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What Actually is Australia Day?

If you are a new Aussie backpacker like me, it may come to a surprise to you that there is an ‘Australia Day’. We don’t have an England Day, or a Germany Day… that I know of. So what is Australia Day? I’d never heard of it before in my life.

Well, low and behold, Google came to save the day;

Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales

Sounds simple enough.

In present-day Australia, celebrations reflect the diverse society and landscape of the nation and are marked by community and family events, reflections on Australian history

To find out a little more, I decided to ask my very Australian colleague Jaymie:

“So, what do you actually do on Australia day Jaymie?”

“We usually have a big barbee with lamb, thats the main part – lots of food! Then we have some beers while watching the cricket, there is a test match on Australia day. Even if you aren’t into cricket everybody watches it. People listen to Triple J’s top 100 – but this year it’s on the Saturday after Australia day. Mostly it’s just relaxing with the family, eating lots, drinking lots and going down to the beach!”

So there you go. If you want to celebrate Australia day like a true Aussie – here’s what you have to do:

  • Have a massive Barbee
  • Eat lamb
  • Drink some tinnies
  • Watch the cricket (even if you don’t like it)
  • Listen to Triple J’s top 100
  • Chill with the mates/family
  • Go to the beach

Enjoy your day off people! Whether you’re with some mates, or you’re lucky enough to have family in Australia, have an amazing time – and celebrate like a true Aussie!

Here’s a picture of me trying to embrace the full Australian culture…

Pssst – lucky you, now you know all about Australia day, and you get exclusive access to our awesome Australia day weekend sale before anyone else – woohoo!

Get $100 off all Ultimate Australia Tours this weekend only, in celebration of Australia Day. It’s easy – just use promo code “STRAYADAY” when you book any of our Australia tours online between now and Monday. Enjoy – and see you in the land Down Under.

*$100 off valid from 25-29 January 2018, for the following Ultimate Australia Tours: 

Code only valid for one use. Must travel in 2018. 

Why You Should Go To Surf Camp Australia

Is it just me or is “surfing” one of the first things that pops into your head when you think about Australia? Not that Australia is the only country where you can surf, not even close! But it just has that vibe, you know? Warm weather, tropical beaches, blue water, blonde-haired surf dudes and chicks, Rip Curl and Billabong… Surfing is just Australian culture. If you don’t go surfing once when you’re traveling in Australia, you’re definitely missing out!

1. The best way to learn how to surf

This wasn’t my first time trying to stand up on a surfboard, but I was probably one of the few people that had tried surfing before Surf Camp. I was super stoked that I was surrounded by people that all came to try surfing for the first time. You don’t feel like you’re better or worse than anyone. Everyone is on the same level, a.k.a. the beginner’s level and the only reason why you’re together at Surf Camp Australia is to learn how to surf, have a great time and make memories.

Since I only have weekends off, I did the Weekender / 2-day Surf Camp. Over the whole weekend, there were 3 full surf lessons, which is very intense..but amazing!

2. The itinerary: Sleep, eat, surf, eat, surf, eat, party, sleep and…Repeat!

Saturday you wake up early, have a big breakfast and head straight to the beach. After a super fun introductory surf lesson, you head back to camp and lunch is served. There is another surf lesson that same afternoon and then another one Sunday morning. In less than 2 days, everyone in my group was able to stand up on their surfboard and catch some kick ass waves. Surf Camp managed to turn us all into actual surf dudes and surf chicks in only 2 days! “Gnarly, dude!”

Learning to surf at Surf Camp Australia

3. Amazing instructors

Every experienced surfer can make it look so easy, but it’s actually a very difficult sport. It can be quite exhausting and everything depends on what mother nature decides to do with the weather that day. There are 3 factors that determine whether you’ll have an easy or hard time surfing: waves, wind and tide. Luckily, there are plenty of professional surf instructors at Surf Camp to teach you how to surf in different weather conditions.

4. Group and individual help

That’s what I liked the most about Surf Camp! You’re at camp with a big group, but you still get individual help during the surf lessons. When I was at Surf Camp, my group consisted of 50 people! It was great to be able to meet so many people and I felt like I became part of a big family of beginner surfers. But 50 people is quite a big group to learn how to surf. So to make the surf lessons more productive, they put us into much smaller groups, of about 10 to 15 people.

For each small group, there were 2 surf instructors, which is why everyone at surf camp had the chance to receive some individual help each surf lesson. The surf instructors go into the water with the group without surfboards and help you pick the best wave and get onto your surfboard. Too bad I wasn’t able to do the 5-day Ultimate Surf Camp, because I definitely would have become a professional surf chick if I would have had more time to practice!

The instructors at Surf Camp Australia are awesome!

5. The real Aussie experience

When you arrive at Surf Camp Australia, it looks like you’re stranded in actual surfer’s paradise. Everything is colourful. There’s sand everywhere, palm trees, fun surf quotes in the cabins – an instant feeling of holiday and summer! But it’s mostly the instructors and people that work at Surf Camp that make you feel like you’re in paradise. They live and work at Surf Camp every day and the only thing they want is for you to have a good time. The atmosphere is great, peaceful and super laid-back. All of them use Aussie slang, make Aussie jokes and they make you do the shaka sign probably every 5 minutes! In other words, it’s the actual Aussie experience and it’s awesome!

Learn to surf Aussie style at Surf Camp Australia

6. The best food you’ll ever have

You know that feeling of terrible hunger you get after you go swimming? Well… imagine that feeling, but 10 times worse. Surfing takes up so much energy and you’re literally starving when you’re done with a surf session and you get out of the water. Luckily, the kitchen team at Surf Camp Australia are life savers (aka incredible chefs) and every time they manage to make the best food ever.

When I was at Surf Camp, they prepared the yummiest meals for us. Hamburgers, ham rolls, pasta bakes with delicious barbecue meats,… It was heavenly! Not only is it the best food you’ll ever have, it’s also the most food you’ll ever eat in a couple of days. The last thing they want is for you to starve, so they will make so much food, your plate will be overflowing and you won’t be able to carry it back to your seat!

