A Hiccup

With apologies to Robert Burns and John Steinbeck – the best laid plans of mice and men ……………….. have definitely gone awry.

We, along with thousands of other would-be travellers have been caught up in the fallout from the collapse of Bestjet, an Australian-based online flight-booking service.

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Bestjet was placed in voluntary administration on 19th December 2018 and to say that chaos reigns would be an understatement.  There appears to be very little accurate information in the media.

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Meanwhile , we have done three things.

  1.  Rebooked the same flights directly with Emirates.
  2.  Lodged a disputed payment claim with our credit card provider.
  3.  Joined a Facebook group which has been set up to try to gather data from affected Bestjet customers as well as hopefully getting some answers about the whole sorry situation.

The Facebook group is a ‘closed’ group and the only people who may join are those who have made a booking through Bestjet.  If you have reason to believe that you may have been impacted, the link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/210822659858608/

This has been an unwelcome start to the year and disruption to our travel planning.  We are likely to have lost money but we have to keep looking forward and I am sure we will learn from the rather expensive experience.

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8 Months

It is now exactly eight months until we depart on our 9 week holiday to Scotland and Spain with a brief interlude in Wales.

The first four weeks will be in Scotland and since it is from mid-August we realised that we would need to book our accommodation well in advance.  I have been working on this for some weeks but tonight I finalised the last few bookings.

There is a good mix of everything from isolated crofts to flats in the centre of cities.  Our final night in Edinburgh is only 5 minutes walk from Waverley Station.  This is perfect as we will be departing by train as we head to Swansea.

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Getting Closer

The silence on the blog does not accurately reflect the behind-the-scenes activity.  I have continued the research for our European trip next year and we have all but finalised the dates – 9 weeks from mid-August to late October.

We have taken a range of things into account in choosing the dates.  Some of them include being in Edinburgh for the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Fringe Festival but avoiding the worst of the midges (July/August) when we venture further north into Scottish Highlands.  The other major component of the trip will be Spain for the final 4 weeks from late September.  This will also mean that we avoid the peak of the summer heat which will make for more pleasant travelling.

I have been watching the airfares closely on Skyscanner and it appears that the flights we want will be released for our return date in about a week.  Based on a return flight the week prior it looks as though we will be able to fly Brisbane – Edinburgh and return from Barcelona – Brisbane for just under $3,000 for the 2 of us.

There is only a single stopover each way (both in Dubai as they are Emirates flights).  The stopovers are 3 hours on both flights and occur around 7 – 10am which I find very reasonable.  Thanks to a relatively short, single stopover the total trip time is just under 27 hours to Edinburgh and less than 23 hours back from Barcelona.  I have no interest in multiple stopovers for anything from 5 – 18 hours in order to save a few hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, I am looking into car hire in Mauritius for our trip in April.  I found this website which has proved a really adjunct to my Lonely Planet reading and Christine provided prompt and useful answers to a couple of questions I submitted.

No matter where or how you are planning to travel, there is a wealth of information available to you.

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Islands and Highlands

We are planning to spend about 4 weeks in Scotland and hope to spend a significant portion of our time in the western half of the country.  The islands are of particular interest and I have earmarked Lewis and Harris, Skye, Mull, Iona and Islay to visit.  We will have a car so easily able to get around.  Additionally, we are considering a day tour from John O’Groats to Orkney.

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With over 700 offshore islands Scotland has plenty to choose from.  So what made me choose these particular ones?

Lewis and Harris is the northernmost of the Outer Hebrides and the remoteness appeals. I am thinking of spending 2 nights here after catching the ferry from Ullapool to Stornaway and departing from Tarbert to Uig on the Isle of Skye.  I have tentatively pencilled in 4 nights on Skye before heading back to the mainland.

From Oban it is a short hop to Mull and thence onward to Iona.  I envisage a total of 3 nights – possibly 2 on Mull and 1 on Iona.

The most southerly island we plan to visit is Islay, specifically for the whisky istilleries near Port Ellen.  This will probably require a 2 night stay.

I am currently reading the Lonely Planet Guide to the Islands and Highlands which makes them all sound wonderful, but as always, there is limited time.  If you have any particular experiences to share, I would love to hear from you.

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Too Soon?

