baby travel advice

10 handy tips for parents and guardians flying with babies or toddlers

First time flying with a baby can be nerve wrecking for any parent. The limited space in an aircraft can be a challenging environment especially when travelling with a toddler. Fortunately there are ways in which to overcome these tricky situations with helpful advice from experienced parent travellers. We hope you find these helpful too.

1. Check your seating arrangements
It is advisable when making your travel bookings to inform your travel agent or airline that as you will be travelling with small children to ensure that you will be seated together. When at the check-in counter, double check that your seating arrangements are in order. Consider booking the window seat and seats close to the front of the aircraft. Don’t forget to carry along your child’s birth certificate.
2. Arrive in good time at your departure gate
Factor in plenty of time to arrive at your departure gate early. Travelling with small children slows you down and with security checks in place, it is a good idea to allow yourself time to go through the processes without the added stress.
3. Information is king
Check with your airline should you have any questions or concerns or for any updated security measures. It is also a good idea to check the websites of any of the airports you will be stopping at for facilities they offer. This would best help you prepare for a trip with connecting flights or multiple stopovers.
4. Air cabin pressure changes
Prepare for changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing. Babies and small children are especially susceptible to the change of air pressure which they find painful and uncomfortable. A helpful piece of advice is to have your baby suck on a dummy or a feed from a bottle or sippy cup.
5. Change of clothing
A change of clothing for baby, you and your partner is a must especially if you’re travelling on a long haul flight.
6. Snacks
Carry plenty of snacks to keep small children happy and occupied, preferably of the healthy sugar free variety.
7. Spring a surprise
This helpful advice works well with younger children. When preparing entertainment activities for your toddler, don’t make all of them available at once. Spring a surprise by revealing toys one at a time.
8. Stretch the muscles
Surviving long haul flights can be tough on little bodies. Encourage your child to stretch tired muscles by walking up and down the aisles with them. This ensures their safety and to respect the privacy of other passengers.
9. Medication
Check with your airline about security and safety restrictions regarding medication. Some over the counter drugs come in convenient handy travel size sachets. Should you need to carry medication with you, have your doctor’s letter on hand and obtain prior approval from your airline.
10. Keep calm and relax
It is a well known fact that babies and young children respond to the energy especially of their parents. By you breathing deeply and maintaining an air of calm, your baby is assured that all is well.

Marmaray tunnel

After a 150 year wait the underwater Marmaray tunnel finally comes to fruition to change the face of Turkey

A 150 year old plan initially put forward by an Ottoman Sultan in 1860 has finally come to fruition. Turkey recently unveiled the underwater Marmaray railway tunnel, effectively connecting Asia to Europe. The unveiling of the tunnel coincided with Turkey celebrating its 90th anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic.

Turkish officials and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, attended the ceremony. Japan has been instrumental in the construction and financing of the Marmaray railway tunnel project with an investment of $1bn of the $4bn total cost of the project.

“I wish from God that the Marmaray that we are inaugurating will be a benefit to our Istanbul, to our country, to all of humanity,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the official ceremony. “Today we are realizing the dreams of 150 years ago, uniting the two continents and the people of these two continents.”

This is the world’s first underwater railway tunnel to link two continents. The tunnel more than 55 metres deep and according to Turkish officials is 13.6 kilometres in length, including 1.4 kilometres running under the Bosporus Strait – the connecting link between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

It is hoped the Marmaray tunnel, dubbed by Erdogan as the project of the century, will help alleviate Istanbul’s chronic traffic. Officials see a1.5 million passengers, who would normally traverse two heavily trafficked bridges daily, utilizing the services provided by the tunnel. And it is hoped the tunnel will eventually serve high-speed and freight trains.

“While creating a transport axis between the east and west points of the city, I believe it will soothe the problem” of congestion, said Istanbul’s mayor Kadir Topbas.

Responding to raised concerns that the newly built railway tunnel could be vulnerable to earthquakes in an area known for its high seismic activity, Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim said that the Marmaray tunnel is designed to withstand a massive 9.0 magnitude quake. He went further and called it “the safest place in Istanbul.”

The underwater portion of the tunnel was dropped in sections to the sea bottom using the immersed-tube method used around the world. The tube sections features flexible joints built to withstand shocks.
The Marmaray railway tunnel is part and parcel of Erdogan’s grandiose plans for Istanbul. A former mayor of the city himself, Erdogan has in his sights a separate tunnel being built under the Bosporus for passenger cars, a third bridge over the strait, the world’s biggest airport, and a massive canal that would bypass the Bosporus.


