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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.


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


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.

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.


A brief guide to shopping destinations around the globe

We take a brief look at 6 popular shopping destinations around the globe.

1. Dubai
Dubai has become synonymous with shopping heaven and a worthy premier shopping destination. It comes as no surprise with one of the largest shopping centres in the world – Dubai Mall housing a staggering 1 200 retail shops, 160 food outlets and the world’s largest candy store, Candylicious. More akin to a tiny kingdom, the Dubai Mall comes complete with an indoor ski resort, aquarium, theme parks, waterfall and fountains. The Dubai shopping Festival is held in January and February when discounts up to 70% are offered on electronics, clothing and other popular items.

2. Moscow
A surprising entry but a worthy one onto the list is Moscow. Russia’s answer to a fashion mecca, shopper’s can expect to find everything in between haute couture in exclusive boutiques and gaudy Russian vintage clothing.

3. Milan
The mere mention of Milan conjures up images of haute couture royalty – Versace, Armani and Missoni. The oldest shopping centre in the world – Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – which opened its doors in Milan in 1877 features Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores. Not an ideal shopping destination for the budget conscious.

4. Hong Kong
Arguably Asia’s best shopping destination, Hong Kong offers world class shopping bargains. In a research study conducted by Global Shopper City Index in 2011, statistics revealed that out of the 87% of tourists to Hong Kong who shop, 76% found an above average satisfaction on receiving value for money. The trick to an enjoyable shopping experience in Hong Kong is not to be intimidated by shop clerk who can easily be mistaken for borderline stalkers.

5. Tokyo
Shinjuku neighbourhood does not fail to impress an avid shopper. Tokyo’s most famous shopping district has dazzling eye-popping skyscrapers, department stores, electronic megastores and shopping centres that can only be equaled to high-energy shopping. Good news for shopping lovers, the Globe Shopper City Index reported Tokyo to be an affordable shopping destination and Asia’ fourth cheapest city dedicated to providing a distinctive hopping experience.

6. London
London earn its spot as a leading shopping destination as confirmed by the Globe Shopper City Index which finds the city surpassing all other European cities in both the number of shops and how accessible international and local brands are to shoppers. Oxford Street retains its pride of place among the city’s shopping destinations with more than one and a half miles of world famous brands such as Selfridges and Top Shop. Camden Market in the north of London caters to the more eclectic singular taste where emerging designer wear to vintage fashion to antique furnishings are on offer.


The world’s top skiing holiday destinations

Think of skiing on picture perfect snowy white slopes and Switzerland and the Austrian Alps spring instantly to mind. But there are more places on the planet that offer the scintillating adrenaline rush of skiing. Some as unlikely as in Morocco.

A top ski resort should be a comfortable combination of many features. The resort’s available facilities, quality of the slopes, accommodation and restaurants are all essential considerations. Anyone and everyone should be accommodated for, from the beginner to the pro, individual guest to the whole family. The list of skiing destinations is a lengthy and varied one. Let’s take a look at some of the world’s top skiing holiday destinations.

Vail Mountain, Colorado
Vail is considered to be the largest single ski resort in the world. Located at an altitude of 8 150 feet, has an average of 350 inches of snow every year and experiences extreme winters, there is no shortage of skiers who flock to this highly popular skiing destination. Both beginner and expert skiers are catered for with plenty of trails to excite all levels of experience.

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen has long been the ski hotspot for celebrities and has the reputation for being one of the most glamorous ski resorts in the world. One of the mountains, Aspen Snowmass has three terrain parks on offer, serves both the inexperienced and the pro skier.

Zermatt, Switzerland
One of the more exclusive of ski resorts in Switzerland, Zermatt is couldn’t be more perfectly placed than at the foot of the Matterhorn mountain which initially was made famous in the 1860 for mountaineering. A charming feature of this resort is that all the vehicles here are electric. The ski zone is characterized by more than 300 kilometres of skiing mountain paths. The resort is also boasts the Paradise Glacier – the highest peak in the whole of Europe accessible by cable car – and boasts an unrivalled 360 degree panorama of the Swiss, French and Italian Alps.

