5 Countries I Want To Visit

Meguro River, Matsuno, Japan

In my life, I have been very lucky to be able to visit some of the countries and cities that I have visited. Many of the destinations that I have visited have been by choice, but some of have also been by a fortunate chance of circumstances.

Even though I have had the chance to visit 35 countries there are still plenty of other places that I would love to explore. But out of these places, there are five that particularly stand out to me.

In no particular order, they are Japan, Norway, Finland, Luxembourg and Mauritius. Let’s take a look at why these are particularly of interest to me.

1. Japan

Meguro River, Matsuno, Japan
Meguro River, Matsuno, Japan – Photo: Sora Sagano

Japan is one place that I am surprised I have not visited to date. Before I ever travelled overseas Japan was a place that I wanted to visit. There were a number of things that had got the idea in me including scenes like the one above.

If it was the right time of year the Cherry Blossoms would be great to see. But also I would like to visit areas like Mount Fuji and the more countryside areas. I think I would also like to experience some of the local culture and food as well.


Hamnøy, Norway
Hamnøy, Norway – Photo: Yuriy Garnaev

The one thing that really attracts me to Norway is scenes like the one above. When I visit Norway I think it will be by two of three ways that I will see the country. The first is some time on land exploring some of the small towns and villages. Then I would like to travel the coast either by cruise ship or coastal ferry. The biggest challenge would be trying to establish just where I would travel and what I would see.


Matkaniva, Finland
Matkaniva, Finland – Photo: Jukka Heinovirta

Honestly, I am not sure if my reasons to want to visit Finland are that much different to Norway. Although I do not believe that they share the same sort of coastal profile. The natural landscape would be a big part of what I want to explore.


Luxembourg – Photo: Jean Carlo Emer

Luxembourg is another one on the list in a similar way to Japan. When I was planning my trip to Europe it was one place that I kept trying to fit into my plans. However, due to the timing of when my cruise arrived and when my friend would be available to visit in Brussels, it just did not work.

I think that one of my main attractions to Luxembourg is similar to other areas of Europe. It is that old world charm exploring places that have been in many ways similar to what they are for centuries.


Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, Black River, Mauritius
Paradis Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, Black River, Mauritius – Photo: Xavier Coiffic

Mauritius was featured in a book that I recently read, and the way that is was described sounded beautiful. I do quite enjoy visiting smaller islands and had a chance to see some of the islands in the Pacific Ocean. I just love the tranquillity that comes with some island nations and would like to see if it is like that here.

Where Would You Go?

What are the places that you would like to visit? Do you have a list or have you managed to check many of them off yet? Why not leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

Feature Travel Tips

Keeping Cash Safe When Travelling

Keeping cash safe when travelling

A big part of travel is the experiences that we have along the journey. Some of those experience we cannot wait to be a part of, while some others we would definitely prefer to avoid. One experience that is better avoid is being robbed of your cash while travelling.

Unfortunately, there are times that theft is unavoidable. However, there are some steps that you can take to help minimise the chances of theft happening to you and spoiling your holiday. It comes down to having a back-up plan if the worst happens and trying to minimise the impact of any theft.

Please note that the information provided below is based on my own personal observations and experience. You are entirely responsible for making your own decisions about your own valuables.

Prepare A Backup Plan

How you plan for theft is going to be different for everyone. But there are a few different options that you can plan in advance as a back-up. To some degree is going to depend on which country you normally live in and what options are available to you. But the most important aspect is to have a plan in place, even if nothing does happen. At least you have a plan in place.

I will go into how you can minimise your losses if you are a victim of theft in a moment. However, first I will give you a few ideas on how to recover from theft

  1. Organise with one or more family members a way for them to get money for you if the worst should happen.
  2. Purchase a travel money card that you can preload with money, which you will keep in a separate location to other valuable.
  3. Have a travel money card available that you can transfer additional funds from your bank account.
  4. If you have multiple credit cards or travel money cards, keep them in separate locations in your bags, to minimise your potential loss.

Carrying Cash

When you are travelling there are two different ways you need to prepare for carrying cash. There are the days that you are in transit when you are carrying everything with you. Alongside the days that you are exploring a city where you might be carrying a minimal amount of stuff with you. Each of these days needs a different place for how to carry and store any cash that you are travelling with.

Cash on Travel Days

The days when you are in transit between cities or countries will see you needing to carry all of your cash with you. These are the times that you are most at risk of losing your cash if something should happen. Mostly because it is all kept in one place.

When I am travelling I do my best to split the money up between bags and locations that are on my person. I do this to try and limit the chance of one bag being lost or stolen and losing all of my money. Depending on the amount of money you are carrying there are a number of ways you can split it up.

  1. I usually keep a small amount of money in a wallet in my pocket. Maybe $20-$50 at most.
  2. I also have a small wallet that attached to my belt by a belt loop. I keep another $50 + credit card/money card in this. Mine is different but similar to this one on Amazon. (affiliate link, I may receive a commission if you make a purchase)
  3. If I have any additional money to what I have in these two places I split it between other bags I will be personally carrying at all times. I do my best to conceal this money in these bags and place a small lock on them as I can, which is more for a deterrent than an actual way to stop theft.
  4. I may at times place a small amount of cash into my checked luggage, as a final fall back, but never very much.

Another thing to keep in mind is to also keep any credit cards and cash cards in multiple locations like your cash.