Backpacking 101 – independent travel at its best

The first rule of thumb when thinking about backpacking is proper planning to ensure a fun and safe adventure. Your friendly travel agent can provide a useful guide in alternative routes, transportation and accommodation options and must-sees. Gather as much information as you can about the places you intend visiting and the accommodation facilities where you will be staying at. The more information you have at hand the better you will be able to pack appropriately.

At the top of the list is your gear – especially your choice in backpack. You will be carrying this piece of equipment with you, possibly trekking across cities and countries so it goes without saying that you choose the best option for you. The right size (big enough to carry all your belonging but small enough to be conveniently carried around on buses, planes or trains), comfort, durability and strong straps are important features to consider. A wise choice in backpacks would be ones that have extra chest or waist straps which help to distribute weight evenly.

Essential items are as individual as the backpacker is. The golden rule of experienced backpackers is to pack light; do not take up unnecessary space with what can be bought conveniently whilst travelling. Be practical and you will prevent unwanted misery and frustration.

The clothes that you pack should cover all weather conditions irrespective of the destinations you choose. Useful items to include are zip lock bags, elastic bands to keep things together. A pair of lightweight sandals or flip flops and comfortable running shoes should be adequate footwear.

Travel insurance is an important consideration for all travellers. A travel agent can best advise on which travel insurance cover is the most suitable option according to cover your needs and pocket. If you’re taking along expensive items such as ipads, ipods, digital cameras and cell phones travel insurance will cover you in case they get stolen.

You may be excited while on your backpacking adventure, but you should always practice safety precautions such as taking care of your valuable items. Money and important documents should be safely stored in a money bag under your clothing, close to your person at all times. Keep digital copies of your passport, visas and other important documents. Practising common sense will also keep you out of harm’s way.
Backpacking is a mentally and physically challenging way to travel. But the independent spirit and freedom afforded by backpacking are some of the reasons why backpacking remains a favourite way to travel and see the world.

You’re thinking of taking the leap and doing something fun? Backpacking may be for you if you:
• Enjoy flexibility of travel
• Do not have the luxury of a large travel budget
• Want to build social confidence by meeting new people from all over the world
• Experience a different culture


5 Things to do on holiday in the Maldives – the world’s best tropical beach destination

The sun-kissed islands of Maldives have long been held as a favourite destination for holidaymakers. This tourist hotspot comprise of 1 190 islands stretched across 35 000 miles in the Indian Ocean and is regarded to be the world’s best tropical beach destination. While the Maldives islands presents a haven for water sports lovers, there are a variety of other ways in which to enjoy a holiday here island-style.

1. Take in a spa treatment
The secluded setting of tropical islands and the soothing sound of the waves, soft sand beneath your feet and dazzling blue skies above will envelope you in a cocoon of relaxation and serenity. Indulge yourself in world class spa treatments every resort in the Maldives offers. Luxury treatments and packages vary depending on which resort you choose.

2. An aerial Seaplane Photo Flight tour for the perfect view of the islands
The spectacular panoramic views of the Maldives islands offered by Seaplane photo flight tours are magical and definitely worth an experience. Fly over crystal clear pristine waters, unspoilt islands, lagoons, and be mesmerised by sightings of schools of fish and dolphins, manta and sting rays from above. This experience is one of the most memorable highlights on a visitor’s itinerary list.

3. Night fishing reef adventures
Seeing that the Maldives are an island nation, it comes as no surprise that fishing is interlaced in Maldivian culture from daily activities to cuisine. On a night fishing experience (which many resorts offer) you get to experience authentic island life. The boat departs just before sundown to settle at a perfect fishing spot. You will be instructed on how to use lines, hooks and sinkers; and with bait provided even the inexperienced in fishing stand a great chance of catching a fish.

4. Sightseeing around the capital
The city of Male’ is not only the capital of the Maldives, but the smallest capital city of all capital cities. The diminutive size does not impact on the number of attractions offered to tourists. The foremost among which is the National Museum located in the former Sultan’s Palace. The museum boasts valuable relics, regal objects and artefacts dated from the pre-Islamic era.

5. Scuba dive at the Maldives Victory
The Maldives Victory vessel makes for an extraordinary scuba diving experience. The ship which sunk in 1981 is nestled below the waves on the Hulhule House Reef. What makes scuba diving here extra special and a favourite with enthusiasts of the sport is navigating through the tricky currents, the abundance in picturesque fresh coral and dazzlingly colourful schools of fish. For those novice scuba divers wanting the experience, expert guides are available.

Game reserve

Fourth largest game reserve for Mpumalanga in the pipeline

In a collaborative effort, the fourth largest game reserve to be established in Mpumalanga is in the pipeline. The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and other interested parties have come together to look into a project that aims to boost eco tourism and job creation in the area.

