The perfect winter getaway: Venice

I thought it would be fun to do a little series of ‘My Perfect Weekend” in some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit over the last five years.


The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

And really - what is more lucky than getting to spend time in Venice, Italy. The best way to describe Venice is beautifully melancholy; full of tiny streets, ancient buildings and its famous canals. Here is my guide to a magical winter getaway in Venice.

Friday afternoon

On arriving it’s time to check in to the hotel; I recommend Hotel Al Codega. It’s amazingly right in the centre of Venice but is quite affordable (especially given how nice it is). Then it’s time to go out!

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

We’ll save the proper exploring for tomorrow so tonight we’re just going to walk down to the famous Ponte di Rialto. Like everywhere else in Europe there are some lovely markets at Christmas in the square near the bridge. I would recommend the Italian pastries - they’re a lot sweeter than I was used to (as an Australian) but they were very delicious.

After some wandering it’s time for dinner at Osteria Enoteca San Marco and boy are you in for a treat. The food is traditional northern Italian fare, though usually with a twist. I had an incredible cacio e pepe (a dish I have a mild obsession with) and my husband still raves about the tiramasu. The wine list is extensive but very well priced - don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation!

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After dinner you can head to bed OR head down to the Piazza San Marco for a night time stroll. It is both creepy and beautiful at night. Our night walk was on a misty night and it felt very mysterious; I really felt like I had been transported back to the 1800’s. I kept expecting ladies in Victorian gowns to sweep out of the mist.

Saturday

Rise and shine! Time for the first full day of your adventure in Venezia! The breakfast in the hotel is really yummy, so feel free to have breakfast there - or head out to find a cafe and enjoy a latte.

When you’re fueled up (and if you’re like me, caffeinated) it’s time to start the day. First stop is the Palazzo Ducale; the palace of the Doge who once ruled Venice (and large chunks of Italy and Europe). I cannot explain to you how incredible this visit will be - it is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The Hall of the College literally cannot be captured in pictures.

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After marvelling at the Palazzo all morning it’s time for lunch. I know most people would urge you to “get away from the tourists areas” to find something to eat I disagree - at least where lunch and piazzas in Italy are concerned. My favourite way to eat lunch in Italy was outside looking out over a piazza. And there really isn’t a much more spectacular piazza than the Piazza San Marco in Venice. My one suggestion is to go to the left of the Basilica San Marco - the restaurants there are a lot less pricey (though still delicious).

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

After lunch go for a walk along the promenade (on the other side of the Palazzo) to help work off the pizza or pasta you had for dinner and enjoy the beautiful views. When you get to the end you can loop through the park and through the suburb of Castello (where most actual Venetians live now) on your way back to the hotel.

After a few hours relaxing back at the hotel (and maybe a few drinks in the hotel bar) it’s time to head out for dinner at Ristorante Trattoria Cherubino. It’s a really lovely and cozy restaurant that does amazing risotto (and I say this as a card carrying risotto snob).

Sunday

Sunday is going to have a slower vibe; but Venice is the perfect place for a more leisurely day. After breakfast it’s time to head out and wander the streets. It’s remarkably difficult to get lost in Venice, even with all the tiny side streets and back alleyways. Having the Grand Canal running through the centre of Venice is a great way to keep yourself centred. Plus you have the train station to the north and the ocean to the south to help keep you oriented.

The perfect winter getaway: Venice // Miss Sweet Nothings

If you do want to learn a little more about the history of Venice you can head down to the Maritime Museum. Venice built its fortune on sea trade and it is truly fascinating to learn more about.

And if you’re wondering where to have lunch - head back to the Piazza San Marco or take a chance on one of the many restaurants you wander past (Italy is the only place in the world where you can feel pretty safe about getting a good meal from almost anywhere you go). Either way; a great to end your trip is a cocktail at the famous Harry’s Bar.


The perfect winter getaway: Lucerne

I thought it would be fun to do a little series of ‘My Perfect Weekend” in some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit over the last five years.


Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings

Growing up I never really got the obsession with Switzerland that movies and TV seemed to have. Having been there twice I now can completely understand the obsession. Lucerne in Switzerland is hand on my heart the most stunning place I have ever visited. So come along with me as we spend 24 wintery hours in Lucerne.

4:00PM: On arrival it’s time to check in to Hotel De La Paix. It’s away from the tourist area of Lucerne but is a lovely hotel - very cozy and if you get lucky you might get a room with a balcony.

