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Sarah, Craig and little Thomas Wrightson on their Rotorua mini break!

Sarah Wrightson took her little family from Wellington to Rotorua for a weekend. Here she shares some great tips for travelling with little ones and also reviews some of the best things to do in Rotorua with kids.

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When planning a family holiday with a baby or toddler in tow, there’s a few things you want to consider before hitting the road. Firstly, you don’t want to have to travel too far to your destination as a long road trip with a crying baby stuck in the back seat ain’t really the best start to get those holiday vibes on!

You also want to go somewhere where there’ll be lots of fun family-friendly activities you can all enjoy doing together. Keep it simple with bite-sized outings that won’t tire your wee ones out.

Accommodation is also really important as you’ll tend to spend a lot of time there and want a place that has everything you need for bubs such as kitchen facilities, space for them to sleep in/near your bed, safety gates, no stairs, a bathtub if possible etc. Basically your home away from home.

Our little family packed up our big bags and took a well-deserved break to one of our all-time favourite holiday spots, Rotorua, in the Central North Island. It has everything you need for families – adventure-filled activities, cultural experiences and some amazing thermal activity, complete with that famous welcoming sulphur smell you get as soon as you arrive. We’ve been looking forward to this trip for a wee while now as it’s a chance for us to spend some quality time together and build some fun memories in this perfect family-friendly destination.

The famous Pōhutu geyser at Te Puia’s Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley

Tips for the drive

Driving from Wellington to Rotorua takes over five hours which is a long time for little ones so best to plan a few pit stops along the way to break up the trip.

Taupo is a great place to stop for lunch as they have a cool kids playground to stretch your legs at and you can also use the famous Superloo, a great family-friendly toilet facility with baby-changing tables, microwaves to heat bottles, sinks to wash up in etc.

On the way back home, we found the National Army Museum in Waiouru an interesting place to learn all about our war history and there’s also a cafe to grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry or want a coffee.

Both ways, we also discovered Flat Hills Cafe, a hidden gem on State Highway 1, halfway between Bulls and Waiouru. As well as a children’s play area inside, they also have an outdoor farm area with animals to pet, a bouncy castle to jump on and maze to get lost in if that weren’t enough!

What to do in Rotorua

You can fully immerse yourself in Rotorua’s Māori culture at Te Puia set in the historic Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and home to the famous Pōhutu geyser, mud pools, hot springs and stunning silica formations. This magical landscape looks like something from another world with lots of geothermal activity happening everywhere you look – it’s alive and happening!

We arrived early in the day greeted by the morning frost for a brisk walk through the park. Te Puia is also home to the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute where they teach wood carving, weaving, stone and bone carving to students so we decided to keep warm inside and watch these talented artists working on some amazing pieces from the viewing platform. It’s so cool to see these taonga (treasures) shared with visitors from around the world and know these traditions are being passed down through generations.

There are daily tours that run from 8am – 5pm for about 60 – 90 minutes and are a great way to get the lay of the land and learn about it’s history from their knowledgeable guides.

It’s a big place covering 60 hectares but the main star attraction we all want to see is of course the Pōhutu Geyser which is the Southern Hemisphere’s largest active geyser. Unfortunately the day we were there it was cold so lots of mist had formed around the geyser making it hard to see what was going on but judging by the amount of steam, noise and heat it was giving off, we’re sure there was lots of activity bubbling away just beneath the surface.

Māori pōwhiri performance welcoming us onto the marae at Te Puia

They’ve also created a model Māori village and marae to give you the full experience of how Māori people lived before European settlement. If you do the Te Rā + Haka daytime package this includes a Māori performance with a traditional Kapa Haka. As our group gathered at the front entrance to the marae, we chose a chief amongst us to represent and lead us in the welcoming pōwhiri ceremony onto the marae.

It’s a moving experience and once inside you can sit down to enjoy performances featuring traditional ancestral storytelling, songs and dances and you’ll even get the chance to join in a poi dance or haka, something many of the group enjoy giving a go – why not!

