I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Switch to island time: Escape to the South Pacific

Balmy nights, glo-bright beaches, lush greenery, and
welcoming people: the reasons for a South Pacific island holiday are as
clear as its aquamarine waters. Just follow our South Pacific island
travel guide for travelling like a pro.

The hotspots

While Fiji and Vanuatu are permanent favourites for Australian
holidaymakers, we’re now starting to discover upcoming stars, such as
the secretive Solomon Islands and PNG, while the Cook Islands and French
influences of New Caledonia are enjoying a renaissance. No matter if
you’re a diver, beachcomber or dedicated lounge lizard, it all boils
down to the beach. Kick start your island dreams at South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

Flying there

The main airlines linking the South Pacific include Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific,) Qantas, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia. Smaller national carriers such as PNG’s Air Niugini, Air Vanuatu , New Caledonia’s Air Calin and Solomon Airlines
hook Australia up to its nearest neighbours. Keep an eye out for sales
and you might snap up a flight from east-coast Australia to Nadi, Fiji
for around $650 return, and $250 return for kids under 12. During the
low season (November to May), $600 will get you to Noumea in New
Caledonia. Put skyscanner on your must-visit list, to compare flight prices and dates.

Cruising there

The South Pacific is our most popular cruise destination, with New
Caledonia’s Isle of Pines and Vanuatu’s Champagne Beach providing the
classic postcard backdrop to a South Pacific cruise. Choose your style:
from champagne luxury to party ships or the range of exploratory small
ships that are now discovering the hidden corners of thousands of
islands. P&O Cruises
offers wallet-friendly seven-night cruises departing Australia for New
Caledonia from $899, quad share in an interior room, which is always
cheapest, compared with $1999 a person for a suite. A good jumping-off
point for cruise comparisons is cruiseabout.

Getting around

What’s your tribe? The fly-and-flop brigade, who are content to be
spoilt poolside, or do you get out amongst the locals? The Pacific
islands each have their own special mode of transport: from PNG’s banana
boats that skip between its islands to Vanuatu’s little island-hopping
planes to the many live aboard boats that let you sleep on board,
stopping to visit a local village, get the snorkel on or take a dive. A
three-night cruise through Fiji’s Yasawa islands aboard Captain Cook Cruises
live aboard MV Reef Endeavour costs from $980 a person, twin share.
Island-hopping plane transfers are usually priced into packages. If
you’re booking them yourself, get in early as the small planes fill
quickly.

Staying there

Nothing kicks off romance like a glowing sunset over calm waters.
South Pacific island holidays have more than their fair share of
super-luxe hideaways. Fiji’s top resorts can command over $1000 a night
for a slice of private paradise. For some spectacular beach island
eye-candy, check out the all-inclusive, complete island hire at Dolphin Island and Wadigi Island, or the luxe resorts at Likuliku Lagoon and Matagi Island.

For flight-hotel packages from glam to fam, check out Creative Holidays
Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Cook Islands packages: you can pay
around $2000 a person for a week’s stay in the glam Raratonga Beach
Resort & Spa, with international flights, kids’ crèche and clubs,
daily cocktail parties and activities. Sleepy Samoa, as yet undeveloped
by the big international chains, offers good value, while going local in
a PNG village stay costs from $60 a night. Bookings.com and skyscanner.com yield unusual finds for those who prefer to wing it.

Hip pocket talk

As a rule of thumb, flight-and-hotel packages in the South Pacific
offer the best value, thanks to the big travel companies’ muscular
buying power. Check the fine print for meal packages, pay-seven,
stay-five deals and other bonuses. Kids under 12 can usually stay and
eat free when sharing with their parents, and many of the airlines offer
very reasonable kids’ air fares. Bargain hunters can slip into the
fringe of the wet, windy season to score a deal. Traditionally, the
South Pacific’s hot, rainy season runs from November to April, while May
to October is peak season, thanks to clear skies and lower humidity,
however climate change does throw a few curve balls.

Prices correct at time of publishing.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.


In the raw in Phuket, Tiger trims down, checking out the Flying Doctors: Takeoff travel news

FOOD
In the raw on Phuket
The luxury Sri Panwa hotel on Phuket’s southern coastline
has opened its newest dining option, an authentic Japanese restaurant called Baba
IKI. Order from the sake cocktail list and get up close and personal at the
sushi bar with head Chef Haru, who trained under Iron Chef Boontum Pakpo. Top
picks include the toro sashimi (premium tuna belly) and sake
sashimi (Norwegian salmon). Seating 60 people, Baba IKI has expansive views
over the Andaman Sea. This is the fourth restaurant at the hotel on Cape Panwa including
Baba Soul Food, which serves traditional southern Thai cuisine such as as Hell
Chicken and crab and coconut curry.  The
hotel has been named Thailand’s best resort and its Baba Nest rooftop bar one
of the world’s best beach bars. A night in the pool suite ocean view costs from $800. See sripanwa.com.

AIRLINE
Tiger trims
carry-on kilos
Low-cost airline TigerAir is dropping its free carry-on luggage
limits to 7kg a person on flights booked from March 17 for travel from April
17. Currently, passengers are allowed to bring two pieces of cabin luggage
weighing up to 10kg in total. The airline said the move will help prevent
over-filled overhead lockers and save time both on the plane and at check-in.
Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Rex Airlines have 7kg carry-on limits on their economy
domestic routes, while Qantas allows two bags of 7kg, totalling 14kg. TigerAir
passengers can buy an additional 5kg of carry-on luggage, bringing the total to
12kg, with its new Cabin+ product, which costs from $18 in advance or from $36
at check-in. See tigerair.com.

