Update Post

It has been such a long time since I have sat down to write to you guys that I’m at a loss. This is just a short note to explain why I have been so absent this year.

At this moment, I’m typing on my brand new laptop! This is very exciting for me personally as I had previously been using a borrowed laptop to write my posts. This new one, however, has a working keyboard (very helpful given the amount of typing I do, don’t you think?), something my own old laptop lacked. So, news point number one- a new laptop.

Number two is a new obsession that I have discovered just this year- crochet! Yes, yes, I know crochet is as old as time but it is completely new to me. As such, I have spent all my spare minutes crocheting up a storm. Since I have now become quite competent, I have had requests from friends and family for their own wool creations. This has therefore encroached more fully on my time and has led me to my next topic.

My current work situation is becoming more and more straining and I have started thinking of new ways to make a living (I don’t earn any money from my blog). I have been searching for a new job in the two fields that I have skills in but, as most Australians realise, there are few jobs available (and those that are available want a junior with 10 years experience!). The exhausting process that is job hunting has dampened my spirits in an extreme manner that- I am not afraid to say- has led to numerous bouts of depression. Never fear, however, as I have overcome this and am attempting to be more positive.

Number four- As I have been job hunting, I haven’t had the chance to go on any holidays. This is essential if I am to write about my travels. Don’t worry. I have not lost my travel bug but finances and my work situation have hindered my escape. Once I make another glorious trip to another culture, you will be the first to know.

My final reason can’t be fully explained but I will give as many details as I am able. From the beginning of the year, I have been going through a number of health scares. Like I said, I won’t be going into details but these issues have been quite damaging, both physically and mentally. As of this moment, I have no clue as to what the diagnosis will be (I’m waiting for my doctor to return from a break, sadly) but I would appreciate your prayers on this matter.

I know this is a short post and not nearly as exciting as all my others but I wanted to give you guys a bit of an update. I truly do apologise to those who look forward to my weekly posts and I must ask you to bear with me. I don’t know what the future holds for me but travel and more writing is definitely on the cards.

Happy travels!

Becca.

The Best Way To Book- Travel Agents VS Online

With the advancement of technology and a major push for getting the best deal available, it’s no surprise that people have begun orchestrating their own holidays. However, there are still some who wonder which option would be better for them as a whole; a travel agent or online? I am a very big advocate of using the travel agent and in this post I will list why.

Using a travel agent is way more convenient. Imagine how many hours and how many different websites you will use in order to find the best deals for each different aspect of your holiday. How many different companies you give your credit card details to. It becomes repetitive and exhausting. The best thing about using a travel agent is that they do all the hard work for you. All you need to do is give them the basic information and they give you some feasible options. Too easy.

They use trusted companies. With so many different options for holidays, I personally find it difficult to know which companies to trust. Which airline in value for money? Which hotel will have the best amenities? That’s why I use a travel agency, because they have already found the best options and have tried them. Now, I know that this is not infallible. There will be those who have horror stories about the hotel a travel agent recommended them, however it’s as simple as contacting your travel agent and they will fix the issue (to the best of their ability, naturally). It’s not on you as it would be if you’d booked online.

Most travel agencies have a guarantee on quality. Because the travel industry is such a competitive industry, you will most often find that each travel agency has some kind of product guarantee. They are pretty much asking you to test them because any fault you find will only help them improve. To date, I have never found fault with any travel agencies I have used. That’s why I go back.

They have the knowledge. Whatever grievance you may have against travel agencies, you can’t dispute the fact that they are paid to have a complete knowledge of the travel industry. They, therefore, do have the best deals. You may want to dispute this by pointing to a website that has cheaper options, however, have you read the fine print? Because your travel agency will have done and has made a similar deal to counter the void. Also, as I mentioned before, when booking online, you don’t have anyone to run to should there be any issues.

They think of everything! I’m not even joking. There have been many times where the travel agent has suggested adding something to my holiday that I hadn’t even thought about. Insurance is a big thing I forget but it’s something I would never travel without. I’m one of those overzealous planners so the fact that my travel agent can still be able to surprise me with her suggestions is kinda amazing.

So, those are my personal reasons for using a travel agent over the internet. In all honesty, it comes down to what will give me peace of mind and what is easiest. Like most people, I barely glance over the fine print so using a travel agency makes sense. They read the fine print and summarize it in layman’s terms. I hope this post is helpful.

Happy travels!

 

Travel On A Budget

I’m going to let you all in on a secret. I do not earn big bucks. In fact, if I earn $400 in a week, I get super excited. Now I bet you’re wondering how I have afforded to travel when I earn so little. This is what I want to discuss this week; how you can afford to travel no matter your situation.

