Things to do Before Your Trip to Japan

    Things to do Before Your Trip to Japan

    Are you heading to Japan soon? Yay! Get ready to eat all the yummy food, see amazing temples and lose yourself in exciting cities. But before you jump on the plane, there’s a few other things you should get ready to ensure a fantastic trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. We’ve written up things that should be done BEFORE getting on the plane. We’ve even created a checklist, so scroll down for more info!

    Order a Japan Rail Pass

    A Rail Pass is a necessity in Japan, as rail is the best way to get around. The Japan Rail Pass saves a lot of money on rail travel and can even be used on the shinkansen (bullet train). The only catch is, you have to purchase it outside Japan and be a temporary visitor. You will need to provide your passport details, travel dates and select how many days of rail travel you would use (7, 14 or 21 days). I would order it 1-2 weeks prior to departure to ensure it is delivered to you on time. Upon arriving in Japan, you validate the pass at the various venues. For more details: http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html

    Planning a trip to Japan

    Check out discounted fares from ANA and JAL

    JAL and ANA offer cheap, flat-rate flights between domestic cities in Japan for people residing outside of Japan and who hold an international return flight (similar to the JR Rail Pass). ANA’s Experience Japan fare and JAL’s Explorer Pass are cheaper than the same fares offered through other booking systems. We saved 40% on our domestic flights by booking these.

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    Things to do before travelling to Japan

    Travel Insurance

    We never travel without it, and neither should you. Medical treatment in Japan is not cheap, and the right cover of travel insurance can cover you for emergency evacuations, disasters, stolen luggage, and more. Knowing that you are covered while you are travelling far outweighs the cost of insurance.

    Like checklists? Pin and print our checklist below!

    Japan Checklist

    Passports & Visas

    It might sound silly for the seasoned travellers, but for those who are travelling for the first time, make sure you check if you need a visa to enter Japan (based on your country of residence). You also need 6 months of validity on your passport BEYOND your travel return date (so if you are travelling in June, your passport needs to be valid at least until December). I’ve been told this is to cover you in case an emergency occurs, and you are stuck overseas for longer than expected.

    Want to know what to eat in Japan? Read our post, More than Sushi.

    International Driver’s Licence

    The idea of driving in somewhere like Tokyo makes me anxious, however driving in the quieter parts of Japan would be lovely. If you are visiting more remote areas, or the islands, driving is the best way to get around, so you will need an International Driver’s Licence to hire a car. For our Australian readers, you can get them from NRMA.

    What you need for Japan

    Get Cashed Up

    Despite Japan being ahead in the technology stakes, cash is still the preferred method of payment. A lot of shops and restaurants do not accept international cards and even those that accept cards may not work when you try to use it in the machine. Change as much money as you can to Japanese Yen before you go, or get an international travel card that you can top up in local currency (however, note that a lot of ATMs don’t accept foreign cards). If you are worried about walking around with a load of cash on you though, rest assured general crime and pick pockets are not a huge concern here.

    You need cash for Japan

    Wi-Fi

    Again, it may come as a surprise, but for the metropolis, high-speed futuristic country Japan may seem, wi-fi is a bit of a hit and miss. There is free wi-fi available in many cities, but the signal is not always that reliable. It might not seem like that big of an issue at first (I mean, we can always post to Instagram later, right?), but when you are lost and trying to find your way around a city that doesn’t have clear street signs or a metro system that only an engineer might be able to read, you’ll be wishing you had reliable wi-fi and Google Maps ready to save the day. Thankfully, you can order internet dongles in advance and pick them up from the airport or have them delivered to your hotel.

