Thursday, 29 December 2011

Cruising Sydney Harbour

Written by: Marie Rea

Sydney Harbour AUSTRALIA
Cruising the world's largest natural Harbour is not just the best feeling. It is the ultimate in fun, entertainment and getting acquainted with the best that Sydney has to offer! This coming from someone who's cruised the Mediterranean, South Pacific, New Zealand, and many more. Yet there's nothing like sailing around this lucky city!

I booked our three hour, three course dinner with ABBA tribute show just a few days before the actual sailing. It came via a deal from Deals I love which I saw through an email sent to me. Both my husband and I haven't had the chance to shop for presents for each other. Hub gallantly said, I could "get" his gift for me. To which I did! So he couldn't complain.

The rest you will hear about ..now!

It is one of those spur of the moment things that has really paid off! Sometimes being spontaneous is a good thing. Despite the dodgy weather in Sydney, I feel it will still be going to be a good cruise, you cannot go wrong with an ABBA show anyway!


Sydney Harbour AUSTRALIA
So the deal was for $49 per person. We would have loved for our two boys to come with us but teenagers as they were, they declined. Great! Some time for us then!

After paying through Paypal which was also handy, I printed our vouchers and made the reservations required by phoning. At first I was a bit skeptical as there must be a catch with good deals like this one. So it remains to be seen, I was told just turn up with the voucher and we would be given our tables there.

The tricky part was going to the city, to the Pyrmont Bay wharf. I did tell my husband before hand where we would be embarking, he said he knew where it was. My worry was the GPS would fail and he would end up getting lost! Now, was I being a psychic?

So after a few bickerings on where to go, which street to turn, etc., we found a parking at The Star's parking which was really my original plan. It was easier to get to than the car park at Darling Harbour. In the past, we just park there going to the city, like visiting the Australian Maritime Museum and other spots in the Harbour with the most!



A Tribute to ABBA at Rhythmboat Cruise
The embarkation point was also not so assuring as the instruction just adjacent to the Maritime Museum which was huge! So we figured it would really just be in that area. But we eventually saw a few people milling about before 6 so we were relieved. It helped that I asked a cleaner at the area where the Rhythmboat cruises would be embarking.

Hence, we queued up for the sail. Met a few nice people and at first I wasn't too happy with the seating arrangement. A little tight squeeze as there were 6 chairs to a table on both sides making 12 for each table. Luckily our table wasn't full so I was glad about that!

Food was nothing spectacular but still good and filling and served hot. I was warned by a friend who had cruised with the same company before not to expect too much by way of the food but it was pleasantly fine. As I predicted I was pretty sure our experience would be different, and it was!
Iconic Sydney Opera House AUSTRALIA
For one, the weather was perfect! Not too hot (though the dining area was a bit humid). No rains so far which was also a blessing. It was still very bright when we embarked and we could see fabulous views of all the iconic places Sydney was famous for- the Harbour bridge which never fails to take my breath way, the Sydney Opera House with its glittering sails as our boat move slowly through the calm and serene waters, some buildings brightly lit with Christmas lights, rich people's homes which made me feel a bit jealous and many more. We passed by Cockatoo island and saw lots of colourful tents perched along the water's edge, Fort Denison, etc.

Foodwise it wasn't that great but it wasn't bad either. It was just right for us, no wastage. The nibbles were crackers and cheese, cabanossi slices, with a dip and choices of julienned carrots and cucumbers and some foaccacia cut into finger sizes. If these are not to your liking, it doesn't matter, you are there for the views I tell you!

The main course was a choice of pork and mashed potatoes and gravy with steamed veggies or chicken breast with boiled potatoes with mushroom sauce and zucchinis, carrots and green beans. Dessert was a simple chocolate or sponge cake as far I have seen as we both got each a small serve of chocolate cake on a plastic plate. It was fine for me as I do no really eat a lot of sweets.

I am not expecting seafood, I am allergic to it! Sorry to seafood lovers, this cruise is not a buffet extravaganza the key is the view and the entertainment!

For entertainment, I cannot complain! ABBA has always been one of my favourite groups as their songs are universal. People would always love their songs and so it was a truly great evening for us. Our table mates were friendly Australians. So it was worth what we paid for and probably more with the million dollar views before us!