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Rotorua’s Skyline Gondola is one of its most popular family-friendly attractions, seen rising up high over the hill overlooking Lake Rotorua. It’s the best spot to get panoramic views of the surrounding area and a fun day out for all.

We pre-booked a table for our family and friends for buffet lunch at Stratosfare Restaurant and were happy to see the queue for this line much shorter than the one for those who didn’t book – it definitely pays to plan ahead! Once our tickets were sorted, we quickly scooted into a Gondola with our 18-month old in his pram and made ourselves comfortable for the ride for the spectacular views of Rotorua and its lake as we went up. Our little one kept oohing and ahhing at the sights from up high!

View of Lake Rotorua and forest from going up the Skyline Gondola

Once we got up top, we went to Stratosfare Restaurant for our lunch booking and were very impressed with the food. Our waiter showed us to our table and on the way explained what was on offer. To start with, there’s plenty of salads, seafood, vegetable dishes and then there’s the hot food section with your classic roast meats, curries, stews, soups etc. Last but not least there’s dessert which we were all eyeing up and sure to save room in our bellies for. You almost don’t know where to start!

They’d arranged high chairs for our little ones and also complimentary chips and nuggets for them to nibble on while the adults went and gathered food from the buffet. Our boy was fascinated by the view so I’m glad we were sitting next to the big windows giving him a good chance to really look around and take it all in. The food was so tasty and fresh, I tried to fit a bit of everything onto my plate to sample it all. My personal fave was choosing a piece of meat from the cabinet for the cooks to grill right in front of me – can’t get much better than that. Before you knew it, we were onto dessert and there was even a chef making fresh crepes with a selection of sauces and toppings for you to choose from – something the kids loved to do as they created their own works of art or should I say sweet pile of mess!

Thomas and his cousin VJ admiring the view from Stratosfare Restaurant, Skyline

Of course no visit to Skyline would be complete without a ride down one of their luge tracks. We were up for a bit of fun so while the grandparents babysat, we seized the opportunity to give it a go. These little luge carts can get quite a bit of speed if you let them rip but instead we opt for the scenic route to take in as much of the views and surrounding woodland forest as we can. It sure is fun trying to race each other though – we felt like big kids!

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Right next door, just across the capark is where you’ll find Rainbow Springs, a wildlife park that lets you get up close with native birds, bugs, trouts and other animals. Our son loves to explore nature so it was a good chance for us to get amongst the beautiful forest and see some interesting creatures you wouldn’t normally see in the wild.

There are Animal Encounters you can do with trout, reptiles and native birds and a free-flight Bird Show each day. However, we had fun just exploring their playscapes and water play area where we got to see lots of Whio (blue ducks) and geese, much to our son’s delight.

Hubby and I decided to jump aboard the Big Splash ride while the grandparents minded bubs. Similar to the log flume at Rainbow’s End, you hop in a boat and float up the river travelling back in time past displays of dinosaurs, Māori villages and what life was like for early European settlers. Once you reach the top, make sure you hold on tight to the side of your boat for a thrilling fall down the water slide with a big splash at the bottom so prepare to get wet! Thankfully they give you a raincoat when you board so you don’t get too soaked although you can’t really avoid getting your shoes drenched at the end!

Another special feature of the park is the opportunity to see real life kiwis. New Zealand’s iconic shy little birds only come out at night but you can easily see them fossicking about in their nocturnal enclosure here. You can also do a behind the scenes tour where you’ll get the chance to see kiwis up close and learn about how they’re helping them in the hatchery. All funds raised from these tours goes to their kiwi conservation programme.

Speaking of night, the park is also open late and lights up at night illuminating all the trees, walkways and enclosures making for a really unique and different experience.

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After all that adventure, it’s time to relax and unwind and what better way to do that than with a soak in the natural geothermal hot springs of Waikite Valley Thermal Pools.

Just a 20-minute drive south of Rotorua is where you’ll find this magical place hidden amongst beautiful native bush. This unique spot is fed by the Te Manaroa Spring, New Zealand’s largest single source of pure geothermal water so no nasty added chemicals – a great bonus for sensitive skin. You can actually feel the hot spring water cascade into their main Settlers pool which is usually about 35 – 38°C.

