Author: travelingu

The numbers are out for 2015 from the Airport Council International. 2015 saw the strongest growth in passenger traffic since 2010 with an increase of 6.4% (7.2 billion passengers). It is anticipated 2016 will also have strong growth, however, it appears to have slowed a bit as uncertainty and safety concerns weigh heavily in the last quarter.

In 2015 there were 37 airports with over 40 million passengers passing through them. This is an increase of over 100% over a ten-year period. Some of this increase has to do with the entry of many low-cost carriers who have brought the airport’s new passengers and additional competition offering affordable options.

A significant amount of this growth is coming from the Asia-Pacific regions even despite the slowing economic growth in China. The number of new and expanded markets are continuing to grow with an ever growing mobile population. Additionally, India is poised to be one of the largest aviation markets in the world.

As we look forward, the airlines are most likely going to continue to take a precautionary position, keeping the number of new flights as minimal as possible and keeping the planes as full as they can. Without the geopolitical unrest and with an ever increasing market, it would be more certain that more flights would be added, but given the current climate, be prepared for full and over-full flights for the unforeseeable future.

7682230_orig The later part of 2016 has seen the increased traffic of 2015, and the beginning of 2016 erode. Paris has seen an 11 percent drop with a loss of 460 million Euros. Turkey has seen its tourist industry fall apart with an expected drop of at least 40% this year. This has opened up opportunities for those with a more adventurous soul with pricing hitting an all-time low. IT has also shifted travel to other regions such as Asia, Australia and New Zealand where the current exchange rate helps ease the costs and where people feel a bit safer to venture out.

This has opened up opportunities for those with a more adventurous soul with pricing hitting an all-time low. It has also shifted travel to other regions such as Asia, Australia and New Zealand where the current exchange rate helps ease the costs and where people feel a bit safer to venture out.

The key is to do your homework no matter where you travel. Make sure you have plans and alternate plans. Where we have not been a huge advocate of travel insurance, it needs to have a higher consideration now in places you may not have thought of before.

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The desire to travel is still high as we talk with people all over the world, but smarter travel is the key to curing the travel itch these days. Our blog at www.travelingu.com/blog and travel tips at www.travelingu.com/travel-tips are great resources to help your adventures to be affordable and safe.

The world’s busiest domestic airports (measured by domestic passenger traffic):

  1. Atlanta GA, USA – ATL (90.3 million, up 5.7% over 2014)
  2. Beijing, China (People’s Republic of China) – PEK (71.3 million, up 3.0% over 2014)
  3. Chicago IL, USA – ORD (65.9 million, up 11.2% over 2014)
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The kids are either back to school or soon to be. Many parents are breathing a sigh of relief. The airlines too breathe a sigh this time of year. After a busy summer of heavy travel, this week marks the traditional time when they begin their fall bargain travel season. This has sent prices tumbling. With demand low both with flights and hotels, travelers can expect up to a third or more in savings from summer peak fares.

The cool breeze of summer has brought in some amazing deals. Add to this some uncertainty from the European travel markets and if you’ve been looking for cheap travel, now is your time to strike while the fares are low.london-bridge-945499_1920

We  still recommend that you keep your booking window between 30 days and three months before your departure. But always keep an eye out for last-minute deals, especially with cruises. Look at all your search engine options and if you are on sites like Kayak, pay attention to the advice recommendation in the upper left corner.

Remember when booking online, to book on a Tuesday roughly 3 p.m. Eastern time for the best ticket pricing, or after midnight of the location of the airlines home office. Flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are your best days for the lowest fare to take off from both your origin and destination locations. When coupling the traditional fall savings with low fuel costs for the airlines, they have more room this year to lower prices than in years past.Autumn colours surround the Tu Hwnt i'r Bont tearooms on the banks of the River Conwy

Right now if I was to make a move on these lower fares I would head to London where the Pound has been pounded after the Brexit shakeup and airfare has gone below $700.00. Our Central American favorite, Costa Rica and other Latin American countries have already seen prices drop as much as 30%.

