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This airline has just introduced a new feature that will make flying less stressful

<p>Naturally, one in seven passengers get nervous before stepping on a plane but now, a new program is offering people the support they need to beat the nerves.</p> <p>From early next year, Virgin passengers will be able to identify themselves as a nervous traveller by ticking a box while booking their flight.</p> <p>Those travellers will then be able to receive extra support to cope with their flight, including receiving information about easing anxiety, to having cabin crew drop by to check on them.</p> <p>Virgin Australia’s public manager of operations Libby Armstrong said there was a range of ways travellers could be assisted with their individual fears.</p> <p>Some people may want to know when the aircraft was last serviced, while others want to be assured that they wouldn’t be moved from their seat.</p> <p>“Travelling is stressful, and I think it’s the lack of control people have about travelling,” she said.</p> <p>“If we can give back a bit of control, that will make all the difference.”</p> <p>A new initiative by Virgin Australia will also let nervous flyers receive extra support to cope with their stress mid-flight through meditation.</p> <p>The airline has announced their new in-flight entertainment app with not-for-profit group Smiling Mind to ease flying nerves for passengers.</p> <p>Smiling Mind has created meditation programs now available on Virgin Australia’s in-flight entertainment to fight flying anxiety and foster mindfulness in the air.</p> <p>Ms Armstrong said: “Seven people on every single one of our Boeing 737s experience overwhelming levels of anxiety.</p> <p>“On a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a 8 to 10. That’s something like 2600 people every single day who are crippled by fear.</p> <p>“We see it every day. Panic attacks … it can be that serious.”</p> <p>Speaking to <a href="https://www.news.com.au"><strong><u>news.com.au</u></strong></a>, clinical psychologist and Smiling Mind chief executive Addie Wootten said that sitting on a flight was the perfect opportunity to focus on mental wellbeing.</p> <p>“Often people who are nervous flyers are fearful of what might happen — what if we hit turbulence, what if we don’t make it on time, what if something happens,” Dr Wootten said.</p> <p>“Mindfulness is a practice that helps us learn to not worry so much. To notice those things are happening, but bring our minds back to what we’re doing right now.</p> <p>“It will help them connect with their body, regulate their breathing and slow down the heart rate — which we know is accelerated when people are anxious — and then learn how to stop the thinking or the worrying.”</p> <p>However, Dr Wootten believes the meditation app will benefit all travellers – whether they are feeling anxious or not.</p> <p>“Often people talk about (a flight) being their one bit of downtime in the day, so if we can help them cultivate that mindfulness and hopefully end the flight feeling calmer than when they started, that’s a win for us,” she said.</p> <p>Do you get nervous flying? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

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The new airport rule that changes everything at check-in

<p>Many of us may have felt bombarded by boarding announcements as we wait at the airport, listening out for the relevant information for our flight so we don’t miss anything vital. It’s not exactly a relaxing experience, in what can already be a harried experience as all check boxes are ticked for a successful boarding.</p> <p>But next time you visit Sydney International Airport’s T1 terminal, you’ll notice a major change. On September 17, it became a “quiet airport”, ceasing all terminal wide updates over the PA system including flight boarding and closing, and passenger paging, unless they’re “critical”. You’ll see signs noting the change at check-in counters, but all boarding announcements will continue to be made at boarding gates.</p> <p>Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert says the initiative will make for a more relaxing experience for passengers.</p> <p>“Passengers will now be able to relax without being interrupted by constant announcements,” he said in a <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.sydneyairport.com.au/corporate/media/corporate-newsroom/announcements-at-t1-international-reduced" target="_blank">statement</a>.</p> <p>“We’re always looking at how we can make the airport experience even more enjoyable for our passengers. This initiative leapt out as one that would make an immediate and material difference and would align us with the practices of the best airports globally.”</p> <p>He said the move brings the airport in line with other leading world airports like Changi, Dubai, Hong Kong and Helsinki.</p> <p>So, you may need to pay extra attention to the flight information display screens for up-to-date information, and you can keep up-to-date on your flight status through the Sydney Airport and airline websites, as well as on the airport’s social media accounts.</p> <p>You can also set an alarm on your mobile phone to make sure you get moving to your gate on time, and get updates on flight delays on your phone using the app for your relevant airline or the TripCase app, which covers all airlines, writes Amanda Woods, for <a href="https://www.escape.com.au/news/shh-quiet-airport-terminals-have-arrived-in-australia/news-story/2302bb29caa12ec70f52d15d620457b6"><em>Escape</em></a>. According to Woods, it’s not just passengers that are effected by the change, with shop assistants enjoying some much-needed peace from terminal-wide announcements.</p> <p>“When I ask one of the airport’s shop assistants if they’ve noticed much of a change with the new Quiet Terminal rules they say their life is so much easier now,” she wrote. “Before they were constantly being interrupted when they were trying to tell a customer something and had to start again when the announcement finished.”</p> <p>Passengers travelling internationally will still be advised of their gate and boarding time when checking in, and you can always approach airport information desks if you have any queries.</p> <p>For now, announcements are set to continue at domestic airports.</p> <p>What do you think of the new "quiet airport" rule? Tell is in the comments below.</p>

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The new rules that could make flying better for everyone

<p>A new rule could remove one of the most irritating things about long haul flights – the ever-shrinking size of the aeroplane seat.</p> <p>As airlines try to squeeze more and more seats onto one flight, passengers have suffered the impact of legroom seemingly disappearing every year.</p> <p>However, a new law could set a global trend to make sure seat and leg room doesn’t get any smaller.</p> <p>The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates civil aviation in the United States, could soon set a minimum requirement for aircraft seat width and legroom.</p> <p>The regulations were part of a FAA funding plan considered by US Congress this week.</p> <p>Last year, the FAA rejected the idea of setting minimum standards for seat width and legroom but it appears Congress is pushing the aviation authority to go ahead with it.</p> <p>Reportedly, both chambers of Congress were passionate about putting an end to the “ever-shrinking” seat crisis in airlines.</p> <p>“Relief could soon be on the way for weary airline passengers facing smaller and smaller seats,” Democratic senator Bill Nelson said.</p> <p>The proposed bill, which Congress have until Sunday to agree on or to extend, will also stop airlines kicking passengers off overbooked flights.</p> <p>This practice was highlighted after Dr David Dao was dramatically dragged from a United Airlines plane in April 2017.</p> <p>The proposed bill will also ban pets from being stowed in the overheard compartment, following another infamous case this year when a family’s beloved French bulldog died mid-flight.</p> <p>Among other changes, the FAA will also make airlines give refunds to passengers for services not received, such as if their in-flight entertainment system didn’t work.</p> <p>It would also ensure pregnant passengers were boarded early on flights.</p> <p>However, the version of the bill that is being revised by Congress removed a provision to regulate what airlines could charge in extra fees, such as for baggage and seating reservations.</p> <p>According to the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/congress-allows-airlines-to-continue-passenger-fees-that-cost-46-billion-last-year/2018/09/22/04fc1c96-be8a-11e8-b7d2-0773aa1e33da_story.html?noredirect=on&amp;utm_term=.97a8e662c720"><strong><em style="font-weight: inherit;"><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Washington Post</span></em></strong></a>, US airlines were forecast to make $6.5 billion by the end of the year in extra fees.</p> <p>The provision would’ve allowed the US Department of Transport to decide if extra charges became “unreasonable” or out of line.</p> <p>“Airline travellers are being gouged by exorbitant fees, but the airlines will stop at nothing to protect this billion-dollar profit centre,” Democratic senator Edward J Markey said.</p> <p>Which rule will you be most happy to see implemented in airlines? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