At the other end is their toddlers’ beach area for the wee ones to play in so it’s perfect for our family to enjoy a swim together. These waters are so healing, I could already feel my muscles start to relax with the heat after just a few minutes soaking.

Waikite Valley Thermal Pools’ main Settlers pool has a toddlers’ beach

Sit ‘n’ soak pool set in Waikite Valley Thermal Pools’ luxurious tranquil garden

For adults or those who like it a bit hotter, there’s also the sit ‘n’ soak pool at 38 – 40°C set in their luxurious tranquil garden. The view from these pools overlooking the countryside is peaceful and relaxing and gives you a chance to take it all in. After you’ve finished your soak, their spacious family-friendly changing rooms have toilets and hot showers with areas to change baby. There’s also a cafe to grab a bite or you can..

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Singapore has caught the attention of the world recently after the mega meeting with the megalomanics. So I thought I would put together this list of some of the best things to do in Singapore for the hoi polloi and picked the brains of Singapore Tourism to help me find some of the heroes as well as some hidden gems that I have discovered. Things that Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un could have done if they’d stayed on for a few days…

I remember my very first trip to England was via Singapore – waaaay back in about 1988 as a teen! (Back when the airplane had a smoking section and I was one row in front of it – no curtain of course – and thought I might die). I was a slither of my current self too and one evening sitting in a restaurant on Orchard Road with my friend, the waiter was staring and then he said to me “you are hugggge”! I was so stunned. I weighed about 8-9 stone (about 50-60kgs). But then Asians have always been tinier than those of us from the thick-of-thigh origins of the Motherland. If they really want to see huge, they should look at me now! Lol, I wasn’t offended, more shocked that one: he would think that and two: that he would say that! If only I had that body now…

Anyhoo, I wasn’t put off Singapore and have visited three or four more times over the years, spending stupid money on Singapore Slings at Raffles and shopping at malls and markets and eating everything from street food to fine dining, so if it’s been a while since you’ve been to Singapore, or you’re researching for your first trip, here are some ideas to get you started.

The best things to do in Singapore

Sentosa Island
If you’re travelling with kids, Sentosa Island is a great place to base yourselves. You’ve got theme parks and water parks and Universal Studios, plus a 3km beach for those hot and sticky days. There’s a championship golf course, swanky resorts and a huge array of dining options along the waterfront. About a dozen hotels are located over here and you’re only 15 minutes from the central city, either by monorail from Vivo Centre shopping mall or take the cable car from Harbourfront. Read more about what there is to do on Sentosa Island here >>

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay is an ‘only in Singapore’ attraction set over 101 hectares including towering glasshouses and an amazing laser light and music Garden Rhapsody show every evening at 7.45pm or 8.45pm. Located behind the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel, the awe-inspiring space also includes the Supertree Grove of metal trees that you climb up inside, embedded with tropical plants, and walk along the canopy. The Cloud Forest dome is a mysterious world veiled in mist, where guests can take in mountain views surrounded by diverse vegetation, as well as learn about rare plants and the environment. Listed as the largest glass greenhouse in the world by 2015 Guinness World Records, the Flower Dome is filled with plants and flowers from the Mediterranean and semi-arid regions.

Walling in the treetops at Gardens by the Bay. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Bugis Mall
If shopping is your thing, but the high end boutiques on Orchard Road are not friendly to your wallet, Bugis Junction is where you’ll want to go. There are over 100 stalls with local and international brands and in one area it has a real market feel. Come here for dining too, from food court to restaurants. Open 10am-10pm and has its own MRT train station.

Chinatown

Chinatown is a favourite cultural hot spot even among the locals. The heart of Chinatown is a bustling, colourful mix of old and new, with night markets, spas and delicious dim sum restaurants. You’ll find popular bakeries like Tong Heng Oriental Pastry on South Bridge Road, hawker stalls and cool bars along Club Street.