The first thing that is necessary is self discipline. You need to learn to prioritise your spending, both at home and whilst on your trip. This is not easy. We all have bills and necessary expenses that cannot be cut out. The best thing to do is make a list, one for expenses and another for your income. Once you have listed the absolute essential expenses, you can then decide which of your other expenses to cut out. For myself, I don’t go out every weekend but I do choose which activity to splurge on. The exhilaration that you feel when you visit a far away land is worth every sacrifice.

Whilst on your trip, you must also prioritise your spending. There is nothing worse than splurging on the first portion of your trip and having to scrimp on the second part. Think about where you will be going before leaving and decide if there is a particular purchase you wish to make in that region. For example, if you are visiting Florence, you may want to purchase a leather handbag as Florence is the top producer of fine leather. Always leave room in the budget for something extra (as there is always something else to buy) but stick to your budget as much as is feasible.

My next point follows the same line as prioritising. Once you know what you can save for your trip, you can then set a limit on your spending. First, you will need to determine how much the actual trip will cost (flights, accommodation, insurance, etc). From there, you can determine how much spending money you will have and set a daily budget to follow whilst you are away.

In all things, you must be practical. Remember that everything you buy must be carried home. If you want to mail souvenirs home, you will have to factor that into your budget. Know what your limits are. When it comes to packing, try not to take the biggest suitcase you have. It will be bulky and cumbersome. Do you really want to lug a massive suitcase throughout the trip? The answer may be yes whilst you’re at home but I can guarantee that you will regret it at some point on your trip. The best advice I can give is to write a list, pack that list, then remove all those extra things. Do you really need four different jumpers when you’re visiting Scotland in spring? No, one will be enough. Trust me. Try to assemble a wardrobe that is both comfortable and practical. Mix and match is your best option. There will be washing machines wherever you are heading.

Finally, you must always remember reality. When you are on holidays, the everyday grind of life seems so far away. Life is fun. It’s almost like there are no limits. However, you must remember reality. There will be bills to pay when you return. This is why budgeting is so important. If you overspend whilst on holidays, you return home to a big ball of stress regarding money and bills. This causes you to resent some of the purchases you made whilst overseas. The holiday loses its magic. You don’t want that. Budgeting is key!

Some of what I have said may seem harsh, and you may think that thinking this way will cause you to stress whilst on holidays. I can assure you, however, that being prepared will ensure you have the best time overseas. You prepare so that you can have a stress-free holiday. You’ve already worked out all the boring details. You can relax and enjoy yourself.

I hope this week’s post has helped. My suggestions are basic but they do work. Anything worth having requires sacrifice and patience.

Happy travels!

A European Christmas- The Things No One Tells You

Everyone dreams of seeing Europe covered in a blanket of snow, of visiting the famous Christmas markets in each prominent city. For myself, I was more than willing to brave the frigid weather if it meant I could experience a European Christmas atmosphere. For the most part, visiting Europe during Christmas was as magical as I had imagined, however, there were drawbacks. This week I want to discuss some of the issues you will encounter in Europe over the Christmas period.

The first myth I wish to dispel is the one involving crowds. There is no doubt that Europe  is overcrowded during the warmer months. It is then said that winter is the better time to visit if you are not fond of crowds. In my experience, I would agree, mostly. However, Europe is still very much a tourist hub during the colder months. After all, there are people just like you, who wish to experience the continent at Christmas. Italy, especially, will remain overcrowded, for the simple fact that Italy can be quite warm in comparison to the rest of Europe. If you are visiting Italy, you can expect to have a great amount of sunny days (which is perfect for exploring).

Next I want to discuss outfits. Anywhere you find an article on winter travel, they recommend layering. This is exactly what you should do for though it will be bitterly cold in the elements, every building you enter will have their heaters up unbearably high. If you have layers, you can simply remove the most bulky ones to enable your body a measure of comfort. Be warned, however, that no matter what you think, wearing those thick coats and layers is not flattering on anyone. I found that I looked like a big, black marshmallow and felt like one.

Winter is actually considered the slow season to most any place you visit (except, of course, snow-related activity). As such, you will need to prepare yourself for the reality of many attractions being closed. Most of the major attractions tend to be open, if only for a portion of the day, however the lesser known ones will likely be closed for refurbishment. I would advise you to research the attractions you want to see and make sure they will be open when you are there. You may be disappointed otherwise.

As to the actual week surrounding Christmas, you can expect an amazing array of Christmas spirit and festivities. Christmas markets will be everywhere and super busy, as both locals and tourists gather to shop. On Christmas eve, however, you will find that the city shuts down mid-afternoon. Why is this? Well, in European culture, Christmas eve is the major family celebration. They all gather for Christmas eve dinner and basically drink and be merry. Christmas day is more of a recuperation day. As such, you will need to plan to spend these days either travelling or relaxing. Your meals may become an issue, too, as I was being quite literal when I said the city shuts down. I couldn’t find anything open in Budapest after 3 p.m.

