Welcome to our travel tips page. Here you’ll find loads of useful info to help you.
Want to get more out of your trip? Want to avoid some common problems? How do you even start? This guide is our own step-by-step guide to help you enjoy your most awesome experiences
Start with choosing between either “freestyle” or a “package”. Cannot decide? Try a mixture of both!
Freestyle is the way to go if you like to just have the basics locked in – Getting there, staying there, getting around and travel insurance.
Getting there can open new discussions – if your route includes other cities, how does a stopover look? Sometimes a nice 2-3-night stay will not only break the journey, but give you a taste of something new to take a better look at later.
In some cases, the stopover may even be included in the fare, so take advantage of it!
Staying there is the fun bit – everyone loves a room with a view!
It’s very important though to remember that where you are staying not only impacts the overall cost of your trip in terms of the hotel price, but if you’ve scored a fantastic deal at a hotel out of town, remember – what’s it like after dark?
Can you still access it with public transport? Does it have parking? How much is the parking, the Wi-Fi or the breakfasts? Suddenly that deal just got a whole lot more costly…. On the flipside, don’t pay for things you won’t need. If your breakfast consists of a coffee and a croissant, a full buffet style is unnecessary!
So much goes into deciding where to stay, and the biggest secret in travel is this – always book at least one step up from the cheapest category!
The cheapest rooms are never the ones you see the pictures of, and usually they are barely not much more to upgrade to a nicer option! We can help guide you through the choices – whilst review sites are wonderful, ask yourself – what do I have in common with the reviewer?
Getting around is important – are you doing the driving? Taking public transport? Rail travel? There are deals out there that can even include a rail segment, a connecting ferry or even a discounted transport card!
Finally, the most important part – Travel Insurance!
The golden rule of travel applies if you are travelling to the next city over or the other side of the globe – If you can’t take travel insurance, you shouldn’t go at all. Seriously.
So, if you’ve decided – “OK A package sounds like the way to go!” read on!
It’s the best way to travel, either alone, with a partner, friends or family because all the details are pre-planned for you.
Remember that a packaged tour does not necessarily mean 30 countries in 15 days. It could mean just a few hours through to a day or two, right through to the whole journey. Most tour companies have multiple options – from a solo adventure through to the whole group.
This is especially attractive if you are not keen on researching all the nitty gritty about destinations yourself, or if you do not speak the local language.
Regardless of your travel choices, you need to make some decisions before you start confirming (paying for) anything:
Create an itinerary – this is the best way to make the most of every minute.
Draw up a dream list, say to yourself “If money and time were no object, here’s what I would want!”
This list could include that amazing 3 course meal under the stars, that moment diving with sharks, hugging your childhood favourite Disney star, or that theatre show you’ve been promising yourself you’ll see for years.
Golden Rule: Travel is about experiences, so take the time to plan around them!
Now of course, the reality of this is that both money and time, ARE an important object. So, once your list is completed, work backwards and leave yourself your top must dos. If you really cannot remove anything, let us know and we can assist to shape it for you.
Guess what? You now have your dream list, and you can start to work out the “how to do this”.
Pay special attention to special festivals, public / school holidays, weather and climate, local customs and yes, even political climate when you are working on your plans. If you can, allow an extra day or two overall. This provides space for back up plans in case of unforeseen travel problems, and will allow you to maximise your options.
If you are travelling with others, particularly family members including kids, take some time to discuss everyone’s wishes – including the kids.
You would be surprised how supportive most kids are, when they are asked what they want to see and/or do, and they know they have been heard in the discussions.
This will sometimes take out the frustration about doing “only what the adults want to do”. Almost every time you allow the kids to contribute, you actually find out things about your kids you didn’t know.
Just make sure all the activities are something worth trying and gives you and your fellow travellers a new dimension to the places visited.
Regardless of your budget, small, big or extreme, you should always ensure these basics are included in it: Form of travel (flights, cruise, coach, rail, car etc), ground arrangements, passport, visa, currency used and conversion rates, meals, transport, shopping and contingency cash for emergency.
Make sure you apply for vacation days well in advance if you can, which should also include a day rest after your return to cope with fatigue or jet lag if you’re flying. Make sure you apply for vacation days well in advance if you can, which should also include a day rest after your return to cope with fatigue or jet lag if you’re flying.
Furthermore, ensure all your travel documents are confirmed at least 7 working days before the travel date to ensure any last-minute changes can still be accommodated.
For packing, it is essential to pack what you need with consideration for the shopping you plan to do at your holiday destination.
If you’re travelling with family and kids, ensure the needs of the elders and children are itemised and packed to avoid discomfort or tantrums.