The proposed plan sees a 120 000 hectare central escarpment game reserve that would make it Mpumalanga’s fourth largest game reserve.

“Although the idea is still in its very early days, MTPA is entertaining the possibility of making this reserve a reality,” said Brian Morris, senior manager for protected areas expansion and establishment.

“The reserve would boost eco-tourism and job creation. There is more than enough space to accommodate animals and everyone is supportive of the initiative,” said Philip Owen, the chairman of the Houtbosloop Environment Action Link, “a lot of footwork still needs to be done though”.

He added that the central escarpment game reserve would be distinctive – integrating features of the Lowveld, Middleveld and Highveld.

A provisional objective was to create an enclosure around the entire proposed area so that suitable numbers of game such as impala, zebra, blue wildebeest, eland and giraffe can be introduced.

“The absence of larger herbivores has led to areas which are wildly overgrown and almost inaccessible, so these animals will need to be introduced to make way for the Big Five,” said Oscar Osberg, manager of Sudwala Lodge, who contributed to the development of the proposal. He said that the idea was for the Big Five to be brought into the reserve eventually.

“Such a proposed reserve is a massive undertaking, which can only be successful if all landowners and stakeholders in the potentially affected area support the initiative,” Osberg said. Local residents and other interested stakeholders were canvassed for their comments and input about the proposed plan to establish the central escarpment game reserve in the area.

Currently, the area designated for the new game reserve is utilized for a number of purposes such as tourism, forestry and farming. This does not hamper the proposed plans as Osberg points out, “The proposed reserve will be managed to accommodate all these diverse forms of current land use by utilising mitigation measures such as fencing and using technology to monitor and manage potentially dangerous game”
The MTPA’s priority list does not include the development of the central escarpment reserve at just yet.

“Savannah conservation areas are already well-established, and at the moment we are focusing on establishing protected environments in the threatened grassland and wetland ecosystems in the Highveld of the province, which are under-represented,” said Morris.

Blue Flag beach

Blue Flag status for 8 Cape Town beaches and 2 marinas

If the unstinting beauty of Cape Town beaches is not a good enough reason worth a visit, here is more motivation for you says the municipality – clean, safe, secure and adhering to international safety and tourism standards have earned beaches in Cape Town the distinguished Blue Flag status. The accreditation was awarded to 8 beaches and 2 marinas in the Mother City on Tuesday, the 8th of October 2013.

Cape Town beaches boast the highest number of Blue Flag accreditation in South Africa. In 2012 the city of Cape Town was the first in Africa south of the Mediterranean with marinas receiving the Blue Flag status.

The Blue Flag accreditation is a major tourism advantage and attraction as both local and international visitors can be assured of the stringent safety and security features characteristic of the awarded Blue Flag beaches and marinas. The status promises that the beaches are clean, safe and environmentally friendly.

Belinda Walker, mayoral council member, expressed delight saying, “The city is very pleased at this acknowledgement of our commitment to maintaining world-class beaches.”

The 8 beaches in Cape Town awarded Blue Flag status is: Bikini, Mnandi, Strandfontein, Muizenburg, Llandudno, Camps Bay, Clifton 4th and Silwerstroomstrand; with the 2 marinas being Granger Bay Water Club and False Bay Marina.

In more good news for South Africa’s tourism and hospitality industry in the Cap region, Port Elizabeth along the south eastern coastline also received 2 Blue Flag certificates – Kings Beach and Humewood in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality area.

“For a beach to get a Blue Flag status it has to follow strict guidelines and put systems in a place to make sure that the beach commits to environmental management, water quality improvement, safety and security,” said spokesperson for the Port Elizabeth municipality Roland Williams.

The Blue Flag status is awarded for a season and should the condition of an awarded beach or marina change for the worse, then the accreditation would be cancelled.
Close to 4 000 beaches and marinas in 44 countries spanning Europe, South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada and the Caribbean are awarded Blue Flag certificates every year.

Four criteria have to be met with in order for a beach or marina to receive a certificate. These include water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management; and safety and services available.

The popularity and success of the Blue Flag campaign can be attributed to economic development opportunities presented for the hospitality and tourism industries which local authorities are keen to take advantage of. The campaign has seen a dramatic rise in the number of beaches entering the campaign.