The food at Surf Camp Australia is awesome

7. Surfing in Spring, Summer and Autumn

It’s autumn in Australia right now and when I was at Surf Camp, which is 2 hours south of Sydney, the temperatures were quite low, around 20C degrees. You couldn’t really walk around in shorts and we had to turn on a heater in our cabin at night. Now you’re probably asking yourself, why would you go to Surf Camp in 20C degree weather? That’s way too cold!

But I can honestly tell you, the weather conditions were perfect. The sun was out and there wasn’t any wind. They actually made everyone put on sunscreen because even though it’s not the middle of summer, we would definitely get sunburned. Also don’t forget that if you go surfing, you have to wear a wetsuit. It protects your skin from scratches and rashes from your surfboard, and it also makes you stay super warm when you’re surfing in the Pacific.

In other words, if you’re thinking about doing Surf Camp Australia, I only have 2 tips for you:

  1. Don’t think about it, just do it! It has definitely been my best and most fun weekend in Australia so far. I loved it so much, I might actually go back next month.
  2. Two days is just way too short. If you have the time, do the 5-day Surf Camp. You’ll be able to have the full experience, make a lot more friends and for sure be a better surfer after 5 days than in only 2 days.

And just so you know, Surf Camp doesn’t only include return transfers from Sydney, your accommodation, all meals and surf gear. You’ll also get free photos and videos of you surfing & extra freebies such as an awesome Surf Camp t-Shirt, cap and a $20 Rip Curl voucher!

Want to learn how to surf? Check start dates and book your Surf Camp adventure here!

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Why you should visit Fraser Island

When I first left Sweden to travel to Australia, I was told Fraser Island was the place to go so I had pretty high expectations to begin with…and it definitely didn’t disappoint!

I loved everywhere I travelled in Australia but my time spent on Fraser is definitely one of the main highlights! Here’s why I think EVERYONE needs to visit Fraser on their Aussie gap year…

Drive a 4WD on the world largest sand Island!

There aren’t many islands in the world you can road trip around, especially the largest sand islands in the world! 4WDing on Fraser Island lets you explore the island with the fun and freedom of seeing the best spots! Fraser Island is known for its long white beaches (basically its motorway!), rainforests and some amazing crystal clear freshwater lakes. 

I visited Fraser Island on a group tour which for me was the perfect way to explore it! You can take it in turns driving along the sandy beaches, crank up the music and meet other backpackers – the dream roadie! I will never forget the feeling I had driving around in the sand with my group of 6 in the back of the car. I’ve never laughed so much and all the beautiful places we visited were just amazing. 

There were only 4 people including me in my group who had a drivers license, which meant more driving time for us, LUCKY ME! Although saying that those without their drivers license got to chill in the back, drinking beer and goon and taking in the views which doesn’t seem like a bad alternative! 😉

We spent the 2 days following our tour leader, who led the 4WD’s around the island, stopping off at Fraser Islands most picturesque spots along the way – absolute paradise!

4WD around Fraser Island

Champagne Pools – Fraser Islands natural ocean Jacuzzi

If you’re a water lover, Fraser Island is the place to go! This beautiful island has more than 100 different freshwater lakes that are safe to take a swim in. When I booked my trip to Fraser, I knew there were some different freshwater spots, but not that there was one place where I could swim, named after my favourite drink, Champagne!

It’s easy to understand why the Champagne Pools is a favourite spot in Fraser. You can sit in the rock pools, relaxing and watching the waves crashing over the side of the rocks, settling into a fizzing foam – hence the name! Once you’ve been here it’s safe to say you’ll be saying a toast to Fraser Island’s very own, Champagne Jacuzzi!

Champagne Pools, Fraser Island

Three Words: Crystal Clear Lakes

When you think of swimming in lakes, some of you may be imagining wading through a brown bit of water with no idea what’s lurking underneath – well not at Lake Mckenzie!

Frazer’s freshwater lakes are set, in the top of the sand dunes, through rainforest, high above sea level. Of all of the lakes on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie is most peoples and my personal favourite, and when you see the pics you’ll understand why!

If you can tell me a lake more unique and beautiful than this I’ll be surprised as Lake Mckenzie is just amazing. Our tour guide told us to brush our teeth and scrub our bodies with the white sand, and so we did. The sand is made of 100% pure white silica so is ideal for a bit of exfoliation and natural teeth whitening! It was definitely a spa experience on another level and one I didn’t think I’d be getting on an island! 

Eli Creek, another fave is the largest freshwater creek on the Eastern coast of the island –  It’s an area of exceptional and pristine beauty.  The blues and greens of the lake are so spectacular, me and my friends thought we were in a tropical jungle! Eli Creek is an ideal place for swimming or even better for the lazy swimmers amongst us! The water flow helps you float down the lake so you can just lie back and enjoy the blue waters, the white sands and the amazing nature.

Chilling with mates at Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island

Camping – “what’s happens when you camp on Fraser Island, stays on Fraser Island”

Fraser island an awesome place to camp, especially if you’re on a trip with heaps of other backpackers like I was. We slept in a big camping area in tents for both nights of the tour. The best thing about being in a big group is that there are so many nice people to meet and hang out with. I’ll never forget the fun we had in the evenings during our Fraser trip – actually, I’ll tell you the truth that some parts are a little bit cloudy…too much fun and too much goon! 😉 We spent the evenings enjoying dinner together around the camp fire, chatting, playing drinking games, listening to a guy play the guitar, dancing and singing… yes it was exactly as crazy as you imagine!

If you prefer a little comfort, there are some awesome tours you can do that include resort accommodation for the evening where you still get to hang out with new mates and have fun on the island, just with a little extra comfort!

Meet the locals 

Have u heard about Australia’s native ‘dog’, the dingo? Dingoes are the infamous local residents of Fraser Island and they need to be treated with respect but also with caution – no rolling around in the sand play fighting with these pooches! Dingoes are wild and as any wild animal can be, they can be dangerous. Fraser Island is one of the opportunities you’ll get in Oz to see these animals in their natural habitat so keep your distance when you encounter them in the wild.

Fraser has got some amazing wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, emus, turtles and native birds. Indian heads, a lookout at the Northern end of the famous 75 mile long Eastern surf beach has an amazing vantage point over the island offering panoramic views of Fraser’s awesome beach and is also a pretty good wildlife spotting area! We were lucky as the weather up here when I visited was so clear and I saw so many things. The wonderful view over Manta Rays, Sharks, Dolphins and Turtles swimming in the water below was one of those unforgettable travel moments – amazing!

