Travel Tips

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The 5 most romantic cities in the world

<p>A dating website trawled social media for hashtags related to love. They found some cities are more romantic than others.</p> <p>SpaSeekers.com ranked 66 cities based on hashtags such as #engaged #Isaidyes and #love. You could argue the research is flawed because the more populated a city is, the more likely you will have a hashtag. </p> <p>These are the top 5 most romantic cities in the world.</p> <p><strong>1. New York, USA</strong></p> <p>New York, New York. Think Carriage rides around Central Park, Breakfast at Tiffanies and cool cocktails at dusk. If you’re looking to spice up your relationship, a trip here should do it.</p> <p>Keen on New York? <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/holidays/15-day-eastern-usa-canada-tour/">Check out this 15 day Eastern USA and Canada tour.</a>  You’ll discover a mix of natural, historic and modern attractions such as Niagara Falls, New York’s Empire State Building, Canada’s beautiful capital city Ottawa, Washington DC’s Capitol Hill and Lincoln Monument, and much more.</p> <p><strong>2. London</strong></p> <p>London is old-world charm, history and romance. It’s the setting for incredible tales of romance. Think Notting Hill, Shakespeare in Love and Bridget Jones’ Diary. Plus, it’s cold. You have to snuggle up.</p> <p>Travel here is easy with a <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/holidays/14-day-england-scotland-ireland-tour-save-410pp/">14 day England, Ireland and Scotland fully-escorted tour</a>. Discover London’s history and view iconic Big Ben. Step back in time as you discover Scotland’s rich heritage on a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Finally, journey to Northern Ireland and experience the charming waterfront of Belfast.</p> <p><strong>3. Los Angeles</strong></p> <p>Los Angeles – you either love it, or you hate it. LA is a city of secrets and luxury. Closed doors open up to incredible rooftop bars. Luxury hotel suites offer sweeping views of the sprawling city and you can order anything you want at any time – if you know how. It’s the perfect city for a surprise.</p> <p>To love LA, you need to go with someone who knows this city. They can show you its secrets. <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/holidays/12-day-western-america-tour/">Try this 12 day Western America tour.</a> It will take you through gorgeous national parks and thrilling cities in California, Arizona, and Nevada. Marvel at unique rock formations, scenic drives, deep canyons, and sparkling waterfalls. And then you can wrap up in La La land with expert help to see the best parts of this sprawling city.</p> <p><strong>4. Paris</strong></p> <p>Number four? We did say this list wasn’t statistically correct. Paris is the city of love. Wander the streets of Monmarte and the Left Bank, visit the Moulin Rouge or, for a real treat, try Georges Restaurant on top of the Pompidou Centre. The view of Paris is simply unbelievable.</p> <p><strong>5. Chicago</strong></p> <p>At number five, Chicago isn’t usually a city we associate with romance. But this city has a lot going for it. Chicago’s bold architecture, fabulous art and top-notch restaurants could just melt your heart.</p> <p>Looks like the USA is the most romantic nation. Want New York, Chicago and LA? Check out the<a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/holidays/24-day-trans-american-journey-ny-to-la/"> 24-day trans-American journey from New York to LA</a>. Beginning in New York, this adventure takes in North America’s must-see sights such as Niagara Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Empire State Building, Hollywood and the Grand Canyon, as well as visits some of the country’s most vibrant cities including Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/most-romantic-cities/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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13 things smart travellers always do before a flight

<p><strong>1. Passport protocol</strong></p> <p>If you’re travelling internationally, you won’t get anywhere without your passport on-hand. So make sure to double check you have it in your carry-on bag before heading to the airport. “Make a copy of your passport to carry around at all times, and keep your real version in the hotel safe,” says Patricia Hajifotiou, who owns the small-group tour company The Olive Odysseys and has been leading tours in Europe for 21 years.</p> <p><strong>2. Protect against mishaps</strong></p> <p>So many things can go awry while travelling – trip delays and cancellations, delayed or lost luggage, travel accidents, emergency evacuations, and more. No, this doesn’t mean you should stay home and give up your dreams of seeing the world. “When I am booking an international trip with my family, I make sure to pay for our flights, lodging, and rental car with a credit card that offers reimbursement for these inconveniences,” says Leah Althiser, owner of travel blog The Frugal South. “Most premium travel rewards credit cards offer these benefits, some with an annual fee less than $100. These benefits can potentially save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong on your trip.” If you don’t have a credit card that offers this peace of mind, consider purchasing separate traveller’s insurance.</p> <p><strong>3. Notify banks</strong></p> <p>Want to escape off the grid entirely? Even if you don’t tell your mother where you’re headed, you should tell your credit card company. “Banks take extra precautions to prevent credit card fraud and will block transactions that don’t fit your normal pattern,” says Tom Carr, founder and CEO of Preferred Vacations. “If you don’t travel often, it’s best to let them know where you’ll be so you’re not in the checkout line or at a restaurant without a way to pay until you can speak with your bank.” </p> <p><strong>4. Prevent jetlag</strong></p> <p>If your circadian rhythm is easily disturbed, a little foresight can help decrease your adjustment time. “Set your watch to the arrival time zone as soon as you sit in the plane,” says Mitch Krayton, CTA, owner of Krayton Travel. “Then eat, sleep, and act like you are already in the time zone. This will help you manage jet lag and keep you ready to go on arrival.”</p> <p><strong>5. Put on compression socks</strong></p> <p>They may not be sexy, but compression socks are a simple life-saving measure everyone should add to their wardrobe. “Especially during a long flight, remaining sedentary for extended periods of time can introduce problems,” says Dr. William Spangler, Global Medical Director with AIG Travel, who has more than 30 years of emergency medical experience. “One of the most common of these is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is the formation of blood clots, particularly in the lower leg or thigh. It doesn’t cause much pain, but when the clots break off and go elsewhere, they can create serious problems.” Aside from compression socks, which help to increase circulation, Dr. Spangler advises getting up at least every two hours, even if it’s only in your seat just to move your legs. If you can walk up and down the aisle a bit, that’s even better.</p> <p><strong>6. Avoid germs</strong></p> <p>In the natural course of your travel day, you’re going to be touching numerous surfaces – buttons, touch screens, escalator railings, security bins, armrests, seat belts and tray tables – that countless people have touched before you between cleanings. “Clean germs off your hands as frequently as possible, and carry a small bottle of antibacterial hand sanitiser for whenever you can’t wash with soap and water,” says Dr. Spangler. “Also, consider bringing a small packet of antibacterial wipes when you’re flying to wipe down the surfaces that will be in your immediate vicinity for the duration of your flight, particularly the seat-back tray table, which has been shown to harbour more germs than the aeroplane bathroom.” For the truly germaphobic, consider disposable aeroplane seat covers.</p> <p><strong>7. Charge electronic devices</strong></p> <p>Somehow, people used to fly without any electronics. Today that would be unheard of – unless you’ve run out of juice and downgraded yourself back to the stone ages. “Making sure your phone, laptop and other electronics are charged accomplishes two things,” says Christian Eilers, founder of the travel site Dauntless Jaunter. “First, it ensures you have enough power to keep you entertained or working during your flight. Secondly, it also forces you to know in advance where you have your batteries and cables, saving you from that last-minute scramble with the Uber waiting outside.” It’s also wise to travel with a portable charger just in case your battery wears out faster than you anticipated.</p> <p><strong>8. Real-time info</strong></p> <p>Great, did you just sprint all the way to your gate only to find out it was switched to one much closer to where you started? “Sign up for flight updates on your phone,” says Alissa Musto, a professional travelling musician and singer-songwriter. “If your flight is delayed or security lines are long, you’ll get updates in real time so you know what to expect when you arrive at the airport and can plan accordingly.” Along with signing up for text alerts, don’t forget to download your airline’s app, too. </p> <p><strong>9. Carry on must-haves</strong></p> <p>If you haven’t yet mastered the art of travelling with only a carry on, that’s OK – but there are certain things you must never check. “Pack your medication in your carry on,” says Jeff Miller, who co-owns the travel blog Our Passion For Travel with his wife and has visited 73 countries. “Depending on your destination, in the event of lost luggage, your medication may not be easily accessible or may cost a small fortune.” He also suggests bringing a change of clothes on board, so that you have a clean set if your luggage takes an accidental side trip and doesn’t arrive until the following day. The same goes for your passport, money, electronics, jewellery, lighters, and lithium batteries.</p> <p><strong>10. BYOF (bring your own food)</strong></p> <p>Unless the idea of a wilted aeroplane sandwich or waiting in a long line for a greasy burger excites you, it’s best to travel with your own food. “Airport food is notoriously overpriced and nutritious options are hard to find,” says Betsey Banker, owner of the travel blog Midlife Millennials and former wellness educator. “I plan ahead and bring my own snacks or meals. Nuts, fruits, and veggies are all good options. On a regular basis, I take my own salad in a sealed bag. Bringing your own food allows you to eat on your own schedule and according to your own dietary preferences, which is especially important on long days of travel, when you’re moving between time zones and when you have short connections.”</p> <p><strong>11. Choose seats wisely</strong></p> <p>You may think you’ve read the seat map correctly, only to find out you’re seated right next to the bathroom, have less legroom thanks to an equipment box, or inadvertently booked a seat without a moveable armrest (therefore reducing seat width). “Refer to website Seat Guru when booking your seats on your flight,” says Victoria Langmead, Safari Expert for travel company Scott Dunn. You’ll be able to consult a seat map for each specific aircraft and determine the ideal seat selection for your preferences.”</p> <p><strong>12. Visit an airport lounge</strong></p> <p>Whether you have a long layover or need to hop on a conference call in peace, an airport lounge can be your safe haven from all the chaos. “Take advantage of the airport lounges, because they’ll make your travel experience much less stressful,” says Yuichi Nishiyama, a pilot for All Nippon Airways. “Not only are lounges a nice place to retreat from the hustle and bustle happening at the gates, but they have a variety of services from dining to shower facilities to designated workspaces.” If you haven’t racked up enough airline status or your credit card doesn’t give you access, then many airlines will allow you to purchase a day pass.</p> <p><strong>13. Hydrate ahead of time</strong></p> <p>There’s a reason your lips feel chapped, your nose and throat feel dry, and your hands turn scaly on a flight – according to the Cleveland Clinic, roughly half of the air circulating in the cabin is pulled from outside air, and at 35,000 feet that air has very little moisture. “I always make sure to hydrate well before a flight,” says Anisa Alhilali, who co-owns the blog Two Travelling Texans and has stamps from 41 countries in her passport. “I try to drink as much water as possible for 24 hours before I travel. I also make sure to have water with me on the plane. It’s best to bring your own refillable water bottle, and fill it up after going through security, since buying water at the airport can be expensive.” Avoiding caffeine and alcohol on your flight will also help keep you hydrated. </p> <p><em>Written by Jill Schildhouse. This article first appeared in <a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/flights/13-things-smart-travellers-always-do-flight">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestemailsubscribe?utm_source=over60&amp;utm_medium=articles&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;keycode=WRA87V">here’s our best subscription offer</a>.</em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