5:00 PM: Once you’re all settled in it’s time to head out to explore the town. You’re going to be heading towards Lake Lucerne for an afternoon stroll along the promenade. Don’t worry too much about what path to follow - if anything getting a little lost is a good thing - you never know what you might find. The picture below was taken when we stumbled on a lookout above a school car park. This is part of the magic of Lucerne. When you get to the lake it’s time to wander and amaze at how beautiful Lucerne is.

Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings

7:00 PM: Now that’s your thoroughly chilled walking along to the lake it’s dinner time. Dinner is at Shamrock Pub. It’s the perfect place for dinner on a wintery night. It’s nothing fancy but the beer is affordable (I recommend the Feldschloschsen beer) and the food is hearty. What really makes this place a great one is the atmosphere. It’s cozy, cheerful and the staff welcoming.

10:00 PM: It’s time to wend your way home and go to bed - though I’ll understand if you want to stay later.

The next day

6:00 AM: If you can drag yourself out of bed at this early hour you are in for a treat. The sunrise over Lake Lucerne is worth the early start and the trek back down to the foreshore.

Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings

8:00 AM: After your early start it’s time for breakfast. The hotel does have a really good breakfast (and it’s normally included in the price). Or you can go on an adventure to one of the cafes in the area.

Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings

10:00 AM: Today is all about the Old Town of Lucerne. If you’re lucky there will be some Christmas markets up and running where you can get some delicious treats from Switzerland and all over the world. The old town is incredibly stunning, and it is lovely to wander around (and across the famous bridge of course).

Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings
Perfect winter weekend - Lucerne // Miss Sweet Nothings

12:00 PM: When we visited last time we had an amazing lunch in a traditional Swiss restaurant. The waiter was incredibly friendly and funny, and the rosti was delicious (and enormous). I wish I could tell you the name of this lovely place, but after an embarrassing amount of searching on Google Maps I cannot remember the name. If someone wants to fly me to Lucerne so I can work it out I am happy to do so. Otherwise all I can say is take advantage of Trip Advisor and find a good Swiss restaurant to visit. If you’re going to Switzerland you should take advantage of the awesome (if very filling) food.

3:00 PM - Assuming you can still move after your lunch it’s time to take another walk along the lake before heading back to the hotel. If you can tolerate the thought of food there is a lovely chocolate store across the road from the hotel called Bachmann. It also does coffee and hot chocolate and is a great place to end your trip to Lucerne.


The Perfect Weekend Getaway: Mclaren Vale, South Australia

I thought it would be fun to do a little series of ‘My Perfect Weekend” in some of the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit over the last five years.


First up is (probably) my favourite place in the world - Mclaren Vale. If you love wine and good food you are going to LOVE this weekend adventure.

Weekend in Mclaren Vale // Miss Sweet Nothings

Friday afternoon

There are lots of accommodation options in Mclaren Vale but my personal preference is for this Air B&B. Regardless of your accommodation choice, once you’re settled it’s time to head into town for dinner. On a Friday night you really can’t go past the local Mclaren Vale Pub. Call ahead to book a table at their bistro and be prepared for a healthy serving of country charm alongside your buffet offerings of roasted potato and salad. The food is hearty and the wine selection is impressive.

Weekend in Mclaren Vale // Miss Sweet Nothings

Saturday

Rise and shine! Time to head out for breakfast at Blessed Cheese. You’ll need to stock up on your energy - you’ve got a busy day ahead! After breakfast take a moment to peruse the amazing cheese selection (and maybe pick up a few cheeses to have later).

Next it’s onto some wineries (I mean Mclaren Vale is one of the premier wine regions in the world after all). I cannot stress enough the importance of having a designated driver who isn’t going to drink. If you aren’t wanting to do that (or don’t have a car). Might I suggest Chook’s Little Winery Tours? It’s a fantastic business (they helped us out with transport for our wedding) and you can set your own itinerary.

Weekend in Mclaren Vale // Miss Sweet Nothings

First stop on the winery tour is Maxwell Winery. Although they are a winery Maxwell is known for it’s mead (and they make some killer cocktails with it). Next up is Gemtree Winery to enjoy the incredible view, sample some wine and maybe have a mid morning cheese platter (I mean it’s the responsible thing to do when you’re drinking wine all day, right?). After this it’s time to head to Lazy Ballerina, and if you didn’t enjoy a cheese platter at Gemtree you have to try one at Lazy Ballerina. Though of course there isn’t any rule that says you can’t both! After your lunch break it’s time to head to Battle of Bosworth for some beautiful organic wine. Last on today’s adventure is Ekhidna Wines in their brand new location! Ekhidna does amazing wine and beer and will always have a special place in my heart as their original cellar door is our wedding location!

