Traveller deals: Seychelles bargain

All things Mexican are so hot right now, so why not join the locals and celebrate their dead? Otherwise, live (extremely) well in the Seychelles, escape winter in Dubai or our own Daydream Island, or embrace winter in Melbourne. Hope you find something your heart desires in this weeks’ international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
SEYCHELLES
Help Banyan Tree celebrate 20 years with its celebratory
three-night packages that serve up welcome cocktails, a 120-minute spa
treatment for two and 20 per cent off food and drinks until December 15.
Hillside pool villas at Banyan Tree Seychelles from $1490 a night. See banyantree.com
QUEENSLAND
Find your niche in the Whitsundays with a three-night winter
escape to Daydream Island Resort and Spa, with breakfast and a $20 spa
voucher for travel. Book by July 31 for travel until September 19. From
$339 a person, three nights. 138 833, sunloverholidays.com.au.

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Catch emerging artists at Melbourne’s The Windsor and save up
to $300 in a Victorian suite. The “Marvel at The Windsor” package
includes wine and cheese and a private tour of the exhibition, August 30
to September 14. From $399, deluxe room, save $100. Victorian suite
from $559. (03) 9633 6002, thw.com.au.
SWITZERLAND
Stay four nights and pay for three when you stay at The
Lodge, Sir Richard Branson’s mountain retreat in Verbier, until
September 29. Includes all meals and drinks. From $1075 a room, a night.
See thelodge.virgin.com/offers.

GO LATER
NSW
Celebrate winter in the outdoor hot tub of The Villa at The
Drawing Rooms of Berry. Stay two nights by September 18 and get a bottle
of sparkling wine, Belgian chocolates handmade in Berry, breakfast and
late checkout. From $700 for two nights. Quote “Get Going”. (02) 4464 3360, drawingrooms.com.au.
DUBAI
Save up to 28 per cent on a stay at the five-star Rixos The
Palm Dubai, on Palm Jumeirah island, until September 30. Breakfast and
Wi-Fi are included and you can deposit just $5 and pay the balance 28
days before departure. From $315 a room, a night. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.

Tourwatch

Day of the dead
From the macabre to the marvellous, join Mexico on the Day
of the Dead, when it celebrates the lives of those who have passed on.
The five-day tour includes a Day of the Dead ceremony, a Halloween
costume party, a visit to death-obsessed artist Frida Kahlo’s museum
and a trip to La Isla de las Munecas, an island full of disfigured
dolls said to be possessed by a drowned girl’s spirit. Departs October
30, 2014. Costs $760 a person. 1300 797 010, intrepidtravel.com.

DEAL
TOP DIGS FOR KIDS
Chic hotel booking group Mr & Mrs Smith has had a baby:
welcome little Smith & Family, a collection of hotels catering to
junior travellers, each road-tested by parents. Expect kids’ clubs and
menus, cots and toys plus the adult basics of great spas, kitchens and
to-die-for interiors. With 115 hotels currently on the list, book a
seven-night stay by July 15 for travel until December and get a week’s
free babysitting. Check out Tuscan villa Castello Di Casole, complete
with cinema, bikes, a croquet lawn and kids’ pizza-making classes. From
$390 a night. 1300 896 627, smithandfamily.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.

Travel deals: French Polynesia

A local woman from the Sacred Valley, Peru.

Take me to… Tahiti! Or Peru. I’m not fussy. Or perhaps one of the fabulous new hotels of the world, including the Sofitel So Singapore or Australia’s own new regional art hotel, The Schaller Studio in Bendigo. 

Check out their opening specials, as well as a Kids Do Paris tour, in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Ski two days free at Mount Buller with a seven-night package
at Buller Central hotel. Get a seven-day lift pass for the price of five
days, daily breakfast and one dinner. Book by August 31, travel June
28-September 7. From $1405 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 019 130, see
studentflights.com.au.

Moorea Pearl Resort, French Polynesia

FRENCH POLYNESIA

Spend 10 nights in an overwater suite for under $5000.
Includes five nights in the Moorea Pearl Resort, five in the Tikehau
Pearl Beach Resort, two in Tahiti and international flights. Travel
November 1-December 10, January 10-March 31, 2015. From $4790 a person,
12 nights. Phone 1300 858 305, see airtahitinui.com.au.

Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio, Victoria, Australia

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Stay at Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio and save $55 with its
opening special, from $125 a night, until August 30. A Stay & See
package includes tickets to Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions and midday
checkout. From $195, August 2-November 9. Phone 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.

SINGAPORE
Check into the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured, and save
40 per cent with a Weekends@So offer, which includes a Saturday-night
stay in the 19th-century French-style rooms, Saturday champagne brunch
and Sunday all-day breakfast. From $515 until December 31.See sofitel.com.

Sofitel So Singapore

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Grab a friend and book a South American holiday with flights
and your friend flies free with LATAM, saving up to $2800. Tours include
the 20-day Highlights of South America, from Santiago to Lima, from
$8695 a person, twin share. Book by September 30. Phone 1300 196 420,
see travelmarvel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Book a two-night midweek stay at the four-star Pelican Waters
resort on the Sunshine Coast and pay half price until November 30.
Includes a free night and a round on a Greg Norman championship golf
course. From $310, quote PEL019. Phone 1800 213 422, see pelicanwatersgolfresortandspa.com.au.

Tourwatch: Life in the Himalayas

Experience mountain life in the Indian Himalayas with a
high-altitude stay in Ladakh. Base yourself in one of six traditional
village houses, renovated to rustic luxury, and walk between local
villages, visiting schools, markets and monasteries.

Raft on glacial rivers the Indus and Zanskar and lose
yourself in a landscape of snowy mountains and serene lakes until end
September. Includes meals, private chef, guides, tours and private car.
From $5670 a person, twin share, seven nights. See shaktihimalaya.com.

Kids do Paris

Let your kids see what all the fuss is about on Paris’ famous
Left Bank with a three-hour family walking tour. Run by a Parisian
mum, options include pastimes such as sailing toy boats and riding the
merry-go-round in le Jardin du Luxembourg and a visit to the national
history museum. Join your kids or leave them with the qualified guide.
$164 for kids seven-12 years (max five children on a tour) and adults,
$128 for kids three-seven years. Search code 3151_KIDSRIGHT on viator.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.    

Travel deals: New Zealand

Matakauri Lodge, New Zealand
GO NOW

NEW ZEALAND
Live well at the prestigious Matakauri Lodge, near
Queenstown, and get the third night free on stays until July 31. Get
cosy in a deluxe suite, with gourmet dinner and all lodge facilities,
not to mention the views. From $1895 a person, three nights, twin share.
matakaurilodge.com.


WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Stay three nights, pay for two at the dictionary definition
of “glamping”, Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef’s beachside eco-tents. Save $750 a
person on stays July 20-31, when the whale sharks are in town. Includes
meals and wilderness trips. From $1500 a person, twin share. 1300 790
561, wildbushluxury.com.

Trilogy Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

GO SOON
QUEENSLAND
Stay three nights, pay for two, saving $255 at the four-star
Trilogy Surfers Paradise. Deposit only $5 and pay the balance 28 days
before check-in. Stays in a self-catering, one-bed apartment cost from
$510, three nights, until October 19. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.
USA
Go after-hours into MOMA, backstage on Broadway or see the
Yankees on a six-night custom tour of New York. Book by June 30, get a
$215 voucher at 5th Avenue’s Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. Departs May
22 and August 28, 2015. From $4320 a person. (03) 9029 1193, see insiderexperience.com.

GO LATER
FINLAND
Save 5 per cent on 20 winter small-group journeys, including
the five-day family tour of Finnish Lapland to meet Santa, take a
reindeer sleigh ride and go ice-fishing. Book by June 30, travel
December 23. Save $160, from $3197 a person, quote BRTWEB5%. 1300 100
410, backroadstouring.com.au.
TASMANIA
Take a luxe three-day walk on historic Maria Island and save
$100 when you book and pay by June 30, for travel until April 2015.
Expect your bags to be carried, tents erected and wine poured for you.
Low season (September 20-October 30) from $999 a person. (02) 9913 8939,
lifesanadventure.com.au.