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6 things you need to see in Beijing

<p>From the moment you step off the plane, Beijing is frantic. You will quickly learn that traffic lights mean nothing, lines move fast, and Beijing is a city of many layers. From the Great Wall to Peking Duck, these are the things to do in Beijing China.</p> <p><strong>1. The Great Wall of China</strong></p> <p>From Beijing, access to the Great Wall of China is easy. A tour guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive north out of the city. That first glimpse of the wall on the ridge fo the mountain is something special. In the spring, the hills are dusted pink with cherry blossoms.</p> <p>The Great Wall is divided into sections marked by watchtowers. Some sections of the wall can be quite steep. Wear sturdy shoes. You can walk easy sections of the wall or choose more challenging routes. Ask your tour guide which section the best for you would be. We found most tour guides are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable.</p> <p>The best time to go is in the early morning so you beat the crowds. It is possible to snap a photo such as the one above before lunchtime, even on popular sections of the wall. Plan your trip well to ensure it doesn’t coincide with China’s public holidays. We also advise touring the Great Wall on a weekday.</p> <p>Many of the “tourist” sections of the wall have access via a chairlift. That way you don’t have to hike up or down the mountain.</p> <p>Some parts of the wall have been restored; others have been left to the ravages of time.</p> <p><strong>2. The Summer Palace</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s Summer Palace is huge. You will need at least half a day to explore here. Take good shoes.</p> <p>The man-made Kunming lake takes up about 75 per cent of the park. You can cross it by boat to save time. The famous Marble Boat is at the northern edge of the lake and the Moon Gate is best seen by boat.</p> <p>The Summer Palace has actually been destroyed twice – in 1860 by the Angle French Allied Forces and in 1900 by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. The Qing Dynasty rebuilt the palace in 1912 as one of their final acts.</p> <p>Head to the Court area near the East Palace gate to see the buildings where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu stayed and conducted government business. The Garden of Virtue and Harmony contains a three-story theatre with a wooden stage. This is where the Beijing Opera would perform for the Empress.</p> <p><strong>3. The Forbidden City</strong></p> <p>Tour guides will tell you that you can’t prove you have been in China until you have had your photo taken outside the Forbidden City.</p> <p>The towering red walls with the gigantic painting of Chairman Mao are one of the most well-known buildings on the planet.</p> <p>The Forbidden City covers 720,000 square metres, has more than 90 palace quarters and courtyards, 980 buildings and more than 8,728 rooms. It has been home to 24 Chinese emperors until 1912, when the Republic of China was created.</p> <p><strong>4. Temple of Heaven</strong></p> <p>China’s Temple of Heaven was a place for the emperors to worship. It was built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Ming Emperor Jiajing enlarged the building in his reign. In 1988 China opened the temple as a public park.</p> <p>A trip here won’t take too long. The temple of heaven has two encircling walls. The most magnificent buildings lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis. This park is also a local hangout. Expect to see dozens of groups of men and families sitting around and playing games. Many also bring their pet birds with them.</p> <p><strong>5. The Hutongs</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s alleyways are known as the hutongs. Inside these old laneways, you will find hotels, restaurants and homes. If you love photography – you will love the hutongs. Good tour guides can take you to the best hutong restaurants. Many even have dumpling making courses.</p> <p><strong>6. Peking Duck</strong></p> <p>While not technically a place – you can’t go to China without trying Peking Duck. Seek out a Dadong Duck for an experience like no other. You can order crispy skinned duck dishes in English. If you order the set menu, expect fairy floss on a stick for dessert.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/6-things-you-need-to-see-in-beijing-china/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Seniors tips for long haul travel

<p>Travel has no age limits. But a few simple considerations will make it easier.</p> <p><strong>Plan well</strong></p> <p>The more you plan before you go the less you will have to do as you travel. Consider speaking with an over 50s specialist travel agent, such as MyDiscoveries. They can help you find accommodation that is accessible and advise you on the fitness requirements for tours.</p> <p><strong>Consider a cruise</strong></p> <p>Cruises are travel made easy. You unpack once and visit multiple destinations. Days at sea allow you to enjoy all the activities and entertainment on board. Cruises are also a great option for multi-generational holidays as everyone can find something they want to do.</p> <p><strong>Consider a tour</strong></p> <p>Tours are a great option for anyone, but especially for seniors. The tour company looks after all the organisation – they book the accommodation, the transport and sometimes the flights. All you have to do is relax and enjoy the view. Tour guides also get fast-tracked into attractions, so you won’t have to spend hours waiting in lines.</p> <p><strong>Choose the right airline</strong></p> <p>Pick your airline carefully. Avoid smaller regional airlines, particularly at airports, as you may have to walk up and down stairs to board the flight. Larger airlines also cater well for seniors. You can book assistance to walk to and from the gate, wheelchairs or help with getting into your seat.</p> <p><strong>Get travel insurance</strong></p> <p>We can’t stress this one enough. Travel insurance is a wise purchase. You can’t predict what will happen as you travel, so be prepared. Check the details of the policy and ensure it covers your health conditions as well as emergencies.</p> <p><strong>Keep active during your flight</strong></p> <p>Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a serious concern for anyone over 50 travelling a long distance, particularly those with heart disease or circulatory problems. The risk of DVT is increased by sitting still for long periods at a time. Do arm, leg and foot exercises on board, get up and walk the aisles when possible and wear compression stockings to increase the blood flow to your lower legs.</p> <p><strong>Keep hydrated</strong></p> <p>Make sure you keep drinking water on board the flight. The low humidly on board can be dehydrating. Avoid alcohol and caffeine as they dehydrate you faster. Bring some moisturiser for your hands and face to keep your skin feeling fresh.</p> <p><strong>Pack spare glasses</strong></p> <p>If you lose or break a pair while overseas you will be glad you did.</p> <p><strong>Keep prescription medication in your carry-on</strong></p> <p>Make sure you have all the medication you need with you. Do not put it in your check-in bag – just in case that bag gets lost. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of all the medication you are taking with you and to keep a list online or with a family member.</p> <p><strong>Scan your travel documents</strong></p> <p>Keep a copy of your passport and your travel documents, including your travel insurance policy safely online. Scan them in and upload them just in case you lose them. Carry a copy with you and keep it separate from your main luggage and leave another copy with a family member or friend at home.</p> <p><strong>Schedule in rest days</strong></p> <p>Slow down. Enjoy your time. There’s no need to rush. A schedule that is too packed will add to your fatigue.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/seniors-tips-for-long-haul-flights/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 reasons to love Sri Lanka