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5 travel hacks to stretch your holiday budget

<p>Unless you’re a trust fund kid or you have a bottomless bank account, you need to keep to a budget while travelling. Here are 5 hacks to help you stretch your holiday budget.</p> <p><strong>1. Buy travel insurance</strong></p> <p>When you’re planning a trip, you will look at all the ways you can save money, such as not paying for additional baggage or looking for low-cost carriers.</p> <p>However, you should never, ever scrimp on travel insurance.</p> <p>Travel insurance will save you money should you encounter any emergencies while overseas.</p> <p>For example, if you have a medical emergency while travelling, you can seek treatment at the hospital without worrying if you can afford it as you will be able to claim part of the cost.</p> <p>Buy the best travel insurance you can afford and make sure you read the terms and conditions to understand what it covers.</p> <p>Ensure you <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/tips/Top-5-Travel-Insurance-Tips">read the small print carefully</a></span>.</p> <p><strong>2. Make use of free Wi-Fi</strong></p> <p>Unless you need to constantly be on call (and let’s be honest, that kind of defeats the purpose of a holiday), you don’t need to pay for a roaming phone plan or even a local SIM card.</p> <p>You can just rely of free Wi-Fi that’s provided at most cafes and restaurants, and at your accommodation.</p> <p>With apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp for texting and making calls, you don’t have to spend any money to keep in touch with people back home.</p> <p>Check out our tips and tricks for helping stretch your <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/money/How-to-Manage-Your-Phone-Data-Use">mobile phone dollar further</a></span>.</p> <p><strong>3. Look for free or cheap activities</strong></p> <p>You don’t have to book expensive tour packages to enjoy your vacation.</p> <p>Instead, look for cheap or free activities.</p> <p>This is especially easy to do in larger cities.</p> <p>London, for example, has over 23 free museums, such as the Tate Modern, British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.</p> <p>And the Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain, offers free entry for the last two hours of every day.</p> <p>Search online for more such options.</p> <p>And there’s no better way to really get to know a place than to explore its streets.</p> <p>You can check online for free walking tours that are usually organised by experienced guides.</p> <p>You are free to tip the guide any amount you want at the end of the tour.</p> <p>If money is no object, check out these <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/diet/10-leisure-activities-burn-more-calories-you-realise">10 holiday activities that burn calories fast</a></span>. </p> <p><strong>4. Book accommodation with a kitchen</strong></p> <p>This is especially useful in cities where it’s expensive to eat out, such as Paris or London.</p> <p>Even eating in just one meal a day can save you a significant amount of money.</p> <p>The moment you settle in, go for a grocery run to buy ingredients for the duration of your stay.</p> <p>Ingredients like milk, juice, eggs, bread and sandwich meats can help you put together a great and satisfying breakfast.</p> <p>Planning a family trip or solo holiday anytime soon?</p> <p>You may have booked your plane tickets and accommodation, but that doesn’t mean you’re all set to go.</p> <p>Go through this travel checklist to make sure <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/avoid-pre-holiday-anxiety-our-travel-tip-checklist">you’ve got everything planned</a></span>.</p> <p><strong>5. Download apps for good deals</strong></p> <p>If you do want to have a little splurge while on holiday, use apps that can help you locate good deals.</p> <p>Sick of homemade sandwiches for lunch?</p> <p>Treat yourself to a great meal in London by using <span><a href="https://www.bookatable.co.uk/">Bookatable</a></span> by Michelin.</p> <p>The app lets you find good value set meals from popular restaurants and even those owned by celebrity chefs.</p> <p>For example, you can enjoy a meal at a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant for under £28 (AUD$50), which is a steal!</p> <p>Do some research before you reach your destination to find more such apps.</p> <p>Check out these 5 clever mobile travel apps that will assist you on <span><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/tips/Useful-Travel-Apps">your next big adventure</a></span>.</p> <p><em>Written by Siti Rohani. This article first appeared in </em><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><em><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/5-travel-hacks-stretch-your-holiday-budget?items_per_page=All">Reader’s Digest</a></em></strong></span><em>. For more of what you love </em><em>from the world’s best-loved magazine, </em><strong><em><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestsubscribe?utm_source=readersdigest&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;utm_medium=display&amp;keycode=WRA85S">here’s our best subscription offer</a></span></em></strong><em>.</em></p> <p><em><img width="70" height="71" src="/media/7820287/1-rd-logo.png" alt="1 RD LOGO"/></em></p>

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The simple hack that could slash $500 off your holiday booking

<p>With summer well and truly around the corner, people all over the country are gearing up to book their holidays, reserving accommodation and coordinating itineraries.</p> <p>Which is why you need to get on board with this one woman’s simple hack that could cut down hundreds of dollars off your final bill.</p> <p>Mother-of-two Janica Place, 39, spoke to <a href="https://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/family-travel/family-holidays/the-private-trick-thatll-save-you-money-when-booking-a-family-holiday/news-story/006ff515ffef3a9b35cdb0eaef6dd434"><em>Kidspot</em></a> and revealed how she got a discount of $500 on return flights between Australia and Helsinki for herself and her two children by doing this one simple thing.</p> <p>“I use two devices in order to make sure that prices aren’t being manipulated,” she said.</p> <p>“I search with my computer for instance, and then I book my flights on my phone.”</p> <p>The mother of two was so surprised to see how much cheaper the flights were that she couldn’t believe it until she returned to her computer to check that they were indeed different.</p> <p>“I’ve since booked all my flights that way,” she said.</p> <p>“I had no idea that searching destinations on different devices had such an effect. It’s crazy!”</p> <p>Another simple trick to nab cheap flights is one that is revealed by savvy travellers.</p> <p>All you need to do is clear your “cookies” – which are small computer files that let websites know if you’ve been on their page previously – on your device, so that your details are not stored.</p> <p>When information is stored, then there is a chance that sites may raise their prices as they can see that you’re most likely to book the fare.</p> <p>And this trick doesn’t just work on flights, but on hotels too.</p> <p>Will you be trying out this hack? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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16 travel hacks to save you time and money