Must stop bars along Ang Siang Road include Oxwell and Co, Operation Dagger and the Nutmeg & Clove. Or head to Potato Head in a four story heritage building on Keong Saik Road for a cocktails and a burger to listen to their visiting DJs on the rooftop bar.

Potato Head is inside this 4 story heritage building

Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore is Southeast Asia’s first movie theme park and it’s on Sentosa Island. Delve into thrilling world of Movie Magic in seven distinct zones including Far Far Away, SCI-FI City and The Lost World. Each zone is filled with movie themed attractions and state of the art rides such as Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, Shrek 4D Adventure and the augmented reality experience with dinosaurs, Jurassic Park Rapids.

Singapore for food lovers

Dempsey Hill
This former nutmeg plantation, then military camp has been transformed into a thriving dining, drinking and retail precinct just minutes from Orchard Road. It’s one of Singapore lesser known tourist destinations and one that ex-pats enjoy with the fine dining on offer. You’ll find Candlenut, the world’s first Michelin star Peranakan (straits-born Chinese) restaurant, by homegrown chef Malcolm Lee here, as well as COMO Cuisine, and Michelin-starred Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar. Read more about what’s on offer at Dempsey Hill here >>

One of the restaurants at Dempsey Hill

2am: dessertbar
This is the ultimate destination for dessert lovers! Located in the chic Holland Village, 2am Dessert Bar is famous for its sumptuous modern desserts and great wine list.  Try their smoked white chocolate with hibiscus jelly and cinnamon beads, which the word on the street is to die for.  This delightfully sinful haunt is open until 2am Monday to Saturday.

Boon Tat Street aka “Satay Street”
When night falls, the road is closed and out come the hawker stands on Singapore’s famous “satay street” between 7pm – 2am every night.  Order from sizzling stalls selling mouth-watering satay sticks for about 50c each and other Malay delights like mee goreng and barbecued chicken wings, and enjoy your cheap and cheerful meal at plastic tables with a pint of beer.

Getting around in Singapore

There are several Hop On Hop Off Bus companies where you can hop on an off all day and they travel to places like the zoo, Gardens by the Bay, the drinking and dining hot spot of Clarke Quay.

The simplest way for zipping around is to get a one, two or three day MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) pass as most stations are located near the main attractions. $10 for a day, $15 for 2 days, $20 for 3 days.

Taxis in Singapore are reasonable but just know that they are only allowed to stop in designated areas. Surcharges apply at various times of the day and night too. And yes, they have Uber if you already have the app downloaded. Again, just make sure you’re standing in a place where they are allowed to stop – i.e. not along a busy road.



Booking.com

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Make that 7 ways… I get asked this question a lot: how do you make money from blogging? Usually the person is a little sheepish, the question whispered quietly, but their genuine interest is bulging out of their eyeballs. The answer is through many ways…

This post is the cold hard truth about blogging, its ups and downs and the answer to THAT question.

I started blogging in 2006. I was paid a handsome sum to write two posts per day, five days per week for a national online travel agency in New Zealand. For three years I was disseminating travel press releases and breaking news, posting about great deals to places I’d been to, lamenting travel foibles, laughing at travel hiccups and horrors and generally learning how to grow an audience online. And this was before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any social media to actually promote my posts!

In 2006 I was quite possibly the only person in New Zealand making a full-time living out of blogging. Certainly travel blogging.

BUT (there’s always a but…)

In 2009 the company, who was the basket that all my eggs were in (lesson one), terminated the blog to do other things online, and I was encouraged to go out on my own and start this blog you see before you. Those of you with long memories will remember that 2009 was also the beginning of what we “fondly” call the Global Financial Crisis. *sigh

So, not only were businesses pulling back on their advertising/marketing spend in traditional media outlets like newspapers, magazines and radio because of the GFC, but they had no idea about how a blog (online content) could increase their sales and if they did, they didn’t have the dollars to throw at it. (It = me).