KIDS
Backyard explorers
Teach the kids a love of the great outdoors, stylishly, with
a night under canvas in the new Joey tent. Created by outdoor goods
manufacturer Homecamp, the sturdy Joey is made
from canvas, has a waterproof floor and is fire and mould resistant. Pitching
at just under a meter high and 1.4m wide, it fits in the backyard or pitch it beside
the family tent for a kids-only zone on holidays. The Joey weighs 8kg and will
sleep three little ones. So all you have to worry about now is dead torch
batteries and marshmallow overdoses. Costs $325. See homecamp.com.au. 
BOOK
Gallipoli No. 1 destination

Travellers wanting to visit the battle sites of
Gallipoli, Turkey, are being advised to avoid not only ANZAC Day, on April 25,
but also weekends until mid-June. Lonely Planet named the Gallipoli Peninsula
the world’s number one travel destination for 2015, and its new Turkey guide
advises that massive crowds are expected to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula
Historical National Park this year, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the
Gallipoli landing. Author James Bainbridge adds that weekends in September are
another peak time, when vacationing Turks visit the region. Lonely Planet
Turkey (14th Edition), $39.99.See lonelyplanet.com.


NEWS
Check-up at the Flying Doctor
The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill has opened
a new GP clinic beside its visitor centre, where travellers heading into
central Australia can seek medical advice and ensure they’re in fine form for
the road. The RFDS has visitor centres at Broken Hill, Longreach, Alice
Springs, Kalgoorlie and Dubbo, as well as Charleville, which also as a GP
clinic. Last year, its 63 aircraft flew more than 26 million kilometres caring
for 282,000 people, and says about a quarter of its emergency medical evacuations
are road warriors driving in the outback. Broken Hill is 935km from Sydney and
725km from Melbourne, and the last medical service until Alice Springs, so plug
the new Clive Bishop Medical Centre into your GPS: it’s at the RFDS Base on
Airport Rd, next to Broken Hill Airport, open 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday. The
Bruce Langford Visitor Centre lets you go behind the scenes and into the RFDS
airport hangar, open seven days. For medical appointments, call (08) 8080 3780.
To donate to the not-for-profit service, see flyingdoctor.org.au.
GEAR
Indigenous inspiration
Wear your country with pride with this fashion range
designed by indigenous artists. The Community Unity lifestyle bag is painted by
artist Robert Levi and measures 45×36.5cm. It’s made from polyester drill by indigenous
clothing brand Bundarra which designs, cuts and sews all its garments
here in Australia. Levi, who is from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, says
the bag’s design shows hope for indigenous unification. It’s one of several designs across Bundarra’s range, which includes fashion leggings and its new
singlets. Bags cost $39.95. See bundarra.org.



This weekly column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newpaper’s Traveller section.

Build the perfect family holiday: choose from these 6 LEGOLANDs (or do them all!)

If you’ve got kids, chances are you’ve also got
crates of Denmark’s most famous export, LEGO. In a classic case of
‘build it and they will come,’ this modest toy has built an empire. And
its theme parks are about to rake over the world. 

Empire building

LEGO is older than nearly all of its fans: the plastic brick was
invented in Billund, Denmark, in 1958. Fast-forward 56 years and there
are six LEGOLAND destinations across the globe: the Danish original, two
in the US, one in the quintessentially English town of Windsor,
Germany’s LEGOLAND Deutschland and the newest (and closest to Australia)
in Johor, Malaysia. The theme parks are designed for kids 2 to 12
years, and all have Duplo Gardens, with bigger bricks for smaller kids.

Try the original

Go back to where it all began. The first LEGOLAND opened in 1968,
just beside the first Lego factory. “My oldest boy wanted to go to
Lego’s heartland,” says Jacqui Davidson, who has taken her three active
boys, aged 12, nine and six, to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark, and
visited Malaysia’s LEGOLAND three times. “LEGO is more educational than
other theme parks,” she says. “The kids do building workshops, have
competitions and even robotics courses. It’s inspiring, and it’s not
just a boy thing.”

Eat, breathe and sleep LEGO

If too much LEGO is never enough, check the family into the LEGO
Hotel attached to your LEGOLAND destination of choice. The rooms have
either a pirate, kingdom or adventure theme.  “I would definitely
recommend LEGOLAND Billund Hotel,” says Jacqui. “There’s LEGO kitsch,
LEGO soap, LEGO shampoo, LEGO pillows, and the excellent, very
child-oriented buffet in the bistro.” The four-star Hotel LEGOLAND also
specialises in corporate teambuilding using LEGO (and let’s face it, if
you can’t team-build here, then where can you?!)

Water play

In Malaysia, Jacqui’s boys give the new Star Wars section a big
thumbs-up, while the grown-ups love Miniland (which reproduces Asia’s
top landmarks, such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the golden temples of
Burma, in Lego). “Be prepared with water and umbrellas for shade,” she
adds. The best thing is its waterpark, she says. “If you’re in Malaysia
for more than 24 hours, you’ll need a swim.” With balmy temps also the
norm in California and Florida, both of the US theme parks conveniently
have fabulously fun waterparks.

Enter the dragon

In comparison, Bernie Jackson took his three kids, aged 10, eight and
four, to visit LEGOLAND Deutschland over two rainy days, which kept the
crowds at bay. “The kids loved it. The park was manageable enough for
the older kids to explore by themselves, and there was plenty to keep
the four-year-old in awe. The biggest hit was Captain Nick’s Splash
Battle, and while our youngest was a late-adopter on the Dragon Coaster,
he rode it until the park closed.”