So there you have it. A few tips to keep in mind when planning a Christmas trip to Europe. Don’t let these put a damper on your excitement, however. Europe is absolutely stunning in winter (even with those awful temperatures!). I find it’s just always best to be prepared for every aspect of your journey. I also want to point out that yes, no one told me about these (not my travel agent, not Topdeck and not my tour leader). I was totally unprepared for what awaited me in Europe. I have endeavoured to ensure others don’t face the same problem. I hope this short post has been helpful!

Happy travels!

Four Reasons to Visit the U.K. On Your First Trip

In last week’s post, I suggested tips that might prove useful to those contemplating their first trip overseas. Within that post, I mentioned that the U.K. is an ideal destination for first-time travellers. This week I want to expand on that and list exactly why I love visiting the U.K.

Reason #1: They speak English! Going overseas for the first time can be a big bundle of stress. If you are anything like I am, you will have every minute detail planned out to ensure that nothing can go wrong. The one thing you can’t plan, however, is what it’s actually like to be in a foreign country. Confused? I’ll explain.

Before I travelled to Europe, I was very concerned about the most basic thing in travel; communication. How was I going to order food, find the bathroom, ask for directions? No matter what you read or how reassuring everyone is, there are some things that you have to experience for yourself before you grasp the situation. When you are planning your first trip overseas, try to take this unnecessary stress out of the equation. You are going to have so many other things to deal with, both emotionally and physically, that it’s best to simplify the situation, for your own good.

Reason #2: Their culture is similar to Australia’s. Being as Australia was settled by the British, our cultures are very much intertwined. Things such as eating a hot meal at Christmas (even though we’re melting in our summer heat) and drinking tea originated from our Motherland, Britain. A great deal of our cockney language has been passed down, and altered, from the Brits. Therefore, it is a good deal easier to adjust to the culture of the U.K. whilst on holidays than if you were to visit Africa.

Now, I am not saying that our cultures are the same. I find that British culture is a lot more refined than ours here. Along with those gorgeous posh accents, the people are more courteous, in Scotland especially. Added to this is the vast amount of history and heritage that the nations contain. No matter what era of history you enjoy, there is a village, museum, exhibition or experience that caters for this. London has amazing musicals and play and some of the best shopping. Glasgow is a city that is humming with culture. Edinburgh is a history-lovers dream come true. Love walking, horse riding, mountain biking? They’ve got trails, tours and farm stays to satisfy your every whim. The U.K. is swimming with endless possibilities.

Reason #3: The weather. I think I may have just confused everyone reading with this one but yes, the weather is a major attraction for me. Now, let’s forget about the stereotypical rain that does plague the continent. I was born and raised in Queensland,  the sunshine state. As such I’m used to heaps of sun and a bucketful of humidity. The sky is rarely grey where I live.

When I visit the U.K. I find the weather to be pleasantly mild. If you have ever spent the day sightseeing in Brisbane in January or February, you know that it heats up before 9 a.m. and there is no respite. Even in the middle of summer, Britain has a milder climate that allows you to sight see without wanting to strip your skin off. If you love interesting contrasts in your pictures, too, the more miserable days make some beautiful photos as a result of the darkened skies.

Reason #4: The Scenery! I know that many Brits head overseas to visit stunning beachfront and architecture, but I believe that Britain holds some of the most beautiful sights in the world. I have been raised watching classic British dramas, comedies and documentaries. It seemed only natural that the U.K. would be my first overseas trip. On my first visit, I saw historic castles, lush gardens, beautiful monuments and breathtaking scenery (and I only had a glimpse of what Britain had to offer). The best part is that there are four different nations you can visit and each one has their own unique attraction and culture.

 

So those are my top  four reasons to visit the U.K. for your first overseas holiday. I could list boundless more reasons but they are of a more personal pull. The U.K. has multiple rich cultures to immerse yourself in and I found that I learnt more about Australia’s culture throughout my journey. I hope this short post is helpful in some way.

Happy travels!

Top Tips For Your First Trip Overseas

After a very difficult week battling with my internet connection, I thought it would be prudent to post a blog without too many pictures. Therefore, I decided to do another “helpful hints” post. This week I’m discussing some tips to consider when taking your first trip overseas. This may not seem as interesting as raving about the places I explore but, for those who are contemplating their first trip, it just might ease some worries you are having.