We plan to head to Europe in the second half of 2019 – probably August and September.  Our tentative thoughts are to spend 4 weeks in Scotland followed by 4 weeks in Spain and possibly a few days in south Wales in between.

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It is a little under 11 months until our likely departure date so I have begun researching airfares which has been a bit of a challenge since we want to arrive in Edinburgh and depart from Barcelona.  I have found that we can do this with Emirates with departure and arrival times that suit us as well as it being a single stopover (in Dubai) in both directions.  Now it is just a matter of waiting for a few more months for the prices (hopefully) come down for the dates we are looking to travel.

In the meantime, I have started looking into the land component of the trip.  There are all sorts of little things that you can research beforehand to make sure that the trip flows as smoothly as possible.

For instance,I have found that there is an Airlink shuttle bus between Edinburgh Airport and Waverley Bridge (city centre adjacent to the main railway station).  It runs every 10 minutes during the day.  Tickets are £4.50 for a single trip and can be bought in a variety of ways, including from the driver as you board.  Online is an option but only for return tickets.  I first thought that this would not be any use as we will be flying home from Barcelona but on reflection it may be feasible as we will be renting a car when we leave Edinburgh to head north and there are car rental locations at the airport and it is in the direction we will be heading.  Food for thought…………..

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There are so many things to consider that I think it is worthwhile to do a little bit of research on a regular ongoing basis to ensure that you are not stressed when the departure date looms closer.

I am not suggesting that you plan precisely what you are going to do and when but if you have a good understanding about the activities and locations that interest you, then you will be in the best position to make decisions that will maximise your opportunities and enjoyment.

We are interested in attending a performance of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo and by looking at the website I now know the dates and times of the shows as well as the fact that the tickets for the 2019 season will be released for online sales at 10am (GMT) on 3rd December 2018.

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Watch this space……………….

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More on Mauritius

It is now 3 months since my last post when I said we were about to book our airfares to Mauritius for 2019.  Well we did that and then moved on to the next stage of the planning.

Although the island is relatively small, there are several distinct sections, both in terms of climate and also the things to see and do.  I read the Lonely Planet guide a couple of times and began to develop a feel for the things we wanted to do and places we were interested in seeing.

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We decided to begin our adventure in the south-east for the simple reason this is where the airport is located and our flight arrives at 6.45pm so we did not want to be setting out driving too far on unfamiliar roads.  Our accommodation is about 6km from the terminal or 2km from the end of the runway according to the map.  The best part is that it is only 90m from the beach.  This will be our home for the first 4 nights of the trip.  As well as the ever-present beaches there are markets and museums and we hope to include a trip to the tiny offshore island of Ile Aux Aigrettes.  The entire island is a Nature Reserve and is maintained with flora and birdlife which have now vanished from Mauritius.

The north-west is generally regarded as the most tourist-orientated with lots of resort complexes and plenty of night-life.  This is not necessarily our prime reason for visiting Mauritius, however, we are indulging ourselves with 3 nights in this luxurious accommodation.  From here, we will be able to visit the renowned Botanical Gardens and some colonial homesteads in the Central Highlands.

Our final destination is the quaintly named ‘Rusty Pelican‘ at La Gaulette on the south-west coast.  We have 7 nights here which will allow us to explore the natural beauty of this part of the island.  Everything I have read indicates that it is less developed than the northern areas.

All of the accommodations that I have chosen are listed on Air BnB, although the ‘Rusty Pelican’ is also recommended in the Lonely Planet guide which is a huge recommendation when you consider the number of options that are available.

With our flights and accommodation booked, there is really nothing else left to do apart from waiting for 2019 to roll around and throw our beach gear in our bags.

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Mauritius – Making Plans

We plan to visit Mauritius next year and have spent quite a bit of time researching the options of how to get there.  There are direct flights from Perth but we have decided to go via Singapore with an overnight stopover each way.

This is where it is.  Mauritius lies to the east of Africa in the Indian Ocean and is a similar latitude to Broome.

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Although it is just under 11 months until our travel dates we will be booking our flights this week as we have found flights with Singapore Airlines/Air Mauritius for acceptable prices on our preferred dates at reasonable times.

Since the route is not high demand or particularly competitive there is very little likelihood of getting cheaper prices so we have decided that it is best to get them while we can.