<p>You take a holiday to relax. But often many of us feel like we "need a holiday to get over the holiday". </p> <p>The three main causes of post-holiday stress are worries about money, the constant to organise and over-planning activities. </p> <p>So, how do you make it easier on yourself? These travel hacks will help. </p> <p><strong>1. Book a package deal or a tour</strong></p> <p>Leave the organisation to someone else. Package deals often come with significant discounts. You don't need to plan. You just need to turn up and go. </p> <p><strong>2. Use a travel agent</strong></p> <p>Travel agents can do all the organisation for you. Come prepared with your wish-list, your budget and your must-haves and they will do all the research. This takes a great deal of planning stress off your shoulders. It also means that if something does go wrong - the travel agent can help to sort it out.</p> <p><strong>3.</strong> <strong>Go far, far away</strong></p> <p>If you are going on holiday to de-stress, get as far away from home as possible. Remove the possibility that you could "just duck back and get something".</p> <p><strong>4. Find the fast airport security line</strong></p> <p>One airport security line always seems to move faster than the others. Here's how to pick it. Avoid lines with children or families. Scan the passengers - pick the one where the people have removed items such as laptops ahead of the scanners. Avoid lines with large groups. Instead, pick one with more singles. </p> <p><strong>5. Pack your charger in your hand luggage</strong></p> <p>These days many planes have USB ports in the seats. If you pack your charger in your carry-on you will have a fully charged device when you step off the flight. </p> <p><strong>6. Portable power</strong></p> <p>Taking a lot of photos with your phone will zap your batteries power. Don't stress about it. Simply pop a portable phone charger in your bag. You can use it to recharge when needed. </p> <p><strong>7. Packing cells</strong></p> <p>These small plastic or fibre pockets allow you to separate your luggage into different containers. They save you serious time searching through and unpacking your luggage. Keep your underpants in one, your T-shirts in another. If you are travelling with family and share a bag you can colour-code each person's belongings. </p> <p><strong>8. Don't pay twice for insurance</strong></p> <p>Sometimes your travel insurance package will cover car insurance while overseas. If it does, you do not need to pay the insurance for the hire car. Make sure you check your policy</p> <p><strong>9. Have adequate insurance</strong></p> <p>Make sure your travel insurance policy covers as much as possible. You never know when you might need it. </p> <p><strong>10. Carry-on essentials</strong></p> <p>Put all your medications into your carry-on luggage. We also recommend adding a spare pair of underpants and socks, swimwear and a toothbrush.</p> <p><strong>11. Tap into free Wifi</strong></p> <p>Mobile phone data is expensive. Keep a look out for places that have free WiFi and tap into those while overseas. Another great option is to buy a local Sim card at the airport. You can use social media to keep up to date with most friends and family. </p> <p><strong>12. Register with Smart Traveller</strong></p> <p>Always register your details with Smart Traveller. If there is an emergency, the Australian Government can provide assistance faster if they know where you are. </p> <p><strong>13. Reduce jet lag</strong></p> <p>Pick your flight times well to minimise jet lag. The best flights are the ones that arrive in the early evening. That allows you to go to bed in a reasonable time and sleep off the tiredness. Excercise, such as a light walk, will also help. </p> <p><strong>14. Map your destination</strong></p> <p>Download Google maps for your destination before you leave. The GPS in your phone will work without using mobile data and you will be able to quickly navigate foreign streets. </p> <p><strong>15. Bring a water bottle</strong></p> <p>Bottled water costs add up on an overseas trip. Save some of that money by bringing your own water bottle. Fill it up at safe drinking locations. Boil water in your hotel room. </p> <p><strong>16. Pack a medical kit</strong></p> <p>Your first aid kit should include painkillers, electrolyte powder, diarrhoea tablets, Band-Aids and allergy tablets at a minimum. </p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/travel-hacks-to-save-you-time-and-money"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">My Discoveries.</span></strong> </a></em></p>

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The $5 Kmart hack caravanners swear by

<p><span>There is nothing quite like hitting the open road with your caravan, with endless towns to visit and sights to take in.</span></p> <p><span>But no matter where you travel, chances are that you are going to encounter some bumpy roads.</span></p> <p><span>After stocking your caravan kitchen cupboards with various tumblers and wine glasses, the last thing you want is to have them break while rolling around in your cupboards.</span></p> <p><span>To keep your crockery safe, caravanners recommend purchasing a $5 Kmart product before you start your trip.</span></p> <p><span>Caravanners can purchase non-slip matting from Kmart, which can be cut to size depending on the purpose.</span></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><span><img width="500" height="163" src="/media/7819689/1_500x163.jpg" alt="1 (169)"/><br /></span></p> <p><span>Another option is to buy small slabs of foam and cut out mug and bowl-sized holes.</span></p> <p><span>And if you have any kitchen appliances, pack them in a drawer with towels to avoid any damage.</span></p> <p><span>When you are travelling on rocky roads, it is also guaranteed that anything that is not sealed or stored properly will make a mess.</span></p> <p><span>To avoid this surprise, put a rubber band around any item that can unravel or pop open, even toilet paper rolls. </span></p> <p>MREC-TAG-HERE</p> <p><span>It is also important to make sure all cupboards and drawers are latched. To save space inside your caravan, also consider buying collapsible homewares that fold into themselves, such as collapsible washing up tubs.</span></p> <p><span>What is your best caravan hack? Share it in the comments below. </span></p>

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Airport controversially bans common thing many of us do while travelling

<p>Anyone who spends a lot of time at airports knows that travellers sleeping at a terminal is a commonplace sight.</p> <p>But London's Stansted Airport has recently put a controversial motion in place, banning passengers napping inside the terminal and even closing off departures area in the evening to prevent it occurring.</p> <p>In a statement, officials explained: "There are a number of reasons for the periodic overnight closures to the departures area of the terminal building: construction work as part of our £600 million airport transformation programme, and to allow cleaning and other preparations for the next day's flight operations.</p> <p>"This means we've been reminding passengers there are no dedicated sleeping facilities in the terminal and advising they can no longer sleep on the floor overnight, so passengers should not arrive sooner than their scheduled check-in time."</p> <p>A spokesperson said that in the past the airport was seeing as many as 600 passengers staying overnight inside the terminal, with some bringing in "camp beds, sleeping bags and other portable sleeping aids".</p> <p>The spokesperson added: "Feedback shows passengers don't like arriving at the airport for an early flight to find lots of people blocking access and getting in the way of both staff and those travelling.</p> <p>"We don't want people sleeping on the floor or coming with sleeping equipment. There are numerous options available to avoid doing this, both at the airport and close by, with lots of hotels, B&amp;Bs, Airbnb choices, plus 24-hour coach services."</p> <p>The airport stressed that people are still allowed to sleep upright in a chair and in the case of passengers stuck in the terminal following delayed or cancelled departure flights from that day, those who have not been accommodated in a hotel by their airline will be "managed separately outside of these restrictions".</p> <p>What do you think of the ban on sleeping at airports? Are you for or against it? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

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Top chef’s clever $4 hack to improve the flavour of airline food

<p>A top chef has revealed a clever trick for improving the taste of airline foods.</p> <p>Jason Atherton, who earned a Michelin star in 2011 at his London restaurant Pollen Street Social and now runs restaurant group The Social Company, spoke to newspaper <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong><a href="https://www.livemint.com/Leisure/kB8rESIBU5X87BEb2uEv9L/Cutting-the-room-service-line-and-other-travel-hacks.html">Mint</a> </strong></em></span>about his best travel tips.</p> <p>The British chef, who said he flew around 800,000 kilometres a year, said he tries to avoid eating airline food but when he does he used this tip provided by his friend actor Jude Law.</p> <p>“It was Law who told me to always take Tabasco on a plane,” he said, referring to the spicy sauce you can buy at the supermarket for just $4. </p> <p>“Aeroplane food is always bland, so it’s great to give it kick.</p> <p>“But I just try my hardest not to eat on planes. I can normally do it up to about 12 hours. If I go to Australia, I have to eat, obviously, because it’s 24 hours on a plane for me.</p> <p>“I just eat the protein, drowned in Tabasco, which tastes OK — well, it tastes of Tabasco, to be honest.”</p> <p><img width="397" height="611" src="https://cdn.newsapi.com.au/image/v1/ca03ff450cb3fcf554c59a087b98b1ab" alt="A small bottle of this in your carry-on bag could take your in-flight meal from “not great” to “not bad”." style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"/></p> <p>It makes sense that a spicy sauce improves the flavour of food in pressurised cabin, where both our senses of taste and smell are dulled.</p> <p>The cabin pressure particularly impacts our sensitivity to sweet and salty flavours, which can be diminished by as much as 30 per cent during a flight.</p>

