Thinking about travelling?


Recently I have met a few women who live on their own and they are nervous to travel alone, seriously these small group type tours are made for you. I suggest you select a tour that involves your personal interest – fishing, opera, architecture, tramping, cycling, photography, wine and food, farming etc. This way the people on the tours will have shared interests with you –  you might even like them :):)

There are tours for everyone  – use Google to discover one to suit you. I am listing a few tours to give you an idea of the broad range available. Not recommending just mentioning them. Check on Trip Advisor before you book hotels and tours; sometimes it is surprising what you learn. There are far more tours than time and money to partake of. I could travel continually – not sure I want to but I could be tempted. Lotto is the answer!

I know most of my friends travel somewhere exciting every year. Some are photographers and they tend to single out photographic tours or workshops. But not everyone wants to get up an hour before sunrise or miss their G&T at 5pm! Holidays are expensive and you need to consider tailor-made excursions. Some travel 5 star plus, some go on Intrepid Journeys. Some fly economy some fly business. However you travel or wherever you go  there are always helpful hints and ideas to make the voyage easier. I wrote a blog on packing recently, a couple of people said it helped them.

(Comment box at end…please add your tips, thoughts and favourite small group ideas, and share my blogs with your friends..)

I like to make my travel as easy as possible so I am happy to pay extra to have a car meet me in a foreign city. In New York and London especially; so much easier than fighting through hoards of people to a taxi ramp that looks like a wreckers yard or lugging luggage from one platform to another to catch a different train line in a London subway.  The extra $$ means I arrive relatively relaxed, that is worth a lot to me.  Mind you I am travelling alone. If you have a spouse to share the stress and carry the bags I’m sure it is much easier. What happened to old-fashioned porters I wonder??

I will never forget struggling up 50 stairs with my luggage over a small bridge and down 50 stairs when travelling from Florence to Cinque Terre…it nearly killed me! Europe is like that. Actually  elevators existed as far back as ancient Rome; Archimedes was building them in 336 B.C., and gladiators and animals rode lifts to the Roman Coliseum arena by A.D. 80 So why they don’t have lifts is beyond me.

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These days many folk book online but it isn’t actually cheaper, agents get paid by the hotels and wholesalers, not by you.  Recently I spoke to someone who proudly told me they’d booked everything themselves online, a complex trip with airline connections etc. That is all very noble until things go wrong, and they do go wrong. You realise you didn’t allow your self-sufficient  time and you’ve missed a connection. Then you pay;  you pay with a stressful few hours and with a cash outlay, neither are very funny.  If your travel agent makes the mistake he or she pays! Recently I missed a flight in the USA, my print out said it was departing at 11-30am and when I checked in they said the flight left at 9-15am. I showed them the paper  print out and was I sent to a different desk where  3 staff looked at their screen and announced I had to pay US$100.00. I was OK paying  as in the back of my brain somewhere an alarm bell was ringing…I remembered my agent had changed that flight but I hadn’t printed out the new details. All I wanted was to get onto the 11-30 am flight which of course was already over booked  as most American flights  are! Then the staff supervisor said “who changed the flight?” They didn’t know if it was them or my agent, so they refunded my $100.00 ushered me through an express way and I was on the flight quick as  a flash of lightning.The flight I originally wanted in the first place as well ! Had I not booked through an agent I would have been in all sorts of trouble. So I think  agents are invaluable. If you live in Auckland and don’t have an agent I suggest you call Steve at Fortis Travel.  A type of insurance. is the way I see it. I still do a heap of research but they often have hotel specials etc. On the subject of insurance, paying with your Visa Gold card gives you some insurance but some destinations it is definitely insufficient. Read the small print. When I went on safari to Africa for example, I took out additional insurance.

A friend recently arrived at a hotel all booked by her travel agent to be told they had no rooms available! A quick call to her agent and a 3 way phone chat soon had them booking my friend into a suite at no extra charge. And so the stories go.

There are many women who travel on their own ( and a few men).  I suggest you google trips that pertain to your interests. There are many garden tours in Europe and similarly painting, music or art appreciation tours. There are numerous cycling and photographic tours and other  genre too. I have listed a tiny selection here… but these trips are going to be far more rewarding than a 1000 or 2000 person cruise ship in my humble opinion.



APT is a travel company renowned for running excellent coach tours, owned and operated by Australians.

