Don't Buy This Stuff (3)

08 April 2013

Excess Baggage Ideas

It’s that time again where we trawl through the top gift and gadget websites - normally the last port of call for the forgetful spouse who could have sworn their partner’s birthday was on the 12th - to bring you a rundown of the best (and worst) travel items around. This time we’ve got some items so useless, you may actually feel the question marks forming in your eyes, though as a responsible excess baggage company, we've also included some decent ideas in here too.

Now this sounds like a handy thing to have. A Suitcase Scale from I Want One of Those priced £4.99. Many a time shipping overseas I’ve plonked a suitcase on the conveyor belt at the check-in desk and watched anxiously as the digital reading of the weight rises higher and higher towards the maximum weight allowance. This little contraption will put an end to anguished passport squeezing.

A slightly more novel item is this nifty approach to hiding your valuables – the Tansafe! Available at Firebox, it’s like the spray can in Jurassic Park that has the dinosaur embryos in it. Only in this case, it’s a suntan lotion bottle and you can put your wallet and keys it in. On the face of it, this seems like a worthwhile travel aid, though one imagines that with time, thieves will recognise the Tansafe logo and swipe it within seconds. Plus, there’s the added bonus for thieves of everything you want to steal in one convenient case.

The Portable Mosquito Repeller from Presents for Men, is mounted on an adjustable strap and looks like a funky watch. However, instead of telling the time, it emits a high-frequency sound that most mosquitoes agree is not cool. Priced at £14.99, this appears to be a clean and efficient solution to warning off the little blighters. There are no chemicals contained within and it does not release any unpleasant smells. Providing this does actually work, I recommend it. If you have one, let me know.

Now you can have a tasty hot beverage wherever you go with the Travel Cup Boiler! Oh and make sure you have a tea bag, milk and some packets of sugar in your pocket too by the way! Okay, maybe you don’t want to make a cup of tea with this device. In the advertising, the primary reason for purchasing this contraption from Presents for Men is to warm up your baby’s bottle. Fair enough. Twenty quid though. Bit steep. Might just carry on living my life on the edge instead.

Leaving the most pointless till last, Gap Year Travel Store present Cash Pocket Tissues. Make people on the train think you’re blowing your nose on £50 notes! First of all, who wants to appear mad wherever they go? Secondly, no one would jump to the conclusion that you’re blowing your nose on a £50 note. They’re more likely to squint, identify them as novelty tissues and go back to reading The Guardian. Still, it’s all a bit of fun, eh?

Don't forget to check out our shipping services for a free excess baggage quote should you be in a pickle at the airport with too much luggage, having forgotten what I just said about the Suitcase Scale...and who can blame you?

Posted in: Travel, Packing

Brussels Buddies by Travis Monk

28 March 2013

Travels in Brussels

Our own Travis Monk, holiday and travel writer extraordinaire, takes a tour of Brussels with a helpful buddy who helps him get a taste of the area.

There is no way I would have discovered this sumptuous view of St. Catherine’s Square were it not for my ‘Brussels Buddy’, a short, energetic lady by the name of Terrine, who accompanied me on the next leg of my tour for international shipping company, Seven Seas Worldwide. The ‘Brussels Buddy’ programme was introduced by the Belgium Tourist Board in 2004 as a way of increasing the number of visitors to the capital and to give Belgians something to do. In fact, by 2006, the programme was so popular with the Belgian public that each tourist was assigned to three ‘Brussels Buddies’ each, whether they wanted them or not.

Terrine had guided me several floors up inside a particular building from where I could take in the beauty of St. Catherine’s Square – a square named after a saint called Catherine - without losing myself in the throng of aimless sightseers. Unfortunately, the vantage point in question was a single man’s apartment who didn’t know we were there. ‘You’re fine. He always has a long bath about now. He’s obsessed with hygiene. That’s why we broke up.’

Terrine offered a side of Brussels I’d not seen before. That’s mainly because it was Picardy. Soon however, Terrine bought a map and we were back in the capital. The most attractive thing about Brussels is how walkable it is. You can walk anywhere. Unlike most European cities, there are pavements virtually everywhere you go in Brussels, allowing you to put one foot in front of the other and get to places you want to go. Of course, in some cases, the places you want to go could be miles away, so get a cab.

The locals are friendly too. As Terrine and I were partaking in the classic Brussels café brunch of ‘flaming waffles’ (waffles brought by a waiter who sets your table on fire), we were approached by one of the resident Smurfs. Smurfs make up about 2% of the population here and regrettably the number continues to dwindle due to Smurfette’s decision in the late 1990s to become a nun. Our little blue friend was adamant that we should swing by the Belgian Comic Strip Center and check out the Smurf memorabilia on display which we agreed to do but only if he ceased his rant about how Avatar was ‘essentially Dances with Wolves - with Smurfs’.

Later, Terrine took me to an area near St Catherine’s that used to be a series of boutique shops and trendy eateries but was bulldozed to make way for an old fish market. The fish is fresh and cheap but I think I rather would have perused the shops and experienced some fine dining at the hands of celebrated Belgian artisans - instead of buying 200 pounds-worth of halibut. They confiscated it at Customs anyway.

7/10, Brussels Buddy.

If you need a hand with excess baggage or you've decided to move to Brussels on the strength of this blog (and who can blame you) then take a look at our international shipping services for some help moving your possessions. Only not your fish, please. It makes our vans and containers smell funny.

