Staycation – Ways to be a tourist in your own town

Feeling like you never get to go away on a special holiday? You don’t need to travel far to do some sightseeing, relax, and get an exhilarating feel of adventure. Here’s how to be a tourist in your hometown and see your city with new eyes:

Show foreigners around

Take foreigners around your area – be it friends from another part of the country, family or an exchange student from Finland. Think of places that are usually branded as “too touristy” and try to enjoy the experience just as much as your guests do.

Take a bus tour

Do you know the history behind the buildings seen in your hometown? Do you understand how and why your city was founded?

Take a bus tour that is usually meant for tourists to gain some local history knowledge. Engage yourself with the tourists on the bus to see what they find interesting – you might be fascinated about a few things you forgot your city has to offer. City Sightseeing‘s hop-on hop-off bus includes all major Cape Town, Jo’burg and Soweto tourist attractions.

Stay in a hotel or guesthouse

To set yourself in a mood for exploring and travelling, book into your town’s favourite hotel or guesthouse. Jo’burgers can indulge in a staycation at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, which should tick all the boxes. (See our recent post about their bubbly bar here). Being away from home for the evening will add to the touristy feeling you’re after.

The Fairlawns Treehouse Studio

Schedule time for those “one day” places

We all have places that we pass regularly in our town or city that we plan on visiting one day. It will never happen if you don’t actually decide on a date to go. While busy, look at recommendations and tourist brochures of activities in your area and create a schedule of the things you want to do.

Go on a taste adventure at the most touristy restaurant in town

Go to the most touristy restaurant in town and eat the meals they specialise in. Look at coffee shops and restaurants you usually don’t go to and try various cuisines. Stepping out of your comfort zone when it comes to restaurants, is exhilarating and refreshing. If staying in Pretoria, why not visit the Monument Restaurant and experience authentic Afrikaner food.

Cheer on a local sports team

To get a feel for the spirit in your city, go to a stadium near you and watch a sports game with passionate locals and tourists.

Do something that only your city can offer

Most towns and cities are well known for an outdoor adventure like no other. Go out and explore your town’s most fun activity. If you’re from Cape Town, head to Table Mountain and experience the Aerial Cableway.

Glide into vacation-mode

When leaving the office for your staycation, leave all your worries behind and settle in for your well-deserved holiday. Put on some music, open a bottle of wine, relax and get ready for your holiday at home.

Written by: Katrien Nel

Images: Supplied

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Travelling must-haves

When travelling, packing smart is just as important than packing light. With these essentials, you’ll be prepared for any trip. Choose items efficiently and make sure you can manage with your luggage by yourself.

Hard-shell Rolling Suitcase

Although soft suitcases are great for squeezing in extra items, when it comes to rainy weather, no one wants to sit in a situation where you must drag your bag through the rain. We recommend a hard-shell rolling case like the K-Way Spinner 65L Roller available from Cape Union Mart.

Backpack

Not only does a backpack spread the weight, it also ensures that you can easily access all the essentials while travelling hands-free. The Anti-Theft Waterproof Travel Laptop Backpack is available at R499 from Takealot.com.

Foldable Down Jacket

A warm jacket is a definite travel essential. Down Jackets like the K-Way Tundra Down Jacket is very compact and won’t take up much space in your suitcase. Roll it into its pouch and it doubles up as a travel pillow.

Scarf

A large scarf can serve a variety of purposes – keeping warm, dressing up, covering your head or padding a fragile souvenir. Poetry has a wide variety of scarves to choose from. Go check them out on http://www.poetrystores.co.za.

Multi-Purpose Shoes

Two pairs are all you need. Leave behind the high heels you’ll only wear once and rather take one pair of waterproof, sturdy sneakers and a pair of comfortable shoes that can be used on long walks as well as for going out.

Wipes

When travelling, you want to avoid getting ill at all costs. We always prefer Dettol’s Personal Care Wipes, available at Clicks, to keep you feeling fresh and clean.

Customized First-Aid Kit

We suggest that you pack pain-pills, anti-itch creams, motion sickness tablets, stomach meds, cold/flu medicine, bandages and eye drops. Don’t forget your multivitamins!

Flip Flops

In addition to the above-mentioned two pairs of shoes, a pair of flip flops is also an essential. Flip-flops are water resistant and are flat enough to take up minimal space in a suitcase. Our favourite is the tried-and-tested Havaianas.

Pen

A pen will always come handy. Think filling in customs forms, doing Sudoku puzzles or doodling on a napkin.

Notebook

Be it for diarising memories made on an adventure or writing essential numbers – one simply cannot travel without a notebook. Hello Pretty has a variety of notebooks to choose from.

