ever they went by warm and welcoming people. 

Catching endless metros, trains, busses, escalators only added to the adventure! It was my one year olds 3rd country and my 3 year olds 5th country. 

They may not remember everything they have experienced, but I do believe it is shaping the adults they will become. I can only hope they continue in life to be adaptable, worldly and full of adventure! 

If anyone would like help in planning an amazing, life changing family holiday to Japan or any other fabulous country I would be more than happy to assist! I pride myself on being able to cater to the needs to the individual and deliver once in a lifetime holidays.

Travel Etiquette

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

It’s pretty simple stuff, right, well not for all!

I think we have all experienced people who really just do not get it or just don't care. So here is a general run down of Travel Etiquette as a reminder to all of us.


Personal Space
Think you are in a bubble which extends 9 inches x 20cms around you and this is the area you stay in. Respect the areas and people are you.

If listening to music or talking to friends, try to keep the volume down.

When eating meals, keep your elbows tucked in.

Personal Hygiene
Ensure you shower and use personal deodorant.

Be mindful if removing your shoes.

Take it easy with perfumes or aftershaves. Some can be way too smelly or people could have allergies.

Jetblue have some very funny videos regarding Flight Etiquette and also Boarding Etiquette


Do not recline as soon as you get onboard a flight. Instead, allow other people to settle in.

Once you do recline, do it slowly.

Check who is behind you. If they’re 6’5ft then you may have to make some considerations.

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Be mindful, whether too loud, pushing seats in front etc

Take lots of things for them to do whilst onboard

Think of where you can be seated, get the back near the toilets may have more standup space.

To Recline or not to Recline
If the airlines stopped trying to jam everyone in like sardines we would not need this question.

In reality, if can recline then it is our right to recline them. But there are instances of it being uncomfortable for the person behind.

Knee Blockers: a device to stop the person's seat in front of you from reclining.

Did you know? Last year a United Airlines flight was diverted and police were brought on board to take off two folks from a feud over the use of a seat blocker. How bad did it get? The businessman using the device had a soda tossed in his face by the disgruntled woman sitting in front of him.


The only word you should ever use in an airport when asked to do something is YES!
When asked for a security check be polite, patient and answer the questions truthfully.

Know the Rules
If you are only allowed 100mls of liquid then make sure you only have that and it is labelled.

Have them ready in clear plastic bags before clearing immigration.
Take note of the signs and have your passport ready and your immigration form completed and ready to go.

Complete forms truthfully and if you can keep all of the items in question in the one area or in one bag.

Country Etiquette

Understanding other people's languages, cultures, etiquette and taboos is of great value to the traveller or visiting business person. Here’s a few tips to help you through.

When sitting, make sure soles of feet face down and not directly point at anyone as this can cause offence to them.

Body language is important. Be mindful of where you place your hands, eg: on the hips is considered aggressive posture or touching your head may cause offence as the head is considered sacred.

When communicating silences are not considered uncomfortable. Instead display a degree of consideration, allowing the other party to contemplate what is being said.

Japanese society is ruled by stringent codes of behaviour and these should be respected. Age, seniority, honour and understanding the subtext of what people are saying are some of the most important aspects of Japanese culture.

Standard form of greeting is to bow from the waist, the lower the more respectful.

If in a formal situation, address by their title eg: Mr, Mrs, Dr then name.

Personal space is very important so keep a good 3 feet away.

Do not retain too long an eye contact (eye contact should fall below head to neckline).

If sitting down, make sure that your feet don’t directly point at anyone, as this can be perceived as very offensive. Keep the soles of your shoes or feet flat against the floor.

Saving face is import, so never, ever publicly disgrace or humiliate someone in Japan. This kind of dishonour will only serve to humiliate and shame both you and the you will become the target of ill feeling.

Burping at the table is considered vulgar, but slurping your food is not.