Having fun with friends in Eli Creek, Fraser Island

Top secret…

The worst question you could ask me when I’m travelling? “What was the best thing during your travels in Australia?”

It’s the most difficult question to answer as every place/experience and moment has been unique but this time I hold my hands up and say: My best memory from travelling the East coast of Australia was definitely Fraser Island!

My last tip – Don’t forget to bring your waterproof/sand proof camera! You’ll need a sand proof cam for fairly obvious reasons and even though you’re not likely to forget Fraser Island any time soon, I promise that the pics will come in handy when you try to explain to your friends and family how amazing it was! Anyway it’s time to set a new ‘like’ record on your Insta feed isn’t it?! 😉

Thinking of travelling to Fraser Island during your gap year in Oz? Check out the Ultimate East Coast package or get in touch with our travel crew to organise your Fraser Island Adventure.

Check out our Instagram & FB page for travel inspo and get in touch to start planning your trip today! 

First stop in Southeast Asia: Hanoi, Vietnam. Population: 7 million. Motorbikes: 1.5 million. Girl from Albuquerque, New Mexico: 1. My first time to Southeast Asia, I couldn’t have chosen a better country to begin my journey. Vietnam is beautiful, historic and eye-opening. Tropical paradise, mountainous terrain, eat and drink like a king, buzzing night life, the list goes on and on! Here’s why I love Vietnam..

Halong Bay

Vietnam’s hidden wonder and absolute paradise. This World Heritage site is a must-see on every backpackers’ list. It’s a personal fave! Begin your trip on an authentic Vietnamese “junk boat” (nothing junk about it!) exploring the turquiose waters and viewing the never ending rock formations. Here you can kayak, rock climb, cliff jump, perfect for the adventure seeker. After one night spent on the boat, you arrive to your very own private island. Yes. That’s right, a private island for just you and your friends! Where else can you say you did that?! Play beach volleyball, drink cheap beer, watch the sun go down and karaoke the night away.

Explore Sapa

Want to see the real Vietnam? Venture to Sapa and hike through the endless rice fields. Meet our guide, Vu and her daughter Sho Sho, the giggliest child of them all. We spent two days exploring Sapa by foot and it wouldn’t have been the same without these two. Sapa is truly majestic. The people are colourful in both their attire and spirit, the views are breathtaking and it’s off the beaten path!

Same Same But Different

Anyone who has travelled Southeast Asia knows this common saying. If so – you probably still use the saying today. You may even own a vest with the same writing! Often used when purchasing, this phrase with no doubt will bring you confusion, understanding and most often laughter.
Example: “Are these real Ray Bans? Is this chicken? Is this the correct bus?”… “Same same but different.” All different questions, very same answer. Sometimes a good response, other times not so much.
Regardless, hearing this phrase post your travels will always remind you of your times spent in SE Asia and will most likely bring a smile to your face.

Same same but different!

Hoi An

My favourite place in all of Vietnam! Beach. Culture. Shopping. Food. You name it, this place has it! Ride a bicycle to the beach to watch the sunrise, get tailor-made clothing, see the beautiful lanterns at dark, join a cooking class and party the night away.

Hoi An lanterns

The Food

Some people take photos of the scenery. Others take photos of people or their adventures. My best friend/ co-traveller takes photos of me eating… So the secret is out, I like to eat. In fact “like” is a large understatement. If you’re a foodie like me, you will love Vietnam! A must-eat, the BBQ in Hanoi – we ate here not once, not twice but three times in one day. Also on the list: pho (noodle soup), banh mi (baguette) and fresh spring rolls!

The food in Vietnam - Another reason why I love Vietnam

Ride Like A Local

As the highest motorbike per capita country in the world, what better way to explore a new city than on your own set of wheels? But fair warning: if you’re brave enough to get on the back of a motorbike, let alone drive one yourself – I suggest you invest in some good travellers insurance. Nothing’s worse than letting a small accident spoil your trip. So if you have the guts, hop on board. Otherwise, master the art of crossing street traffic, a challenge in itself!

Riding mopeds in Vietnam is the norm!

Cheap Beer

A true necessity when travelling. Everyone enjoys a good party, but often the cost of drinking can add up. But when a large beer only costs you 50 cents, the round’s on me! Saigon, Tiger, 333 – all common labels. Try them each and see what tickles your fancy. Personal tip: Pull up a baby stool outside a restaurant, purchase a beverage, pair with sunflower seeds and mingle with new friends.

Grab a stool and drink in the street!

Never a Dull Moment

Just an average Wednesday morning. Meet Susie – my new best friend. Deathly afraid of snakes, this is not my ideal moment, but travelling pushes you to step outside your comfort zone. Hold a python, eat a scorpion, feed a crazy monkey – all part of the Southeast Asia fun!

Meet the locals in Vietnam!

Beach Bum in Nha Trang

Want to enjoy the sun and get your tan on? Visit the seaside town of Nha Trang. Known for its blue waters and Russian influence – this town has everything to offer. Partake in one of its numerous water sports such as kite surfing or snorkelling followed by a wild night out on the town. Personal recommendation: Why Not Bar, because why not?!

Nha Trang has got some great snorkel spots.

History

You can’t travel to Vietnam and not learn about the country’s history – it’s inevitable. But that’s what travelling is all about, learning about other cultures and what has happened in the past to shape a country. Travel to Ho Chi Minh and visit the Cu Chi tunnels to learn more about the war. I promise you’ll learn more here than you ever did from a textbook!

Learning about Vietnam's history is great!

Travel the Long Way

Travelling onward? How about to Laos or Cambodia? Don’t take the boring route! We did a 3 day journey from Ho Chi Minh to Cambodia via the Mekong Delta and it couldn’t have been better. Explore the canals, shop the floating markets and see more of Southeast Asia along the way.

Travelling along the Mekong delta was incredible.

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Check out our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour and get in touch for info and advice!

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If you’re planning a gap year and wondering how to fit in all the amazing places Australia has to offer, you’re not alone. It’s a big country! But with some careful travel planning, there’s a good chance you’ll have enough time between work to travel the East and the West coast of Australia.

