Vana Belle, A Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui
Who knows travel better than those who have dedicated their lives to it? In this series, 7travel talks travel & tips with industry experts. Learn the best travel tips, what mistakes not to make, and what destinations should be on your to-visit list.
One European holiday as a 20-year old was enough to launch Nicole Bennett’s 20+ year career in travel. Her passion has become a way of life. “I come back from a trip and I’m already planning the next one.” Now the Sales Manager - AU/NZ of Delta Air Lines, Bennett has collected a treasure trove of travel wisdom from her work and leisure trips around the globe. We had the chance to talk pick her brain to learn about dream destinations, travel tips, and travel trends today.
7travel: After more than 20 years in the travel industry, what piece of advice is critical to share with travellers?
Bennett: Do not buy separate tickets. In the good old days, people thought they could save money by buying separate - for example, buying one ticket from Sydney to LA on one airline and a separate ticket from LA to New York with a different airline for one trip. Don’t do it. If there are delays or cancellations or you need to check luggage, your airline will take care of you when you have all your bookings together.
7travel: What destinations have you noticed becoming more popular for Aussie travellers?
Bennett: The growth in the Australian traveller market has exploded, which has been great for the consumer. Airfares have never been more affordable and there have never been more carriers going to all destinations. But I’ve noticed that river cruising is picking up, and actually cruising as a whole is growing in Australia. Not just sailing locally, but flying to a new destination to cruise. Then Sri Lanka has been very popular, as has Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. My daughter and I have just returned from China, which was fascinating. And with the growth of Chinese carriers into Australia, it's definitely a market that will grow.
7travel: What’s your all-time favourite destination?
Bennett: Turkey, Cuba, Africa, Italy, and Sri Lanka. For Cuba, it was the history that made me fall in love. It’s the only Western communist country in the world - it’s fascinating and so very different from any other place in the world. I went 14 years ago and it was like time had stood still there. And I went there with my two year old! In Turkey, you must do a Gulet Cruise and visit Cappadocia.
Sri Lanka is amazing. You can do it all there. One day you are on safari, the next you’re climbing a rock the size of Uluru and the day after that you’re lying on a beach. And all that time, you’re eating the most amazing food, meeting the most gorgeous people. It is the most diverse country!
And I’m a skier. I love a ski holiday...
7travel: As a skier, what is your favourite ski holiday destinations?
Bennett: Vail, Colorado and Deer Valley, Utah. When I go to ski, I really go to ski. But for a bit of warmer weather or a city getaway, I might begin or end the trip elsewhere. Going from Aspen to New York is great, or with the kids, end a trip with a visit to Disneyland Park in California.
7travel: What destinations would you recommend to solo travellers?
Bennett: When I travel by myself, it’s usually because I’m on a work trip and I extend it. For leisure, travelling solo in the US is amazing. New York is awesome. What I love most about travelling in the US is as an Aussie, you become a target for open conversation once they hear the accent. I love that you can sit down and dine at the bar by yourself and no one thinks twice about it.
7travel: What makes a good destination for a family holiday?
Bennett: I push the boundaries. Most people with small children go to Fiji, Hamilton Island. They’re easy, flop-and-drop holidays, and those are absolutely amazing. But I’ve never let my children dictate where I’m going. When I wanted to go to Cuba, we went to Cuba. Nappies and milk were a challenge with a 2 year old, but we made it through!
But one of our family favourites is Vietnam. The food is amazing, the beaches are great. Then Africa - absolutely outstanding with children. The look on their faces when the animals are so close... just amazing and then there was the diving with the Great Whites…
Italy is fantastic for children because of the food. And as much as I love going off the beaten track, a family holiday at Walt Disney World Resort is always perfect.
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