Perisher Blue, Australia
The largest ski resort in Australia, Perisher Blue is an avid skier’s happy place. There are seven peaks, six terrain parks and one superpipe to provide many hours of super skiing adventures. All levels of skiers can practice their much loved sport to their hearts content.

Crans Montana, Switzerland
This ski resort is another inclusion in Switzerland’s bombardment of luxury and glamorous ski resorts. Skiing is offered throughout the year. There are 150 kilometres of ski loving slopes which range from 1 500 metres at the bottom of the station to the staggering 3 000 metres on the Plaine Morte glacier.

The sport of skiing is not only reserved for the rich and famous. There are many health benefits that should motivate you to reach for the skis and head off to the slopes. Skiing provides a great workout for the lungs and a fabulous way to burn stubborn calories.

With so many holiday destinations around the world devoted to ultimate skiing pleasure, there are plenty to consider for your next holiday adventure.

Camping tips

Camp like a pro: tips for happy and successful camping

Treasure a glorious sunset surrounded by nature and loved ones while relaxed around a camp fire or recharge the soul with the change in pace. At the centre of any great camping trip is the initial planning and preparation phase – the gel that holds the key to a successful and happy camping trip. Allow the magic of camping to bring the family together.

There are plenty of good reasons to go camping. At the top of the list are the wonderful family traditions and memories that can be made while camping that can last a lifetime and be brought alive at many times over at the dinner table. Camping definitely brings the family together; there are few ways to bond better than by tackling tasks with teamwork. On a camp your children can learn many valuable life and survival skills.

Before setting up camp, make sure your designated area is free from clutter and litter. Stones and sticks should be removed to prevent tripping over. Pay heed to any restrictions posed by the campsite especially with regard to campfires.

A must of on any camping trip and highly recommended by seasoned campers is the use of durable high quality camping equipment like sleeping bags and the tent. These do not necessarily need to be expensive as long as they are of high quality. Durable equipment is sure to protect you against all weather conditions.

Unless you have a wand or spell that can put up a tent in seconds like those in the Harry Potter movies, you may need to put in the time practising in your obliging back garden or living room. This will prevent any embarrassment when putting up the tent at the campsite, particularly with more experienced onlookers watching. The size of the tent should correspond to the number of campers it will house.
Decide on a meal menu beforehand so that you can stock up on items not easily available at the camp site. Have lots of snacks on hand to keep children happy. The fresh air and plenty of exercise outdoors result in hungry kids.

Gas tanks should be checked for any leaks and be filled up before you leave. Essential gear consists of a folding table, camping chairs, enough lighting equipment, toys for children and you cannot go amiss with enough wet wipes. Aluminium or enamel cutlery and crockery is ideal as they are unbreakable and are more eco friendly than paper cups and plates.

A first aid kit is an essential item to pack when going camping as well as any medication that is required. Check the expiry date on all the items. Replace any expired items. Sunscreen and insect repellent come in handy so be sure to pack them in.

Camping is definitely a more fun and a cheaper alternative than more conventional holidays. Children can explore their artistic and creative skills and be inspired by the ultimate of creators – Mother Nature herself.

Robben Island

4 must-see museums in South Africa

It is a sad state of affairs when museums – the unsung keepers of a country’s history and heritage – are relegated to only being good enough for a school outing. Museums contribute a more important function to society. They can be seen as centres of learning, documenting the humble beginnings of an area to celebrating proud human achievements; and often showcase natural and geological treasures as well as man-made accomplishments.

South Africa has such a rich history with such a joyous conglomeration of cultures that it has been rightfully dubbed ‘the Rainbow Nation’. The choice of museums in South Africa is wide and varied from museums heralding history to those celebrating cultures to themed museums such as the Apartheid museum South African Breweries museum and the James Hall Transport Museum. Some notable museums that should be visited at least once include:

The National Cultural History Museum
Located in the city of Pretoria, the National Cultural History museum showcases the multicultural diversity of South Africa; housing both permanent and temporary exhibitions. Visitors can expect to see displays of San rock paintings and engravings, Iron Age figurines dated a thousand years old from Schroda in Limpopo. The in house Art gallery offers an overview of the cosmopolitan culture of South Africa through the exhibiting cultural objects, sculpture and paintings.

