Everyone asks ...
How do I score the best seat on a plane?
Easy — pay for it. But while a premium economy or business seat will cost you heaps more than a discount economy seat, there are ways to wring extra comfort and calm out of economy without major expense.
Many airlines, including Qantas and Virgin, now sell off their exit-row seats, those highly desirable positions by the emergency exits, which give you extra stretch room.
One of the best deals comes from Singapore Airlines, which sells its "Preferred Seats" for $US50 ($48.50) a sector, even if it is the 12-hour haul between Singapore and Europe.
The normal rules for exit-row seating still apply: namely, the occupant must be 18 or over and able to open an emergency exit door and assist flight crew in an emergency.
Another great deal is Optiontown (optiontown.com). Working with a handful of discount carriers, it sells any unsold business and premium economy seats at a huge discount. AirAsia, SAS, Air India and Vietnam Airlines have signed up with Optiontown.
The bargains are real: I've requested an upgrade to a sleeper seat on an overnight AirAsia flight in July from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney for just more than $100. I might not hear if my request has been successful until I am at check-in, but family members have come home smiling recently.
By air, land or sea, this Hawaiian island is a gem
My wife and I are cruising around Hawaii in March. On one of our two days in Kaua'i, we would like to visit the Na Pali Coast. Hiking, kayaking, cruising and helicopter rides seem to be available. Which do you think is the best option?
- G. Matthews, Faulconbridge.
If the helicopter flight won't cause you lasting hip-pocket pain, go with that. A helicopter will reveal this stonkingly gorgeous bit of coastline in all its majesty. The cruise would be my second choice.
As for hiking, the most popular trail is the Hanakapi'ai Trail, 13 kilometres out and back, which is a section of the longer Kalalau Trail. The trail takes you through some glorious scenery, but you're on the Na Pali Coast rather than looking at it, in thick vegetation for much of the way, and it's hard to get an impression of its fluted green cliffs. You need to boulder hop to get across the Hanakapi'ai stream.
Unless you strike an unseasonably calm sea, this is a tough sea-kayak trip, but it is lots of fun. In March, you can still expect a biggish swell. For the remaining day, you might hire a car and drive around the island.
Talking Turkey can be tricky
After visiting a friend near Paphos [Cyprus], my husband and I will travel to Turkey for a tour of about two weeks, preferably with a local company. Any advice on travel between Paphos and Turkey and recommendations for moderately priced tour operators in Turkey?
- U. Edwards, Dubbo.
Political sensitivities complicate this route. Using momondo.com, the best flights I can find for you are Paphos to Crete (Chania) with Ryanair, then onward from Crete to Istanbul via Athens with either Olympic Airways or Aegean Airlines.
From Crete, the best option could be the Aegean flight departing at 5.20pm for Athens, then the Olympic flight departing Athens at 7.05pm to arrive in Istanbul at 8.30pm.
Adelaide-based tour operator Bunnik Tours (bunniktours.com.au) has some great trips in Turkey of varying lengths, and its prices are competitive.
Top spot for culture of mind, body and shopping
My husband and I are planning a trip to Java in June. He likes the big cities and shopping, and I like to get off the beaten track. Can you suggest somewhere or something that may work for both of us? Also, as Indonesia is mostly a Muslim country, how can I be culturally respectful?
- C. Jones, Surry Hills.
One place that might suit you both is Yogyakarta, which is a cultural and artistic centre as well as a bustling city. This is also the No.1 tourist hot spot in Java due to its proximity to the Buddhist monument at Borobudur and Prambanan, a temple sacred to Hindus. Hikes in the area around Mount Bromo, an active volcano, are also popular.
Borobudur Tours and Travel (borobudurtourandtravel.com) gets consistently good reviews from travellers. They can tailor a tour to your requirements and probably satisfy your taste for something unusual as well.
The main way in which Western tourists cause offence to Muslims is our dress. Women with bare arms and legs are especially alarming to traditionally minded Muslims. No need to go with the headscarf, but if you take your cues from the locals, you can't go too far wrong.
If your husband likes slick hotels, cosmopolitan food and designer shopping, Yogyakarta might fall a little short, and you might consider a couple of days in Singapore en route.
The French connection
We are spending two weeks in France in May-June this year. After a few nights in the Loire Valley we travel to Avignon. It seems that we will have to catch a train back to Paris from Tours, then change for the TGV to Avignon. Any better idea? After a week in Avignon we want to fly to Edinburgh. Would we be better flying from Nice or Marseille?
- R. Tomlinson, Kiama.
From Paris, the TGV lines extend south like the prongs on a tuning fork. Tours is on the western prong, Avignon on the eastern. You could make a cross-country journey taking local trains from Tours to intersect with the TGV line at Lyon, but it would be slower than returning to Paris and taking the TGV from there.
A week in Avignon sounds generous. I'd choose somewhere other than Avignon as a base since the city's busy traffic makes getting in and out tedious. A large town such as Saint-Remy-de-Provence might be a happier choice, with a hire car to explore this gorgeous part of France.
After about four days in Saint-Remy, you could drive to Nice. Either stay in Nice or nearby, and Saint-Paul-de-Vence or Mougins, where Picasso spent his final years, would be good choices away from the coast.
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