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The Way Less Travelled

Alternative Destinations: Where to Go in 2014

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With 2014 just beginning, it’s a great time to review your list of places to go on your travels. A savvy traveler should always consider the more unusual destinations, along with some famous favourites, and the good news is that being more open to new options can often get you better deals as well. So blow away the January blues and take a look at these ideas for the new year, which marry together interesting places with multiple savings on your pocket.

Alternative Portugal

Portugal might not be for everyone, but this country is so much more than all-inclusive packages – although these make it much more accessible! In addition to cheap late holidays and long lies on the beach, a break in Portugal offers visitors so much choice, from wine holidays around the Douro Valley to quiet stays on the beautiful Silver Coast. Pay particular attention to Portugal’s delicious coffee, and take a few trips on Lisbon’s notoriously rickety trams for a great day out.

Hidden Greek Isles

While some people prefer to go to the Greek Islands to party, the growth of the party holiday in the region has also led to the growth of a number of smaller, quieter and much less touristic islands. Avoid Rhodes and Kos, and head to other islands like Hydra and Paxos for a more authentic Greek island getaway, complete with old-world harbours, rambling scenery and some highly-sought peace and quiet.

Blossoming Bulgaria

Perhaps most famous for its capital city, Sofia, Bulgaria has become a major destination for travelers in recent years. Avoid heading to the capital at first and instead opt for Plovdiv or Varna, part of the Black Sea Riviera and an incredibly photogenic place to visit. Travel and accommodation are very affordable in Bulgaria, as are some of the cultural sites, such as local museums and churches.

Italy’s best kept secrets

Italy is known for being quite expensive, and the average traveller’s budget doesn’t seem to last very long in the country. However, heading to the so-called ‘Heel’ of Italy, to destinations such as Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria, offers much better value for money compared to the more expensive north of the peninsula. The cuisine is not only delicious but also very affordable, life in the south is endearingly laidback and there is always affordable accommodation available, even in the high tourist season in the summer.

With so many bargain options available these days, the world really is your oyster when it comes to travel. If you’re planning on trying to book a holiday this summer, you might be surprised about how much value you can get for your money by looking beyond the big-name attractions…

Images by Flickr users: mat’s eye, karol m, Klearchos Kapoutsis, Francesca Special K – used under creative commons license.

Travel Wisdom

The Best Travel Apps with Maps

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Getting around in a foreign city or country can be challenging. Your GPS may be slow to work or it may not work at all. To make sure that you always know exactly where you’re going – and exactly how to get there, you need to do a little planning before you go. Luckily, there are many apps that make travelling easier. Here are some of the best travel apps with maps, to ensure that your next trip goes off without a hitch.

Best Travel App

Need a detailed map? Then the Best Travel app is your ideal choice. Thankfully, you only have to pay for the app once, rather than for each individual map you need to look at. Best of all, this handy app stores the maps that you need on your phone. So, whether or not you have Wi-Fi or data available, everything you need is right there! There are thousands of zoomable maps available, plus highlighted points of interest, and even travel guides. This map app has a little bit of everything!

The Snow Report

There is more than one kind of map app. It isn’t just about finding your way through the busy streets…it also has to do with the snow! This next app, the Snow Report, focuses on snowy areas to avoid (or head to, if you’re going skiing!). Plus, there are detailed trail maps available. They can help you get back to your hotel or accommodations for the night as easily as possible. Perhaps the best thing about this app is that it is totally free.

submainNew York Subway App

Getting around in New York can be a little complicated. Make it simpler by having the New York Subway map downloaded on your phone. It has a map of the city, all of the major stations, helps you plan your route, and even gives you a street view of the major stations. It makes getting around the Big Apple easier than ever.

Localipedia App

You need detailed maps to get around. This next app for your smart phone or tablet is the Localipedia App. It includes maps for many different local areas as well as Wikipedia articles about the place you’re visiting. That means there is tons of helpful information about where you’re staying, right at the touch of a button. This app is also free to download, so you won’t even have to spend extra cash to learn more about your favourite travel destinations.

AlpineQuest GPS Hiking App

Another map app you can’t do without? The AlpineQuest GPS Hiking App. This is ideal for travellers that like to hike and see the world. This isn’t your typical map…this super useful phone app can be used to target your location and guide you back to your starting point. It can also let you know about the terrain you are approaching. These maps can also be saved on your phone, so they don’t rely on having a signal to work. This is one way to stay safe – and know exactly where you’re going.

Travel smart by having map apps downloaded to your phone before you go anywhere. Not only are they useful but they can keep you safe, too. Don’t spend your vacation getting lost and stressing out. Enjoy it from start to finish!

