EXPERT TRAVELLERS SHARE TOP HACKS
LET’S face it, travelling can be a challenge, but those who hit the road regularly have it down to a fine art.
They know the websites to consult when organising places to stay, how to stay healthy, what currencies to carry, the apps to use, and who to ask to find the best information on the places they visit.
Escape has asked a few friends, the people working for the companies that host Aussies on holidays, to tell us the things they do when roaming near and far to ensure a drama-free journey.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST
I always have a basic medicine pack to have the essential treatments at hand for common ailments that flare up when travelling, because there’s nothing worse than being sick in a hotel at night and not having a pharmacy open.
I also hide a credit card in my checked luggage in case I lose my wallet, so I have a spare card back in the room, but I hide it well and look for it as soon as I unpack to confirm it’s still there.
− Gregory Lording, Qantas Holidays general manager
GET A GOOD SLEEP
I always set my alarm when I go to bed that first night after a long flight, that way I don’t wake up worrying about the time and it seems to let me switch my brain off and have a good night’s sleep.
Then I always go for a run or walk the first morning in a new place, it helps my body adjust after crossing time zones, and I get up around 6.30am to do a little exercise before starting my day.
− Anita Hawthorn, Air New Zealand general manager of customer experience
PLAN A PICNIC
There are exquisite seafood restaurants in Croatia, and countless chic cafes in France, but sometimes the best lunch is the one I buy from a local street market.
The beauty of packing a picnic is eating in a beautiful park or relaxing on a riverbank and I try to treat myself to at least one picnic during my European holiday with some of my favourite fresh food markets Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid and Rome’s Testaccio Market.
− Julia Higginbotham, Albatross Tours marketing executive
HIT THE ROAD
I find driving internationally allows me the freedom to really explore but I plan my trip and seek some local advice so I don’t end up in areas I really shouldn’t be going.
With the help of Google Maps, the flexibility to stop when I want, and taking interesting detours has really opened up some gem destinations and I find it great when I have a spare day as I can really cover some miles.
— Tony Archbold, Holland America Line sale and marketing director
FREE AND EASY
I plan carefully to maximise my time away bit don’t succumb to being totally scripted.
When discovering a new destination it’s often difficult to avoid filling my itinerary with too much — every museum is a must see, every major site must be checked off the list — but this can leave little time for the impromptu.
I try to wander through local markets, linger over a long lunch, and simply sit in a park to see how locals spend their time and I make sure I leave gaps in my itinerary to simply relax and absorb.
−Sujata Raman, Abercrombie & Kent regional managing director
ASK A LOCAL
I recommend guests make the most of the facilities and hospitality offered by their accommodation and while there’s plenty online about sights to see reception staff offer a great mix between local knowledge and tourist information and are usually happy to give tips and recommendations.
Ask their favourite place to eat, if there’s any event on only locals know about, and the best mode of transport for the area.
I also make sure to get the Wi-Fi password before heading to the room and ask if there are any deals or packages available in the hotel’s spa or restaurant.
− Chris Rivett, HotelsCombined head of marketing
ON YOUR BIKE
As soon as I arrive in a city I head for the nearest bike stand — most destinations now provide bikes at nominal cost — and explore at handlebar level.
On a trip to London my 13-year-old daughter and I cycled through Battersea Park, along the Thames Path, then across Westminster Bridge and taking in the sites on a bike rather than travelling between them on the underground put a whole new perspective on the city.
I know the streets of London well but there are dedicated cycle ways and navigational signs for those not so familiar.
− Kate Baker, UTracks general manager
FOLLOW THE FOOTPATH
Don’t let a place flash past the window of a taxi, bus or train and where you can safely and realistically do so walk.
It’s better for you and the environment, but also gets you into the grittiness of a new place and when time permits I love doing a walking tour and while maps and guides are often available online some cities offer guided tour free of charge.
And follow the locals to their favourite eating places as they are usually cheaper, the food will be excellent, and you will have a unique experience.
− Lisa Bolton, Scenic product development manager
CONSULT SOCIAL MEDIA
The first thing I do is check social media to see where everyone is going.
Instagram is great because, when I see something I need to do, I tap the bookmark icon and save the post to my collection so that way I’ve collected a reference guide of things to do as well as places to eat and stay that are off the beaten track.
When it comes to where to stay TripAdvisor is my go-to source and I book direct with the hotel as I find I have less issues if something goes wrong.
− Fiona Cusumano, Pan Pacific Hotels marketing director
Before departing for a city I’ve visited before I scan my drawer for a travel card — Myki, Oyster, Octopus, Metro — as it’s much simpler to top up than purchase new, and I often find I have a decent amount remaining which is a bonus.
And download the app for the public transport system you’re using to help plan your journey.
If I have specific restaurant plans I ask the hotel concierge to make reservations for me — even if I speak the language — and end up with an amazing table and VIP service.
− Ashlee Danaher, Luxury Escapes travel concierge
I always carry $US200 in small denominations as American dollars are accepted in most countries and come in handy when my credit card isn’t accepted or the exchange rate to use the card is terrible.
I also make sure I remember the PIN for my credit card as most places no long accept a signature for credit-card payments.
− Liz Pope, Aurora Expeditions assistant expedition leader
To kill time between flights I’m glued to social media and sharing my holiday snaps and love the 360-degree option on Facebook to show friends at home the view from the amazing places I visit.
If I’m feeling creative I use the easy editing app called Quik, which allows me to create videos under five minutes using my smartphone’s camera roll, and Prisma which transforms my content into works of art using the style of famous artists.
− Tina McIntosh, Busabout Australia managing director
We get the kids excited by teaching them how to pack and make sure they have an iPad to use apps with interactive maps so they get to know the destination.
We boost their interaction by making it about what they have learned in school, like in Italy where we went to gladiator school to learn the ancient ways and make pizza like a local chef.
We consolidate all our important documents such as passports and itinerary into one “essentials bag” — with a digital version in Google Trips — which also includes wallets, medication and an international adaptor.
− Matthew Cameron-Smith, Trafalgar Tours Australia managing director