Why A Travel Agent is A MUST

If ever you were wondering what the value of using a travel agent is versus booking your own travel – you MUST read this.

Many people, (in the past, myself included), think it unnecessary booking travel through an agent when there is “google”.  After all, all the information you need is available at your fingertips and there’s even sites where you can compare prices and get the best deal.

All true.

But, and this is the big BUT. I like many other used to always book my own travel.  To be honest, if I’m just after a quick domestic flight, I still go online and book it myself.  However, years ago, I was booking an overseas holiday for the family.  I needed international flights, domestic flights in the country we were visiting, car hire, travel insurance, hotels, tour bookings plus plus plus.  It was all a bit overwhelming, particularly as I had never been to that particular country before.

So, I picked up the phone and arranged the booking through Orbit World Travel.  From that first trip, I have never looked back and whenever I am booking travel that involves multiple bookings, like flights plus hotels etc, I ALWAYS use Orbit World.

Why?

Of course, I could still do all the bookings myself.  And as I said above, there is so much information online, but, these guys are travel professionals and have knowledge about many of the locations, and usually someone with first hand experience of a destination to give clients useful hints and tips.

Plus, it doesn’t cost any extra, but the “extras” are invaluable.  Pretty much every trip I have booked through Orbit, I have been upgraded in my room, or received a “special deal” through their relationships with hotels around the world.

More importantly,  when something goes wrong, you have a trusted company that you know and are familiar with that you can call on 24 hours a day, no matter where you are in the world to help you sort out whatever issue it is you may have.

The peace of mind that this gives when travelling is priceless.  Being in a strange country, sometimes not knowing how to speak the language and have any sort of problem can very quickly ruin a great adventure.

Whenever I have experienced any sort of issue, Orbit have sorted it out without me having to worry or get involved.  If you think travel is always smooth sailing, particularly overseas, you either don’t travel much or have been super duper lucky.

  • On a trip to the US when our girls were both quite young, despite have confirmed pre booked seats, about a week before I noticed that my husband and I and our two girls were all seated separately on a 14 hour flight. Our girls both next to random strangers!  I spent hours on the phone with the airline trying to sort with absolutely no luck at all.  I was in such a panic thinking about our little girls sitting far away from us, with strangers, particularly when it was an overnight flight and we would be sleeping.  Apparently, there was some computer issue with the seating, but the airline told us we would just have to try and sort at the airport and get people to move seats after check in, they couldn’t do anything other than that.  The flights had been booked through Orbit, and I have no idea why I didn’t just call them immediately when I discovered the problem, but when I did, they escalated the issue and had us all seated together and everything sorted well before our date of departure.

  • We booked a stay in Hawaii with our two girls and were upgraded to a better room as well as getting access to a “Club” within the hotel FOC that offered breakfast, evening cocktails, all day snack and exclusive access, all complementary thanks to Orbit with no charge to us.

  • Finally, and the reason that prompted me to write this, I take out an annual travel insurance policy every year to cover myself and my family for travel, both domestic and international. This year, due to Covid 19, obviously all our travel plans have been cancelled and as well as being unlikely to return to travel at least for the remainder of the year.  The policy is $1,500 a year, so very reasonable if you travel a lot, and particularly if you have any issues when traveling, but it’s a lot of money to pay out for nothing.  As in, I can’t travel so the policy is effectively a total waste this year.  I contacted Covermore who the policy is with and basically had no luck at all.  I was so frustrated.  However, once again, as the policy had been purchased via Orbit World, I contacted them to see if they would have any better luck.  Can you believe I received a full refund on the policy thanks to Orbit World Travel and their contacts within the industry.  This was a massive win for me and confirmed once and for all, I will NEVER travel without going via a reputable travel agent.

Finally, can I say that this is not a paid blog and Orbit World did not request or know about me writing it.  But credit where credit is due.  This is me passing on what I feel is valuable information to others who may travel and run into some of the issues I have in the past.

 

The service from a travel agent is why they are professionals and I could give another dozen examples of the value add I have received over the years.

 

Definitely check them out if you are after travel assistance, both business or leisure.  They have offices all around Australia so will certainly be able to give you the same sort of great service that I have always experience with them.

