Our Pre Oktoberfest Checklist

It is that time of the year again, time to join thousands of travellers from around the world as you descend upon Southern Germany. So you are planning to hit the world’s largest beer festival? The Oktoberfest is almost a rite of passage for many backpackers travelling around Europe. However for many it can also be their downfall. By following our Pre-Oktoberfest checklist you can avoid some of the pitfalls of Munich’s craziest two weeks and ensure you have an awesome time!

The Hofbrau tent main entrance

The Hofbrau tent main entrance

1. Book Your Accommodation Early!

To be totally honest, if you are reading this and still haven’t got a place to stay you are pretty much too late! Accommodation is at a premium during the ‘Fest’ and even dorm rooms are ridiculously expensive. Camping is an option and Camping Thalkirchen is probably your best bet, but be prepared for masses of organised groups packing out the campsite. If you do camp make sure you are first ones into the shower block after they have been cleaned, you have been warned!

With some tents holding over 5000 people you better book accommodation early

With some tents holding over 5000 people you better book accommodation early

Remember, if all else fails do as the locals do and pass out under a tree in the grounds, dozens of locals can’t be wrong can they, oh and don’t forget to pack the beer blanket.

2. Start Drinking Now!

The Bräuhaus’ of Munich brew extra strong beer for Oktoberfest , somewhere between the five and eight percent alcohol mark! Combine that with the fact a stein is one litre, many an unsuspecting traveller have found their day or night coming to an early end because of a lack of ‘beer stamina’. On the bright side Munich brewers abide by the 1516 Beer Purity Laws meaning there are no additives or preservatives added to their beers. According to the Bräu Meisters it is the additives and preservatives that give you a hangover! So technically regardless of your beer drinking capacity you should be able to knock back steins all night and wake up fine in the morning!

Start building your drinking fitness before Oktoberfest!

Start building your drinking fitness before Oktoberfest!

Now The Smart Way Round have laid their bodies on the line all in the name of research and we can attest that after downing 10 steins in a night the next morning you don’t feel hungover! Well, you still don’t feel great but your body is expecting to feel worse than you actually do so perhaps the Bräu Meisters are correct. More research must be done on this one we think, but in the mean time start improving you drinking skills.

For some the experience can be all too much

For some the experience can be all too much

3. Bring Loads of Money.

For the first time ever a stein of beer is hitting and in some tents breaking the 10 euro barrier. So a decent session in one of the Oktoberfest beer tents is going to set you back a small fortune (or the price of a dorm bed for a night).

With steins costing around 10 Euro this year it could be an expensive shout

With steins costing around 10 Euro this year it could be an expensive shout

At some stage you are going to have to eat. Once the beer goggles are put on every girl in a dirndl selling giant pretzels is going to look like the most beautiful girl you have ever laid eyes on. The likelihood of numerous pretzel purchases is virtually guaranteed.

Beware the charms of the pretzel girls!

Beware the charms of the pretzel girls!

There is also a good chance you are going to walk out of there with an overpriced souviner but by the end of the night you REALLY are going to need that felt hat with a stuffed Bavarian Lion attached to it.

So our suggestion is call home for emergency funds, raise the credit card limit and just accept you literally are going to flush your cash down the loo at Oktoberfest!

Did I really buy that last night?!

Did I really buy that last night?!

4. Buy Lederhosen or a Dirndl.

Hey you are in Bavaria! All the locals will be sporting their traditional costumes so why not you?

I promise you from experience there is nothing more fun than drinking beer wearing leather shorts that are way too tight but strangely comfortable.

Everyone at Oktoberfest will be wearing it

Everyone at Oktoberfest will be wearing it

However be warned, when that emergency bathroom dash happens or when you get caught at the back of the inevitable enormous line to the gents, for the first time wearer lederhosen can be a nightmare to get undone!

Our tip, practice that emergency dash in your hotel or hostel so when the time comes you are a lederhosen undoing pro!

5. Make a copy of your Passport.

Over 1000 passports get lost annually at the Oktoberfest with the majority of them being Australian! In fact things are so bad the Australian Embassy opens a temporary passport replacement service in the British Consulate in Munich.

Of course it will never happen to all of us will it, but just in case have a few photocopies of your passport and a couple of spare passport photos ready, oh and don’t keep them with your passport!

Finally have a great time, you are partaking in a tradition dating back over 200 years, eat, drink (too much) and try and remember for many this is a once in a lifetime opportunity! Do you have any hints and tips for the Oktoberfest First Timer? Let’s us know and leave a comment below

Prost!

Most of all enjoy!