TALKING TURKEY
Feed your stomach and your soul on a gastronomic and
historic cruise through Turkey. Group size ranges from eight to 18
sailing a wooden gulet along the Carian coast visiting ancient sites,
foraging for wild food and hitting the markets. Learn to cook Turkish
in a family home and eat in traditional restaurants. Departs September
20, 2014 and May 23, 2015. From $3875 a person. petersommer.com.

KIDS
GO WILD IN MELBOURNE
Take the kids to see the wildlife in Melbourne this winter.
Ibis Melbourne has family-friendly deals for DreamWorks Animation: The
Exhibition in Federation Square and the Melbourne Zoo. The DreamWorks
offer includes accommodation, breakfast and two adult tickets to the
exhibition (kids 4-15 years, $10). From $183 a night, until October 5;
1300 656 565, accorhotels.com/melbexhibition.
The zoo offer includes accommodation, breakfast and two adult tickets
to the zoo. From $129 a night, until September 25; phone (03) 9666 0066,
see ibis.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.  

Bali’s newest club has ‘em screaming for more

The screams were ear-splitting, and they rang out through
the vast hotel lobby.
“I want to go back to kids’ club!” shrieked Mme Three, as we
attempted to check out of the hotel. Happily, the general manager was within
earshot (it wasn’t hard).  At least
someone was smiling in the room.
We were test-driving the brand new kids’ club in the
Sheraton Kuta, in southern Bali. Traditionally the bastion of Bintang t-shirts
and bad cornrow braids, the hotel has carved out a chic niche within the most
maligned of Australians’ tourist destinations.
I’m not a kids’ club pro: my experience is limited to Fijian
nannies for very young babies (excellent, especially for new mothers who
haven’t slept in five months) and private nannies in the countries we’ve
travelled together, including Vietnam (where, in Hanoi, I came back to the room
to find the entire housekeeping division dancing to the cartoon channel along
with an ecstatic baby) and Sri Lanka (my older driver and de facto nanny would
have his afternoon nap along with Yasmine while I interviewed hoteliers and
chefs).
The Sheraton’s kids club appears to have the lot, from a super-shallow
swimming pool and sandy beach and little playground at the front, separated by
the interior of the Play centre, with its computer terminals loaded with games,
books, babies’ wooden toys, farmhouse animal sets and the pinkest palace to
house all the Barbies. Upstairs, the playstation den is also a crash pad for
exhausted clubbers.
Mme Three played with happy little Indonesian and Chinese
children, united by a love of a pink world, pausing reluctantly only to eat
with her guilt-ridden mama (now sporting extremely beautiful orange nails). The
kids’ club is free to all guests (and anyone spending more than A$35 in the
hotel spa – clever marketing, eh?)
I always said I’d never do the big fun parks and razzed-up
amusement arcades, but I’m more than happy to become part of this club. Quite
frankly, both Mme Three and I were both upset to be leaving the hotel: I guess
we’ve just got to learn to say goodbye. 
Yep, I was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali. (62) (361) 846 5555, sheraton.com/balikuta.

Flying the world’s best economy airline to warmer climes

Balinese dancer. Photo:Belinda Jackson

That special moment when you find your laptop isn’t charged and the sound on your airline movie screen is stuffed. Yes, that moment. All hail technology and dodgy electrical plugs.