Tip one: Choose a safe destination. No matter if you are travelling in a group, as a couple, or on your own, safety is a big thing to consider whilst overseas. What do I mean by a safe destination? I’m talking about not venturing into the war-torn middle east for your first trip. Many people, myself included, opt for destinations such as the U.K. and America when dipping their  toes in the ocean that is international travel. The main reasons are because the cultures in these destinations have a fair similarity to Australia but are also different enough to be refreshing. I visited Scotland and England for my first trip. I did go alone, however I also met up and stayed with friends whilst in these nations.

What makes these destinations safer than others? Well, for starters, they speak English! This is honestly the biggest plus. My first trip, I was anxious and nervous. I had no idea what to do, despite having researched thoroughly. It was a weight off my mind that I was able to walk up to someone and ask for directions (something that is a terribly convoluted action in Europe). Also, The U.K. and U.S.A both have very low risk warnings posted on government websites. I mean, they have crime like any other country but you are unlikely to be thrown in  jail for looking at someone the wrong way. If there happens to be a terrorist act or natural disaster within the months leading up to your trip, be sure to ask your travel agent if this will affect your holiday.

Tip Two: Prepare for your trip. No matter if you are booking online or visiting a travel agency, you should always research your destination before placing any money down. There is nothing worse than booking a hotel before realising it’s not as centrally-located as you desire. Buy a guide book, visit the websites of the sights you are thinking of visiting, read blogs from fellow travellers. All of this will ensure you are as prepared as you can be for your holiday. For me personally, I don’t visit a travel agent until I have had the chance to go through a guide or three. This gives me a rough idea of what I want out of my holiday, how long I want to be away and areas I do and don’t want to visit.

Tip Three: Once you know what you want out of your trip, don’t allow yourself to be persuaded to pay for something you don’t want. Travel agents are not out there to rip you off, guys. They don’t even charge you their commission. However, they are still sales people and they will recommend travel add-ons such as tours or sight-seeing packages that you may not want. If you decided you do want to book a tour, no problems but grab a bundle of books and research all the options before making a choice. Only you know what you want and it is your money that is paying for the holiday. Be certain that what you’re paying for is really what you desire.

Tip Four: Prioritise! This is super important if you are on a budget. You need to know if you are willing to stay in a hostel if it means you can afford to travel longer. Also, know that you are not going to be able to see everything on your first trip. For starters, you will be distracted by every new sight you see (trust me, I’ve been there) plus there are not many destinations that require one trip to slake your curiosity. Therefore, make a list of which sights are a must and which are a kinda bonus. Look into sight-seeing packages and passes. Things such as the Hop-on/Hop-off buses are great for seeing a heap in a short amount of time and many major cities offer a city pass that have amazing discounts on sights.

Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to try something new! Make your lists, guys, but be prepared to be spontaneous, too. Travel is about exploring and absorbing other cultures so try not to be overly touristy. Eat out at smaller restaurants not chains, start a conversation with a local on the bus, visit a marketplace for local products. Some of my best memories (and purchases) came when I ventured away from tourist traps.

And, Finally, be safe. Get travel insurance. I cannot stress this enough. That peace of mind, especially on your first trip, is priceless. Use your common sense when travelling. Don’t take dangerous risks that are unnecessary. Definitely attempt to fit in and watch your belongings. There is no need to be paranoid but a healthy amount of caution will save you from becoming one of those travel horror stories.

I hope this post has been beneficial to all those first-time travellers. No matter how anxious you feel before your trip, I promise you that it will all melt away when you reach your destination. You will enjoy your first trip and it will fill a void that you didn’t realise you had. Just know, however, that once you start travelling, there is no going back!

Happy travels!

California Adventure Park

This week I’m discussing the California Adventure Park, which is located  opposite Disneyland. In many ways, this park is forgotten or dismissed. Now, I’m not saying it’s empty because California Adventure can be overcrowded. However, there are not many people who travel to Anaheim specifically for the park. I myself made the trip specifically for Disneyland, and California Adventure was just a bonus. I feel like this is a common opinion among park-goers. Therefore, I want to change this belief today.

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I want to start off by saying California Adventure Park is, in fact, Disney-themed. From the Little Mermaid to A Bug’s Life and Cars, California Adventure can still thrill Disney-lovers. Most of the souvenirs found within the park are also Disney-themed but many are different from what can be found in Disneyland. This is fantastic for if you are looking for a gift but couldn’t find the right thing in Disneyland (I had this issue. California Adventure saved me). The park also contains the Animation Studio, where you can learn how to draw your favourite characters and view original sketches.

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My favourite aspect of California Adventure Park, however, was the main street. It is styled in Hollywood’s Golden Era of the 1920s. Every building, food stall and water fountain is Art Deco and I loved this. It honestly felt like I had stepped back in time. It gave me a bit more of an understanding into what life was like at the time that Walt Disney began his career in animation.