What’s next?

2014 saw the launch of the Lego Movie, featuring the voices of
Hollywood greats including Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, about an evil
tyrant’s plan to glue the LEGO universe together. There are also
another three LEGOLANDs in development, across Dubai, Japan and South
Korea.

But wait… There’s more!

Not even the 2015 Super Bowl could escape the Lego treatment. Enter the Brick Bowl
– the brainchild of British animation house A+C Studios. The
three-minute clip is a journey through nine of this year’s Super Bowl
ads edited together to make a story – and it took them an incredible 36
hours to create. Watch the video now and be amazed. Because everything is awesome.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.


Gone drovin’ and hanging loose: Takeoff travel news

ADVENTURE

Gone
drovin’

Turn your horse’s head to the west on a new droving experience in the
Riverina. There are just 20 places available on the new Long Paddock Cattle
Drive, which sees you droving a mob of cattle along one of Australia’s iconic
stock routes that’s still in use today. There’ll be plenty of big hats, billy
tea and bulldust, but there’s also a ready-made camp to return to each night
(with stretcher beds!) at Wanganella Creek Camp. Here, local Riverina produce is showcased at
each meal, hot showers and horse wranglers on hand to help each rider, from
beginners to seasoned hackers. The first two rides will take place from May 1-3
and May 8-10. Riders need to be 18 years and over, costs $2500 a person. See thelongpaddock.com.au/cattle-drive.


TECH
Taking care of
YourSelfie

Unfortunately for the anti-selfie-stick brigade, modern travel
is inextricably linked to technology, with split-second social media replacing
more genteel, though less timely postcards. Learn how to digitally unwind with
tech mistress Randi Zuckerberg and Celebrity Cruises. Zuckerberg is
editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, sister to Facebook inventor Mark, and the
social medium’s former  director of
market development and spokesperson. The year-long “Take Care of
YourSelfie” campaign helps travellers navigate the delicate tech-travel
balance, surely aided by cruise ships’ traditionally steep internet charges and
limited access. But stop envisaging a bunch of rabid geeks on bandwidth withdrawal:
unplug with spa and health treatments onboard Celebrity’s 11 ships at the
Canyon Ranch SpaClub, including the InstaGlow detox ritual, fACEial Time
facial, seaweed peat wrAPP and the Texitcure manicure. Phone 1800 754 500, see celebritycruises.com.au.

GEAR
Wear your Aussie
heart on your sleeve
Take a little piece of home on your travels abroad with
this chunky eco bracelet made from Tasmanian timbers such as huon pine, myrtle
and sassafras. The timber offcuts have been polished into beads and are offset
with Tagua seeds from South American rainforests, which are collected by women
in impoverished rural communities. The jewellery is available several
colourways, and each unique piece is made by Tamika Bannister of Spotted Quoll
studio in Launceston, Tasmania. Melbourne online retailer BitsOfAustralia ships
free within Australia for purchases over $30, and $15 internationally. Spotted
Quoll eco bracelets cost $45, eco necklaces also available, $55. See bitsofaustralia.com.au.

KIDS
Hang loose in
Sydney
The school holidays are over, but Taronga Zoo makes it
easy to escape into the wilderness with its new Wild Ropes adventure. The
treetop rope course crosses suspension bridges, zip lines and rope climbs.
Happily, the ropes don’t hang over lions’ dens: you’ll be dangling over
herbivores, either Australian native animals including kangaroos and koalas or
its wetlands aviary, during the 90-minute experience, with views to our own Sydney
Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Open seven days a week, Wild Ropes costs
$35/adults, $30 children 10-17 years (minimum 1.4m tall) or $69/$45 with
Taronga Zoo entry. See taronga.org.au/wildropes.
AIRLINE
Aussies step aboard
for Hong Kong
Two Australian natural skincare brands get a sky-high
promotion when they are included in Cathay Pacific and Dragonair’s new first
and business class amenity kits. Lucky first-class passengers can now slather
on Aesop hand cream and lip balm, presented in stackable cases also by Aesop,
while business class flyers will receive a perennial Asian favourite, South
Australia’s Jurlique, whose hand, lip and day care creams are packed in a case
by hip Hong Kong bag manufacturer Seventy Eight Percent. In May, the airline
will also reopen its premium airline lounge, The Pier in Hong Kong airport,
following a redesign by British design icon Ilse Crawford’s Studioilse. Word is
that instead of an open space, it will feel more like ‘a luxurious apartment’. Cathay
Pacific launches its Hong Kong-Zurich route on March 29 and Hong Kong-Boston on
May 2, and this month adds additional seats on its Sydney-Hong Kong route when
it deploys its larger Boeing 777-300ERs on the daily service. See
cathaypacific.com.
MUSIC
I’m with the band
The Australian Chamber Choir is hitting the road on its
fifth European tour, and this time, it’s asking its friends along. Yeah, you’re
with the band. Departing on June 25, you’ll enjoy the sights of Berlin,
Copenhagen, Hamburg and Sweden’s Ystad, as well as discovering the sights and sounds
of Europe’s medieval villages. There are
choir performances in 15th-century churches, Berlin’s Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial
Church and at Denmark’s Sorø International Music Festival, as well as traditional
sightseeing highlights such as a visit to Beethoven’s birthplace, in Bonn. The 15-day
tour stays in four-star hotels including a converted monastery in Bavaria, and
includes coach transport, guides, admission to all the concerts and a
(non-compulsory) ‘Friends Choir’, for those who want to sing along. The Friends
Tour of Europe 2015 costs $6950 a person, twin share, excluding flights. See
auschoir.org.

