Friday, April 30, 2010

Exploring Australia's Sunny Gold Coast

Australia's Gold Coast stretch of coastal towns starts north of Surfers Paradise and stretches south to the state border with New South Wales in the south. The northern end (especially Surfers Paradise to Broadbeach) is more commercialized, with plenty of action for backpackers. The southern end caters mainly to vacationing families. Away from the coast, the western side, called the "hinterland", consists of mountain ranges covered with rainforest, much of it part of national parks.

The Gold Coast has a sub-tropical climate with plenty of sunshine year round, an average of 300 days a year! Summer temperatures range from 66 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter temperatures range from 48 to 69 degrees Fahrenheit, making this a great vacation destination!

The most popular things to do in this area include;

Beaches. There are 40km and well over 30 beaches to see and swim or surf in. Almost all are patrolled by volunteer and professional lifesavers. Some of the best beaches include:

- Surfers Paradise has a long stretch of beach, with flags and patrols every few hundred meters along the beach. Sure to find a place for a swim, but the beach right outside of Cavill Ave is generally very busy and packed with tourists, just walk north or south along the beach to find a (slightly) less crowded alternative.

- Broadbeach is about 3km south (40 minutes walk, 5 minute drive) of Surfers Paradise and will generally have the same surf conditions as Surfers Paradise. The upside, however, is that it's not that far away and nowhere near as busy as Surfers.

- North Burleigh is 4km down from Broadbeach (and over a small hill). It's generally less popular than its bigger brother, Burleigh Heads, but a good place to go if there are winds blowing from the north as the hill provides a bit of protection. Although if there are northerly winds, swimming in the afternoon isn't such a good idea as they'll bring in the stingers.

- Burleigh Heads is only 2km south of North Burleigh and a nice beach with a large park and a hill that is good for picnics. There are cafes surrounding the beach and the hill cover means that this beach is usually pretty nice when there are winds coming from the south (whereas others like Surfers will be blown out and horrible).

Hinterland. Referred to as "the green behind the gold" (a reference to Australia's national colors - green and gold), the Gold Coast Hinterland is home to three national parks, numerous mountains, creeks, waterfalls valleys, and natural rock formations. The area is mostly covered in sub-tropical rainforest, but sections have been cleared for dairy farm land and wineries. The Hinterland is best seen by car or on a bus tour.

The parks include: Mt Tamborine, Springbrook, Numinbah Valley and Currumbin Valley.

The Gold Coast region is big on theme parks. Investigate ticket discounts before you go, as multi-park passes, combined travel and entry, and multi-day passes can usually be obtained at a discount. They include:

- Sea World is the oldest and also one of the most established theme parks in Australia. It's the closest to heart of the Gold Coast and will be interesting for those who have a liking for marine animals. Lots of shows and live acts, and you could easily spend a day here without going on any rides. It still does have some thrill rides, with the corkscrew roller coaster, and speed water slides.

- Dreamworld is a traditional theme park with a popular tiger zoo and the home of the Australian Big Brother House. Bountiful in rides; thrilling and otherwise. Features a great little kids' area with Wiggleworld. If you are in it for the rides, and not the theme, then this is the place to be.

- Warner Bros. Movie World is a movie themed park with Warner Bros. themed rides and Looney Toons walking around all over the place. It is the most themed of the Gold Coast parks. Pretty crazy rides but not as extreme as some other parks. Depending on your blood pressure this may be a good thing.

- Wet'n'Wild is a water theme park with a wide range of slides, a wave pool, 'dive-in movies' at night in the wave pool and even a river where you can just lie in a tube and float around and around! A definite must during the summer, though best left to a day that isn't stupidly hot or the queues are just ridiculous.

- Australian Outback Spectacular has a new Epic Outback Show, complete with stampeding cattle, wild horses and an Australian Dinner.

- WhiteWater World is a newer water park next to Dreamworld, said to be just as good as Wet'n'Wild, if not better

- Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, originally famous for its bird feeding of rainbow lorikeets, this park has expanded to have a number of animal exhibits. Although the lorikeet feeding still takes place just inside the entrance, there are hundreds of native Australian animals on display in natural bushland and rainforest settings around the park. There are open enclosures where you can get close to the usual assortment of kangaroos, emus, wallabies, etc.

There is also an abundance of dining and shopping options in this area.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your trip to Australia!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

20 Creative Packing Extras

We wanted to share this fantastic list of creative and practical extras to pack when traveling abroad, especially for budget travelers, adventure travelers, and backpackers. Pure genius! (You’ll thank us later.)

• Sarong: A large piece of lightweight material that can be used as a quick-drying towel, blanket, pillow, etc.

• Extra pair of insoles for when shoes get wet. A second pair of insoles is much lighter than a second pair of shoes.

• Inflatable hangers: Clothes dry faster ($5 at AAA, light and tiny).

• The two most useful medicines: Tylenol is a general analgesic and helps reduce fatigue. Benadryl is a great sedative and sleep aid.