Cash on City Days

How you store and carry your cash around when exploring a city should be different to when you are travelling. Carrying all of the cash with you around each day should be a last resort.

When I am exploring a city I carry not more than double what I would expect to spend. Which often is less than $50, but I do also carry either a credit card or travel money card as a backup. I often will generally carry some cash and a travel money card in my wallet, and the same belt pouch as mentioned above inside the waistband of my shorts.

The first option for storing additional cash and cards is a safe in the hotel room. While these are far from the most secure option they are definitely a step above carrying it around with you in your bag or pocket.

My personal preference though is to see if the hotel has a safety deposit box available. These generally offer dual key access, where you get given a key and the hotel has the second key. Both keys are required to open the box and seem to be a little more secure. One thing to keep in mind is that some hotels might ask for a refundable security deposit for the key. Additionally, if you lose the key you will also be up for the cost of a locksmith to open the lock and replace it and the key.

Finally, you might like to keep a small amount of money as a back in a zippered pocket in your shorts or potentially even in your shoe. Just keep in mind what your plans are for the day, especially if they involve an activity like swimming where you might take your shoes off. Which can be another good point if you are heading for the beach, always ensure someone is watching your belongings. It doesn’t help much to keep everything split up if everything gets stolen.

Start By Knowing The Risks

The best way to avoid any issues is to know what issues may present themselves. Which can be seconded by having a plan in place should the worst happen. I hope that the above information is helpful and makes you think through the way you carry and store cash when you are travelling. Ideally it would be nice if you do make the effort to be prepared but in fact, never need any of it.


The Extra Costs of Cruising

The Extra Costs of Cruising

If you are looking for a holiday that includes the essentials for your holiday a cruise can be a great option. When you book a cruise you do get a fixed price for your transport between ports, accommodation and food. For many travellers, this might be enough to get you through your holiday.

But it likely won’t take long for you to realise that there is a nearly endless list of added extra’s available. To some degree, this will depend on the cruise line that you choose to travel with. But there are very few if any that are truly 100% all-inclusive. Just remember though if you are not paying for it later you did pay for it in your initial cruise fare.

The Extra Costs of Cruising

When it comes to cruising I am a rather frugal traveller, but on most cruises have ended up with extra’s between $500-$4,000. Depending on the cruise this has included, drinks, tours, massage, hair cut, laundry, internet, speciality dining, photography, fitness classes and more.

Let’s take a look at just what some of the expenses might be. While I am trying to give a comprehensive list, there are little differences in almost every cruise line. Likewise, prices could also vary from what I mention below, some are from my personal experience and others from my research. But with so many different ships and cruise lines, it can be difficult to cover all bases. As such the below is just an indication and it might be wise to check with the cruise line you are travelling if you want to know before you go.

Getting A Drink

The first thing many people will come up against is getting a drink. Depending on the cruise line you are likely going to be very limited on what you will get for free. Table water in the dining areas may be the extent of what you don’t pay for. Although there are a few lines that do offer something like Iced Tea as an option and fruit juice at breakfast time.

I would be prepared with the knowledge that you will likely pay for anything beyond a glass of water. That even includes bottled water and soft drink. Prices for the basics can include

  • Bottled Water can range from $2.50 – $7.00 a bottle.
  • Soft Drinks or sodas can range from $2.00 – $3.00 each.

Another drink that can catch you out might be tea and coffee. There may be tea and coffee available at meals, although I have seen reports of some lines charging for this even. But if there is a cafe onboard you will likely pay for the speciality tea and coffee they offer.

  • Depending on your favourite coffee expect to pay between $2.00 and $4.50

One range of drinks that might not surprise you as an out of pocket is alcohol. When you get to the bar the beverage list is rather extensive with beers, wines and spirits from all over the world. The pricing can vary widely and very much depends on your tastes in some respects.

  • Beer might see you spending from $7.00 up depending on your favourite brand.

When it comes to wine there are a few options to consider. You, of course, can purchase by the glass, but just like in a restaurant at home this is going to be the most expensive option. There is also wine by the bottle and often multi-bottle packages. Just keep in mind that many of the offers have higher prices to allow for good loyalty program discounts.

  • Wine by the glass can start around $5.00 and go up from there depending on your taste.
  • Wine by the bottle can start around $15-$20 and go up from there.

You might find that cocktails have a somewhat standard price around the ship. When it comes to spirits that is a whole other game. Depending on the ship and cruise line I have seen them from $6 right through to hundreds of dollars for one drink. But again this is because of such a large and extensive list of everything from the basics to the top top shelf stuff.

One other thing to keep in mind with your drinks is that there is often a service charge of 15% added. So that $10 cocktail will cost you $11.50. Do a little research on your cruise line first just to be sure you don’t get a surprise.

Speciality Dining

Going hungry while on board is something that you might not need to worry about. But depending on the ship your choice can vary in where you dine. Most ships will offer a couple of free options from the main dining room to a buffet and maybe a pizzeria or a more relaxed quick stop for food.

But like many other things you can find your way to some more high end and in some cases interesting dining experience for a little money. Some start out at low as $10 per person, while some special wine pairing dinner events can see you getting closer to $100 per person or more.

Laundry & Dry Cleaning

The need to do laundry or dry cleaning while you are onboard a cruise will depend on two factors. How long your cruise is and how many changes of clothes you pack.

There are a few ships that do offer a laundry facility that you can use just like a laundromat. But there are more ships that do not offer this facility, and if you want something cleaned it will cost you. Some of the costs could be.