 

Takeoff travel news is edited by Belinda Jackson and published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper each week. 


Buffets, I’ve had a few…

Small fry: mashed duck potatoes at the Sheraton Bali Kuta

Buffets, I’ve had a few…

I know I shouldn’t start a blog post on a negative note, but… a pet hate of mine is people who will never try eating something new.

Especially when they’re on the road. Truly, I have morphed into my mum when I hear myself saying, “But how do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tasted it.”

Why, just today I found a list of what was sprawled across my breakfast table one bright, Balinese morning, in my recent past: admittedly I was sharing the table with a three-year-old (hence the donut, the Babybel cheese and the Vegemite).

Here’s a list of the table’s contents – it’s breakfast, remember:

Kankung (water spinach) with slices of roast duck and mushroom

I photographed it, but it may come as a surprise to learn
that I didn’t eat it. Strawberry cheesecake for breakfast? Really.

Vegemite and toast
A quail’s egg, boiled
One Babybel cheese
Pink yoghurt
Mango yoghurt
Eggs Benedict
A fruit plate
Cocoa Pops
A glass of tamarillo juice
A pot of Earl Grey tea
Churros (heavily sugared)
A flat white coffee
A chocolate donut.

What’s not to love? The hotel buffet: it’s a beautiful, dangerous beast. Where’s your favourite?


Luxe lodges, tennis scores and the magnificent Magna Carta: Takeoff travel news

Havana, Cuba, one of the New7Wonders Cities

A special congratulations to Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, who made it through to the Australian Open quarter finals last night! Read more about what he’s up to, below.

NEWS: Seven new wonders

Vigan, Doha, Havana: how many of the New7Wonders Cities
have you visited – or could hit on the world map? The New7Wonders project let
people vote on modern day wonders, from cities to natural features, to
determine our modern-day Pyramids.

The final list of top seven cities is Beirut
(Lebanon), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur
(Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia) and Vigan (Philippines).

“La Paz in Bolivia is the
highest capital city in the world (and) the city’s buildings cling to the sides
of the canyon and spill spectacularly downwards while Durban, South Africa’s
third largest city, has really come alive since its World Cup makeover in
2010,” says says Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World. “Cuba, stuck
in a colourful, colonial time-wrap, is a truly fascinating and incomparable
city,” she adds. “The list demonstrates how people are seeking out unique,
off-the-beaten track and largely untapped destinations.” See new7wonders.com, adventureworld.com.au.

KIDS: How to make lunchtimes cooler

Whether your kids are braving the frigid temps of the Antarctic
or the sultry climes of an African safari, these cute meal and lunch sets are
great comfort for those who like to travel with familiar friends. Armed with
your polar bear, team the melamine table setting (cup, bowl, plate and cutlery)
with the Lunchie, an insulated bag that keeps food just right – warm or cold –
with a water bottle on the side.

Made by New York based Skip Hop for kids on
the move, there are a range of animals from bugs to zebras, some with matching
backpacks.The Skip Hop Lunchie costs from $24.95, and Mealtime gift set costs from
$39.95, from David Jones. See davidjones.com.au.

TECH: Mapping the Magna Carta
This year is the 800th anniversary of King
John’s sealing of the Magna Carta, a peace treaty, statement of liberties and
the creation of the rule of law. Follow the story across England, from Salisbury
Cathedral to London’s British Library, Runnymede in Surrey and Lincoln Castle,
William the Conquerer’s stronghold where the Great Charter was signed.

Six new
self-guided trails create two- and three-day itineraries through English towns
and cities, tracing the document’s history and visiting the four original Magna
Cartas. See magnacartatrails.com,
visitengland.com.

FOOD: Italy for the Epicurious
There is more to Italian cooking than just lasagne
(although that’s an extremely good start). Let your guide show you on this
15-day tour of Italy, from Rome to Venice, with Tuscany, Modena and Assisi also
on the itinerary. The Country Roads & Vineyards of Italy tour
includes tasting Brunello di Montalcino with its makers, watching
Parmigiano-Reggiano being produced and finding yourself in vinyeards of Soave,
as well as Insight’s Signature Dining experiences. Feed your cultural soul with
a private tour of the Vatican, a gondola ride in Venice and a stay in the
Tuscan Villa San Paolo in San Gimignano. Costs from $5389
a person, twin share and departs September 2, 2015. Phone 1300 301 672, see insightvacations.com.
AIRLINE: Kyrgios in full flight
Canberra teenager Nick Kyrgios is best known as the tennis
player who thumped world number one Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year. The
19-year-old, who has a Greek father and Malaysian mother, is now the newest
ambassador for Malaysia Airlines. “While I was born and brought up in
Australia, I’m really proud of my family culture and very close to my Malaysian
family,” he says, adding he has flown with the airline since he was a boy.

The
airline has 81 direct flights to Malaysia from Australia and New Zealand, and
onward to 60 destinations including London and Paris via its A380. Kyrgios is
currently ranked 50th in the world and kicks off his first full year of tennis
at the opening of the Australian Open, in Melbourne, tomorrow. The Nick Kyrgios Summer Spectacular
airline deals will start on January 21. See
ausopen.com, malaysiaairlines.com.


LODGES: Luxury with a green edge

Get ready for a dose of lodge
lust: the National Geographic Society has created a global collection of 24 boutique
hotels that are dedicated to sustainability and luxury, and includes three of Australia’s
most unique properties.

The lodges range from Bhutan to British Columbia, and
include Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef and two resorts owned by
Baillie Lodges, Southern
Ocean Lodge on Kangaroo Island and the tented camp Longitude 131°, which faces
Uluru. 