Noise-cancelling earphones

One way to make the best of a situation where you have noisy plane neighbours is to block out the noise while keeping yourself entertained. The Gadget Shop stocks most of the top noise-cancelling earphones.

Portable Power Bank Charger

Make sure to pack a portable charger. You don’t want to waste time waiting for your electronics to charge. A great portable charger is the 10000mAh Ultra Compact Power Bank available from Chargedpower.com. 

Face Essentials

Cleansing and moisturizing are the two smartest steps you can take for your skin when travelling. Look for a cleanser that is both soothing and that can gently remove makeup on the go. Once your face is makeup-freeClinique’s Dramatically Different moisturizer will hydrate even the driest complexion.

Sunscreen

Did you know that it is advisable to apply sunscreen in-flight, especially if you’re in the window seat? The altitude can expose you to harmful UVA rays.

Lip Balm

The Proudly South African Zam-Buk lip balm is all you need. Cherry Kiss Zam-Buk lip balm is available at Clicks and is perfect for all day use.

Small bag of toiletries

Luggage get lost so easily when travelling. The last thing you want to do is spend R500 on all the toiletries you’d need when your bags get lost. Pack a small bag with necessary items to keep in your hand luggage. Make use of Dischem’s Travelmate bottle set for some of your hair and skincare products.

 

Written by: Katrien Nel

How to plan a trip with a big group

Travelling in big groups with friends or family can result in the most amazing times of our lives, where the precious memories made will be remembered for years to come. However, if not planned meticulously, group travelling can be stressful.

Here are TMG’s top tips on how to plan a trip with a big group:

Have a leader (or two)

Appoint an individual to lead the planning of the trip. It makes travelling a lot easier if there is a go-to person who knows how the planning is progressing. If there is a lot of planning to do, different people can be in charge of different aspects of the trip. One person can be in charge of accommodation, one in charge of researching activities, another of meal planning, etc. The final decisions can still be made as a group, but this will ensure that everything gets organized in advance.

Agree on a budget

One of the most difficult aspects of planning a trip for a group is the budget. People have different ideas about how much they are willing to spend when travelling. Decide on a budget that suits everyone and adhere to it. Some activities could be optional so group members can decide whether they want to participate, but a budget for the necessities is crucial.

Consider Alternative Accommodation

Accommodation makes a huge difference to your travel experience. Hotels aren’t necessarily the best option when travelling as a big group. Renting a holiday house saves money and provides opportunities to cook together and socialize. Websites like Airbnb and Rentbyowner make it very easy to find homes to rent anywhere in the world.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Make reservations ahead of time. Transport and accommodation need to be arranged and booked as early as possible. Research the top things to do at your chosen destination and look out for group discounts.

Limit the amount of activities

It isn’t necessary to plan every moment of the holiday. Some of the best experiences may be decided impulsively during the trip, or just happen spontaneously.  Managing the itinerary for a large group, particularly one with children, is rather difficult and may lead to unnecessary tension. Limit big outings or activities to one per day.

Split up

It isn’t necessary for the whole group to be together all the time. If there are people who want to participate in different activities from the rest, split up according to interests.

Communicate

Communication is key when travelling as a big group. Make sure everyone is aware of the itinerary and all the details, pack clever and you are all set for your holiday adventure with the people you love!

 

Written by Katrien Nel

Weekend Getaways close to Jozi & Pretoria

You don’t have to drive too far to escape the city lights of Johannesburg and Pretoria. A great weekend getaway might be closer than you think. Here are some ideas on how you can get away without spending too much time on the road:

Dullstroom

If you are looking for a relaxing, rejuvenating weekend away, the picturesque town, Dullstroom, is your answer. Dullstroom is South Africa’s favourite fly fishing village and offers something to interest every traveller, whether you wish to catch and release fish or to enjoy the calming scenic beauty and excellent, quirky restaurants.

Taste superb whiskey from the widest range of whiskies available in the Southern Hemisphere at Wild about Whisky, enjoy the scenic two day Steenkampsberg hiking trail located only 4km from town, or enjoy leisurely walks with fresh air, taking in the picturesque mountain scenery.

Pilanesberg

The Pilanesberg National Park offers a great bush getaway. Boasting the Big Five, Pilanesberg promises thrilling big game viewing and is home to more than 360 bird species. Enjoy a guided 4×4 game drive, take an exhilarating walking safari or enjoy a unique hot air balloon safari.

Hartebeespoort

For a getaway that offers fun, family-friendly activities to entertain young and old, Hartebeespoort is the place to visit.

