Everyone asks ...
How do I keep myself and my valuables safe away from home?
When you head off overseas, you're swimming in a different sea and you might not recognise the sharks. Most of the time it's your goods and chattels they're after, and they may be prepared to resort to foul play to get them.
Don't make yourself a target by looking rich, with a designer handbag, classy watch or expensive camera slung casually off your shoulder.
Confidence counts. If you look self-assured and brisk, you're well armoured. In some parts of the world even standing around looking at a map risks the wrong sort of attention. Don't carry all your cash and credit cards in the same place. When you go out for the day, take what you need rather than all you have.
If someone wants to rob you, you need to know in advance how you're going to react. There are times when you should resist and times when fighting back could land you in hospital, or worse. Know what you're capable of, and be prepared to give up whatever it is they're after. The loss will hurt, but walking away intact is always a good option.
A tour group, where you can surround yourself with fellow travellers, offers a fair degree of security, especially for women who would otherwise travel alone.
Island beaches full of south-eastern promise
We are flying to Germany and want a stopover for five to eight days, preferably in south-east Asia, ideally not far from a beach and beautiful nature. We have three children (ages five, nine and 10). We'd prefer no additional flights and definitely no car hire. If possible, no big resorts either.
- T. Allen, Footscray, Vic.
Nowhere dovetails perfectly with your requirements, but a couple of places come close. Penang is a one-stop flight from Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur, and you can stay out at the beach at Batu Ferringhi. There's a national park with walking trails just a little further up the coast, and you can get to some of the more remote parts of the park by boat.
There are lots of food stalls along the beach, so if you like Malaysian food, and especially the nonya cooking that is a hybrid of Malay and Chinese, you have plenty of opportunity. On the downside, most of the places to stay are large resorts. I stayed a couple of years ago at Lone Pine hotel (lonepinehotel.com). The price is reasonable and this might suit you well.
The other candidate is Phuket. This is also a one-stop flight from Melbourne, this time via Bangkok. There's not too much in the way of unmolested nature in close proximity, and all the resorts are big. If this sounds possible, the place to look for accommodation might be around Rawai or Kata beaches rather than Patong. Of the two, Penang would be my choice.
Far cheaper to go step by step
What is your advice regarding the best round-the-world tickets for travel to Britain, starting and finishing in Brisbane but travelling back via Canada to take in some skiing? Travel to start mid-December and returning in mid-January.
- C. Amey, Casino.
If you are planning to stop in just Britain and Canada, a round-the-world ticket might not be best. The two leading airline partnerships, Star Alliance (staralliance.com) and One World (oneworld.com) offer their own RTW tickets but fares are not always good value, particularly if you make just a few stops.
Using One World's RTW booking tool for the dates indicated with stops in London and Vancouver en route back to Brisbane, I get $5054. Using Momondo (momondo.com) for the same stops on the same dates, all up I get $3242 flying with the cheapest carriers. I'd book by sector with the airline offering the best price/timing combination.
Sit tight, economise and enjoy the destination
Many of us baby boomers were accustomed to business-class international travel over many working years, but in retirement the disproportionate cost acts as a deterrent to the more comfortable option. For typical six-week holiday trips to Europe or the US, what does the Tripologist's experience suggest is the best way to go?
- P. Skinner, Beecroft.
There's no doubt flying business class is a far different experience from economy, on any airline. But the gap between a return economy and a business-class fare to Europe in high season can be anywhere from $3000 to $5000. For the privilege of extra legroom, a lie-flat bed, better food and superior service, you're paying between $125 and $210 for every hour in the air.
Whether this is worth it or not is your call, but, for me, no. I'd rather fly economy, make the trip as comfortable as possible by purchasing exit-row seating and use some of the money I save to do something really special at the other end. I'd still end up with more cash, and memories more precious than a few hours in a flying armchair and a bit of ego stoking.
Trip of a lifetime beckons
I'm planning a three-week trip to Europe in September with my sons, 15 and 13, and I'm going crazy. Start with London? Fly/train to Paris? Paris to Switzerland by train (possibly Grindelwald)? Rome and maybe Florence? Where to fly home from? I would love a blend of city and country. My sons are not overly fond of art galleries and walking around cities. I want to give them the trip of a lifetime.
- S. McCreery, Thirroul.
London is a good introduction, since there's not much of a cultural or language gap. You could easily spend four days there while you recover from the flight. The Eurostar train to Paris is more convenient and quicker than the plane.
Interlaken is a wonderful Swiss base, and a short train ride takes you through postcard mountain valleys to the village of Grindelwald. By far the most popular trip from Interlaken is the train ride to Kleine Scheidegg, from where a mountain railway ascends to Jungfraujoch, Europe's highest railway station.
From Interlaken you could head south to Milan via the Simplon Tunnel, and spend a couple of days on Lake Como.
Rather than Florence, you might want to go to Venice: it's more appealing for teenagers. From Venice, take a train to Rome and fly home from there.
If you have travel questions, we'd love to hear from you. Include the name of your suburb or town and send it to email@example.com. Personal correspondence cannot be entered into. Only questions appearing in print will be answered. All published questions win a Lonely Planet Guidebook.