If you take medications, you should confirm you have enough for your whole period of travel away, plus a few extra days in case of emergencies or delays.
See the notes below about medical requirements too.
ALWAYS carry on your medications, and try to avoid packing them into checked baggage. If your bag is lost and you lose your awesome outfit, that’s unfortunate. If your bag is lost and you lose your medications, that’s so much more serious.
In terms of baggage, one of the most common questions we get asked is “How much should I take?” The answer is, only what you will need. Note – need not “want”.
Most checked baggage in Economy class is a total of 23kg per piece. This includes the actual bag. Some are as high as 32kg per piece. However, some of the low-cost carriers do not automatically include baggage – even when the “low cost” was much higher. Always check your inclusions.
In Premium, Mixed, Business or First, it’s usually more, but you still must be mindful – who will be carrying my bags? Seriously, steamer trunks were cool in 1910, on your 11-month sea voyage around the world, but not very practical for a week on the beach in Fiji. Actually, they are still cool, just not practical.
If you have concerns about how much baggage you should take, or must take (for example: Fire and Ice trips require both bikinis and parkas) ask us – some airlines give massively upgraded luggage in the fares automatically.
What type of baggage you should take depends on your circumstances. Not all backpackers use backpacks and not all First-Class passengers carry monogramed Louis Vuitton. But if you are travelling through the amazon, and your carrying your own bags, wheelies are not that great. Cruise passengers should note that there are always baggage limits, however they are usually more generous – because you may have to live with them in your cabin, most of the time. On the subject of cruises, not all ships have power points compatible with your electronics. You may have to get a converter. If you choose to pack a very expensive power board, both customs, the crew and even the cabin attendant will ensure you never see it again – leave it at home. If you need extra power, ask your cabin attendant.
There is a whole slew of cruise specific tips – just ask Barry and he will run through them with you!
Don’t forget to arrange for house/ pet sitting while you’re away, and have a trusted neighbour or friend clear your mailbox.
Most importantly, it is vital to inform your close relatives/ friends of your travel. This way they know where you are, and how to contact you in an emergency.
However, be mindful that a Social Media blast tells everyone, even those you don’t trust, or don’t know, that you’re not home right now.
When you are preparing for your flight, a 3-day reminder is good to check your meal selections. In some Premium, Business and First-class options, you can pre-order your whole meal and drinks. For those of us down the back, if you need a special meal, just ask us to see if its available. Not all airlines take requests, and you will never get it by asking within 1 day of travel, at the airport, or as the choice is laid out in front of you on board. Seat requests are just that – requests. If you have paid tens of thousands of dollars, or if you have paid $29, your seat request can, and does quite regularly, change. This is the airline moving people around, the layout may have changed (because the plane was replaced) and maybe, just maybe, the cabin crew likes you enough to move you to a better seat.
Any way you slice it, ask us for your choices, and if possible, we will request it for you. Be mindful that more and more airlines are opting for “paid” seats. This means that just because you’ve paid your fare, if you want a specific seat, you must pay extra. This is not necessarily a bad thing – some airlines have extra legroom, wider seats, empty seats next to you, seats that become couches – all for a little extra. The best part is you may not have to pay for the entire journey, just that one single leg. Of course, overriding this is the statement above – they airline can, and often does, change this at their whim.
About seats – there are magical ways to get upgrades on some airlines – Just ask us and we can fill you in – we know the secret!
Note with Seat requests and meal requests – as far in advance as you can will ensure a better outcome. If not perfect, always better. The day before departure, everyone else has already chosen. On a 2/5/2 configuration, can you guess which seat is left on the 15-hour long haul? You guessed it, seat number 3, in the middle of the 5. Let us know in advance.
Frequent Flyer programs have long been a source of questions for many people. From the details or how does it work, to the most common one – is it worth the effort? Well in a nutshell, yes, it is. No matter what your level of frequent flyer, with almost no exceptions, if you want an airline to be nice to you – allocate your preferred seat, option you for extra luggage, early and online check in, access to deals etc, you must have a membership. If you live in Australia, your choices are generally Qantas or Virgin. Between the two of them, this covers about 80% of the airlines around the world. Whereas Qantas charges a fee, Virgin is generally free to join. However, do not despair! We usually have options where we can get you joined up for free one way or the other. If you already have it, let us know your details, so we can load it into the system. We always encourage you to check at time of your flights to ensure its still loaded, as sometimes airline management systems do not always retain the details. So just remind your check in crew to check it’s still there. It’s possible to build a level quickly with some, not so much with others, but if you are travelling beyond about 12 hours from Australia, the mileage means you do earn a reasonable level of points.