The East Coast (between Sydney and Cairns) and the West Coast (Perth to Broome for the sake of this blog) offer two completely different travel experiences. If you have to decide between the two (sob), keep reading to decide for yourself which side of this massive country you’d like to explore more!

Weather

The weather in Australia was (amongst many things) a big draw for me when deciding where I wanted to travel and whilst Australia is known for non stop sun, there are seasons here like anywhere else! If you plan carefully you can ‘follow’ the sun and avoid the wet season here in Oz as much as you can. For me, the West coast wins hands down when it comes to weather. That’s not to say that you don’t get great weather on the East coast but WA is renowned for A-M-A-Z-I-N-G hot, sunny days. Perth boasts more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital and with all those beautiful beaches to enjoy it on, it’s a great place to head to if you’re a big beach lover! During the ‘wet season’ which runs from November to April, you can expect hot, humid days with heavy rainfall on the East coast of Australia in northern Queensland. This area is also prone to cyclones in the wet season so it’s best to avoid it if you can and travel smart. The best time to visit northern QLD is from April to November but don’t be completely put off from visiting northern Queensland during the wet season. It doesn’t rain every day and when it does you’ll get heavy showers for a few hours followed by sunshine. It’s an amazing place and if your trip does fall in the wet season you’ll get to experience the Daintree Rainforest in all it’s glory!

Timeframe

Australia is massive. You might have heard that you can actually fit the whole of Europe or North America inside it! Western Australia is the largest state in the world (1/2 the size of Europe!) and QLD comes in close second so it’s no surprise that you’ll need a good few weeks to travel either coast properly. If you’re travelling overground on a bus, train or driving yourself, I’d suggest between 4-6 weeks to travel the East or West coast. Giving yourself a month or more to travel means you’ll be able to see everything properly and not rush. There are so many amazing things to see and it really is the trip of a lifetime so it’s worth doing it properly! If you’re limited on time, organised group tours are a great way to go. You’ll be able to travel either coast in about 14 days where you’ll see the highlights and have an experienced guide with you along the way.  I know people who have spent months on both the West and the East coast, stopping to work along the way so if you’re planning a longer trip that’ll work too!

The Ultimate East coast package is a fully flexible 30 day package that can be extended if you’re planning to travel for a bit longer. Check it out here. We also have lots of amazing tours on offer and great deals on campers if you want to do a road trip instead so get in touch with our travel agents for help and advice!

Australia

What to do

Apart from spending your days chilling at the beach, visiting national parks and firing up Aussie BBQ’s on the beach (It’s a tough life!), there are so many other things you can do on both the East and West coast of Australia.

WA is perfect if you want to get off the beaten track a bit more. The Kimberley’s, a region in the north of WA, is the world’s largest wilderness area covering 423,000 square km and with a population of only 30,000 people so you’ll really be able to experience the Aussie outback! Along the coast you’ll find National parks to hike and camp in, lots of beaches to chill at and the amazing Ningaloo Reef. WA also has some of the best surfing in the world so if you’ve surfed before, get to Margaret River to try out some of the world famous waves. One of the most popular activities on the West Coast is swimming with the biggest fish in the world, the whale shark! You can do this during Whale Shark season which runs from April to June – definitely one for the 2015 bucket list! There’s also skydiving, water skiing, swimming with mantarays, sandboarding, diving and feeding wild dolphins at Monkey Mia amongst many other things!

The East coast is jam packed with places to visit and activities to do from Surfcamps and Cattle station stays to Castaway Island and Hunter Valley (wine region) tours. It’s also home to the famous Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island, both ‘must-sees’ on the East coast! If you’re into high adrenaline/extreme activities such as Skydiving, Bungy jumping and white water rafting, you’ll love Cairns, the adventure capital of Australia. Cairns is also the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef so if you’re looking to try out some diving or just want to snorkel in the world’s largest coral reef, you’ll be coming to the right place! In the surrounding area of Cairns you’ll find the beautiful Daintree rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands and some lovely little towns such as Kuranda and Port Douglas.

It’s safe to say that whether you travel the East or West coast, you won’t run out of things to do!

Wildlife

Who came to Australia to see kangaroos in the wild and cuddle a koala? Whilst there is more to this beautiful country than cuddling cute little furry things, getting close to Aussie wildlife is an experience and an inevitable part of your trip down under. Did you know there are more Kangaroos than people in Australia?! You’ll come across heaps of Aussie wildlife all over Australia, some of them cute…others, not so much! Head to Queensland to cuddle a koala in a nature park (not a good idea in the wild!), head to Port Macquarie on the East coast to visit the koala hospital and to the West coast to spot big red kangaroos in the wild. Be prepared to spot the swarms of fruit bats flying over the town in Cairns in the evening and keep an eye out for wombats (cute!) on the road at night.

Beaches

Australia is home to over 10,000 beaches and both the East coast and the West coast have some of the best! WA has more beaches than any other state so if you’re a beach babe/dude head over to the West coast. Perth alone has 19 beaches close to the city so you can spend your days lazing in the sunniest city in Oz! The Coral coast, home to the Ningaloo Reef, is another great beachy location where you’ll find unspoilt, uncrowded and untouched stretches of white sand.

The East coast of Australia has some amazing beaches too! The famous Whitehaven beach in the Whitsunday Islands was voted one of the best beaches in the world. It has got the worlds whitest sand, sand so fine you can clean your teeth with it! Stretching along 57km of coastline, The Gold Coast (just south of Brisbane) is also well known for it’s stunning beaches, surfing and sun (along with one of the biggest party scenes on the coast.) As you travel up the East coast, you’ll find less and less beaches off the mainland and it’s not advisable to swim in some of the beaches that are there due to stingers and even the odd croc in far north Queensland! Cairns for example has no beach but does have a big man made lagoon you can swim in for free and cool off in the sun.

Party Scene

If you’re looking to party your way along one coastline look no further than the East coast to satisfy all of your partying needs! The East coast is home to the famous ‘Full Moon Party’ on Magnetic Island, the backpacker party capital Cairns and lets not forget the famous party cruises that take place in the Whitsunday Islands.

Perth on the West coast is a relatively small city compared to others in Australia and whilst you’ll get your choice of clubs and pubs to party in the city you can’t bank on having a crazy all nighter with heaps of other backpackers like you can along the East coast.

