Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Corliss Group Voyage Hong Kong: Tips to find the best package holidays - plus 10 of the best deals to book now

What would grab your attention to book a package holiday? Australians have been touted as the second-biggest holiday spenders in the world (after the Saudis), and travel companies are working hard to nab a lucrative share of that travel dollar.

On average, Australians spend $3962 on an overseas trip, shadowing the global average of $2300, according to Visa’s latest Global Travel Intentions study. The report also revealed Aussies plan to increase their holiday budget by almost 10 per cent on their next trip to an average $4331.

So what are travel companies willing to do to turn a holiday-maker’s head?

Colin Bowman, Flight Centre’s general manager of marketing, says companies are always looking for ways to add value to a package. “I was in Hong Kong recently and the hotel we stayed at offered guests a mobile phone for the duration of their stay with calls charged at a local rate,” he says. “It’s the small but very important inclusions like these which can set a package aside.”

Matthew Cameron-Smith, managing director of Trafalgar Australia, says savvy Australian travellers want an experience that offers authenticity.

Cameron-Smith says: “Anyone can pay to have dinner on the Champs Elysees in Paris, but how many can organise a meal in a private 100-year-old goat farm in rural France or a lemon grove in Tuscany?”

Creative Holidays managing director James Gaskell says everyone loves a bonus – welcome cocktails, free massages, upgrade offers, late check-out or return airport transfers – which they offer through Creative Club packages.

The perfect travel package depends on the traveller – a family group, those after adventure or couples looking for a little luxury.

Leah Squire, owner of family travel specialists BYOKids.com.au, says parents love all-inclusive holidays where they can pay upfront and know in advance what they’re up for. Companies such as Club Med and family-friendly resorts in Fiji often offer packages that include all meals, beverages and entertainment, which BYOKids can package with flights and accommodation.

“It’s a real benefit to a family to know what a holiday will cost upfront,” Squire says. “Once they arrive at their destination, all they need to budget for is their spending money.

“Family groups also love the idea of value-added inclusions, things like free kids club and kids eat-and-stay free bonuses.”

Squire says the family holiday package industry is booming as parents become more time-poor. “Ten years ago families were going on less complex holidays so they could make the arrangements on their own,” she says. “But families have shifted from two weeks at a caravan park to Bali, Fiji, Europe and the US and they need help planning it.”

Luxury packages are all about the added touches – even little things like thread count in sheets and exclusive toiletries – that make the difference between a good hotel and a great hotel, says Mark Hoenig of LuxuryEscapes.com.

Even though luxury seekers are willing to pay a little extra, they still seek a good deal.

“People will often pay a little bit more if they’re getting amazing value,” Hoenig says. “Ultimately, if the accommodation itself isn’t of a sufficiently high standard, it doesn’t matter how many meals or spa treatments are included.

“We don’t have set rules for what goes into one of our packages, it depends on what the provider does well. If a resort is famous for its restaurants, we’ll try to add a significant gourmet aspect, such as special dinners and cooking classes. If the hotel has an award-winning spa, we’ll include a variety of spa treatments.”


“A great adventure travel package definitely has to take you off the beaten track,” says Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, which offers packages in more than 100 countries.

“It also has to give travellers the opportunity to interact with the local people and learn about their culture and way of life.”

Tip adds an adventure package is about more than simply ticking items off a bucket list.

“No longer is getting a photo in front of the world’s famous landmarks enough – travellers want to immerse themselves in the culture, make meaningful connections and learn more about the people and the country.

“Learning a language or taking a local cooking class, getting to know the local cafe owner then somehow being invited to attend his cousin’s wedding that night – these are the sort of experiences (our customers) are looking for.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Corliss Group Voyage Hong Kong, Doc Holiday’s travel tips: What to do with one day in Hong Kong

EXPERT weekly advice on your travel dilemmas.

My husband and I will be arriving in Hong Kong in June at 5am and departing at 8.15pm the same day. Is there anything we can do during this time?