Cockatoo Island in Sydney AUSTRALIA

So I shall recommend you try this, not for the food but for the fantastic views, fun entertainment and potential great people you will meet. As always, it helps if you keep an open mind indulging in a cruise like this!

As of this writing, I have made quite a few new acquaintances and will be keeping in touch with some of them. Particularly as I have discovered the part owner of Rhythmboat is a fellow countrywoman. Marisa Seagg is a fine hostess, not overbearing and she and her friendly business partner Allan Berkopec have been operating it for the past 14 years. This is a testament that with wholesome entertainment, good organisation, decent food and good value for money, the enterprise is bound to be enjoyed by many for years to come.

As proof, I had the pleasure of speaking to its Captain, Tony who said he loved working for Rhythmboat and had been with them for the past 12 years! How was that for a glowing testimony? 


The author and hubby enjoying the fab view of Sydney Harbour

Dress Code: Wear comfortable shoes, silly people still wore their stillettoes and looked really tired and uncomfortable! Smart casual is also great for both ladies and men. Young children are not recommended to join this cruise.

Address: near Australian Maritime Museum, Pyrmont Bay Wharf
Website: http://www.rhythmboat.com.au/


Author Bio: 
Marie is a Tasmania-based columnist whose writings appeared in journals and community newspapers in Australia. Her work "If I were a flower" won in a writing competition held in Melbourne. She is the founder of Global Citizens Care Movement helping needy children of her native country, the Philippines.
 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Finding Rest for the Soul

My name is Noreen Nanz - Irish first name, named after an Australian ancestor.  I'm not Irish, but I am part Celtic, and  have learned to love my name.  Actually, it's a form of "Honora", which means Honor, something I find pretty noble to be named after.  My last name, Nanz, is German, but I'm also not German, although I live in Germany.  My husband is German.  As I say in the introduction to my blog, I am a hybrid, which is probably true of most of us Americans. 


I never thought I loved traveling, and I still don't really think of myself as a traveler,  but more of a pilgrim.  I'm on pilgrimage, wherever I go.  Pilgrims contemplate, I suppose, and I do spend quite a bit of time contemplating.  When you think of contemplatives, you don't usually think of them out on the road having adventures, but perhaps rather cloistered in a cell somewhere, oblivious to the world.  I did read a definition of two kinds of spirituality once - there is the one kind, that closes itself off from the world to find God, and then the other, that opens itself up to the world, finding God in everything, eager for more and more.  I fit into the latter category.  And I do love traveling.  Each time I get back from a trip to somewhere, I'm eager to go off somewhere else.  I think I'm restless.  And I inherited a sort of restless Wanderlust from my father.  It's my mom's fault that I'm Celtic.  Celtics are also known to be on the move.   How can we find rest when we're such restless souls?  One of the riddles of my life.

I met my husband Peter while in Germany.  I'm still there, and now we have a 25-year-old son.  I don't think I came to Germany on pilgrimage, when I think about it.  I think I was actually running away from the bad things of my life in New York City, more than looking for God.  But, they say, God has a sense of humor.  God probably sent me there.  It is, in many ways, the perfect place for me to live.  Life here is pleasant and comfortable, and Cologne, the city where I live, is easy-going.  Cologne is also only an hour away from both the Belgian and Dutch borders.  And only six hours' drive from England.       

***

Since Freddie asked me to write my blog for Christmas time, I think I should tell you about one of my favorite trips at Christmas time.  We went away for a few days, right in the middle of the week, in 1993.  I was living with my family in Brussels, Belgium.  My sister had come to visit us for Christmas, and I was excited about showing her a European Christmas.  We were just getting used to our beautiful home which even had a fireplace.  I was looking forward to opening up presents in front of a crackling fire.  Later we were to do just that, but before that day was to arrive, there were a thousand other things to do.  I was singing in a madrigal choir - we had just given a concert.  I had directed  the children of my husband's colleagues in a Christmas program.  I was an organist in our church, and I still had the entire Christmas Eve candlelight service to prepare for.  I had some English students I still had to give lessons to (my main job is as an English teacher).  Then there were the presents for my family.  Our son, who was about seven, had a long list of gifts he wanted me to buy, mostly toys.  And there was the cooking, too.  I was a pressure cooker about to explode! 