Overall the West coast is a bit less ‘travelled’ than the East coast so it’s great if you’re looking for a bit of an Aussie outback adventure. The East Coast accommodates for heaps of backpackers every year so you’re guaranteed to meet people and there will always be something going on somewhere!

So really, it’s actually difficult to choose between the two … they both offer different experiences in parts and have similar experiences available in others. It comes down to personal preference! If you don’t have time to travel both, and you still can’t decide, why not talk to our Travel Crew .. they can answer any questions you have as they’ve all travelled Australia (they may even give you some handy insider info on a few hot spots!)

If you’ve travelled Australia and have any help and advice for fellow backpackers, feel free to comment below!

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There are many many MANY reasons we love to travel. We wish we could do it more often but sometimes life just gets in the way…right? Maybe we should just put off the next trip for a few years? Wrong! Read through why I think there has never been a better time to pack your bags, hop on a flight and travel.

1. Go before you change your mind

Chances are if you’re reading this you’ve thought about going travelling at some point… Maybe you’ve already travelled (How amazing is it!?) or maybe you’re travelling right now (Can I come and meet you!?) If you’ve thought about it but it’s just never been an option, why not?
I honestly think that one of the hardest part of any travel adventure is deciding to do it and sticking to it, especially the first time you’re planning a big trip! Once you’ve decided you’d like to travel, just book it and the rest will fall into place. Whether you don’t think you can afford it , you’ve just started seeing someone, you’ve just started a new job or someone who’s important to you has a big birthday coming up, there will always be an excuse for you not to travel. I find that a lot of the time these ‘obstacles’ come from the fear of the unknown and the idea of change that comes with travelling. Don’t worry, it’s completely natural and anyone who has been travelling knows how you feel but if you don’t pluck up the courage to do it now, you might be wasting valuable travel time! The truth is if you don’t travel now you may keep putting it off until you actually have big responsibilities like children and a mortgage on a house and travelling just won’t be that easy anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I know for some it’s not that simple and this will only apply to people who do genuinely want to travel but I do believe that if it’s something you truly want, you just have to throw yourself in at the deep end and trust me you’ll reap the rewards! Remember: ‘If not now then when?”

2. Lots of people are doing it

Now is a great time to travel because lots of people are doing it! Not that ‘Everyone is doing it…I should do it!’ should be a reason to do anything but the way tourism has developed over the past few years means that travelling to most parts of the world is a perfectly ‘normal’ and safe thing to do. It’s easy to get around, there’s lots of help and support available to backpackers and because others are doing it you’re more likely to bump into like-minded people to travel with! If the thought of visiting the same places ‘as most people’ makes you shudder, don’t worry! You can still get off the beaten track in any country (our travel agents can help you plan this) but it’s nice to know you’ve got yourself a safety net when you first arrive! Travelling now is easier than ever and whilst you’ll still come across some challenging and exciting travel road bumps along the way, on the whole travel help and support is a lot more accessible. Get ready for some smooth sailing people!!

3. Australia has never been so cheap

You may have heard that Australia can be pretty expensive – you’ve heard right!  It can be pricey to live in cities such as Sydney and Perth however with the Aussie $ currently weak, it’s the perfect time to come and spend money in Australia. Your hard earned cash will go a lot further if you visit now! If you’re planning a trip to Oz remember that, despite city living being expensive, the wages are also high and if you’re living and working in a city you’ll have more than enough money to cover your living costs with money left over for fun stuff!

4. Tourism in Vietnam

One of the reasons we love Vietnam so much is that you can travel there and really feel like you’re experiencing an Asian community that is true to it’s roots and hasn’t been overly affected by tourism. You’ll see how the locals live, eat Vietnamese food in small town alley ways and explore untouched nature- ahhhhh! At Ultimate we want to give you an authentic experience so we take you off the beaten track as much as we can on our tours!
 Vietnam
Halong-Bay
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5. Travelling makes you more employable

Sure, the person hiring you needs to know that you’ve got the skills needed to do the job and the qualifications you have are a way of proving them however more and more employers will also take your personal experiences into account when gaging if you’re suitable for the job or not. Your life experiences gained through travel show your employer that you are motivated, interested in learning about other cultures, mature, responsible (we can leave out that time you slept on a goon pillow in Australia!) and many other things employers will look for in a potential employee.
Lets face it, our generation will be working for a good few years to come so why not grasp the opportunity of travel now and think about your career after, knowing that you’ll have more to offer after a year or two in the sun? Before I came travelling I was sure that I wanted to study business and land a well paid job. After travelling I had completely changed my mind and am now working in my dream job and with no degree I know that my life experiences gained through travelling helped me get to where I am now. I understand that for some jobs you do need a uni degree and to study for years to specialise so this won’t be true for all but if you’re a little unsure that you’re on the right path, travelling will open your eyes and may help you decide on a future career you love rather than falling into one you’re not particularly interested in!

6. Technology

Development in technology means keeping in touch with people from home is easy and relatively cheap. Most places you’ll visit will have WIFI so you can Facetime and Skype your friends and family at home to let them know what an amazing time you’re having! Some phone plans in Australia also give you heaps of extra credit so you can call home whenever you like. As part of our UltimateOz Sydney package we will set you up with a SIM card and tell you all about the phone plans available so you can keep in touch with people from home.

7. Save money buying in bulk

Buying in bulk will save you lots of money on your travels. We’ve created packages (such as our East coast package in Australia) that include heaps of travel and as you’ll be buying trips in a package, it means we can discount it a lot more than usual! You can keep your travel plans flexible but travel safe in the knowledge that you’ve saved yourself some money (so that you can travel even more- yay!) Package prices are competitive which makes travelling even more affordable when you get here. Get in touch for current packages and deals!

8. Life is too short not to

It’s cliche but it’s true. Life goes by too quickly to put off something that’s going to make you happy, broaden your horizons and allow you to grow as a person. Your life at home will wait for you and you never know where your travels will take you. Whether you’re thinking of travelling for a few months, one year or a few years, now is the time…get a job, save some money and book that flight!!
For help and advice booking any trips and tours in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam and Fiji just get in touch!
Follow us on Instagram for ULTIMATE travel photos from our tours and ‘like’ our Facebook page for more blogs and travel inspiration!

Travel changes you: fact. Wherever you travel, however long you travel for, be prepared to learn a few things about yourself along the way!

Here are a few ways I’ve found travelling has changed me:

It’s hard to settle in one place.

Once you’ve caught the travel bug, it’s pretty hard to shake! Settling back into a ‘normal’ routine at home after spending a few months or a year experiencing everything travelling has to offer is really hard! Travelling is fun and there are always new experiences just waiting to be had. Sure if you’ve travelled for longer than a few months, chances are you’ve had to snap back to reality for a little while to find a job and maybe rent a flat but with that next exciting adventure just around the corner, there isn’t enough time to settle in one place for long enough to get into a routine. Going from the buzz and excitement of travelling to getting a job at home, living and spending your time waiting for the weekend can be tough. Travelling made me realize how small the world is and how easy it is to travel to new countries which makes it so tempting to pack your bags and set off on the next adventure!

My advice to beat the bug? Plan the next trip if you can- having something to work towards and look forward to will make life more exciting! If you can’t do that, try to meet up with fellow travellers- sharing your memories and travel stories will make you feel like you still are and you’re not alone!

Believe in yourself

Working in the travel industry and having travelled myself it’s safe to say I love to travel! Saying that, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Sometimes travelling gives you lemons and (when there’s no tequila and salt around) you have to learn to deal with situations that you wouldn’t normally have to. The best thing I’ve taken from travelling is the ability to believe in my own strength and trust my instincts. I’ve learnt that I can deal with anything that comes my way and if I’m stuck in a sticky situation, I’ll find a way out. My mantra after travelling? “I’ll handle it!”

Adopt a ‘no worries’ attitude

This is one thing I definitely noticed after spending a year travelling around SE Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Life really is too short to sweat the small stuff! Yes you may have missed the last night bus to the islands and be stranded in a tiny Thai town but who cares?! You get an extra day to explore the area, eat Thai food, chill in the sun and chat to the locals! Don’t get me wrong- at the time, it seems like the worst thing in the world when you’re carrying a heavy backpack in the 30 degree heat however once you’ve accepted that these things happen (and in the grand scheme of things really aren’t that big a deal) you can say ‘no worries!’ and enjoy the ride! The little bumps you’ll encounter along the way are some of the most memorable travel experiences anyway!

Making new friends

One of the best things about travelling is how easy (and normal) it is to chat strangers and make new friends, especially if you’re travelling alone. Most people are in the same boat and will welcome a chat with a stranger! After a few months I noticed I was more confident chatting to people and more sociable. Be prepared to have a long list of new friends you can crash with in countries all over the world!

Be more open minded

When travelling, not only will you meet people who have different values and opinions to you but you’ll also be stuck in situations where you’ll be forced to keep an open mind and try out things you wouldn’t usually do. You never know where the day will take you when you’re travelling! I remember my first week in Asia, travelling to a remote island in Malaysia. We hadn’t booked accommodation on the island and when we arrived we found out that everywhere was fully booked! We ended up buying a couple of hammocks and setting up camp on the beach to sleep for the night. As a travelling virgin and being terrified of insects it wasn’t exactly what I had in mind but looking back it’s those experiences that stick with you!

Become less materialistic

I love my comforts and always will but after a year of travelling I realised that there is so much more to life and happiness than buying new things… at least not when there’s travelling to be done, new places to experience and people to meet! The experience of chilling on the beach with new friends means so much more than what you’re wearing at the time or which latest bit of technology you have! Of course, you need to buy the basics but as long as you have enough money to buy some street food, a couple of beers, a roof over your head for the night and a way to actually travel, that’s all you’ll need!

If you’re thinking of travelling, my advice is to just go for it! You never know where it will take you or what you’ll experience along the way. Whilst it’s good to have a rough plan, you can’t plan for everything in travel so just throw yourself in at the deep end and book a flight! If you need help planning any of your trip or want any advice at all, just contact us! We’re happy to help!

Share your travelling stories and pics with us! Like our Facebook page for blogs, travel inspiration and travel pics and follow us on Instagram. Tag your #myultimatemoment pics – we will repost our faves!

Travelling isn’t about getting from A to B using the quickest route possible, it’s about (as corny as it sounds) the journey. It’s about experiencing that countries culture, eating their food and trying out local specialities (scorpion in Thailand anyone!?!), chatting to the locals, meeting fellow backpackers, using public transport, learning their language (at least enough to ask for a beer!) and checking out local events/festivals.

Travel is..

Here in Ultimate HQ, we’ve been chatting about what travel means to us. Here’s what we came up with:

#travelis using a goon bag as a pillow – Becca

#travelis like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get – Danny

#travelis being out of your comfort zone – Ollie

#travelis always saying yes to new experiences (within reason 😉 ) – Gayle

#travelis never missing out on a new experience- Craig

#travelis getting lost and being okay with it- Holly

#travelis knowing every happy hour in town- Max

#travelis getting excited for the bottom bunk- Charly

#travelis feeling free as a bird! – Karin

What is travel to you? Comment below with your #travelis ideas! Share your travelling stories and pics with us! Like our Facebook page for blogs, travel inspiration and travel pics and follow us on Instagram. Tag your #myultimatemoment pics – we will repost our faves!

Welcome to 2015. It’s a brand new year and whilst the whole ‘new year, new me’ seems a bit cliché, there is something amazing about the clean slate that the 1st January brings and the chance to start a fresh!

Here at Ultimate Travel, we have been thinking about what we would like to get out of the next year. Working in the travel industry, it’s not surprising that most of our resolutions and wishes for the new year revolve around travel. We are EXCITED for the new year and the world of new experiences it brings with it: new places to visit, strangers to meet, foods to try and skills to learn.

We’ve created the Ultimate bucket list for 2015. Download it, print it, stick it on your fridge, in your bedroom or pack it in your backpack and make it your personal ‘bucket list’ check list for the new year. A few of the Ultimate staff share their Ultimate bucket lists with you…

Gayles-bucketlist

Dan's-bucket-list

Max's-bucket-list

Are you dreaming about travelling the world? Trying new things and experiencing the unknown? Now is the time to do it! No excuses … just do it! And we promise you won’t regret it. 2015 is going to be another awesome year for us – make sure yours is too!

Download your New year’s bucket list here. Why not share your bucket list with us on Facebook and keep updated with what we get up to on our Instagram!