  • Dry Cleaning can range between $8.00 and $20.00+ depending on what it is.
  • Laundry services on a per-item basis may be available.
  • Some ships do offer a laundry bag option, with a fixed price for what you can fit in.
  • Some loyalty programs do offer some or all laundry free, but often require being in the higher tiers.


If you have been on a cruise before you are likely very aware of the photographers that float around the ship. They often set up for boarding the ship, when arriving in ports, on formal nights and other special times in the voyage to photograph passengers.

While some people do find them to be rather annoying, it can also be a great opportunity to get a professional photo of yourself. The images are generally available as individual images or they will offer a range of packages to get a small number of photos or every photo from the cruise.

Even though I carry a camera everywhere I rarely if ever get a photo of me. So one cruise I decided to buy the package of all photos and end up with over 100 professional photos at the end. That was because I took every opportunity to get in front of their cameras. The key is if you order the package make use of it and don’t pay top dollar for a few shots.

Personal Training & Fitness Classes

In one way or another, almost every cruise ship is equipped with a gym. While the regular equipment is generally free to use there are plenty of other options where an extra cost may occur.

There is often the availability of a personal trainer, a range of fitness group classes and often an additional upsell service. The additional upsell is often promoted as a come and get this free check. Only the result is that they will be trying to sell something afterwards.

Often these extra costs are not going to be greatly worth it unless you are ensuring that you continue a practice. You are generally going to gain little benefit if you are trying to start a practice in the short time you are onboard.


Accessing the internet is one of the more common things that you will potentially end up paying for. It can be difficult not to want to email or connect with friends and family while you are away.

The cost does vary significantly between different cruise lines and depending on how much time you purchase. It also might depend on what level you are in the cruise lines loyalty program as you might be able to get some free internet time.

Also, it is worth taking a look at how internet access is charged. Depending on the cruise line you might be paying per minute, for how much you download or purely based on how many nights your cruise is. Along with some lines segregating differently priced packages depending on what you will be able to access.

Internet access is one of the things you might want to look into before boarding. Some if not many of the cruise lines may offer discounts for pre-purchase. But also double check once onboard that you did not overpay. On my last cruise, I pre-purchased thinking it was a good idea only to find out that a USD to AUD price conversion had been done online and I paid more than if I purchased onboard. I questioned this with the front desk and the difference in price was applied as a credit to my onboard account.

Phone Calls

Making a call home is generally available from all ships along with international roaming on your mobile phone while onboard. However, this could potentially be one of the most expensive phone calls you make. So just make sure that you are fully aware of the price of the call before picking up and dialling. In my experience there is usually a card with the rates listed, but if not check with the front desk.

Hair Cut & styling

Getting your hair cut or styled is something that is available on many ships. I have even ventured for a hair cut once while onboard one of my longer cruises. I had also been travelling for a month before boarding so it was getting a little unruly. I think at the time (which was 8 years ago now) it cost around $25 for the basic buzz cut.

Massages, Spa Use & Beauty Services

Along with the hair cuts, many ships offer a full-service day spa. Here you can get everything from massages, facials and any other treatment you might expect to find. Additionally, some ships even have a variety of relaxation offerings such as special spa rooms that have rather limited access for a tranquil getaway for those passengers willing to pay the price.

Baby Sitting & Kids Club

You might generally find that the day time and early evening activities in the kids club are included in their fare. On the other hand, there will often be the availability of outside these hours organising a baby sitter. There will often be an added cost for this which can vary between cruise lines and a number of other factors, such as the number of children.

Ice Cream

I have personally been on ships where the ice cream is free and others where there is an extra charge. So it is not a one size fits all. It may even be something that changes between ships in the same fleet if there is a speciality offering one some ships but not others.


While getting sick or injured is something that you do not want to happen there are on occasion unforeseen circumstances. In almost all cases to see the onboard doctor, you will need to pay for the service. Just remember while onboard your regular medical insurance at home will generally not cover you, and you will need to read the fine print for travel insurance depending on the circumstances.


There is also a range of duty-free shops available onboard which will vary between ships. Generally, there will be somewhere that will offer a limited range of basic essentials you might need.

You may also find any combination of stores offering souvenirs for both the ship and destinations you are visiting. A range of jewellery, watches, bags, sunglasses, and other higher-end items. On some ships, they may have a small selection of photographic equipment. While there is also sometimes an art gallery onboard some ships as well.

Future Cruise Deposits

Another push that most cruise lines try to do is either book you on another cruise or they have available a future cruise deposit. That is usually a lowered deposit that you pay in advance now and can be applied against any cruise you want to book in the future. There are some benefits such as this is usually all you will need to pay until the final payment date, as well as some onboard credit that is usually offered.

I have personally booked a future cruise deposit three times, but only actually used one. In the other two cases, they were refunded to me after a certain period of time. However, that is a key question to ask “what happens if I do not use the future cruise deposit?”

Have A Great Cruise

I know that is a lot to take in and keep in mind while cruising, but I do hope that you can still enjoy the cruise. As long as you have in mind what activities you want to do while onboard just enjoy the cruise. Because remember this is a holiday and you should be able to enjoy yourself.


The Good And Bad Of Solo Travel

The good and bad of solo travel

In my younger years travel was something that caught my imagination. Seeing somewhere different and experiencing something unusual. But when I finished my years of school in the year 2000 and moved into the workforce I did a total of nothing towards making travel a reality in my life.