But I had a friend who owned a little house in Canterbury, England, and she had agreed to let us stay there for a few days before Christmas.  I thought it was probably crazy to go there at this time, with so much to do, but I agreed to it. 

"Mind you," she said, "the house is very small.  There is only one room with a good view of the cathedral, and that's the bathroom." 

Canterbury was only a stone's throw from Brussels.  Two hours at most on the motorway, and then a short, restful, 1-1/2 hour ferry ride.  Canterbury is only about a half-hour drive from the ferry, once you dock at Dover.  Door-to-door, about four hours' drive from Brussels.

We arrived in the evening, walking into a tiny, ice-cold house, but we were prepared to love it.  It certainly had character.  You had to heat up each room with gas fireplaces.  How English!  

We all walked together into the bathroom.  The view made us stop and stare.  There was something romantic about going into this of all rooms, the largest one of all, to gaze through the black night at the cathedral, shimmering like silver, illuminated by floodlights.   

Then we went outside and checked out the town.  A river ran through it.  Along the edge, and throughout the town, were ancient half-timbered houses. The Christmas lights strewn over the pedestrian zone in zig-zag fashion, were big round colored bulbs, not dainty and white like those in Belgium or Germany.   It was a welcome novelty, looking at all that color.   There was lots of greenery decorating the shop doorways.  We passed a doll store with dainty porcelain dolls, some of them with real human hair.  One of the dolls stole our hearts.  She wore a red velvet dress, her skin was pale, her hair long, curly, and black.  And she was on ice skates!  We bought it for my mother-in-law, who loved porcelain dolls.

We found a music shop and bought a tin whistle.  Then we went on a shopping orgy for English foods at Sainsbury's, my favorite English supermarket.  Sainsbury's is proof to me that the English know how to cook a good meal after all.  And they bake well, too!  We bought things like shortbread, scones and clotted cream, a cream as thick as butter, sinfully loaded in calories, but oh so good on desserts! 

I've been asking my husband and son, who's visiting us now for Christmas, what they remember of that little respite in Canterbury.  Their highlight is the same as mine - a Vesper service at the cathedral, where we each found rest for our weary souls, exhausted from preparing for Christmas.

I have always loved the Christmas music of the English cathedral choirs the most of all.  When I was a teenager, my parents bought a couple LPs of English cathedral choirs singing carols, and we used to listen to them each Minnesota Christmas time as we decorated the Christmas tree together.  I love the pure, innocent voices of the boys, the intensity of timbre that pierces the heart.  I love the soprano descants soaring over the melody like birds.  And I swear, I find the English versions of the same carols lovelier than the American.  "Away in a Manger", "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night", "O Little Town of Bethlehem" - they all sound better to me in the English version.  My dream was to go to England one day for Christmas.  Well, at least I was in England during the holiday season, even if it wasn't for a Christmas service.

That evening we sat down in the ancient carved oak choir stalls and waited in the darkness for the choir and ministrants to appear.  The church was dimly lit by candles and a few chandeliers.  The choir marched into the sanctuary, singing a carol, dressed in white cassocks and black frocks, sitting opposite us.  Such beauty!  Peace began to trickle into my heart as I surrendered myself to the readings,  to Mary's prayer - the Magnificat, to the boys and men, undergirded by the solemn pipe organ, to the music.  I fervently prayed the "Lord's Prayer", letting its words fill my heart.  I marveled at how everything in England, at least in the cathedrals, is real.  Real pine boughs decorate the altar.  Real poinsettias give color to the church.  You hear real pipe organ music, not a fake electronic imitation.  Real oak choir stalls and pews have been there for centuries.  Real stone pillars support the ceiling.  Real boys sing, real candles light the church. 

Filling myself with the reality of God, with the faith and peace this church has imparted for a thousand years, I found rest.  Refreshed, I left the church, ready for the remainder of the Christmas challenges. 

***

There is a modern English carol I have come to love especially, written in 1947 by Elizabeth Poston.  One of the stanzas in "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" (the text was written by an American from New England in 1784) goes,

            I'm wearied with my former toil,
            Here I shall set and rest awhile;
            Under the shadow I will be,
            Of Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.

May we all find this kind of rest this holiday season.

***       


You can see a version of "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" sung here by perhaps the best cathedral choir of all, Kings College Choir from Cambridge, England: 

Here is a link to the Canterbury Choir singing the music of Thomas Tallis, an English renaissance composer: 

You can also get a good look at this magnificent edifice.

And here is a glimpse of the medieval city of Canterbury.
***

You can visit Noreen Nanz's blog at:  
http://noreen-masterpieceinprogress.blogspot.com/


Author Bio: 
Noreen is a Cologne-based author. She is an American of Cornish origin, married to a German and living in Germany.  She has published a book entitled, "Betsy's Goodbye" which is now available and can be ordered online. Visit her blog 'masterpiece in progress' to read more of her stories.




 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Our Family's Italian Odyssey

Part 1 - Venice, Murano, Burano and Torcello

Our Italian odyssey starts with Venice.
Sophisticated and elegant are just two of the simplest adjectives I can use to describe this popular tourist city.

It was my plan from the beginning - to soak ourselves in authentic Italian local atmosphere and not the touristy places! I am glad we stuck to my plan as Venice did not disappoint as we based ourselves in the town of Mestre!

Fishermen's house in Burano
I don't personally like the smell of the canals but the ambience is of uniquely Italian at its best, if you consider the array of historically significant buildings lining the city- especially in the main island of Venice.

Around it are the famous buildings and historic sights we've read about, like the Piazza San Marco, the Basilica, Rialto Bridge, the Doge's Palace and many more. While there we have been lucky enough to browse through a unique exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's magnificent creations at the Church of Santa Barbara in Venice island.

We also rode on a vaporetto via a three islands tour of smaller Venetian islands particularly the famous Murano where we saw how those popular glass blown products are made (Of course I had to buy authentic jewelery of vibrant coloured glasses); Torcello, an ancient island which took us back in time and the colourful fishing village of Burano where we watched old ladies doing intricate lacework.

St. Marks Square in Venice
My family and I stayed in Venice for almost four days before taking our Mediterranean cruise and another cruise from Savona, Italy. Our travel odyssey experience has been an amazing trip of a lifetime especially for the kids, my youngest insisting on stuffing himself with lots of yummy delicate gelatto and thick Italian hot chocolate while we were there.

Authentic pizzas and pastas became our daily fare and no one complained of the food wherever we dined! Their baked breads especially their brioche were to die for! They certainly did not make them, like they did in Italy!

As earlier mentioned, we 've walked everywhere in Venice stationing ourselves in Mestre, a place where locals live, shop and dine.This has proven to be the best decision we've made as most locals work in the main tourist island of Venice and that place can really be so chaotic while Mestre does not have the tourist prices too.

Plaza where locals hangout in Mestre
As one of the main attractions of Venice are its canals, the best way to experience fully the canal scene is via a gondola ride through the maze of canals- big and small!

We walked a couple of hours from Piazzale Roma after riding a bus from our hotel using a prepaid daily ticket for the four of us before doing the gondola ride.

After the exhaustion from the heat of the Venetian sun we decided to ride the gondola- paid 100 euros for the privilege! This sounded a bit steep but we were really tired so we opted for this tour.

Our gondolier is a very charming and friendly Italian who has a lot of tales and facts about Venice itself.

He said Venice has more than 180 canals and he would to take us to some of the smaller ones before going through the main Grande Canal at the centre of the main island of Venice.

The canals are accessible by foot via its more than 400 bridges according to Matin our gondolier.

He said they were built for the nobility of Venice in the olden days and each gondola costs about 35,000 euros. The gondola was made also for the nobility- particularly the owners of the Doge Palace which was in the Grande Canal.

We sailed through various historical buildings- artistic, culturally and socially important part of Venetian society.
It is not to be missed. What's the point of going to canal-packed Venice if you will not try sailing through its waters?

More of our Italian odyssey next time! Cheers!


Author Bio: 
Marie is a Tasmania-based columnist whose writings appeared in journals and community newspapers in Australia. Her work "If I were a flower" won in a writing competition held in Melbourne. She is the founder of Global Citizens Care Movement helping needy children of her native country, the Philippines.