I knew it was going to be a weird one, long before even boarding, when the airport customs officer kept shouting, “No-one loses their temper in Melbourne Airport!” Obviously, he’d missed the three-year-old’s tantrum in the insanely long queue. 
So back to my spectacular techno-fail: how did I occupy myself on a six-hour flight to Denpasar? Why, I cleaned spilt foundation out of my handbag. I read up on the encouraging indications that Japan may just ban child pornography (anime and manga excluded). I learned that Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudyoyomo was ‘flattered’ that Our Tony called him a ‘senior statesman…a great president…a good friend’. And I contemplated the gentle fondling of my seat’s undercarriage by the socked toes of the tall Croat behind me. 
After asking the staff to reset the electronics of my movie system, I sipped my tepid tea and started thinking about the airline ratings group Skytrax awarding Garuda Indonesia its 2014 World’s Best Economy Class award.
Perhaps it was the cold tea. Perhaps it was that the first whiff of a teabag came three hours into the flight. Perhaps it was, despite being a 9am flight (which everyone knows means you got up at 5am, left at 6 to make 7am check-in) there was nought but some salted legumes to keep us occupied for the first half of the flight. 
Don’t get me wrong, I like Garuda, with all its challenges (this morning’s being 30 minutes to clear customs queues and a 25-minute wait on the tarmac to take off, Melbourne’s parting shot for those of us leaving its gloomy skies). It is what it is. It got me here safely, hopefully (if it doesn’t read this), it will get me back home safely. But world’s best economy seat? 
Come to think of it, if you are reading, Garuda, the reset didn’t fix seat 31A.

Travel deals: rock the lobster

Mandarin Oriental Taipei, Taiwan.

Soak up the seafood and sunshine in Perth, shop Seminyak or sip South Australia… there’s not much more alliteration left, so I’ll stop right here to leave you to read this week’s domestic and international travel deals. 

(Sorry, forgot to mention the fabulously chic baby-will-travel bag in this week’s kids’ feature – and not a tacky cartoon character in sight!)

GO NOW
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Blow the budget on rock lobster and WA wines when you stay
two nights at Perth’s 3.5-star Alderney on Hay executive apartments. The
“two-bedroom breakfast special” includes a breakfast hamper and DVD
hire in a two-bed apartment until June 28. From $370, two nights. See lastminute.com.au/deals.

BALI
Snap up great local fashions and hit the restaurants in
happening Seminyak with a stay-five, pay-four offer at the one, two or
three-bed villas of Villa Kubu, available until August 31. From $320 a
night. See villakubu.com.

GO SOON
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Shop for the cellar on a half-price day trip to the Barossa
Valley, then enjoy a room upgrade and late check-out when you stay two
nights at Adelaide’s refurbished Mantra Hindmarsh Square. Book by July
31, travel by October 31, quote “Mantra Winter Special”. From $149 a
night. Phone (08) 8412 3333, see mantra.com.au.

The Fairmont San Francisco, USA.

USA
Stay four nights, pay for three at The Fairmont San Francisco
and use your savings to snap up American labels on stays until
September 4. You’ll also get $108 hotel credit, breakfast, early
check-in, late check-out and a room upgrade. From $622 a night. See virtuoso.com.au.

GO LATER
VICTORIA
Set in the spectacular shopping hub of South Yarra, the new
Oaks Pinnacle’s opening “Winter Warmers” offer, with midday checkout,
costs from $139 for a one-bedroom apartment (normally $260 a night).
Minimum two-night stay until September 30. Phone 1300 660 223, see oakshotelsresorts.com.

TAIWAN
Shop Taipei for rare teas and hand-thrown ceramics during
your stay at the new Mandarin Oriental, Taipei. Its opening package,
“Stay for More” offers three nights for the price of two until September
7. From $677 for three nights. Phone 1800 123 693, see mandarinoriental.com.

Yuraygir National Park, NSW, Australia

TOURWATCH

Easy
on the soul
The beauty of isolated Yuraygir National Park, on
the Coffs coastline, is on display on a new coastal walk that links the
north-coast towns of Iluka and Coffs Harbour via paperbark swamps, clear
lagoons and wide stretches of beach. The walk, for up to 15 guests, includes
canoeing at Wooli, local oyster tasting and a walk around Muttonbird Island.
The six-day trip departs May 25, 2015. Costs $2195 a person. (03) 9530
8800, auswalk.com.au.

 

HAVE
HANDBAG, WILL TRAVEL
Travelling
stylishly doesn’t have to go (completely) out the window when you’re towing
babies along. The Budu Baby Bag packs a nappy bag into a chic leather hold-all,
hiding an insulated bottle holder, wipe-down change mat, key or nappy clip and
pram strap. There are zipped compartments for your passport and ebook. Later it
becomes a stylish woman-about-town bag. Designed and owned in Australia, $349.
See budu.com.au.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.