<p>Lately, everyone is talking about Sri Lanka – and rightly so. The island paradise is chockfull of amazing sights and experiences, all crammed into a space smaller than Tasmania. This means less time spent getting from sight to sight and more time enjoying everything the country has to offer. Plus, Sri Lanka is not swarming with tourists… yet.</p> <p>Here’s why you should visit now.</p> <p><strong>1. History</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka has eight UNESCO marvels. One of the best is the grandiose rock fortress of Sigiriya, with its exquisite frescos.</p> <p>The sacred ancient city of Kandy is home to a Buddhist temple that claims to house one of Buddha’s teeth. Sri Lanks has hundreds of other historical and cultural sights for the curious traveller, including majestic fortresses dating back to the colonial era, ancient temples and Buddhist ruins.</p> <p><strong>2. Wildlife</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka is one of the best wildlife-watching countries in South Asia. You can spot leopards, elephants, and hundreds of different types of birds. If you are lucky you can spot a Sri Lankan Sloth Bear.</p> <p>Sri Lanka has more than 20 national parks.  For the best chance of spotting wildlife, head to Yala National Park. Yala is home to 44 mammal species. The elephant herd at Yala contains 300–350 individuals. Some experts claim this park has the highest leopard densities in the world. But Indian experts may disagree.</p> <p><strong>3. Nature</strong></p> <p>Sri Lanka is home to many diverse and spectacular landscapes: secluded powdery-sand beaches, tropical rainforests, grass-carpeted plains and soaring mountains that pierce the clouds. No matter what your holiday preference, you will find it here. If you like mountains, and your partner likes beaches – you can tick off both in Sri Lanka quite easily.</p> <p><strong>4. People</strong></p> <p>The locals in Sri Lanka love to welcome visitors with their wide smiles and hospitable nature. They are relaxed and laidback and genuinely happy to share their world with those who are interested in learning about it.</p> <p><strong>5. Tea</strong></p> <p>If you’re a tea connoisseur, Sri Lankan is the place to go. The British introduced tea to the island (known as Ceylon at the time) in 1824. Since then the tea-growing (and drinking) scene has burgeoned.</p> <p>Enjoy a cuppa while relaxing in a street-side cafe, join a tea-tasting appreciation class, visit a historical tea estate, learn about the history of Ceylon tea at the Ceylon Tea Museum… there are a plethora of tea experiences in Sri Lanka.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/sri-lanka-travel/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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8 top tips for travel to China

<p>Between the great firewall, visas, money and the language barrier – travel to China can be a little bit daunting.</p> <p>But it is actually easier than you think – if you are prepared.</p> <p>A holiday in China offers a cultural experience like no other. You can walk on crumbling sections of the Great Wall, watch archaeologists at work digging out the Terracotta Warriors and chuckle at the antics of the pandas in Chengdu.</p> <p>Here’s our list of things you need to arrange and consider before you travel to China.</p> <p><strong>1. Visas</strong></p> <p>The thought of Chinese visas scared me so much that I put it off for months. The form looks huge. But once you get started, it’s actually incredibly easy.</p> <p>Many companies offer to do a Chinese visa for you – for a fee. But you can save that cash and do it easily yourself online. First you will need to find the Visa for China website for your capital city. <a href="https://www.visaforchina.org/SYD_EN/">The link here is for the one in Sydney</a>. You can read the step-by-step instructions or head straight to the Quick Access section. Fill in all the details in the form. Make sure you complete one for each person who will be going on the trip. Then book an appointment at your local visa for China centre.</p> <p>At that appointment comes, you will need to have print outs of your flight and accommodation details and photocopies of your passports. You will need to hand the passports over for processing.</p> <p>Don’t worry if you forget the print outs. The Visa centre has photocopiers and you can email the details to the security guard who will print out any documents you need for free.</p> <p>Take a number at the entrance to the Visa centre and wait your turn. Once at the counter, all you need to do is hand over the forms you filled in online, the passports, the photocopies and the details of all flights and hotels.</p> <p>One week later, you come back to the centre, pay the fee and collect your Visa. It really is that simple.</p> <p><strong>2. Internet</strong></p> <p>China could offer a chance to break free from social media, to unplug and take a technology break. Access to Google is limited. The Great Firewall of China really does exist. There’s NO Facebook access. No Instagram.</p> <p>But, if you can’t live without it, there is a way around the firewall. All you need is a VPN app. Install one before you go onto your phone and you will be able to access Facebook and Instagram and Google.</p> <p>We used Express VPN. Once installed on our devices it was as simple as logging into the app, choosing an internet connection in another city such as Hong Kong, LA or Tokyo and search away.</p> <p>If you don’t have a VPN, you won’t have access to Google. Try Bing.com for internet searching instead.</p> <p>Don’t even bother with Google maps in China. You are far better off downloading local maps of Beijing and other cities you plan to visit. Tales of tourists trying to find restaurants in the middle of the Forbidden City that don’t exist, simply because they are following Google maps about. It’s often wrong. Don’t use it.</p> <p><strong>3. Money</strong></p> <p>Your credit card will be fairly useless in China.</p> <p>Most Chinese locals pay for things using their phone. WeChat and AliPay are the two most common mobile payment systems. We tried to get access but failed. You need to have a Chinese bank account to make the WeChat wallet work. You could do this by asking a friend with a Chinese bank account to send you a “red packet” – a transfer of money. But you can’t keep asking them to do that all trip.</p> <p>The only other option really is cash. Before you go, find out which banks in China will accept Australian cards. Not all do. When you spot one of those banks – make it count. Avoid multiple withdrawals as much as possible so you reduce the bank fees.</p> <p><strong>4. WiFi</strong></p> <p>In most countries, it’s possible to pick up a portable Wifi device at the airport so you can reduce your use of data when out and about. But in China, that’s not your best option given the Great Firewall.</p> <p>You’re better off actually getting a Chinese Sim card and using the data on that when outside the hotel. Many companies will actually deliver Chinese sim cards to your hotel for arrival. We used one of these companies. They emailed instructions to us in both English and Mandarin. At check-in, all we had to do was show the receptionist the email and she immediately grabbed the package for us. Simple, easy, internet access. Pop the sim card in your phone and you are ready to go.</p> <p>You can set one person up as the main account holder and the other as a partner on that plan. One word of warning though – ignore every random text message in Mandarin that you are sent. If you don’t understand it – don’t click on it.</p> <p><strong>5. Trains</strong></p> <p>Think you can rock up to the station and jump on a bullet train? Think again.</p> <p>The best/fastest trains usually sell out a few days before, leaving only the option of a much longer multi-stop journey.</p> <p>If you want to avoid those extra hours – book ahead. You can go to the large train stations and seek out the English-language service window to book. Or – a really easy way – is to book online and just pick the tickets up with the email (with instructions in English and Mandarin) from the station before you travel.</p> <p>Another great tip is to download an app that plans subway travel in China – showing the connections you need to take to get somewhere in English. Some stations – like the one in the photo below, have limited English. This app will be your lifeline.</p> <p>Be prepared to put all your bags through an X-ray machine at every train station. You get used to it after a while.</p> <p><strong>6. Water and snacks</strong></p> <p>You CAN NOT drink the water in China. That means you will be carrying a lot of water each day.</p> <p>Market stalls often sell fresh fruit – grab items such as bananas and oranges whenever you see them.</p> <p>We found finding snacks was often difficult in both Beijing and Xian. Fill up on breakfast at the hotel before you head out. There are convenience stores such as Our Hours that sell snacks, but we found most of the items on offer had little nutritional value.</p> <p>Eat to your fill in restaurants.</p> <p><strong>7. Dining out</strong></p> <p>Many restaurants will have an English menu.</p> <p>If you have installed a VPN, you will be able to use Google translate to hover over menus to see what you want to eat. Then all you need to do is point when the waiter comes and tell them how many you want.</p> <p>Dumplings are always a good bet. As are noodles.</p> <p>Dandong Duck does tasty Peking Duck in Beijing. First Noodle Under the Sun in Xian is fantastic.</p> <p>Our best advice? Check Trip Advisor and see what other travellers recommend in your area. That way you can be fairly certain that it will be tasty and accommodate for your lack of Mandarin.</p> <p><strong>8. DIY? Or guide?</strong></p> <p>Unless you are prepared to speak a little Mandarin, do a LOT of pointing and use a translation app or sometimes just wing it, a guide is a good safe option.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/top-tips-for-travel-to-china-visa-vpn-trains-internet/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Britain’s most famous pubs