Places to Go

Decadence in the Desert

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For anyone who has been to Las Vegas, they know that it is the ultimate adult playground where your every wish and desire can be catered to in a virtually judgment free environment. While the rules of regular society still apply (we’re not animals, after all!), it’s easy to feel as though you’re in a different world when you’re in Las Vegas where relaxation and taking it easy are mandatory and stress stays outside the city limits. Leave it to a city in the middle of the desert to be your oasis from all the world’s woes!

If you’ve never been though, this is your chance and this should be your year. Flights to Las Vegas can be had for a song and even if you don’t spend a nickel on seeing a show, taking part in the debauchery or dining at any of the world class restaurants, you can still have an amazing time just walking the strip and observing others. It really is one of the craziest places on Earth and once you arrive, you’ll have a hard time leaving.

Here’s why:

Home of the Fabulous

Performers and entertainers of every background make Las Vegas their home for a reason – it’s truly an incredible venue. You can take in world famous magic shows or concerts by some of the biggest names in entertainment and while it’s always changing to stay current, plenty of old standards still occupy the strip. In addition, the sheer size and scale of the buildings and the decorations will astonish you just how much goes into something as simple a hotel lobby – all the more impressive when you realize how many hotels there are!

las_vegas_kosher_restaurantsIncredible Sights

Where to begin? Hitting the world famous strip at night will have you coming across a literal world showcase of landmarks, from the Eiffel Tower to the Pyramids and everything in between. Then there are the world famous Bellagio fountains, the Hard Rock Café – the Las Vegas sign itself on the outskirts of town. Entering the casinos is a feast for the senses, so much so that you are likely to forget about the outside world (be careful of this!) by the incredible wealth that goes into such an establishment. Finally, just sit back and watch the other patrons walking around, dressed to the nines and to turn heads – who needs a show when the streets are giving it away for free?

So Much to Do

Many first time visitors to Las Vegas will be blown away by the sheer volume of what is available and it’s understandable. The best thing to do though is to figure out what kind of activities you enjoy and stick to those – maybe throw in a wild card just to take you out of your comfort zone. Las Vegas holidays can add up in a hurry and doing and seeing it all can leave you seriously low on funds and contrary to popular belief, the house does always win – so don’t try to make your fortune to fund your travels! Maybe take a day trip to the Grand Canyon or Hoover Dam, relax in your hotel and all the amenities it offers and only play the nickel slot machines – you’ll still have a great time and get the full Las Vegas experience at the same time!

Travel Wisdom

Road Trips are No-Brainers with a GPS!

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If you’re heading out on a road trip, be it close to home or overseas, you want to be able to navigate. There is nothing worse than getting lost, genuinely lost, when you’re traveling and can’t find your way back on course – especially if you’re on a time crunch. While I would never recommend heading on a road trip without an actual paper map as a backup, using a satnav system solves your navigation woes and can let you focus on what really matters – the journey.

5855_793006077881_7786083_nDepending on the country you are traveling in there may be an unbelievable amount of coverage or next to none, and you should research this before heading out on the road. There are some countries that simply don’t require such a system and should only be used if you can do so at no additional expense. For example, upon arriving in Christchurch, New Zealand a few years ago, I was told a GPS was pointless because ‘There is really only one road’ – which I found to be very much the truth. Japan on the other hand… well, there’s a reason the country has so many engineers!

Here are a few reasons why you should pick up a satnav system if a road trip is on the horizon. While many cars may come with these systems now or be available at car rental dealerships, they do come at an additional expense and have an unfamiliar interface/language that may make them troublesome to operate. Just be sure you have the latest maps uploaded before you leave!

Turn by Turn Directions

By now you should know that a satnav system links to a satellite to give you accurate directions from your starting point to your destination, but if you’ve never used one before you might be surprised how accurate these directions actually are.

Points of Interest

Unsure where to go but want to see some of the countryside? Many satnav systems come preloaded with different points of interest along the way, from scenic routes to landmarks you might otherwise miss. Check the website of the system you’re interested in to see what options are available to you.

Easy to Search Services

Almost out of fuel and not sure where the next station is? Tired beyond belief and want to bed down for the night? Most satnav systems will allow a general search for petrol stations, food, accommodations, banks and a host of other options and tell you how far away the nearest one is with directions to it. It’s great for traveling on the fly or emergency situations.

Peace of Mind

Most of all, getting a satnav system just makes road trips easier. It allows the traditional role of the passenger as navigator to be returned to one of leisure and can save a lot of fights between the driver when all you have to do is follow the voice. The beauty of a road trip is discovering your surroundings and letting a satellite do the navigating allows you to sit back and enjoy the drive.