    Learn some Japanese phrases

    Japanese people appreciate the effort taken to learn some phrases, and in some places English isn’t widely spoken, so here are some phrases that may come in handy:

    Hello                                       Konichiwa
    My name is _________         Watashi wa ______
    Please                                    Onegai shimasu
    Thank you                              Arigatou gozaimasu
    Excuse me                             Sumimasen
    Yes                                         Hai
    No                                          Iie
    Sorry                                      Gomen’nasai
    Do you speak English?          Eigo o hanashimasu ka?
    I don’t understand                  Wakarimasen
    Where is the subway?            Chikatetsu wa doko desu ka?
    How much does that cost?     Kore wa ikura desu ka?
    Where is the bathroom?         Ofuro wa doko desu ka?

    Book Accommodation

    Personally, I am a bit OTT when it comes to our travel planning, and create multiple spreadsheets, notes and detailed itineraries with accommodation, transport and activities long before we’ve arrived at our destination! So with that in mind, I like to know where we are staying before we arrive, so I can work out how to get there from the airport/train station. If you are at the other end of the traveller’s spectrum though, we’d still recommend booking at least your first night’s accommodation, so you aren’t wandering around a foreign city, searching for a place to sleep.

    Bustling cities in Japan

    Have you been to Japan? Are there any other things you should do before the trip? Let us know below!

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    Glass Igloos of Finland

    Glass Igloos of Finland

    If these photos don’t make you want to stay in a glass igloo… nothing will…

    Glass igloos are nothing short of magical in a winter wonderland

    You had me at glass igloo

    When I first saw a photo of the glass igloos of Kakslauttanen in Finland, I was entranced, and immediately dreamt about staying there. So when I did the Auxiliares Program in Spain, I figured it was the best time to tick that dream off the list. I mean, who can resist falling asleep with nothing but stars and, if you are lucky, the northern lights visibly over your head?

    But hey, rather than waffle on about our stay there, we figured our photos are much more enticing…

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    Glass igloos in Finland
    Winter wonderland, Lapland Finland

    #BedroomGoals

    Bedroom goals in Kakslauttanen

    There’s nothing like waking up to sunlight softly streaming through snow-capped pine trees…

    Rooms with a view, Finland
    Glass Igloo, Kakslauttanen Finland
    Lapland Finland

    Whilst it looks cold on the outside, the inside is heated and toasty-warm…

    Where to stay in Finland

    Glass Igloos at night

    Mesmerising by day, the glass igloos look magical at night, lit up amongst the snow and the stars…

    Glass igloos by night
    Staying in a glass igloo, Finland
    Unique accommodation in the world

    For those a little shy for the glass igloos, you can stay in rooms completely made out of snow!

    Alternative accommodation in Finland

    If you want the ultimate white wedding, why not in a glass chapel, surrounded by a white, winter wonderland?

    Glass chapel, Finland

    Husky Safari through Lapland

    You can also arrange fun activities at the hotel. The Husky Safari is an absolute must! Not only is it a chance to get the adrenaline racing, it’s also one of the best ways to see the undeniable beauty of Finnish Lapland.

    The magical scenery of Finland
    Husky Safaris Finland
    Happy Huskies

    Want to read more about our Finland adventure? Check out our post!

    Winter Wonderland

    We are normally beach people and prefer the warmer weather, but seeing the sun rise through the snow-covered trees was absolutely magical and swayed me to embrace the cold and the forest. It really felt like we were in a fairytale.

    Winter wonderland in Finnish Lapland

    The Finnish Sauna – Getting in touch with nature… literally 

    Did you know that the word Sauna is the only Finnish word that has been internationally accepted in other languages? It seems appropriate, as it is quite the pastime. If you want the true Lappish experience, you should sit in the heated room, naked, until it becomes unbearable. Then, and only then, you should run outside and roll in the snow. It’s said to have wonderful health properties, such as improving blood circulation, but I’m pretty sure we all do it just for the rush.

    Igloo Sauna, Kakslauttanen
    Igloo Village, Kakslauttanen Finland

    Guy and I are not ones to miss out on experiencing the local culture, so off we went, to our respective saunas (they are segregated for each gender), and into the snow we jumped. I was more concerned about slipping on the ice and knocking myself out, naked, than how cold the snow would be, but I did it, and kinda loved it! It’s a very invigorating experience, and I ended up making naked snow angels, giggling at the oddity of it all… twice (sorrynotsorry for the visuals!)!