Doc: With comfy shoes and lots of energy you should be able to make the most of your day. Start by jumping on the Airport Express to Kowloon – it takes 24 minutes and departs every 10 minutes. Then take an early- morning walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. You’ll get a great view of the busy harbour and see the Avenue of Stars, with statues and handprints of celebrities. Next to the ferry terminal is the Museum of Art showing collections of ancient art and antiques (note: it’s closed on Thursdays). Hop on the Star Ferry across to Central then head to the Pier Eight bus terminus and take shuttle bus No. 15 to the Peak Tram Station. Board the tram for the climb up Victoria Peak for fantastic views. Grab some traditional Asian food at one of the restaurants, then do the one-hour walk around the peak. You may then have time to go back to Central Pier Six and catch the ferry to Mui Wo. From here take New Lantao bus two to Ngong Ping Village (about 40 minutes), where there’s the giant Tian Tan Buddha and the reconstructed village showing traditional Chinese architecture. Or, for a more relaxing afternoon, head back down to the Central MTR train station and take the 10-minute trip to Mong Kok. This is known as “the area that never rests” – it’s hectic but there’s plenty of bargain shopping and good cheap eateries. Make your way back to Central where you get the Airport Express back to the airport. You’ll find a check-in service for many major airlines at the main MTR stations. There you can check in and receive your boarding pass. It’s best to check with your airline whether this is possible.

My husband and I are planning a three-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia this year. I would like to buy some good-quality mementos of our holiday – perhaps having clothes made, a painting or jewellery. Do you have any tips for not getting taken advantage of and finding that you paid triple the price, or worse, finding out when you get home that your purchase never arrived?

Doc: Having clothes made in Vietnam, particularly if you are going to Hoi An where there are more than 400 tailors and loads of shoemakers, is amazing. It’s simple, unbelievably quick and good quality. If you have a favourite item, it’s a good idea to take it with you, or even a photo or magazine cut-out and the tailors will copy it. Usually, if you see them in the morning you can go back later in the afternoon for a fitting. Then, all going well, it should be ready for collection the next day. The range of material on hand is huge but I suggest that if you have a particular fabric in mind, take enough with you. The prices are cheap and I haven’t heard of anyone encountering any problems. The people are very kind and honest. Art is also readily available in both countries and can be original or copies of other works. Shop around – prices can vary considerably. Buy only the canvas and have it framed at home. That way you alleviate any freight issues. Regarding jewellery, you will come across many stores offering a huge array. It’s OK to buy costume and traditional pieces but unless you’re knowledgeable about gemstones, this is not the best place to buy them. Be sure to get official receipts of purchases for Customs.

My husband and I would like to travel from Zurich to Venice by train. Would we have to change trains in Milan and how much time would we need to get from one platform to another. Also, what are the fares?

Doc: There are two options and both require a change in Milan. Firstly, there’s the slower, more scenic journey called the Bernina Route. Start by catching a train from Zurich to Chur. They run every 30 minutes, take 1.5 hours and cost about $80. See the website sbb.ch. Then change to the 8.30am Bernina Express, with its special panoramic sightseeing carriages, to Tirano. It’s about $90 a person for this sector and a reservation is needed. You’ll need to leave Zurich before 6.30am and the Bernina Express will be on the other side of the platform. The ride on the Bernina is a spectacular four-hour journey through 55 tunnels and about 200 bridges. In Tirano, hop on a local train to Milan for about $17. They run every two hours. Option two is to take the EuroCity train from Zurich to Milan for about $40. Both will require you to change in Milan to a high-speed train, which will take about 2.5 hours to reach Venice and cost about $80 in first class and $57 in second (italiarail.com). Changing platforms is usually quick and easy, as there’s no check-in or physical barriers. The high-speed trains run at least every hour from Milan, so don’t worry about running.

Friday, April 11, 2014

4 Great Travel tips with Corliss Group for Visiting Paris in Springtime

With flowering public gardens and boulevards made for strolling hand-in-hand, this is the perfect time of year to visit the City of Light. Here, we share our favorite tips for finding the perfect views, affordable meals, and making Paris your own.