2ca1886407204713add788f4217064afThe key here is to not “Fall” into a sense of relief that summer is over but to act quickly and relax somewhere amazing before everyone else takes your flight.

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Another type of unconventional accommodation option that we fell in love with is Hospitality Exchange. Where there are plenty of sites to go to for home exchange, hospitality exchange is rather new. Often these types of options have come to us from other travels we’ve done and people we meet. When you open yourself up and talk to locals and find people of like mind, they will invite you to be their guests. 
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We had friends invite us to stay with them in their Villa in Sorrento, Italy. This is the view from the roof…. simply heaven. As this is being written I can almost feel the relaxed atmosphere mixed with the aroma of Italian cooking coming from all corners of this beautiful little courtyard. This simply took my breath away!

We have also invited and hosted kids from all over the world to stay with us for the summer to have a cultural exchange and often those have naturally evolved in replicating offers from their family to come stay with them. One summer traveling through France and Germany we were able to stay with 5 families all for free and our experience was out of this world.

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Here we eating with our friends, the Kluths on an excursion to the Black Forest in Germany. They hosted us at their home with a few excursions along the way. Not only to the Black Forest but to the fresh crisp air of the Swiss Alps. 

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Here is Brianne helping to fix dinner during our hospitality exchange.

You will never experience different cultures and traditions of countries in the world better than by living with people of that country. We have made lifelong friends around the world through hospitality exchange. The idea here is that you open your home up to singles, couples and families if you have the room for a few days or for however long you want. You become their host. You don’t have to feed them, be their constant guide or stray from your daily routine – if you don’t want to. All they are usually looking for is a comfortable place to sleep and call a base camp. Now, it has been our experience that if you do this right, they will become like family. You will share meals, stories, laugh and show them what your region of the world is all about. 

Remember this is all called “exchange” and if you just do your own thing you really aren’t exchanging much. Once in Germany we stayed with this incredible family, the Kluths, who opened their home up to us. When we arrived, they showed us to our room, the house was small and so to accommodate our family of 6 was quite the juggling act. We soon learned that the room they put us in was their master bedroom. They made the camper their room while we were there. We insisted that we take the camper but they argued that we were the guests and insisted we allow them to do this for us. Such was the graciousness of our host.

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The Kluth family not only had little German Chocolates… Yummyness, on our pillows when we arrived but they cooked some of the most amazing meals, including this beautiful cake above.

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Marissa is just hanging out with Milena’s Brother at their home in Germany.

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We visited Switzerland with the Kluths and here we are contemplating our jump off the bridge for a little swim!

This type of exchange can often be easy to arrange and fit within your normal travel schedule. You don’t need to be as flexible, just make sure you are understanding to the needs of your host and always bring a gift of thanks, usually something unique from your country or region. I’m sure if you give this a try you will fall in love with it as much as we have. Keep your options open and you will be surprised at what comes your way. On the trip through France and Germany, one of our French families who invited us to stay with them gave us the most incredible surprise when we pulled up to their address. As we drove into their drive, right in front of us was their summer home.

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To the right of us was a 14th century full blown French castle with a proper mote, we might add. When we had finished the most incredible dinner they prepared for us, they asked, “Do you want to sleep in the farmhouse with us or would you prefer to sleep in the castle?” They didn’t have to ask twice, how many times do you get the chance to sleep in a castle?

If you are going to look for sites for hospitality exchange here are a few to start with, www.couchsurfing.com is the one that most people think of but keep in mind they are more geared to the single or couple travelers. Others are www.staydu.com. www.warmshowers.com, www.hospitalityclub.org, www.globalfreeloaders.com and for those who are Latter-day Saints there is a sight that caters to you, www.mormonexplorer.com
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The next day, as we began or adventures with Mr. Mada, we stopped at one of the many, “ Killing Fields” throughout the countryside. We knew that Cambodia, to be precise Paul Pot, killed one third of their nearly 8 million people. What’s also insanely unique is how this horrific history happened in our lifetime…. in the 70’s. We hope you share these photos (age appropriate) with your kids and family then talk about history and what can be done differently for our futures. How can we make a difference when such atrocity’s are happening?
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Here is the memorial building which houses many of the sculls of those killed with weapons used during that period. They were trying to conserve on bullets so often went to other brutal methods.