Southern Ocean Lodge, South Australia

The properties were rigorously vetted for their
sustainable tourism practices prior to inclusion. “These lodges demonstrate
that sustainability and a world-class guest experience can go hand-in-hand,” says
Lynn Cutter of National Geographic. Guests booking a stay at either Baillie
property through National
Geographic Unique Lodges of the World will have
exclusive experiences including private dinners and cooking classes using
indigenous ingredients. See nationalgeographiclodges.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday. 


Alice eats England, camping kids, and learning to love London: Takeoff travel news

KIDS: Colourful cubby
Let your kids take their imagination on holiday beneath
this colorful range of teepees. Available in eight designs including Cowboys,
Montana and the multi-stripe, they are made from durable cotton canvas with a
window and tie-down door. The teepees are 155cm high and come with five metal
poles that are easy to assemble, even for the DIY-shy. Cost $99.95. See mocka.com.au.

FOOD: Alice eats England

There’s something deliciously simplistic about this new food
tour with Masterchef 2012 contestant Alice Zaslavsky: eat Stilton in Stilton,
Bakewell tarts in Bakewell, eels in Ely. The tour goes back to the heart of
rural Britain’s great food traditions, and includes lunch in The Orchard
Restaurant at HRH Prince Charles’ Highgrove estate. Even London yields,
offering British produce at Borough Markets and a Bengali dinner in Brick Lane.
There’s also cider in Somerset, pie and mash in Walthamstow and Melton Mowbray’s
famed pork pies, in between visits to Stonehenge, 16th-century
coaching inns and a light shop at Fortnum & Mason department store. The
tour runs on September 4-11, 2015 and costs $3999 a person, twin share, including
seven nights in four-star hotels. Excludes flights. Phone 1300 836 764, see mastercheftravel.com.
SAILING: Island
hopping made easy
Greek island hopping just got a whole lot simpler with
the introduction of the new Attica Pass from Eurail. The pass allows two
international ferry trips between Greece and Italy and four sailings within
Greece – including Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos – on the Superafast, Blue Star
and Anek lines. All travel must be started within six months of its purchase
date, and be completed within one month. The new pass will be available through
Melbourne-based International Rail from January 1, 2015 and must be bought in
Australia beforehand. The Attica Pass costs from $195. Phone 1300 387 245, see internationalrail.com.au.

BOOK: Hidden London

Discover hidden London, from tiny cafes to unique boutiques
with London local Saskia Graville. Graville, who writes for Traveller, pounded the pavements to bring us the London Style Guide. Forget the city’s
big guns, she’ll send to you to the upcoming contemporary art scene in the East
End’s Bethnal Green, the foodie haunts of Bermondsey  and tiny antique dealers cum tea gardens in the
A-listers’ Primrose Hill. The hand-picked list is complemented with the
favourite finds of a list of London lights, including interior designers, chefs,
boutique hotel owners and even tattoo artists – albeit, those who have
collaborated with Damien Hirst. Available from January 1, 2015. RRP $39.99
(hardback), see murdochbooks.com.au.
GEAR: Smart
It’s
time to face the fact that your
luggage may actually be smarter than you. The Bluesmart carry-on suitcase is
Bluetooth enabled, allowing you to track its progress via an iOs or Android
app. If you and your beloved bag are separated, it will lock automatically and
send you updates of its location. It also contains a battery charger
that will charge your smartphone up to six times, has built-in scales in the handle to prevent costly
surprises on check-in as well as waterproof zippers, four wheels and a padded
laptop compartment at the front of the suitcase for the quick security grab. If it sounds too good to be true, the suitcase, which is
being developed via crowdsourced funding, can be pre-ordered now, with expected
delivery of August 2015. Available in Graphite Black only. Expect to pay around
$300. See bluesmart.com/indiegogo.

TOUR: Tigers and other treasures

Travellers looking ahead of the pack should have
Bangladesh in their sights, says Peregrine Adventures, which is taking tours to
the country for the first time in 2015. 
“Bangladesh is about to be discovered,”
states Peregrine’s Ryan Turner. Highlights include spotting Bengal tigers Sundarbans National Park, negotiating the
18 million-strong population of Dhaka and exploring the recently discovered
mosques in the archeological site of Bara Bazar. 

The 12-day tour will
have four departures in 2015 and costs from $3090 a person.  See peregrineadventures.com/india.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Destination Christmas: Takeoff travel news

CHRISTMAS:Best-dressed
windows

See how the world does Christmas through the best
decorated windows throughout the festive season. Travel booker Cheapflights has
listed the 11 most beautiful windows around the world, including Myer in
Melbourne, which attracts more than 1.2 million noses pressed to the glass to
see this year’s 3D ‘Santa Clause and the Three Bears’ theme.

In London,
Selfridges goes back to the storytelling classics such as Pinocchio while the
2014 theme at New York icon Macy’s, which has been decorating its windows since
the 1870s, is ‘Santa’s Journey to the Stars’. Others on the best-dressed list
include topsy-turvy Galeries Lafayette in Paris and Smith & Caughey’s
pirate display  in Auckland. See cheapflights.com.au.

APP
Thinker’s pub crawl
Discover Sydney’s best waterfront pubs courtesy on a new
app written by intrepid tippler Rob Dunlop. “It’s a thinking man’s pub crawl by
ferry,” says Rob, who has personally tested all the watering holes. Thirst For
Sydney has five one-day itineraries that start and end at Circular Quay,
exploring the eastern waterfront, west of the bridge to Balmain and along the
North Shore. And it will also make you new friends, with a connect function
that lets you announce to other users that you’re in town and friendly, with a
private messaging system. There are 13 great drinking spots in the five
itineraries, and also a snapshot of the locale, including demographics and real
estate info (who doesn’t love to talk house prices?) Sydney is the bellwether
city, with more locations in the pipeline. Currently available for iOS only,
free. See thirstforsydney.com.