 

Now if they can just sort out opening up the borders and letting us actually being able to travel again, I will continue to support them in the future.  😜

“Crazy Rich Asians” Guide to Singapore

Many times I have transited through Singapore on my way to Europe, but never actually stopped and spent any time here, so it’s been a real treat to have a couple of weeks to explore this beautiful city with my family.  It’s a really interesting contrast between ultra-modern, colossal sky scrapers, to really old districts full of colour, character and history.  

As with all my travels to new places, I research heavily prior to visiting to make sure that not only to I get the best out of my adventure, but also that I don’t miss any “must go” places. The following are the places that I had on my list to visit, as well as a few that I encountered along the way by accident.  Some I absolutely loved and could go back time and again, however there are others that I will save you the time now and say, probably only consider if you have plenty of time.

As far as food in Singapore – WOW. It is incredible.  From luxury 5-star restaurants at the top of sky scraper buildings where you pay as much for one plate as you would for a whole dinner for 4 in Australia, to the Hawker Street Markets and local eateries.  My suggestion would be to try a bit of both.  To be fair, we mostly ate in the markets and restaurants we stumbled upon by accident as we found these were the best meals we encountered. I always think that if the locals are eating somewhere, it’s a good advert for the food and the markets were certainly full of locals.

Transport – Taxi Vs MRT

First up though, getting around.  We stayed at the Shangri La Hotel on Orange Grove Road, and from there, pretty much travelled mostly in about a 10km radius from the hotel.  Researching prior, many suggested that taxis were really cheap and easy to get around so just use them.  We didn’t even consider car hire because not only do we not know our way around, but with traffic and trying to find car parks, it just isn’t worth the time and effort. We did start using the taxi system, however most of the time we were waiting 20 minutes or more.  People were ordering on their phones and effectively jumping the queues and as we didn’t want to waste precious and expensive phone data, we found this all a little frustrating.  

Out of desperation one night, we wandered down to the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit – underground train system).  My husband has never caught public transport in Australia so this was kind of entertaining for me, but to be honest, the MRT in Singapore is so quick and efficient, we ended up using it 90% of the time.  There are train stops at most major tourist attractions, it was only a couple of Aussie dollars per trip and we never waited longer than 5 minutes for a train, not matter what time of day or night. Even when you had to change trains, it was still far quicker and easier than any other system of transport we could find.  One suggestion though is straight up get a pre-paid train card that you can just keep using until you run out of funds and then top up as required.  We purchased individual tickets each trip and although it’s the same price, sometimes there were queues for the ticket machines.

Crazy Rich Asian Tour!

Funnily enough, after a few nights in Singapore, relaxing in the hotel one evening, “Crazy Rich Asians” came on the television.  Mostly filmed in Singapore, this movie is a great advert for the city, visiting many of the main attractions

Newton Food Centre

Early on in the movie, when Nick takes Rachel to a night food market with some friends, it is the Newton Food Centre in Newton, about 4 kilometres from Marina Bay.  There are so many food markets in Singapore, and it was honestly some of the tastiest (and cheapest) food we ate, but this I would rate high up as one of the best.  Even if not just to get some pics on your “Crazy Rich Asian” tour.

Chijmes

We actually stumbled on this church out walking one day before we watched the movie, then immediately recognised it.  This beautiful Gothic Style building was the setting of Nick’s best friend’s wedding in the movie. Originally a catholic convent, this architectural building is no longer a practicing church.  It is now a functions venue popular due to its archways, interesting plasterwork and stained-glass windows and is surrounded by open walkways with bars and restaurants.  Definitely a great spot to visit, grab a bite to eat and drink, as well as some pictures.

Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay

You don’t need to have watched Crazy Rich Asians to know this area of Singapore and to be fair, the location is so central to the city, bay and pretty much most things, who wouldn’t visit.  There is a great mall below the Marina Bay Sands Hotel where you can spend hours getting lost in the maze of passages and not to forget the beautiful Gardens by the Bay with its 250 acres of horticulture and sustainable architecture.

Raffles Hotel

This is where Rachel and Nick stayed in the movie and there is a scene in the beautiful foyer area.  The hotel is one of the most luxurious and iconic hotels in Singapore.  Even if you can’t afford the expensive price tag, it’s worth a visit to this historic building.