Typical of their trips…10 day Discover with Botanica World Discoveries the wonderful gardens of England and Wales in Spring with this relaxed tour in Southern UK while accompanied by a Botanical Guide. Highlights include The Chelsea Flower Show and 32 hectares of Bodnant Gardens or this one : Discover the pristine lakes, Romanesque architecture and gardens of the Italians Lakes district, before crossing into Slovenia to the beautiful town of Bled. Continue into Croatia then sail along the picturesque Dalmatian Coast.

gardening garden

 ART….Try this  trip  to Japan.199x199xJapan1-199x199_jpg_pagespeed_ic_9zQUXshaT3LMC-0688-Edit

Chihuly Glass – I’ve seen his work in the USA and London and love it.



An ‘ornament’ I spotted in Bond Street and regret not purchasing 😦 as we often do when travelling.



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New Orleans

Stories by Ken Burns Tauck’s 8-day Cajun Country and New Orleans tour includes Tauck Exclusives like Stories by Ken Burns, a Cajun house party, private demo at the New Orleans School of Cooking, an authentic streetcar tour, a private jazz experience at Preservation Hall, a private farewell jazz reception and dinner at Arnaud’s, five nights at historic French Quarter hotels and more!




A fun tour with Peta Mathias might be the best ticket…

“We start our tour in the north in Hanoi where we find out how to make rice paper and tofu, eat street food which is THE Hanoi specialty, learn how to cook at my friend’s house and drink the famous Hanoi fresh beer. We then jump on a plane to Hué (which is like going from Paris to the South of France),where we stay at the most exquisite French Art Deco hotel. Hué is the ancient Imperial Capitol of Vietnam and is most famous for its intricate imperial cuisine, fabulous imperial sites and is a huge centre for Buddhism.


Culinary Tour of North India 11 Days / 10 Nights

Our tour starts in Delhi, which offers a panoramic vista of heritage and modern India that you will experience during the city sightseeing tour. Mughlai Food will be our first culinary experience known for its richness, exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts.

I loved India and my earlier blog might be useful. How to avoid Deli Belhi etc.




Take a cycle holiday in France to enjoy the scenic beauty, enchanting culture,  delicious food and fine wine the French countryside has to offer. From the iconic high passes of the Alps and Pyrenees to the gently meandering valleys famous for their wine production, it is possible to find cycling routes in France to suit all abilities and interests.


  • Cycle along Kerry’s dramatic Emerald coastline.
  • Meet the welcoming people of Dingle and Kerry and explore the many small villages along the way.
  • Cycle the world famous Slea Head and Adelaideexample – DAY 3 Springton to Tanunda – Enjoy the picturesque scenery and infinite views as you ride into the epicenter of the Barossa Valley • Some of today’s ride includes parts of the world-famous tour down under cycling race.



Summer Antarctic Expeditions exploring New Zealand’s remote Islands are popular for the adventurous. Check out Heritage Expeditions. Galapagos to the Chathams and further south from $800.00  a day.

PHOTOGRAPHY –  “have camera will travel”

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Alaska with our best known Kiwi photographer Chris McClennan We are very excited to be putting together an exclusive Alaskan Winter photo tour for 2016 featuring the famous Iditarod dog sled race, the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) and of course some spectacular Arctic landscapes.

Kenya 2017 with Daniel Cox ( I’m going on his Alaska Brown Bear trip this year) read on.. 16 Guests MaximumOPTION 1: FULL SEAT Allows each guest to have a seat and window on both sides of the vehicle. This gives ample room for camera gear and allows for photographing from both sides of the vehicle –  This is what makes this tour so special, an experienced guide and space! Two different pricing structures depending on your vehicle needs/preference.

Antarctica  My dream trip –  this tour flies from Punta Arenas, Chile to Antarctica’s King George Island and back, eliminating days of travel in the challenging waters of the Drake Passage. John Paul Capanigro is a superb photographer, one of the best!


Photos by John Paul Capanigro

 India 2015 – hurry for this one.. but another dream photo trip. I’ve been to Rajasthan and loved every day! Led by Brendan O’Hagan and organised by CANON NZ for photographers.

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Rajasthan place in the sun.

CRUISING – I have never been cruising so this advice is from a trusty friend.