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Paul Pot convinced others along with himself that all those educated or who had wealth should be killed (he himself was a teacher) and that they should concentrate on producing more rice and that would make them become wealthy and a world leader. This twisted logic not only killed more then 3 million of their own people but made them a very poor country affecting generations far into the future. Check out the  Killing Fields website for more information on this part of history.

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While listening to our auto tour, I stood horrified and while tears fell on the ground as I heard the explanation of what they used this tree for. My mind could not wrap itself around the thought that anyone could even think of such an idea, let alone follow through. Marissa noticed my silent tears and asked if I would be OK…. even writing this months later my eyes are tearing up. This impacted me for a lifetime.

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While walking the path around the perimeter of the Killing Fields lies this old fence with a make-shift house on the other side. These kids begged for candy but were happy that I had gum to share with all of them. 

The things we learned, saw and felt will forever touch our souls. Most of them we won’t even write about here, as they were so horrific, but we encourage you to explore on your own. We feel that by understanding history, hopefully we will avoid making the same mistakes in the future. 

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Our next stop which was also part of the “Killing Fields”,  it was the barracks which were at one time, a high school before the horrific events. Although these are a must see while in Cambodia we recommend some study beforehand to prepare you. 

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After visiting the lush blue/turquoise paradise of The Great Barrier Reef we were now headed to a starkly different place with beauty all it’s own. Cambodia was never really on our must see places until our daughter and son-in-law visited a few years earlier, they had so many good things to say about it … the food, Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh, prices of hotels, the people, etc. we decided to find out for ourselves what experiences we could have exploring such a place.

After landing at the airport in the Capital of Phnom Penh, we started talking with another passenger from our flight who was from from Australia. She was there to help an orphanage in Siem Reap, of course this peaked our curiosity and we asked for her contact information. Our hope was to try and visit this orphanage during our 1 1/2 day stay in Siem Reap. We knew the time would be tight, but this was a wonderful and unique opportunity and one well worth the effort. 
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As we starting leaving the airport and while looking for a taxis to take us to the hotel, we had many drivers trying to entice us to use their services, ranging from cars, to taxis to tuk tuks.  As with many with our travels we always say… “When in Rome or in this case, when in Cambodia”. Why take a cab when you can take a form of transportation like a tuk tuk. If there was an ox and cart we probably would have taken it. You can take a cab just about anywhere and we absolutely love experiences rather then the ordinary…. The big question in this case, would all our luggage and the three of us fit? We usually pack fairly light, but since we were coming home after living in Australia for three months, we had more than usual. 
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Like a Tetris master our driver enlisted the help of other drivers to strategically fit not only us but ALL of our luggage. It was quite comical to sit back and watch these guys arrange and then rearrange the small space to fit everything and everyone. Soon we were on our way through the streets of Phnom Penh.
 
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Prior to our trip, one of the books in our bookclub happened to be, “The Rent Collector”, a true story woven with a fictional addition about a young family that lived on a garbage dump in Phnom Penh. This book of redeeming love, forgiveness, strength, and gratitude even during hardships was now having a whole new effect on us (we listened to the book again while we were in Australia and we highly recommend reading it before a trip to this amazing place). Phnom Penh is the capital city, and we were wondering why our driver was taking the backroads, unpaved and unkept only to find out that these were the main streets. 

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Often the smell of both the open sewer ditches next to the road, mixed with the piles of burning garbage, from the makeshift homes built along the the banks of the sewage canals, were a bit unbearable. This along with the oxen pulling carts, what seemed like thousands of scooters and the occasional person just walking down the middle of the road made for an exciting and eventful ride to our hotel. The crowds of people along the road, lean-to huts put anywhere they could get them to stand made us much more aware of this amazing place and what people do to just survive. This was their reality and very often you would see, set amongst the ruins of a house or business a gorgeous mansion just slid right in between. This was very common as it seems they put houses wherever they can find a spot which makes for quite the dichotomy of a growing yet struggling city. 
 

