Tag Archives: Travel

Melbourne holiday planning part 1

It’s been a little while in the making, but we’re planning a trip to the eastern states with the kids!  So far, we’ve organised the flights (using Frequent Flyer points) and some shows to see.   We know our itinerary of Sydney then Melbourne, but we haven’t booked any accomodation yet.

So, I started up my favourite sites Tripadvisor and Wotif.

Map of search results on Trip Advisor
Map of search results on Trip Advisor

Tripadvisor is an internet community site dedicated to travel reviews.  There are literally thousands of reviews of holidays, locations, hotels, attractions, etc on there by fellow travellers.  You still need to do a bit of research and different people have different experiences, but it’s better than nothing.  I find it a great resource to see what the general feel of the hotel is like.   A few bad reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad – it could be that the traveller expected a much more classy standard when it catered for a cheaper market.   But a large number of negative reviews usually means it’s a place to be careful of.

Map of search results on Wotif
Map of search results on Wotif

Wotif is a last minute accomodation booking site.   I think more and more people are hearing about these types of sites.   I’m not exactly sure how their business model works, but it provides an avenue for hotels to sell off unoccupied rooms at a discounted price.   But I’ve also had an experience where a hotel has said that Wotif actually bought a set number of rooms from the hotel at “warehouse prices” and sells these on, often undercutting the hotel’s cheapest consumer rate itself.  I’d love someone with an insight into this to explain more!

The most frustrating thing I’ve found when looking for rooms is that many hotels and apartments only allow 2 adults and a maximum of 1 child in a single room.   Hello?   We have a family of four – and I’m sure we’re not alone – where are the hotels that allow more?   I know there are some, but how do you find them easily?

It seems that knowing how different sites let you search may help.

Check-in.com.au doesn’t even have a search by number of guests, but it does give detailed information about children/extra guests for the selected hotel.  Wotif.com at least lets you search by type of room, but still not by number of guests.

Tripadvisor.com is not really a discount hotel search engine, but it lets you search for hotels by number of adults.  It’s a start, but you then need to go into each hotel to read the fine print about children.

Lastminute.com.au is one engine that does let you search by number of adults and children and provides good clear information on the bedding configuration.  Expedia also lets you search by adults and kids’ ages too which is good.   Hotels.com unfortunately doesn’t seem to provide detailed information on the bedding configuration.

Another tip is to compare the prices on the discount sites with the actual hotel websites themselves.  For example, it seems that the cheapest rate on the Marriott site is $209 for a room for up to 4 guests (for 7 day advance bookings), but this rate doesn’t seem to show up on any of the discount sites.

Oh well, we’ve now booked the Sydney accomodation, but Melbourne is still to be decided.  Should we stay a bit further out like in St Kilda, and perhaps hire a car, or stay in the CBD?

Photos from Venice

I love Venice!  The atmosphere there is so different, each canal has its own story.  And the environment was so picturesque, I struggled to capture it in a photo.

Here are some shots I took on the Rialto bridge.  They were taken at dusk, but of course I wasn’t lugging a tripod around with me, so it had to be steady hands but I decided to go bigger aperture instead of higher ISO, which the details a little soft.   I would’ve loved to have done a long exposure to get the water to look all silky. Even though I’ve chosen a wide aspect ratio to give the sense of space, in the end, I still don’t think I captured the grandness of the canal here.

Grand Canal in Venice
Grand Canal in Venice
Grand Canal in Venice
Grand Canal in Venice

We also took an expensive gondola ride.  I guess it’s something you have to do.. once.. or maybe more if you can afford it!  The best part about it was navigating through the small back canals.  Our gondola man was young, and attempted to do a bit of singing, but it felt like he did it because he thought we thought he should have been singing. We did spot only a couple of gondola dudes who actually sang like operatic tenors – I wonder how much they charge!!

I wasn’t quite sure how steady it was going to be, but I brought my camera anyway.   I didn’t want to spend too long fiddling with the camera settings on our expensive and short ride, but popped a few shots off to try to capture the feeling. Here’s one of my favourites.

Gondola ride in the back canals
Gondola ride in the back canals

How to publish a travel blog?

The Pantheon in Rome
The Pantheon in Rome

I have a dilemna.  I did some travelling this year and last.  And I kept a travel diary of where we went, things we saw, things not to miss, things to watch out for. Along with thousands of photos 🙂

But I didn’t blog it.  And I want to blog the highlights now.