• Small suction cups with hooks: To hang a toiletry bag from the mirror in small bathrooms and to dangle money belt from the youth-hostel shower wall.

• Earplugs for sleeping at night. Bring some even if you don’t think you’ll use them.

• Ziplock bags: To save theater stubs, train tickets, subway tickets, and all kinds of other tiny souvenirs; to store your wet insoles; or to preserve the other half of that huge cafe sandwich.

• Dental floss or fishing line: Strong, versatile, waterproof, nearly weightless. Could double as a shoelace or used to mend backpacks or clothing.

• A combination alarm clock/flashlight/motion-sensor ($30 from Brookstone): Attach to the hotel door or window. If someone moves the door or window, the motion sensor emits a high-pitched sound similar to a fire alarm.

• If you have a fancy camera, a little black electrician’s tape across the brand name discourages thieves. What appears to be a generic camera is almost worthless to those who regularly “hunt” Canon, Leica, Nikon, and so on.

• A headlight instead of a flashlight. Better for reading in bed. Frees your hands if needed.

• Post-It notes to flag guidebooks.

• The Body Shop’s “Refreshing Foot Spray” and “Peppermint Foot Lotion” in small, travel-size bottles to soothe tired, aching feet.

• Put your extra camera lenses in a thick ankle sock. You can toss them in your day pack without worrying about damage and they take up less room than bulky lens cases.

• Tie something distinctive, like a ribbon, to your luggage handle for quick spotting at airport carousels.

• Safety pins. You’ll be surprised how often these come in handy. Affix them to the inside of your backpack or luggage where you can find them easily.

• Mailing tubes: To collect prints, posters and souvenirs you may want to keep, also handy for small items and breakables.

• Digital tape recorder: a great way to catch the waves, traffic, sounds in the cafés, and more and send to friends via the Internet accompanied by digital photos.

• Combo journal/scrapbook: Bring a simple, lightweight journal (Moleskins are perfect), some colored pens and a glue stick. As you write each day, add creative touches by sketching in color, paste in museum tickets, or even cut/paste local brochures, café napkins, etc.

• Vitamin B6: Makes your blood undesirable to mosquitoes. Best if taken a few days in advance.

Friday, April 23, 2010

7 Tips On Traveling Green

Being “green” is becoming less of a trend and more of the standard these days as more and more people understand the negative impact our behaviors can have on our beloved planet. Travel, not surprisingly, is no exception. While it may seem counter-intuitive, there a number of easy things you can do to reduce waste and carbon emissions while traveling. As an added bonus, the green choice will often yield a less expensive trip.

1. Before you head out, be sure to unplug and power down as many appliances as possible. Electronics continue to eat up power when plugged in, even when not in use. Be sure to turn down the temperature of your water heater as well (big energy user).

2. We know that air travel is the easiest/only way to travel to certain destinations but the fact is that each pound of airplane emissions is about 2.8 times worse than emissions from other forms of transportation. Choose direct flights if you can; up to 80% of a plane’s fuel consumption happens during take-off and landing. Visit to compare on-time records and avoid choosing airlines that waste fuel waiting for clearance.

3. Take public transportation such as buses and trains instead of taxis or car rentals. Better yet, walk or rent a bike. If a car is absolutely necessary, rent a hybrid.

4. Choose a green hotel. A green hotel is one that is committed to sustainable development and takes proactive measures to save water and reduce solid waste. Many eco-friendly hotels also offer locally sourced food that is both more nutritious and more delicious. Do your part to conserve during your stay as well. Small things like turning down the air conditioning (and turning it off when you leave) and opting out of housekeeping service can yield big energy savings. Visit to search for green hotels while planning your next trip.

5. Pack light. The heavier something is, the more resources it uses in order to reach its final destination.

6. Shop local. No matter where you are (traveling or not) support the local community and purchase items and food from local vendors. Shipping products from other parts of the country or world is a waste of energy and resources. It's always better for the environment to consume locally.

7. Avoid buying disposable water bottles by bringing your own reusable one. Also, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag. No need to get out of habit just because you’re on the road. And while we’re on the topic, avoid using hotel shampoos and lotions as they are a huge waste of plastic.

Here a few more valuable links to learn more about green travel:

Sustainable Travel International - a non-profit organization dedicated to providing sustainable travel solutions

The Green Guide - a great resource for reducing your carbon footprint both at home and on the road, developed by National Geographic

Go Green Travel - a wealth of travel tips for the eco-conscious traveler

For more information about eco-tourism or assistance in booking your next trip, contact a travel professional today.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now is a Great Time to Travel to the South Pacific!

Been thinking about traveling to Australia or New Zealand? Right now is a great time!

April - May is always an ideal time to travel to either of these countries, as it's fall down under, so the weather is very mild and comfortable for traveling. Temperatures in Sydney, AU average mid 60's right now, and in Auckland, NZ, about the same.