 

We finally pulled up to our hotel and after talking with our driver, Mr. Mada, we decided to hire him to take us out the next few days to see the sites rather then take a taxis. This means having your vehicle open to the elements that were rather hot, about 100 degrees F with 100% humility, with no air conditioning. At time we wondered but we wanted to really embrace and experience Cambodia and this seemed the best way to do so.
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Cambodia continues on in the next few posts. Find out where our adventures take us…
 
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Marissa’s Birthday celebration in our Melbourne Rental home.
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Our beautiful beach rental in Torquay, Australia. We really wanted to stay longer…
The world of Vacation Rentals has drastically changed. When we can’t find a home or hospitality exchange or if we are staying for an extended period of time we have found vacation rentals are the best option. We recently had the opportunity to stay in Australia for three months moving from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane and the places we rented were both affordable and incredible. Once again you get the true feeling of being part of another community and culture. We had people over weekly for dinner and to learn about where we should go in the surrounding area. Vacation rentals have all the benefits of home exchanges but with a cost. Usually the cost is as much as half that of a hotel and so the savings here also help the bottom line of the travel budget. Plus you get more room, a kitchen and great neighbors. 

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These are a few photos of our fun chic rental apartment in Sydney, Australia.
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In Australia, we rented two and three bedroom apartments for around $120 per night. If you were to get a similar size hotel room it would cost well over $300 per night.
www.airbnb.comhas drastically changed the vacation rental industry. In the past the big boys were www.vrbo.comand we still check out their options but have found Airbnb to have an incredible selection and an easy interface to find what you want where you want it. It is also easy to pay and if you are on business, easy to expense. Other sites you pay for in cash and receipts are not quite up to travel expense report standards. Keep in mind that on many home exchange sites they will offer vacation rentals too. These are often at very low cash, paid at the time of rentals. It is always good to look there first and then venture into other sites. Rental sites often cater to special accommodation options like cabin rentals or boat rentals –  so do your homework and search for the one that best fits your needs.
 
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Here is our adorable neighbor Taj admiring his artwork that adorned our apartment we rented from his parents, a lively ‘Beach Shack’ in Brisbane.
 
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The view from our window…. wow!
 
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This is the beautiful Swiss Chalet that the Kluth’s rented for us while in the Swiss Alps, complete with cowbells ringing in the morning to wake you up, fresh crisp air, intoxicating green everywhere you look and fabulous prices for a night stay. They are called the ‘Friends of Nature’ houses. At the time we went, it was $10-20 Euros a night… WOW!

Ultimately the way we travel is simple and flexible. Have your top ten destinations that you want to go. When you find airfare that is cheap for any of them, that’s the one you take. Then find the accommodations that fit your needs best. When you are rigid in your travel plans, you usually spend much more because you don’t look at any other options. We hope you discover the world as we have and you find incredible ways to travel your way both inexpensively and free. 

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We wish they would rent these out… we would be first in line!

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Our Italian Farmhouse.
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Walking to the Villa where we stayed with friends in Sorrento, Italy.
By our rental apartment in Prague.


Florence Italy – You get off your flight, drive just a few minutes outside of Florence through some of the most beautiful small villages the countryside has to offer. To your right, Capezzana, a word for us that evokes the image of tall cypress trees lining a path to a Villa originally built for one of the Medici daughters. Just beyond the Villa is your new home for the next two weeks. An 800-year-old restored farmhouse set into the Tuscan hills surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. Our family of 6 now in full excitement gets to decide which of the four bedrooms they get, how soon to start exploring the pathways and beautiful countryside and how to use the outside wood burning pizza oven. This is not your typical vacation accommodation, it was found on a home exchange site and is, for the most part, after arrangements are made with the owners, free.
 