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How to avoid mobile phone bill horror stories when travelling

<p>"I'm sorry, calls to this number are not allowed, please try again later". This. Again. At 1am standing outside what I thought was our Galway Airbnb, but instead was a popular alley for Irish revellers to relieve themselves. Brilliant.</p> <p>After begging a convenience store manager, borrowing a phone and stealing some local wi-fi, we made it to bed before 3am (one-star rating for the Airbnb host, naturally). Such was the power of the phone company when you're on holiday, I still got pinged far-too-high amounts for calls and data used to attempt a check-in at the Irish abode.</p> <p>A reader recently contacted me wanting to avoid such a conundrum by asking for the best SIM cards available in Europe. Thankfully, EU law has recently shielded travellers from harsh cross-border roaming charges by ruling that providers cannot charge excessively for access to rival networks in fellow EU nations.</p> <p>You'll see the kiosks hawking pre-paid SIM packages at many major airports. If you want the dependability a SIM provides, assess your needs and shop around. </p> <p>Better yet, get to know your smartphone better and use the whole range of mobile apps that will soon make international call and text roaming redundant. Organising hotels, taxis, tours, dinner reservations as well as calling home and making your friends and colleagues jealous with holiday snaps can all be done with a wi-fi connections, which are readily available and far cheaper (if not free).</p> <p><strong>Avoid phone bill shock when you're away</strong></p> <ul> <li>Contact your mobile phone company rep about your destination and length of stay to see what add-ons and spending caps may be best.</li> <li>Only purchase local SIMs if you're in the country more than a week, have an unplanned itinerary or will have no free wi-fi at your accommodation.</li> <li>If you're on a per-day bundle, choose a few days to be on-the-grid and turn off your mobile data on other days.</li> <li>Go wi-fi only, in North American, Asian and European cities it's readily available.</li> <li>Embrace apps like Uber, Gett, WhatsApp, OpenTable and TripAdvisor to book taxis, call home and book restaurants and tours using hotel wi-fi and thus limiting calls.</li> </ul> <p>Do you agree with this advice?</p> <p><em>Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

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Why I don’t make travel bucket lists

<p>Do you find your travel bucket lists shelved year after year? Here’s why that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, ditching your version of the travel industry's go-to buzzword will actually make your travels more flexible, fun and maybe more fulfilling.</p> <p>Although the pursuit of new experiences and places is worth aspiring to any day of the year, a travel bucket list is not unlike a shopping list except with tour groups and Instagram updates instead of Apple products, furniture or clothes.</p> <p>Much the same as a weekend shopping adventure, the afterglow from purchasing or, in this case, achieving a trip tends to fade quickly. The appetite is insatiable no matter how far down the list you are with box-ticking. Now you could argue, since experience and memories are more valuable than possessions, why should an abundance be seen as a negative at all? </p> <p>But when you're storming on to item 15 on your Before-I-Die list, yet you can barely recall voyages two or three, then you're doing it for the wrong reasons. A shopping addict by another name.</p> <p>The bucket list, by its very nature, inflates expectations and is often born out of comparison to others' adventures – two ingredients bound to rob you of some satisfaction of the main event when you fly thousands of miles to see it.</p> <p>Which is why – and let me adjust my armchair psychologist's hat here – it's common to hear friends and relatives recount their travel tales with particular enthusiasm for the unexpected village, the hidden beach or the quirky local yet details of the Pyramids, the Great Wall, or Big Ben are retold as blemishes.</p> <p>Bucket lists are simple yet specific, in many cases. They focus us too much on our goals, but when planning an overseas adventure you should be open to new things and, indeed, changes to your plans. They obscure from view the great opportunities that we find on the road and hold us captive to best-laid plans that are no longer fit-for-purpose.</p> <p>One of the best examples of this is the sunken cost fallacy. It's the idea that you shouldn't stick with a plan, idea or investment and deny yourself better savings, benefits or enjoyment simply because you have put money and effort into the original goal.</p> <p>When on holiday, the sunken cost fallacy would be to stick with your hotel and Pink Palace tour instead of taking the invitation to be hosted on a yacht in Monte Carlo.</p> <p>This week I shook off the sunken cost fallacy when offered the chance to go on safari, which meant kissing goodbye to a few hundred dollars' deposit for a ski week (#yolo).</p> <p>Now I find myself 38,000 feet above Mt Kenya on somewhat of a whim because, despite loving all things alpine, money spent shouldn't distract you from once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. First World problems and all that. The examples need not be flashy because the facts remain: whether you take the bus or business class, chronic planning and box-ticking kill spontaneity and embracing new ideas where ever they formulate. Add this one to your list.</p> <p>Do you agree with this advice?</p> <p><em>Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

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Why you shouldn’t bother with a tour in Europe

<p>One of my British colleagues often has me in stitches with a spot-on impression of some Australian yobbo she met on a tour of the United States in her university days. As they were driving down the Eastern Seaboard, the man, who parted this wisdom while smelling of the night before and lying in a bus aisle, summed up the alcohol-heavy whistle-stop bus trip with: "Nobody goes on Contiki [Con-teeee-kee] to see the sights!" While I chuckle away at the two prim Brits stuck with a busload of Aussie and Kiwi youth visiting America's bars (first) and historical sites (if they get time), my co-worker still feels a bit miffed that her tour was not all it was cracked up to be.</p> <p>I thought of this again when a reader wrote asking me to recommend a group bus tour company for a European trip he and his wife hope to embark on. The Tauranga-based couple want to take in France, Italy and Germany on a coach tour. The destinations obviously sound great, but my default reaction was still: Why a package tour? Europe is about the most tourist-friendly continent when you consider transport options and their efficiency, widespread understanding of English and tech infrastructure. There couldn't be a better-suited set of countries for the somewhat older independent travellers to explore.</p> <p>Here's why I'd opt for DIY exploration over a cookie-cutter bus tour:</p> <p><strong>1. Public transport utopia</strong></p> <p>Beyond the Eurostar linking London, Paris and Brussels are fast, frequent and comfortable train networks that avoid the hassle of airports and the congestion of road traffic. And you are dropped right in the heart of most cities. The Eurail pass option, offers multi-country and multi-day train tickets all from one pass, which lets you explore 28 European countries easily. Best of all kids aged under 11 go free. Once in a city, exploring is usually best done by a combination of walking and the subway or tram system.</p> <p><strong>2. Ch-ch-changes</strong></p> <p>The biggest sacrifice you make when booking a tour is having any semblance of spontaneity. Love a place and want to linger? You can't – the bus leaves in 30 minutes. Tour group travel is where spontaneity goes to die. Not only that, you often get the feeling the various guides are just going through the motions and rattling off a script they are sick to death of. Going independent lets you keep the plans fluid: move on easily if a place doesn't excite you and stay longer in ones that do.</p> <p><strong>3. Cultural exchange</strong></p> <p>As you are whisked from one organised visit to another, the chances of interacting with locals (outside of, maybe, a local guide) can be limited. If you go independent you can seek out locally-owned inns and restaurants while still opting for the much-loved city walking tours, but just on an ad-hoc basis. On the topic of restaurants, independent itineraries allow you to seek out the destination's best or quirkiest dining options instead of the go-to set tourist menus loved by the tour operators.</p> <p><strong>4. Leave the whiners behind</strong></p> <p>One of the major pros of choosing a tour is the social aspect of getting to know a group of like-minded travellers who also want to travel and explore country. But, it's still a gamble and if there are some who irritate you, too bad you are stuck with them. Going independent can be lonely for solos and lead to couples squabbling, but you can still stay social by staying at hostels (no longer just for backpackers), using meet-up web apps like EatWith or renting a room-only option on AirBnb. Or, you know, just talking to people.</p> <p><strong>5. Communication and connections</strong></p> <p>Speaking of which, Europe is easy for independent travelling because English is so widely spoken. You will feel defeated when your deftly-honed German phrases are rebuffed with a few polite nods from the locals ... who then simply speak English back to you because it's faster for them. Smartphones and free wi-fi have unquestionably made independent travel more alluring for those who would have previously booked a package deal. Sure, a tour group will shepherd you seamlessly from one tourist trap to the next, but you can explore Europe easily with little more than a few polite phrases and phone apps to map your journey, book your bed, find you dinner, help you meet new friends and record it all for the folks back home.</p> <p><em>Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of</em> <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><em><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></em></a>.</p>

