Weekend in Kosovo, off to the Olympics, secrets of the Big Apple: Takeoff travel news

Palenque ruins, Mexico

ADVENTURE

Into
the obscure
Fancy a weekend in Kosovo?  There are few corners of the globe that are
not comprehensively explored, but Intrepid Travel has revealed four new
destinations it says will sate the appetite of the most adventurous explorer.
The tours are the first wave of unusual locations in its new Expedition range,
which could see you uncover your inner Indiana Jones in a southern Mexican
jungle, hike in the Svaneti region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
get in the thick of the Rabaul Mask Festival in Papua New Guinea or sail the
ancient Lake Ohrid on a journey through Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. The 15-day journey
through the Balkan states costs from $1795 a person and departs September 5. See intrepidtravel.com/theme/expeditions.

GEAR
Crumpler off to
the Olympics
Melbourne luggage brand Crumpler is packing its bags for Rio and
joining our athletes as the official supplier of luggage to the 2016 Australian
Olympic Team. It will be kitting the team out with the Vis-à-Vis trunk
78 centimetre trunk, a hard-shell case bound by sturdy fabric belts and handle for easy,
secure hauling. Currently, the Vis-à-Vis range comes in a black shell, with red,
lime, black or clear handles. The Olympic colour range is yet to be revealed, and
will tie in with the team’s formal uniforms, designed for the seventh time by Sportscraft.
The competition and training uniforms, footwear and casual clothing will again
be designed by Adidas. Expect the big reveal around mid-2016. Crumpler’s
Vis-à-Vis range comes with a lifetime warranty, and the range also includes a 68-centimetre trunk, a 55-centimetre cabin bag and an
attaché case. The 78-centimetre trunk costs $545. See crumpler.com.au.

KIDS

Best seat in the
house
Intrepid families will love this simple bag, which is
designed to pack up your kid’s car seat and protect it when you’re on the move.
The bag is padded on all sides so you can include the car seat as checked-in luggage,
and is made from water-resistant fabric. It can also be worn as backpack for a
hassle-free, hands-free trek through the airport when you’ve run out of arms
pushing trolleys and reining in children. Great for those who prefer to
BYO car seat on driving holidays, the bag measures 45cm W x34cm H x45cm D. The
JL Childress Black Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag costs $69.95. See
thestorknest.com.au.
FOOD/TRAIN
Silver service, gold-rush route
The scenery is fabulous in the Canadian Rockies, but the food can
be great, too. The Rocky Mountaineer train network is adding 840 SilverLeaf
Service seats to its Rainforest to Gold Rush route, which journeys deep into
the Canadian Rockies. This train route deviates from the best-known Rockies
route from Vancouver to Toronto, and instead veers north to visit the ski mecca
of Whistler and Jasper via the gold-panning city of Quesnel. The SilverLeaf
class lets you dine in style, with local beers and wines from the British
Colombia’s Okanagan Valley. A two-day rail journey from Whistler to Jasper (or in reverse)
costs from $1865 a person. See rockymountaineer.com.
HOTEL
Northern newcomer
Brisbane’s CBD is currently enjoying a wave of new hotel
openings and the latest, Capri by Fraser, threw open its doors on April 1. The
Albert St property blends hotel and residence with 239 studios and one-bed apartments,
pool and gym as well as a restaurant bar and cafe by celebrity chef and paleo
poster boy, Pete Evans.  Expect design
touches including vertical garden walls and art installations as well as
ergonomic workspaces in the rooms. E-travellers can check-in by iPad and the
e-Concierge, while the rest of us will appreciate the 24-hour gym, in-room kitchenettes,
room service and laundry with Xbox Kinect. This is Fraser Hospitality’s fourth
Australian property, with Fraser Suites in Sydney and Perth and Fraser Place in
Melbourne. Capri by Fraser’s opening special costs from $179 a night, which
includes wi-fi and parking (Friday – Sunday nights) on stays until June 30.
Located at 80 Albert St, Brisbane. Phone 1800 110 800, see capribyfraser.com.
BOOK
Big Apple secrets
If you, like half the world, have a passionate affair with
Manhattan, tuck this modest book under your arm before you decamp to New York.
Its title is self-explanatory; Seeking
New York: the stories behind the historic architecture of Manhattan – One Building at a Time
. The book is based on the blog Daytonian in Manhattan, written by Tom Miller, a NY police inspector
originally from Daytonia, Ohio. His curious mind digs into the histories of 55 of
the borough’s buildings (there are many, many more on his blog), describing property
speculation in 1820s Canal Street, the impoverished Lower East Side at the turn
of the 20th century, great real estate coups and architectural
intricacies. There are grand triumphs and small stories: it’s also a history of
the people that made the city. “Never stop being a tourist, never stop looking
up,” says Miller. Costs $29.99. See allenandunwin.com.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

The real trip advisors reveal their tips for travel in 2015

Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.

So – what’s the next big thing? Travel experts
reveal their tips for the coming year.
With an
eye on the hip pocket, we’re looking at hometown holidays in 2015, say travel
industry’s chiefs. And while Asia is back on top as our favourite playground,
Myanmar continues its stellar orbit as the region’s shining star.
Gary Bartelings, Captain’s Choice
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
 An unsettled world and the weakening
Australian dollar.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Chichen Itza in Mexico, Rio, Easter Island, Tahiti, Angkor  Wat,
the Taj Mahal and the Serenas, well as the UK and Europe.
Fearless
prediction?
Keep
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
Simon Westcott, Luxe City Guides 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
change fast.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Fearless
prediction?

 Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
Alan Alcock, Wendy Wu Tours
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Japan, now great value for money, and India.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Sri Lanka, which is rapidly healing after its
terrible civil war, the idyllic Maldives, and Myanmar for quaint, rustic
antiquity.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The potential spread of terrorism to our region, health
issues such as Ebola and the value of the Australian dollar. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
 Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Fearless
prediction?

Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
Tom Walley, Flight Centre Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
London, for the Rugby World Cup! 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Airfares have never been more affordable and
unless the US dollar drops significantly, the only issue is choosing where to
go. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Whistler: snowboarding is my passion. We will thaw out on Hamilton
Island. Fearless prediction? Aussies are in a golden era of travel with more
accessible prices, services and routes. See flightcentre.com.au.
Sue Badyari, World Expeditions
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Hiking and biking Cambodia, trekking the Patagonia Ice Cap, Arctic
cruising to see the Northern Lights, Nepal’s Manaslu Circuit, walking Spain’s
Camino. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
Fearless
prediction for 2015?
The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
on value.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
Fearless
prediction?
Weekends
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
Caroline Kennedy, Cox & Kings Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Global safety issues and natural disasters.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Fearless
prediction?

Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
Anton Stanish, Stayz Holiday Accommodation
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
The Gold Coast, Darwin and fringe CBD; homeowners are realising the
viability of short-term rentals while travellers can immerse themselves in the
local neighbourhood.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
hot spot.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
Fearless
prediction?
Holiday
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
Karin Sheppard, InterContinental Hotels Group 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
beaches.   
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
On ‘staycation,’ exploring your own city. Sydney’s
Double Bay has new eateries, bars, shops and the new InterContinental Sydney
Double Bay. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Truly personalised and local experiences. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
Queenstown. 
Fearless
prediction?
More
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
Dave Boyte, Skyscanner
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Colombo, Sri Lanka is reinventing itself as a cool
foodie paradise. Flight searches to Bhutan are also on the rise.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.  
Fearless
prediction?

Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller.

Traveller deals: Tasmanian retreat

We all want to be in Venice, specifically at the Belmond, yes we do. Purse strings a little tight? Then lovely Launceston will do, for some winter warmth. Take the kids to Japan, take them to the Queensland islands in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW

TASMANIA
Get cosy this winter in the heartland of the cold season,
Tasmania. Originally a corn mill dating back to the 1840s, the recently
refurbished Launceston hotel is offering a hot price to counteract the
cold nights, until August 31. From $99 a night. (03) 6335 6600, leisureinnpennyroyal.com.au.

ITALY


Luxuriate at Venice’s Belmond Hotel Cipriani. Save 20 per cent on its
suites and junior suites, with private balconies or gardens, and
vineyard, lagoon or pool views. For stays until November 8. From $1194 a
night. 1800 217 568, belmond.com.

The Majestic Malacca, Malaysia

GO SOON
MALAYSIA
Explore the UNESCO-listed city of Malacca during a midweek
stay at the Peranakan-style mansion, The Majestic Malacca. Includes
dinner in-house or a spa treatment. Normally from $370, B&B. From
$210 a room, a night, Sunday-Thursday. +800 9899 9999, ytlhotels.com.

NEW SOUTH WALES
Live it up at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa in Byron Bay.
Stay one night and get hot chocolate on the verandah, a bottle of wine
when dining in-house, a room upgrade, yoga and bike hire. Costs $299 a
room until September 14. 1300 554 362, thebyronatbyron.com.au.

GO LATER
MEXICO
Rev your Mexican cuisine up a notch from tortillas and tacos,
then learn how to shop for the meals and cook them on a 13-day foodie
tour from Mexico City to Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido and Acapulco. Departs
October 25. Costs $2144 a person, twin share, land only, quote “AUZ14D”.
1300 439 756, exploreworldwide.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Explore the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest
and get a free night’s stay when you book three nights at the Hotel
Grand Chancellor Palm Cove. Book by July 31, travel until October 31.
From $150 a person, twin share. 138 833, sunloverholidays.com.au.

Mt Fuji, Japan

IMAGINATION WONDERLAND FOR KIDS
Let the kids indulge their wildest animation fantasies in
the imagination wonderland that is Japan. This 10-day family tour
includes two days at Tokyo Disneyland and a visit to the Universal
Studios theme park in Osaka. Then take it up a notch at the Ghibli
Museum, an animation studio in Tokyo; and explore scenic Hakone via
cable car, ropeway, boat or train; see Mount Fuji and take a dip in the
hot springs. From $2396 an adult, $1888 a child. 1300 365 355, travelindochina.com.au.


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

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.

Ultimate downers: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s most polluted city? Delhi, India.
Photo: Belinda Jackson.

Hi, travel stats lovers, as an addendum to the previous story on ultimate travel experiences, ‘Boasters with the Mostest, here’s five travel downers, from worst airline to most dangerous city.

1.      
Worst
airline
: Scat (Kazakhstan), Kam Air
(Afghanistan), Agni Air, Buddha Air and Tara Air (all Nepal) and Bluewing
Airlines (Suriname) (airlineratings.com)
2.      
Worst airport: Dilapidation and poor customer
service makes Manila airport the world’s worst, say travellers (sleepinginairports.net)
3.      
Most
polluted city
: New Delhi bounced Beijing down to second place as the most
polluted major city in 2013, says India’s Center for Science and Environment (cseindia.org)  
4.      
Most
expensive city
: Singapore has pushed Tokyo off the throne as the priciest
town. Sydney came in fifth, and Mumbai the cheapest in the 131 cities surveyed
by the Economic Intelligence Unit (eiu.com).
5.       Most dangerous city: San
Pedro Sula, Honduras, wins this award for the second year running, with 187
homicides per 100,000 capita in 2013, says Mexican thinktank the
CitizensCouncil for
Public
Security and Criminal Justice. 


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald 
and The Age newspapers.