Most of all enjoy!

– Dean

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Flying long-haul? What do we take with us to pass the time?

We’ve all been there.  You check-in at the airport and you are staring a 16-hour day time flight right between the eyes.  Ok so this is probably our longest day-time stint (on the way back from the Philippines) but even 12 hours during the day can feel like a long time.  This was the situation we were in when we flew to Cuba.  We had chosen to fly with a budget airline – more down to flight times rather than budget – and as soon as I sat down on the plane and they didn’t have personal screens in the seats, I was grateful for the bag of goodies I had brought with me to keep us entertained.  So what’s on our long haul must pack list?

1. Decent headphones!  With or without screens in the back of your seat these are a must.  Some airlines provide pretty average headphones while some budget airlines will sell you a pair, but when you are seated near two screaming 18 month old twins for 12 hours (yes this happened) you will be grateful for them.  Film or no film – they are a necessity!  I inherited a pair of noise cancelling earphones from Dean and they are now the perfect flying accessory.

2. iPod / iPhone / iPad or critically, music!  If the film selection fails you or you just want to switch off, this is your best bet. Pre make a chill out playlist, or perhaps get into the mood of your final destination with a location specific playlist. If music is not your thing, you can always download four seasons of Game of Thrones!

3. A good book / Kindle – this is always on my packing list, but to be honest the flying conditions have to be perfect for me to read.  The slightest bump and it goes back in my bag!  A good backup though for when you get tired of your music selection.

4. A set of travel Connect Four or Uno cards.  Whenever Dean and I travel (not just fly) we have these in our bags and the dual continues!  Normally one of us gets on a winning streak – annoying the other. (Currently it is me!)

A fun and competitive way to pass the time

 

5. Water.  I usually take an empty bottle through security with me.  The best airports tend to have water fountains for you to top up your bottle.  Some airlines such as Korean Air give you a bottle as you board – a great piece of service.  At any rate, having a bottle in the back of the seat keeps you hydrated (and makes you go to the loo so is a good chance to walk around!)

6. Head ache tablets – I’m not sure if it’s the stress of flying (yes for all my air miles I’m not the greatest fan), dehydration or flight conditions, but I often end up with a headache.  Some easily accessible tablets are a must for me.

7. Snacks!  For our recent Cuba flight I had everything from cereal bars to boiled sweets.  Everything in moderation, but they pass the time during the hours that drag.

8. A light fleece to wear backwards if the air con is set to sub freezing temperatures.

9. A Buff or Head Scarf. Great to block out unwanted light from the Cabin if you are trying to catch up on sleep. They can wrap around your head in different ways and a scarf can act like an extra pillow.

Buffs are extremely versatile and handy for blocking out cabin light

Buffs are extremely versatile and handy for blocking out cabin light

If, like me, you are blessed (ha ha) with a husband who sleeps on flights, then you might find you don’t get round to using some of these.  However they are all things that will come in handy at some point during your holiday.

Above all I like to sit by the aisle then I can walk-around and stretch my legs.  Flying really does feel more like a marathon than a sprint sometimes.  As we all know it’s a means to an end and one that is worth every piece of the boredom along the way.

–  Natalie

What’s better than the Friday feeling….

…the going on holiday feeling!

I don’t know about you, but no matter how much you love your job you always smile a smile of relief on Friday afternoons. No alarm clocks, no telephone calls and no difficult questions.

Ive always worked hard, but with that comes a real appreciation of ‘my time’ and going home at the end of the day and relaxing. I admit I’m sometimes pretty bad at it, always with one half of my mind thinking about what tomorrow may bring, but I try.

For me ‘that Friday feeling’ is magnified by an immeasurable amount before you leave to go on your next adventure. It could be you are leaving for a long weekend, perhaps two weeks or even six months. I’m all for as long a trip as possible, but for now I have to settle for the two week option and even leaving for that amount of time gives me that warm fuzzy feeling.

Research and travel inspiration go hand in hand in the weeks leading up to your holiday

Research and travel inspiration go hand in hand leading up to your holiday (photo from previous trip)

For the weeks leading up to it you may have been reading the trusty Lonely Planet or watching any documentary going that remotely relates to you trip. The odd Google search helps with preparation not to mention the last minute panic over bug spray and sun cream (which incidentally I often forget to put on, much to Dean’s annoyance…)

Last minute packing of sunscreen and bug spray, not that I remember to use it, sorry Dean!

Last minute packing of sunscreen and bug spray, not that I remember to use it, sorry Dean!