Meanwhile, back in Florence another family just opened the door of their hotel room to be shocked at how little their room is for the price paid. Outside of the US hotels are tiny and usually very expensive if you are staying in the cities. This is why so many are turning to unconventional places to stay and now more than ever there are more of them to choose from. In this post, we will break down three of them, Home Exchanges, Hospitality Exchanges and Vacation Rentals. Having options like these provide you with the comfortability you need with the money savings your vacation budget will love.
Home Exchanges have been around since the 50’s in the form we know now but has been around since the kings and nobility would swap vacation homes to see how the other half lived. Today the internet is filled with sites that offer home exchange opportunities, some for free and others for a reasonable cost.  The pay sites are generally better with more selection and filled with people who are seasoned home exchangers. This is great when you are a novice. The price may range from $39 to $150 depending on the site but when you figure the family who booked the small hotel will pay between $2000 and $3000 for their 14 nights, a home exchange will only cost you the membership fee. A pretty good deal, if you ask us.
There are different types of home exchanges. Depending on your level of comfort and the type of home or homes you have, one might work out better for you than another. Many who are big time into home exchange have more than one home and so they are much more flexible and when it comes to home exchange, flexibility is the key no matter which type you choose.  The most popular and the one most people are accustomed to is the simultaneous home exchange. This is where two members of an exchange site agree to trade homes at the same time. This takes a bit of coordination and both time and flexibility to pull off. A few tips (we’ve learned along the way) are to start about a year before the planned trip. Search the site for those who have listed your area as a preference for exchange and then start emailing them to start the negotiations. In the movie, The Holiday, the two main characters who are caught up in their own life problems just happen to hop on the internet at the same time and magically exchange home within days of contact. This, though possible is highly unlikely. The key to a home exchange is to get your information out there, look for possibilities that fit you and field an offer that will come from all over the world. Keep in mind you may get an incredible offer from some exotic location you never even thought of and the offers will come. When we were active on several sites we would average about 10 offers a year from all over the world. Another important, money-saving option with a simultaneous exchange is that many will offer to exchange cars as well, saving you hundreds and maybe even thousands of dollars on a rental car.
If you are the lucky owner of a second home, you can take advantage of the second type of home exchange and that is non-simultaneous exchange. Even if your second home is a cabin, a motorhome or a boat, as long as it has sleeping capabilities, someone will want to stay or while they are staying in your main home, you can stay in your second home. Basically, this type of exchange eliminates the coordination of both of you needing to vacation at the exact same time. You go and enjoy their place and then in a time in the near or far future they will come and stay at yours. The key here is to make sure you have their time clearly scheduled out so you don’t overbook your place. These usually don’t have the option of car exchange unless they keep an extra car at their second home.
Either way, home exchange can save the average traveler about $1500 and the average family traveling up to $5000. When you start eliminating those kinds of big costs, now traveling the world becomes more affordable. Keep in mind, when you have a home versus a hotel room it comes with other travel saving opportunities. You know that Tuscan farmhouse we talked about at the beginning. When we stayed there, we rarely went out for meals. Restaurants can be a huge budget drain. By having access to a kitchen you can go to the market or store and cook your own meals just like you do at home for a fraction of the cost of eating out. Just going to the store in Italy was an adventure in itself and the pizzas we made, my mouth is salivating just thinking out it. Additionally, you get to know the neighbors, become part of the local community and often will be invited to share a meal with them as well. Take advantage of all the cultural opportunity you can, because this is truly why travel is different than taking a vacation.

When it comes to which home exchange site is right for you, our recommendation is to do your homework. With thousands of sites to choose from, find one that has a lot of options in the places you want to go and that fits your budget. We have used www.homelink-usa.org, www.lovehomeswap.com, and 

www.homeexchange.com

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The Great Barrier Reef actually is so immense, stretching 2300 kilometers, in fact this natural wonder is so large it can be seen from outer space. Supposedly there are 1625 types of fish (and how would you really count that, wow), 133 varieties of sharks and rays (glad to say we didn’t meet one) and more then 30 species of whales and dolphins (we wouldn’t have minded meeting a few dolphins face to face).