BUT (this is a happy but…)

I knew that banner ads online were not going to be the answer. Even back then, people seldom clicked on a banner ad. Today, they say it’s about 0.1% of readers of online content will actually click on an ad. I like to ask people in my Content Marketing Seminars when they last clicked on an ad that wasn’t for a sale or to be in to win a prize. Yep… You need a HUGE amount of daily traffic to make a living out of banner ads on your site. (Update: there is good money to be made by hosting ads on your blog… read on)

The topic of keywords was being bandied around and that seemed to be the holy grail. Write an article and stuff it with enough keywords so search engines would feature you up the top of their list, we all thought. However, this was soon able to be manipulated by brands and publications, so Google got smarter and if you simply wrote a bunch of keywords or hid them in your meta data or saved images, they knew. Google is bigger than Big Brother.

What’s important is audience engagement and now, to rank at the top of search results, you need to be focussing all your efforts on your community. Which is actually loads of fun, but very time consuming.

SEO is much more intuitive and you’ll hear the phrase “long tail keywords” which just means a bunch of words that people typically type into Google. An example might be: “how long should I take to visit New Zealand’s South Island”

It’s a hard life as a blogger!

So, how do I make money from a travel blog?

Here are 6 ways (make that 7) that I make a living, some with great results, others just a trickle at the moment…

1. Affiliate links
This is typically the first thing new bloggers hook up to make money. The problem with this income stream is that unless you have an extortionate amount of followers and page views, your stream will be a trickle. At the end of the day, this is a numbers game and while you’re building your audience and your brand, this won’t make enough to keep you in lunches. And I don’t mean long, boozy lunches!

It’s also a game about being smart about what you sell. Look for higher priced products and good commission levels.

I sell 1Cover travel insurance and CityPASS discount vouchers for cities in the US. I sell hotel bookings through Booking.com and have added affiliate text links into my most popular posts. Look for brands that offer 30-90 day cookies for your viewers to make a purchase. That means if I introduce a reader to say 1Cover but they don’t purchase right away, if they make a purchase within 3 months I still get a commission.

2. Native advertising/Sponsored content
This is my main source of income. After 17 years of travel writing including 10 years of blogging, I have put together a professional media kit to work with brands and destinations.

This is where my heart lies too. It’s where I can work with people I like on their key messages, plan the itinerary together around my interests and what I also know my audience likes, working people who understand the potential of online content and who want to share it on their own social media channels for a WIN/WIN situation. It doesn’t happen on every trip by any means, but I get commissioned to write about a destination or brand, work with them on angles and story ideas, help to shape the stories that I know my readers will want to read – and ergo do better on social media and in search results.

You can add a lot of value here too to make your proposal more enticing. Think about things like how many posts you’ll write, how many Facebook updates, Instagram images, Tweets. If you have a Youtube channel you could offer to put a short video together of your trip. You could offer to write content for their website, give them license to a few pics from the trip for their own use…

3. Outsource your writing talent
This takes longer to establish, but is a great way to add extra revenue, or strings to your bow. You can write blog posts for brands, or hook up a few outlets that will syndicate your work and thus spread your influence across more than one blog or even one platform. I had a newspaper column in the NZ Herald for three years and currently have two weekly radio travel segments on Newstalk ZB and The Mix, both broadcasting nationwide in NZ.

I also freelance for magazines and am sometimes approached by corporate clients needing website copy, but this is not a regular stream for me. However I can cobble together enough of an income if I can place stories in all the above to compensate the time away that famils require and the work involved in writing, photographing, editing images, sharing on social media, etc.

Running my media training in Washington DC

4. Teaching/training/mentoring
This is my latest venture. I am a big fan of ongoing learning and paying for mentoring/consulting and through the courses I have done (and am currently enrolled in) I have been working on the premise of “think once, deliver often” and now deliver various training sessions, workshops and coaching programs on how to create a great blog, how to get the most out of your website and social media channels and also for destinations and brands who host media, how to understand what the media are looking for so they can get their business “out of the fact box and into the feature”.

I developed a new website just for my training (megansingleton.co.nz) and while I have been running public blog training workshops for individuals for the past 4 years, I’ve now decided to run them for groups like corporates or businesses who want their staff to learn some blogging skills.