Destination Thailand: 5 favourite must-see attractions in Southeast Asia’s tourist jewel

Budget-friendly Thailand is widely regarded as a premier holiday destination. In 2010 alone, this Southeast Asian country hosted more than 15 million visitors. This could be attributed to the tourism and hospitality industry meeting the needs and desires of its visitors in countless ways; from providing an inspiring cultural explosion to high adventure for the adrenaline addicted to marvelling at its many natural wonders and accommodating budget-conscious travellers.

The irresistible natural beauty, beautiful untouched beaches, mythical ancient ruins, an exotic colourful culture and tantalising cuisine; spectacular parks to lose yourself in and with bustling cities that bombard the senses all make for Thailand being the jewel in Southeast Asia’s crown.

A visitor to Thailand can be overwhelmed with so many things to do see that more than one visit may be required to fully appreciate all it has to offer. Our five favourite must-see attractions that we think every tourist to Thailand should experience:

1. The Grand Palace
In our number one spot is Bangkok’s most famous landmark; the exquisitely designed Grand Palace showcases the ingenious craftsmanship and creative architectural vision of the Thai. This historic attraction was built in 1782 and comprises of a number of incredible buildings, most notable of which is the Wat Phra Kaeo. This handsome temple is home to the famous 14th century magnificent Emerald Buddha statue.

2. The Floating Market
Another tourist friendly gem in Bangkok is the world famous Floating Market located near the Damnoensaduak canal. This unique facility promises plenty of sensory stimulation which is why it makes its mark on a visitor’s itinerary list. Fresh produce, decorative items and souvenirs can be purchased here.

3. Khao Yai National Park
The Khao Yai National Park has earned its spot among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world. It is also a favourite with tourists for its mountainous landscapes, cascading waterfalls, lush vegetation and the abundance of wildlife. The park is home to 65 species of mammals including the Clouded Leopard, and 320 species of birds which can be observed on any of the exciting hiking trails in the park.

4. Phi Phi Island
Phi Phi Island is an idyllic soulful tropical paradise and one of the world’s most beautiful islands, with characteristic unspoilt beaches and stunning rock formations. Another great reason to include Phi Phi Island into your visit to Thailand is to experience the pulsating and exciting nightlife here.

5. Phang Nga Bay
Phang Nga Bay, situated about 95 km for Phuket joins Thailand’s legion of picturesque locations. The exotic island location which includes Ko Ping Kan was featured and made famous in the James Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”. The area comprises of awe-inspiring sea caves, aquatic grottoes as well as limestone islands.

Luckily for South Africans wishing to take advantage of the incredible attractions of Thailand, no visa is required; South African passport holders can enter the country for 30 days as visitors.



A brief introduction to Voluntourism

Voluntouring is on the rise with many travellers opting for volunteer vacations abroad that combine holiday travel with volunteering on uplifting community-based projects largely in developing countries.

These “vacations in service” present a people-to-people experience which facilitates a deeper, more meaningful cultural exchange and understanding by immersing yourself into a different culture. The community projects centre on relieving poverty, skill building, conserving fragile ecosystems and protecting endangered wildlife.

Tasks can include building homes, teaching language skills and offering academic support to children, sports coaching, teaching art and craft skills to adults such as beadwork, educating communities on sustainable living, best agricultural practices to use as well as implementing recycling initiatives.

A popular choice with voluntourists is to work in conservation projects. Activities involved (to name a few) are: helping to protect endangered species of wildlife (marking trails for example), conducting eco-conscious talks, patrolling beaches or carrying out biological research.

There are many types of volunteer programmes open to travellers wishing to take advantage of these opportunities. With the number of organisations involved in organising voluntourism programmes increasing, it won’t be difficult to find the perfect project for you. Ask a travel agent for advice if you encounter information overload or for the best deals in airfare and travel insurance.

Is voluntourism for you?
Voluntourism is all about lending a helping hand by offering your skills, being comfortable working in a team and in a different culture to yours. No formal skills or former experience is required. What you do need to have is flexibility, a great sense of adventure and humour as well as the ability to take instruction. Essential is the deep desire to wanting to improve peoples’ lives with a passion to explore the world.

The voluntourism experience
Much of what you can expect as a voluntourist depends on the programme and destination of your choice. There are a few common similarities among programmes which are: meals are provided (most often local cuisine) and accommodation facilities (private home, community centre, guest house or hotel). Airfares, visa costs, travel and medical insurance are not usually covered.

Programmes come in varying lengths from a few weeks to longer stays. Well organised and planned programmes work around schedules offering you ample time to explore the ‘touristy’ side of your chosen destination.