Enjoy some extreme jet boat rides on the dam, do some exhilarating zip lining or visit the elephant sanctuary. For the best views of Hartebeespoortdam, consider trying the popular Harties Cableway. If you are keen on partaking in a romantic lunch, pack a picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy a picnic at The Strawberry Farm near Hartebeespoort dam.

Magaliesburg

For the perfect escape to the countryside, head to the Magaliesberg region.

The Magaliesburg village offers good shopping, art and crafts studios, working farms and excellent restaurants. For the adventurer, the Magaliesberg offers mountain walks, quad-biking, hiking and more.

With its beautiful mountains, rivers and indigenous woodlands, this scenic gem has visitors returning time and again.

Where to go on your next trip

I was recently asked where I want to travel to next. This question was difficult as, when it comes to travelling, any destination is an opportunity for discovery, inspiration, learning, adventure, relaxation or all of these combined!

As travel time is limited, the decision on where to go shouldn’t be taken lightly. Travelling Mystery Guest has compiled a list of criteria to help narrow down your options.

Consider your budget

Knowing how much you have to spend will help you decide where to go on your next trip. Considering what you want to spend your money on is just as important.  Some prefer to travel for longer rather than spending money on expensive meals and accommodation. Others will splurge on luxury accommodation and top restaurants even if it means a shorter stay. Only you can decide what is worth spending your hard earned money on.

Ask yourself why

Why do you want to travel? Do you want to learn something new or relax and get a tan? Do you want an adventure? Have fun with friends or travel solo? Have a break from work or reconnect with a loved one? Knowing why you want to travel makes the decision of which destination to go to much easier.

How far do you want to go?

Travelling doesn’t have to include long flights. South Africa is such a diverse country and if you do a bit of research, you’ll see that you most likely haven’t explored half of it. Decide whether you want to travel domestically, visit our neighbouring countries or go for something completely different abroad.

Decide on your preferred environment

City, beach or countryside? Cold or hot weather? Not everyone is enthusiastic about snowy, cold weather and are drawn to warmer climates. Think of the weather, landscape and style of the destination you want to visit to narrow down your travel choices.

Different or familiar culture?

It’s important to consider whether you want to visit a country that has a similar culture to yours or experience something different from what you are used to. Being in a country with an unfamiliar culture can be lonesome and stressful but it can also be incredibly exciting and inspirational. Do thorough research on the culture of the destinations you are considering before making a decision.

So much to do…

Time is precious when travelling, so plan your travel activities wisely. If you want explore the outdoors, think of travelling to a destination that is known for great hiking routes. If a great culinary experience is what you are after, look for destinations that have a reputation for excellent cuisine. If you are interested in art, consider travelling to cities with the world’s major art galleries. Decide on activities and organize your trip around them.

Wherever you go, make the most of the experience. Remember – you’ll only regret the things you didn’t do so have an open mind and broaden your travel wishes.

 

Written by: Katrien Nel

Beat Business Travel’s Beating

If you feel anxious about getting to the airport on time before that big business meeting or get uncharacteristically irritated at the person with a pocketful of change who holds up the security queue, you’re not alone.

In fact, the UK’s Stress Management Society says that on average 75% of travellers feel stressed when preparing for travel or flying to an important event, such as business meetings.

“It’s not just arriving at the airport on time, going through the security and boarding formalities and getting on the plane that causes travel stress. What happens before the flight and what travellers anticipate will happen after it also have a bearing on how much anxiety they feel and how they cope with it,” says Dawn Weir, Head of kulula work.

Weir suggests the following five tips to deal with and avoid some of the factors that can exacerbate business travel stress.

  1. Be well rested before your flight

Going to bed late, particularly if you have to get up early makes most people crotchety and irritable. Try to get an early night.

Also try and get some exercise in the late afternoon or evening before the flight. It’s a great stress reliever and will help you sleep better.

  1. Plan ahead

Leaving your packing until the last minute will add to your stress and increase the chances of you leaving something important behind. Do the bulk of your packing a day or two before. Leave some space in your hand luggage for last-minute items.

Allow yourself enough time to get to the airport. It’s much less stressful to get there with time to spare, than in a desperate rush.

Book your transport from the airport to your hotel or meeting before departure. It’s better than spending the whole flight worrying about what will happen when you arrive.

  1. Eat and drink sensibly

Guzzling litres of coffee to wake up after an early start will make you jittery and irritable, adding to your anxiety.

Too much alcohol the night before inhibits sleep and you won’t wake up feeling your best.

Comfort eating isn’t a great idea either. Like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, chocolate contains stimulants that can increase anxiety. It’s the same reason it’s a good idea to avoid fizzy drinks. Instead stock up on healthy snacks like fresh or dried fruit and nuts and drink plenty of water.

