5 travel apps that will change your life

If you’re like me, you love to travel. And if you’re really like me, you’ve had some unfortunate travel experiences that could have been avoided. Missing out on incredible flight deals, being crammed into an uncomfortable seat …  such blunders can take the gloss off an otherwise amazing holiday. But with all of the information available on the web nowadays, many of these things can be controlled, or avoided altogether.

 

Here, I have compiled a list of go-to travel apps in 2017 that can make your travel smoother.

 

1. KayakBest for saving you money

Kayak is a travel search engine that trawls hundreds of travel sites to bring the best deals on flights, hotels and cars. This app basically negates the need for a travel agent.

You can search for flights according to price, number of stops, take-off time, duration and airline. Accommodation can be filtered by number of stars, reviews and price range.

If you sign up for price alerts you will be notified of price drops, and if you sign up for private deals you may save even more money. And the handy price forecast advises whether you should book now or wait for a better deal.

 

2. SeatGuru – Best for travelling in comfort

Have you ever spent 14 hours on a plane, jammed into a non-reclining seat next to the toilets? I have, and let me tell you, it’s not fun. SeatGuru is the best app for making sure that doesn’t happen.

SeatGuru has more than 1,000 seat maps of different planes across 125 airlines, allowing you to assess the comfort factor of an aircraft before you book your flight. You can see the in-flight amenities, seat width, as well as traveler reviews and photos. There is even a seat map key, flagging which seats are good and which you should avoid at all costs.

You can’t pick the person you’re seated next to unfortunately, but hey, nothing’s perfect.

 

3. TripcaseBest for consolidating trip details

When I first stumbled across Tripcase I thought, ‘where have you been all my life?’

This app is the ultimate for travel organisation. It allows you to manage all aspects of your trip in one place. It maps your end-to-end journey in consecutive order: flight, transfers, hotel, scheduled activities, and back again.

You can link your flight bookings by inputting your confirmation number, and it will pull in all of your flight details. It syncs with airport data so your flight information is in real time. It will notify you of delays and has airport maps so you can work out where to go.

If you pop in your hotel name in it will sync to google maps so you can get directions, and it will record your check-in and check-out times. Tripcase also gives great recommendations on places to go once you’ve reached your destination. You can even book an Uber through it.

 

4. DuolingoBest for learning the language

Duolingo is one of the most popular online language tools and is Apple iPhone’s App of the Year for 2017. With 23 languages to learn from, it is great for learning the lingo before you jet off on your overseas holiday.

It is super easy to use and its lessons are just plain fun. You choose a daily goal, based on how many minutes per day you want to spend learning your chosen language (between 5 and 20 minutes).  Each lesson is made up of a range of activities, like translation or matching words to their foreign equivalent.

There are images to help you learn the new vocabulary. And little speech bubbles along the way explain grammar points. There are listening exercises where you type what you hear and speaking exercises where you say what you hear. It really makes learning a new language fun.

 

5. TouchnoteBest for rubbing it in

Instagram is great for humblebragging, but if you really want to show your loved ones what a great time you’re having on your holiday, Touchnote is the perfect app.

You simply purchase some credits, choose a picture from your camera roll, write a message for the back … and bam! You have a  personalised holiday postcard. Worldwide postage is free and it’ll be delivered in a flash.

There is also the option to send a box of photos. We had some family from overseas visit us recently. We had such a wonderful time while they were here and were delighted to receive a surprise box of photos they’d taken during their trip. It was a fantastic memento of our time together.

 

All of these apps are free and available on iOS and Android.

 

 

 

Image credit: ©Rawpixel via Canva.com

Cover your butt

Someone recently asked me the best advice my mother gave me. She taught me many great things, but there is one particular piece of advice for which I’m eternally grateful: ‘always have your butt covered in case of financial disaster’. This sage advice has motivated me to always remain financially independent, and has meant that during all the ups and downs of life, money has never been a serious issue.

 

Having your butt covered is more than just being financially independent. It also means being prepared for any eventuality. This might mean having enough cash in the bank to keep you afloat if you were to lose your job, or more importantly, having appropriate insurances in place.