All of a sudden your trip creeps up on you. One week of work left and panic sets in. Will you finish everything on time, will that last piece of work be done? Of course it will as you go in
early, you leave late and like every good employee, you pull out all the stops to deliver what is needed.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m partial to a bit of paper around my desk. I try to be green. I often fail. Part of the holiday preparation is to take the furniture polish in and I go on a tidying and cleaning frenzy at the end of my last day. OCD kicks in and even though I remind myself ‘I’m only going for two weeks’ I find the need to clean all those crevices that probably contain inherited dirt. This frenzy also translates to home too – our house is at its cleanest just before we go away!

Anyway with the last swipe of the duster I move the empty coffee cup in its resting position, move it again and line it up a third time (everything must be straight you know!). With that it’s time to take one last look around the office and with a sigh say to myself, ‘next time I see you it will all be over!’

Clean and clear, it is holiday time!

Clean and clear, it is holiday time!

Without looking back I pickup my things, bid my farewells (let’s be fair, most people have already gone as I have spent so long cleaning) and head for the door. The feeling of relaxation washes over me (a feeling only bettered by walking into the airport). The freedom of travel awaits. News sights, sounds and smells ahead. New friends to make. This is why we work, to experience the highs of our time off. As I walk through the door I will the holiday to last forever…..

– Natalie

All we have to do now is grab our bags and go

All we have to do now is grab our bags and go

Why We Love January

January is one of our favourite months of the year. If you ask Natalie the reason is simple, her birthday is in January. However there is another reason we love the first month of the year. In London it means one thing, travel shows!

January is home to two of the biggest and best travel shows in London. Last weekend was the Adventure Travel Show, and in two weeks time we have Destinations, the largest travel show in the UK. If you are looking for adventure and travel inspiration for the upcoming year, these are the places to go.

Just imagine, row after row of tropical island getaways (very enticing in what is normally a dreary and cold month in London), snow capped mountain hikes, world cruises, coach trips, overland truck adventures and independent travel ideas all waiting for you to discover. Any wonder why we love these shows.

There is always plenty of inspiration on offer at Travel Shows

There is always plenty of inspiration on offer at Travel Shows

If you are looking at booking some type of travel these shows are place to do it, with many companies offering special deals and discounts during the shows. If you are planning a trip independently then it is a great chance to chat to passionate people, pick peoples brains or see what many of the expert companies do which can help in the planning stage.

The other awesome thing about these travel shows is they quite often have excellent forums and guest speaker presentations for you to attend. I love public speaking and find it a real buzz, if there was a way I could get paid to stand in front of an audience and talk about my travels I’d be happy man! This weekend we were lucky enough to hear arguably the greatest adventurer of modern times, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, talk. As well as current adventurers Monty Halls and Dave Cornthwaite speak. Destinations has a fantastic line up of guest speakers as well, and we plan to make a bee-line for Levison Wood’s talk.

Travel Show work mode. Getting ready to do what we love most, talk about travelling!

Travel Show work mode. Getting ready to do what we love most, talk about travelling!

In the past few years these travel shows have also quite often meant we have been working. In fact Natalie was on the Oasis Overland stand all weekend sharing her passion and expertise about Africa and South America with would be adventurers. I have helped out several companies over the years as well. Again, standing around talking about travel is almost as much fun as travelling itself!

London is not the only city to hold such shows, with all major cities worldwide hosting something similar. So now its up to you, find out when your next local travel show is, head down, get talking and start planning!

– Dean

p.s. Anyone attending the Destinations Travel Show in London, head down to the Oasis Overland stand on the Sunday and say hello to Natalie!

 

Bring on 2015: Another year of adventure for The Smart Way Round

What an epic year 2014 was for us. We completed our overland adventure from London to Melbourne, settled back into ‘normal life’ (for us anyway) back home and scattered in a few European  travels along the way. From spending New Years on the world’s highest train in China, to the temples of Bagan in Myanmar, it would be near impossible to pick a top travel experience.

Over the last few weeks many travel bloggers have been recapping on their 2014 adventures, and while we are incredibly proud of what we achieved we cannot wait to get stuck into 2015. From some great new adventures to hopefully an updated website (if we can figure it out!) we are planning for The Smart Way Round to get bigger and better!

First things first though, we are excited to announce that we are heading to Cuba! A long time bucket list destination, we are off to explore this amazing country at the end of February and are looking forward to some fun, sun and rum when we get there!

We also have a week in Prague planned – one of our favourite European cities.  In July Natalie is off to explore the Faroe Islands and Iceland (I’m likely to be stuck at work, but hey I travel around Europe for a living so don’t feel too sorry for me!). So 2015 is already shaping up as another exciting year for us.