For many years I looked at the idea of travel as something that I would do someday when I had someone to travel with. In a way, I guess that there was a lack of confidence in venturing out into the world alone. Over the years I filled the gap of travel with exploring around where I lived. But at the same time was always looking wantingly to the bigger world.

There was a rather small step towards exploring the bigger world in the year 2008 when I finally organised a passport. However, that did not give me the push to travel. It was not until two years later in the second half of 2010 that the push I needed arrived.

That push did not come in the way of a travel buddy for me, it was a much more mundane work-related unease. The first trip I headed off with the need for a break from working and looking to a six-week journey hopefully settling the unease. Unfortunately, it had a rather different effect, which at the time lead to the next two years seeing me venture overseas another four times.

To date as a solo traveller, I have visited 35 countries in around nine total months travelling. Of all that time only 10 days have been spent travelling with a friend. In saying that I have stayed with friends in other countries as well. However, they were friends that I made while travelling solo, that I likely would not have met if I had been travelling with someone.

The Good & Bad Of Solo Travel

Obviously considering the amount of time that I have spent travelling solo, to be the good definitely out ways the bad. But while some of the good and bad for me is a personal preference for other people some of them could be the opposite.

When it comes to the bad aspects of travelling solo the worst has to be the fact that you do end up alone in new places. The reality of the world is that not everyone has your best interests at heart. The result is that you could end up in a dangerous situation that could rely on your ingenuity or the kindness of a stranger to get out of. Thankfully there has only been one concerning situation for me and thankfully I identified it early and was able to take steps to avoid any danger. But this sort of situation is always possible and my biggest concern when travelling solo.

There are some aspects of travelling solo that also land in both the good and bad for me. Things like when I travel alone I have to make all the decisions. At times this can be great because I get to do just what I want to do. But at the same time, that means that if I am stuck for an idea I have no one to call on for ideas.

As I alluded to in the first part of this post one of the best things for me has been meeting new people. Not only meeting them but becoming friends with them along the way. On my very first overseas trip partook in a conference with about 80 other people. On subsequent overseas trips I stayed with one in Seattle twice, I met one for coffee in Berlin, another for a couple of days exploring in Brussels, one for dinner in Melbourne and one for a little local tourism in Fort Worth. In each case I have had experiences I would not have had if I had just visited these places alone. By meeting new people while travelling and sharing experiences you can definitely have a better overall experience.

Potentially though there might be one benefit to travelling with a travel buddy and that is being able to share some expenses. Splitting the cost of a hotel room, even if it is slightly more expensive to get two beds, still works out cheaper. Just like splitting the cost of renting a car to explore a little further afield.

In the end, though I think whether you are travelling solo or travelling with a friend, the idea is just to get out and travel. Don’t let this be the thing that holds you back from exploring this great big, wonderful world we live in. There is so much to see and do out there, but you will never have time to see any of it if you wait to find the right person to travel with. While I have spent so much time travelling solo, I have so often not been alone.


Geocaching, What’s It All About?

Geocaching, what's it all about

Geocaching is a hobby that I discovered back in 2013, and something that I have enjoyed over the years since. I do not always get the time or the motivation to pursue the hobby but it is something I want to get back to a little more. I would also like to share it a little with the readers here because it is a great hobby for those who travel.

What is Geocaching?

In total there are over 3.1 million geocaches hidden around the world as of August 2019. The basic principle is that you can use a GPS enabled device to navigate to a specific set of coordinates where a container is hidden.

Some people will describe geocaching like a cross between orienteering and a treasure hunt. In many ways that is also how I see it as well. The navigating is a little less involved than traditional orienteering, with the exception of multi-caches. With the use of a GPS device, you are generally directed to the exact location that you need to be. Once you arrive at that location is when you start the treasure hunt portion, where you need to locate the hidden container.

Once you have found the container, there may be a few things included inside. The primary thing that should be included is a logbook and is the only thing that must be included. Depending on the size of the container there may be optionally included a pen, items to swap and trackables.

If this sounds interesting you can check it out for yourself at the Geocaching website. Otherwise, you can also find an app for both iOs and Android.

My Experience

As I mentioned Geocaching is a hobby that I picked up in 2013. Since that date, I have found 5,369 Geocaches in four different countries. Over the first couple of years geocaching, I was quite active and found many of the caches in this time. However, in the last three years have only found around 200 geocaches.

There are a number of reasons why the number of geocaches that I have found have dropped a little. The main reason is just a little bit of a lack of motivation around Geocaching for me. That is not to say that I do not enjoy going out and finding geocaches. But even with so many hidden around the world I still need to go a little distance from home to find more than a couple. In the past couple of years, quite a number of finds have been while taking short getaways.

I have written about Geocaching on this blog once before when I was travelling. It can be a very useful way to find some of the interesting spots around just about any city. The post is called Geocaching as your Tour Guide When Travelling and shares about my experience finding my way around Christchurch using Geocaching as my guide.

Give Geocaching A Try

Whether you are travelling or just around at home and looking for something to do in the great outdoors, Geocaching might just be the thing you are looking for. As long as you have a smartphone you will likely be able to give it a try.

While there is an option to pay and be a premium member and see many more geocaches. However, there are also plenty of geocaches that you can find which are available to both free and paid members.