Make sure that you don’t stick your chopsticks upright in your food at any time during the meal; and

When eating, never talk or laugh with your mouth open.

Blowing your nose publicly, especially at the dinner table, is considered to be extremely bad etiquette.

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Drinking alcohol in public is an offence as is drunken outlandish behaviour. Drinking in restaurants, nightclubs and hotels is ok.

Shake hands with right hand as the left hand is considered unclean as traditionally thought to be used for more unsanitary purposes!

In public you should make an effort to dress moderately.

For women, the proper etiquette is to try and cover up as much as you can. Skimpy tops and short skirts are not very appropriate. It is best to at least cover your shoulders and the tops of your arms.

Even the most well travelled globetrotters can sometimes get it wrong and if we do then let's apologise and try to reconcile the situation. We want our travel memories to be wonderful happy ones, not ones of conflict.

Happy Travels.
Sandra Skelton

The Most Annoying Travellers

The Most Annoying Travellers

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If you haven't already watched Sir Patrick Stewart (better known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the Star Trek and Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men) re-enacting the most annoying people you find on a plane, make sure you do. The hilarious sketch on Jimmy Kimmel showcased just some of the annoying people you find at 35000ft in the air (check it out here).

Sir Patrick Stewart as the 'Most Annoying Traveller' 

On one of my Travel Talk segments with Radio 612ABC Brisbane we talked on people's experiences and how we can avoid the 'Most Annoying' guests. 

If you haven't had the misfortune of meeting these travellers already, here are some of the top 10 Expedia Hotel  'Most Annoying' ... 

Inattentive Parents – 67%
The Hallway Hellraisers – 64%
The Complainers – 54%
The In-Room Revellers (noisemakers nearby) – 52%
The Bickerers – 26%
The Poolside Partiers – 22%
The Loudly Amorous (indiscreet lovemakers) – 21%
The Hot Tub Canoodlers (affectionate couples in a public hot tub) – 20%
The Business Bar Boozer (drunk business travellers) – 12%
The Elevator Chatterbox – 6%

The odd one or too makes for a good laugh but frequenters of faux-pas habits can be downright annoying. While little can be done to avoid the annoying traveller - they can surprise you in even the most luxurious hideaways - you can avoid bad hotel experiences. My recommendation? Do your research.

Start by knowing exactly what type of holiday you are after - whether that be romantic, adventurous, family focused, etc. Next, consider what time of year you are travelling - school holidays will send prices high, while seasons also dictate standard prices. Lastly, consider the destination and location of your accommodation.

Let's take Thailand for example. There are plenty of options for any kind of traveller - the family, the couples and the party-hungry.

Families would naturally be driven towards the resorts. Thailand offers a number of highly rated, deeply family orientated family resorts that will keep the kids and mum and dad happy all week long. Of course, this isn't ideal for couples who would trade slippery slides for a Singapore Sling cocktail. In which case, always be sure to ask your hotel if they are family focused, kid friendly or strictly adult only. You'll see the party-goers step it up one further and trade long days for long nights on the beach partying til dawn in the Full Moon parties. This draws lots of crowds and brings with it plenty of noise. Not ideal for families or couples after an intimate affair.

A bit of your own research will do wonders or better yet, dealing directly with a travel agent or someone local and in-the-know is the easiest way to find the right property and holiday for you. 

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Thursday, 13 October 2016

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One of our clients recently returned from a trip to Japan and wanted to share his experiences.  Thank you Alan - enjoy!

Tokyo and surrounds

My wife and I visited Tokyo for the first time from 28 August to 2 September 2016. The trip was organised superbly by Sandra and Jaz of Depth Travel, who gave us recommendations based on their recent first-hand experience of travelling in Japan.

We stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku which is located in a modern part of Tokyo. The hotel room was spacious and we were fascinated by novel facilities such as the warming and deodorising toilet seat! 