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What happens when a plane gets struck by lightning

<p>The "sacrificial" static dischargers, or wicks, at an aircraft's extremities are "designed to melt and burn as the discharge goes through the plane", said David Reynolds, senior technical officer with the New Zealand Airline Pilots Association. However, as the dischargers are outside the plane, you will not normally smell them in the cabin. </p> <p>Even if you have been flying for years, the smell - and "big bang" that precedes it when the lightning bolt hits - can come as a shock, he said.</p> <p>"It's quite a show. There's a massive great bang almost like an explosion and a flash as the lightning goes through the aircraft. There's a mild ozoney smell as well... It's very disturbing for everybody."</p> <p>Air New Zealand flight NZ621 from Auckland was one of two flights to Queenstown diverted on Sunday due to lightning. The other was Air New Zealand flight NZ605 from Wellington. Both were forced to make unscheduled landings in Christchurch.</p> <p>Lightning strikes on aircraft are not unusual and modern airliners are built to handle them.</p> <p>It is many years since a lightning strike was implicated in a deadly crash by an airliner, and lessons learned in the past have been incorporated into the design of modern planes.</p> <p>New Zealand Airline Pilots Association technical officer Dave Reynolds said each large commercial aircraft is hit by lightning once or twice a year on average.</p> <p>"It's quite a traumatic event for the aircraft as well as for the people on board," he said. "Up to a million volts pass through the aircraft which is massive when you think most power lines have thousands of volts. The energy is dissipated through the aircraft, which is the secret these days. They used to explode because the fuel tanks were not protected."</p> <p>On modern aircraft, it is not possible for lightning currents to cause sparks in the fuel tanks and the fuselage, or body, acts as a Faraday cage (a container that blocks electromagnetic fields).</p> <p>Lightning typically strikes one of the plane's outer extremities - such as the wingtip, nose or rudder - and the current exits via another extremity, such as the tail.</p> <p>"An aircraft can withstand the million volts passing through it," Reynolds said. "There are metal strips between everything to make sure the electricity gets conducted. But here's always a little bit of damage, such as a burn mark or a little distortion of the metal."</p> <p>While a lightning strike is "not a fatal blow" for an aircraft, it can knock out certain displays and systems. Planes will land as soon as possible as "a precautionary measure".</p> <p>Most strikes occur following take-off or descending to a landing so the planes return to their airfields they left from. However, as the two Air New Zealand flights on Sunday were closer to their destination of Queenstown, they diverted to Christchurch Airport, which has more engineering facilities than Queenstown.</p> <p>"So while a lightning strike doesn't make an aircraft unflyable, it does set up a requirement to land as a precaution to make sure all systems are working ok," Reynolds said, noting that some systems cannot be rebooted in the air.</p> <p><strong>What lightning does to a plane</strong></p> <p>One catalyst for research into lightning effects on aircraft was the crash of a Pan American Boeing 707 in Maryland US in 1963, killing all 81 people on board. It was the last time lightning caused an airliner to crash in the US.</p> <p>An investigation decided the likely cause of the crash was the lightning-induced ignition of the fuel/air mixture in a fuel tank. The crew lost control of the plane after a resulting explosion caused the left outer wing of the aircraft to disintegrate.</p> <p>The aircraft had safety features available at the time but much less was known then about the way lightning affected aircraft, the FAA said.</p> <p>Another well-known crash of an airliner hit by lightning happened in the Peruvian jungle on Christmas Eve 1971. Of the 92 people on board one survived - Juliane Koepcke, who was 17 at the time.</p> <p><em>The Telegraph</em>, which interviewed Koepcke in 2012 after she wrote a book about her ordeal, reported that a bolt of lightning hit one of the fuel tanks of the LANSA airline Lockheed Electra turboprop. The right wing of the plane was torn off and the aircraft went into a nosedive.</p> <p>Koepcke, who was sitting in the window seat next to her mother, was <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/authorinterviews/9143701/Sole-survivor-the-woman-who-fell-to-earth.html" target="_blank">suddenly falling through the air</a></strong></span>, still strapped to her seat. She lost consciousness then came to the next morning on the floor of the rainforest. Despite falling more than 3km, she was able to walk away with nothing more than concussion, a broken collarbone, a gash on her leg and a small cut on her arm.</p> <p>Nowadays, only rarely are passengers even aware their plane has been struck by lightning, according to <em>Air &amp; Space</em>, the magazine of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.</p> <p>Partly passengers were unaware because the aluminium in a plane's hull mostly <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.airspacemag.com/flight-today/how-things-work-lightning-protection-161993347/" target="_blank">conducted the charge from lightning strikes</a></strong></span> from entry point to exit, <em>Air &amp; Space</em> said.</p> <p>The use of composite materials in modern airliners such as the Boeing 787, with a fuselage made predominantly of carbon fibre, had meant some additional design features were needed. Those included putting some metal back into the fuselage for lightning protection.</p> <p>The nose cone, which had been made of composite material for decades to avoid interference with the radar inside, had thin metal strips incorporated onto the surface to act as little lightning rods. They prevented lightning from puncturing the radome and damaging its electronics.</p> <p>Conductive metals were used to bond lights to the wingtips, with the bonding protecting the lights by grounding them to the rest of the airplane.</p> <p>Skin around fuel tanks in the wings must be thick enough to avoid a burn-through, and all joints and fasteners were tightly secured to prevent arcing or sparking in the airplane's fuel tanks.</p> <p>Avionics and flight control systems had surge protection devices, while wiring throughout an airplane was shielded. There were redundant systems as a backup to primary flight control systems.</p> <p>Conductive copper or aluminium meshes were incorporated into the hull of airliners with composite skins. The mesh spread the current to minimise damage to the skin where lightning attached, and kept the current on the outside of the fuselage. That helped reduce voltages that might be induced inside the airplane that could threaten electrical systems.</p> <p><em>Live Science</em> reported the US National Transportation Safety Board had recorded just<a href="https://www.livescience.com/32638-do-planes-get-struck-by-lightning.html" target="_blank"> <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>24 incidents caused by lightning strikes between 1962 and 2010</strong></span></a>, out of a total of 140,000 aviation accidents.</p> <p>That included the 1963 Maryland crash, with most of the other 23 incidents involving small private planes or helicopters, and in one case a hot air balloon. Four of the other crashes involved fatalities, with 11 people dying.</p> <p>William Voss, a former FAA commissioner and also previously head of US aviation safety non-profit group Flight Safety Foundation, told CNN it was <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/08/17/planes.lightning.strikes/index.html" target="_blank">"pretty unlikely" lightning would cause a plane to crash</a></strong></span> nowadays.</p> <p>"I can't say anything is impossible, but we certainly don't see that happening. It's pretty well down on our list of concerns, again because we have a lot of experience with this, and aircraft get hit by lightning every day," Voss said.</p> <p>Most of the time lightning strikes dissipated. "Sometimes the lightning bolt is substantial enough that it will actually maybe punch a little hole in the skin as it goes out, but that's about all that it really does."</p> <p>Were you aware of this?</p> <p><em>Written by Lorna Thornber and Michael Daly. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