    Saunas in Finland
    Kakslauttanen, Finland

    Snow fun!

    For those who are still very in touch with their inner-child, you’ve got plenty of opportunities to make snow angels and have snowball fights in fresh, soft powder…

    Winter fun in the snow

    Food, glorious food!

    There are no cooking facilities in the glass igloos, however, the onsite restaurant makes up for that with delicious meals. They aren’t cheap, but the taste of a delicious, warm meal on a cold evening is priceless… Depending where your accommodation is located, you can enjoy a drink in the glass igloo bar.

    Delicious meals at Kakslauttanen
    Eating in Finland
    Reindeer, cooked to perfection
    Delicious desserts with local produce
    Cute winter cabins

    The Northern Lights

    If you are very lucky, you might even catch the fascinating and awe-inspiring aurora borealis (northern lights). The aurora is a fickle thing though, and only appears when the skies are clear and electrically charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the earth’s atmosphere. Luckily for us, we got a glimpse…

    The Northern Lights Finland
    Aurora Borealis

    Unfortunately for us, it was still quite a cloudy night, so the glimpse we got was so fleeting and quick, I didn’t have time to properly set up my camera, so the photos didn’t turn out as great as I’d hoped (we happened to just be walking back to our igloo from the restaurant when we saw them). We also briefly saw it from our igloo in bed (a moment I’ll never forget!), but the clouds quickly covered it up.

    Northern lights at Kakslauttanen
    Glass igloos Kakslauttanen Finland

    Are you convinced? Is staying in a Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen on your bucket list? If so, you should definitely start saving and start booking! These igloos are pretty popular and I booked our accommodation close to 10 months in advance (and got the last one!). When you are there, don’t forget to take the obligatory selfie! 🙂

    Selfies and glass igloos

    Bali Without The Bogans

    Bali Without The Bogans

    “Ling, I’ve been told to call you a Bogan”, my friend Ara said to me at Denpasar airport, eagerly waiting for my reaction. “What!?” I yelled, as the others around us began to giggle. After the laughter passed, Ara turned back to me and sheepishly asked, “What’s a Bogan?”

    What is a ‘bogan’?

    For our international readers, a ‘bogan’ is used to describe someone considered loud, unsophisticated and of bad taste (similar to a hillbilly, redneck or a chav). They are typical to Australian culture, often depicted in white singlets, mullets and ‘pluggas’ (aka thongs or flip flops); southern cross tattoos are optional. They also happen to frequent Bali.

    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu - no bogans here

    To Australians, Bali is known as Bogan territory. If you’ve been to Bali, you would have seen them, Bingtang singlets, cornrow hairstyles, alcoholic beverages and boisterous voices in tow. This was one of the main reasons I had been hesitant to visit Bali. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing particularly wrong with bogans, but they are normally not my crowd. But I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to Bali than just the bogans. I’m talking about awesome beaches, historic temples, dreamy sunsets, friendly locals and cheap, tasty food.

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    Bali without the bogans
    Penglipuran Village, Bali

    My friends were surprised to hear how much I loved Bali. Especially since I was, to be frank, a travel snob and had previously voiced my disdain for Bali and all the bogans that would frequent there. But here I am, unequivocally apologetic and eating my words, as it turns out Bali is amazing and I love it there!

    The coasts of Bali are spectacular

     

    Where to go

    If you are like us, and want to avoid the ‘bogans’, our first general advice is to stay away from Kuta. Even Seminyak is looking more commercial and overrun with Bintang singlet, and Southern Cross tattoos these days. If that’s your crowd, by all means, enjoy! However, if you prefer the quieter, less touristy areas, then we say head north or south.