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We had an incredible time with the Cruise Whitsunday‘s crew as we sailed the Great Barrier Reef. Dale talked Marissa and I into scuba diving with some help from the crew:) – and they know who they are! Cruise Whitsunday offers a “Beginner’s Scuba Dive” where they teach you the basics while in shallow water then you are escorted by a “PRO” (Yep, all in an afternoon).  Two beginners per crew member. They don’t take you incredibly deep and only to your comfort level. Honestly my comfort level would be laying on the deck BUT I wanted to have this experience with Dale and Marissa, so I took a deep breath and said, “YYEEESS”!
 
Marissa and I were so nervous but decided that we may never be here again for this opportunity. 
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Marissa was much braver then her Mom and got the hang of it pretty quickly. The crew of Cruise Whitsunday are phenomenal and made sure every concern or need was taken care of.  Even though I was having a few panic issues, they eased my mind, held my hand and only let go If I wanted them too. If we ever get the chance to cruise with them again, we would not hesitate (they however may think twice about taking me:).
 
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A perfect day!
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We came in for a landing with this amazing scene out of our airplane’s window… we could not get off fast enough! We had always heard so much about the Great Barrier Reef and now we were finally here, almost. We stayed on Hamilton Island which is close. No matter where you stay there is a bit of a boat ride to get to the heart of the GBR.
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The view from our room…. lovely! Marissa said she could stay here forever.
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It didn’t take Dale much time to train the birds off our deck. And we call him the bird man because…?
Watch how he gets them to do what he wants.

 

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Marissa drove in Australia and now she was going to take the helm of the Cameraman off Hamilton Island. Do you think I was really scared? Watch how she does below.

 

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So relaxing!

 

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They offered a quick course on HOW to work the Cameraman but of course, Dale being a guy, would never ask for instructions. This time he was right, perhaps.
 
Traveling Saving Tips: 
1- Because Hamilton Island is such a tourist hot spot and pretty small you have just a few options for food but most are expensive unless you eat at the cafe or fish house. We did that for two meals but the rest of the weekend we cooked in our condo. WE spent as much on food at the little grocery store as you would on just one or two dinners out. Great savings!
2- Where ever you are traveling, see what activities are offered and price around to find the best prices. We took this Cameraman out for an hour and paid the lowest price… it was more then enough time for us. We also rented Kayaks for 1/2 hour. 
3- We rented a golf buggy for a day which was cheaper then renting for just a few hours at almost the same cost. This way we were able to explore the entire Island, which we found did not take us too much time after all.
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We had a wonderful invite for a scrumptious dinner with the Cross family and a few neighbors. Great conversation, fantastic food, and new friends…. these are the ‘sweet things’ in life!
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Our last day here we took a break from packing and decided to do a little paddle boarding with Surf Connect on Sandgate Beach. Why not? This was so much fun we wondered why we had waited so long! It would be great as a daily arm work out and with my ‘over 40 arms’ that could really be good.

 

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Marissa is loving it!
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The Cross’s cute little dog ‘Patch’ always greeted us with some sort of ball or toy in his mouth, hoping we would play for a bit. Marissa couldn’t handle how sad he looked after playing … almost as if he was saying, “One more time … Please!” 

 

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Our farewell sunset.

 

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We had to get one game in with Finn and Taj before leaving… guess who won????
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The Beach House we rented in Brighton, QLD came with   incredibly wonderful and entertaining neighbors (at NO extra charge). Even the dog came to say Good-Bye.
 
We have met so many wonderful people along our travels in Australia, in some ways it is hard to say to leave but we feel blessed that we shared a moment in our lives together that we will never forget. And we hope that many friends will come and visit or that we can see them again on our travels back ‘Down Under’. Thank you to all those that made our experience magical by sharing your lives with us!
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