Major decisionSIZE DOES MATTER”

 Large ship or boutique vessel??  this has a huge impact on your enjoyment. Large cruises offer an exceptional array of entertainment options, dining venues, and amenities and are typically the way to go if you’re traveling with younger children or a large group looking for lively nightly activities.  However I imagine you’re hoping for a more intimate, relaxing luxury experience with attentive service and a sophisticated ambiance so please consider choosing a smaller luxury cruise.  Silver Seas are evidently top-notch. Their small ultra-luxury ships can sail up narrow waterways into the heart of a city, or tie up right at the pier while others must anchor off shore, these factors can make quite a difference to your holiday. I’m saving this treat up for my older age!!


I hear Mexico is amazing fishing. Cabo Fishing offers world-class sportfishing charters in Cabo San Lucas Mexico, possibly the best sportfishing waters in the entire world, that is after New Zealand I say. (tongue in cheek!) April May and June are the best times so escape our winter.


So folks, cash in your childrens’ inheritance and travel while you still can. If you are alone look at the tours I’ve mentioned.. small and manageable. ( Ideal for couples too of course) I can’t keep listing tours but trust me there are some awesome adventures waiting to be had!! And don’t take more luggage than you  can carry; lighweight with 4 wheels, passport and go!! See you there!!





Packing – who has mastered the art?


Travelling – what to take and what to leave at home.

I travel to the USA and Australia  quite often, and sometimes to other wonderful locations. I should be good at packing but I am not!! Well I seem to take too much and or forget things. I had fun buying a hair brush in Istanbul because I left mine in NZ !  I’ve read all about how one should roll your clothes and  about expensive compartment systems and so forth. Do they really work? I think rolling is good, less creases. Anyway read on for some excellent tips that will help you pack sensibly.

Please add in the comment box your favourite tips.

Choosing a suitcase.

Soft-shell cases aren’t particularly weatherproof and are vulnerable to being sliced open by thieves if in off beat countries. Hard cases come in various materials, ( including human beings 🙂 ) suggest you avoid plastic, they break.  By and large  you get what you pay for. The well-known brands have life time warranties. Concealed zips deter the slick thief who can open a zip with a pencil in 5 seconds flat! Combination locks take 5 minutes to open I am told. Seriously I can even open a zipper. 

4 wheels are fabulous, you can push or pull with little pressure, a dream in large airports where you walk for several k’s. Spend the money, you won’t regret it. My Delsey case arrived with one wheel bashed in; once I opened it we popped it back out and it was good as new. My small Samosonite 55cm  for the overhead locker weighs 1.8 kg’s empty.   packing

The best rule I’ve heard for a one bag trip is the “1-2-3-4-5-6 rule”, and it’s usually good enough for longer trips. 1 hat, 2 pair of shoes, 3 of pants, 4 shirts, 5 of socks, 6 of underwear – the trouble is I always add one more of something!! Or try following this simple formula. Pack three tops for every bottom. Generally, pants and skirts take up more room than shirts, avoid heavy denim etc.

So here  am packing once more for 3 weeks in the USA, summer temperatures, time at the lake and some city time. I know of one woman who travels with a different outfit for every day and she takes two check in cases; I can’t manage that by myself through airports etc. I haven’t seen a gorgeous porter or even an ugly one in years, so I only take what I can carry. Maybe a husband would be useful. ( smile)

This new luggage called a Barracuda is being tested currently  and I think it has many merits.. watch the video and see what you think. It has a USB port, what next?



I wonder what everyone else travels with??  I take one hard case and one carry on case very light weight thanks to Samsonite. The small one is for my beloved camera, a jacket and book, medication and anything else I might need in flight.I always have a pair of knickers in the carry on too because if you arrive at a destination minus your luggage you will be pleased to have a spare pair! I always have my chargers in my carry on luggage as they were once stolen from my check in luggage about 3 years ago in the USA.   😦    We think taken by the very people who check the bags. The TSA lock was not damaged, however  my case was in transit for several hours at the Denver Airport. I suggest you pack your chargers in your hand luggage too as I have read that it is a popular item to steal !!

