Everyone asks ...
I'm a single woman and I want to travel, and not alone. What are my options?
A guided tour is the perfect answer for solo women travellers. You get instant camaraderie, security, and you'll never have to face the dining room alone.
The list includes anything from cultural to cycling, river cruises, wildlife, wine and hiking tours. There are also several operators that specialise in women-only trips, such as Adventurous Women (adventurouswomen.com.au), Travelling Divas (travellingdivas.com.au) and Women's Own Adventure (womensownadventure.com.au). One drawback is that solo travellers pay a singles supplement. This is because hotels charge by the room, not by the number of people occupying it.
However, most operators will offer to match single travellers with another of the same gender and avoid the single supplement. There are also several operators that offer solo traveller tours, such as Bunnik Tours (bunniktours.com.au), and some that either do not charge the single supplement or offer a reduction on selected departures. Included in the mix are Uniworld (uniworld.com.au), Insight (insightvacations.com.au), AAT Kings (aatkings.com.au) and Trafalgar (trafalgar.com).
White Christmas a given in Rocky Mountains
My husband and I would like to have a white Christmas at the end of this year or next. I am turning 60 soon but I don't have a lot of spare cash. Where would I get the best value for my money to experience a two-week white Christmas holiday?
- L. Doona, Minto.
The obvious candidates are Japan, northern Europe and North America.
Hotel, travel and food prices take Japan and northern Europe out of your budget, which leaves North America as the logical choice.
My vote goes to the Rocky Mountains region of Canada, which has all the ingredients for a winter wonderland, including forests, lakes, a chilly climate and soaring mountains. You can fly direct to Calgary on a one-stop flight from Sydney via Vancouver.
From Calgary it's a short hop by shuttle bus to Banff, in the heart of the Rockies.
You should also take a short trip north to Lake Louise, pictured, which is beautiful at any time of the year, and continue along the Icefield Parkway to Jasper, from where you could catch either the Via Rail (viarail.ca) or Rocky Mountaineer (rockymountaineer.com) train to Vancouver. See travelalberta.com.au for more info.
Remember that you will pay a premium for travelling over the busy Christmas period. You could visit Canada more cheaply if you were to fly there in February, when snow would still be guaranteed.
It's up to you, New York
My husband and I will be visiting New York in August, staying in Manhattan for four days. There are so many things to see and do that we find it overwhelming! Can you suggest an itinerary that includes the "must-see" as well as interesting cafes, etc?
- L. Hutton, Castle Hill.
You're right about NYC, it's a giant, and slightly overwhelming. But I'm reluctant to try to construct an itinerary for the very reason that this is such an extraordinary and diverse city, and what to see depends on your own interests.
Every visitor should experience the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, Central Park and window shopping on Fifth Avenue, but what's next depends on you.
Do you like art, natural history museums, shows or shopping? A great starting point is Frommer's New York website (frommers.com). Another resource is Time Out New York (timeout.com/newyork) and in particular its Food and Drink Awards for 2013.
London retreats for early-arriving Aussies
My wife and I are flying into Heathrow, London, very early in the morning. We will probably arrive at a hotel by about 9am and won't be able to check in until mid-afternoon. We can leave our bags at the hotel and wander, but it means we'll be unshowered and exhausted. Any ideas?
- A. Burgess, Nowra.
Most direct flights from Australia to Heathrow arrive in the early hours, so you might consider the Bed and Breakfast Club (thebedandbreakfastclub.co.uk). If they don't have the room booked the previous night, owners are often happy to open the front door to early arrivals. This is not something you can take for granted, but the club is very understanding when it comes to Australian travellers arriving in the early morning at the end of a long journey.
The club offers upscale accommodation in private homes in some of London's finest suburbs such as Chelsea, Notting Hill and South Kensington. Prices range from about £70 ($104) to £125 a night for a double room. Note, too, that many owners are also happy for you to have the use of your room until the evening if you happen to have a late departure, which is often the case for Australia-bound flights.
Against the cost of hotels in the capital, the club offers great-value accommodation with charm and character in superb locations.
Flying with oxygen support
My wife and I hope to make a trip to Britain later in the year. I have emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). I do not need oxygen now but may do so during our trip. Can you tell us if airlines will provide oxygen, and any idea of the extra cost involved?
- D. & K. Greenwood, Port Macquarie.
It's up to you to provide your own oxygen during your flight. According to Qantas, it allows the carriage of medical oxygen cylinders (five kilograms gross) in carry-on baggage only and you must obtain medical clearance by using its Travel Clearance Form. Your equipment must be authorised as safe for use on Qantas aircraft. You can find further information if you go to the Qantas website (qantas.com), click on "Fly" and then go to "Special Needs" and click on "Medical Assistance".
Apparently all major airlines follow the same model; it also seems that even if you normally get by without oxygen, you may well need it during the flight since the lower cabin pressure means there is less oxygen available to your lungs. However, you will need to take advice on this from your medical specialist.
You can purchase or hire medical oxygen cylinders from Oxygen Solutions (oxygensolutions.com.au) and you can discuss your needs with them on 1300 558 947.
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