Museum Africa
Housed in the cosmopolitan soul of the Johannesburg CBD, Museum Africa is a highly popular attraction for local and foreign visitors. The vast array of exciting exhibitions held in this museum grabs the immediate attention of the visitor. One can expect to engage with the history of civilization in the area traversing the Stone Age through to modern day. Extensive collections highlighting geology, anthropology and archaeology contribute to the main attractions.

Robben Island Museum
The value of the Robben Island Museum to South Africa’s and world history is such that it has earned the status of being a World Heritage Site. This museum represents a reminder of what price South Africa paid for democracy and freedom. Once used as a place of banishment and imprisonment, it serves as a reminder of justice and human rights. The island is also famed for its flora and fauna and conservation efforts.

The Cradle of humankind
Gauteng’s only proffering South Africa’s eight dedicated World Heritage Sites and key international tourist attraction is the world renowned Cradle of Humankind. Experience the birthplace of humankind at Maropeng, the exhibition centre focusing on the development of human civilization over the past few million years. The Sterkfontein Caves also earns its reputation for the many fossil treasures discovered here and for its contribution to the global academic world of paleoanthropology.

Museums are a great resource to learning and appreciating the people and events that shape the course of history of a society.

Child friendly

7 child friendly cities to visit on holiday

A genuine concern while planning a family holiday is what activities are available for the whole family to enjoy? Increasingly more and more cities around the world join the list of ‘children friendly’ holiday destinations as the hospitality tourism ‘powers that be’ have recognized the importance of providing family friendly fun-filled attractions.

1. Orlando, Florida
Orlando is regarded as the theme park capital of the world. This is not surprising with six theme parks at Disney World, Sea World’s Discovery Cove, Gatorland, zip lining at the Amway Center, a show at Cirque de Soleil, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Lego Imagination Center, Epcot and iFly Orlando, there won’t be a dull moment left in your itinerary.

2. London
The land of Harry Potter, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, a visit to London should excite any child at heart (this includes adults). The city is filled with family-friendly things to do. Interesting activities and places of interest include: river cruises on the Thames, the Tower of London, Madame Tussauds wax museum, London Zoo and the bird’s eye view of the city from the London Eye.

3. Chicago
Chicago boasts its own array of child friendly must-do attractions. The extraordinary Field Museum ranks high on the list. Kids will take delight in the interactive features of the exhibits. Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, North Park Village Nature Center with its waterfall and wildlife fit a kid definition of fun.

4. Nassau, Bahamas
A haven for water filled fun activities that children love. Kids will find Nassau’s water wonderland perfect for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. The Atlantis aquarium is also a major hit with both the young and old. Families would enjoy a leisurely stroll through the craft markets and duty free shops.

5. Chiang Ma, Thailand
This family friendly town seems to summarize the best of big city Bangkok. Families who love outdoor adventure will appreciate the elephant rides to water rafting to a visit to the local zoo to hiking in the hillsides. There also remains the opportunity to give your children the invaluable experience of experiencing a different culture.

6. Dublin, Ireland
Plenty of family friendly hotels and endless attractions to keep little tourists busy and entertained, Dublin is a city to delight all ages. A hop on/off city tour is a pretty good way to access the top visitor attractions with over 25 stops including the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral and the national museums. The National Aquatic Centre, the Chocolate Warehouse and EcoAdventure Ireland also provide plenty of pure pleasure filled hours.

7. New York
New York may rank as the number one city to visit. With the abundance of attractions to delight children, it makes for a great family holiday destination too. The American Museum of National History, a Location tour (locations of TV and film), Central Park Zoo, New York Aquarium at Coney Island and the overwhelming number of dazzling shopping destinations are all good reasons to make a visit to this vibrant city.