Have a plan, but be flexible

John Baxter, author of The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris, recommends that you pick one must-see for each day in Paris, but improvise the rest of the day. This combination of planning and spontaneity is ideal for Paris, a city that offers not only super-famous sights like the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe, but also super-secret spots that are all the more special for being off the beaten path. "Paris can't be done with just a map or a guidebook. You have to get lost, frustrated, Overwhelmed. Only then will you find that perfect café, that market that seems like a local secret, or that hidden garden. You have to discover Paris for yourself and then it will be yours, "says Rebecca Geoffroy-Schwinden, a Ph.D. candidate in musicology recently returned from a year in Paris.

Get the perfect view

Dubbed "this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower" by the city’s most prominent artists when it was proposed by engineer Gustave Eiffel, Parsons ultra-iconic observation tower debuted as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair and quickly became so popular that it was never taken down. These days, the only "monstrous" thing about the tower is the line to buy tickets--the Eiffel Tower attracts more than 7 million visitors each year. It may no longer be the tallest man-made structure in the world (it held that title until the 1930 completion of New York City’s Chrysler Building), but the view of the City of Light from the top--including the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur, the Seine and its many bridges, and the surrounding countryside up to 40 + miles--has no earthly match. The elevator to the top: 15 euros (buy tickets online to sidestep the line). You can toast the view with a glass of Champagne (from 10 euros), and beat the crowds by visiting later in the evening--the floodlit tower is open until 11 p.m. through mid-June, then to midnight in summer.

Insiders suggest that you take the No. 6 Metro line to the Bir-Hakeim station--youll get an unforgettable view of the tower as your above-ground train approaches the station. Looking for a less-crowded view? The top of Notre Dame cathedral can't be beat, and the view from the Arc De Triomphe is spectacular as well. Or try this insider tip: "Head to the top of Tour Montparnasse around 4: 30 p.m. for a Champagne overlooking the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower," suggests Geoffroy-Schwinden.

See the gardens

Sure, museums like the Louvre and D'Orsay insist on keeping world-famous paintings like the Mona Lisa indoors and that’s where you've got to go to see them. But if you visit Paris in springtime, don't stay cooped up inside. The Louvre's collection includes not only paintings, drawings, and sculptures, but also the Carousel gardens and Tuileries, which offer explosions of spring color, fragrant paths, and inviting landscaping. And for a real dose of spring flowers, don't miss the Luxembourg Gardens and a day trip to Versailles!

Do lunch

A lot of sit-down restaurants in Paris will set you back hundreds of bucks at dinner time. Save them for a (really) special occasion. But Baxter reminds us that prices at some of the top joints can be 50 percent lower at lunch time. He also suggests you can't go wrong at lunch time picking up a spot where the diner’s stuff napkins into their collars and mop up their plates with pieces of baguette--if picky Parisians are happy with the place, you’ll likely find a $40 lunch that includes a good wine. Don't be a wine snob: House wines in Paris are among the best in the world. And don't forget that tips are always included in the bill, so don't tack on an extra 20 percent.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

13 Travel tips with Corliss Group for finding low airfares

No question about it, airfares on some routes are higher than they were four or five years ago, although Airfare watchdog airfare searchers frequently find hundreds of fares crisscrossing the country for $250 or less round-trip. And even though fares seem higher, let's not forget that, adjusted for inflation; most fares are actually lower than they were 10 or 20 years ago. That said, here’s my best advices for making your airfare dollars go further.

1. There’s no "magic" day or lead time to buy the best airfare.

A lot of airfare experts think they're clairvoyant, so they know where airfares are headed or how far in advance you should start looking for a fare. The latest myth is to buy exactly 54 days in advance.

2. So search often, over a long lead time, and pounce when there’s a deal!

Fares fluctuate throughout the day, and the number of seats offered at the lowest fares also changes frequently.

3. Get airfare alerts by e-mail

This is perhaps the easiest way to track airfares. Many travel websites offer e-mailed airfare alerts, letting you know when fares go down, and they all have something to offer.

4. Sign up for the airlines ' e-mail feeds and frequent flier programs

Speaking of promo codes, the airlines want to develop a relationship with you, so ethyl send you special deals, such as 50% of promo codes or two-fers, if you sign up for their e-mails.

