Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Get Up & Go: Clever tips for bagging a hotel bargain

Get Up & Go: Clever tips for bagging a hotel bargain

Clever tips for bagging a hotel bargain

Accommodation is one of the principal costs travellers face and there are countless strategies that can be used in order to cut costs and find the cheapest hotel room available. Whether it’s telling the reception clerk that it’s your honeymoon, or waiting until the very last minute to book, we’ve all tried one way or another to reduce the cost.
It’s a time-consuming project and no matter what budget you are travelling on, finding the ideal lodging at the best price can be a challenge.

To help travellers save money on their hotel booking, HotelsCombined has released a clever list of booking tips and tricks:

      Be flexible. Flexibility with your travel dates will allow you to take advantage of fluctuations in room prices. Rates change and you may find that it’s cheaper to stay at a hotel from Saturday to Tuesday than from Wednesday to Friday.

      Book via mobile. Try booking using your mobile phone or app – some hotels offer “mobile only” rates. By using the HotelsCombined mobile app to compare your hotel options, you just might find a cheaper price.

      Who doesn’t love a free extra? Keep an eye out for hotels offering complimentary breakfast, WIFI or cancellation. These added elements will save you a few dollars when it comes to settling the bill. 

               Book the Standard. Standard rooms are generally the most affordable hotel rooms.

      Think independent. Look beyond the big hotel chains. Independent hotels can offer excellent rates and services and are often up to 50 per cent cheaper than major chains.

      Show you are loyal. Joining Hotel Loyalty programs or membership clubs can be your ticket to discounted rates or upgrade offers. These programs are usually free to join and you’ll be able to take advantage of the benefits (better room placement or amenities, discount codes and sales) for your next stay.

      Check your rate. Make sure the rate you are being offered includes taxes and additional fees. The prices listed on HotelsCombined include all of these fees so you know what you are in for, upfront.

      Know your seasons. Understand the peak seasons and the low seasons, and the events that will be occurring in the city you are travelling to at that time. These factors will affect the rate and availability of hotel rooms. 

      Plan in advance.  Booking at least 30 days in advance will ensure you get the pick of the widest range of hotel room options. Not only can room prices can jump in the lead up to a particular date, but the availability and room choice will be limited.

      Extend your stay. While it’s not necessarily cheaper to book more than one night at a time, occasionally hotels do offer a fourth or a fifth night free.

      Shop around online. Research is the key and you should be sure to check out as many options as possible. There are hundreds of sites out there that offering different rates and options. compares them all, simply and efficiently. You’ll find the best room rate every time, guaranteed.
For travellers planning on booking their accommodation soon, Global PR Manager at HotelsCombined, Alycia Simons, says that thinking outside the square will often help to save money.
“Accommodation can be an expensive element of a holiday. While it is easy to book the first hotel available, travellers that shop around and compare their options will find they can save up to eighty per cent on the cost of the accommodation,” she said. 
“Some users have told us they search for accommodation using our map function, which allows them to find hotels that are nearby but not located in the city centre. These are generally cheaper and just as easy to get to. Other users travelled just outside of peak season. There are plenty of ways to save and ensure you have made the best possible accommodation decision,” Ms Simons finished. 
Avid Australian traveller, Caitlin Robinson, says that when travelling around Malaysia in 2014 she was keenly aware of how accommodation ate into her budget.
“As a way of cutting back on how much I spend on hotels when I travel, I tend to look for smaller boutique-type hotels that are a little outside of the city centre. The service is as good as the larger chains and can be considerably more affordable. Often these places will offer a fantastic breakfast to start the day and friendly, personalised service – I’ve had some great experiences,” Ms Robinson said.