    Rainbow sunsets of Uluwatu, Bali

     

    For Breathtaking Beaches: Uluwatu

    Uluwatu is approximately 1 hour south of Seminyak. There is a very cool surfer-hippie vibe here and Bingin Beach is really laid back. It’s where the ‘beautiful people’ go. The beaches are pristine, offering a decent swell for the surfers and the warungs (small family-run cafés/restaurants) offer delicious food-with-views, including smoothie bowls and nasi gorengs, for reasonable prices.

    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali
    Smoothie Bowls in Bali
    Bingin Beach is a must visit in Bali

    Think Bali has the best beaches in Indonesia? Check out our post on Raja Ampat to see true paradise.

    For Temples & Tradition: Penglipuran Traditional Village

    Imagine paths lined with bamboo archways, Balinese temples and traditional houses, barely touched by time. Penglipuran village is a highland village, located approximately 2 hours north-east of Seminyak (although this time can vary substantially on traffic). The locals are friendly and will often invite you into their home to look around, but be warned that they will try to sell you souvenirs at the same time.

    Bamboo Archway of Penglipuran Village
    Penglipuran Village, Bali
    What to see in Bali
    Local's store in Penglipuran Village
    What to do in Bali, Indonesia

    If traipsing out to Penglipuran Village is a little far from where you are staying, worry not, as you will find opportunities to see Balinese culture and tradition all over the island. In fact, there are over 6,000 temples spread out all over Bali. The popular ones are Uluwatu Temple, Tanah Lot and Besakih Temple. The Kecak and Fire Dance can be seen at Uluwatu Temple most evenings. With hypnotic chanting, elaborate costumes, enchanting flames and a plot that rivals the Bold and the Beautiful, this ritual is interesting and unlike anything I had seen before.

    Kecak Fire Dance, Uluwatu Temple
    Balinese tradition and culture

    If you do go attend the performance though, please, please don’t be one of those people who leave while the performance is still going. We saw so many groups of people awkwardly try to manoeuvre their way through the crowds whilst the performance was underway, bringing more attention to themselves than the performers. If you are going to watch, stay until the end. It’s just rude (and dare I say, ‘bogan-like’?) to leave beforehand.

    Love sunsets in Bali

    Love destinations with a mix of culture, adventure and beauty? Check out our 25 Things to do in Yogyakarta post for inspiration!

     

    For Luscious Surroundings: Ubud

    Ubud is increasingly getting popular for tourists, thanks to Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love. Luscious rice field terraces, Hindu temples and craft stores are definitely part of its appeal. The air is also a lot cleaner and cooler up there, making it the perfect setting for yoga and a nature retreat.

    Ubud, Bali
    Bamboo in Penglipuran
    Bali without the bogans

    Where to stay

    A visit to Bali, no matter where you decide to visit, is incomplete without a stay in your very own private villa. You will truly feel like royalty when you have someone come and deliver your meals to you, away from the hustle and bustle outside the private villa walls. A villa with a pool is an absolute must (swimmers optional)!

    Private pool villas, Bali

    We stayed at the Kamaya Villas in Sanur and The G Villas in Uluwatu and loved both of them. There is no shortage of villa options throughout Bali, so pick one that suits your wants and budget.

    Kamaya Villas, Sanur, Bali
    The G Villas, Uluwatu, Bali

    If a villa stretches the budget, our tip is to stay somewhere within walking distances to where you want to visit, as traffic jams are all too common here and you will find yourself sitting in traffic for far longer than it may take to walk! During my Trip of Wonders with the Ministry of Tourism, I stayed in the Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak and could walk to the stores, clubs and restaurants nearby. If you do stay here, check out the rooms with Jacuzzis!