<p>Along with red telephone boxes, double-decker buses and cups of tea – the British pub is an experience you simply must have in England.</p> <p>Whether you have a pint of ale, a tall glass of Pimms or a cider doesn’t really matter. British pubs are all about the atmosphere.</p> <p>Our list is by no means exhaustive. But it is a great place to start. These are the pubs where legends were made, crimes were plotted, famous books were finessed or where scientists celebrated breakthroughs that would change the world.</p> <p><strong>The Eagle and Child, Oxford</strong></p> <p>In the 1930s and 1940s a group of writers who called themselves “The Inklings” met at this pub regularly to discuss their works. They included J R R Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and C S Lewis, creator of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.</p> <p>Often referred to as The Bird and Baby, this pub was also used as accommodation for the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War.</p> <p><strong>The Dog and Duck, Soho</strong></p> <p>This cute English pub was a favourite of George Orwell. The famous author reportedly downed celebratory absinthe here when Animal Farm was picked for the American Book of the Month Club.</p> <p><strong>The Star Tavern, Belgravia</strong></p> <p>The Star has seen its fair share of famous patrons over the past century. But it’s the infamous ones for which this pub is best known. The grand upstairs room was supposedly where the Great Train Robbers hatched their plan to attack the Mail service in 1963.</p> <p><strong>The French House, Soho</strong></p> <p>During the Second World War, The French House was once used as a meeting place for the French Resistance, including General de Gaulle. Ironically, the first known landlord was a German, Herr Schmidt, but he was deported after the outbreak of the First World War.</p> <p><strong>The Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden</strong></p> <p>This London pub was often frequented by British author Charles Dickens.</p> <p>The laneway outside the pub was known for bare-knuckle street fighting. The upstairs room is named after another famous patron, 17th-century poet John Dryden.</p> <p><strong>The Crown Tavern, Clerkenwell</strong></p> <p>Lenin reportedly drank in this English pub before the Russian revolution took him back to his homeland. Some say he even met Stalin here for a beer and a yarn. More recently this pub was also a set in the Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench film Notes on a Scandal.</p> <p><strong>Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street, London</strong></p> <p>This old dungeon-like pub was a favourite of Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. By now you are also probably realising that Dickens loved English pubs.</p> <p><strong>The George Inn Borough, High Street, London</strong></p> <p>This cute little pub was once a coffee house visited by Dickens. The author even mentions it in his book Little Dorrit</p> <p><strong>The Royal Standard of England, Buckinghamshire</strong></p> <p>In 1213 this pub was known as The Ship Inn and its famous patrons included Kings who used the pub as lodgings while the hunted deer in nearby Knotty Green. During the English Civil War, the Ship Inn was a mustering place for the Royalists. According to local legend, King Charles I is said to have hidden in the priest hole. As thanks King Charles II allowed the pub to change its name once he was restored to the throne.</p> <p><strong>The Eagle, Cambridge</strong></p> <p>Not every pub is famous for its association with literary figures. The Eagle at Cambridge claims Francis Crick and James Watson, among their most famous patrons. Crick and Watson were the scientists who discovered DNA.</p> <p><strong>The Anchor Bankside, London</strong></p> <p>This pub would have been where patrons of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre came before and after plays. It’s also where diarist Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London in 1666. Pepys wrote of taking refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside… and there watched the fire grow.”</p> <p><strong>The Blue Bell Inn, Lincolnshire</strong></p> <p>Take a look at the ceiling if you visit this wonderful country pub. It’s full of signatures from aircrew and ground crew who drank here during World War II.</p> <p><strong>The Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead</strong></p> <p>This north London pub was once a favourite of poets John Keats and Lord Byron.</p> <p><strong>The Flask, Highgate</strong></p> <p>Another great pub with literary associations. The Flask was a favourite of the romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats, as well as William Hogarth. It’s also said to be haunted by the ghost of a barmaid.</p> <p><strong>The Dove, Hammersmith</strong></p> <p>The Dove is one of the most popular places to watch the Oxford Versus Cambridge race. As such it has a long list of famous patrons including Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/britain-most-famous-pubs/">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

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5 healthiest countries in the world

<p>Thinking of a long holiday? These destinations have been ranked as the healthiest in the world. Bloomberg crunched the numbers from the UN, World Bank and World Health Organization, scoring 169 nations on a range of factors from life expectancy to obesity, tobacco use, air quality and access to clean water. This is the top 5.</p> <p><strong>1. Spain</strong></p> <p>With a health grade of 92.75 Spain is the healthiest nation on the planet. Last year Spain came 6th in this poll. Bloomberg notes that Spain has had “a notable decline in cardiovascular diseases and deaths from cancer over the past decade, partly as a result of effective public health policies based on screening and prevention.” It also noted that Spain’s healthcare system was funded by taxes and based on a policy of universal free access for all.</p> <p><strong>2. Italy</strong></p> <p>Italy is the second most healthy nation in the world. It scored 91.59 thanks to the diet habits of Italian people.</p> <p><strong>3. Iceland</strong></p> <p>Yet another reason to go to Iceland, apart from puffins and the Northern Lights. Iceland has a health grade of 91.44.</p> <p><strong>4. Japan</strong></p> <p>Japanese people still have the longest life-expectancy on earth. Their health rating came fourth with a grade of 91.38.</p> <p><strong>5. Switzerland</strong></p> <p>Great trains, great snow and great health. Switzerland has a health ranking of 90.93</p> <p>Scroll through the gallery above to see the top 5 healthiest countries.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/healthiest-nations/?slide=all">MyDiscoveries</a>.</em></p>

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Want to improve your health? Go on a girls' getaway

<p>If you’re looking for a sign to go on a weekend getaway with your closest girlfriends, then this is it. Grab the prosecco, book those flights and get ready as science has officially confirmed that a holiday with your best friends can ensure a healthy wellbeing.</p> <p>A group of friends who bring out the best in us is something we all aim to have, and now, according to research, those closest to you can help cut down the risk of heart disease and extend our life expectancy.</p> <p>“Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet and not smoking,” said <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships">Harvard researchers.</a></p> <p>For those who don’t have a group of women in their lives, the results are a little grimmer as they are more likely to deal with depression, cognitive decline and a shorter lifespan.</p> <p>One study in particular, which accumulated data from 309,000 people, showed that a lack of solid friendships increased the risk of early death by 50 per cent.</p> <p>“Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and live longer,” the researchers said.</p> <p>Do you agree with the findings of this study? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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5 reasons to love Alaska

<p>Alaska is the largest, most sparsely populated and coldest state in the United States of America.</p> <p><strong>1. The Northern Lights</strong></p> <p>Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis dancing in the sky. The Aurora occurs when solar particles collide with the earth’s atmosphere resulting in stunning streams of green, blue and even red light swirling through the sky.</p> <p>The best time to see the Aurora is in winter, from late August through to April. It’s not as cold as you think. Average temperatures hover around -7 to -1 °C and you can expect up to six hours of sunlight per day in the southern part of the state. As long as you dress for the weather, you will be fine.</p> <p><strong>2. Wildlife</strong></p> <p>Bring your binoculars. Alaska’s large swathes of wilderness are home to some of the most incredible animals on the planet. You can watch a brown bear scoop salmon from a flowing icy river, catch a glimpse of a shy wolf or lynx and watch in awe as an American Bald Eagle soars above your head.</p> <p>Alaska has so many brown bears, you would be unlucky not to see one. Polar Bears are a different story. You will need to take an expedition to find them.</p> <p>For the best chance of seeing a polar bear head to Alaska in the Spring or Autumn. Polar Bears don’t go into hibernation like Brown Bears do, but they are scarcely seen during winter. You will find them on the coastlines toward the southern edge of the ice pack in the Far North and Western Arctic areas. As climate change alters the bear’s habitats, they have increasingly been found on land near towns like Barrow and Kotzebue. Remember polar bears are dangerous animals, that have been known to stalk humans. They should only be viewed with an experienced guide.</p> <p><strong>3. National Parks</strong></p> <p>If you love wilderness and rugged beauty, you will love Alaska. The northernmost state is also home to home to America’s highest peak, Denali with a summit elevation 6,190 m above sea level. Denali National Park is six million acres of wild land, packed with wildlife and bisected by one ribbon of road. Try hiking, fishing, canoeing or dog sledging or simply spend the day looking for wildlife.</p> <p>Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska’s inside passage is home to humpback whales and puffins. One of the largest internationally protected Biosphere Reserves in the world, Glacier Bay collects glaciers slowly drifting down from the jagged mountains above. Most visitors arrive on cruise ships as few overland roads to the region exist. The region has three spectacular hiking trails and you can stay at Glacier Bay Lodge.</p> <p>Vast, beautiful and remote, The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge sprawls over 19.6 million acres in Alaska’s northern corner. Here you will find tundra plains, treeless coastlines, rugged mountain peaks and glaciers. Snow usually blankets the ground from September through to May. Once spring comes, the region is flush with life. More than 160 migratory and resident bird species come to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to breed, rest or feed from April to July. The refuge holds many polar bear dens and it’s a critical calving area for the Porcupine caribou herd.</p> <p><strong>4. Culture</strong></p> <p>Totem pole carving is often found in cultures that have a close tie with nature, and Alaska is no different. The poles use material from the land the images usually represent animals, spirits or places. Totem poles in front of houses identify the clan’s history. They are also carved to depict stories, to commemorate an event or to honour a deceased loved one or chief.</p> <p>The Northwest Coast Alaska Natives are known for a special weaving technique that creates perfect circles. The small, finely woven baskets of the Unangax̂, Alutiiq, and Yup’ik peoples are highly prized by collectors.</p> <p>If you love beadwork, make sure you look for Athabascan craft. The women from this tribe have created beautiful beaded clothing, blankets, tools and jewellery for centuries. Traditionally, they used seeds, carved wooden beads, shells, and quills. Glass beads were introduced after European contact.</p> <p><strong>5. Microbreweries</strong></p> <p>Midnight Sun, Broken Tooth, Silver Gulch, 49th State – these are just a few of the Alaskan microbreweries gaining a large reputation outside of the state.</p> <p>What’s their secret?</p> <p>Untouched glacial water.</p> <p>Water is the most important ingredient in beer and Alaska has the purest water of any American state.</p> <p>It’s not just beer either. In the last few years, Alaska has seen an abundance of gin and vodka distilleries pop up across the state. It’s no wonder – juniper berries, cranberries, spruce tips and raspberries used to produce and infuse each sprit can be plucked from roadside bushes during morning hikes.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/5-reasons-to-love-alaska/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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The best foodie suburbs in Australia