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Architecture aside, I would have to say that California Adventure caters to both children and thrill-seekers. The areas such as Cars Land and Flik’s Fun Fair hold an array of themed children’s rides and amusements. The restaurants and cafés are incredibly well-designed, too. I felt like I was in the Cars movie whilst wandering through the park, especially when I ran into Bumper.

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As to thrill-seekers, all other rides are designed to make your stomach drop to your toes. Even the iconic Mickey Ferris wheel has a twist- the cages swing along a tilted frame. Being such a baby, I must admit that I didn’t attempt even one of these, knowing I would surely regret it. However, if you love your rides, you must try each and every roller coaster. I promise you will be hoarse by the end of your visit.

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I’ve already mentioned the Hollywood theme but there are so many other themes that I have yet to address. You can find a region dedicated to educating the park’s visitors  on both California and Los Angeles’ culture and history. There is a sort of obstacle course set among a forest known as the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail. There’s also an aviation area, set around the 1950s. Paradise Pier has a circus or fair atmosphere to it and runs under the entire track of one roller coaster. This somehow lends a nostalgic feel to the area. It’s almost as if hearing the sounds of screams is synonymous with a fair.

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The food within the park is amazing. The Pacific Wharf, modeled after San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, holds a chocolate factory, a number of bakeries, and cafés, all with delicious delicacies and specialties that you will want to try. Each of the different themed areas will also have specialty foods but I must warn you that every restaurant and café fills up incredibly fast. If you want to get a meal quickly, opt for the bakeries or take-away options.

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The shopping, as I mentioned earlier, does marginally vary from Disneyland. For instance, at the Animation studio you can find Disney baubles for the Christmas tree. Along that same street you can find a store that sells Marvel and Star Wars souvenirs. Of course, souvenirs are seasonal and will change with the season so bear that in mind.

For all you who are much like me and afraid of roller coasters, there are a few other options you can consider. I have already named the Animation Studio and Redwood Creek obstacle course but there are also things such as the bakery tour.

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I hope that this post has helped to explain what the California Adventure Park has to offer. Like I stated at the beginning, I feel many people underestimate the caliber of the park. My only regret is not being a fan of roller coasters as I would’ve loved to try many of the park’s rides. Perhaps that is one of its downfalls- not having enough tame rides for people such as me. However, I still had an exciting day, as you will!

Happy travels!

Disneyland: The Happiest Place On Earth

Disneyland is every Disney-lover’s dream. An amusement park all about our favourite Disney movies! I don’t know about you but I grew up in the 90’s, when all the best Disney movies were released. The classics. I get a thrill just thinking about them; The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Aladdin.

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Therefore, when I saw a deal from Flight Centre for cheap flights and packages to visit Disneyland, California, my Disney-shaped heart fairly burst out of my chest at the possibility of a trip. I had booked myself a holiday within a week; my most spontaneous holiday to date. For those who truly know me, they understand that such a quick decision is phenomenal.

Then came the waiting game. I had about 4 months before my trip and during that time I researched and fantasized. The research was good but the fantasizing was a bad idea. You know how it is. When you have a childhood dream and, even though you’re now a rational adult, you still have that child-like expectation of magic. Well, that was me and Disneyland. Don’t get me wrong; Disneyland is a fantastic park and I would certainly return if I was in the area again. However, I somehow forgot that Disneyland is a business, not just Walt Disney’s attempt to fill the world with magic.

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What time of year, season and day of the week is a big factor in how much you will enjoy your time at the park. I visited in early September, which is after the American summer holidays. This made the park less crowded during the week but overcrowded on the weekend. If you really want to see the park during a particular season, then you are going to have to count on it being shoulder-to-shoulder busy. I was shocked at the difference between a Tuesday and a Saturday.

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As you will be able to tell from my photos, there is a pretty slim chance that you won’t get random people in your pictures and just know that people really don’t care that you have been waiting for them to pass before taking the shot. I don’t know how many times I took 6 or 7 shots of the same spot in order to get a shot without someone’s face looking into my lens. Listen, I am not having a whinge about finding “the perfect shot” because there is no way I am a good photographer. It’s the awesome camera I use. No, I honestly don’t like how oblivious we as humans are to our surroundings, especially to people trying to get a memorable photo. But like I said, resign yourself to having to look past the crowds for a good shot.

As to the atmosphere in Disneyland, I would definitely say it is one of the happiest theme parks I’ve ever been to. This is mainly because no one is judging you for dressing in a full Disney-themed outfit, sporting those iconic ears and walking around with a glazed expression on your face. In fact, most people will compliment you on what you wear and even share in your enthusiasm. Some of the staff within Disneyland, however, could be a little more nice. I found the staff on rides and the ones at the fruit/ bottled drinks stands rude. I mean, I understand they’re at work but they do work at Disneyland, right?