More To Come

Geocaching is something that I want to share a little more about here. I do want to start taking a few more adventures with Geocaching and sharing those adventures in pictures or even video. But at the same time would like to hear what you might like to see going forward. If you have any thoughts or comments please feel free to drop a comment below.


Travel Weekdays. But Do Your Research!

Travel Weekdays

If you are looking for a short getaway the weekend is often the go-to time. But of course, because that is when everyone wants to travel it can be more expensive. So if you can at all make it work, getting away on a weekday can potentially be a much more affordable option. However, it can very much depend on where you are going and when.

I have had the luxury to be able to travel during the week for most of the short trips in the past few years. There is definitely some truth to the idea that it does cost less. One place I stayed and the weekend nights of Friday and Saturday were $17 per night more expensive. When the weeknight rate is $113 that is a 15% premium.

That, of course, is just one example, but there are many others that I have come across at times. More so when I have been travelling for longer periods. If you are on the road for multiple weeks sometimes you just do not have the luxury of picking and choosing. But for these short trips, there can be a few ways that you can avoid paying more than you need to.

When Your Travelling

The factors that play into the pricing of a hotel room are quite extensive. The more common ones include peak or off-peak times, school breaks, long weekends, seasons and major events in the locality.

At the same time though the hotel industry is heavily driven by supply and demand. Which means at times the price may be high with no obvious reason. But the hotel might have good bookings and as such don’t want to discount the few rooms they have left. There could be any number of reasons why and sometimes you just never know.

So let’s explore a few of the reasons that may lead to higher prices during the week, so you can also try to avoid these as well.

Peak Vs. Off-Peak

Every area is going to have some form of peak and off-peak season. Most commonly these might be defined by the seasons of summer and winter. However, there can be other factors that are not so local that will affect these as well.

In many cases, the peak or off-peak dates are something a hotel might be able to tell you and it never hurts to ask. The difference in price can be rather dramatic in some areas. But just because it is a peak time does not always mean higher prices. Again it comes back to actual demand and if a hotel is having trouble booking rooms they may offer some discount rates.

It was a few years ago that this sort of pricing very much came to mind for me. I was going to visit New Zealand and book a camper van for the time I was staying. I was playing around and shifted the date I would be leaving by just one day and was shocked when the price doubled for the campervan rental. A little research and I soon found out that by going that one day into the summer peak period the whole rental was going to be charged at the peak price.

School Holidays

School Holidays or breaks can be a difficult one and you might need to do your research to find out the local dates for these. Since I rarely have a need to, I generally do not travel in these periods. My experience has been that the prices in some areas may be unaffected, while in other areas they can as much as double.

The most common areas that can be impacted will be beach areas in summer. There are hotels that I have stayed at and paid as little as $120 per night in off-peak time. Only to check the same room in the school holidays and find it available for over $300 per night. So it is worth the research and adjusting your travel if you can in this sort of case.

Long Weekends

With an extra day off for the workers on a weekend, that often means higher rates on the hotels. Although this is not an absolute guarantee. It will depend on a variety of factors and mostly come back to supply and demand. If it is a weekend that a lot of people like to travel, such as long weekends in summer, there will often be higher prices. On the other hand, depending on the area you are visiting a long weekend in winter may not affect prices as much.

Unusual Events

There is an endless list of one-off events that can impact pricing in a city. You might find a concert, carnival, sports event, or the like can draw a lot of people to an area. A great example of this is when I was looking to stay in an area at a time that should have been not busy. There was next to no availability and everything that was available was quite expensive. Eventually, through some research, I found out that one of the nights I was booking there was a big concert on. It seemed to attract a lot of non-locals and as such the hotels were booked out. Needless to say, I happily rearranged the dates around this.

A Little Research

If you are looking to make the most of your money when travelling a little research can go a long way. If you have flexibility try and shuffle your dates around and see how the pricing changes.

Sometimes it might only be a few dollars that you might save. But other times it could easily be in the hundreds of dollars. So that little bit of research might be the difference between staying 2 or 3 nights. Get the right timing and that extra night might not cost you any more.


Book A Tour Or Make Your Own Adventure

Book A Tour Or Create Your Own Adventure

There are three ways that you can choose to travel. The first is booking on a package tour, where all you have to do is get to the starting point. The second is to create your own itinerary, what to do, where to go and everything in between. Finally, the third is a combination of the two.

All three options do have their pros and cons and there is no right choice between them. There is only the right option for what feels right for you. But the choice you make can make or break your holiday depending on what your preferences and expectations are.

My Choices around Tours

My first ever foray into travelling overseas definitely had me thinking deeply about this exact problem. Since I had never travelled overseas a tour would be good to make things easier. However, at the same time, I had a very specific set of destinations in mind, which we’re never likely to appear in combination for a tour.

The destinations, of course, were Hong Kong, Las Vegas and Vancouver. Even if I was to forgo the visit to Hong Kong, finding a tour with Las Vegas and Vancouver included was still a stretch. Ultimately, I opted for my own itinerary and had a great trip, visiting all the spots I wanted to see.

Later when booking another trip the decision came up again. I was planning to visit Europe and did have a serious look at the option of a packaged tour. I even got as far as placing a deposit for a tour. However, even though there were plenty of good options, in the end I decided against a tour.

Finally, in a way, I have opted for what you could almost call a tour on a number of occasions. Joining a cruise ship is somewhat like a tour in that you have a predefined list of ports you will visit. But they are also a more pleasant experience since you are not restricted to sitting on a bus to get between destinations.

