Catriona’s Travel Tips – Your travel questions… answered!

by Thursday, February 15, 2018

I can’t walk down the street without people asking me a travel question.

Just today, I had two people stop me for advice on two totally different subjects: The best handbag for travellers; and some tips for travelling with children to Thailand.

Because, one day, you may also be interested in knowing the answers to these questions, I thought I may as well jot them down for all of you to read.

Feel free to ask me your own travel questions by clicking here. I’ll do my best to help.

Here are my responses to this week’s questions…



Reader Question from @kirstymanningau:

Handbag SOS! Please help. My bag is constantly overflowing and falling apart. I need one bag to do everything. Smart enough to be glam – but casual enough to take everywhere. Needs to travel. But first, a few rules:

  1. Not a briefcase or ‘corporate tote’. Nobody asks me for business advice!
  2. Not a backpack – am not a Scout! (Also, I have a bad habit of forgetting I’m wearing a backpack and I accidentally take people out. Awkward)
  3. Not too expensive (see rule 1.)
  4. It must be BIG. think laptop, books, chords, chargers, makeup, manuscript, water, pens … plus the extra two books I always buy at the airport.
  5. Thick shoulder straps. I won’t lie – my bags are heavy. Don’t want digging in on shoulders.
  6. It must have sections. Don’t want to go on an archeological dig for car keys! Go!

Prada Saffiano Double Tote Bag.

Catriona’s Answer:

I’m going to thank my Mum for my confident answer, Kirsty, because if it wasn’t for her insistence I would never have chosen what’s become my constant bag of choice when travelling. I absolutely love the Prada Saffiano Tote. My Mum made me buy this in a cobalt blue when we were on holidays together a few years ago and everyday I mentally thank her. It fits my laptop perfectly, wipes all stains off easily, slots easily into the overhead locker, can be used for both AM and PM and I’ll be honest, I kinda love the label. That said, as I look at it now (I’m about to board a plane so it is right by my side), it also fits my children’s Yo Yo’s, too many magazines, my overstuffed makeup bag… it’s basically packed to the rafters. I could actually use this as an overnight bag, feel comfortable taking it into a business meeting, and swing it over my shoulder whilst racing for the plane. I’d normally choose black (yep, Mum made me buy the blue) but I’ve found the blue goes with everything. It’s just an all-round great investment.

Longchamp Le Pliage Tote Bag L.

I also have a range of Longchamp in every size and colour that I can totally recommend for both men and women. Once again, it wipes clean, folds up easily, can be bashed around (let’s just be honest with each other here, Kirsty) and is pretty darn stylish. I’ve seen Princess Kate use this as her baby bag and France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, take it to diplomatic events. It does the job!

Now, I’d also like to say that you don’t always have to pay full price for these first-class handbags. Try sites like First Dibs, Vestiaire Collective, Secondo in Melbourne, Pelle and DiNuovo in Sydney, and I keep an eye on the sales at Leonard Joel, too. So, there you have it. Buying a quality handbag is ultimately worth it in the long run… but you don’t always have to pay full price.

I found this bag (pictured at right) yesterday: A YSL in the perfect tote size at 70 per cent off. Always look out for sales, you never know what you’ll find…





Reader Question from Colleen:

Do you have any tips for taking children to Thailand? I’m nervous about the long flight and overwhelmed by day trips upon arrival.

Catriona’s Answers:

OK, Colleen, let’s begin with THE FLIGHT:

Khao Lak Beach Resort in Thailand. Photo: Scoopon.

1. Don’t discuss it! I know a child who has terrible anxiety about flying because his Mum won’t shut up about it! Yee gads, if the parents would stop making such a big deal about it, the child would have no reason to flip out. Maybe let them know it will be a long flight, and that they’ll be rewarded with lots of treats, and can watch as much TV as they like and then zip it.
2. No sugar. You want them calm, not hyped. They can drink water, or orange juice, any kind of Vitamin C is also a good choice as you don’t want them being susceptible to a cold upon arrival.
3. Let them pack a backpack of their own, with a favourite toy, an empty drink bottle (fill it up after going through Customs) and maybe a book or games. Don’t overload it as you know you’ll end up lugging it.
4. Don’t forget to charge up any device the night before, and take an extra charger or batteries in case you run out mid-flight. Disaster. Oh and order the Entertainment package where possible. Screen time will get you through this.
5. If you only remember one thing I say for children on flights, they must have something to suck on for ascent and descent. Let them choose a lollypop, or chewing gum (have back up as my son eats his before we’ve even taken off), or maybe drink (maybe your boob if they’re young enough). But their little ears are tender and they need to equalise. Don’t forget to take a big scarf if you’re feeding.
6. You need to pack some Wet Ones for the plane. Do not overpack a baby bag – it’s just hell to carry. And take a spare dummy, if required.
7. Let your kids wear some socks, old ones if you like, for the toilets. Too foul to even think about.
8. Dress in loose layers. This applies to all. Maybe take a back-up pair of clothes if you like just in case luggage is lost or puked on. Just being honest.
9. Never let your children hold your boarding pass or passport!
10. Don’t try out any new medication on the flight. Panadol is best. And don’t forget to pack in your luggage a good medical kit that includes your preferred medication and scissors… I always need scissors.


Lemongrass House Insect Repellent.

1. Take insect repellant. I like the one made from Lemongrass (which is actually based on Phuket). It’s natural and has a nice smell. See my Favourites for the details.
2. Do not obsess with day trips. Thailand has such great hotels and kids’ clubs and pools. Start with that then, if you’d like to do a day trip, just ask other travellers or your hotel for tips. Just don’t stress.
3. Be respectful of the religion, in terms of way of dress and loudness.
4. Try to book a hotel with a swim-up bar and/or waterslide. Your kids’ll go nuts for it.
5. Learn some basic phrases before going. Hello, thank you, etc., and the locals will be delighted. Kob Kun Ka and Sawadee Ka will take you miles.
6. This is not the trip to impress anyone with a full itinerary. I generally find children are happy if you are, if you’re close by and there’s a great pool. It’s not that hard.
7. I love Thai food. Make sure you sample all the wonderful local treats. Eat within the hotel if you’re not 100 per cent sure and I do normally avoid ice in my drinks, and drinking the local water.
8. Start your vitamins two weeks before leaving. You often have sultry weather and don’t want to pick up a cold from the plane upon arrival. Be prepared.
9. Dress in layers, it’s super hot.
10. If you want any clothes made, order early and take a favourite piece or photo from home.


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