FOOD
World diner
Eat the world at the best hotel restaurants on the planet
– that’s the boast of the new, free iPad app Great Global Chefs. The trusty
stomachs of luxe hotel booker group Mr &Mrs Smith have dined in 950 hotels
throughout the world in search of the top 20 tables in their collection.
They’ve even coaxed recipes from the kitchens, and profiled the stars behind
the hotplates. While heavily weighted toward the Euro diner, Australia is amply
represented by David Thompson of Nahm, in Bangkok’s Metropolitan by Como hotel,
and Alla Wolf-Tasker from Lake House, in Daylesford, Victoria, amongst others. See
greatglobalchefs.com/app.

KIDS

Sight for sore eyes
There’s money to be made in sunglasses design, so get
your kids in early with this children’s My Design sunglasses kit. The kit
contains a pair of Wayfarer sunnies in either black or white and removable
decal sticker sheets for kids to decorate their frames to their heart’s
content. The white pack comes with leopard spots and hearts, the black features
pirates and space symbols. Unlike toy plastic glasses, the eyewear actually
shields children’s eyes from harmful UV rays, and are compliant with Australian
standards. The Frankie Ray My
Design Sunglass Kit is best for kids
aged 3 to 12 years.  Costs $39.95. See babyography.net.au.

GEAR
Get pumped for camping
Make summer camping a breeze, literally, with Black Wolf’s
new blow-up family tent. The tent is inflated in seconds with a high-speed air
pump, with air poles replacing tangled (or forgotten) tent poles. The new Turbo
Air Plus sleeps eight, with a main room and separate bedroom to the rear and
weighs 21kg. The tent will be on the market mid-January, but can be pre-ordered
now through Black Wolf stockists. Costs $1199. See blackwolf.com.au.   

AIRLINE

Hop up to Honolulu
Named one of the top destinations for 2015, it’s just
become easier to reach Hawaii, with Jetstar’s new direct flights between
Honolulu and Brisbane starting tomorrow. Fares start from $479 one-way, without
checked-in luggage. The service will operate three times a week in peak season,
dropping down to two off-peak. The airline will fly an Airbus A330 featuring
both business and economy class. From December 20, Qantas also adds an additional
service from Sydney to Honolulu, to four times a week, rising to five flights
weekly in school holidays and other peak periods. The airline has also upgraded
its aircraft to A330s on all flights, with return fares from $1256. Last week, Hawaiian
Airlines introduced its new A330s on its Brisbane-Honolulu route, upgrading to
A330s, which include an ‘Extra Comfort’ class between business and economy. The
service runs four times weekly, with a 64kg baggage allowance. Flight time is
approximately nine to 10 hours, the direct flights contributing to steep
increase of Australian visitors in the past four years. See gohawaii.com/au, qantas.com, jetstar.com
and hawaiianairlines.com.au.
Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

What to buy travellers for Christmas

5. Penguins in knitwear: could anything be cuter?
These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted
by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers
donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.

Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks
Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria.
$24.95 each, penguins.org.au

Nomads may not have any halls to deck, but don’t leave your
travelling kin out in the cold this Christmas. Gift vouchers may get a
frosty reception, and sables slipped under the tree are impossible to
pack. But on-the-go power banks for smartphones are a plum prize, as is
the classic gap-year present, the Swiss Army knife – with a seasonal
twist.

Give a gift that will remind wild rovers of home, or something to
lug it all in, who after all, doesn’t love a great bag? Whether your
intention is to tame wanderlust or gear up for an adventure, there are
gifts for glampers and trampers, lounge lizards and wildlife warriors,
for bachelors and babes. These cracking gift ideas are sure to have the
traveller in your life jingling on their way.  

1. Slice
your stollen or carve up the Kris Kringle with the new,
oh-so-Christmassy, Swiss Classic Army Knife, the “Lollipop”. At 58mm,
it’ll fit on a keyring and includes a screwdriver, tweezers, toothpick
and blade. $35.95, victorinox.ch.

2.
Wear your world with an Atlas pages infinity necklace by
Melbourne-based artist Catrine Berlatier. The necklace is made from used
pages of old atlases, intricately woven and folded into beautiful
forms. The jewellery ranges from 63cm to 149cm. From $365, egetal.com.au.

3. The vivid illustrations of the animal kingdom among the ruins of Angkor Wat is the setting for The Last King of Angkor Wat, the new children’s book by Graeme Base, the author of Anamalia, which has sold more than three million copies since its publication in 1986. $26.99, penguin.com.au

8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au
8. Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the
coolest in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle
range weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au  

4.
Nothing says Sydney more definitively than our own Harbour Bridge, aka
The Coathanger. So give the quintessential Sydney gift with this
Coathanger coathanger. $4.95 each, bitsofaustralia.com.au.

5.
Penguins in knitwear – could anything be cuter? These little 23cm
penguins have been hand-knitted by volunteers across the world from
excess jumpers donated to help clean penguins up following oil spills.
Proceeds go to the Phillip Island Nature Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre, in Victoria. $24.95 each, penguins.org.au

13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher's range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.
13. Trust Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel
publisher’s range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway
water bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use.
Available in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95,
travelgoods.com.  