I’m a huge believer in insurance, especially life insurance. This comes from an event I witnessed in my first job at a financial planning practice.

A lovely couple in their early 40s came to us for a financial plan. He was a miner and she was a stay-at-home mum who had never worked. They were mortgaged to the hilt, and part of our advice focussed on debt reduction. We also recommended life insurance for him – at least enough to cover their debt should he pass away. This couple understood the benefits, but being fit and healthy, viewed insurance as just another unnecessary expense. Even so, they agreed to consider the information we had given them.

A few days later he was killed in an accident, leaving his wife uninsured and with no way of repaying their debt. I will always remember the day she came back into our office to ask for help with filling out Centrelink forms. On top of the heartbreak of losing her soulmate, she was left burdened with the stress of whether or not she could pay her bills. Heavy.

It’s one of the main objections, but life insurance need not be an out-of-pocket expense. Many super funds offer it within their fund, with premiums paid from your contributions (or your employer’s). If you have superannuation, you may already have life insurance inside, as employers generally offer a minimum level of cover.

Your fund may also offer TPD (total and permanent disability) and income protection to cover you should you lose your ability to earn an income due to illness and disability. In some cases insurance premiums are tax deductible if you’re self employed.

All of this is worth looking into. Along the same lines, having your will and estate plans in place is crucial.  A good financial adviser can review your situation, recommend proper levels of cover and refer you to the right people to help you get things in place.

No matter your circumstances, it’s best to protect yourself as best you can. You never know what is around the corner.

 

Image credit: ©Maridav via Canva.com

Having a baby: financial lessons I’ve learned


Eight weeks ago, I gave birth. As a first-time mum, to say it’s been a steep learning curve would be an understatement. I’ve learned a lot in that short time, from the basics of feeding and settling all the way to what a healthy poo looks like.

I’m also finding out how parenthood impacts one’s finances. While I’m only at the very beginning of my journey, here’s what I’ve found so far.

 

Nappies cost a bomb

In case you didn’t already know, babies wee and poop a lot. Mine is no exception. Sometimes I change upwards of ten nappies a day. With disposable nappies costing around $40 for a box of 108 the costs quickly add up.

Cloth nappies are typically a more affordable alternative in the long run. There is a large initial outlay but after that the only costs are for cleaning products, electricity and water.

Cloth nappies are also generally kinder to the environment. While the water and energy used to clean cloth nappies still take their toll, cloth nappies are thought to be less detrimental than disposables. One disposable nappy takes 200-500 years to disintegrate and the Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that an alarming 18 billion diapers are thrown into landfills every year*. Cloth nappies, being cloth, are biodegradable.

But as with anything, there are cons as well as pros. The downside to cloth nappies is that they need to be washed. Continually. From a practical point of view, a time-poor new mother may not have time for all the extra washing.

Unfortunately for both my pocket and the environment, I find myself in this camp. It was a decision I grappled with, but the convenience of disposable nappies wins.

You pay taxes, so accept Government assistance

It’s no secret that dealing with Centrelink is a nightmare. Long queues, seemingly endless call times and confusing processes are all part of the experience. But for many new parents a little financial help from the Government will be worth the pain.

Centrelink offers some new parents financial assistance to help with the cost of raising children. Depending on their situation, new parents could be entitled to payments like the Family Tax Benefit, Parental Leave Pay, Newborn Upfront Payment and Child Care Benefit. You will be means tested when you apply, meaning that your household’s income and assets will be taken into account to determine your eligibility for payment.