Merlion

The scene of the “break up” between Rachel and Nick towards the end of the movie.  Before I visited Singapore I had no idea what the Merlion even was.  But my daughter pointed it out and as always the case, as soon as she mentioned it, everywhere I went, there was some connection to the famous Lion.  Basically, it is a monument in Marina Bay of a mythical creature with a lion’s head and fish body that sprouts water out of its mouth into the Bay.  It is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Singapore and one of the most iconic, often referred to as Singapore’s mascot – something like the Sydney Opera House to Australia.  In Singapore, you can buy many Merlion souvenirs and as the location is so central, just opposite the Fullarton Bay Hotel and on Marina Bay, it’s definitely worth a visit and picture.

Changi Airport

You’ll recognise the arrivals hall where Nick and Rachel first arrive in Singapore after their flight from New York. There’s a reason that this airport keeps getting voted Best Airport in The World.  Believe it or not, after visiting nearly every shopping mall and district in Singapore city, I have to say that the Jewel Shopping centre at Changi airport was the best.  Located outside of the customs area, many locals and tourists visit the centre as an outing, or, like we did, on our way to the airport.  Other than a great shopping mall, the star feature is definitely the rain Vortex Waterfall in the centre.  It has to be seen to be believed.  In the centre of a huge indoor rainforest garden, there is a glass dome that water cascades through the centre 40 meters above the ground.  It can be experienced from decks on each level on the shopping centre and even the train between the international terminals passes through so transiting passengers don’t miss out.  

Sentosa Island – 

The location of Colin’s bachelor party after they left the boat.  I have to say, we did visit but probably would not recommend.  It’s sold as a tropical oasis, the best beaches in Singapore and theme park heaven.  As far as theme parks, for anyone who has travelled extensively and visited places like Disney and Universal in the America, this just doesn’t cut it.  And the beaches were cramped and actually not really that spectacular.  I guess you don’t really visit Singapore for its beaches, it has so many other incredible sites to see and things to do.   If you do go though, would recommend taking the cable car.  Amazing views back to the city.  It was around AUD$40 for a round trip per person and we really did enjoy it.  

EVERYTHING ELSE

Singapore Zoo

I’m not sure if I’m a fan of Zoos or not – animals in captivity and all, however we wanted to see the orangutans so decided to visit Singapore Zoo.  Again, my research told me not to bother with the “breakfast with the Orangutans” as its overcrowded and you are shuffled for a quick photo and that’s all.  I did contact the Zoo prior and they were extremely helpful with suggestions and information and I ended up booking a 2 hours private buggy tour.

Up to 7 people, $250 per hour plus Zoo entry for private customised tour with private driver and guide.  It may sound a little expensive but was soooooo worth it.  We advised prior to arriving what specific animals we wanted to see and the guide customised our tour to our wishes.  We were taken around this very large zoo by buggy, had fun, friendly and knowledgeable guides and one on one encounters inside the enclosures with the animals including hand feeding as well as getting our photos with the Orangutans. Highly recommend splashing out on this. Was one of the highlights of our visit to Singapore.  After the tour, you are then free to wander the rest of the zoo as your pleasure.

If not, the zoo is huge and still so much to see and do and as far as the Orangutans, there are times where they are brought out and you can line up and have our picture taken.

Arab Quarter and Sultan Mosque and Haji Lane

This was one of my favourite districts of Singapore.  Only a very small area, we travelled via MRT which again, was pretty easy.  The Mosque is in the centre of the district.  You can’t miss it and it’s absolutely beautiful. Definitely a popular tourist spot and plenty of people taking selfies with the mosque in the background.  There is also Bussorah Street just down from the Mosque known for its great restaurants lining a pedestrian only street.  It’s full of colour, great shops and of course, more great food.  

Another must in the Arab Quarter is Haji Lane.  This was one of the places on my to do list as I saw a cool picture on social media next to one of its graffitied walls.  A very narrow street with buildings either side filled with souvenir stores, fashions shops and lots of bars and eateries.  The lane is alos filled with interesting buildings and colourful walls to take pictures.  