6. Keep light-fingered cyber thieves at bay with this new card
holder: the low-tech look hides a shield that blocks transmission of
data from your credit and identity cards. Comes in classic cowhide with a
money clip, featuring a blue or red strip. $39.95, zoomlite.com.au.

7.
As the tagline says, the only bug you’ll worry about is the travel bug
when this mosquito repellent band is near. Worn on your wrist or even
hung from a bag, the Para’kito is a refillable band with a pellet of
blend of essential oils that is effective for 15 days, safe even for
babies and mums-to-be. $24.95 (includes two pellets), au.parakito.com.

8.
Glamping starts with the tent, and the new Lotus Pearl is the coolest
in the campsite. The new two-person version of the Lotus Belle range
weighs 8.5kg, packs into a little carry bag, and is breathable and
waterproof, not to mention achingly chic. $450, lotusbelle.com.au

Magellan eXplorist GPS.
Magellan eXplorist GPS. 

9. Bundle your skincare essentials into one neat bag with the
Jojoba Company Travel Essentials Pack. Includes a 15ml jojoba oil and
20mls each of cleanser and creams for day, night and hands. You won’t be
packing any artificial perfumes, parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate or
mineral oils, or anything tested on animals. $24.95, thejojobacompany.com.au.

10.
Urbane urbanites know Melbourne brand Crumpler means innovative kit:
the Vis-a-Vis cabin bag, now in look-at-me green, has a sturdy,
lightweight shell that zips up and is reinforced by wraparound fabric
handles, for the quick grab. It includes a built-in TSA lock and a
clothes compression system that keeps your gear where you packed it.
55cm cabin bag, $445, crumpler.com.

11.
Never again get caught in an airport with a flat phone and the wrong
power adaptor. The Eves Power Bank charges smartphones and tablets
quickly and without mains power. Available in lime green or pearl white
and weighing 80g, it even works on products not emblazoned with an
apple. $54.95, navycrockett.com.au.

14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.
14. Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by
brother-sister team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear.
The Serengeti Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15
range, is available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au. 

12. Celebrate the season with your little dears, wrapped in a
Cuddledeer toddler towel. Made by British brand Cuddledry, they are a
pesticide-free, cotton-bamboo blend, which means they’re extremely
absorbent and quick drying.  Super festive, their decorations include a
spotty back, antlers and a red nose. $89.95, thestorknest.com.au.

13. Trust
Lonely Planet, trust their travel products. The travel publisher’s
range of gear includes locks, bags and these handy foldaway water
bottles that pack down neatly in your luggage when not in use. Available
in lime (pictured), cool teal and blue. $9.95, travelgoods.com.

14.
Move over, big sister. Ginja swimwear is designed by brother-sister
team Tammy and Dax Bykerk, who also design Baku swimwear. The Serengeti
Lace-Up Plunge Maillot, from the Spring-Summer 2014/15 range, is
available in sizes 6 to 16. $149.95, ginjaswimwear.com.au.

17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au.
17. Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small
start-up Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon,
decorated with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the
developing world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes
hidden pockets for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at
the back. $89.95, rushfaster.com.au. 

15. Channel your inner Hansel & Gretel and leave “digital
breadcrumbs” when you’re in the woods, with the hand-held Magellan
eXplorist 610 walking GPS. It includes a camera, compass, topographical
maps with features such as campgrounds, and lets you record your journey
en route, so you can always find your way home, even without a GPS
signal. $479, magellangps.com.au.

16.
If you can’t get to New Caledonia, or have fond memories of a visit,
keep the love going with these bathers by Australian designers We Are
Handsome, who were inspired by the island nation’s blue lagoons and
tropical greenery.  One-piece, $225, string bikini, $165, wearehandsome.com.

17.
Travel beautifully with this cyclo travel sling from small start-up
Ethnotek. Their black base bags are water-resistant nylon, decorated
with a removable panel handwoven by local artists across the developing
world. The Cyclo Travel Sling Bag, Indonesia 6, includes hidden pockets
for phones and glasses and a secure passport pocket at the back. $89.95,
rushfaster.com.au.

23. It's time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips' Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the travelling girl's best friend. Don't pack the iron. Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.
23. It’s time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally
Phillips’ Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the
Montenegro print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way
stretch silk, the travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron.
Also available in black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.  

18. Team your resort wear with these Devonshire sunglasses
from British designer Paul Smith. Fresh from his new Resort 2015
lookbook, there’s a vintage take on the frames, which come in five
colourways including the Stripe + Brown, also available as an optical
frame. $300, 1800 034 217.

19. When work catches you
without a desk, the Logitech Keys-to-Go portable keyboard packs light,
at just 180g, and will wear coffee or sunscreen with ease. Compatible
with all iPads and iPhones, tuck it into your pocket and go. Available
in black, red and bright teal, it measures 242mm x137mm x 6mm. $79.95, Logitech.com.

20.
Waterbabies, alert! LifeProof nuud cases turn iPhones and Samsung
Galaxy handsets into an underwater video camera, without bulky housing,
letting you use the touch screen as usual. Bonus points for being shock,
snow and dirt-proof to US military standards. iPhone 6 and 6+ nuud
cases coming soon. From $79.95, lifeproof.com.

25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.
25. If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.  

21. Celebrating Christmas far from home? Bring the scent of
the season with you with this new, limited-edition Christmas candle by
Palm Beach Collection. Infused with citrus peel and cedar, the soy-based
wax candle will transport you back to the homeland in a flicker,
offering 80 hours free from homesickness. $41.95, palmbeachcollection.com.au.