The ‘Families’ section of the Department of Human Services website houses information on these payments, as well as a payment estimator which will give you a rough estimate of what you may be entitled to. I also found this article on the BabyCentre website to be useful: www.babycenter.com.au/a562850/government-benefits-for-families

Don’t overspend on things you won’t use

The final lesson I’ve learned is not to go overboard buying clothes, toys and gadgets for baby before she arrives. This takes self control – it’s easy to get caught up buying those adorable little outfits. I admit I went crazy. At the time, I didn’t realise I would receive so many lovely gifts from my gorgeous family and friends. The result is a wardrobe bigger than my own. This is a picture of what I bought on just one shopping trip early on in my pregnancy. Naughty!

baby clothes

Unfortunately my little one has already outgrown many of her clothes. Hopefully we can give her a little sister one day so that some of the items get decent wear out of them!

 

 

 

* http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=789465&page=1

Broccoli and leek soup

Broccoli and leek have long been touted as superfoods.

Broccoli is low in calories, rich in essential vitamins and minerals and a good source of fibre. It contains phytochemicals shown to help sufferers of arthritis, cancer and blood sugar disorders. It also can benefit the heart, immune system, vision and  skin.

Leek has many benefits too. It contains probiotics, or ‘good bacteria’, which can aid digestion and help the immune system, and allicin which has anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.

This broccoli and leek soup recipe is not only nutritious, but it is quick and easy to make. And did I mention delicious? It makes a great lunch meal, whether at home or at the office, as it can be prepared ahead of time.

Best of all, it’s a one-pot dish (less washing up!) and if you keep your pantry stocked, you will only have to buy a few fresh ingredients to make it.

 

Serves 4

Prep time 10 minutes

Cooking time 30 minutes

 

Ingredients

A good splash of oil

1 clove garlic

2 leeks

1 large head of broccoli

2 medium potatoes

1 litre of low sodium chicken stock

1/2 cup light milk (optional)

Sour cream, chives and crusty bread to serve

 

Instructions

  1. Separate the broccoli stem from the florets. Rid the stem of any leaves or hard bits and slice into pieces. Put the florets to one side for now.
  2. Slice the leeks into 1/2 centimetre slices.
  3. Peel the potatoes and dice roughly.
  4. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic, stirring for 3 minutes until soft.
  5. Add the broccoli stems and potato, and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
  6. Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and cover partially, simmering for 10 minutes or until the broccoli stems and potatoes are soft.
  7. Add the broccoli florets. The broccoli should be covered by liquid, so add water if needed. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  8. Once all the veg are cooked through, transfer to a food processor or bowl. Using the food processor or a stick blender, carefully puree until smooth.
  9. Add the milk and stir through. Season to taste.
  10. Top with a dollop of sour cream and serve with crusty bread. Et voila!

Bali: An affordable holiday (not just for bogans)

Poor Bali. Its reputation as a holiday destination has been on a steep decline for some time now, thanks largely to the bad behaviour of a minority of Australian visitors. Police murders, drug scandals and bars teeming with drunken Aussies make it sound like the holiday from hell. These things get a lot of airplay but thankfully tend to be limited to one main region, Kuta, which can easily be avoided.

Bali has so much more to offer than just a vibrant night life (and all the associated drama). A rich culture, friendly locals, great surf, shopping, relaxation, adventure … Bali has it all. And with affordable flights and accommodation packages readily available it can be great value for money.

Seminyak and Ubud are popular spots for vacationers looking for a more serene Balinese experience. There you’ll find beautiful boutiques, luxurious resorts, and top-notch restaurants and bars, but you’ll also be paying more.

If you’re looking for a luxurious holiday without having to pay Australian prices there are alternatives.

Take the Bukit Peninsula on the southern-most point of the island for example. This beautiful strip of the island showcases secluded beaches, breathtaking cliff top scenery and spectacular countryside. South of Jimbaran Bay and only 45 minutes’ taxi ride from the airport, it feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of Kuta.

 

bukit-peninsula2

 

Our family recently had a group holiday in Bali to celebrate my partner’s 40th birthday and stayed in this region for 8 days, in a secluded 6 bedroom villa called Nirvana Biru www.nirvanabirubali.com. This luxurious villa has incredible views over Bingin Beach and ample space and privacy. These are some pics taken from the villa.

 

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nirvana-biru-1

 

nirvana-biru-4

 

The accommodation worked out at AUD$75 per person per night. Breakfast was included so the only expenses were for lunch, drinks and evening meals on the nights spent in. The total bill at the end of the stay, including food, drinks and accommodation, came to something like AUD$100 per person per day. Obviously this is subject to seasonality and group size, but it gives you an idea of what you might be looking to pay.

You would be hard pressed to find an equivalent experience in Seminyak for the same price.

If this sounds appealing and you want to check out this part of Bali, here are some recommendations.

 

Accommodation

In the Bukit Peninsula there are fewer resorts but many private villas for hire. Whether travelling as a couple or a larger group, villas of all sizes are available.

Many villas are no different to a five star hotel, just without other the guests. They are secure, with many having their own private security guard and their own private pools, staff, kitchen and dining areas. Maids are available to change rooms daily and the larger villas have a chef on hand to cook pretty much anything you request. At many villas you can order a delicious seafood barbecue for less than AUD$20 a head. Alternatively, the many local restaurants and cafes do home deliveries.

The villa management generally like you to purchase their beer, which at around AUD$2.50 each is not a big ask. You can typically BYO champagne and spirits for the cocktails which the villa staff will be all too happy to make.

The helpful villa owners will always be nearby to ensure that everything you desire is at hand. Just ask them and they will arrange for a masseuse, nanny … whatever you need. The Balinese people are famously good with kids. The roads in this region are a lot quieter than other parts of Bali so people generally hire mopeds, but the villa can arrange a driver for you for as little as AUD$20 a day. For yoga lovers, your villa manager can arrange your own private yoga classes.

For a good list of villas visit the Bali Retreats website www.baliretreats.com.au/

 

Restaurants & bars
There’s an abundance of food options in Bingin and the surrounding area. Loads of new bars and restaurants across a range of cuisines are opening up.  Spanish tapas, sushi, pizza, organic fusion, traditional Indonesian – you name it, it’s here. The food at these restaurants is made only with the best local produce and fresh ingredients. For around AUD$10 you can enjoy a substantial seafood meal of  fresh snapper, mahi mahi, tuna and foot long squid right on Bingin Beach.

You can also sip cocktails, watch the waves and see the sun go down at clifftop beach clubs like El Kabron Spanish Restaurant and Single Fin Bali Beach Club.

And if you want to venture further afield, Jimbaran Bay is only a 20 minute drive. There are many restaurants along the beach where you can feast on freshly caught seafood. Choose your fish from the tanks and enjoy during a candlelit dinner on the sand.

 

Recreational activities
Surfers, you’ll have no problem filling your days. This region is considered a surfer’s paradise, with the world class surf breaks of Uluwatu, Impossibles and Padang Padang nearby.

If you’re looking for some culture, visit Pura Luhur Uluwatu, one of Bali’s most iconic temples. It is perched atop Uluwatu’s immense cliffs making it a spectacular sight. There, each night at 6pm, you can see a Kecak and fire dance show, with the setting sun as a backdrop.

If you like action, sports are aplenty. You can paraglide off the southern cliffs of the Bukit and play golf at a choice of two of the region’s international golf courses. Explorers, check out Green Bowl Beach, one of Bali’s most secluded beaches hidden under a cliff in the village of Ungasan. Click here to read more about Green Bowl.

But if relaxation is more your thing, you can simply arrange for a massage, facial, mani/pedi or just hang by the pool.

 

Save money on your wedding

Many women dream of designing the perfect wedding day. As they find themselves getting further into the wedding planning process, small but important details can really start to add up. The Government’s MoneySmart website reports that the average cost of an Australian wedding sits at $36,200, while a survey run by Bride-to-Be magazine found the average to be much higher at around $65,000. Whichever estimate is right, it’s still an awful lot of money to spend on one day of your life.

The ceremony, dress, photography, transport, reception and honeymoon are all considered wedding necessities and usually come with a hefty price tag. Add in the extras that provide aesthetics (like stationery, flowers, styling, lighting, hair, makeup and gifts) and it’s easy to see how costs can get out of hand.