<p>To say we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to international cuisine would be the understatement of the century. The astounding variety of food at out fingertips reflects Australia’s thriving multicultural communities.</p> <p>You might want to test out your tastebuds before heading to a certain country or maybe you’re just dying to taste that fabulous dish you tried on tour last overseas trip. Either way, here’s where you need to go to find the best international cuisine around Australia.</p> <p><strong>1. Turkish</strong></p> <p>Turkey is responsible for some of the tastiest street food in the Mediterranean, and it has spread far and wide. Australians embrace the doner kebab with enthusiasm, but there are plenty of other dishes that you may not even realise are Turkish.</p> <p><strong>Turkish staples</strong></p> <p>Turkish delight – Also known as Lokum, this sweet treat is somewhere between nougat and firm jelly. It comes in a variety of flavours and is often coated in powdered sugar. Doner – Before it became the go-to takeaway item after a night on the town, the humble Döner kebab was a staple of traditional Turkish cuisine. And it still is. Its main ingredient is rotisserie meat, shaved onto a thick flatbread or pita pocket. It often comes with lettuce, tomato and garlic sauce. Kofte– These balls of ground beef or lamb often come in a stew, alone with plain yoghurt, or on a sandwich. Borek – A savoury, cylindrical pastry oozing with cheese and spinach or mince. Pide– Turkey’s answer to pizza, these boat-shaped breads are topped with meats, vegetables and cheese.</p> <p><strong>Where to find the best Turkish food in Australia?</strong></p> <p>Turkish families began to migrate to Australia in the 1940’s from the island of Cyprus. With them, they brought a wealth of culinary knowledge and have settled into well-established communities mainly around Melbourne and Sydney. In Victoria, head to the suburbs of Broadmeadows, Collingwood, Fitzroy and Brunswick. New South Wales has large Turkish communities in Fairfield, Marrickville, Ashfield and Auburn. This is where you’ll find the best, authentic Turkish food in the country.</p> <p><strong>2. Vietnamese</strong></p> <p>Vietnamese cuisine is all about using fresh ingredients with fragrant herbs and a little bit of spice. If you’re not a fan of coriander, you might struggle to find a dish without it in Vietnam. It’s a staple in most savoury foods because it enhances the other flavours in the dish.</p> <p><strong>Vietnamese staples</strong></p> <p>Pho – Vietnam’s national dish is a mix of rice noodles, thin slices of meat, and herbs in a chicken or beef broth. The Vietnamese often eat pho for breakfast, but in the Western world, it’s seen as more of a lunch or dinner item. Goi cuon – Better known as rice paper rolls, these translucent wraps have plenty of veggies including lettuce, carrot, spring onion and sometimes rice noodles, with pork, prawns, beef or tofu. Banh mi – This sounds very exotic, but it’s essentially a bunch of veggies and meat in a bread roll (or baguette, introduced during French occupation of Vietnam in the 1880/90’s). Banh xeo – Translating to ‘sizzling pancake’, this Vietnamese breakfast staple is a mix of rice flour, water and turmeric. It usually comes with pork, bean sprouts, egg and a spicy sauce on the side. Egg coffee – Way tastier than it sounds, this sweet, creamy style of coffee is popular all over Vietnam. It comes hot and cold and is usually taken as a dessert.</p> <p><strong>Where to find the best Vietnamese in Australia</strong></p> <p>Pockets of Vietnamese communities can be found all over the country. In Perth, the suburbs of Northbridge and Claremont have loads of outfits serving traditional and street-style Vietnamese food. Near Sydney, Cabramatta is well-known for its Vietnamese cuisine, as well as Chatswood, Waterloo and Randwick. Around Adelaide, some great family-run restaurants are scattered around Croydon and Pennington. Hawthorn East and Footscray are where you’ll find Melbourne’s best Vietnamese restaurants and street stalls.</p> <p><strong>3. Indian</strong></p> <p>If you travel to India, don’t expect to see butter chicken on the menu. In Australia, we’ve grown accustomed to a very westernised version of Indian cuisine. However, it is possible to find authentic Indian food in Australia if you know where to look.</p> <p><strong>Indian staples</strong></p> <p>Samosa – Triangle-shape pastries with a potato, pea and spice stuffing. These entries items are crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Tandoori Chicken – Tandoori refers to style of cooking, rather than the flavour itself. Tandoori chicken is made by marinating chunks of chicken in yogurt and spices before roasting it in a clay, tandoor oven. This dish has a striking bright orange colour and usually comes with yogurt and spring onions. Dahl – This warm, hearty dish is simple but full of flavour. Lentils are simmered with different spices and herbs and scooped up with chapati or papadums. Naan – Traditional naan is a type of flatbread, cooked in a clay oven. At modern Indian restaurants, it comes in a range of different flavours including garlic, cheesey, and sweet Peshwari (coconut, sugar and sultanas).</p> <p><strong>Where to find the best Indian food in Australia</strong></p> <p>Harris Park is one of Sydney’s top spots for great Indian cuisine as is nearby Lakemba. Annandale and Surry Hills are also popular spots, with plenty of restaurants that cater for vegetarian and vegan diners. St Kilda, Fitzroy and Albert Park near Melbourne all have a number of Indian outfits offering both formal sit-down meals and takeaway options. On the west coast of Australia, Fremantle and Innaloo are the best spots to grab an Indian meal. Brisbane foodies say the most authentic Indian cuisine is right in the CBD, but the outer suburb of Morningside also has a lot to offer.</p> <p><strong>4. Lebanese</strong></p> <p>Lebanese is one of those cuisines that has merged so smoothly with the western world that most people don’t realise they’re eating it. I eat hummus by the bucket, and I have the Lebanese to thank for it. Some of these Middle Eastern staples might even appear on your weekly shopping list.</p> <p><strong>Lebanese staples</strong></p> <p>Halloumi – This semi-hard, squeaky cheese is traditionally made from goat’s milk. The Lebanese usually grill it and serve with salads. Tabouleh – This vegetarian salad is made from bulgur (a type of cereal/grain) or couscous, parsley, mint, onion and tomatoes. It’s great as a dip, side dish or kebab filling. Baba ghanoush – This delicious dip gives hummus a run for its money. Grilled eggplant is whipped up with tahini, olive oil and various seasonings. It’s also just a fun word to say. Falafel – A staple of the vegetarian diet, falafels are a mix of chickpeas, parsley and onion and are usually shallow or deep fried for a crispy outer coating.</p> <p><strong>Where to find the best Lebanese food in Australia</strong></p> <p>Punchbowl is a small suburb near Sydney, well known for its fantastic Lebanese restaurants. El Jannah is one of its most popular spots. This family-run outfit now has restaurants in Blacktown and Granville too. In Melbourne, head to Northcote, Brunswick and Richmond for the best darn falafel in Victoria. Kilburn and Torrensvile near Adelaide have plenty of Lebanese options, and Brisbane highlights Paddington as its unofficial home of Middle Eastern cuisine.</p> <p><strong>5. Chinese</strong></p> <p>Chinese cuisine first hit Australian shores during the Gold Rush. Thousands of members of different Chinese provinces began to share their culinary delights which have since been transformed to suit a more western palate. Chinese restaurants and takeaway shops now offer a mix of traditional and westernised meals.</p> <p><strong>Chinese staples</strong></p> <p>Kung Pao Chicken – This spicy Sichuan-style dish packs a punch. It’s a mix of diced chicken, dried chilli and fried peanuts on a bed of rice. Dumplings – These little parcels have been a staple of Northern Chinese cuisine for 1,800 years. A thin piece of dough is used to wrap up scoops of minced meat or veggies. It’s then fried, steamed or boiled. Spring rolls – Similar to Vietnamese rice paper rolls, these Cantonese dim sums are rolled into a cylindrical shape and fried until crispy and golden in colour. The filling is usually vegetables, meat or rice noodles. Chow Mein – A delicious, easy meal to whip up at home, Chow Mein is a type of noodle stir-fry, cooked in a large wok with vegetables, meat and sticky, sweet soy sauce.</p> <p><strong>Where to find the best Chinese food in Australia</strong></p> <p>Each of Australia’s capital cities have their own version of Chinatown. In Sydney near Darling Harbour, Chinatown is full of dumpling bars, noodle restaurants and even an underground food court. In Perth, you’ll find the best dumplings in Northbridge. Choose from dozens of restaurants in Adelaide, lined up along Gouger Street in the CBD. Sunnybank and Fortitude Valley are some of Brisbane’s go-to places for Chinese food. And Hobart CBD has its fair share of noodle houses too.</p> <p><em>Written by Bethany Plint. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/international-cuisine-australia/?slide=all"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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6 tips for low-risk travel hacking