This year we are also approaching a major travel milestone. We are both knocking on the door of visiting 100 countries (not all the same ones mind you), and are trying to plan how to celebrate this achievement. If you have any ideas please drop us a comment, email or Facebook post, between us we cannot decide which country to make lucky number 100.

So roll on 2015 and all the adventures it holds.  Wherever you are off too, happy travels!

–  Dean

A Different Type of Christmas

With only a few sleeps until Christmas, this year The Smart Way Round is trying something a little different for our Christmas celebrations. We are staying at home. In fact this will actually be the first Christmas we have spent at home together since we have been a couple.

Over the last five years Christmas has been spent in some far flung land and more often than not we have been separated.  Our first Christmas ‘together’ was spent on different continents! After meeting in Egypt, I had to return to Europe to work over the Christmas and New Year period. Natalie on the other hand lived it up on Zanzibar for Christmas and Malawi for New Years.

Natalie doing what she does best, preparing for a dive in Zanzibar on Christmas Eve

Natalie doing what she does best, preparing for a dive in Zanzibar on Christmas Eve

Our second Christmas together was also spent apart, with Natalie working out in Egypt and Jordan and myself flying back to Australia and landing on Christmas Day.

Natalie was visiting the Pyramids while I was stuck on a plane

Natalie was visiting the Pyramids while I was stuck on a plane

Christmas number three was even more eventful. Having returned to Australia in October (again), this time to submit my visa application to allow us to get married we anxiously awaited news of our approval. With both of is getting more and more frustrated Natalie announced over Skype one day she was booking flights and would land on Christmas Eve, returning home to the UK on New Year’s Day. Little did we know that the same day our visa was approved, so when she landed early Christmas Eve, looking a little worse for wear, we had two things to celebrate that Christmas. That week down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria was one of our favourite trips, and was the perfect break leading up to our wedding.

Surfs up at the famous Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Surfs up at the famous Bells Beach on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

Last Christmas we were already nearly two months into our overland adventure from London to Melbourne and was spent in China. Cruising down the Yangtze was a much needed touch of luxury as we had not seen a comfortable bed or running hot water for the best part of about three to four weeks. While Christmas Day was spent waiting around a train station for most of the day it will live on as one of our best ever.

So this year we are home. No backpacks to lug around (sadly), no exotic destinations to explore, just the two of us at home and together, something we are definitely not used to but extremely looking forward to.

Christmas in Torquay Australia two years ago

Christmas in Torquay Australia two years ago

With this being our last blog of 2014 we want to wish all our followers, supporters and fellow adventure seekers a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year whatever you are doing and wherever you are. Safe travels, enjoy the festive season and we will see you next year for a bigger and better 2015 on The Smart Way Round…

– Dean & Natalie

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Safe Travels for 2015

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Safe Travels for 2015

The 7 Wonders of the World and Travel Checklists

The few wonders of the world only exist while there are those with the sight to see them”

– Charles de Lint

When groups of travellers get together comparisons of adventures are often made and countries visited and other numerous checklists are ‘ticked’ off. Sit in any backpacker bar around the world, or hostel common room and there is always one conversation between travellers trying to out do each other. On the seventh of December this year, a new list to compare will be announced.  The ‘New 7 Wonders Cities’ list, the top seven cities from around the world as voted by us, the citizens of the world!

Travel lists are nothing new, in fact ever since ancient times there have been travel ‘bucket lists’. The seven wonders of the ancient world, (not ancient to them), was probably the first must see travel checklist. In 2007 a new ‘7 Wonders’ was released, again voted for, by the world’s population. While when we travel we are definitely not ‘list tickers’, our overland adventure from London to Melbourne included a visit to several of the 7 Wonders, and for me, it meant a chance to have visited them all.

So in preparation for the release of the world’s top seven cities, this week we are looking back at our visits to the New 7 Wonders of the World, (in no particular order!).

1. The Colosseum: Rome Italy

The home of Rome's mighty gladiator battles and one of the symbols of the ancient city

The home of Rome’s mighty gladiator battles and one of the symbols of the ancient city

When you think of Ancient Rome, you instinctively think of the Colosseum. I first visited the Colosseum in 2004 and still vividly remember it. Exiting a relatively modern (by Rome standards) Metro/Underground station and there straight in front of you is this enormous imposing ancient structure. The Colosseum has been ravaged by earth quakes and pillaged for its marble throughout the centuries but nothing screams out, ‘I am in Rome’ more than a visit here. Word of advice, steer clear of the guys dressed as Roman soldiers offering to have your photo taken with them. They will use your camera and then charge you for the privilege!