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How to holiday with your family without fighting

<p><em><strong>Rachel Croson, Dean, College of Social Science; MSU Foundation Professor of Economics, Michigan State University, explains how to have a holiday with your family without fighting.</strong></em></p> <p>I had the most awesome holiday this year.</p> <p>My husband took our two boys, ages 8 and 10, to his family’s celebration, and I had five days of uninterrupted sleep, fun with friends and grownup time. Don’t get me wrong; I love my husband’s family and I believe that holidays are important opportunities for making memories. But I desperately needed a break, and I got one. And my husband and kids were delighted by the outcome as well.</p> <p>How did this happen? I applied the lessons from my academic study of bargaining and negotiation to my personal life. So, with another holiday season upon us, here’s some guidance on how to negotiate with your partner while strengthening this critical relationship.</p> <p><strong>From theory to practice</strong></p> <p>I became interested in negotiation as a graduate student, and part of my dissertation investigated bargaining behaviour.</p> <p>I have taught negotiation to students and executives, published <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.399.3789&amp;rep=rep1&amp;type=pdf" target="_blank">many scholarly articles</a></strong></span> on bargaining and negotiation and given numerous <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.mchra.org/event-2164407" target="_blank">public lectures</a></strong></span> on the topic. But, like many academics, I hadn’t thought to apply my academic expertise to my personal life.</p> <p>Once I started to do so, however, I quickly realized that the concepts and skills learned from negotiation can be used not only to get what you need or want out of your family life, but also to make your family life happier overall.</p> <p>The most important insight is that negotiation does not have to be win-lose. It can be win-win.</p> <p><strong>Win-lose versus win-win</strong></p> <p>The popular conception of negotiation is all about getting the best deal for yourself or your side. It was a set of Harvard professors in their <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_to_Yes" target="_blank">groundbreaking</a></strong></span> 1981 book, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><em><strong><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/324551/getting-to-yes-by-roger-fisher/9780143118756/" target="_blank">“Getting to Yes,”</a></strong></em></span> who first popularly introduced the idea that negotiation could be “integrative,” or result in both parties being better off.</p> <p>In practice, <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/074959789090048E" target="_blank">many negotiators see only “distributive” or win-lose possibilities.</a></strong></span> In their minds, there is a fixed pie over which the parties are fighting: If you win, then I lose. As a result, most of the early <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0022103168900681" target="_blank">academic literature</a></strong></span> and practical guidance has focused on power. As you might imagine, this can be quite problematic for negotiating within the family.</p> <p>In contrast, the idea of integrative or win-win negotiations involves identifying outcomes that are good for both sides.</p> <p>There are a number of ways one can achieve integrative negotiations, but here I will discuss three of the major ones described in <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/324551/getting-to-yes-by-roger-fisher/9780143118756/" target="_blank">“Getting to Yes”</a></strong></span> and <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://amp.aom.org/content/18/3/109" target="_blank">subsequent articles</a></strong></span>.</p> <p><strong>Trade-offs.</strong> For example, consider a couple sharing a chicken for dinner. One way to share would be to cut the chicken in half and to each get an equal portion. This would be a distributive solution since we are distributing the chicken between the couple, and if one were to get more (win), the other would get less (lose). An integrative agreement can be found by identifying trade-offs between the two parties. For example, it turns out that I like the dark meat and my husband likes the white meat. So I can give him my breast and wing and he can give me his leg and thigh, and we can both win.</p> <p><strong>Adding issues.</strong> A second way to achieve win-win solutions is to change the scope of the negotiation. For example, each year my husband and I negotiate about where to take our summer vacation. I want to go to the forests of Lake Tahoe, and he wants to go to the casinos of Atlantic City. As long as the scope of the negotiation remains focused on this one trip, it will be difficult to satisfy us both. However, imagine we expanded the negotiation to include multiple dimensions. For example, we could make a multi-year deal where we alternated our destinations. Or I could commit to spending our winter vacation in Atlantic City, in exchange for a summer vacation in Lake Tahoe. Or he could agree to let me pick the vacation destination if I allow him to host a monthly poker game at our house.</p> <p><strong>Beyond positions to interests.</strong> A third way to achieve win-win solutions is to move beyond each individual’s position and focus on his or her interests. For example, when my husband and I were getting married, we had our strongest disagreement about the wedding cake. I wanted chocolate and he wanted white (vanilla). After many rounds of arguing, I finally asked why he wanted white cake. He replied that white was traditional and he wanted the cake to be white in the pictures. I told him that my whole family liked chocolate, and we wanted to eat chocolate cake. Once you move beyond positions (white cake versus chocolate cake) to underlying interests (picture cake versus eating cake), many integrative solutions become possible: white chocolate, bride’s cake/groom’s cake, Photoshop and so on.</p> <p>In the end, we had a three-tier cake, with two large chocolate tiers and one small white tier which we fed each other for the photos.</p> <p><strong>Negotiation tactics for the family</strong></p> <p>So, how should you negotiate with your partner, parents or children to get what everyone wants during the holidays?</p> <p>Here are some suggested tactics to help you achieve these win-win outcomes.</p> <p><strong>Be honest, not mean.</strong> To achieve win-win negotiations, all parties involved must be honest about what they want.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="http://www.people.hbs.edu/kmcginn/PDFs/Publishedarticles/1995-friendslovers.pdf" target="_blank">One study</a></strong></span> found that married couples come to fewer win-win solutions than friends in part because they are unwilling to ask for what they want, thinking that the other person will be angry with them.</p> <p>Simply giving in to the other person’s demands is not the pathway to win-win solutions. Instead, each party needs to express what is important to him or her and why, and listen carefully to his or her partner’s priorities and reasoning.</p> <p>Explaining that I wanted to eat chocolate cake and understanding that my husband wanted white cake for the pictures was pivotal to our coming to a win-win agreement.</p> <p><strong>Make concessions. </strong>One of the hallmarks of negotiations is that no one gets everything he or she wants. You need to be willing to make concessions, to give up the aspects that are less important to you in order to get what is most important to you.</p> <p>While cleaning up after poker games at our house is not my idea of a great time, it’s worth it to get the summer vacation I want.</p> <p><strong>Be creative.</strong> Once you understand and accept each other’s needs, you need to be creative about finding ways to meet them. This can involve brainstorming and being tolerant of your partner’s crazy, off-the-wall ideas in the process.</p> <p>Should we go to Monaco? What about an online poker account? How about a long weekend in Reno during our Tahoe trip?</p> <p><strong>Make promises, not threats.</strong> Finally, a word about language. One of the realities of negotiation is that either party can walk away. One way to keep the conversation constructive is to make promises (if we both order the chicken, I’ll trade your white meat for my dark meat) and avoid threats (if you won’t trade, I’ll have to order the surf-and-turf).</p> <p><strong>The past and the future</strong></p> <p>Each family has a long history together, with real and perceived slights. Families also expect to have long futures together.</p> <p>As a result, it is extremely important that these negotiations be handled with respect for the other party, and with a view to the long-term costs and benefits. Pick your battles, and concede on the other issues. You don’t need to win them all, just the important ones.</p> <p>Do you agree with this advice?</p> <p><em>Written by Rachel Croson. Republished with permission of <a href="http://theconversation.com/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">The Conversation</span></strong></a>.</em><img width="1" height="1" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/88842/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-advanced" alt="The Conversation"/></p>