Other programs of note include Delta, Singapore, Air NZ, United, Emirate, Etihad, Qatar, Japan, Cathay … so many more to name! Ask us to explain to find out what’s best for you.
Lastly, call your bank and let them know that you are travelling and there will be large amount of purchases with the debit or credit card. This may also allow your bank to free up the surcharges on your overseas payments, and stop anything untoward before it happens! Whilst your talking to your bank, ask about what options are there for a travel money card – but do this in advance, sometimes your conversation opens other doors, and you may need more time to work out the options!
If you have a question about travel money cards, we can help cut through the jargon.
If you take medications, you should check to see that your regular medications are legal in the destination you’re travelling to. There are parts of the world where even Aspirin or paracetamol are illegal.
Check with us and we can assist to give you some guidance here.
You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while travelling to any destination. Some vaccines may also be legally required for travel.
These vaccines may include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
If you are going on a cruise, sea sickness pills and patches are much cheaper to buy before you leave and take them with you, but make sure you speak to your GP or pharmacist beforehand. Onboard medical services are super expensive, even on the cheapest cruises – so be prepared!
Latest updates on vaccinations can be obtained from your GP.
Passports should always have a minimum period of 6 months, from the date of your return. This means if you land back in your home city on August 15th this year, you need to ensure your passport does not expire before February 15th, next year. If it does expire within this 6 months, you may not be permitted to board the plane! Ouch!
Please take note that visa requirements for certain countries change regularly.
It is advisable that you check with us or directly with the destination country’s Embassy or High Commission before booking a trip.
We have an amazing website dedicated to information for the rest of the planet: smartraveller.gov.au
This website is built for multiple aspects of information on where you’re travelling and is one of the most up to date sources of information for Australian’s travelling abroad. There is also a section here where you can register yourself (optional) so that in the case of emergencies, you can be reached. Its free to use and is highly recommended.
Travel Insurance is vital when travelling. Weather its overseas or even domestically. There are a large number of tour companies now who will refuse to take your bookings if you do not have current travel insurance. There are multiple options, with all sorts of level of coverage, but the most important should be your medical coverage.
If you have a pre-existing condition, a lot of insurers will cover you for it, for little or no extra. This however is only dependant on disclosure. If you do not tell them, prior to issuing your policy, they will decline to insure you. If you are unsure of your options, please ask us!
Sometimes credit cards offer “free” travel insurance. We can help you decide if it’s the best option for you, as there is a minefield of “exclusions” for this, such as minimum spends, payment dates etc. Ask us for assistance with this!
Once you have decided on which policy is right for you, you should buy it at the same time as your first payment towards any portion of your trip – this way you are protected from Day one.
What sort of protection/coverage does a travel insurance covers you? Some of the coverage that you should expect is: Medical Expenses, Repatriation, Family coverage, personal accidents, luggage and personal effects, travel documents being lost or stolen, missed departures or overbooked flights, travel delays in case of special events like concerts, tours, cruises or weddings, loss of cash or cancellations, and a whole range of other coverage. Not all travel insurance policies are the same, make sure you know what your choices are.
Of course, not everything will be covered, so you should check this just as closely as the above.
If you are on a cruise, from overnight to a world journey, there are special policies for you – just ask us for the details.
For more information on the inclusions and exclusions of travel insurance coverage, contact us, before you take it out.
It’s Here! It’s Here! It’s Travel Day! OMG! OMG! OMG!
So – after going to bed really late last night, and waking up really early this morning, today’s the big day. Here’s the list for making it smooth, easy and above all, enjoyable!
Don’t forget – You’re on Vacation!!!
On your travel day, make a list of the things that you need to bring along – luggage, passport, documents and tickets, medications, and of course, your travelling companions.
Poor Kevin, seriously – what sort of family does it that many times?!?
Check online or via the details we provide you to ensure that your plane, cruise or tour is departing on time.
Also, mark all your bags inside and out with your name and address – both home address and your holiday address. To be on the safe side, weigh your bags to ensure you don’t exceed the baggage requirements of the airline.
Luggage scales are the cheapest investment to ensure no “surprises” at check in. Ask us and we can tell you where to get them!
Travel insurance (yes, we are on that again!) is a must, so do consider getting it because you will not have to worry if your bags are lost or if your flight has been cancelled or even if your passport and wallet are stolen. It is always best to get yourself and your family covered as mishaps do happen when travelling.
You do know that it is possible to travel with hand-luggage only, right? Or more to the point, did your ticket ONLY include hand luggage? But do you know exactly how much is included? