Category Archives: XNews

Finding Online Travel Reviews For New Zealand

Kelly was determined to find the nicest little cheap place to stay that she could find on her trip to the South Island of New Zealand. She read some online travel reviews for New Zealand and found this cool wee place that looked perfect. Cheap as chips, and pretty too. She thought she’d done well, and used the same site to book nearly all her free nights away from the tour she’d also found online.

When she arrived at the motel late at night, her heart sank. There was a really good reason it was cheap. It might have been the middle of winter, but there was no heating, the beds were barely covered with a sheet and the thin walls rattled every time the neighbours so much as whispered (let alone the wind that tore up the valley at 2am that morning).

Kelly later discovered the review had been written by the owner of the motel, the pictures were really out of date, and there were many amazing (but still cheap) places nearby she could have stayed in instead.

It can feel a little daunting to know if the information you are reading is a true travel review, or merely an advertorial paid for with free accommodation or from a professional paid writer. Finding out the true story of any place, tour or event is best done when the information is coming from people just like you – travellers wanting the best experiences New Zealand has to offer.

Online travel reviews are the best ways to find out all the secret gems, and avoid the scary places like Kelly’s disaster. You can often find them by trawling through blogs, and people’s online travel diaries but doing this is completely hit and miss and can take hours. Finding a site that provides you with a mix of comments and reviews from hundreds of travellers who have placed online travel reviews after their New Zealand travels is the most ideal way of finding the secret spots (like the awesome cafe in Kingsland, Auckland or the scary Coromandel caves you can discover for free, or the gold digging brothers in Hokitika who’ll make you scones and tell you ghost stories with a cup of billy tea.)

So how do you find New Zealand online travel reviews you can trust? Here are some simple tips when looking for online recommendations:

1) Look for a site that is full of personal experiences
While one person suggesting a place is awesome, fifty people suggesting the same thing, with a few frank comments about any issues or problems is far better. Kelly certainly wished she could have warned other travellers about her motel disaster.

2) Look for one that lets real people comment
Some sites are really just travel agency sites, with lots of comments from people who have been given free trips to write about. This means the bias can be slanted a little more positively than may be due in a real response to the place

3) Look for one that caters for a wide range of people
Even if you are on a mega budget you might want the occasional night of luxury (ooh that hot shower feels great after a week tenting in the South Island.) If you’ve got a comfortable budget, the more luxury orientated sites might focus only on the high cost tours and places to stay, and so much of New Zealand’s gems can be found in places where the cost isn’t that high. Find the secret local places that other travellers have found by sharing a few quiets in the pub with the locals.

The best thing about a community driven online travel review site is you’ll get to comment on your New Zealand adventure as well. You’ll have Kelly and her mates telling you what they loved, and what they hated. And then after you’ve experienced what other people have suggested, you too have a chance to let other’s know what you thought.

3 SEO Tips For Freelance Writers to Increase Website Traffic

If you’re a freelance writer and want to generate traffic for your website or blog, you must start learning about search engine optimization (SEO). Why? Because competition is fiercer than every on the web.

Some experts estimate that as many as 100,000 new websites go live every day That’s 36,500,000 new websites a year! And, I venture to say that that’s a conservative estimate. So following are three basic SEO tips that every freelance writer can start using immediately to increase website traffic.

1. SEO Tips for File Naming: Naming your files descriptively will help you get more page views because search engines can more readily identify what they’re all about. Let’s use a photo as an example. If you had a freelance writing website and you uploaded a graphic to the jobs page, instead of naming the file .jpg1, name it “editing-jobs1.jpg.”

2. SEO Tips for URLs: This piggybacks on the above tip. When you are naming your files, use hyphens as opposed to underscores. This is extremely important for SEO purposes because search engines treat hyphens as a space. This means that they recognize the words on each side of it as separate entities. This is not the case with underscores.

As an example, if a surfer typed in the phrase “editing jobs” and your file was named “editing-jobs.htm,” for example, the search engine would return that page as a result. It wouldn’t if it was “editing_jobs.htm.”

3. SEO Tips for Title Tags. This is one of the most important SEO tips you can use to increase traffic to your website/blog. Don’t name all of your website pages the same thing. Each page should have a unique title – one that is relevant to the content on the page.

The title tag is what shows up in the bar across the top of the page when you’re on a website. It should be directly relevant to what’s on the page, and should contain your main keyword phrase.

6 Questions to Ask a Travel Agent Before Booking a Trip

Travel agents are indispensable resources for planning complicated trips, finding out the ins and outs of a destination, saving time, preventing travel headaches and getting the best value. However, each agent is different. Be sure that your travel agent is a good match for you by asking these questions.

1. What is the agent’s specialty?

An agent who narrowly specializes in a destination or certain products, such as cruises, can provide solid advice that will be crucial to booking a rewarding, problem-free trip.

Does the agent specialize in adventure tours or culinary trips? Does he or she frequently book groups? Is the agent a cruise expert? You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist to treat a toothache. The same concept goes for travel agents. If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, work with a Caribbean travel specialist.

2. Has the agent traveled to your destination?

There’s no substitute for first-hand knowledge. An agent who has actually traveled to the place where you want to go will know first-hand about the activities in which you plan to participate and the hotels in which you plan to stay. An agent who has been to the destination can make informed recommendations to steer you in the right direction.

3. What are the agent’s fees?

Agents may charge a fee for each service, such as a flight, charge a flat rate, or earn a commission. Expect to compensate the agent for his or her time, advice, planning expertise and work. Still, it is a good idea to find out the fees and deposits up front so there are no surprises.

4. Does the agent have special relationships with travel suppliers?

Travel agents can often get you perks that are not available to the general public or published on the Internet. Hotels, car rental agencies and tour companies often make perks such as upgrades, discounted parking, and express check-in available only to agents who have negotiated them or to agents who have elite status. Find out if your agent is one of them.

5. What happens if something goes wrong?

Inconveniences are sometimes unavoidable. A flight may be canceled; the weather may be uncooperative. Find out how your agent responds to problems when they occur and what his or her policies are. It is also helpful to pay attention to how the agent interacts with you. Is he or she easy to reach? Does the agent get back to you promptly when you call or email? An agent should be there for you even after the trip is booked.

6. What questions does the agent have for you?

Make sure that your travel agent has the right information about you to make the best recommendations. Also, choose an agent who is receptive to your priorities.

Even if you request something as simple as a four-day trip to Rome, you should be asked a number of questions from whether you prefer fine dining establishments or street vendors to what type of hotels you like best. In the end, you will be offered a trip that is the best match for you.