  1. Use technology

Check-in online. It’ll save you time at the airport, enabling you to skip the check-in queues and head for the fast-bag drop. Saving the boarding pass to your phone also means one less piece of paper to keep safe, just make sure your phone is charged.

If you know your bags are going to be overweight you can save yourself time and money by paying for the excess luggage online before you arrive at the airport.

  1. Remain calm

Perhaps easier said than done, but when something unexpected happens it’s easy to react negatively by arguing endlessly or fuming silently. It’s much better to take a deep breath, stay calm and accept there are some things you just can’t change.

Weir adds that travel stress affects people in different ways. Some people cope better than others with late nights and early starts, but may get anxious about missing their flight while standing in a slow security queue.

“If you think about your stress triggers and ways to limit or avoid these you’ll feel more positive and empowered, probably enjoy the trip more and be happier when you arrive at your destination.”

How to simplify business travel for your guests 

With the rise of conference-calls and video-conferencing systems like Skype and Google Hangouts, it may seem like the days of face-to-face meetings are numbered. But a lot of business leaders and industrial psychologists reckon that there’s no substitute for meeting someone in person, especially at critical junctures in a business relationship, like introducing yourself or closing a deal. So how can hotels make business travel less stressful and worth your while? Dawn Weir, head of kulula work, suggests the following:

Identify the business benefits for your guests:

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Weir says that business travel can be beneficial for the individual traveller and their business. British Airways On Business for example, enables your enterprise to earn points when you travel on BA, Iberia and American Airlines, and you’re entitled to members-only offers and discounts. BA Executive Club enables you to graduate to higher tiers where you can, for example, get cabin upgrades and access to business lounges and use the points to, say, take your family on holiday with you. Hotels can advertise these types of benefits to their business customers and even form an alliance with the airline to do advertising for them on their planes.

Assist them to be travel ready:

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In the current busy, always-connected corporate lifestyle, your guests can never be too prepared to travel at a moment’s notice. Weir admits to being a super organised individual and has a travel drawer with her travel necessities, ready to pack at a moment’s notice. This drawer includes luggage labels, extra ID and passport photos, toothbrush cover, toiletry bag with miniatures (shampoo, hand sanitizer and moisturiser), travel brush, neck cushion and eye masks. But not all your guests will be this organised. Offer a travel kit at an additional (not too expensive) cost. Things like ID copies and passport photos are not in your control, but you can add some toiletries and essentials to the kit.

Suggest apps to simplify their arrangements

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A few apps that you can advise your business travellers to use, include:

  • Scannable: This app enables the camera on your smartphone to record documents at a quality similar to those that have been scanned or photocopied. Take a picture of that all-important, game-changing, freshly-signed contract and the app straightens and neatens it up so you can email it. It’s quick and discreet and it’s also a way to keep track of your expenses. Take a shot of your receipts and mail them to your accounts department.
  • There’s no shortage of online project-management tools, but Trello has earned the loyalty of its 10m users through canny use of colour-codes, to-do lists and timelines.
  • AroundMe uses your mobile device’s GPS to find facilities like banks, ATMs, parking-garages, eateries and medical facilities, while Wi-fi Finder does the same, but for wi-fi hotspots.

Create a break room for your guests:

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Airport lounges provide a haven from the hubbub of departure-lounges, but not all are equal by any means. The best ones have space for some work, high speed wi-fi, a good selection of food, a decent wine-list, and facilities to shower and freshen up. The SLOW Lounges at a number of South African airports have these facilities, and there’s even one at the Radisson Blu Hotel opposite the Sandton Gautrain station (SLOW in the City), which provides boardrooms, lounges and the option to arrange for private areas to do business lunches and interviews, with the benefit of waiters on call for food and drink orders. A new lounge recently opened at Lanseria International Airport called SLOW XS and has, among its many attractions, wine-tastings offered by local drinks specialists, Winesense, and is exclusive to FNB/RMB cardholders and kulula passengers. When your hotel’s business rooms is booked, some of your guests might need a quick freshen up, and this is the perfect opportunity to incorporate the said “SLOW Lounges” at your hotel.

Lastly, remind your guests to hydrate and rest when flying:

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Weir says many business travellers tend to put in more working hours when away from the office and home and they might be so busy and tired that they forget to stay hydrated. A simple bottle of water can be given to your guests upon arrival and departure with a designed label to remind your guests to drink enough water and to get some rest during their travels. A nice personal touch can be to wish them safe travels on the label as well.

Edited by: Alicia Redelinghuys