5. Sell stuff
I know bloggers who have written ebooks, online training courses and destination guides. I sold luggage for a while. But like point one, this is a numbers game. But the money is much better if you can sell stuff and make more than just a 5% commission, especially if you don’t have to hold any stock, but customers can pay for the goods via Paypal and you just get it shipped!

Update: in 2017 I started the TravelStore.co.nz and have spent the past year growing that and learning what people want. I want it to be the one-stop-shop for everything a person needs before they take a trip and sell beautiful luggage and clever travel accessories which I drop ship and also import and ship NZ-wide. I am LOVING it!

6. Brand ambassador
This is something I’m not (yet) involved in as I don’t want to limit myself to one brand or a small group of non-conflicting brands, but once you have the numbers (both on your website in terms of page views and unique visits and your social media reach) you can expect to be approached by brands, or approach them yourself and receive a retainer for promoting their product, attending events and generally giving them your love.

7. Sell ads via Media Vine
I can’t believe how long I’ve been leaving money on the table by not joining up with Media Vine sooner! Once you have 25,000 page views a month, you can apply to Media Vine to be one of their publishing platforms and they will place ads on your site automatically. (You will have seen them in this post!) They post between paragraphs, in the side bar and in the footer. I currently make about $600 per month and have about 40,000 page views to achieve that.

I had been putting off doing adwords as I didn’t think there was enough money in it to warrant the intrusion for the reader experience, but I think people are used to ads in their online content these days and while it’d be preferable if there was no advertising anywhere (!) alas it makes the world go round, and so far I’ve had no complaints from readers about the ads on the blog that I started running in April 2018.

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I hope you found this post helpful. If you’re just starting out as a travel writer/blogger you might also like this one: How to Write a Great Travel Story >>

Feel free to leave me a comment or a question below!

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I’ve known about Uber Eats for a while now, but it doesn’t yet operate in my neighbourhood at home, so I’d never used it – until last week in Sydney. What a discovery! Room service to your door from any number of restaurants within cooee of your phone.

Very few car drivers do it because parking is an issue for picking up the food, so you’ll find it’s more for cyclist and motorbike Uber drivers. It’s had it’s criticisms (food arriving cold due to drivers picking up multiple orders to make more money), but I had a great experience using it instead of room service. Here’s what I did…

I had been out and about all day on a foodie tour by ferry from Circular Quay up the river to Paramatta then out on the harbour with friends on their boat (as you do!), and then at about 6pm I had to shift hotels from Potts Point to Darling Harbour.

I grabbed an Uber from Woolloomooloo to the first hotel and he waited while I nipped in, grabbed my luggage from storage and on we went across town, all the while I’m thinking about what I might do for dinner. My driver was an Indian man and used to run an Indian restaurant in Sydney before he sold his business and began driving, he told me. As we talked I was leaning more and more towards a butter chicken with naan bread, but not sure if 1) I had the energy to walk to a nearby restaurant – it was now about 7pm, and 2) if I wanted to book the “Singleton party of one” and sit alone, tired and wishing I was in my PJs eating curry in bed!

Cue: Uber Eats.

I’d never thought of it like this before, but as my driver explained, you pay about $12 to have any meal delivered to your door (yes even up to your room if you give them the number). On the Uber app you’ll see a list of restaurants by category and by estimated time of arrival.

I browsed through my options by fastest delivery time, by cuisine and by price, but that butter chicken was shouting at me now, so with a few clicks I had popped said rich and decadent dish into my cart, added a naan bread, my hotel name and address and hit send. My credit card is already loaded as I am an Uber customer so it was paid for immediately and I jumped in the shower knowing I had about 20 minutes before my dinner would be in reception (I chose to pick it up as I had to swipe guests up).

I kept the app open and watched my little man on a bike ride around nearby streets and his timing got nearer. Now that I think about it, he was most likely delivering to other people too as he cycled right past my hotel (or at least his little caricature did on the app) and went around the block stopping for a few minutes which I presumed to be traffic issues, but now think it was him doing multiple deliveries. Fortunately my meal was ok to eat warm (not piping hot, but I wouldn’t use Uber Eats for a burger or a steak). I also had a kitchenette in my room so could have heated it if I needed to. I didn’t.