Nothing says Rome quite like the Colosseum

Nothing says Rome quite like the Colosseum

2. Machu Picchu: Peru

The must have photo of Machu Picchu with the mountain of Wayna Picchu in the background

The must have photo of Machu Picchu with the mountain of Huayna Picchu in the background

I had built up Machu Picchu so much in my mind I didn’t expect it to meet my expectations, but in honesty it far exceeded them! My trip to South America was all a little last-minute so I was unable to get my hands on a permit to hike the Inca Trail. Instead I caught the train from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes and spent a full afternoon and most of the following day exploring this incredible site, and I am so glad I did. I was one of the first into the site before dawn and sat and watched the spindly fingers of fog draw away and finally unveil the ruins in all their glory. It felt like I had the entire area to myself.  After dawn broke I was able to climb to the top of Huayna Picchu which only allows a limited number of people to ascend every day, for a different perspective of the ‘Lost City of the Incas’. The dramatic surroundings and incredible history made for one of my travel highlights from around the world.

Looking down of the 'Lost City' from the peak of Waynu Picchu

Looking down of the ‘Lost City’ from the peak of Huayna Picchu

3. Petra: Jordan

Approaching the Treasury  of Petra from the 1.2km long Siq

Approaching the Treasury of Petra from the 1.2km long Siq

Ever since seeing ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ I had wanted to visit Petra. I knew very little about the Rose City until I visited, thinking that Petra was only the Treasury (the most famous building) but quickly discovered it was a huge sprawling settlement that was not discovered until 1812! The highlight was definitely the walk through the narrow and winding 1.2km gorge called the Siq, a natural phenomena that not even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas could have imagined.

There is more to Petra than just the Treasury

There is more to Petra than just the Treasury

4. Christ the Redeemer: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer towering over the city of Rio

Christ the Redeemer towering over the city of Rio

Like a beacon of hope, the statue of Christ the Redeemer towers over the city of Rio, arms outstretched embracing the City of God. A major drawcard for visitors and locals alike, Christ has been looking down on Rio since 1931. Stunning views of the of the city, beaches and surrounding hills including the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Looking out towards Rio below

Looking out towards Rio below

5. Pyramid at Chichén Itzá: Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

This Mayan Masterpiece is astronomically perfectly aligned

This Mayan Masterpiece is astronomically perfectly aligned

Chichén Itzá showcases just how advanced the Mayans were when it came to astronomy. All the structures in the complex perfectly aligned with the stars, the moon or the sun, none more so than Pyramid of Kulkulkan. During the spring and autumn equinoxes the fading sun lights up what appears to be a serpent descending from the top of the pyramid (there are some great YouTube videos showing this). There are also a number of other very impressive structures all linking up to the Mayan fascination with the universe.

Channelling the powers from above, El Castillo as it is know to the locals

Channelling the powers from above, El Castillo as it is known to the locals

6. The Great Wall of China: China

The Great Wall, the largest of the 7 Wonders

The Great Wall, the largest of the 7 Wonders

For as long as I can remember I wanted to set foot on the Great Wall. Maybe it had to do with the history or perhaps just the pure scale of the project but the wall has always amazed me. Easily accessible from Beijing and packed with both foreign and local tourists alike there are numerous sections to explore and hike this mammoth structure. Or perhaps just find a quiet (if you can) section and look out as the Wall snakes over the surrounding mountains.

There are literally miles of Wall to discover, but trying to get a quiet section is not easy!

There are literally miles of Wall to discover, but trying to get a quiet section is not easy!

7: The Taj Mahal: Agra, India

It is almost impossible to take a bad photo of the Taj Mahal

It is almost impossible to take a bad photo of the Taj Mahal

Perhaps we saved the best to last but words cannot describe what it is like to lay eyes on the Taj Mahal. It is such a contrast to the hustle, bustle and humanity of surrounding Agra, but as soon as you enter the compound and gardens it is like some serene peace descends on you, despite the mass throng of tourists. Considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time is definitely one of those wow moments that don’t come along that often!

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world

One of the most beautiful buildings in the world

Do you have a travel bucket list to check off or do you think that there are other sites around the World that should be part of the 7 Wonders? Let us know what you think.

– Dean

Time to start planning our next travel bucket list!

Time to start planning our next travel bucket list!

SPECIAL NOTE: Before you all ask, the Pyramids of Giza were given honorary status as they are the only still surviving of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World. This was very controversial in 2007!