Booking A Package Tour

A package tour is something that can be a great option for those who like to leave the planning to someone else. These can be a great option if you have just a vague area you want to visit or you are flexible in what you see.

The idea is that once you get to the starting point, nearly everything for the duration of the tour is organised for you. There maybe be some free time in different stops or a meal that you need to work out yourself along the way. But the majority of things like meals, accommodation, transport and many attractions are included.

The Benefits

The biggest benefit of a package tour is just that the whole tour is a package. Almost everything is planned for you, from the route the bus takes, the places you will stay, the stops you visit and where you will eat breakfast and dinner.

Another great benefit is the all-inclusive price. You will generally see a list of all the inclusions and exclusions knowing what you likely need to pay for along the way. A lot of this will depend on the company you book with and the level of service they provide. But the benefit is that you can get these sort of inclusion/exclusion lists to know in advance.

If you are a solo traveller, a package tour might cost a little more than the brochure price, but there are still benefits. The biggest benefit is that you are not arriving in an airport in a foreign country and having to figure everything out. You are travelling on a bus with other people and will likely be able to find someone to explore each stop with.

The Downsides

The biggest downside to package tours is that you are somewhat restricted. In many cases, package tours involve transport by bus and cover a fixed route. Obviously, this is a means to an end, but for me, I just love the ability to stop and explore at random spots that interest me. Also to be honest I have often found a full day tour more than enough time on a bus. So for me, multiple days in a row travelling by bus does not sound fun.

Another downside is that you are locked into the stops the tour makes. If you are not particularly interested in one of the cities or towns, you are stuck waiting to move on. You are also restricted by this in that you might pass so close to somewhere you would love to visit and just do not get to stop.

It is this last point that truly made my decision on tours. While everywhere looked quite interesting on the tours, there was not one that had an ideal itinerary for me. Of course, that is entirely a personal preference and for many people, one spot extra or one spot missed is not a big deal.

Create Your Own Itinerary

If you have a unique combination of cities you want to visit or are confident exploring on your own, this is the option for you. There is definitely going to be more work involved, to book transport and accommodation. Along with working out your transfers in each city and finding places to eat. But if this is not too scary for you it can lead to a very rewarding trip.

The Benefits

The best benefit of creating your own itinerary is that you have complete control. If you want to visit a city, find some transport and a hotel and book it. Somewhere you don’t want to visit no worries, even easier, just don’t book it.

The only restrictions you have are the ones you place. So you can choose to stay for 2 or 10 days in one city. You can choose to fly or catch the train between destinations. The attractions you visit when in a city are totally your choice as well.

You also have the benefit of being able to choose to add in a short day tour at any point. Plus the option to rent a car and explore further afield.

The only real restrictions are those that are probably not going to be included in a tour anyway. So there is little you are likely to miss out on.

The Downsides

Just like it is a benefit, the fact that you have to organise everything can also be a downside. So unless you are happy to go with the flow, there is going to be a lot of upfront planning. Everything from hotels, transport, transfers, meals, day tours, what to see and do are all on you. It can take plenty of time depending on how much detail you want to get into.

It can also get much more complicated if you are travelling with others and need to try and appease everyone’s plans. That can at times make the planning that much more difficult.

Combine Package Tours and Your Own Planning

You can take the best of both options by planning a little of your own itinerary around a package tour. Doing this can in some ways help to alleviate some of the downsides of both choices. While also taking many of the benefits as well.

Building a combined holiday can help to take some of the need for planning out of a longer trip. But it can also give you a chance to take your mind of doing everything on the road for a little as well.

Don’t Overthink It

The ultimate goal of travel for me is that you do not want to overthink the process. I would advise against thinking about the question of a package tour or creating your own itinerary for too long. Leave making more difficult decisions until you have to pick which hotel you are going to stay in.


The Cars of Kitten D’Amour

The Cars of Kitten D'Amour

Sometimes when you make decisions you don’t quite know why you make them but obviously there was a helping hand in making those decisions for you. Sunday was something like this for me. In past weeks I had visited Westfield Carindale for coffee on Sunday but did kind of think a change would be nice.

Ironically it was kind of last-minute that instead of a change I opted for doing the same as the past few weeks. It was not until I walked in the door and caught a glimpse of one of these cars below that I knew why unconsciously I had made that choice. The reason all this is important is that I have spotted at least four of these cars a few times in recent weeks. It was only on Sunday seeing them lined up as they are in the photo below that I got context for the collection.

The Cars of Kitten D'Amour

The cars were on display as part of an event called “The Cars of Kitten D’Amour.” Kitten D’Amour is an Australian based fashion brand that takes inspiration from 18th century France. If you take a look at their Instagram feed, some of these cars are often part of the photos there. All five of these cars are in absolutely immaculate condition.

1959 Chevrolet Corvette

Black 1959 Chevrolet Corvette
1959 Chevrolet Corvette

1967 Mustang Convertible

Velocity Blue 1967 Mustang Convertible
1967 Mustang Convertible

1967 Shelby GT500

Candy Apple Red 1967 Shelby GT500
1967 Shelby GT500
Candy Apple Red 1967 Shelby GT500 Front
1967 Shelby GT500

1956 Ford Thunderbird

Black 1956 Ford Thunderbird
1956 Ford Thunderbird

1967 Shelby GT500

Green 1967 Shelby GT500 Front
1967 Shelby GT500

Cars Lovers

I am absolutely not going to profess to be anyone that knows all that much about cars. But I do know when I see a very nice car in great condition, and all of these cars definitely fit that description. If I had to pick a favourite myself, I would have to go with the blue 1967 Mustang Convertible. However, that particular choice is much more based on the colour than anything else. I would love to hear in the comments below which of these cars if your favourite.