Now I’m sure after such a full day you’re really looking forward to a nice, filling meal, and that’s where Oscar’s comes in. You can relax inside or outside and the food is the perfect hearty end today (though maybe hold off on the pizza - I promise it will be worth it when you see what’s on the itinerary for Sunday).

Weekend in Mclaren Vale // Miss Sweet Nothings

Sunday

After our adventure yesterday Sunday has a much slower pace. No doubt there will be a few headaches after all the wine yesterday, and Bracegirdle's is the best place to go to help combat that. I would recommend the full breakfast (there’s a meat based and vegetarian option) and some of their amazing coffee (or if you feel up to it - a hot chocolate).

As for lunch… Well remember how I said not to get pizza at Oscars? That’s because the best place to have lunch on a lazy Sunday is Pizzateca. You do have to book ahead to get a table because it is very popular (and trust me, that’s justified). It really is the perfect place to relax on a Sunday before heading back home after a weekend away!.


What's in my carry on

Long haul flights can be brutal - but a well stocked carry on bag can help limit the awfulness (to an extent). Below is my comprehensive list of "must have" items. 

Entertainment

Laptop & Phone

Stuffed full of games, movies, TV shows, audio books, podcasts and music to keep me occupied

Colouring books & Pencils

I prefer the smaller colouring books because they're a little less awkward to use on the tiny seat trays.

Books & Magazines

I normally have at least one of each on hand.

Need some more entertainment inspiration? 


Self Care

Water bottle

Absolutely vital for preventing dehydration

Toiletries

Toothbrush, toothpaste, miniature face wash and moisturiser.

Face wipes

I don’t normally like face wipes because they aren’t great for the environment (or ultimately your skin) BUT when you’re on a long haul flight they are invaluable.


Being comfortable

Pyjamas

Although I do like to wear "normal" clothes when I'm in the airport I have to change into pyjamas once we're on the flight. I normally go with yoga pants and a loose long sleeved shirt.

Eye mask

Excellent for blocking out light - especially from the screens of the people in front of you.

Neck pillow

Yes they are a dorky but they’re also perfect for getting comfortable.

Scarf

Like the towel in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy it's important to always know where your scarf is. Preferably a big, soft infinity scarf. It can be used to warm your feet or hands, as a pillow, blanket or even as -you know - a scarf.

Herbal tea

I can't count the amount of times the airline has run out of herbal tea. Chamomile and peppermint are excellent choices. Peppermint can help with digestion, stress and nausea and is great to have first thing in the "morning" (or whatever they claim morning is on the flight). Chamomile can help you fall asleep a little easier and so is perfect to have before bed.

Need more tips for surviving a long haul flight?


Three quick and simple tips for maximising your frequent flyer program

I was pretty dubious about frequent flyer programs for a long time - but in the last few years I feel like I have cracked how to choose a good frequent flyer program.

So why even have a frequent flyer program? I know a lot of people (including myself) honestly think they are a waste of time that are only valid if you’re a business person who flies every month. I can honestly say that Mike and I fly about once a year (more if we can manage it) and manage to get at least one flight free each time. Now to be clear - we don’t have credit cards we run up each month to earn the points and I don’t make ANY purchases I wouldn’t otherwise make in order to make points.

Important: I personally use Virgin Velocity points so when I’m talking about my decision I am going to reference that program. I am not sponsored by Virgin in any way (I wish I was)- it’s just easier to talk about this in reference to my choice and it is a choice I’m pretty happy with.

Choose an airline you want to fly with

I mean obviously right? The first frequent flyer program I was with was one of the big airlines in Australia (If you’re Australian you’ll probably guess which one). It’s a well respected airline but I really didn’t like flying with them - I only did it because I didn’t understand much about airlines and they were (and are) a well known airline.

When we moved to Queensland I knew our life would change and we would be flying a lot more and so I actually started to research airlines and try them out. In the end I realised our favourite was Virgin; they were a really easy airline to deal with and I never had a bad experience with them. In the meantime my other frequent flyer membership languished in a drawer.

You are going to try a lot harder to earn points if you love the airline and want to fly with them regularly.

See who they are affiliated with

My biggest reason to sign up for Velocity was Virgin linking up with Singapore Airlines - when we fly long haul we always fly Singapore so it made total sense to sign up and take advantage of all the points. If you’re debating between different airlines have a look at what other airlines you can claim points on.  