5. Use Twitter

E-mail is great, but some of the most amazing airfare deals last only a short time (even if they're valid for travel over a long period), or you open the e-mail too late. Twitter is more immediate.

6. Be a flexible travel date flier

If you don't care when you go as long as the fare is low, try a flexible date search. It's getting harder to search airfares based on flexible travel dates now that many sites (Orbitz, Hotwire, Travelocity and Expedia among them) have eliminated their flexible date calendars. But Kayak.com still has a good one (you must register as a user to see it under Flights/more options/flex month).

7. Search airline sites individually, but online travel agencies are still useful.

Many airlines have "private" sales, reserving their very best fares for their own sites. These are different from promo code sales mentioned above.

8. Use Priceline for last-minute trips

If you don't have a 7-, 14-, or 21-day advance purchase window to buy your fare, your best bet is the "name your own price" feature of Priceline.com.

9. Use consolidators, but beware of the restrictions

Consolidators specializing in premium cabins will have some great deals, and the airlines themselves will often heavily discount their premium cabins in the summer and just before Christmas, so check the specials on their websites.

10. Consider the extra fees before you buy

If Southwest has a fare of $198 round-trip and United has one for $148, and you are checking three bags, and then Southwest actually has the lowest fare because Southwest charges nothing for the first two checked bags, whereas United would charge you an additional $165 each way for three.

11. Combine two separate fares rather than buying one fare

If your flying to a destination in Europe, you might save money by purchasing one fare from the U.S. to, say, Dublin, and another from Dublin onward on Ryanair.com (just beware of Ryanair's hefty fees.

12. Use alternate airports creatively

Is the fare from Miami to London Heathrow to high? See if flying from Ft. Lauderdale to London Gatwick on Norwegian Air Shuttle is cheaper (it probably is).

13. Buy tickets on an airline that will refund the difference if a fare goes down

Let's say you've found the lowest fare, and then the day after purchase your non-refundable fare for the same itinerary goes down. If you ask for it you can get a refund for the difference.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Travel tips with Corliss Group: Know Who to Tip When You Travel

You already know to budget for tips when you travel. But you should also know who to tip when you travel.

It's a no-brainer to tip the maid—at least a couple bucks a day.

But don't forget to leave a tip if you’re staying at a bed and breakfast, or even a rental property. Those places have to get cleaned too.

Did you get any recommendations or reservations from the hotel concierge? You should reward those tips with a small tip.

Plus, with so many airport pickups and ride-share services being booked online or through apps, a lot of people forget to bring cash to tip their drivers.

That free courtesy shuttle? It's always nice to give the driver a buck or two, especially if he helped you with your luggage.

Remember, while tipping is commonplace in the U.S. the rules change when you go abroad. Look for an app like GlobeTipping, which gives you suggestions in 200 countries.

Even Starbucks has an app that lets you tip baristas straight from your phone, so watch out for that technology in more establishments.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Smartphone Travel tips with Corliss Group

When the smartphone was in its infancy and app stores were not yet operational, its best built-in app to help travelers was the Maps app. There were no walking directions provided, just a map that you needed to interpret to help you get to your destination.

These days, smartphones have so spoiled us that we wonder how we have lived without it.

For example, the technologically-advanced descendant of the first map app now features not only driving and walking directions, but also directions for those who take public transportation (for some countries, at least). This has made it easier for travelers to navigate through some foreign countries the same way that natives do.

With the right apps, you can turn your smartphone into an indispensable travel companion that can save you money; if your pockets cannot afford travel just yet, you can even do a little armchair traveling from your smartphone.

Below are some handy apps to have when exploring foreign territory:

Bla Camera Pro ($0.99, iOS)

Dubbed by its developers as "the worlds first smart camera," Bla Camera has something called P.E.A.R. Technology, which analyzes data like light and weather and consequently recommends a filter and setting based on your environment.

Camera Plus Pro ($1.99, iOS)

Camera Plus Pro is another alternative to your phones regular camera app which lets you tweak more settings. Apply filters and see the effects before snapping your photo; edit and share from within the app. You can also create a private folder to hide certain photos, like your balloon sleeves.