I know that cars are not something that I have shared here in the past. However, do know that from time to time I see some rather nice cars in displays like this or at other meets. So I would like to know if the readers here would be interested in seeing more posts like this. Just let me know in the comments below and I will be sure to grab the camera out the next time I see some classics.


5 Spots to Visit in Brisbane, Queensland

Kangaroo Point - Brisbane City Skyline

Over the years I have struggled to find words to write about my home city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. It is likely a stage many locals go through when looking at their city. Where the city just seems a little bit plain and uninteresting due to familiarity. But in reality, there is a lot to see and explore in Brisbane, and I thought it was time to share some of it with you.

In this post, I wanted to focus on some of the spots in and near the Brisbane CBD. I will also be looking to share some more posts with other locations around Brisbane as well shortly.

1. Brisbane City Botanical Gardens

Brisbane City Botanical Gardens

Brisbane City Botanic Gardens is a beautiful garden area that covers 49 acres right next to the Brisbane CBD. To the north of the gardens is Alice Street and the south-west is the Queensland University of Technology with the rest hugging the Brisbane River.

The gardens are a beautiful place to escape the hustle of the city and take a walk. With many different garden areas and grass areas just right for a picnic.

One of the prominent features of the gardens is the Brisbane Riverstage which hosts local, national and international concerts each year. In addition to the various events and concerts at Riverstage, the gardens have a whole also hosts many different events throughout the year.

If you are visiting at the right time, you can take a free volunteer guided walking tour around the gardens. Through the walk, you can find out about the plants and features of the gardens. Walking tours leave from the Rotunda near the main entrance near the intersection of Albert St and Alice St, twice daily. More Information is available here.

2. Southbank

Southbank Parklands are an extensive park, restaurant and shopping precinct located on the southern bank of the Brisbane River opposite the CBD. The area welcomes some 10+ million visitors each year.

Southbank does contain some attractions that might be of interest. There is a beach for swimming, The Wheel of Brisbane, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Maritime Museum, over 50 restaurants, many shops and accommodation options.

The area also hosts some 150+ events per year including the Brisbane Festival in September where it is the focal point. While also hosting The Collective Markets on a weekly basis from 5 pm – 9 pm Friday night, 10 am – 9 pm Saturday, and 9 am – 4 pm Sunday. More Information about Southbank here.

3. Queen Street Mall

Brisbane - Queen Street Mall

If shopping is your thing while you are visiting the Brisbane CBD, the Queen Street Mall is the spot for you. With over 700 stores in and around the Queen Street Mall, you are bound to find something that catches your eye.

Queen Street Mall is a two-block long pedestrian mall which runs between George & Adelaide Streets. Numerous arcades run off the mall including Wintergarden, Brisbane Arcade & Tattersall’s Arcade. Along with a number of shopping centres including the Myer Centre, Queens Plaza & MacArthur Central nearby. More Information is available on the Queen Street Mall Website.


If you enjoy taking a look at some art the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery Of Modern Art would be a great spot to visit. The collection of QAGOMA holds over 17,000 pieces and works to deliver a dynamic program of both Australian and International exhibitions. The gallery is also home to the Australian Cinémathèque, the only dedicated cinema facility in an Australian art museum.

You can find the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery Of Modern Art in the Stanley Place Cultural Precinct at South Bank. A short walk from the City Centre across either the Victoria Bridge or Kurilpa Bridge. The galleries are open daily from 10 am – 5 pm, except Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day.  With a later opening time of midday on Anzac Day to show respect for the fallen soldiers remembered on this day. For the most part, visiting the gallery is free, except for some special events and exhibitions.

In addition to the galleries, you can also find a store where you can purchase related merchandise. Along with cafes and restaurants when you need a bite to eat or coffee to keep you going on your visit. More Information is available on the GOMA website.

5. Roma Street Parklands

Roma Street Parklands sits on the northern fringe of the Brisbane CBD. Offering another parkland option to escape the concrete footpaths of the CBD. The gardens are said to be one of the two best examples of contemporary display gardens in Australia.

There are some areas to explore and discover within the gardens. There is the Spectacular Garden, Rainforest and Fern Gully, Lake Precinct and Upper Parkland. Even I found parts that I did not know were here while out getting some photos for this post.

Like the City Botanic Gardens, you can take daily guided walks around Roma Street Parklands. The walks leave at 11 am and 1 pm except for public holidays. For more information visit the Roma Street Parklands Website.

Enjoy Brisbane

Kangaroo Point - Brisbane City Skyline

I hope whether you are local to Brisbane or a visitor that you enjoy seeing some of the city. If you are a Brisbane local why not take some time and visit one of these locations. If you have visited one, I would love to hear your experience in the comments below.

My Other Brisbane Posts

If you would like to read more about Brisbane you can find my Brisbane Photowalk Post or my Brisbane Night Photography Post. If you would like to see more of Brisbane let me know in the comments below.