10 Places We Love in Vietnam

We love Vietnam and with the launch of our 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour in January we thought it’d be a good idea to tell you all about what Vietnam has to offer and what we think makes this beautiful South East Asian country so amazing! Here’s just 10 places we love in Vietnam …

1. Food in Hanoi

If you like food, Hanoi in Northern Vietnam is a city not to be missed! Walk through narrow alley ways in Hanoi’s Old Quarter to find some of Vietnam’s most amazing traditional dishes. In Hanoi the street is where the food is at! Try meat skewers, fresh fruit, broths, noodles and traditional Vietnamese pork rolls. Wash it down with a cold Bia Hoi (Vietnams local beer) or Hanoi’s famous coffee- food and drink heaven! Check out our website to visit Hanoi.

2. Halong Bay

Translated literally to descending Dragon Bay, Halong bay in Northern Vietnam is made up of 1000 or more stunning islands. Cruise around the bay on a traditional Vietnamese Junk Boat, check out the coves and beaches and kayak through the crystal clear waters. Stay overnight on a Vietnamese junk boat as part of the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour.

3. Hoi An

Hoi An is a beautiful old town in the south central coast of Vietnam once used as a trading port. Go shopping, try a Vietnamese cooking class or chill out at Hoi An’s beautiful beach only a short bike ride away. At night, the streets are lit up with red and white lanterns, hanging from trees, buildings and shops giving Hoi An it’s nickname: “City of Lanterns.” Come with us!

4. Nha Trang

Nha Trang on the South central coast is the beach capital of Vietnam. Explore the area by boat on a snorkelling trip in warm waters and discover the bay’s beautiful coral. Check it out on the Ultimate Vietnam tour.

5. Dalat waterfalls

Vietnam’s central highlands area is known for it’s stunning Waterfalls. Explore the Dalat area by hiking through rainforest. If you’re with Ultimate Vietnam, abseil and canyon down the waterfalls!

6. Ho Chi Minh city

Formally named Saigon, this bustling city has an exciting atmosphere and a vibrant nightlife. Ever wanted to try deep fried snake? Try both traditional and daring Vietnamese food here with us!

7. Cu Chi Tunnels

Explore the underground network of tunnels used during the Vietnam war and learn all about Vietnam’s interesting history. We will take you here on the Ultimate Vietnam tour!

8. Sapa

Located in the North West of Vietnam, Sapa is famous for it’s amazing views over the rice terraces, hill tribes and picturesque towns. Hike through the hills, valleys and rice fields and go shopping at the market. Sapa is available as an add on to the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam tour. Check out the add on details here and if you have any questions, just get in touch!

9. Mekong river

The Mekong river is the 12th longest river in the world, not only running through Vietnam but also Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma and China! The river meets the sea through a number of smaller distributaries which make up the Mekong Delta. Take a river cruise, check out the floating markets or take a bike ride around the area! Contact us to plan your trip.

10. Phu Quoc island, Vietnam

With gorgeous white beaches, friendly locals, fun water activities and a chilled out atmosphere, Phu Quoc island located near the South coast of Cambodia is not to be missed! Phu Quoc is pretty much untouched at the moment and has only recently been discovered as a tourist destination so get in there quickly!

Want to discover Vietnam for yourself? This beautiful country has so much to offer and is not to be missed! Get in touch for Vietnam info, trips and tours- we’re more than happy to help!

We love to travel so check us out on Facebook and follow us on Instagram for travel inspiration.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already booked your 7 day Sydney package with UltimateOz- great choice! 😉 This means that we will be organising all of the boring bits for you (bank account, tax file number, SIM card etc) so that you can enjoy the fun bits! Yay!

We are here to support you with anything you may need, not only during the UltimateOz week, but throughout your time in Australia! Saying that, it’s good to be prepared so we’ve put together 6 things to think about before starting your working holiday visa in Australia:

Plan your year

It’s great to leave your options open when travelling- you never know who you’ll meet during your travels and what awesome opportunities may come up along the way! This being said, having a rough plan can help you make sure you’re spending your time down under in the best way possible whilst saving some of your hard earned pennies! When booking trips and tours, you’ll get the best deals if you book a travel package before you get to Australia. For example if you’ve always dreamed of doing a skydive and the famous East coast of Australia is high up on your bucket list, you’ll be better off booking an East coast package that includes your travel, accommodation and your tours in advance rather than booking and paying for them separately as you travel.With these pre-paid packages you can still travel flexibly- tickets are valid for a year so you can just book as you go- sweet! Check out the 30 day Ultimate East Coast package online.

A little word of advice..Roughly planning your trip before you start will also help you avoid this common scenario: Spending all of your money within the first 2 weeks of your trip, boozing your way around Sydney backpacker bars leaving you with no money to travel after- Fail! It’s happened before..let’s not let it happen again! 😉

The UltimateOz travel and work info session, during your first week with us, will also give you travel ideas and our lovely travel team will be here to answer any questions you have! Get in touch if you need help planning or want to chat!

Finding work in Oz 

Luckily, there are lots of great backpacker jobs available in Australia including fruit picking/farm work, bar/restaurant and cafe work, office/admin roles and construction. With a good resume, a well written cover letter and a good attitude; your chances of finding work quickly are good- phew!

If you’re looking to start work as soon as you get here, start writing your CV before you arrive. This way when you get here, you can focus on having fun, chilling at the beach, meeting people and settling into Sydney life instead of writing your CV! Keep it on a USB or send yourself an email with the document attached so that you can find and edit it when you get to Sydney. As part of the UltimateOz package, you’ll get a 12 month membership to our online jobs database, Travellers at work and of course the legendary Travellers at Work team will be here to give you all of the help and support you may need to search for a job in Australia. It’s a good idea to check that your last employer is happy to provide you with a (good 😉 ) reference whilst you’re in Australia and that they’re happy to receive emails/phone calls from your potential Aussie employers. If not, maybe they will be happy to write a letter of recommendation for you instead. Check out the Travellers at Work website for hints & tips on writing your CV.

Suitcase or Backpack?