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The rides are pretty incredible, I must say. I myself am not much of a rides person but the few I did go on were fantastic. The park is very large so if you do intend to ride many of the rides, I would suggest using the Fastpass service to your advantage. The lines were upwards of an hour waiting, which leaves very little time to do much else and there is so much more to see.

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The food inside the park varies between reasonable and expensive. If you plan on eating at one of the cafés or themed restaurants, I would suggest leaving yourself plenty of time to eat. The lines for a seated meal were sometimes the same length as the rides’ lines. I often stopped to stickybeak, wondering what could be so good that they’d wait an hour just to be seated. If it’s possible to pre-book a table, do it. Food you must try, however, is the beignets and churros. Now there is something that I could easily wait in line for. Maybe not an hour, though.

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On to my favourite part of Disneyland. The shopping! I could’ve spent a million dollars in the park’s stores. From jewellery to clothing to ornaments, Disneyland has a vast array of Disney-themed souvenirs. Be warned, however. None of these things come cheap. There was many times where I gasped at something spectacular, only to stare in horror at the ridiculous price attached to the item. If you are on a budget as I was, you will have to learn to be decisive on your shopping budget for your souvenirs will add up quickly.

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Though the park has so many different facets, I can definitively name my favourite section of the park. It has to be Tomorrowland. Why? Because it’s Star Wars-themed! From the moment you enter the Tomorrowland zone, you hear the amazing soundtrack from the Star Wars movies. All the decorations are futuristic and cool. The rides, too, are the definition of amazing. Everyone lined up to go on them. The lines often blocked the walkways, no joke. The Star Trader store, however, was drool-worthy. I walked in and began touching everything, oohing and ahhing at every turn. I couldn’t decide what to buy! It was always my first and last stop during the day.

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The one place I would not recommend visiting is Toon Town. Now, there is nothing wrong with Mickey’s Toon Town. It’s more that the region is most definitely suited for young children. It is where characters such as Minnie, Pluto and Mickey can be found and visited at their respective homes but there’s not all that much else. Nothing to keep the older ones happy.

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So, if you are contemplating a visit to California’s Disneyland, here are my top tips.

Use the ART bus system. This is one of the local bus systems that has every route linked at Disneyland. The buses stop outside most of the hotels in Anaheim and take you all over the city, not just the Disneyland parks. They also arrive every 20 minutes or so, which is absolutely amazing. Do not walk unless you are staying at one of the Disneyland resorts. It’s just too far and too painful. Besides, you’ll be doing plenty of walking in the park.

Don’t visit Disneyland alone. It’s not as much fun when you have no one to share the magical moments with and you feel pretty lonely getting on rides. Disneyland is a place that you need to visit with someone. I know there are plenty of people who say it’s better alone but, speaking from experience, it was lonely.

California is hot. No matter what time of year you visit, California is going to be hot and dry. If you have fair skin, slather on that sunscreen. You will totally thank me later. I actually burnt my scalp and was in serious pain the rest of the week. Take a cute hat, too. That sun can be blinding and a hat offers much needed shade.

That about sums up my trip to Disneyland. I hope this post answers any questions you might have. I had an absolute blast in Disneyland, even if it didn’t live up to my childhood expectations. If you are thinking about going, grab a bunch of friends and check out this phenomenon.

Happy travels!

Short Trip to L.A.

My most recent trip overseas was a short, week-long stay in Anaheim. Before you ask, yes, I did visit Disneyland but I’ll save that review for another time. This week, I just want to discuss L.A. I apologise in advance for some of my photos’ quality. Many were taken through the car window and I had no chance to retake any that were less than perfect.

The first topic I’d like to discuss is the length of my trip. Many doubted that a week would be long enough for an overseas trip. The important thing to remember is the time difference between Australia and America, especially the west coast. It was a 17-hr time difference. This meant I actually restarted the entire day that I had just spent travelling. This was a huge bonus at the start of my holiday. However, being unable to get into my room until 4 p.m. was an issue. I rarely get more than an hour or two of sleep on any plane ride and it causes a real issue when attempting to adjust to such a major time change.

I used most of the time learning the orientation of the surrounding streets. This is perfect to ensure you use your time wisely. I learnt a great deal about what was around my hotel, how to get certain places and what not to do for the rest of the week (don’t attempt walking to Disneyland).

I stayed at the Clarion Hotel. It wasn’t a bad hotel but it was outdated. I had a power point in my room that was barely attached to the wall but I just avoided using that one. The rooms were massive, plush and convenient. The only issue I really had was the fact that the hotel only had a café, no restaurant. This meant if I stayed in for the night, I had to order room service which came with a 15% surcharge. If you’re on a strict budget as I was, you couldn’t afford to eat. I was also told by a local to only eat at a chain restaurant as the food quality at all the others was poor. This is due to the fact that  I was a 5 minute drive from Disneyland. Tourists really had no choice but to eat at nearby restaurants and therefore the owners and staff didn’t even bother trying. Sad, isn’t that?