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Why it’s still worth using a travel agent

<p>With hundreds of booking sites at your fingertips, travel agents might seem as obsolete as the printed map.</p> <p>But even experienced travellers should consider sitting down with a specialist to plan their next adventure.</p> <p>We talked to travel consultant Samantha Johnston of YOU Travel Taupo, who was named Rookie of the Year at the TAANZ National Travel Industry awards.</p> <p><strong>Tell me - why should I use a travel agent instead of the internet?</strong></p> <p>"Obviously you think if you're doing it yourself, you're cutting out someone else and must be getting the best deal - but it's so untrue," Johnston says. "Anything you can find yourself, we can find better."</p> <p>Basically, travel agents have access to special deals and software that the public don't. They can build an airfare by piecing together flights from different airlines to create one ticket.</p> <p><strong>I don't know if I trust you guys…</strong></p> <p>But you think the faceless bot at the other end of your computer cares about your holiday?</p> <p>"Third-party websites don't want to help you," Johnston says. "You forgot to include your luggage? You'll be on hold for hours. Nobody wants to answer your questions."</p> <p>Travel agents should be as excited about your holiday as you are. They should know everything there is to know about your destination, including niggly bits like visas and time zones.</p> <p>"We get so many people who have booked flights to Rarotonga, but forget that when you fly to Raro, you go back a day. So when they book their accommodation, they've booked a day too late. They come in saying, 'Oh my gosh, can you fix it?'"</p> <p>Travel agents are on call 24/7, and can be lifesavers if something unexpected happens before or during your holiday.</p> <p>"We might have someone whose mother has just passed away, so they can't go anymore. They make one phone call to us, and we fix everything - cancel reservations, talk to the airline, get any money back we can."</p> <p><strong>Isn't it more expensive?</strong></p> <p>Nope. Getting a quote is totally free. If you end up booking, you're not paying any extra for the travel agent's service.</p> <p>But you've also got to remember when booking a holiday, cheapest isn't necessarily best, Johnston warns.</p> <p>"I could find someone a nice, 4.5-star holiday package to Fiji, and they'll want a better deal. Sure, I can give them a 3-star package that might be cheaper - but they might not end up enjoying it like they would have the 4.5 star.</p> <p>"It's all about getting better value for your money. You want to have a good holiday, and you want to enjoy it."</p> <p><strong>How does that commission thing work, anyway?</strong></p> <p>Travel agents make money from the commissions they receive from hotels, cruise lines or tour operators - not from the customer who's paying the price, Johnston says.</p> <p>Your travel agent shouldn't push you towards a certain company because it means a bigger pay cheque for them, either.</p> <p>"You've got to get to know the person you're dealing with so you know which cruise line or airline they'll enjoy," Johnston  says. "If you do well by them, they'll come back. It's a repeat business and word of mouth carries on."</p> <p><strong>What if I get the travel agent to do all the hard work and prepare an itinerary for me… only so I can jump straight back on Skyscanner?</strong></p> <p>You might think you're being economical with this dastardly plan, but there really is no advantage to doing it yourself.</p> <p>"We sometimes get people coming in for a quote, going home and using the information provided to book it themselves," Johnston says. "I find it quite funny because we're here to help. If they need to change something, or add on accommodation, we can do the whole thing. Whereas if you've booked on a third-party website, we can't deal with it."</p> <p>When you book through a travel agent, your funds are secure through a bonding scheme and protected by law - whereas booking via foreign websites offers no protection.</p> <p>"We have exactly the same prices, and with that, you get all the service we provide, free of charge," Johnston says.</p> <p>"If you see a good deal, just bring it in, and ask, 'Can you get this for me?' Because 99 per cent of the time, we can."</p> <p>What are your thoughts? Do you agree with this advice?</p> <p><em>Written by Siobhan Downes. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

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How I learned to love van life