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Be in to win this best-selling Cabeau travel pillow from my Travel Store!

Here are some reviews from my store:

“I normally can’t sleep on planes and with this pillow I had about 8-hours. And no sore neck. It doesn’t feel claustrophobic around your neck and rolls up well for carrying around. Worth the money.” – Dave
“I am looking forward to using it in a few months time when we go on our long haul flights. I’m sure it will be great. In the mean time I tried it at work sitting in my office and had a couple of hours relaxing sleep. Best day at work in ages.” – Grant
“In the past I have tried a few different travel pillows. The standard U shaped ones leave your head lying on too much of an angle which can be uncomfortable and give you a sore neck. Other blowup ones don’t have the comfort level and are noisy when your ear rests on them. This pillow Is super comfortable. Keeps your head in an upright position and doesn’t move around on you. Highly recommended.” – Lance

Just enter your details below and of course I would love it if you would also like my Facebook page – but you don’t have to!

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A wee while ago I was on Newstalk ZB radio for an hour chatting about travel with the many callers who phoned in. We got onto the topic of travel insurance for seniors as several callers explained they wanted to take a cruise or visit family or take that once-in-a-lifetime holiday but couldn’t get travel insurance because of their age and their pre-existing conditions.

I promised to do some research and here are my findings on who covers the grey gallivanters as they seek to see the world!

I love these guys! This pic is taken in Romania by Jon Rawlinson/Flickr

1 Cover
As a disclaimer, I am an affiliate seller of 1 Cover travel insurance. That means if you click on to their website through this site and you go ahead and book, I will get paid a small percentage. However, I called them to ask about insurance for seniors (not telling them I also sold their insurance) and said I’d heard they were one company who wouldn’t cover one of my callers that day.

“I’m reaallllly sorry,” said the girl on the end of the phone “but it’s on a case by case basis.” She didn’t offer any more info, so I dug a bit further and see they have a section on their website saying they cover 34 pre-existing medical conditions which you can read here >>

Worldcare
This company proudly promotes their insurance coverage of the “grey nomad”. They let you fill out your application form online using an online medical assessment tool and allow pre-existing conditions without having to visit your doctor. From memory, this company did cover one of the listeners who texted or emailed in to let us know they were successfully covered. Of course, you are going to pay more with each ailment, but that looks like it’s clearly spelt out as you go through the application.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance
Their website says that pre-existing conditions are excluded from their cover, however I have included the link above (in their name) where conditions are clearly spelled out and you can fill out an online medical assessment during the application process and if you name a condition that they cover, you’ll be able to provide more information and be presented with an answer (and an additional cost) right away.

Cover More
This link takes you straight to the seniors cover which includes 35 conditions including some cancers, gout, diabetes and unlimited overseas medical cover. Certainly worth adding to your list as you research the best coverage for yourselves. If your conditions aren’t in the list, they advise to call them anyway as you might still be covered.

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I hope you get some joy from these websites, but if all that fails have a look here at www.comparetravelinsurance.co.nz where they’ve also done a bunch of research for senior travel insurers for you.

And if you have found a company that has covered pre-existing conditions please give them a shout out by letting me know in the comments below!

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I’m so excited to be hosting this amazing Africa tour to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls and Botswana to spend a week at two safari parks getting up close and personal with the wildlife in twice-daily game drives, as well as just watching them hang out in front of our hotels and glamping tents next year!

Zimbabwe • Botswana • Cape Town  :  September 2019

We are still to decide whether we fly Air New Zealand via Perth or Qantas via Sydney into Johannesburg, scooting through to Zimbabwe. The fares for September 2019 should be published in November 2018, so we will look at the best way to travel then, considering cost and timings for connections. You can secure you place now though so you don’t miss out!

See the full itinerary on this link to Google Drive >>

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This two-week tour departs Auckland via Johannesburg to Zimbabwe to begin with the mighty falls and some up-close game watching right from the start. It also includes charter flights between national parks in Botswana, known as the “real” Africa, and all-inclusive meals and drinks at both lodges.