As I was on such a limited time frame, I had to choose my activities wisely. The unfortunate thing about Los Angeles is that their public transport system is sorely lacking. This makes it extremely convoluted for a traveller to get from Anaheim to downtown Los Angeles. Los Angeles itself is also very large and spread out, making walking to all the sights impossible. Because of this, I opted to take a tour that I found at the hotel. This tour took me to all the places I actually wanted to visit without me having the hassle of finding my way there. It was honestly the best thing I could’ve done.

The tour picks each person up from their hotel, which is obviously convenient. From the hotel, we entered the freeway, where there was traffic as far as the eye could see. Most would assume this to be the boring part of the journey, however our guide and driver filled the monotony with fun facts about Los Angeles, its culture and history, and even pointed out well-known film sites such as Grease’s spillway car race scene and Speed’s route on the then unfinished freeway.

The trip to L.A. took roughly an hour. The traffic is so thick that there were a few times where we were barely moving. Once we reached the city, however, our driver began pointing out famous landmarks and buildings such as the Staples Centre and impressive police station.

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Our first stop was the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In all honesty, I was mainly coming on this tour to hit all the tourist spots. I had very little interest in Los Angeles itself. Seeing those stars, however, had a big impact. To think that people that I had idolized for years had stood at the very same spot as their name was stamped into the ground. Some have even passed on yet I can find their name immortalised by a golden star on the pavement. It was inconceivable.

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After the Walk of Fame, which traverses both sides of the street (I didn’t know this), it was simple to find other famous landmarks such as the Chinese Theatre and Hollywood sign. Outside the Chinese Theatre, you’ll find even more stars’ names such as Rock Hudson and Anthony Hopkins, their coarse hand prints still as thrilling as the golden stars. The Hollywood sign, however, is not so easily reachable. In fact, they have built a “viewing platform” just beyond the Theatre that ensures you can see the Hollywood sign but that’s about it. It was very much a let down. No selfies with the sign, guys.

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After buying a small souvenir, we were off to Beverly Hills in an attempt to see some stars. Of course, modern celebrities have to protect their privacy so the most you’ll be able to see is the gate, a hedge and maybe the roof of the house. To me, it seemed pointless to even waste fuel on something you can’t see but it was interesting to know that beyond that gate and hedge, lives one of the most famous actors the world has known. We were able to see a full outside view of Frank Sinatra’s house, however, as it was built during an age prior to paparazzi.

For lunch, we headed to a place that I was excited to visit; the Farmer’s Market. After all, surely that’s where the best food can be found without paying an arm and a leg. Well, I was wrong. It was expensive (unless you call $8 for a sandwich cheap). There was a variety of great stalls, however, from all different cuisines. I loved the fact that it was locals that were selling their wares but the prices were a tad steep for my liking. I bought lunch and a few bags of lollies to try before wandering up into an 1920s-style region.

There were a heap of brand name stores, a theatre and a variety of eateries. The atmosphere was very peaceful, no doubt because of the lack of cars. There were also a number of interesting statues and a lovely shaded grass area where people can sit and relax. The thing I loved the most, however, was the working trolley that ran along the street. It reminded me so much of Meet Me In St Louis.

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After lunch, we drove to Santa Monica pier. I had read so much about the pier (and had seen it in many movies, of course), that I had high expectations. For myself, I’m not quite sure what the attraction is. Sure there’s the beach, and the rides and food, but I didn’t find anything spectacular there. It was very crowded but there were a number of shops and restaurants that weren’t even open. One such place had a sign at the first window saying walk to the door around the corner but at the door it stated they were closed and to use the window. So were they open or closed? I don’t know.

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Next, we visited Venice Beach. The story behind the name is that the wealthiest man in town, Abbot Kinney, had visited Venice, Italy, and was so enchanted that he decided to reconfigure the town to emulate Venice. Canals were created and the name was changed to Venice Beach. The only other parallel is the stench that they both have. Venice Beach is a hub of drugs and dodgy-looking stalls. I felt very nervous whilst I was there, if I’m honest. I walked the boulevard and found that hawkers will dog you until you firmly tell them to get lost. There are pop-up tattoo parlours and fake doctors who will actually give you a prescription for medical marijuana. The police helicopter circled overhead the entire time and the police car patrolled along the main stretch. I realise this should’ve made me feel safe but all I can ask is what has happened that makes it necessary to have both the chopper and a patrol car on watch the entire time? There was also an enormous amount of homeless that made me want to cry.