    Golden Tulip Devins Seminyak, Bali

    If your typical hotel isn’t your thing (us neither) and you do want to escape the crowds, you can’t go wrong with the bungalows lining Bingin Beach. We absolutely loved our stay at The Inn Possible. Located at the end of Bingin Beach, the bungalow has stunning views of the beach, where you can enjoy your breakfast from the balcony. Be warned! The only way to get to Bingin Beach and the bungalows is down a massive flight of uneven stairs, so be prepared to test your fitness and pack light!

    Smoothie bowls with a view at The Inn Possible
    Bingin Beach, Uluwatu, Bali

    What to do

    Island Mermaids

    For something a little different, you can live out your mermaid fantasies and do a half-day tour with Island Mermaids.

    Ever dreamed of being a mermaid? You can! Read about Island Mermaids mermaid school in Bali here!

     

    Go-Jek scooter to other beaches

    You can hire your own scooter quite cheaply in Bali for 80,000 rupiah (approximately $10), but if you aren’t confident in riding, I’d warn against it. So many tourists end up in accidents, and don’t get me started on the lack of concern for helmets! If, like me, you aren’t great at riding a scooter, you can always hire a GoJek. They are essentially like Uber (which is illegal in Bali), but on scooters. You can even order food, massages and other goodies by GoJek, and it’s a cheap and easy way to get around.

    TIP: Bali is not easy to get around! Between the lack of public transport and traffic jams, hiring a personal driver is one of the better options. If you decide to take a taxi, make sure you go for a Blue Bird taxi and make sure it’s metered or you agree to a price before setting off! Taxi drivers are renowned for ripping off tourists and saying, “the meter’s broken”, to then charge whatever they want.

    Cave beach near Suluban, Bali

     

    Day clubs

    If you want to really treat yourself, purchase a ticket to one of the many day clubs in Bali. The Karma Kandara Beach Club is our favourite, located on a spectacular private beach in the south of Uluwatu. For Rp500,000, you get entrance and use of the facilities and Rp300,000 food and drink credit (so it really only costs Rp200,000 = AU$20). They also offer beachfront massages, spa treatments and water activities, but the exclusive beach is the main attraction.

    Karma Kandara Beach Club, Bali
    What to do in Bali
    Private beach clubs, Bali

    If you have a late flight departing Bali, the VIP Boarding Lounge Experience from Sundara in Jimbaran Bay is an absolute must! Show your boarding pass/e-ticket to the concierge and purchase Rp750,000+ (AU$75) of Food and Beverage credit  and you will get full use of the pool, loungers and facilities for the day. For the coveted day beds, it’s first in, best dressed, so get in early to nab yourself the best seat in the house. The food is half decent too, and what better day to finish up a trip to Bali, than to relax by the pool, with a tropical cocktail. With the airport only 15 minutes away (subject to traffic), you can laze the day away, right through to the night.

    Relax at Sundara, Bali
    Where to drink in Bali
    Sundara Bali

     

    Night clubs

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but you are bound to find bogans here (like anywhere, really). But… the night clubs in Bali are pretty amazing. On our last night in Bali, we visited La Favela and I was blown away. The décor was unlike any club I had seen and it was a maze of mirrors, plants, ponds and vintage items. Drinks aren’t cheap, but the free entrance, music and atmosphere make up for it. The other club that looks amazing is Mirror. We only saw it by day, but it’s also popular with the techno crowd at night.

    La Favela, Seminyak, Bali
    Mirror, Seminyak, Bali
    Beaches in Bali

     

    Massages!

    You can’t come to Bali and not indulge in a massage! You can either take the cheap route and get one off the street (average prices between Rp6,000 to Rp120,000), or spend the extra and really get pampered. Having experienced both the cheap and more expensive (but still far cheaper than what we pay at home) massages, I would advise to cough up the extra as the saying is true: You get what you pay for. The upper end massages are normally in opulent settings, with tea and wet towels provided, and the lower end may end up leaving you with burn marks or in more pain than when you started (but what can you expect from a $6 massage?). The best massage I had in Bali was at Prana Spa in Seminyak. With exotic trimmings, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in an Arabic palace when you are there, and the treatments are heavenly.