Google +

Fewer and fewer people whip out their cameras and prefer to shoot with their smartphones. If you are not the type to back up to clean up your photo album once in a while, you would likely find that your photos have eaten up your phones memory or storage capacity. If you left your laptop at home and are traveling with just your phone, enable your Google + account to automatically back up your photos; with your photos stored in the cloud, you will be able to free up space on your phone for more photos. Make sure however to enable this feature only on WiFi while abroad, as you might end up with a shocker of a phone bill if you are on a metered data roaming plan.

Google Maps (Free, iOS/Google Play)

This map just keeps getting better and better. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can use Google Maps to help you find your way around the city, even if it's your first time getting there. Get turn by turn directions, and click on "Street view," which will give you an actual view of your destination.

City Maps to Go (Free, iOS/Google Play)

If you want to navigate around a country but think that you might not always have Internet connection, City Maps 2Go's offline maps will save you from stealing paper maps in your backpack. The map includes points of interest as well as travel guides culled from Wikipedia. Get the pro version ($2.99 for iOS) for more maps and features.

VSCO Cam (Free, iOS/Google Play)

This camera app with a minimalist user interface brings photography in focus with its gamut of throwback analog filters (requires in-app purchase). Some of the filters were built to mimic the color and grain of various films.

Pin Drop (Free, iOS)

Never forget anything visit-worthy, thanks to this app. Mark favorite places you want to remember, revisit or recommend to friends.

Metro (Free, iOS)

If octopus-like train station systems befuddle you, take out the guesswork with an app like Metro. Download your chosen citys train system and let the app trace your path from point to point. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Travel tips with Corliss Group: Holidays in Wales, and this week’s best deals

Why go?

Known as the Dragons Tail, this 30-mile peninsula poking into the Irish Sea feels like a place apart: a stronghold for Welsh language and culture with a distinct microclimate which can see it basking in sunshine while the rest of north Wales is lashed by rain. The chichi yachting town of Abersoch may have been colonised by well-heeled holidaymakers and second homers, but elsewhere youll find empty golden beaches, fishing hamlets and peaceful clifftop walks.

What to do

Start by visiting Porth y Went, the new National Trust centre in Aberdaron (nationaltrust.org.uk). You can pick up maps, walking routes and ideas for days out, such as a visit to the "whistling sands" at Porthor which squeak as you walk on them, or a boat trip to Bardsey Island, a medieval pilgrimage site. Llyˆn Adventures can organise canoeing, kayaking and coasteering (llynadventures.com), but if you prefer to stay on dry land, the Wales Coast Path runs right around the peninsula. For a day at the beach, Llanbedrog is postcard-perfect.

Where to eat

Llyˆn is famous for its lobster, crab and mackerel, all of which youll find on the menu at Twnti Seafood Restaurant, in a converted barn in the hills behind Pwllheli (twntiseafood.co.uk). At Venetia in Abersoch, chef Marco Filippi puts an Italian spin on seafood dishes such as Aberdaron crab linguini (venetiawales.com).

Where to stay

The National Trust has cottages and apartments to rent in Porthdinllaen, Aberdaron and Rhiw, some of which are just yards from the sea (from £475 per week, nationaltrustcottages.co.uk).

Insider tip

Gwyn Jones, director of Plas Glyn-y-Weddw Arts Centre (oriel.org.uk), recommends a walk along the north coast. "Park in the car park at Morfa Nefyn and walk along the beach to Porthdinllaen, once a bustling ship-building village. After a brief refresher at the beach tavern, Tyˆ Cooch – recently voted the third-best beach bar in the world – carry on around the headland to see dolphins and seals. "

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Corliss Group World Travelers on surviving Hong Kong's wildest sporting event of the year

(CNN) --"It takes me three days to recover after the Sevens," says referee Robert Esser, who is called the plays at the famed Hong Kong rugby tournament for 12 years.

"If you find out how to survive it, let me know."

The annual Hong Kong Sevens is the city’s largest sporting event, attracting thousands of costumed revelers from all over the world.

But making the most of the party atmosphere requires strategy and planning.

