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Alright you guys, listen closely because we have the some of the best news ever for travelers with Down Under on the to-do list. This very second is the best time to make moves on planning that trip to Australia.
Today may be the first official day of summer in Oz and sure, the temps are already very warm, but there's plenty season left for you to take advantage of the latest news: the Aussie dollar has hit a 4-year low against the U.S. dollar.
Basically what this means is that your money can now go much further than it has in the past 4 years. To be honest, we have battled with unfavorable exchange rates for about 8 years now. Looking at the numbers, each of our hard-earned greenbacks buys about $1.18 AUD, which turns out to be just under 25% more than in 2010. This can only mean one thing: souvenirs, tours and hotels booked in AUD are nearly 20% less expensive, and if you've been to Oz before, you know this is a helpful "markdown."
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View of the Brisbane skyline from the city water taxi
A gateway and launching pad to explore the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, much of Brisbane's vibe and appeal revolves around the water. It's right there on the Pacific Ocean, and the river snakes its way through the city in every sense of the word.
Last week, while spending a one-day layover in the city, we set out from our hotel in Hamilton (chosen for its proximity to the airport) and discovered that, despite the extensive bus and rail lines, water taxis were the most convenient way to explore the city.
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We may have stayed close to the shore yesterday, but now it's time to brave the sand dune tracks and head inland on Australia's Fraser Island. While it's rated as the largest sand island in the world, Fraser is shockingly easy to traverse if you've got the right gear, and we're not just talking low gear. A 4x4 is all you need to reach those corners of the island both so untouched and pristine, you'll think you're the first to ever view them.
It's important to note that there are a handful of lakes on the island worth the trek away from the beaches. Lake McKenize is the most famous, with its crystal blue waters ringed with white sand. McKenzie, Lake Birrabeen and Basin Lake are all perched lakes that depend on rainfall to fill their shores, so the waters are cool and fresh, and begging you to swim. Let's talk about a few of the other inland sites, however:
Who says vending machine food needs to be full of salt, high in fat or generally unhealthy? Definitely not the brains behind this little gem we found while walking through a shopping center in Brisbane. Forget the Chex Mix or even granola bars, as this machine went straight for the super-healthy stuff with bananas.
This little bit of genius, called the Banana Bar, offers up small bunches of the sweet tropical fruit for just a few dollars. A bunch of three go for $3, and a bunch for sharing scores a little discount at $4 for five bananas. That's already cheaper and more convenient than the basket of single bananas Starbucks keeps next to their registers, for impulse healthy breakfast buys. And if you're not too familiar with how these prices compare to a grocery store, the mark-up isn't terrible at just about $.50 per piece; it's all about convenience and eating-on-the-run.
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If you've been lucky enough to head Down Under, you know well that Australia most definitely speaks their own version of English. You've also likely found that the Aussie lexicon contains an innumerable variety of slang terms used on an everyday basis. For tourists or any sort of non-local, however, these terms may take some repeating and explaining.
For those of you who've not yet taken that long flight down to Oz, allow us to highlight some of our favorite colloquialisms. And, even if you're a regular to the continent, you might pick up a few new sayings to throw out during dinner with new Aussie friends.
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If any type of gossip magazine is your guilty pleasure, you know that Angelina Jolie and her kids have been hanging out in Australia. The star has traveled to Oz not just to escape the harsh American winter, but because she's directing Unbroken, her new movie, down under.
Despite her busy schedule, she has been finding times to take her brood of six out for little Aussie field trips, feeding the paparazzi with images of fun in the southern summer. While we're not paps, we did happen to sit next to the celeb on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Brisbane this last weekend.
Angie, flying commercial?! Yeah, if we hadn't of seen it with our own eyes, we wouldn't have believed it either. Jolie actually boarded a regular flight and sat with the common people, albeit up in the front. One of these 'commoners' just happened to this Jaunted Contributor.
Here's my account of sitting next to one of the biggest celebrities on the planet:
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When a destination like Australia comes up in conversation, what's usually called to mind are activities of the summer months, like surfing, beaches, snorkeling, and numerous other outdoor activities. Because of a little thing called global tilt, however, winter has just begun in Oz, but don't let that deter you from visiting the largest island on the planet.
Here's just a few reasons why winter is perhaps the best time to cross the Equator and head 'down under':
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After some time talking about the sexy new business class, the movie filmed onboard and even a new TV commercial, it was time for us to experience all the hooplah around the updates at Virgin Australia. We are huge fans of what Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America do, so we were excited to fly on the Aussie cousin.
Our flights were between Brisbane and Sydney which are pretty close to each other, but, along with Melbourne, create the Golden Triangle of Australian commercial aviation. Flights between these three cities are the busiest routes in the country and highly competitive. When we saw "Happy Hour" fares for $200 AUD each way in business class, we excitedly click "purchase."
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When a city is situated on a body of water, be it an ocean, lake or river, we can appreciate when it uses said body of water to form the city's identity. Take for instance, Brisbane. Brisbane River in this, Australia's third largest city, winds through the CBD and has become as much part of the city as the people that call it home. So why not set it on fire in a festival called Riverfire?
Although Brisbane has a sordid past with the river from various catastrophic floods through its history, the river is not actually set a-light. Part of a larger festival (aptly name Brisbane Festival), Riverfire celebrates the Brisbane River itself and acts as a grand finale for various celebrations throughout the city. The giant firework show that uses bridges, buildings and barges as its stage make for an awe-inspiring experience.
The yellow and blue big top has been packed up to get more passport stamps. Cirque du Soleil's newest traveling show, OVO, has opened up shop for the start of its international tour. First stop, Brisbane.
After 3 years of ooh-ing and ahh-ing audiences around the US, Canada and Mexico, the creative minds behind the bug-themed circus show have launched their world tour. Bringing the insect world to life with bright colors, acrobatics, contortionists and the signature Cirque clowns, they seek to make it an escape (for a few brief hours) from the real world.
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The 787 Dreamliner is surely getting some miles on the odometer. Every time we see some news about the new bird, it's touring another country. Of course this is on purpose as Boeing is proud of their new equipment and turned on by the idea of getting it out there, flying to buyers, potential buyers and potential flyers.
This past weekend, the Dreamtour was sponored by Qantas and Jetstar to announce their plans to welcome the aircraft into their fleet by August 2013. The red roo and its low-cost little joey chose to gain some exposure and up the excitement by flying the plane from Sydney to Brisbane for some showboating at the airports.
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Since we do a good amount of flying, we've been lucky enough to enjoy seat 1A but also thankful enough just to be onboard in the last row of economy. Recently, this Jaunted writer had the opportunity to sit in an all totally new area of the plane (to us). No, I didn't get to travel in the cargo hold as luggage, instead I got to fly the plane.
Long gone are the days when children were escorted up to the cockpit for a view of the brains of the aircraft, a visit with the pilots, and, inevitably, a set of plastic wings. Since 2001, airlines no longer allow passengers access to the flight deck for obvious reasons, but the dream still exists for many.
Last month we told you all about the British Airways simulator gift card idea. Obviously, my family and friends were listening since I received a boarding pass (gift voucher) for a 60-minute flight simulator experience with a company called Flight Experience. As someone whose interests are primarily consumed by travel, I am always looking for a way to upgrade. Naturally I went ahead and upgraded myself from the 60 to the 90-minute simulation.