    Prana Spa Seminyak, Bali
    Photo spots in Bali

    Having had such wonderful times in Bali on both occasions I visited and posting the ‘Insta-worthy’ photos from my trips, my friends (who also had avoided Bali up until now) have since decided they need to give Bali a go as well…

    Insta-worthy Bali

     

    If you want to avoid the ‘bogan crowd’ and see the absolutely beautiful surroundings Bali has to offer, basically avoid Kuta and the more touristy areas of Seminyak. Having stayed in Seminyak, Sanur and Uluwatu, our pick is definitely Uluwatu. It’s a bit further away from the hustle and bustle, but if you are seeking a relaxing and tropical getaway, this is the place to be.

    Sunsets in Bali

    What do you think? Have you been to Bali before? We’d love to know what you thought of your time there! Comment below.

    A huge thanks to the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism for inviting me on their #TripofWonders and showing me some of Bali’s beautiful features.

    This post contains some affiliate links. Booking via these links won’t cost you any extra, but will help me get closer to my dream career, so thank you in advance!

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    Unique Australian Romantic Getaways – Part 1

    We might be biased, but Australia is the land of plenty. There are a variety of gorgeous landscapes from red deserts, pristine beaches, luscious rainforests and bustling urban centres. So we thought we would put together our romantic getaway wishlist of the most unique and exciting accommodation around Australia.

    We feel very spoilt to live here and try to take mini romantic getaways when we can, particularly looking for something unique and a little different. If there’s a quirky room, an option for glamping or a unique experience to have, we are there!

    I’m always trawling the internet to find something a little special and different for our romantic escapes, so we thought, why not share some of our picks with you! To kick the series off, we’ve picked one from each state! Some of these places we’ve had the pleasure of staying in and the others are on our wish list!

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Nestled in luxurious rainforest in northern New South Wales, Mt Warning Rainforest Retreat offer three types of accommodation; each one individually unique. The ‘Air’ option is a handbuilt yurt nestled in the side of a secluded hill, the ‘Water’ cabin is Asian/Balinese themed and overlooks a serene pond with numerous wildlife, and the ‘Earth’ cabin is a secluded cave built into the side of a hill.  

    We opted for the Air cabin and absolutely loved it. In fact, Guy went away convinced that we need to move to the rainforest and build our very own yurt. Fully self-contained, with the wonderful aromas of polished timber and slow-burning logs on the fire, fused with the fresh crisp air of the surrounding rainforest, this cabin was the perfect haven to unwind and relax. The outdoor spa bath and hammock on the deck were also a nice touch, and if you are a little adventurous, you can even take an outdoor shower amongst nature.

    Rating: Highly recommended. $$$

     Imagine glamping in trendy Melbourne with a view like this!

    Like the idea of a glamorous safari tent, but can’t quite get over the fear of creepy crawlies in the night? Then, St Jeromes is the answer. Set in the heart of Melbourne, St Jeromes have rooftop glamping, complete with a breakfast hamper and freshly brewed coffee from an onsite barista. Inside your safari tent, you can feel a world away from everything, but if you still want the connection to wi-fi and a bustling city, then all you need to do is step outside. This is glamping for the millennial digital nomad.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Longitude 131 by Roderick Eime via Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    Uluru is one of Australia’s greatest icons. So it should come as no surprise that we had to include Longitude 131, set right at its base, as a must-stay for a romantic escape. You can’t go wrong between the Dune Pavillion (think upmarket desert glamping) or the Luxury Tent (which is more of a cabin) and the location is superb. If you can drag yourself away from the room, there are plenty of activities such as camel riding, tours of local cultural sites and visits to the nearby gorges.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Sal Salis