With the Sevens on March 28-30, experts and hardcore fans have shared tips on how ethyl be getting through the three-day mega party.

1. South Stand commitment mandatory

Ask not what the South Stand can do for you, but what you can do for the South Stand.
The only large public area where Sevens revelers can drink alcohol, the legendary South Stand brings together Hong Kong Stadium's most passionate spectators--all dedicated to having an outrageously good time.

2. Serious rugby fans head for the East and West Stands

Don't be afraid to go to the East and West Stands, because that’s where everyone goes to watch the rugby, "says 28-year-old rugby player Rowan Varty, who has taken part in the Sevens since he was born as both a spectator and a player.

3. For costumes, (almost) anything goes

The pros advise against wearing heavy suits, big masks and hats that'll have you drenched in sweat and blocking other people’s views.

4. Walk to the stadium

Roads are blocked and taxis are scarce.

Once you arrive anywhere near Causeway Bay, start walking.

The nearest MTR subway station to the Hong Kong Stadium is Causeway Bay. Go to exit F, which takes you to a spot directly across from Forever 21.

5. Pace yourself

Winnie Poon, a fan who has been to the Hong Kong Sevens five times, has her own sage advice for fans--pace yourselves.

Go overboard too early in the day and you run the risk of passing out next to a toilet many others have thrown up in, she says.

Also worth bearing in mind--it's a three-day event so y'all need to get up early the next morning to avoid spending the entire day in lines.

6. Avoid the food stalls

Have a large breakfast before entering the stadium and hopefully you’ll last the day, says Lindsay Varty.

Matches only go on for 15 minutes and you could miss an entire game while waiting for a hot dog.

7. Ladies, bring binoculars

For some, watching athletic young men run around on a field is as much a spectacle as the game itself, if not more.

8. South Standers, stay waterproof

Expect a high chance of beer, cider, water and bodily fluid showers at the South Stand.
Bring an umbrella, waterproof clothes and leave your expensive camera behind.
It may rain, literally, but that’s the least of your concerns.

9. You can still enjoy the Sevens outside the stadium

If you didn't score tickets, there’s always the Sevens Village at the Indian Recreation Club directly opposite Hong Kong Stadium.

10. Wan Chai offers the best after-party

After the games, the fun continues in Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong, Soho and Wan Chai neighborhoods.

The real rugby fans and party crowd head to Wan Chai.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Corliss Group World Travelers on How to stay safe and enjoy travelling alone

The most important thing to consider when travelling alone is safety. While today’s world of smartphones, instant communications and i-everything provides some comfort, there are still some more ' traditional ' ways to stay safe.

Here are some tips when traveling solo...

Keep up communication

Always inform family and friends where your heading, how you can be reached and provide them with a full itinerary of flights and transport.

If you’re being collected from the airport, ask the tour operator or hotel sending the transportation for the name of the person or service picking you up along with their phone numbers as well as those of the destination.

Also, select flights that arrive during daylight hours, and try to connect with people on the other side using social media.

Leave valuables at home

Apart from your passport, wallet and any other travel documentation you might need for your specific destination, it's best to leave valuables in the form of expensive jewelry and gadgets at home.

Keep the trip light and casual, leaving more room to pick up souvenirs from the destination itself.

The same rule applies for large sums of cash. We all hate bank charges, but not as much as getting a a load of money stolen, so withdraw money when you get there. It's just not work the risk.

Choose your destination wisely

Those traveling solo for the first time may want to choose a destination that doesn't feel too foreign-we know that sounds absurd, but when you’re starting out language barriers and distance can be more of a challenge.

For UK travelers, European destinations such as Italy and Spain are a great for distance, while Australia and the US will have the benefit of being English speaking.

Prepare to dine alone

Whether it's in a foreign land or your home country, dining out alone is almost always a daunting prospect.

If you’re travelling as part of an organized trip, mealtimes might already be pre-determined, but if not, decide if you’re in the mood for company or just want tasty food and a good view for people watching.

If you do want chats think about where your eating-hostels will have lots of lone travelers so if you stay there you’ll have plenty of friends in no time.