China Town, Maxwell Street and The Hawker Hall 

I feel like in most cities you visit around the world, China Town is always a must on the visit list and Singapore is no exception.  I originally planned to eat at the famous Hawker Hall here on Maxwell Street, which is one of the most renowned markets in Singapore, but after wandering the streets following lunch, we found so many quirky lane ways and great shops.  We stopped and talked to many interesting stall holders and learned so much about local culture and history.  A definite for a day trip and loads of memorable pictures.

Clarke Quay and Jumbo Seafood 

When we decided to visit Singapore, top of my list was to find the best Chilli Crab in the city.  It’s my husband’s favourite food and Singapore is its home. After much research, I decided on Jumbo Seafood and Clarke Quay.  First let me say it was AMAZING.  Easily the best chilli crab we’ve ever eaten and a great lively restaurant with excellent service.  My daughter doesn’t eat seafood, but don’t worry, there were alternatives on the menu.  Jumbo Seafood has several restaurants around Singapore, but one thing I loved about Clarke Quay was the location.  Situated on the banks of the Singapore River, (make sure you ask for a table outside), after dinner we had a wander around the many shops and bars in the area which once again were energetic and great fun. From Clarke Quay it is less than a kilometre walk down the river side to Marina Bay which is well worth the wander.

Old Hill Police Station 

This historic building is as its name says, the old Singapore Police Station.  Just next to Clarke Quay its worth a stop by to see this interesting and colourful building.

Orchard Road

A must visit for shopping, even if just to window shop.  This long stretch of road holds many shopping centres and all of the high end stores such as Gucci, Lois Vitton, Chanel and more.  Some really great, cheap eateries in the shopping malls as well.  The best area to shop in downtown Singaopore

Little India

This was on my list as many blogs listed it as a must visit in Singapore – particularly for photographers.  As a Photographer, the streets were full of amazing buildings and creative architecture everywhere I looked, I loved it, but as a tourist,  we only ended up spending a short time in the area as we couldn’t really find too much to do other than take pictures. To be honest, I would put many of the places above much higher on my wish list than here unless you have plenty of time.

Peranakan Houses at Koon Seng Road

I only mention this Road as, again, much research said to visit, specifically for the one row of houses to get a photo.  In two weeks in the city, we never made it here so I can’t personally comment.  However,  I did speak to quite a few locals who suggested that there were many other places closer to the city and much easier to get to that would offer a similar experience.  It was a little tricky to get to from our hotel via MRT so we gave it a miss, but if you manage to visit (or have been), would love to know whether you thought it was worth it?

Apple of the Eye

We’ve all seen pretty pictures of Tasmania, striking red boulders contrasting the white sandy beaches, crystal waters, not to mention the award-winning food and wine.  As a photographer, it’s been on my bucket list for a while, so I decided to get together a bunch of girlfriends and jump in a car to find the best places to explore on a road trip.

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Discovering Darwin

I was born in Darwin. My family lost our home and all our possessions in Cyclone Tracey and were forced to leave. In more recent times, I have travelled there every year for the Supercars at Hidden Valley. They are held in winter months. The Dry season when the weather is considered perfect. Gorgeous sunshine days, warm temperatures, little rain and great for exploring the vast outback surrounds of Darwin such as Katherine, Litchfield and of course, Kakadu National Park.

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Tokyo – More than Just Sushi

Tokyo is Japan’s Capital and the world’s most populated city with over 35 million residents.  Yet somehow, they manage their numbers well and unlike many other popular tourist cities, you don’t feel overwhelmed by crowds.  In addition to its size, Tokyo is also one of the safest cities in the world with crimes against tourists very rare.  You can feel comfortable in walking the streets at night with the lowest per capita crime rate in the world.  These are just a couple of the reasons that Japan is considered one of the world’s greatest cities to visit, but there’s plenty more.

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New Caledonia – What the Brochures Don’t Tell You

Noumea – capital of New Caledonia. It’s about a 2 hour flight out of Brisbane, east and with a similar climate to South East Queensland, the September holidays are the perfect time to visit. Noumea is the capital of New Caledonia’s main island and located in the south of the island on a deep water harbour.

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2016 Top Eight Travels

At the start of 2016, I made a commitment to myself that I was going to put everything into my photography for one year and see where it led me.  Up until this point, I had been playing around, having fun but was at the stage where I pretty much had all the camera equipment I really required, so wanted to get out and travel and shoot as much as I could – around our own business and family commitments.

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