Friday, 16 December 2011

Marie Rea of Sydney AUSTRALIA


5. Featured Traveller 
(Australia) 
Marie Rea
Editor/Web Administrator/Journalist/Columnist
Financial Manager of Family-Owned Rea Software Pty. Ltd.
Sydney, AUSTRALIA



Holidaying without breaking the bank! 

Marie believes that travelling and spending quality time with her loved ones make for a closer relationship with her kids, no matter what.  She said, often times, they are the only ones you can rely on through thick and thin.  "Be flexible when you travel, make the most of your time in a foreign place," she added.

Mount Fuji, JAPAN
Marie has travelled to a considerable number of countries in Europe, Middle East, and Asia.  She has been to Italy, Greece, UK, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Netherlands, Ireland, United States of America, Canada, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, People's Republic of China, Indonesia, Vanuatu, Fiji, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Hong kong, and Taiwan.  She hopes to visit in the future countries like, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and other Scandinavian countries, and the Galapagos Islands.
Horseback Riding in Santorini Island, GREECE
As an author, she is completing a manuscript which will be used to publish a book dedicated to her fellow global Filipinos and OFWs, who are the inspiration for her book on modern and classic Philippine cuisine.   She explains further, Philippine dishes are said to be unhealthy, unappealing, among many negative criticisms.  She will debunk this belief and show the world our cuisine can be at par with international cuisines or even greater in terms of flavour and variety.  

"Our regions and islands are blessed with natural resources which are perfect ingredients for a most satisfying yet delectable meals," she continues.  Marie has almost forty years experience in Philippine cuisine and as a traveller sailing on luxury cruise ships sampling dishes all over the world which most often have been actually prepared by who else? Filipinos of course!  

She hopes that readers of this blog will continue supporting her on the launching of her first book.  

Marie is born in the Philippines and has been living in Sydney with her family.  Here is her story.......

Formal Party with My Family
Sydney, Australia is a haven of bliss for my family of four ~ myself, my almost perfect husband David and my two sons Thomas and Lester.  I invite you to join me as I share with you the best places and wonderful experiences that await you in your visit to this "lucky country."

Indeed, Australia has even weathered the global financial crisis gripping most of the world for the past couple of years now!  Why is that so?  Well, Aussies just think differently in my view.

Dining at Dixon Street, SYDNEY
Anyway, let's start with our locale: My family and I live in tranquil settings amidst wide open spaces and yet near amenities ~ shopping centre, banks, dining options, leisure centre, etc.  On any given day, here, we don't need to use our car as we are 1000 metres from the nearest shopping area where I can get fresh fruits and vegetables and other everyday items.  The famous Parklea Markets are also just nearby.  The renowned Blacktown Olympic Sports Centre is also a stone's throw away where local sports competitions are held.  The Leisure Centre with its own modern library where you can borrow more than 10 books, CDs, magazines are also with walking distance.  Also beside it is the Aquatic Centre with its indoor wave pools, jacuzzis, sauna, gym, and indoor basketball courts. Yet, there are parks with lovely gardens, water features, hundred year old trees that give you a refreshing retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city and many more places to unwind at the end of a stressful day.

Opera House, SYDNEY
When we have guests overseas we take them first to the world famous Sydney icons ~ the superb Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, the Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum among many places of interest in the city of Sydney which is less than an hour from us!

A View in SYDNEY
Three Sisters in Katoomba
But our favourite places to take them is at the awesome Blue Mountains where you can find the legendary Three Sisters and around this you will find a huge National Park filled with amazing flora and fauna, among them the Wollemi Pine said to have co-existed with the dinosaurs during pre-historic times!  Go bushwalking and experience the beauty that is the Blue Mountains.  Ride the cable car and walk literally among the tall gum trees and other old-age trees as you enjoy the verdant valleys and fresh air!  Go spelunking at Jenolan Caves where pioneers discovered more natural treasures showing the geographical formations thousands of years ago undergone by this spectacular nation.  You can also go apple picking at Bilpin, part of the Blue Mtns National Park, and sample freshly made products like apple pies, honey, preserved fruits, jams and jellies of all kinds, among others.
Playing in the Sand in Gerringong Beach
Last but not the least, you will find anywhere you go in Australia particularly Sydney that the best thing about this region is the people ~ they make Australia what it is today too ~ who are they? Filipinos, around 20,000 of them live near our area alone, and in New South Wales, just one state of Australia, there are about 200,000 or so Filipino-born Aussies or those with Philippine ancestry.  Aside from them we have Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Japanese, Europeans, Australians of course with New Zealanders, English and other western heritage.  Hence, there is a multicultural community that is uniquely Australian and that's why we have the best the world has to offer!  So come and visit our Sydney, so we can personally tell you. "G'day mates!!!"