Avoid Theft with 3 Ways to keep valuable safe

3 Ways To Help Avoid Theft From Ruining Your Holiday

When it comes to travelling there are plenty of stories about trips to beautiful places where everyone had a wonderful time. But there are also many stories that end on kind of a sour note, with money, valuable or everything stolen. While it is not always possible to avoid theft when travelling there are a few things you can do so it does not totally spoil your holiday.

There are definitely times when it is all but impossible to avoid theft affecting you. In cases where your life may be in danger, I would definitely prefer to lose a little money than my life. However, when it comes to crimes of opportunity there are definitely ways to avoid being targeted and reduce the overall impact of theft.

1. Stay Aware And Alert To Avoid Theft

There can be a big difference in your general awareness when you are at home in your own town, versus being in a foreign city. Travelling in a foreign city can often be a sensory overload for many people. The result is not paying nearly the same attention to the area immediately around you.

In addition to this, you will often find yourself in areas with a lot more people just because of the tourist draw of an area. Essentially, this creates the perfect situation for crimes of opportunity, such as pickpockets and those waiting for people to put down valuable items.

You put down your bag, just for a moment, to take a photo. When you turn back to pick it up, it just is not there. The thought that this would never happen to you, should be a wake up to just consider how you do things like this. Just think about where you put things and how much attention you pay to them.

It is not just your belongings to watch out for. In some ways, you always need to be aware of what is happening around. While you don’t want to be totally paranoid about every little thing. If the same stranger keeps popping up in the most unlikely of places.

The best approach is to look at how you handle your belongings? How do you move around a city? How you might be providing an opportunity for someone to do you harm? If you can in any way remove these opportunities you can help yourself to make your travel safer.

My Own Experience

Personally, I am someone that is generally fairly conscious of my surroundings. I notice many small details that many people miss, I cannot explain how I developed this, but it has been quite beneficial.

One evening while staying in Nice, France, I was walking in the general direction of my hotel. The street was nearly empty of people and I had planned to stop and photograph The Basilica of Notre Dame before heading back to the hotel for the night. I was just wandering along stopping and starting to look at different things along the way, but something felt off.

I had noticed that there was one other person that seemed to be matching my moves far too closely. They were not close to me but the speed they were moving was quite consistent to mine and they would stop moving when I did and continue when I would. I decided to test the theory and crossed the road with them following that move as well.

There is a chance that this was nothing, but there was also a chance that there was something more going on. I decided to make a beeline for the hotel and left it to take the photos of The Basilica of Notre Dame the following day. In this case, I preferred to take a precaution, even though nothing might have happened, but my theory is better safe than sorry.

2. Avoid Theft & Don’t Give It Away

So many thefts are not the result of an item being forcefully taken, but you allowing the item to be taken. I don’t mean that you have to offer your possessions to a thief, most people will say I never let them steal from me. However, if you don’t take some precautions to avoid theft you basically have let the item be stolen.

There are a few key things that I have found can help avoid or at least limit your chance of valuables being stolen. Consider that the easier it is for them to be directly accessed the easier it will be for someone looking for an opportunity to steal from you.

  • You might feel comfortable keeping your wallet in your back pocket, but this is often the easier place to access for a thief. Consider a front pocket or something that will attach to your belt.
  • Carry the smallest bag that you can, one which can be secured. A big bag that is open, makes it easy for someone to dip their hand in without you knowing.
  • Always keep zips or latches on your bags closed. You might find it annoying to keep opening and closing it, but it definitely helps keep you a little more secure.
  • Only take your valuables out when you need to. Try to avoid pulling a wallet full of cards or money out and digging through it in a public place. It is better to know what you have before leaving the hotel and being able to go straight to it when needed.

The Bag I Use

Having a great small bag to carry around when exploring a new city is a great option. The specific bag that I use is Kathmandu Transit RFID Deluxe v2. However, the specific version that I have is no longer available. But they have replaced it to the Kathmandu RFIDtech Pouch Deluxe which looks to be nearly the same except for some small design differences.

I find that it is great to carry everything that you might need during the day while out and exploring. Things like a map, tablet, notebook, pen and even a small camera. Plus it has places you can put your passport and credit cards where there is RFID blocking technology.

3. All Your Eggs

Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket

The above saying is something that can be very applicable to the times when you might be travelling. Even more so when it comes to things like cash and valuables. If you carry all of your cash and cards in the one wallet and that is lost or stolen, you have lost everything. However, if you take an approach to split up these sorts of things, you reduce the risk of losing everything.

The way in which you split up your cash and cards will vary depending on what your exact circumstances are. Mine solutions while travelling solo would be a little different for a couple or family travelling. There is also a difference depending on the different bags and such that you take.

While travelling I try and keep a minimal amount of cash in an easily accessible wallet along with one credit or money card. I would keep some additional cash or money in a money belt, pouch, or another bag I am carrying. Finally, I would keep the remainder of any cash or cards in the most secure place I can. Which might be a safe deposit box if I can get access to one where I am.

The biggest challenge that I face is on the days that I am travelling. In these cases, you have to carry everything with you. While it does leave you a little more exposed, the idea that I have followed is to separate things as much as possible in the bags that I physically keep in my presence. I will still keep them split between a wallet, money belt and each bag I am carrying. But I never tempt fate by putting too much if anything into checked luggage.

Stay Safe And Avoid Theft

I sure hope that I have not given you second thoughts about travelling with this post. But do hope that I have encouraged you to be a little more proactive about the security of your valuables along the way. So I hope that you do enjoy your holiday and keep your valuables safe and avoid theft by taking some precautions along the way.

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