<p><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international/5-clever-travel-hacks-to-try-in-australia/">“Travel hacking”</a>  is the practice of seeking to reduce or eliminate travel expenses by systematically making and acting on a plan to accumulate frequent flyer miles and points – usually with specific travel goals in mind. Often, travel hackers accomplish their goals by accumulating airline credit cards that subject them to high spending limits.</p> <p>For the undisciplined, this can be a high-risk type of behaviour. There are multiple pitfalls to overcome. For starters, it’s tempting to spend beyond your means in pursuit of miles and points. Failure to pay your balance in full can result in interest payments that exceed the value of the benefits the card offers.</p> <p>Not only that, there is usually a brief time limit imposed for collecting the sign-up bonus offered by the credit card company. Additionally, these cards usually have annual fees; experienced travel hackers typically cancel the cards before the fees come due. But if you aren’t that organised, you might forget to cancel the cards and have to pay the fees.</p> <p>These aren’t the only pitfalls associated with the usual approach to travel hacking, but they’re a few of the things that can compel people to ask, “Is travel hacking really worth it?”</p> <p>If that were the only way to engage in travel hacking, the answer for many people might well be “no”. Fortunately, this risky approach is not your only choice. It is totally possible to get started with travel hacking using methods that are far less risky. Let’s discuss 6 tips for low-risk travel hacking:</p> <p><strong>1. Use E-commerce portals for retail shopping</strong></p> <p>Some airlines offer frequent flier miles or other rewards through their branded e-commerce portals. One example is the <a href="https://www.americanairlines.com.au/i18n/aadvantage-program/miles/partners/retail-and-dining.jsp">Aadvantage Program</a> offered by American Airlines. If you want to send flowers to a friend, buy tickets to a theatrical production, or make a purchase from any of 850+ participating retailers, you can earn frequent flier miles redeemable for flights, upgrades, rental cars, hotel rooms and other travel perks. Some of the associated offers are from retailers you probably shop with anyway.</p> <p><strong>2. Dine out</strong></p> <p>Offers change frequently, but you can often find opportunities to earn frequent flyer miles or advantage points when you eat at participating restaurants. For example, if you eat at <a href="http://qantas.rockpooldininggroup.com.au/">Rockpool Dining Groups’ restaurants</a>, including Spice Temple, Rockport Bar &amp; Grill or Fratelli Fresh, you can accumulate Qantas points to redeem on a future trip. Depending on the restaurant you choose, you could receive 1-2 frequent flier miles for each dollar you spend on dinner at the restaurant.</p> <p><strong>3. Take advantage of fuel card loyalty discounts</strong></p> <p>Fuel cards offer you a convenient way to pay for your fuel purchases while you’re on the road. Whether you’re taking off on a road trip or you’re renting a car at your travel destination, you can take advantage of <a href="https://www.fuelcardcomparison.com.au/p/getting-most-out-fuel-with-fuel-card-loyalty-discounts/">fuel card loyalty discounts</a>.</p> <p>Each fuel card is different. After you sign up for a fuel card, typically you could expect to receive a few reward points for each dollar you spend at the fuel pump using your card. Depending on the fuel card, the reward points you receive might be redeemable for special deals or discounts. Be sure to read all the fine print to determine what benefits you’d receive from signing up for each fuel card you’re considering.</p> <p>As compared against airline credit cards with initial high spending requirements, most fuel cards don’t seem all that risky. Unlike credit cards, some fuel cards don’t even require any interest payments. However, fuel cards are not entirely risk free.  Be aware that some fuel cards do charge monthly fees, annual fees, transaction fees and / or late payment fees – so be aware of the terms of service before applying. Pay particular attention to what fees you’ll be required to pay. Once you’ve begun using a fuel card, be sure to keep up with paying the bills as they come due to avoid late payment penalties.</p> <p><strong>4. Ride with Uber</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.qantas.com/au/en/book-a-trip/uber.html">Uber and Qantas</a> have teamed up to offer you frequent flier miles when you take certain actions associated with their services. For example, signing up with Uber for the first time through Qantas’ portal can earn you 2,000 frequent flier miles. You can also earn points if you use the Qantas app for booking Uber rides to or from eligible Australian airports. The number of points you earn depends on your level of membership in the Qantas Frequent Flyer Program.</p> <p><strong>5. Buy a new mobile phone and try a new mobile plan</strong></p> <p>Thinking of buying a new mobile phone or switching mobile providers? <a href="https://www.vodafone.com.au/plans/qantas">Vodafone and Qantas</a> are offering up to 20,000 Qantas Points for new Vodafone accounts. To earn the points, you must participate in at least one of the eligible offers these companies are making available. You could buy a new phone plus sign up for a SIM Only Plan or a Red Plan -- or you could sign up for a new Vodafone Plus Plan. New business accounts are eligible to earn greater numbers of points. You can also receive a free membership in the Qantas Frequent Flier Membership Program if you sign up through Vodafone’s link, scoring you a savings of $89.90.</p> <p><strong>6. Pay your energy bills on time</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.redenergy.com.au/qantas/residential">Red Energy and Qantas</a>  have partnered to offer you Qantas points for paying your electricity and gas bills on time. If you have a Red Energy account, or you want to open a new one, you’ll have to link the account to your Qantas Frequent Flyer account to be eligible to earn points under this programme.</p> <p>If you’re interested in travel hacking, it can be appealing to start with these sorts of low-risk offers. The points and benefits from these types of offers might not accumulate quite as quickly as they would if you were to use airline credit cards. However, you can see there are substantial amounts of frequent flier miles and other travel perks on offer through various low-risk programmes such as these. If you want to enjoy substantial savings on a trip you plan to take, it’s definitely worth considering all of these tips and offers.</p>

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How to capture the best holiday video

<p>If you really want to capture and share your holiday memories, you should invest in a video camera. Don’t be that person trying to shoot video with an enormous tablet.</p> <p><strong>Aim for quality</strong></p> <p>A video camera allows you to zoom in on the details – you can see the grandkids tackle a slide in the playground or the tiny bits of pollen on a flower.</p> <p>Check out the zoom on this video of the Aqua Splash park. It was filmed from shore and there’s no shake. Each of the people can be seen clearly.</p> <p>You can use a video camera to take photos as well as video. You can even use it for night vision.</p> <p>We love to capture slow motion with video cameras. On a phone or tablet you often have to wait until the subject jumps into a box on the screen. But with a video camera, you can start or stop slow motion whenever you want. It’s far more flexible – and that leads to a superior quality video. This function is great for capturing waterplay, juggling or sports action.</p> <p>Want to see the opening of a long-awaited garden rose? Or capture a stunning sunset? With a video camera, you can set the capture to hyper lapse, plug in the camera and walk away. That’s not something you could do easily on a tablet.</p> <p>You can also future proof your video for generations by switching to 4K. It does create larger files, but you will know that your kids and grandkids will be able to watch it in the future.</p> <p><strong>Share your video</strong></p> <p>Good quality video is great to share. Show it to your grandkids. Take a video camera with you at times other than big events and capture those little memories that children love to look back on.</p> <p>Let the kids use it, under supervision. They will love your help and your attention.</p> <p>If the kids are a little bit older, they may even be able to help you to edit the video into little movies. This is a great activity to do together for an afternoon. It’s using “screen time” in a healthy, educational way. You can then post your videos onto Facebook, YouTube or TripAdvisor.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/how-to-capture-the-best-holiday-video/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>. </em></p>