If this tour ticks all your bucket list boxes, you can secure your spot now with just a $1000 deposit!

Zimbabwe

We’ll stay at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for three nights. Voted the best safari lodge hotel in Zimbabwe, you’ll want your camera with you as it is built on a plateau with most rooms overlooking a central waterhole where buffalo, elephant and kudu drink by day and hyena by night. 

The next day we will take a guided tour to the mighty falls. You’ll hear them long before you see them – and prepare to get sprayed.

The next day we will take a guided tour to Victoria Falls. You’ll hear them long before you see them – and prepare to get sprayed by the mist rising out of the thunderous chasm. It looks like smoke, hence its African name: Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders”.

That evening we’ll take a sunset safari cruise on the Zambezi for canapes and sundowners. The next day is at leisure to explore the resort grounds and the falls area.

Taking a Zambezi sunset cruise

A game drive in Chobe National Park

Chobe National Park

Today we will drive about two hours to Chobe Game Lodge, the only lodge inside Chobe National Park. We will spend three days at this 5-star ecotourism-certified lodge situated on the banks of the Chobe River. This lodge is all-inclusive of meals, local spirits and wine, laundry service and 4WD game drives each day. The standard rooms are beautiful but upgrade to one of four luxury suites, if you wish. (We’ll need to get you a quote).

Chobe National Park is one of the world’s leading wildlife destinations with the largest population of elephant which we will see from a skimmer boat on the river’s edge. We’ll also see hippos in the lagoon and antelope, lion and giraffe. Early morning safari drives with experienced guides will let us see predators when they’re still active, then again in the late afternoon to ensure the best chance to see as many wild animals as your camera card can hold.

Sundowners on the deck at Chobe Game Lodge

Inside our tents are Camp Xakanaxa

Moremi Game Reserve

Today we take a charter flight to Camp Xakanaxa, beside the Khwai River, where we’ll stay for three nights in spacious, luxury canvas safari tents, all with en suites, situated around a lagoon for more up-close animal watching.

Again this is all-inclusive of meals, local wine and spirits, laundry, scheduled activities and more. We’ll enjoy seeing the wildlife from 4×4 safari vehicles and power boats for land and water viewing. Expect to see elephant, buffalo, hyena, giraffe, hippo, wildebeest, kudu, lechwe, lion and leopard, among many others.

Relaxing on Xakanaxa’s river deck with a camp fire

View of Table Mountain, Cape Town

Cape Town

Today we take a charter flight to Maun and connect with our flight to Cape Town where we are staying at the 4-star PortsWood Hotel, which was once a convict’s station, now beautifully restored.

The next morning we’ll tour Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 17 years, then in the afternoon we’re off in a cable car up Table Mountain to take in the breathtaking views over the city and surrounds.

The next day is at leisure and there is plenty to do from visiting markets and colourful neighbourhoods, to shopping or just hanging out and relaxing.

Day 13, depart Cape Town for Auckland, via Perth.

Optional add-ons

If you’d like to stay on after the tour for three days in the Stellenbosch wine country we can arrange that, or any other extras you’d like.

See the full itinerary here >>

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Price: NZ$16,300pp. You can secure your place with $1,000 deposit now.

This tour would suit families, couples or singles who love the idea of having all the hard work done for them. Minimum group size 10, max 16.

Price includes the charter flights in Botswana, all accommodation, attractions as per itinerary, all meals, refreshments and drinks while on safari.

Price excludes the international flights between New Zealand and Jo’Burg, gratuities and some meals. It also excludes your South Africa visa of about $180pp. Travel insurance is also required.

This itinerary has been thoughtfully planned by Alison Kearney (House of Travel Howick) and Megan Singleton.

Email: alisonk@hot.co.nz or phone 09 535 4559 or drop me a note in the comments below.

Ask Alison about the House of Travel Q Card and take advantage of 16 months interest-free to pay it off if you wish.

The post Join my African safari tour in 2019! appeared first on Blogger at Large.

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