Should I just enter them as posts and backdate them to the date I experienced/wrote it?

Or should I just enter them as posts and publish them as new entries dated today or the date I upload them?

Clouds over the Roman Forum

Clouds over the Roman Forum
Clouds over the Roman Forum

We went on a guided tour of the Roman Forum with the Through Eternity Cultural Association.  It was an extremely informative look at the historic parts of Rome.  Our guide Marle brought us back to the old times, trying to paint a picture of what happened in those days so that we would appreciate the ruins better.   I’m so glad that we did the tour, otherwise we would’ve just thought it was pile of old stones and statues 🙂  These pillars are part of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

Being your own travel agent

Isn’t it wierd – there’s all these sites on the internet now that gives us the power to investigate and book flights, trips, accomodation.   I guess it suits the type of people who like to control all of this themselves instead of leaving it to a travel agent…  like me 🙂  But then again, we’ve spent HOURS investigating, reading reviews, looking at maps, looking up guide books trying to decide on what hotel to book!   Sometimes I wonder if it is worth the time?

With our trip starting next week, I had to play travel agent again – we hadn’t organised accomodation for Florence or Venice yet!   Initially I was keen on booking Hotel Davanzati for Florence.   I did the usual thing and went to Tripadvisor.com, looked up the hotel’s page there and clicked on their links to get the best prices at the various sites.   For this hotel, only www.venere.com was checked.  Their list price was 500 Euros.

I decided to go to the hotel’s website itself at www.hoteldavanzati.it and after plugging in the dates we wanted to stay, it spat out a total of 364 Euros!   What a difference – tip for the day is to always check the hotel website itself when comparing prices.

Anyway, this was above our budget and the room type we wanted wasn’t available for our dates, so we ended up booking Hotel Alessandra instead.  Going through its website, it seemed to have a special on and so we upgraded ourselves to a Junior Suite for less than half the price!

Then next on the list was to book Venice accomodation.  Again we had budgetary constraints but wanted something rated well on Trip Advisor, with a good location and service.   After a few hours of searching, we’ve ended up booking Hotel Al Ponte Mocenigo.  Hopefully it’s as good as the reviews say it is!

The one thing that we haven’t found time to fit into our schedule there is a trip to Cremona to visit the violin workshops there and the Stradivarius Museum.  Hmm..  might have to leave that for next time 🙂

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brookyn Bridge

On our trip to New York, I really wanted to walk down the Brooklyn Bridge.  We actually found it quite hard to find how to walk onto the actual bridge from the South Street Seaport.  We had to walk around a bit and got in from a dodgy looking stairway under the bridge.

When we got onto the bridge itself, we walked along some way, and although there were lots of geometric lines and shapes and I struggled to find a good and interesting composition of the bridge in the limited time we were there.   It was getting dark, the kids were getting tired and hungry and we hadn’t figured out what to do for dinner yet.  I took a few shots along the lines and this is my favourite!

Florence accomodation

So we’re less than 2 weeks away from our quick Italian trip!  We’ve got the flights booked, the internal train tickets booked.   We’ve finally booked the Rome hotel, but we haven’t got hotels booked for Florence or Venice yet.

What to choose?  As my wifey will testify – I luurrrvveee doing research.  Too much research really.  When we went on our Summer holiday adventure around the globe, we did massive amounts of research on www.tripadvisor.com and it was well worth it.   There are so many reviews on there!

But you have to be a little careful – here’s what I usually do:

  • I usually read a few pages worth of reviews to see what the general feel is like.
  • When listing all the hotels, I also look at how many reviews each got – it may be that a hotel is “ranked” higher because there were less reviews for it.
  • I also make an effort to check reviews on other sites, or especially dedicated commercial travel sites.
  • Checking the user submitted photos is also worthwhile, just to get a feel for the decor – but that’s not too important for us for this trip as we’re not planning to spend huge amounts of time in the room.
  • Lastly, tripadvisor has an excellent Google maps mashup – you can view all the hotels ordered by rating on a Google map and be able to filter by price and availability!    This is extremely useful!

So for our Italy getaway, we checked tripadvisor (much to the dismay of our travel agent!).   Since our trip is so short, we really wanted to stay where all the action was.   So for Rome, we eventually decided on Albergo del Senato – located right next to the Pantheon.

For Florence, we haven’t decided yet, but it looks like Hotel Davanzati is a go-er.  And for Venice?   That’s research for tomorrow night.