    If Australia is famous for one thing, it would have to be the perfect beaches. We’ve been blessed to grow up on the east coast and explore the beaches that stretch along Queensland and New South Wales during many a family getaway. The east coast gets a pretty good wrap for its beaches, but don’t let that fool you; the west coast also has some of the greatest beaches and scenery Australia has to offer. Sal Salis offers luxurious glamping in safari tents set right on a beautifully pristine beach. When you feel like it, simply walk out of the tent onto the beach and explore the superb snorkelling in Ningaloo Reef right from the shore – no boats required!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    Photo courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge

    Canberra is widely known as the place of politicians, and sadly, not much more. In fact, when we were travelling overseas, 90% of the people we met didn’t even realise Canberra was the capital of Australia. But, as our (current) hometown, we believe it deserves a bit more credit.

    Canberra is not the sad, boring place you probably remember it to be. I mean, where else can you feed giraffes from the balcony of your accommodation?Or have you ever dreamed of waking up next to lions? Believe it or not, you don’t have to travel all the way to South Africa for that unique experience, as Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra offers some incredible accommodation options where you do all the above and more!

    You’ve got three options for accommodation: the giraffe treehouses, a jungle bungalow (where only a pane of glass will separate you from bears, lions, or cheetahs!) and a seven room lodge with a variety of ‘get-close-to-wildlife’ opportunities. Our pick is the treehouse or the jungle bungalow.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    When I hear the word ‘Glamping’, my ears instantly prick up and I’m at full attention. Glamping, or Glamorous camping for the uninitiated, is the perfect balance of luxury and nature. I love the idea of escaping everyday life and getting in touch with nature, but the idea of putting up my own tent to sleep on a slowly-deflating airbed on uneven ground is not my idea of a good time.

    So when you get the benefits of beautiful secluded surroundings AND your own shower and comfy bed in an already-erected safari tent, well where do I sign? We are big followers of the Glamping movement, and plan to explore different glamping options all around the world! But why go overseas, when there are plenty of glamping options in the best settings of Australia?

    Nightfall Wilderness Camp is located in the Lamington National Park of the Gold Coast Hinterland and really puts the Glam in Glamping. You’ve got an opulent safari tent set amongst beautiful rainforest, complete with a heavenly bed, relaxing bathtub and shower, kitchen, fireplace and even fluffy robes. If you really want to splurge, Nightfall also offer delicious organic meals, cooked by the fire and set up by the relaxing sounds of the rippling creek, by the fire tepee or the comforts of your own tent. You will feel so at peace here, you won’t even remember to check your Facebook feed….

    Rating: Highly recommended $$$ – Check out our review of 5 Activities for Adventure and Beauty on the Gold Coast

    Photo courtesy of Thorngrove Manor Hotel

    I love castles, and even after having visited many during our travels in Europe (and even staying in one!), I still am not ‘castled out’. So when I came across Thorngrove Manor Hotel, I couldn’t help but put this place on our romantic escape wish list. Located in South Australia’s oldest wine producing region, Thorngrove Manor looks like something out of a fairytale. This place screams opulence, luxury and romance. And within an easy drive from the centre of Adelaide as well!

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

     Pumphouse Point by Shaun Versey via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Tasmania, in general, has been on our travel wish list for some time now. Luscious scenery paired with delicious food is a winning combination. We’ve actually found a few places we would love to stay when we eventually get down to Tassie, but a luxurious standout would have to be Pumphouse Point. Looming over Lake St Clair is the Pumphouse building. It screams industrial opulence and provides the perfect escape from a hectic life. With large windows boasting views of the lake it sits on, this place really lets the stunning scenery in, without compromising comfort.

    Rating: This is still on our wish list

    If you live in Australia, or are planning to visit, we hope you get a chance to try one of these places for a quick romantic getaway. These places are just the start of a list we have been compiling for Australian romantic escapes, with plenty more to talk about in a follow-up. There’s plenty more ‘glamp sites’ and special rooms to mention, so I think this will be an always-evolving series!