* * * * *
Are you a traveller who would like to share your travel story with our blog and our readers?  Then, I'd love to hear from you!  Please email me at fromatravellersdesk@gmail.com


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Watch for these blogs! 
They all have been travelling for many years and I can guarantee that all of them have travel tips that all of us can learn and benefit from.  I have to thank all other fellow travellers who have responded to my invite.  I will definitely publish your stories as soon as I have completed the details.




Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Lights and Sounds of

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls by Night
It's the time of the year that you have the chance to rediscover and feel the holiday season in Niagara Falls. You will  be amazed with the spectacular view of the falls lit in all colours of the rainbow. It has been happening for many years so while there's still time, come visit the Niagara Falls with the whole family.

This year, experience the CAA Winter Festival of Lights.  Enjoy millions of dazzling lights and hundreds of lighting display including the Enchantment of Disney.

For the benefit of those who's visiting the Falls for the first time, here are some important information that you may want to know.  Niagara Falls is a little over an hour drive from Toronto and twenty minutes away from the Buffalo International Airport.  There is so much to do in Niagara all year round.  I will be listing the activities and things to do while you are in Niagara; Attractions & Rides, Casino, Day Spas, Falls Experiences, Festivals & Events, Golf, Historic Sites, Nature, Nightlife, Religious, Shopping, Sightseeing Tours, Theatre & Shows, Themeparks and Waterparks, and Wineries.

In and Around Niagara with friends & family
For the list of hotels and restaurants for your fine dining and comfortable stay experience, and for other things to do ~ click here.

I have visited Niagara Falls on all four seasons of the year, now is the time for you to experience this great wonder of the world!

Come visit Canada!

Happy Holidays!!










Monday, 5 December 2011

Your Guide to a Family-Friendly Travel

Written by Marie Rea

In this era of global economic downturn, can ordinary families still afford to travel or enjoy holidays?

Our family can, so can yours!  You can do it too, through careful planning and budgeting.

Guell Park SPAIN
Instead of showering our boys with material things or brand named clothes, gadgets and the like, we prefer to expose them to the world at large.  This way, they are gaining a broader understanding of their environment, learn about different cultures and help them make informed choices for everyday living.  Travelling as a family has always been a more lasting experience for us and has helped us get closer than ever!

It is quality time at its best! 

Here are some General Tips:
ANZ Stadium Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Make sure though that your kids will not be disadvantaged.  Plan the vacation dates towards the end of school terms about one week ahead.  Or vice-versa,  towards the start of a new term when your kids won't be missing too much school, depending on how long you'll be away.  Make sure you inform the school and their teachers.  You can also request for handouts and other important notes and organize rescheduling of tests, homework submissions, etc. 
  • During school holidays, travel by train is cheaper using Countrylink. There is a deal where kids travel for one dollar with two paying adults and up to three kids, all for a dollar each!  Check the website or the nearest Countrylink in major train station
Wollemi National Park Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Before going to the holiday of your choice, research places of interest which offer free entry or free escorted tour.  Many Australian government-owned museums are free to the public and go there first.  In Canberra, the Australian War Memorial and Australian Parliament is free to the public.  There are heaps of things to see and learn from a visit to this place.  You will be able to impress upon your children the importance of preserving peace and the sacrifices our forefathers did to preserve it!  At Australian Museum (Sydney), after 4 P.M. is free also.  Do check before going as rules sometimes change with the seasons.

