How do you go about booking a beach holiday on Lamu or when is the best time to head for Mauritius? Knowledge is power when you’re planning a holiday and our industry insiders share some of their tips.

Bheki Dube
Bheki Dube

THE INSIDERS:

Troy Smith: Owner of TrueAfrica, The Safari Company, a luxury tour operator specialising in tailor-made safaris in East Africa.

Bheki Dube: Founding Director at Curiocity Hostels in Johannesburg and newly opened poshtel in Durban, which includes an urban spa, yoga facilities and an outdoor cinema.

Kumedie Naiker: Manager and shareholder at Sure Epcot Travel.

Matthew Lawless: Travel director with Trafalgar Travel in London, UK.

Bryni van der Merwe: A private flight attendant for a businessman in West Africa.

Troy Smith
Troy Smith

What got you into the industry in the first place?

Dube: I started off doing walking tours in the inner city of Johannesburg, at a time when there weren't many people exploring the city. The idea was to break the stigma that many had or still have towards Joburg and the natural progression was to open up a space where you were hosted for longer than just a few hours on a tour. So we opened Curiocity Joburg in 2013 and that inspired the idea to open others across Africa.

Lawless: I fell into it, I used to be a teacher and I was looking on the Contiki website to book a tour and found their application. I applied on the net and my life's been a bit different ever since.

Van der Merwe: After studying, I looked for a job that would allow me to see more of the world with the idea that it would be temporary. The lifestyle of a flight attendant has always seemed so glamorous and nomadic (we can thank 1960's PanAm for that) so when a waitressing colleague returned from her stint as an air hostess I was inspired to apply to an airline. I never dreamed I would still be doing it seven years later!

Kumedie Naiker
Kumedie Naiker

How has working in the industry changed the way you travel?

Smith: Having seen more than 600 properties across Africa, I now truly believe that if you're seeking a unique, interesting experience, that you really do need insider info to make an educated decision. Someone that has been there knows the pros and cons of each option.

Dube: I don’t buy into superficial itineraries. I know from first hand experience what cool packages of local experiences entail so I am aware of what excursions to look for when I am traveling myself. Then I am able to share these experiences with other people. In the an age of co-living and shared economy you are able to cut costs and meet like-minded people who are also trying to collect experiences and memories.

Naiker: Twenty years in the travel industry has given me the opportunity to learn a lot about the different countries, the best times to visit and their tourist seasons. I know, for instance, that traveling to Mauritius over Christmas is not the best choice. Be flexible with your travel plans and don’t necessarily go during the holidays. I look at more favourible times in terms of price and when destinations are not too overcrowded.

Matthew Lawless
Matthew Lawless

What have your years of experience in the world of travel taught you?

Smith: If a special offer online seems too good to be true, it’s most likely for a reason. The properties offer specials and discounts to try and encourage people to stay there but there's a reason why they're not. Investigate this and ask yourself why something is being discounted.

Dube: It’s always important to explore any city through the eyes of a local. Connecting with local people in the area gives you the ability to uncover hidden gems or treasures within those spaces.

Naiker: Don’t cram five countries into two weeks, take your time and explore, try to see and do as much as possible.

Lawless: Travel insurance is important. Bad things happen from time to time and if you end up in hospital without it, there goes all your savings. But remember that it’s super important to read the terms and conditions. For example, if you don't notify some companies within 24hrs of an accident, they may not pay out and most will have a clause that you must contact them before any major surgery or they don't pay.

Van der Merwe: When boarding your flight, try to board last and dress neatly or slightly formally. These are two ways of being considered for an upgrade on a full flight.

Bryni van der Merwe
Bryni van der Merwe

What would you never travel without and why?

Smith: Most importantly, an easy-going attitude. Sometimes things go wrong — a flat-tire, cold shower, etc. You just have to put it all down to being part of the adventure!

Dube: A notepad. It’s still a great old school way to document stories and memories (other than your camera).

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