    Have you stayed in any of these places? Know of any others to add to our list for Part Two? Comment below!

    Boutique Beach Stays in Florida

    Boutique Beach Stays in Florida

    Florida is a favourite holiday destination for many tourists. From having the ‘Theme Park Capital of the World’ in Orlando, to Miami’s hot and bustling beaches, restaurants and clubs, Florida has plenty to offer for families and travellers. For those who prefer a slightly quieter holiday, but don’t want to give up the wonderful beaches Florida is famous for, here are some boutique options.

    Sanibel Island by Andie vE via Trover

    Take a round of Golf

    For the lovers of the ‘green’, partaking in a round of golf on a championship golf course is certainly a highlight of visiting Florida. If you want to stay near the action, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort Spa offers 13 different room choices, including villas with wonderful views of the lagoon. If golfing isn’t your thing, guests have access to the private Cabana Beach Club, with water activities on offer, and you can always get pampered at the on site spa. Even pets can have a taste of the high life here! Rates start at $120/night, but during high season start at $186/night.

    Cabana Beach Club by Russell Hewatt via Trover

    Shells and Sunsets

    For a sunset shot worthy of Instagram fame, a visit to Sanibel Island is a must. Only a short drive from Fort Myers, Sanibel Island is famous for ‘shelling’, a favoured past time of collecting and admiring the vast array of different seashells that wash up on the pristine white sand. There’s even a term, ‘The Sanibel Stoop’, that refers to the position one takes when hunching over to pick up and look at the variety of ‘Treasures from the Sea’. Just make sure you don’t collect live shells, as there is a hefty fine if caught. The West Wind Inn is conveniently set right amongst the shelling action and provides sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico and even bike hire, to explore the island at leisure.

    Sanibel Shells by nikoretro via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    Waterfront Culture

    With pleasant weather year round, St. Petersburg in Florida has been nicknamed the ‘Sunshine City’. It even holds the title of ‘most consecutive days with sunshine’ with an impressive 768 days! Perfect weather aside, St. Petersburg appeals to the art and beach lovers alike, with museums, artisanal food market and award-winning beaches. Did you know the largest collection of Salvador Dalí works outside of Spain is on display in Florida? Fans can get their surrealism fix by visiting The Dalí Museum. The building alone is a work of art, with curved glass windows coiling around a rectangular building and surrounded by palm trees. They even offer Yoga there, with calming views of the waterfront.

    Dalí Museum by Holmes Palacios Jr. via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    For perfect access to the best St. Petersburg has to offer, Dolphin Beach Resort and Sirata Beach Resort both offer beachfront stays. Take an afternoon stroll along the beach and enjoy that perfect weather. The Sirata Beach resort is also pet friendly, so you don’t have to leave your best friend at home.

    St. Pete Beach by inazakira via Flickr I CC BY-SA 2.0

    Whilst many tourists flock to Orlando or Miami, expanding your Florida holiday to boutique places such as St. Petersburg, Sanibel Island or Pont Vedra will allow you to enjoy the brilliant beaches and wonderful climate of the ‘sunshine state’ and feel pampered at the same time.

    Florida sunset by Ricardo’s Photography via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    Have you visited Florida? Where’s your favourite spot? Comment below to let us know.


    Title image by Ines Hegedus-Garcia via Flickr I CC BY 2.0

    How to Book a Cruise Holiday on a Budget

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    Many years ago now, we dusted off the old sea legs and set sail upon the open seas. That’s right, we spent almost a week cruising around the South Pacific aboard a luxury liner. Cruises are a fantastic option for travellers on a budget, and ones who enjoy a range of options and entertainment, right at their doorstep. They offer everything from breathtaking destinations, to on-board shows and entertainment and even buffet breakfasts on the deck. Cruises are the height of luxury travel, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sample the high life if you need to be conservative in your spending. So in this post, we are going to give you some tips and tricks for booking a cruise holiday with a budget in mind. (more…)

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