Also, airfares are currently at the lowest they've been in quite a while. Roundtrip fares from Los Angeles to Sydney or Auckland right now are just $518 USD! If you're traveling to Australia, that fare includes a free stopover in New Zealand, or vice versa!
What are you waiting for? Contact a South Pacific Specialist today to get started booking your trip of a lifetime!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Iceland Volcano Wreaking Havoc on European Flights

For the third day, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull is still spewing ash high into the air above Iceland. The gigantic dark brown ash cloud has drifted over much of Europe & shut down the air space.

As of today, tens of thousands of passengers are stranded, as several thousands of flights have been cancelled across Europe due to the conditions in the skies, which are making it unsafe to fly. Britain, Ireland, France, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Belgium have all closed their air space. Because of the unpredictable movement of the ash, it's difficult to estimate when these airports may open again.

Aviation experts have said this is among the worst travel disruptions Europe has ever seen. Britain's National Air Traffic Service said this is the first time in living memory that a natural disaster caused the country to halt flights into its airspace.

Scientists say the volcano could continue erupting ash through the weekend and possibly much longer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Regent Seven Seas Changes Itinerary to Avoid Pirate Problems

The 700-passenger Seven Seas Voyager, currently sailing through the region on an around-the-world cruise, is skipping visits to Mombasa and Zanzibar. Those ports would have taken it near waters off the Horn of Africa that have been the scene of several recent pirate incidents.

Instead, the ship is giving the area a wide berth. The ship made the last minute changes to the itinerary due to worries about pirates in the vicinity. The ship's captain, Dag Dvergastein, announced the change Saturday after the ship pulled out of the port of Praslin in the Seychelles Islands. The ship's cruise director wrote in his blog "For people back home, watching the news you may have seen that there has been a surge in pirate activity between the Seychelles and Kenya which would have been right in the direction we would be heading. Now we do, in fact, have several special security people on board but we don't want to increase our chances of having to use them. We want them to just enjoy their cruise!"

Piracy off the Somali coast in the Indian Ocean has intensified over the past year with more attacks against a wider range of targets and over a wider area extending hundreds of miles off shore. The daring attack on the 1,062-passenger MSC Melody in April 2009, in which pirates with automatic weapons fired upon and attempted to board the ship, occurred well off the Somali coast.

A spokesperson for Regent Seven Seas said the Voyager has added calls this week in Port Louis, Mauritius and Reunion Island for the missed calls in Kenya and Tanzania.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tips on Making the Most of your Flight

Air travel today is not the glamorous experience it once was. With a little patience and a sense of humor though, it doesn't have to be all bad.

Here are some tips that could help your next flight go a little smoother:

Always arrive early. Seems like common sense, but it's often undervalued. Having plenty of time will help reduce stress & increase levels of tolerance.

Dress and pack with security in mind. Make sure you know what current security procedures and restrictions are, and also the airline policies on carry-on baggage before you go.

Stay calm with the Gate Agent. We all know it's not the gate agents fault if a flight is delayed or cancelled, and getting angry with this person is not going to help anything. Remember, this is the one person who could possibly pull some strings.

Create your own pleasant environment. Bring headphones to listen to music or a movie, or earplugs for blocking out noise and eye shades for napping.

Who gets the middle seat armrests anyway? The armrests in the middle are shared property. It's courteous for the window and aisle passengers to let the person in the middle seat have them, though.

Children on board. Air travel is trying for most adults, and even tougher for kids. Anticipate that there will be a crying baby on board, and bring earplugs or headphones. If a child is kicking the back of your seat, it's okay to kindly ask the parent to ask them to stop.

In-flight food. Since most airlines have cut out in flight meals, it's a good idea to bring food. Avoid foods with strong odors, such as fish or egg salad. Also, with the prevalence of nut allergies, it's a good idea not to bring nuts at all.
For assistance booking your next flight, contact a Professional Travel Agent today.

Friday, April 02, 2010

U.S. to Change Air Travel Security Measures

The TSA is planning on making more changes on US Air travel security screenings. They plan to begin profiling US bound passengers, including US citizens as well.

The level of screening of travelers will depend on how closely their personal characteristics match against intelligence on potential terrorists. The measures will replace mandatory enhanced screening of all passengers travelling to the United States from 14 mostly-Muslim nations.
The announcement made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) comes after a three-month review of security protocols. The current "no-fly" list is to remain in place under the new procedures, but supplemented by cross-referenced information that may see passengers subject to further screening even if their names are not flagged.
Characteristics such as nationality, age, recently visited countries, and partial names will be used alongside the "no-fly" list. Intelligence on a possible attacker - a partial name, certain physical characteristics, or nationality - would be forwarded by the DHS to airlines and foreign governments.
US government guidelines prohibit authorities from singling out people on the basis of race or ethnicity but the Christmas Day plot changed the debate about racial profiling. As one Congressman put it ""The fact is, while the overwhelming majority of Muslims are outstanding people, on the other hand 100% of the Islamic terrorists are Muslims, and that is our main enemy today."