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That pretty much recounts me trip to Los Angeles (aside from Disneyland). Because of the effort it took to get to the city, I found I was more prone to stay in Anaheim. I know this week I sound very negative and, in many ways, I am. There were so many things that I didn’t enjoy about my trip but don’t mistake that to be the city’s fault. I personally drift towards Europe so this trip was exploratory, to see if I would like to do a big trip to the States. I found I didn’t particularly like Los Angeles but I in no way regret my holiday and I would never dissuade someone else from visiting.

Travel is personal. Something that I don’t like could be something that you love. The purpose of my blog is to give an insight into the places I visit to help my readers make an informed decision. I want to whet your appetite for exploration, not dissolve your love for living. If my opinions in this post has offended anyone, I do apologise.

Happy travels.

Practicalities Whilst Overseas

Since I just finished detailing my adventures through Europe, I thought it would be a good idea to do a different kind of post this week. Even in this modern world, where a ton of information can be found through Google, it can be hard to know exactly what to expect when visiting another country, especially when the country has a foreign language. This week I’ll be going through some of the most important aspects of travel that I myself feared.

Language

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One of my biggest fears was being unable to communicate, whether it was with store staff or bystanders. I read blog after blog on each of my destinations in an attempt to put my fears to rest. Many didn’t actually mention the language barrier, which was crazy in my opinion. In the end, I was able to contact a past traveller with Topdeck who answered all my questions. She assured me that, in the major cities, language was not a big issue. Call me skeptical but I was still quite wary until the day I arrived in Paris.

If you are travelling to any major city or tourist destination in Europe, I can guarantee that there will be English-speaking people. Whether it be a restaurant, shop or attraction, the staff will speak, at the very least, broken English. Many will even be international staff.

In smaller towns and roadside stops, you will have to be prepared for non-English speaking attendants. Just remember that you are in their country. Attempt to at least greet the attendant in their native tongue and work from there.

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As I mentioned above, if you travel to a major city or tourist attraction, you can pretty much guarantee that the signs, menus, etc. will be in English, as well as a number of others. In Austria, Germany and France, there are quite a few common words that you will recognise even in their foreign tongue.

Manners & Customs

You will find that many of the things that you find rude, the Europeans will as well. The best way to ensure you don’t offend anyone is to attempt to learn a bit of the language. The Parisians are especially rude to those who fail to attempt their language. I would personally always address the person I was talking to in their language before admitting I was a foreigner. Many will appreciate your attempt at fitting in, trust me.

One of the hardest things to get used to in Europe was the fact that you had to pay to use a public toilet. It  can be especially hard when you don’t have the right amount as often there is no chance for change. If you can’t find a public toilet, you can always use a café or fast food restaurant’s toilets but you must buy something first (this seems totally fair to me, to be honest). In Paris, you can sit in an establishment such as a café all day as long as you purchase something. This is great if you need WiFi.

If you plan on seeing any churches, cathedrals or other religious buildings, make sure you are covered from your neck to your knees. I went in winter so this wasn’t such an issue for me personally, but if you visit Europe in summer, make sure you pack some modest clothing.

Money

Let me put a major issue to rest straight away. There are ATMs everywhere in Europe. Even small villages will have at least one ATM somewhere (usually at a shop). There is no need to carry all your money on you or exchange in every stop. In fact, you’d get better exchange rates from a bank than an exchange.

However, this is not to say that you shouldn’t use the local exchange. There can be times where you accidentally withdraw more than you are able to use, especially in places like Hungary and the Czech Republic. When using an exchange, shop around for the best price because some of those places like to rip off unsuspecting tourists.

Having said that, never leave anywhere with your wallet or money out. Always put it back in a safe compartment of your bag before leaving. Thieves target those who are careless. I would also recommend hiding a stash of money and a spare card in a secret spot in the event that you are robbed.

Transportation &  Getting Around

In every city, it is always best to use public transport. It will be cheaper and go to all the sights regularly. Taxis can, of course, be used when needed but I usually use them as a final resort (for when I get lost and have no idea where I am. Just be aware that a taxi will not be cheap.

My top tip for getting around, however, is to buy a map. Maps are the greatest resource a tourist can have. Yes, it will mark you as a tourist, but it will also enable you to mark out your plans for the day. I found I often used my maps when I had no idea where I was or where I was going. The few times I refused to buy a map, I seriously regretted it. The best thing is, they’re not expensive. For a couple of Euros, you can save your data and learn the city easily.

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I hope this short post will help you in your travels. Please let me know if there is anything I have missed. Just remember that there will always be the fear of the unknown. The best way to enjoy Europe without worry is to be prepared. When you are prepared, nothing will faze you.

Happy travels!