So why would you consider being a voluntourist? The advantages of being a voluntourist are many. Apart from offering a great travel adventure, they include:
• Take on an adventure and learn a new language or new skills,
• Offer you the opportunity to push your boundaries and get out of your comfort zone,
• Be inspired,
• Make a lasting contribution to the world,
• Authentic travel experiences,
• Form friendships that last a lifetime,
• Perfect opportunity to paying it forward,
• Experience personal growth.

Voluntourism attracts people across age groups and social classes inspired to upgrading their travel experience with altruistic causes.


Rival airlines clips Flysafair’s wings as judge grounds new South African airline

Two rival airlines have initiated the grounding of South Africa’s new budget airline FlySafair before it even got off the ground. The Pretoria High Court accepted the application by Comair and the newly licensed Skywise Airline to prevent the airline from taking to the skies.

Judge Neil Tuchten has restricted the new airline from beginning its operations as a domestic passenger air service provider when he granted the interim order. Safair which was due to launch in October is accused of failing to meet the terms of legislation designed to ensure air services were controlled by South African citizens. It is alleged that 75 percent of the voting rights or active control of the airline was in the hands of holding companies in Ireland and Belgium.

Furthermore the rival airlines challenge the validity made by FlySafair that one of its three shareholders, Hugh Flynn, resided in the country as stipulated before the Air Service Licensing Council.

The judge found that the evidence presented before court proposed a strong likelihood that Safair knowingly hid the truth in its application before the council.

“The probability is that Safair designed and implemented a scheme which created the illusion that Safair in fact had brought itself within section 16(4) of the Act while in truth it had not. Where, as in this case, a strong likelihood has been established that, if the administrator had appreciated the true facts, the decision would not have been made in favour of the respondent, a court should… lean towards forthwith putting an end to such illegal conduct,” said Judge Tuchten.

Comair was tasked the responsibility of ensuring all Safair passengers in possession of tickets would be accommodated on the dates noted on their tickets at the sole cost to Comair without being able to add on any additional charges for this service.
In addition, Comair had to make it known to the public the details of the court order “by all reasonable means’ at its own cost.

Skywise Airline which has been only recently licensed is still waiting for its operator’s certificate in order for any of its aircraft can be airborne.

For those Flysafair ticket holders who did not care to reschedule their flights, Flysafair has undertaken to refund the tickets. “Following negotiations with all the major banks and having provided guarantees to the Air Services Licensing Council, passengers are guaranteed that their money will be refunded,” said Safair.

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Cruise Holidays

5 Reasons to go on a cruise

Put the wind in your sails and recharge body, mind and soul in a wide variety of ways on board the all-accommodating cruise liner. Cruise holidays are fast becoming the perfect choice for families and honeymooners.

The legion of family friendly activities, new and exciting locations and the value for money all-in-one pre-paid fare are favourite reasons for cruise holidays being an alternate choice when considering what to do on holiday. The flexibility feature of cruise holidays of short two to three day cruises or the longer seven to ten day cruises are the perfect fit for most holidaymakers wanting a holiday full of excitement and fun. There are distinct advantages to a cruise holiday.

Here are 5 reasons why going on a cruise makes for a great holiday:

1. Cruise holidays are easy to plan. No hassles and endless searching for affordable flights and accommodation needs; or what to do once you get to your destination. All is done for you by a professional travel agent. All you’re left with is to choose what suits you best.

2. The all-inclusive pre-paid price includes accommodation, food; twenty-four hour entertainment and an excellent choice of activities are value for money few holidaymakers would want to miss.

3. Stopping at a number of interesting places on a cruise while you relax and indulge in all your favourite activities make it a worthwhile holiday experience. Land based excursions are designed to focus on the highlights of each port visited. This relieves you of having to do research of the must-sees of unfamiliar destinations.

4. New innovations on board cruise liners, stimulating itineraries and exotic destinations make taking a cruise an exciting alternative when considering holidaying options. Finding a cruise package to your needs comfortably is easy with the ample choices of activities on board ship that are offered, catering to the needs of the young and old. Your cruise agent would be the go-to person to providing a comprehensive list of cruise options, and armed with their expertise, knowledge and skills they can provide useful advice of the best cruise companies, cabin choices and any ‘extras’ that are included in the fare.

5. A wide range of on board amenities is provided to make available as many entertainment activities as possible to accommodate all tastes, desires and lifestyles. It is not uncommon to find multiple swimming pools, gymnasiums, theatres, spas, on board casinos, discos, squash courts and a variety of restaurants on cruise liners.

Bonus Reason: A world in one at your convenience. Going on a cruise is the perfect time to learning something new while having fun. Take a language class, explore your creativity at a pottery class, stretch the muscles in yoga or join a dance class. With so many choices open to guests, being bored on a cruise liner defies the imagination.