The restaurants in the hotel are expensive but a buffet breakfast costs around AUD$30.00. If you want to reduce costs on food and wine there is a deli on the lower floor that provides excellent takeaway meals and alcohol at cheaper rates. There are several great eating spots within a short walk of the hotel.

The hotel is within walking distance of Shinjuku railway station which is the busiest station in Japan with over 3 million passengers a day. Depth Travel provided us with Pasmo cards (similar to a Translink card) loaded with 1,500 yen (about AUD$20). We used the card every day and still had 600 yen left after 5 days of travel – so the rail system is cheap and easy to use. 

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We went on a pre-arranged morning tour of Tokyo that gave us an overview of the city (and great views from the Tokyo Tower) and included must-see sights such as the Meiji Shrine set in a beautiful forest and the Imperial Palace. The area around the Palace is a large green space with views of sterile high-rise buildings reminiscent of some parts of Canberra.
We were scheduled to go on a full day tour to Mt Fuji on the second day but a hurricane hit Japan so the weather was very wet and windy. I phoned Sandra at Depth Travel and, without any fuss, she was able to reschedule the tour for later in the week. 

Fortunately the weather cleared so our tour to Mt Fuji was in warm and sunny weather. Unfortunately the clouds on Mt Fuji didn’t lift that day so we had to be satisfied with going up to the 5th station and souvenir hunting in the clouds! We travelled back to Tokyo via a bullet train which is quite an experience.

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After mastering the rail system and feeling more confident about getting around Tokyo we explored the excellent museums in the large gardens adjacent to Ueno Station. We also visited Akihabara (Electric City) to see the Anime gallery (hugely disappointing) and the amazing retail stores. 

We were intrigued with the balancing ability of Tokyo rail passengers especially one schoolgirl who did her homework standing in front of us without holding on.

Tokyo is unlike any other Asian city – it is very clean, not smelly and quiet with orderly traffic!

So after an exhilarating week we sadly had to leave Tokyo with thoughts that we needed to come back and explore other parts of Japan. 

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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Animal Encounters

Recently a client return from Africa, and had quite a few tales to tell of their close encounters with animals in the wild!  It made me think of the Elephant who made headlines world wide for his too-close-for-comfort encounter with an unlucky Volkswagen driver.

We need to remember that animals in the wild are just that, "wild" and need our respect and caution when we are in their territory, well and depending on the destination, sometimes ours.

A few years ago I did a small expedition cruise with my daughter kayaking, hiking and exploring the Inside passage and Glacier National Parks of Alaska (which I can recommend to anyone). I remember seeing instructions on how to deal with a Bear if we came across one (which I did many times, though not on foot thank goodness).

One thing that stood out was the difference in how you even hike in different countries. In Australia it is all about keeping quiet when hiking, so we can see that kangaroo, koala or bird. In Alaska it is all about making noise so the Bear is not put it in to fright - fight mode.

One thing I love about travelling is the wonderful stories and exciting experiences we have along the way that can be told for years to come.

One of my Travel Talk Radio sessions I did one week was about this exact subject. If you want to listen click on the link. 612abc brisbane - Animal Encounters

What wild animal experience have you had, a few of mine are below:
  • Charged by an Elephant whilst hiking through the Okavango Delta, Africa. 
  • Charged by a hippo on the Zambezi River, a very common occurrence for most. 
  • A near miss with a whale in Alaska 
  • Bitten by a dolphin in Tahiti, and still have a small scar to prove it.
  • A bear "poo" encounter in Alaska 
  • Jumped at and hugged by an Orangutan in Thailand, whilst everyone else got a hit over the head.
  • A big sloppy kiss from an Elephant in Thailand 
  • ​Being watched by a bunch of baboons whilst showering naked in Chobe (that feeling of being watched!) 
  • A friend had her bikinis stolen by monkeys at Chiefs Camp in the Okavango Delta​ (ended up high in the tree with no hope of retrieving) 
  • Camping through Africa, thought this was a good spot, next morning woke to a massive Elephant poo right next to the Tent! 
We love hearing peoples travel stories, what interesting experiences or encounters with wildlife have you had whilst travelling?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tips to Planning the Perfect Honeymoon

Recently I attended the Queensland Brides, Wedding & Honeymoon Expo at the Brisbane Convention Centre for the first time, not as a bride to be but as an Exhibitor. It was great fun talking about Weddings and Honeymoons over the weekend and made me realise - you really do need to plan for your Honeymoon as much as your Wedding.