Work out where else you can claim points

Once you start unwrapping it there are so many places you can grab points from. I definitely don’t recommend buying things you don’t need or shopping places you don’t like just to earn points but so far I’ve worked out that I can claim points from petrol, wine (through their subscription service) and even our electricity bill.


How I control my social media when I travel (without disconnecting completely)

I love social media - but I am becoming more aware that social media has a dark side - it can so easily take you away from what you’re doing, especially when you’re travelling.  So I thought I would share my tips for making sure social media enhances your trip instead of pulling you away from it.

Don't cave in to free WiFi

When you’re travelling you’re probably taking some pretty amazing photos for Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. The kind of photos that tend to get lots of likes and comments. It’s hard to resist the desire to check your phone and get the instant gratification it gives to see the notifications pop up.

One thing that I noticed overseas was that lots of places have free WiFi - museums, coffee shops, galleries - and I found it really hard to resist the urge to check my Instagram every time we were in one of these places.

I’ve mentioned before how important it is to disconnect in order to prioritise self care when you’re on holidays and this is an important part of that disconnect.

Don't edit on the go

Although it’s tempting to immediately go and edit the awesome photo you just took so you can share it on Instagram but please wait until you are back at your accommodation. Firstly this will allow you a chance to slowly go through the photos of the day and help imprint the memories forever. Secondly it prevents you from ignoring your friend, lover or simply  your surroundings because you’re too busy selecting the perfect filter.

Choose your time to use the internet

As I mentioned above - a lot of places have free wifi these days; cafes, museums, galleries and of course any accommodation worth it’s salt has wifi these days.  And that’s awesome - but use this access wisely. Decide the times that you are going to connect to the internet and take mini internet detoxes in between.

I like to stay off of the internet in the morning and only connect in the afternoon. Normally by that stage I need some unthinking scrolling time and I find it strangely pleasurable to deny myself internet access with the promise of unbridled access later.

Use a hashtag

I know it sounds strange but having a hashtag for your travels is a great way to keep all your memories in one place. I love going back and seeing all the photos I took on our honeymoon - and they’re conveniently all linked together by the hashtag #lawrancehoneymoon. Jordan of Oh Happy Day is particularly awesome at coming up with amazing hashtags for her travels with her family.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


Why it's important to prioritise self care when you travel

Self care is really important if you are travelling for any length of time to help you to keep up your energy levels so you can actually enjoy your adventures.

Drink Water

This is really important - when you're on holidays its a habit that always seems to fall by the wayside. Unless you want your skin to get flaky and to feel tired all the time of course. Keep a water bottle handy whenever you can and just remember to occasionally take a pull from it.

Exercise

Now before you panic - by exercise I don’t mean pack your gym clothes and go for a run every day - unless you want to. All I mean is do something active on purpose. Stretch in your hotel room or walk or go for a swim.

Take time to rest

The longer the trip the more important it becomes to make time to lounge in your hotel room, take a bath and read or nap for awhile. You may think travel is relaxing but being places where you don't know the language, have to deal with problems that you don't easily know how to find the answer to and even the simple fact you don't get to go back to your own house at the end of the day take a toll that adds up over the weeks.

Use Your Brain

Inevitably when you are on holidays you will get bored. You don’t think that you will because you’re somewhere magical but inevitably you’re on a train for six hours or you’re in your hotel room and you aren’t tired enough for a nap but you really need to rest your feet.

When this happens be ready to entertain yourself - and what’s even better is this is a great chance to do all the things that you don’t have time for in your normal life - read, listen to podcasts, learn a language, write a novel.

Disconnect

Can I tell you a story? Mike and I were standing in the Acropolis museum looking at the Caryatids which are these incredible statues of women - incredible because they managed to hold up a temple for thousands of years without the women having necks resembling that of the All Blacks. Essentially - not a moment to ever forget.

Around us a bunch of American teenagers milled. All of them were on their phones or complaining about being in a museum and it was truly depressing to see - how awful that this genuine wonder of the Ancient World was less interesting than Snapchat.

Please please please switch off, disconnect, put your phone away on holidays. These are moments that you cannot get back. They are not the same as the moments where you are standing in line at the grocery store or on your commute. They are truly precious.

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


How to hack packing for long term travel

Over packing is the curse of long trips - the first time Mike and I went to Europe I went a little nuts with my clothes because I had never been away for so long and I just didn’t know what I needed.

I learnt my lesson and the second time round I pared my packing all the way back and I still think I could have taken less!