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Tassie Trip

As I mentioned in my last post, we headed off to Tasmania for 6 nights as part of my 60th birthday celebrations.  The holiday has been all I could have hoped for and more.  Although this is my fifth trip to the island state this has been a sheer delight.

We restricted ourselves to a relatively small area and did not rush around madly sightseeing.  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the areas we did visit.

Here are some photos and I would highly recommend Tasmania as a place to visit if you have not yet been here.  But don’t be fooled by its relatively compact size.  There is such a lot to see and you will not enjoy racing around and trying to see everything in a week.

The lighthouse at Low Head.

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Mt Roland

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View from our accommodation above Lilydale

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Lilydale Falls

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Historic building in Evandale

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Bridge at Campbell Town

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Autumn foliage at Richmond

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There really is something for everyone.

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Closer to Home

For the first time in 5 years we do not have an overseas trip planned for 2018.  This was a conscious decision but does not mean that we will not be holidaying.

We began early in the year with a long weekend getaway with friends in February.  We went to Ballandean near Stanthorpe and enjoyed a quiet and relaxing country weekend which included swimming in the river, a bushwalk and dining on local produce.

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The next of our short trips within Australia will be to Tasmania and is coming up soon.  This 6 day trip is my part of my ‘milestone’ birthday celebrations.  We will be spending 5 nights at a luxury Air BnB in the north-east of the island before heading south to spend a night in historic Richmond before flying out of Hobart.  We do not have any specific plans apart from having made a booking for dinner at a restaurant in Launceston on the night of my birthday.

Other plans include a week in Melbourne in August (visiting our daughter and an opportunity to see our football team playing) and a week at Mudjimba Beach for the Christmas/New Year break.

All of these domestic trips require very little planning but have plenty to plan for next year.  In April 2019 we are heading to Mauritius and I am currently researching travel options from Brisbane to Mauritius.  Our 2 choices seem to be via Perth or Singapore so we are thinking that we will probably go to Perth on the way there and home via Singapore with a couple of nights stopover in each direction.  The next question is how long to spend in Mauritius?  I am thinking about 10-12 days will be enough.

The trip to Mauritius will be a significant milestone as it will be the last holiday that we plan with consideration given to work commitments and annual leave as we both plan to retire from full-time work in July 2019.  This will leave us with an unlimited window for future travel.  Even though it is 15 months away, we are considering the possibilities of an extended trip to the UK and Europe in the second half of 2019.  As I know from planning our previous 6 week trips, you really need at least 12 months to research and plan a major trip.  So, I have begun reading and learning about some of the places we dream of visiting. The rough itinerary looks something like this – Scotland, England, Wales, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Italy in about 4 months.

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What Did it Cost?

As with each of our previous trips, the final job is to tally up the cost.  This time I kept a running total but this did not necessarily influence our spending.

The grand total for 28 days and nights was $13,613.54 which was proportionally slightly more expensive than our previous trip UK trip 3 years ago.  However, I am still very happy with the outcome as the airfares were  a greater percentage of the total since the trip was for 4 weeks rather than 6 weeks and I am sure that prices have increased in the intervening time.

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This is how it was broken up.

Airfares $     3,655.32
Accommodation $     5,307.80
Insurance $         226.97
Transport $     1,099.37
Food/Drink $     1,451.42
Sightseeing/Tours/Events $     1,461.13
Souvenirs/Gifts $         60.87
Other spending $         350.66

It is interesting to see where the money went.  Once again, accommodation was the biggest single cost.

Transport was trains to Wales, Paris, Brighton and Cambridge as well as our Oyster card credit in London.  This category was proportionally much less than or previous UK trip as there were no hire car costs.

Food and drinks included everything that we ate or drank from restaurant meals, drinks at the pub, groceries to an occasional ice-cream or cup of coffee.

Sightseeing etc was made up of admission costs as well as various movies and shows.

We do not need souvenirs to remind us of our trip so this category was very modest.  I bought a jigsaw puzzle which I will enjoy sharing with other family members, a CD from a concert we attended and small gifts for our granddaughters.

The final category of ‘Other’ was a birthday gift as well as a couple of scarves for myself and a new lens for my camera.

The trip was several months in the planning and we had pre-paid a total of $10,130.74 (about 75% of the total) before we set out.

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