Not sure whether to bring a backpack or a suitcase on your gap year? You’re not alone! A lot of the time the answer just comes down to personal preference but there are some factors worth thinking about before you choose! Think about what type of travelling you’ll be doing when you get here. Are you planning on living in one place for a while? Or will you mostly be travelling around? Remember that what you bring with you is yours to carry (or drag) around for the duration of your trip so ladies leave as much of your wardrobe as possible at home! 😉 Whichever type of luggage you decide on, above all try to travel light! Travelling through Asia before you get to Oz? Read our packing tips for Asia blog.

Keep in touch

Do you want the good or the bad news first? The bad news.. It’ll cost you around $3 per hour to use the internet at an internet cafe in Sydney. The good news? Wifi with UltimateOz is FREEEEE! Included in your package, you’ll get free wifi access at the UltimateOz HQ for the duration of your trip so just bring your tablet or laptop in to the shop during office hours and we’ll hook you up! If you haven’t already, set up a Skype account to keep in touch with friends and family at home for free! It’s also worth getting your phone unlocked (to accept an Australian phone SIM card) before you arrive in Sydney. It’s generally cheaper to unlock your phone in your home country (It costs approximately $100-$150 to get it done in Sydney.) Lots of phone top up options include internet access so if you haven’t already, download Viber, Whatsapp and Facetime (for iPhone users) to stay connected with people at home!

Money, money, money

We will have your bank account set up and ready to use when you get here so you don’t need to worry about a thing! We do recommend transferring your money into your Aussie bank account before you arrive so that you can use it straight away and to avoid international bank charges when using your card abroad. If you can, transfer your money over to your Aussie account in one go to avoid being charged by your bank for multiple transactions and remember that International transfers usually take between 3-5 days to complete so if you leave it until the last minute just bring enough cash with you to last you until the money has been transferred. It’s also worth letting your bank know where you’ll be travelling- If you do need to use your card from home, the bank won’t flag it as a suspicious transaction and block the payment leaving you borrowing money off your new friends!

Which documents will I need for my year down under?

Not many! Aside from the obvious (Passport and drivers license),  and thanks to the beauty of modern technology, you won’t need to bring all of your documents to Australia with you! Bring a copy of your passport and drivers license along with your flight details, tickets and travel insurance and scan any other important documents (such as health card) to your computer. Email the documents to yourself so that they can be found easily if needed!

You won’t need your counterpart driver’s license or your birth certificate so they can be left with someone from home. Bear in mind that to apply for Medicare (Aussie health service) you’ll need a copy of your passport and a printout of your visa so if you want to be extra prepared, bring extra copies!

Looking forward to seeing you all in then near future!

Remember that we are here (and happy) to help you and if you have any questions just get in touch!

Check out our Instagram for pics, blogs and travel inspiration and remember to ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

Here at Ultimate Travel, we love seeing our customers’ awesome travel pics and we love giving away travel prizes so, last month, we decided to run an awesome competition!

The competition involved asking our lovely customers to send us photos of their ‘Ultimate moment’ during their travels in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and South East Asia. All our customers had to do was post their fave travel pic to Instagram with the hashtag #myultimatemoment. After a month of getting some great #myultimatemoment travel photos, we had the tough job of picking our favourite. We finally came to a decision and the lovely @sar_rawrrr won a FREE skydive to do in any Australia Skydive location along the East coast of Australia – AWESOME!

All this got us thinking about our own ultimate moments. Here are just a few of the Ultimate staff’s favourite #myultimatemoment pics from this year so far!

Karin-PNG

Ultimate Travel crew, Karin’s Ultimate moment was spent in Hanoi, Vietnam. A bustling city with friendly locals, awesome street food, great coffee and millions of motorbikes! Visit Hanoi as part of the 13 day Ultimate Vietnam Adventure. Find out more about Ultimate Vietnam today!

Becca-PNG

Ultimate Travel crew, Becca caught this beautiful sunset in Magnetic Island whilst taking an East coast  Australia road trip with a group of friends! She travelled for 30 days from Sydney to Cairns stopping at all of the amazing East Coast locations along the way! Check out our 30 day UltimateOz East Coast package and talk to us about how we can help you customize it!

Dan Sydney Harbour

Ultimate Travel crew, Dan’s Ultimate moment was cruising the beautiful Sydney Harbour on a Catamaran and swimming in the harbour with fellow backpackers. The UltimateOz  7 day Sydney package includes a day out on the stunning harbour- jump aboard for a day of swimming, aussie BBQ lunch, music and fun in the sun!

Max Uluru

Ultimate Travel crew, Max travelled to the Red Centre of Australia and got this awesome shot of Uluru at sunrise. His 3 day trip of the Red Centre involved visiting Kings Canyon, the Olgas and the famous Ayers Rock (Uluru.) In true Aussie outback tradition he slept under the stars in a swag – his Ultimate moment! Find out more about Max’s trip  … You can have the Ultimate Uluru experience too – just get in touch for more information!

Big-Dan

Ultimate Travel crew Dan spent a few nights chilling  in a floating bungalow in Khao Sok National park in Thailand. His Ultimate moment was waking up to the sound of monkeys in the trees and spending his days swimming in the crystal clear waters! Find out more about our 10 day Ultimate Thailand Adventure, which includes an overnight stay in the stunning Khao Sok National park.

Dirk

Check out Dirk, one of our Ultimate Travel crew, jumping through a ‘ring of fire’ in Ko Phi Phi, Thailand. Numerous bars on the island offer fire shows as part of their entertainment which includes locals juggling flamed torches and the legendary ‘ring of fire’ and encourage travellers to get involved! Do all this and more on the Ultimate Thailand tour!

Holly

Holly, another of our Ultimate Travel lovelies, travelled to the Northern Territory for a 3 day tour of Kakadu and Litchfield National park. Her Ultimate moment was climbing to the top of  Gunlom Falls and looking out at the breathtaking view over Kakadu National Park and you can find out how the rest of her trip went here! Is Kakadu on your bucket list? We’ll help you tick it off your list!

Charly

Charly, Ultimate travel crew travelled to the UltimateOz basecamp and met the resident Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Josie! Her Ultimate moment chilling out in the sun with Josie! You can meet Josie the kangaroo too!! Basecamp is a favourite amongst everyone who does the UltimateOz package – will it be your favourite too?

Check out all of the #myultimatemoment entries on Instagram and remember to follow us on Facebook for more Ultimate giveaways and competitions.