You want less, not more choice when you’re travelling. When you’re heading out every day for an adventure you won't be particularly interested in having endless choices for clothes.

Don’t panic though - I don’t think you should sacrifice style just so you can pack less clothes. It’s not about packing your track pants and sweatshirts - it’s about curating the nice clothes you already have so that you only take the bare essentials.

I’ve tried to make these tips as general as possible but ultimately these tips are based on my personal style + gender. So if you’re not keen on any of these tips feel free to disregard them.

What to pack

  • Only take one or two bottoms: Take your favourite pair of jeans and a pair of shorts or a skirt.

  • Pack a handful of tops: I would recommend prioritising comfort when making your choices

  • Shoes: Only pack three pairs of shoes - MAX. On our last trip I took my boots, a pair of flats and a pair of fancy shoes because we were going out somewhere nice for Christmas.

How to pack

  • Roll your clothes: I know this sounds like one of those weird myths but you absolutely have less wrinkled clothes and let you pack more into less space.

  • Unpack when you get there: Regardless of how long you're spending in a place the easiest thing to do once you get there is to unpack what you plan on wearing for the days that you’re there. It seems like more work but ultimately it saves you rummaging around and messing up your neat and tidy rolled clothes every morning. I love taking a bit of time when I arrive in a new place to unpack my clothes and also my toiletries, shoes and entertainment. Repacking takes a lot less time than you think and it really helps to make a place feel more like home and make you feel less like a guest.

  • Utilise packing cubes: I know packing cubes are going through a bit of a moment right now. There are lots of different packing cubes available but I just use large zip lock bags. I don't use them for my actual clothes which I'm happy to roll but I do use these bags for my underwear, jewellery and chargers/cables. It keeps things together rather than having them loose in your bag.  I also use different toiletry bags to separate my morning and night face routines as well as my make up.

  • Have a laundry bag: It seems so strange but when you're living out of a suitcase it's hard to remember where you're at in terms of clean clothes (particularly underwear). Having a laundry bag handy makes it easier to keep track of when you're starting to run out of clean clothes.

Now I know what you’re thinking - what if I forget something? Never fear I have made a handy dandy worksheet (complete with suggestions) to help you out

Photo courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo


The unofficial textbook on getting around when you travel

One of the biggest things to consider when you travel is how you're going to get around. That's what this post is hopefully going to help you with! It's divided into two parts. Part One is all about travel between countries and cities. Part Two further down looks at travel where you’re at your destination.

Part One

I absolutely recommend you book as much of your transport in advance - especially when you’re travelling between countries. It can really help things run smoothly when you’re there - particularly in helping to avoid issues with language barriers.

Planes

Choosing your airline should be based on one consideration - how long is your flight. For myself living in Australia most flights are lonngggggggg and so I have no problem going with a slightly more upmarket airline to get that little bit of extra comfort, nicer food and more entertainment options.

On the flip side for our short flights within Europe we took full advantage of the incredibly cheap options available. I didn't mind so much about getting the most comfortable flight available - instead I was much happier prioritising price. It blew my mind that we could fly (with baggage) from Rome to Athens for under $300 AUD for two people. 

Trains

Whenever you can - take the train. It really involves you in the country in a way flying doesn’t. Some of my favourite memories are of Mike and I flying through the countryside on a train - particularly in places like Switzerland where the scenery is ridiculously beautiful.

Feeling close to nature also makes time go so much faster than when you’re on a plane - there were multiple days where we were on a train for over 5 hours - and it never felt like a long time because you get more space, you get natural light and you can take coffee on the train without getting dirty looks from staff members.

Lastly trains are normally a lot more affordable than planes, and not nearly as cramped and uncomfortable as a bus.


Part Two

Public transport

In our last trip whenever we couldn’t walk we took public transport - to and from train stations, airports and on adventures out to ancient ruins. Amazingly this was less stressful than negotiating the language barriers and lack of local knowledge that comes with taking taxis.

Google Maps is really useful for working out public transport options - you just put in your location and your destination and it will suggest car, bike, walking and public transport routes for you.

Walk

Wherever and whenever you can - walk. It is the absolute best way to see a place. I am fascinated by the way people live and walking in cities really make me feel like I know a place compared to seeing it from the back of a taxi or a bus.

Obviously this isn’t always possible but most cities are walk-able. Mike and I walked well over 12 km one day in Paris and it is absolutely why I fell so in love with the City of Lights. You will also see things you will would never otherwise have seen - foreign cities are full of things that are so familiar and yet so different to what you see every day.