22.
Sneak away with this sweet overnighter from Mrs Darcy. With a cotton
outer and gold zip, it’s 57cm long and the shoulder strap lets you
travel with gay abandon. Love the print? Team with matching robe and
slippers. Indigo blues overnight bag, $109.95, adaanddarcy.com.au.

23. It’s
time to head north to the sun, with Adelaide designer Sally Phillips’
Elm dress in the bag. Pictured in Turkish Sea colour, the Montenegro
print dress has a v-neck and ¾-sleeves and is two-way stretch silk, the
travelling girl’s best friend. Don’t pack the iron. Also available in
black. $449, sallyphillips.com.au.

Panamas are on a roll.
Panamas are on a roll. 

24. Nothing says “holiday” better than a jaunty Panama hat,
and this rollable version, made from the hat’s traditional fibre,
Ecuadorean Toquilla leaves, bounces back into shape no matter how many
old-school guidebooks have been placed on top of it. Available in M, L
and XL, $129, betterbrands.com.au.

25.
If you plan to follow the sun this Christmas, the Solarmonkey
Adventurer will become your new best friend. The solar charger works
with phones and tablets, games consoles and sat-navs, cameras and even
head torches. The charger holds two to three full phone charges. Hang it
from your backpack to recharge on the go, or cheat and plug it into the
wall. $149.95, paddypallin.com.au.


Holiday at home in Sydney: travel news

HOTEL
Holiday at home
Staycations – holidays in your home town – are the thing to do right now. Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel in The Rocks is rolling out its new
premium hotel rooms and club lounge following an $8 million makeover. The
largest of the 90 Horizon Club rooms and suites is the two-bedroom,
242-square-meter royal suite, which includes butler and grand piano, from $4895
a night. Those staying in the Horizon rooms should make tracks to the Horizon Club Lounge,
opening December 8. The four-storey atrium looks out to our best-loved icons; the
harbour, the Bridge and the Opera House. Horizon club rooms start from $400 a night, which includes private
check-in, breakfast, afternoon tea, canapés and cocktails. If you’re not
checking in, head up to the Blu Bar on level 36 for the best water views in town.
Se shangri-la.com.
TECH
Get-around sound
Pack the party in your pocket with the MiniJamBox from US
wearable technology company Jawbone. Using Bluetooth, pair the petite speaker and
speakerphone with any phone, laptop iPod or tablet in a 10-meter radius,
without cumbersome cables. 
No Bluetooth? Hook up with a simple headphone jack.
A full charge takes 2.5 hours, but then gives you up to 10 hours’ sound, be it
your favourite playlist, movies or phone calls. Weighing in at a lightweight 255g
and 25x15cm, the MiniJamBox travels lightly and comes in nine colours, with
five different designs pressed into the aluminum shell and is compatible with both
Android and iOS platforms. The Mini Jambox costs $179.95. See jawbone.com.
GEAR
Well knotted in
Istanbul style
Canny travellers know that scarves are the easiest way to
transform your travel wardrobe from drab to fab, and the new scarf from the St
Regis hotel group is fabulous, indeed. Designed by Michelle Obama’s go-to
man, the Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu, this limited edition collection
is inspired by Istanbul, now the hottest city on the planet. The 100 per
cent silk scarf comes in three colourways, blue, beige and Wu’s signature grey.
The scarf has been released just ahead of the opening of the new St Regis
Istanbul in February 2015, an 118-room hotel is set in Nişantaşi, with views
over the Bosphorus. The Grand Tourista Scarf costs US$195. See stregis.com/boutique
or jasonwustudio.com.
The Royal Opera House at night ©Stephen McLaren
COMPETITION
Live London large
Do London in style with afternoon tea at Lord’s Cricket
Ground with butler Carson from Downton Abbey (but you can call him Jim
Carter), a backstage tour of the Royal Opera House with ballerina Darcey
Bussell, a wander through the Science Museum with Professor
Stephen Hawking or Michelin-starred meal by chef Jason Atherton at happening
Pollen Street Social. London is searching the world for a Guest of Honour to
share these experiences with celebrity guides. Hurry, you’ve
got until December 9 to enter the search for London’s Official Guest of Honour.
See visitlondon.com/guest.
CRUISE
Easy festive time
If this
Christmas is already a write-off, start planning a serene escape for 2015 with
a Christmas river cruise through Europe’s most festive towns. APT’s new
brochure offers winter sailings in Canada and Europe, including a 10-day Christmas Time Cruise
from Prague to Budapest. The itinerary includes the world’s
largest Christmas market in Nuremberg, the Old Kornmarkt Christmas market in
medieval Regensburg and Vienna, which is not shy of a bauble or two. There are
five departures in November, when the Christmas markets are already up and
running, and eight in December. Book cruises departing December 17 or December
21 if planning to spend Christmas Day on the ship. The fleet will include the
new AmaSonata, launched this year, and its sister ship the AmaPrima, launched
in 2013. The 10-day cruise costs from $4545 a person, twin share, includes two
nights in Prague and eight days on board. 
Call 1300
196 420, see aptouring.com.au.  

 

KIDS
Little Luggage
Your
kids will be the smartest travellers in the land with these hard-shell
luggage sets. The lightweight wheeled suitcase has elastic straps inside
to hold gear and a zip pouch for games and books and measures 41cm x
29cm. The hard-shell backpack has adjustable straps and a divider, and
stacks onto the suitcase to be wheeled together. And if your travelling
tot tires, the suitcase handle extends to adult height – lucky you!
Designed in Australia, there are 12 themes including the dinosaur and
newest release, the ballerina. The two-piece set costs $129.95. Call
1300 746 722, see bobbleart.com.au

 

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

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