That’s why it’s important to set a budget and to stick to it.

But let’s face it, in all likelihood your budget will blow out along the way and you’ll be forced to make some compromises. If you’re in this situation you can reduce costs by being ruthless with your guest list, cutting back on numbers at the risk of offending some people, or you can find other ways to save. You may have to do both.

If you find your wedding plans exceeding your budget, here are a few ways to reduce your incidental costs (without your guests knowing).

 

1. Reduce paper

There can be a lot of paper associated with a wedding: save-the-dates, invitations, RSVPs, order of service, seating charts, table numbers, place cards, menus … the list goes on. For an informal wedding, you may be able to get away without some items like individual orders of service or menus, by strategically placing a few around your venue.

Electronic save-the-dates and invites are gaining popularity for informal weddings and can cost a fraction of paper versions. Stationery websites like www.minted.com allow you to set your stationery to a theme and customise elements including colour, shape and paper weight, for a low cost. They can also offer free envelope design and guest addressing, which saves a lot of money. Most of their templates have free matched wedding websites, negating the need for printed RSVPs which can be managed digitally through the site.

 

2. Try not to blow out on the dress

The bride will be the centre of attention on the day and therefore her dress will – and should – be the most significant outfit. But it can also be one of the most significant costs. Add in a veil, shoes, lingerie, jewellery and it can really stack up. It’s generally cheaper to buy vintage or off the rack, although some brides like to have their dress custom made. If buying off the rack, keep an eye out for trunk sales of designers you like. And before purchasing your chosen dress, it is worthwhile looking on pre-owned wedding dress sites such as www.stillwhite.com.au, as you may find someone trying to sell that particular dress brand new, unaltered and heavily discounted.

 

3. Save on the reception

You can save on venue costs by having your wedding out of peak season or on a week day. Many venues have a hire cost and a minimum spend which will need to be factored in. A cocktail reception will save you money over a sit-down affair. Another way to save is to serve either cake or dessert – not both. By that stage of the evening your guests should be so merry they won’t even notice.

 

4. Getting married overseas?

If so, you may be eligible for the Australian Tourist Refund Scheme. This is a way to save money on bigger ticket items like your dress or wedding bands. A long as you meet certain conditions, such as purchasing the item in Australia within 60 days before your international flight, you can claim the 10% GST back. Visit https://www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Tour/Are-you-a-traveller for more information.

 

5. Get smart with your decorations

Save on decorations by choosing a reception venue at a restaurant with a lovely view. Your guests will be too busy gazing at the scenery to notice that you’ve taken a ‘less is more’ approach on the décor.

The type of flowers you want and whether they are in season will have a huge impact on price. Reuse flowers from your ceremony – bring ceremony flowers to the reception, use the bridal party bouquets on the wedding table. Or, if you’re brave, do your own flowers. One of the prettiest, yet simplest, floral table arrangements I’ve seen contained only 2 white ranunculus, a white snapdragon stem and a little baby’s breath in a mason jar – certainly something you could DIY. Although if you choose to do this, accept offers of help because you won’t want to be bothered with these kinds of details the morning of the big day.

Also be sure to check out sites like www.weddingswap.com.au, www.tradesy.com, www.upcycledbride.com.au and www.etsy.com which are online market places where you can buy and trade gently used or handmade wedding items.

 

6. Skip the wedding favours

Bonbonniere is a cute touch and a nice way to thank your guests for their attendance but a heartfelt, handwritten, thank you card in the weeks following will mean more to them. The reality is that people will get drunk at the reception and forget to take their wedding favours anyway, or they will take them and throw them out when they get home. Seeing as it’s not mandatory to give bonbonniere, I say don’t bother.
There are lots of ways to save money on your wedding, these are just a few suggestions. Check out The Knot’s article ‘26 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding’ for more.

 

Image credit: Victoria’s Secret

Weekly meal planner

Meal planning can help to save you time and money, as well as reduce waste. This printable weekly meal planner will help you with planning what you’ll eat and the groceries you’ll need for the week ahead.

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