Harbour Bridge Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Compare fares, accommodations and holiday packages using reputable websites and show these to your travel agent.  See if he/she can give you a better deal or equal what you got in the net without having to go back to those sites.  Sometimes, it is better travel agents do the work if you have multiple trips.  One site that we always use is expedia.com.au (I booked our Japan and US trips here) as air and hotel packages are offered at discounted rates.  These days, I also book with bestcruises.com.au (South Pacific cruise), ozcruising.com.au (for our Tasmania cruise) ~ this one even has a 5-day cooling off period when you book.  Then a small deposit and you pay six weeks before your sail so it is like a lay-by-plan!  Another good site is cruiseaway.com.au where I booked our New Zealand cruise and our latest one for 2012, another cruise to several points in Asia.
  • Follow the exchange rates of your currency and go when the Australian dollar will have a greater exchange rate. 
Archibald Fountain at Hyde Park Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Take some essentials with you when travelling to save time and money.  If you are family of four like us, you are allowed at least 80 kilos of luggage for international flights so you can take sachets of coffee, powdered milk, choco drink, even your kids' favourite cereals in case you do not know the area where you're going at first.  Little snacks, biscuits and small drinks in tetra packs (must be in your checked-in luggage and depends on the customs regulations there).  Or, get them at the local supermarket.  Don't forget to take basic family medicines like paracetamol, antihistamines, and puffers for allergies/asthma.  You need doctor's prescriptions/letter for off the counter medication.
  • Your kids need not necessarily see all the theme parks which are often expensive, or zoos/aquariums in a particular place.  Instead, National Parks/Reserve (especially in Australia) are usually free or have discounted rates to families so better go there where there's something for everyone.  It will be fun spotting native birds and other animals on your own.
Darling Harbour Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Always take a small cooler bag with you and some disposable plates and cutleries when travelling domestic or abroad.  After a few days, eating in restaurants can not only be expensive but tiring for the kids so having your own take away food or if you can cook your own meal, or barbecue in parks with barbecue facilities will also be equally appealing for the whole family.  No need to worry kids will misbehave or annoy anyone.
Tobogganing in Sydney AUSTRALIA
  • Make sure you join the frequent flyer program of the airline you're flying.  They are usually free.  For example, it is Asia Miles for Cathay Pacific Airlines in partnership with Qantas and many airlines.  As member, you're also allowed more luggage, like 23 instead of 20 kilos for some frequent flyer clubs.  A very good one is Etihad's Guest program as I just recently got my free Tablet (Creative Ziio) from redeeming our miles from last years', including free delivery which was within a week.  We still have a good number of points ~ my boys are just having a hard time choosing what to get!  Who said Japan is expensive?  We saved around AUSHongkong.  Many Pinoys also use Philippine Airlines so make sure you join PAL's Mabuhay Club.  The points can be transferred to relatives as far as I know.  Sometimes, points can be redeemed for domestic travel.
  • If flying or cruising is expensive for you (which you can save up for in the future), then one cheap way is to go camping.  If you are a member of NRMA (motoring organization) this group can help you plan your getaway easily.  Or get together with your family and friends for a night or two or even a week of pure adventure  with the barest of essentials!  There is a huge number of family friendly caravanning and camping places to choose from anywhere you are.  Let your fingers do the walking.  You can even download maps, location, places of interest, etc. from the various sites.  A good one is visitnsw.com  Even driving directions are there, you have no excuse for not going.
  • If all else fails, you can always do a "staycation."  That is, stay home but take the family on day trips to your local reserve and take a picnic with you!  Or check your local papers for activities sponsored by your council as they are often FREE.

So, have fun with your family!  You don't need to buy them expensive presents or clothes, toys and computer games that usually don't last anyway.  Your time spent with them will be with them for as long as they live.  Trust this mum of two boys ~ 12 and 16!  So far, the boys have been to over twenty countries and counting.

Cheers and happy travelling!

Note: Re-posted with the permission from the Author. Published in "Ang Kalatas" a community newspaper in Sydney, Australia

Author Bio: 
Marie is a Tasmania-based columnist whose writings appeared in journals and community newspapers in Australia. Her work "If I were a flower" won in a writing competition held in Melbourne. She is the founder of Global Citizens Care Movement helping needy children of her native country, the Philippines.