 About HotelsCombined is the world’s leading hotel price comparison site, allowing travellers to find the best prices from all the best travel sites in one search. HotelsCombined searches hundreds of the top travel sites at once to find users the best available rate at any given time. More than 300 million people every year use to find the best rates for over 800,000 hotels in 120,000 destinations across the world. HotelsCombined is available in over 40 languages and delivers prices in 120 currencies.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Get Up & Go

Get Up & Go

CUBA: What you need to know

Contours Travel offers tips and advice for travellers visiting Cuba
In light of the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, Contours Travel reports that the interest they have received from agents and travellers to visit the communist island country has sky-rocketed significantly to more than 50% when compared to the same time last year.
MD Ted Dziadkiewicz says while Cuba has consistently been a popular destination among their clients, the recent surge in interest has clearly intensified a certain trend among travellers on what they want to see and do in Cuba.
“While we’re enjoying being kept busy with all of the interest flowing in, we’ve noticed that most of the requests rarely go beyond the usual tourist traps or activities; and common concerns expressed include food and accommodation – all of which is fine and we do our best to advise and cater for their requirements and preferences,” says Ted.
“However, travellers should know that there is much more to Cuba than Havana, music, cigars, rum salsa. The appeal of the island and people really does stretch far beyond what’s already iconic and we hope many more travellers will continue to take on board our suggestions to explore the lesser known spots.”
Here, Ted shares some tips and facts about Cuba which travellers should be aware of prior to their departure as they may help them with their planning and choice of tours.

1. Australia
There is a sugar mill township in Cuba called Australia, which should not be missed, especially by Aussie travellers for obvious reasons. Australia had a moment of fame when Fidel Castro operated his administration office form there to repel the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. The office is now the Museo Memorial Comandancia de las FAR. A quick stop at Australia is easily done on an overland trip for Havana to Cienfuegos and Trinidad.

2. Food

Cuba may not have the best reputation for its food or food supply due to the limited range available thanks to the embargo, but the fact is, the food in Cuba is not as bad as perceived, especially when fresh lobsters can be enjoyed for only $10. Other local delicacies that are a must-try include their traditional
roast pork or pork chops, fried plantain and fruit marmalades.

3. Religion
Fidel Castro was an Atheist, declaring Cuba an Atheist state and banning religion and religious holidays including Easter and Christmas. However, as he aged, he changed the religious state of the country to “secular”. President Raul Castro even conceded to Pope Benedict’s request to recognise Good Friday.

4. Accommodation
Contours Travel advises that apart from hotels, villas, apartments and hostels, another great option to get to meet locals is via homestays. This accommodation option has been made available over recent years and presents a highly personal experience where travellers can learn more about Cuban cultures, lifestyle and people. It is also a great opportunity to practise Spanish. However, it is important for travellers to look for the official house rental license logo outside the house to ensure industry standards are met.

5. Diving

Diving in Cuba is becoming increasingly popular among the diving community. The island is surrounded by thousands of kilometres of some of the world’s richest and most diverse marine life. Experienced divers will enjoy exploring the many caves and caverns throughout the island, some of which feature ancient native pictographs. According to the team at Contours Travel, some of the best and less touristy diving spots are found on Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth). The best time to dive in Cuba is between December and April when water temperatures are around 25°C.

6. Currencies
There are two currencies used in Cuba – the Cuban Peso (CUP) for locals and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) for tourists, which is pegged to the USD. In 2013, the Cuban government announced that steps are being taken to unify the currencies, but this may take many years. The best currencies to bring to Cuba are GBP, EUR or CAD.  It is useful to note also that the banknotes to be exchanged must be clean and cannot be torn, marked or written on. It is also advisable for travellers to only change currencies at the CADECAs (Official exchange houses) or banks. 
Ted also advises that the best time to visit Cuba is November and February; and the most efficient and direct route to Havana is via Los Angeles and Mexico City.

About Contours Travel
With experience dating back to 1975, Contours Travel is Australia’s most experienced and longest running Central and Latin American tour operator specialising in tailor-made and small group itineraries, special interest tours as well as the Caribbean Islands. Visit or call 1300 135 391 for further information.





Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Get Up & Go

Get Up & Go


Top Five Experiences in the Emerald Isle            
With more than 10% of Australians believed to have Irish ancestry, it’s no surprise that the Emerald Isle is a popular travel destination. In fact, Tourism Ireland has recently revealed that the region has seen a 53% increase in visitors from Australia and New Zealand in the past four years.
So is it the Game of Thrones affect, a thirst for Guinness that can’t be quenched or other experiences that are drawing in the numbers?  
Matthew Cameron-Smith, Managing Director of the leading guided holiday company, Trafalgar, says:
“It’s definitely not surprising that more Australians are choosing Ireland as their holiday destination. While many still want to take in Ireland’s iconic sights and experiences – visiting the Guinness Factory, seeing the Giant’s Causeway, kissing the Blarney Stone – they want to combine these with truly authentic  experiences and meaningful interactions with locals.”
Here are Matthew’s Top Five Experiences in the Emerald Isle:
1)      Stay in a Celtic castle

There aren’t many people who can claim they’ve stayed in a royal residence. But with approximately 1000 castles dotted throughout Ireland and no royalty left to reign, this incredible experience is now within reach. A number of mediaeval castles across Ireland have been converted into hotels. Most recently is Ashford Castle, a magnificent property set on 350 acres on the picturesque shores of Lough Corrib. Following extensive refurbishment, rooms have been restored to their regal best. Fine dining, luxurious spa options and activities such as falconry and equestrian on offer all add to Ashford’s royal opulence. Live like a King and Queen on Trafalgar’s Iconic Ireland and Ashford Castle  (below) 10-day guided holiday priced from $2795 per person – twin share and experience a complete circle of Ireland including its fairytale castle stay.


2)      Travel the Wild Atlantic Way

Without a doubt, the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s rugged west coast spanning 1500 miles and seven counties is becoming one of the region’s most sought after experience. Waves crashing upon rocks, rolling green countryside, the remnants of stone villages; this is the real deal Ireland. You’ll definitely want to let someone else do the driving so you don’t miss a second of the scenery. On Trafalgar’s new Enchanting Emerald Isle guided holiday you’ll have the chance to join a Local Specialist for a leisurely guided hike around Torc Waterfall taking you along the lakeshore and past the farmlands of the 19th century Muckross Estate.

3)      Fresh foodie experiences

Ireland has never made it high on the list of getaways for gastronomes. Yet the countryside’s rich soil and regular rain makes for fertile growing conditions, producing an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Trafalgar offers guests the opportunity to forage for fresh produce on the wild beaches of the Atlantic Edge with a local horticultural tutor, followed by a delicious meal prepared from the food that they’ve scavenged. Situated overlooking Liscannor Bay, this authentic Be My Guest will change the way you think about Irish cuisine. This foodie adventure is available on the Best of Ireland 10-day guided holidays priced from $2295 per person – twin share.


4)      Newgrange for winter solstice

While on first inspection it appears to be a grass covered mound, underneath Newgrange is one of the most impressive passage tomb. Older than the Pyramids and Stonehenge it is estimated to date back to 3200 BC. Once a year, the winter solstice sun, reaches the floor of the chamber, illuminating the tomb in what is one of the most spectacular light shows on earth. This experience is so highly coveted that would-be attendees must enter a ballot many months in advance. This year, over 30,000 applications were submitted.


5)      Belfast from the back of a black cab

A lot has been written about Belfast’s troubled past, but there is no better way to truly understand what this time was like than by visiting significant sites and hearing the stories straight from someone who lived through it. Trafalgar offers its guest the unique experience of exploring the city from back of a Belfast Black Cab with a local specialist who gives an insight into the troubles through the decades and exposes the hidden messages weaved in the murals that pepper the city’s walls, see below. Join a ‘Black Cabbie’ on the Irish Experience 11-day guided holiday priced from $2595 per person – twin share.

To find out more about unique and authentic experiences in Ireland with Trafalgar visit