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Why you need to visit Hiroshima

<p>I’m standing in a corner of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, tears rolling down my cheeks. The woman next to me turns and smiles, a gesture of sympathy. Her eyes are wet too. In front of me are a few dozen tiny, colourful paper cranes, the work of a girl called Sadako Sasaki.</p> <p>Sadako was two-years-old when the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Despite being two-kilometres from the epicentre, Sadako lived through the fiery blast that burned the flesh off exposed skin, bubbled paint on tiles and burned the shape of shadows onto walls.  Most of her neighbours died, but Sadako didn’t seem to be injured at all. At least, not on the outside.</p> <p>A decade later Sadako began to feel dizzy. She fell down and struggle to return to her feet. Her parents took her to the Red Cross hospital where she was diagnosed with leukaemia. Sadako knew leukaemia was called the bomb disease. She knew no-one survived. In Japan, it is believed that if a sick person can fold 1000 paper cranes, they will soon get well.</p> <p>Cranes often live to at least 100 years old and are a symbol of long life. Sadako began to make tiny paper cranes folded from scraps of medical paper she found in the hospital. She folded more than 1500, hoping for a cure. She died after fighting “bomb disease” for eight months. This museum is tough. It is thought-provoking, heart-breaking and sobering. It will make you cry.</p> <p>The kids will have big questions. But it also has hope. When Barack Obama visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum on May 27, 2016, he folded two paper cranes and placed them alongside a note that read:</p> <p>“We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together to spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons.”</p> <p><strong>Is it too graphic?</strong></p> <p>If you’re trying to decide whether to enter the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, remember this is also a place that encourages peace and hope. It sparks debate, particularly now that the world seems to be changing politically again. The photography and exhibits are more graphic than the Australian War Memorial. Some will shock you. If you have any interest in military history, you need to visit this place.</p> <p>The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum traces the lead up to the bombing. You can see documents that detail how the Americans selected Hiroshima as the target for the bomb knows as “Little Boy”. You can see they wanted “maximum damage”. A large part of the museum is dedicated to the effect of that bomb on the people of Hiroshima. </p> <p>You can see the black rain stains covering an old dress. You can see photographs of the horrific burns suffered in the fire and the gashes caused by debris from the shock waves. You can see the agony and despair in people’s faces and hear video testimony of the day the bomb devastated a community. The museum also details the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings: the arms race, testing around the world including on the Marshall Islands.</p> <p>Sadly, it doesn’t mention the British nuclear tests in Australia.  The first floor ends with notes on nuclear non-proliferation treaties – that are now, in doubt. This museum brings “lest we forget” into focus. I left big questions and a sense that war is not always good versus evil, black versus white. War has grey areas and innocent victims on both sides. How do we as humans make decisions that change history forever? How do we know what is right, and what is wrong? Would we make that decision again? All these questions are up for debate in Hiroshima.</p> <p><strong>You need to see the garden</strong></p> <p>Step outside and into the Peace Park once you have been through the three levels on the museum. This is the best place to wander around and discuss what you have seen. It also brings home this city’s message of peace and non-proliferation.</p> <p>The Cenotaph, to the left of the museum, contains the names of all the victims of the bombing. Thousands more names are added every year. From the Cenotaph you can see the remains of the Hiroshima Prefecture Industrial Promotion Hall (also known as the Atomic Bomb Dome) and its distinctive burnt-out roof. This building was one of the few to remain standing after the fierce heat of the bomb and the shockwaves that followed.</p> <p>The Japanese debated knocking the building down. But in the end, they left it there as a reminder, “lest we forget” the horror of war. Between the hall and the Cenotaph, you’ll find a touching memorial to Sadako – the Children’s Peace Monument. After Sadako died, students from 3100 schools across nine countries raised money to build this statue in her honour. Make sure you take the time to ring the bell. It is inscribed with “A Thousand Paper Cranes” on the front and “Peace on Earth and in Heaven” on the back and the ringer has a beautiful golden crane attached.</p> <p>To this day, children still send paper cranes to be placed at the statue. Many of these can be seen in protected boxes surrounding the monument. Before you leave the park, find and ring the Peace Bell. But just warning you – it can be loud.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/hiroshima-peace-museum-review/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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5 reasons to go to Thailand

<p>Thailand is a tropical paradise with some of the friendliest people in the world. With delicious cuisine, elaborate gold temples, stunning beaches punctuated by pillars of limestone – this country really is magic.</p> <p>Here are five reasons why you need to go to Thailand:</p> <p><strong>1. The food</strong></p> <p>Thai food in Thailand is one of the great pleasures in life.</p> <p>If you like Thai food in your home country, you will love it in Thailand. You can eat in up-market Thai restaurants in classic-Thai wooden houses. Or grab a delicious $1 bargain at a food court. We highly recommend a street food tour in Thailand – you won’t believe how good it is.</p> <p>Food in Thailand is not restricted to Thai cuisine. Thailand also has high-quality Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, French, Italian, Scandinavian and Indian restaurants in all the major cities and tourist spots.</p> <p><strong>2. Shopping</strong></p> <p>Forget Hong Kong, Singapore or other well-trodden shopping destinations, today’s bargains are in Bangkok.</p> <p>Shop in the multi-storey department stores and malls for international brands and top-end Thai products. Explore markets for variety and ridiculously cheap price. Buy on the street for convenience and fun. The famous Chatachak Weekend Market has more than 9000 outlets. You can spend a whole day in its exciting madness. For imported goods head to Chinatown. Head to   Pratunam for locally-made clothing and footwear.</p> <p><strong>3. Culture</strong></p> <p>Thai culture is deeply influenced by religion. Most Thais are Theraveda Buddhists. This strand of Buddhism is characterised by greater respect for elders. You will need to give up your seat on public transport if a monk enters.</p> <p>Thai Buddhists believe individuals should gain insights from their own actions, experience, knowledge and critical thinking. Their meditation is mostly silent, as opposed to chanting. Interestingly, animist and superstitious beliefs co-exist with Thai Buddhism. Thais honour Buddha statues, spirit houses, and photographs of the King.</p> <p>You can easily spend a few peaceful hours watching Thais seek guidance and protection, praying for a good future life at the temple.</p> <p><strong>4. The landscape</strong></p> <p>Wow. That is the one word you will keep saying in Thailand.</p> <p>In Bangkok, it will be because of the manmade attractions: the giant golden Buddha, the glittering temples and the incredibly twisted wires cobbled together and strung over streets. Chiang Mai will delight you with rice fields, history, hill tribes and thousand-year-old temples. In the south, expect stunning white-sand beaches and limestone  pillars topped with lush vegetation.</p> <p>Thailand has so many different landscapes that you could spend a long time exploring them all.</p> <p><strong>5. The people</strong></p> <p>The Thai people are reason enough to visit this country. They’re always smiling and helpful. Thai’s tolerate, and even like most tourists, and once you become a friend of a Thai, you’re a friend for life.</p> <p><em>Written by Len Rutledge. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/thailand-travel-inspiration/"><em>My Discoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Trip Advisor rates Australia’s best beaches