Posted in: Travel, Holidays

Where to Go (and Where Not to Go) in Russia

25 March 2013

Visiting Russia

Your favourite international shipping company would like to have a word with you about Russia. As with most countries, the beating heart of Russia can be found in its capital city. Moscow guarantees an unforgettable experience whether you’re here to explore its rich history or succumb to its vibrant nightlife. Another good reason for choosing Moscow – as with other major cities – is the transport links. The metro system is a reliable and invaluable source of transport to Moscow’s many visitors and is home to an array of staggeringly ornate and beautiful stations.

The extravagant St Basil’s Cathedral must surely be on your itinerary (and if it’s not, your itinerary needs work), with its extraordinary colours, patterns and shapes, imposing itself on Red Square, though St Basil’s Cathedral is more a museum these days with only one service held at the cathedral every October on the Day of Intercession.

Vladimir – once the capital of Russia for 200 years before the mantle was handed to Moscow – is ideal for those looking to delve deeper into Russia’s fascinating history, dating back as far as the 12th century. The spectacular Assumption Cathedral, the Golden Gate and other important historical landmarks provide a gateway to Russia’s turbulent, medieval past.

Another essential city to visit is St Petersburg with its Tsar palaces, glorious cathedrals, captivating museums, sumptuous baroque architecture and adjective-heavy blog articles. The Hermitage Museum of art and culture is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, home to over 3 million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world. If you wish to take in other museums on your visit, St Petersburg has over two hundred to choose from, including the Zoological Museum, the Peter the Great Museum and the Museum of Water (which presumably is a suitable distance away from the Museum of Fire).

So where, what and whom should you avoid in Russia? Well, Russia is a big country. Huge. And as with other big countries, there are places that guarantee a safe and memorable holiday, and other places that do not. Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to Dagestan, Chechnya and Ingushetia, as well the districts of Kursky in Stavropol Krai, Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Stepnovsky and Neftekumsky.

It’s also worth noting the rise in organised demonstrations in major cities as a result of Vladimir Putin’s controversial return to the Presidency and Russian government policy in general. These demonstrations can turn ugly.

In St Petersburg, there are reports of tourists being targeted specifically by organised street gangs, so always be aware – some have even been known to dress as police officers. Though wherever you are, it’s sensible not to thumb through your bank notes as you stand in line for a coffee or something, so don’t give them the opportunity in the first place.

So there you go. Enjoy yourself. And don’t use too many adjectives.

For further information on overseas shipping and using an excess baggage service to get things from your house to your hotel (or another house, or wherever) in Russia (or not in Russia) don't forget to check out the rest of the site. It's super. Really.

Posted in: Holidays, Travel

Make Me An Offer - Australian Property

04 March 2013

Australian Property

The property market in Australia got through the economic crisis relatively unscathed with house prices in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Canberra steadily rising in recent years. So as well as the weather, the health care and education systems and the quality of life, Australia also has a strong dollar. Lucky blighters.

However, be prepared for the possibility that moving overseas and the pursuit of a dream home in Oz could be a bumpy ride. Here's a few pointers from your favourite global shipping company about moving to Australia. Also a couple of shameless plugs about our excess baggage shipping, which is great for moving your stuff, or the even more fantastic MoveCube, which lets you put your whole house in a box to move it. Pretty darn brilliant for shipping to Australia, or anywhere else for that matter. How amazing is that?

Anyway.

As with the UK, if you can buy a property that, as they say, ‘needs a bit of work’ and knock the seller down on the asking price, you could find yourself with a desirable investment – particularly if you’re lucky enough to find the property in an up-and-coming area or one going through extensive regeneration. You’ll know which areas are undergoing regeneration – there will be a lot of bright colours, straight edges and hipsters in red jeans wearing non-prescription glasses. Actually maybe that’s just the UK. I digress.

Of course there’s a chance you might not be so lucky. New houses are being built all the time. (Obviously. You don’t build old houses. I digress again. Sorry.) However, not enough new houses are being built to cope with the influx of new arrivals which is pushing the prices up. A house which may have been within your reach a few years ago, may now be as far off as the Disneyland Castle.

A tip that’s no doubt obvious but worth mentioning is that you should stay close to (but not necessarily on) the coast when viewing property. Should you wish to move at a later date, you will never find a shortage of prospective buyers whatever the price.

The best way to ensure a smooth transition is to talk to your chosen bank in Oz. There are four big ones – Commonwealth, National Australia, Westpac and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group. It should be one of these from whom you obtain a mortgage, so speak to their advisers about house prices and house-buying in general in Australia.

I mean, if you can’t trust a bank, who can you trust?

Wait. Scrap that. You know what I mean.

Posted in: Moving Abroad, Moving Home

We're Going on a Trip - Emigrating With A Young Family

01 March 2013

Emigrating With Family

Emigration with a young family. It’s impossible to imagine that sentence to be any more stress-inducing. ‘Emigration with a young family – and a troop of wild monkeys’ perhaps?

Nevertheless, if you’ve decided that living abroad is the best option for you and your children, it’s time to make the necessary arrangements. Here's a quick guide from your favourte excess baggage company.

An important factor when choosing the right school in Australia is seeing through the promotional material – buzzwords and glossy brochures are one thing but what can this school really offer your child? You must do the research.

Competition for places in Australian schools is high, so it’s perhaps a good idea to find out about the schooling first before you start shipping overseas and picking your ideal home. There’s no point finding the three-bed of your dreams, only to find that a jet is the sole method of transport to the nearest school.

It may be worth your while to speak to a relocation management company in Australia that deals specifically with helping expats find their footing, as they may very well help set up meetings with the right people regarding your favoured schools - headmasters, administrators, those sorts of people. If you are relocating for an employer, remember to ask about financial packages as some companies do offer to contribute to educational fees.

Oh and let’s not forget a top class company that's an expert in international relocation, to move your stuff from A to B for you!

Posted in: Moving Abroad, Moving Home