But what about...

I'm yet to hire a car or use an Uber in a foreign country. I love Uber in Australia but I don't feel like I can give an opinion of using it as a transport method until I've used it somewhere unfamiliar. The same goes with hiring a car. 


How to use Trip Advisor effectively

 If you haven't heard of Trip Advisor it's a community reviewed website that covers hotels, motels, B & B and hostels. It also has restaurant reviews and travel guides for lots of major cities. It's absolutely my secret weapon for booking accommodation, finding restaurants and learning more about fun things to do. I'm really excited to share how I use Trip Advisor effectively to make my holidays more magical.

DISCLAIMER: Not being paid by Trip Advisor at all for this - in writing it I realised it sounds like I'm sponsored by them but I'm not. I just really love their website.

Booking your ACCOMMODATION

Finding accommodation that's in budget, in a good location and is a nice place to stay can seem very elusive sometimes. Never fear though, I have a fairly specific method that I use to find a good place to stay and I’m really excited to share it with you. This method has been honed over time and through many, many hotel bookings.

  1. Select your price range (in your home currency): Trip Advisor let's you narrow the search down by price range which is perfect but make sure it's in your own currency - conversion rates can vary a lot and doing this makes sure you stay in budget.

  2. Narrow down by rank: Trip Advisor has different sorting options and I recommend using the Ranking option, this is the rating Trip Advisor users give from highest to lowest.

  3. Now we've filtered we can start investigating what's left: First a warning - the top hotels in the ranking are most likely going to be big chain hotels. They get good ratings because of their size and familiarity but they are a perpetual disappointment - they look pretty but they never have the same level of service or personality as the smaller places. So give those a miss as often as you can and instead:

    1. Start with the highest rating and work your way down.

    2. When you go into a listing read the last five comments people have left. This will give you a great snapshot of the place. It also gives you clues as to any problems with the accommodation.

  4. Check the location: Use the map to see where it is in the city. As one friend who shall remain anonymous will confirm - just because a place is called Hotel Venice doesn't mean it's actually in Venice. It also helps with the all too common Trip Advisor comment "It's not very close to the city". I'm not sure what most of these comments mean as very rarely is the accommodation legitimately far from the centre of the city.

  5. Go with your gut: Ultimately you could look at 50 hotels and never feel like any of them are perfect. The aim isn't perfection, it's about picking a place that ticks enough of your requirements.

A final point - I always book through the hotel rather than Trip Advisor - even when I might get a deal with Trip Advisor. There are arguments on both sides of this but I like the control I have over the communication with the hotel. When I'm travelling for a long time removing the third party makes me feel more confident.

researching fun things to do

I'm not known for returning to places I've been to previously (Paris and Lucerne are so far the only two repeat offenders out of a possible 14). So I'm always researching new to me places for all the fun things you can do. The Trip Advisor app comes with travel itineraries for many cities. I've never followed any of the itineraries exactly but I use it as a really good starting point for learning about what I might want to do in the city.

Finding good restaurants

Eating is possibly my favourite part of travelling to new places and so finding interesting places to eat is very important. I definitely think some of the best meals I’ve had were in places that Mike and I just wandered past and decided to check out - highlights include the best ramen I have ever eaten (in Tokyo) and an incredible seafood pasta in Rome (in a place called, no joke, De Niro).

Average meals are the flip side of the taking your chances with restaurants - and that’s where doing a little bit of prep and research can help to out. That way you are guaranteed at least one meal that is delicious.  I know this article is titled "using Trip Advisor effectively" but I actually have a few suggestions for finding delicious places to eat. I hope you don't mind me straying a little from the chosen topic::

  • Trip Advisor: Trip Advisor can be a bit hit and miss because it is relying on the opinion of individuals but you can find some real gems. My favourite restaurant in Venice and my favourite restaurant (so far - I can’t commit to forever) in Paris were both Trip Advisor recommendations. You can also save recommendations so you can start plotting good places to try months in advance.

  • Travel blogs (and vlogs) of people you trust: Local Milk, Smitten Kitchen, A Beautiful Mess and The Cherry Blossom Girl all have travel guides as part of their websites.

  • The hotel you’re staying in: Sometimes they can suggest super touristy places but on our recent trip to our hometown the apartment where we stayed gave us some amazing recommendations - most of which made their way into my Adelaide Bar Guide. So ask for their suggestions, do a bit of Googling to avoid tourist traps and who knows what you might find.