<p><em><strong>Jackie Norman is a travel writer for Motorhomes, Caravans &amp; Destinations magazine and lives on the road permanently after selling her house in 2016 to go in search of a simpler life.</strong></em></p> <p>I caught sight of my reflection the other day in a shop window and was shocked at what I saw. Not because I didn't like it – on the contrary it made me smile to see myself rugged up like an eskimo with my favourite pom pom hat and trusty backpack. But for the first time it really hit home how different I am from other women my age.</p> <p>Not so long ago I was living just the same as most other women I knew. I had a lovely home with a modest mortgage and a wardrobe full of expensive clothes. I spent a fortune on making myself look and smell nice and loved nothing better than hanging out in wine bars and posh cafes. I kept up with all the celebrity gossip and reality shows, knew all the latest songs on the radio and played them at full volume everywhere I went in my tiny purple Mazda Demio.</p> <p>But something inside me yearned for a simpler, more peaceful life. I got no enjoyment from owning or collecting 'stuff' any more. What I wanted from life was adventure and experiences, not things. I wanted to travel, wherever I wanted for as long as I wanted. So in 2016 I gave it all up for a life on the road.</p> <p>While a lot of people would consider it an extreme move, in hindsight I think I had been subconsciously working towards it for a long time. In the years leading up to the move, I had gradually been whittling down my possessions and getting rid of items I felt were too expensive to use or unnecessary.</p> <p>The first thing to go was the clothes drier, next was the Sky subscription and TV. At first the rest of the family complained but after a few days they didn't even miss it and found other things to do.</p> <p>Then I turned my attention to the walls and on the shelves. Bit by bit I sold or gave away everything in my house, sheds and enormous garden and crammed what was left of it (including my partner and a rather overweight Cocker Spaniel) into our new home on wheels, a camper van called Ken.</p> <p>Initially we weren't planning to spend more than a few months on the road. The plan was to find a new home, buy land and build a new little place in the middle of nowhere. However we had no idea we would love it so much and 18 months later here we are, still on the road.</p> <p>I can't help wondering what my friends would think of me if they saw me now. The top brand clothing and reverse bayalage colour job are long gone.</p> <p>One of the first things you learn on the road is that you really don't need many clothes to get you through life. The amount of clothes my husband and I own collectively would fit in the average person's underwear drawer. I've gone from having a wardrobe full of clothing which never saw the light of day to wearing what few items I have until they literally fall apart. It feels good to actually get the use out of them.</p> <p>I don't dye my hair – heck, I don't even cut my hair. I don't go to beauty salons or hairdressers. I don't wear make-up or use any creams or products whatsoever. I see photos of my friends all the time, looking gorgeous and wearing beautiful outfits and sometimes I wish I still looked like they do. I feel like a scruffbag every minute of every day and I know I look it too, but what I lack in style I more than make up for in happiness. I feel so happy so much of the time, I feel like my face glowing and people can see it on the outside. That in itself is beautiful to me.</p> <p>So many of the things most people take for granted and do without thinking have become completely foreign to me. At the other end of the scale, I can't imagine them doing most of the things I do either! My daily routine is certainly not that of your average 40-something professional woman. For example:</p> <p>When I get up in the morning, it can take a couple of hours just to do basic things such as make the bed, make coffee and breakfast and wash dishes. Making the bed is not a question of just pulling up a duvet and plumping up pillows; more often than not it involves taking the entire bed apart, shaking out all the bedding (when it's not raining) and putting it all back together again.</p> <p>When I do the dishes I don't have a dishwasher or even hot water. Now the weather is getting cold, I have to boil a kettle to take the chill off the water so I can do the dishes without my hands hurting. Where other people simply load up the dishwasher and push a button, I wash them by hand in a 20 litre bucket. I have a working sink in the van but trust me, it's not comfortable standing bent double for long when the ceiling is so low.</p> <p>As for getting in the shower, you think you have trouble sharing the toilet or bathroom in your house? You should try it at a campground, it's every man for himself! I'm sure reading this most people will be thinking 'Stuff that!' And sure, sometimes it can get a little frustrating that such simple everyday things take so much time, especially when I need to get to work but you get used to it.</p> <p>Once the morning chores are out of the way, then I can finally get to work. I still have the same job I've been doing for almost 20 years. For me it was just a question of moving my home office into my mobile one. Obviously the fact I could already work from anywhere and support myself made my transition into living on the road much easier, but even if I hadn't been, you wouldn't believe how many work opportunities there are for people living on the road. I could literally get a new job every day if I wanted, there are that many. Ask anyone living this way. You don't need to earn much to pay for the few costs you have on the road either; on the whole it's just food, campground fees, petrol and phone.</p> <p>I don't go out to fancy restaurants or spend a heap of money on entertainment any more. It's not that I can't, I just don't feel the need to. I'd much rather pay to travel and see something amazing that will stay with me forever than blow the same amount on a meal that lasts 10 minutes. I spent an unforgettable day kayaking in Milford Sound recently for less than I used to spend on lunch at Burger Fuel. When you live with and on so little, you soon realise what real value is and what is truly important.</p> <p>People automatically assume we must miss the comfort and space of living in a normal house, but that isn't the case at all. When I see people in nice houses on Facebook or on TV, I don't feel envious, or wish that I had any of that. Most of the time I just see clutter, or thousands of dollars spent on a kitchen that I'd much rather spend travelling around Asia.</p> <p>The only thing I truly miss is being able to have a bath. I really miss that! But that's all. Living on the road has taught me that you don't need a fancy kitchen to cook amazing food. You don't need a $5000 bed to sleep like a baby. You don't need a state of the art bathroom to keep yourself clean.</p> <p>Everybody is different. I never, ever envisaged I would be living the way I am today. But I wouldn't change it for the world. I have no debt, no credit cards; all I have today is all I need and my home is wherever I want it to be. It's a bloody brilliant life.</p> <p>And crazy as it sounds, every morning when I stick my hands into that freezing cold bucket of dishwashing water, I feel so incredibly lucky, I can't help but smile.</p> <p>Do you think you could get used to van life?</p> <p><em>Written by Jackie Norman. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

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The truth about hotel bathrobes

<p>When the time comes to check out of a hotel, it is hard to resist the urge to search the room for any freebie items that can we can slip into our suitcase.</p> <p>Robes and slippers are the hotel items that cause the most confusion among guests about whether they can take them home without any consequence.</p> <p><a href="https://www.escape.com.au/travel-advice/to-steal-or-not-to-steal-what-you-can-and-cant-take-from-hotel-rooms/news-story/7fa7f374957edf51512c0c5dc62f4ed2" target="_blank"><em><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Escape</span></strong></em></a> has revealed that robes are off limits for most hotels and that guests will also be hit with an extra charge if one goes missing.</p> <p>Hotel bathrobes are laundered and then reused for the next guest.</p> <p>However, most hotels do not mind if slippers are taken by guests because they will not be used again.</p> <p>“Slippers won’t be used again,” explained Hotels.com marketing manager David Spasovic. </p> <p>“So you may as well stash them away for you to use on your next flight – they’re ideal for wearing on a long haul. Hold back on the robe though.”</p> <p>There are plenty other items that are up for the taking at hotel rooms, but it is important to make sure you don’t get too carried away.</p> <p>“The general rule of thumb is that if it can't be reused then it can be taken,” said David. </p> <p>“Miniature toiletries, shower caps, combs, disposable razors and toothbrushes. These are all goodies that can be swiped.”</p> <p>Pier One Sydney Harbour Hotel’s general manager, Kim Mahaffy said, “We expect guests to either use or to take consumable items, including soap. But preferably not two dozen from the housekeeping cart!”</p> <p>As a general guide, pillows, towels, robes, bed sheets and electrical items cannot be taken from hotels.</p> <p>But slippers, soap, shampoo and conditioner, tea and coffee and pens, are up for grabs.</p> <p>What items do you take when you stay in a hotel room? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

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The one thing you should ask your doctor before travelling

<p>If you’re someone who requires medication as part of your day to day life the prospect of a long-term trip can be quite tricky. Especially if you’re thinking of venturing to a remote destination, or a country which speaks another language.</p> <p>But this shouldn’t be a reason not to go on a holiday.</p> <p>Provided you check in with one important person, as travel expert Rachel Kurzup says on her <a href="https://www.rachelkurzyp.com.au/" target="_blank"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">popular travel blog</span></strong></a>, there’s one person you should check in with.</p> <p>And that’s your GP.</p> <p>Rachel says if you’re planning to go on holidays and you’re taking medication (even if you’ve got more than enough for your trip) it’s a good idea to get your doctor to write a letter which states which medications you’re taking.</p> <p>“It’s a good idea to keep this letter with your important documents in case you get questioned about your medication,” she writes.</p> <p>“Every country has different laws on pharmaceuticals so it’s good to be prepared with an explanation of what your medications are and why you are taking them. The letter will also come in handy if you get ill and are asked what medications you are taking by a foreign doctor who won’t know your previous medical history. Having the letter from your doctor just makes these situations a little easier.”</p> <p>Do you travel with medication? What advice would you give to someone who does?</p>

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