<p>Australia is a country of sun, sand, smiles and inappropriately named footwear. We take pride in our beaches. As much as we pretend not to care what the tourists think, we want everyone to love this sunburnt country as much as we do.</p> <p>The world’s largest travel site has recently released the top ten beaches in Australia for their Travellers’ Choice awards. The best beaches have been determined by the “quantity and quality of traveller reviews and ratings” over a 12-month period. The stakes are high.</p> <p>“This year’s list has something for everyone—from sunbathing to sunset walks, swimming, surfing, and even camel trains,” Janice Lee Fang, TripAdvisor’s Asia Pacific Communications Director says. </p> <p>If we’re being honest, all our beaches are pretty good. But the tourists have spoken, and the best have been decided.</p> <p>Here are TripAdvisor’s top 10 Travellers Choice Beaches in Australia.</p> <p><strong>1. Manly Beach</strong> <strong>- Sydney, NSW</strong></p> <p>One of the greatest things about Manly Beach is its unbiased locals. The best beach in the entire world has topped the list again. See, no bias. Whatsoever. </p> <p>It’s the second year consecutively that Manly has come out number one, and in truth, there’s a good reason why. This stunning two-kilometre stretch was an original Australian pioneer of local surf and beach lifestyle, and this culture remains strong. The Manly area is renowned for being clean. It’s home to a harbour beach and multiple wave beaches. It is also walking distance from great food, shopping, surf lessons, accommodation, walks, nightlife and activities.</p> <p><strong>2. Surfers Paradise - Surfer’s Paradise, QLD</strong><br /><br />This Australian gem is praised as an “Aussie icon” by TripAdvisor reviewers. They aren’t wrong. The Gold Coast destination lives up to its name.</p> <p>The clear blue water, golden sands, buzzing social scene and clean surf breaks make Surfer’s Paradise an unsurprising second. The coastline is dotted with walking spots and lookouts, and the waves are gentle.</p> <p><strong>3. Turquoise Bay - Exmouth, WA</strong></p> <p>Turquoise Bay is unbelievable. The aerial views are stunning: the water and sand contrast straight out of a fairytale. It’s the highlight of Exmouth’s Cape Range National Park, and it’s mere metres from the famous Ningaloo reef.</p> <p>For remarkable wildlife and snorkelling, Turquoise Bay has you covered. It’s only 50m-100m offshore, so it’s a lot more accessible than most snorkelling reefs. There’s also a super slow current, so drifting across the bay with a snorkel set has never involved less effort.</p> <p><strong>4. Mooloolaba Beach - Mooloolaba, QLD</strong></p> <p>The premier lifesaving club and gentle current makes Mooloolaba a lot easier than its pronunciation. The beach boasts stunning blue waters on both its wave beach and the gentle spit. There’s also an abundance of cafes, shops, restaurants and accommodation right on the banks of the beach.</p> <p><strong>5. Whitehaven Beach - Whitsunday Island, QLD</strong></p> <p>This dreamy destination was on your Instagram feed way before Tripadvisor caught on. The luminescent sand at Whitehaven is said to be 98 percent pure white silica. In translation: it’s pretty damn white.</p> <p>Whitehaven is also located in the magical Great Barrier Reef, so you won’t struggle to find magnificent marine life. Dolphins and turtles are known to pay visits to the shallows of the beach. TripAdvisor reviewers say Tongue Point’s Hill Inlet has the best views of the beach.</p> <p><strong>6. Bondi Beach - Sydney, NSW</strong></p> <p>Of course, an Australian beaches list would not be complete without the country’s most well-known beach. </p> <p>The closest break to the city centre, Bondi is known for great surfing and swimming, funky bars and restaurants, good shopping and coffee, and beautiful scenic walking trails. We recommend checking out the Bondi Icebergs pool ($6/p) and the Bondi to Coogee walk.</p> <p><strong>7. Noosa Main Beach - Noosa, QLD</strong></p> <p>The consistent warmth and sunshine in Noosa are adored by Australians and travellers.</p> <p>The waters are calm and the lifeguards patrol daily. Noosa Main Beach is also walking distance from great restaurants, bars, accomodation and the famous Hasting Street shopping strip.</p> <p><strong>8. Burleigh Heads Beach - Burleigh Heads, QLD</strong></p> <p>This southern Gold Coast gem continues to be loved by the locals. It’s great for swimming and body boarding, and there are plenty of flagged swim areas and lifeguards on duty. </p> <p>The area is protected by the wind and has preserved its authentic Australian beach culture. TripAdvisor reviewers recommend the surrounding parks and walks, as well as the spectacular views from Burleigh Heads National Park.</p> <p><strong>9. Cable Beach - Broome, WA</strong></p> <p>This Western Australian coastline is a 22 kilometre stretch of white sand, warm skies and clear blue Indian Ocean. Cable Beach is famous for its stunning sunsets. And if the magical evening skies aren’t quite spectacular enough, you can take a camel ride across the beach as the sun falls on the horizon.</p> <p>Cable beach has spectacular wildlife and an abundance of childcare. There are many eateries in the surrounding area, and you can even take your four-wheel drive across the flat hard sand.</p> <p><strong>10. Mindil Beach - Darwin, NT</strong></p> <p>A short drive from the Darwin CBD, this beach is one of Australia’s most outstanding tropical gems. Mindil Beach is a bustling social scene where locals and tourists flock in their thousands.</p> <p>During the dry season, the Mindil Beach Sunset Market takes place on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Shop for clothes and souvenirs and enjoy your market dinner in front of the sunset. Evenings also see fire twirling displays, acrobatics, dance and live local music.</p> <p><em>Written by Jemma Newlyn. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/australias-best-beaches/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Packing cells will change how you travel in 2019

<p>Packing cells – people either love them or think they are a huge waste of money. We’ve detailed the pros and cons of packing cells so that you can make your own mind up.</p> <p><strong>1. What are they?</strong></p> <p>Packing cells are little cubes or zippered bags of various sizes that act as removable compartments for your suitcase or backpack.</p> <p><strong>2. How do you use them?</strong></p> <p>Packing cells allow you to organise your suitcase. You sort the items you need into individual bags. Put your dirty clothes in one, underpants in another. Put your socks in one, camera gear in another. You get the point. If you’re sharing a suitcase with a travelling companion, you can put your clothes into individual packing cells – that way your clothes won’t get all mixed up.</p> <p><strong>3. What do fans say about them?</strong></p> <p>A Facebook thread on packing cells went viral this week due to the number of people commenting. Comments such as: “Best things ever – saves so much room and keeps things tidy and organised” were common. Here’s a few more comments: “They have really changed our packing. Highly recommend. No more digging through the whole bag trying to find a pair of undies.” – Alicia thoman “We use them all the time now. Each person has their own pack and then you just take it out of the case – so much easier.” – Clare Ditchburn “They are the best, love mine, make so much more room in your suitcase.” – Kathy Stringfellow</p> <p><strong>4. What do the critics say?</strong></p> <p>Critics say that packing bags are a waste of money. Some argue that the bags are just more stuff you don’t need. Why pay the money when it doesn’t really take that long to find something in your bag. Is the 20 seconds really worth the cash?</p> <p><strong>5. Tips for using them</strong></p> <p>Generally, most people we found who have used the packing bags say they love them. So how do you use them effectively?</p> <ul> <li>Use a different colour per traveller</li> <li>Make sure you buy enough of them</li> <li>Get packing bags that have a clear window or mesh to allow you to see what is in the bag. Otherwise you’re going to spend just as much time hunting for the stuff you need.</li> <li>You can make your own packing bags from laundry bags, old airline amenities bags or plastic zip-lock bags.</li> <li>Buy a selection of different sizes</li> <li>Use them for small and necessary items.</li> <li>Use one for medications</li> <li>Keep one for chargers and phones</li> <li>Have a waterproof one for wet clothes</li> <li>Have one for dirty clothes</li> <li>Where do you buy them?</li> </ul> <p>You don’t need to pay much for packing bags. They are available in loads of places from Kathmandu to Big W, ALDI, Bags to Go, eBay. A simple web search will bring up dozens of different types.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of </em><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/packing-cells-hack/"><em>MyDiscoveries</em></a><em>.</em></p>

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Cheap flight hack: How to save money when booking your plane ticket

<p>A variety of factors can turn what is supposed to be a cheap weekend away into an expensive venture out. These factors include whether or not you’re travelling in peak season, who you’re flying with and whether or not you want to go up a class in the flight.</p> <p>However, according to <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.expediagroup.com/" target="_blank">Expedia Group</a>, there’s a way you can get cheaper flights and it all comes down to the day you’re booking them.</p> <p>With airfares rising and no sign of slowing down, this is the day you’re going to want to bookmark for flights.</p> <p>It’s Sunday.</p> <p><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.expediagroup.com/" target="_blank">Expedia Group</a> narrowed down on the perfect day after analysing airline routes and prices of tickets in a joint research project with the Airline Reporting Corporation.</p> <p>On Friday, they’re at their highest.</p> <p>On Sunday, they’re at their lowest.</p> <p>However, you’re more likely to save if your first day of travel is a Friday. This is the day you want to head to the airport and fly out, with Sunday copping higher fares.</p> <p>In order to save, you book on a Sunday for a Friday flight.</p> <p>It might not be a bulletproof scenario every time, but according to Expedia’s analysis, you’re in with a good chance.</p> <p>Demi Kavaratzis, director of tours and transport at Expedia Australia told <em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/money/why-you-should-always-book-flights-on-a-sunday-and-fly-on-a-friday/news-story/e216992ba777ed8be3e0b3c3b769c7a4" target="_blank">news.com.au</a>:</em></p> <p>“The 2019 Airfares Reporting Corporation results show that simple changes can add up to significant savings for Aussie travellers.”</p> <p>“Globally, in 2018 we saw flight prices increase on average by 5 per cent compared to 2017. If this trend continues, now is the best time to lock in your 2019 travel.”</p> <p>Are you going to try this hack and see if it works? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

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