For me, the proposal and the wedding were only a few months apart and it was amazing how quickly I could pull together a wonderful wedding. However, there was really no planning for the honeymoon. There was no trip to an exotic destination or fabulous overseas destination. For me, especially being in the travel industry, I have always felt that I missed out on something. I always imagined the honeymoon to be something special, a dreamy romantic getaway, the excitement of packing, going to the airport with your special person, sipping champagne on the flight, arriving at your dream destination! (Disney has a lot to answer for!)

So when plan your wedding, remember not to forget the honeymoon. I feel it is nearly as important as the wedding!

Here are some tips for planning that dream honeymoon:

1. When should I start planning my honeymoon? 
The sooner the better. Planning ahead allows you time to budget accordingly and get necessary documents needed should you not have. Planning ahead also enables you to confirm that “one of a kind room” many resorts offer making your honeymoon even more special.

2. Have an idea of your Geography. 
Yes, Europe, Maldives and Caribbean are amazing honeymoon destinations, but not if you have less than one week for your honeymoon. An exotic location is ideal if you have enough travel time and don’t mind long flights. Some locations require over a day travelling time and you also need adjust to time difference.

3. Know your budget. 
Airline fares play a significant role when planning your budget. If you are a frequent traveler, save your mileage and try to use your accumulated mileage points. Many credit cards offer airline mileage awards that may assist you as well.

4. When do you want to leave? 
The month you get married may affect your destination choice due to Mother Nature.  Also remember when school holidays are, this in itself increases the pricing of airfares and land components.

5. What type of honeymoon are you looking for? 

Discuss with your fiancé what is most important for you to experience while on your honeymoon: adventure, relaxation, touring, a little of everything? Communication is key! I suggest writing your wish list separate and then comparing notes with each other.

6. What kind of resort are you looking for? Unique and boutique? All inclusive? 
Many resorts offer all-inclusive options, allowing you to know ahead of time exactly how much you will be spending.

7. Does the hotel offer anything special because it is our honeymoon? 
Many resorts offer amazing honeymoon packages that can be purchased for a certain amount or are complimentary when booking a certain room category with minimum nights. These packages can include anywhere from a romantic dinner on a beach, complimentary massages, and breakfast in bed, to free anniversary stays and many more.

8. What kind of deposit do I need? When is final payment due? When do I need to pay? 
Depends on the honeymoon you have chosen. Most airlines will want payment and ticketing done either immediately or with in a few days.  The land components usually require a deposit at least.  Ask your travel agent about a bridal registry.

9. Do I need a Visa, do I need vaccinations? 
Some destinations do require Visas.  It is important as to what type of passport you are travelling under, the name shown on the Passport and many countries are now requiring a minimum 12 months validity.  You may not be able to travel under your married name, if your passport is not showing that name, unless you take your marriage certificate with you. Always best to confirm with your doctor if they suggest vaccinations.

10. I don’t need insurance, this is my honeymoon and I will never cancel. 
There are hundreds of circumstances that could cause you to cancel your trip, return home early or force you to seek emergency medical treatment while travelling. Travel Insurance provides protection for your travel investment.

So remember when planning your wedding, plan your honeymoon as well. If you are lost for ideas or need help, always ask your travel agent - they can have have hundreds of ideas to suggest to create your dream honeymoon and can pull it together with ease.

You can also listen to my Radio interview with Kat Davidson from 612 abc Radio Brisbane.