I have included beach/boat shoes, my best sandals, and one pair of walking shoes. and I wear one!  I’d love to pack more shoes but I think I can manage?.  Four pairs of trou’, one shorts, one togs, sun glasses, umpteen tops, 2 pr pj’s, one merino jacket for cool summer evenings, one pashmina wrap.  And of course underwear! The later take up no space. I buy quick drying knickers from Jockey, ideal for travelling. One small hand bag as well as my online Tumi travel bag. Check out the Tumi range.  I always take a lingerie bag for worn undies.  2-3 walk shoe soxs and a sunhat? That’s a toughie, I don’t want my best sunhat ruined by folding and the floppy hats make me look like an Australian drover! Pack your socks/underwear/small-items inside your shoes.  I also pop an alternative pendant or bracelet inside my shoes.

Leave the Bling at Home

Leave pricey watches and jewellery  behind. If you aren’t prepared to lose it, don’t pack it. Buy a cheap Swatch for traveling and costume jewellery for show, mind you in some countries I wear my expensive watch and rings; America and Australia are fine. But I didn’t take them to India and Istanbul or Tibet. Sometimes discretion is wiser.

Air compression plastic bags are miraculous and make sense.  Squeezing air out of clothes, giving you more room in the suitcase. your clothes look like vacuum packed meat, well not quite!  Giant Ziploc bags work, too. Just roll them tight. – See more.

I love these foundation  brushes with a lid. brush

First I looked at my bulging toilet bag – it was full of free samples that have been around the world several times! They went into the draw at home!! Now I have plenty of space.The makeup case is a  zip affair, small so that is fine. On the plane I have a brush  ( see photo ) with a secure lid so I put foundation onto  that for a touch up on the flight, a lippy and that’s me for the flight!! Easy really.The airlines supply toothbrushes and moisturizer usually. Remember don’t wear perfume when flying out of consideration to the passenger next to you. Some folks have allergies to perfume. See my earlier blogs on travel.

Shoes can get pretty dirty after a week of traveling. Put your dirty shoes inside the free hotel shower caps.  Toward the end of your vacation, your suitcase will probably be filled with dirty clothes. I like this American tip;  put a dryer anti static sheet in the bag with all of your dirty clothes, it’ll keep them smelling fresh and keep them all from clinging together.

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I take a small shampoo and conditioner stolen from hotels somewhere  on my travels. Your hair is going to survive and your luggage will have room for those new shoes you just had to buy!! A brush, comb and styling brush, hair mouse, deodorant,  lip balm, tooth brush from supermarket that is motorised, small toothpaste tube from my dentist, (they often have samples just ask),  throat lozengers, eye drops just in case, bongela, just in case, lots of ‘just in case’ items. Paw Paw cream ( fixes everything ), wet ones, makeup remover Mircrolette , (well travelling can give you constipation!!)  , panadol or similar, razor, Sudafed just in case, Orajel for cold sores, (just in case), small scissors, a band-aid, pressure point foam pad for blisters, just in case. And a few pills and potions from my friendly GP.

Take a slimmer wallet — Buy a very compact wallet traveling, instead of your normal one. It frees up space in your purse. Makes room for the camera perhaps. You won’t need your library card or shopper loyalty cards on vacation — just an ID and a few credit cards should cover it.

Long journeys are great for catching up on the reading pile. Instead of packing heavy magazines, tear out the articles that you want to read.  Vanity Fair and Vogue now weigh 95  % less. Alternately, take magazines that you can leave behind, shedding weight as you go. Of course, you could just load up the iPad with books and articles. (What? You are still addicted to paper., surely not.)

I leave NZ with 5-6 presents wrapped for family and friends; plus pineapple lumps and jet planes, this makes room for shopping space on the return! This almost fills the suitcase but not quite so do I pop in my best black jacket just in case? Another pair of walk shoes just for fun? I need to read my own advise.


I need my phone charger, iPad charger, two camera chargers, spare batteries and a torch –  really? Yes really, power cuts do happen. Charge all phones, cameras, iPads, and laptops before getting to an airport. If you do get delayed you can at least read your mail. Carry the adapter for your destination in your hand luggage, a multi-plug version is the best. You can buy all sorts of adaptor plugs  do your research and buy the best you can afford. Take a double plug if  you have phones and cameras to recharge.

So now I am ready to go… I have a travel scale to check the weight.. excess baggage charges are rather high and undesirable. Check and double-check, make lists, remember to read the lists and so forth! Remember your passport.

Au revoir and  don’t panic: you don’t even need tickets these days 🙂

Here is my previous blog on travel etiquette. all coloured words should be links.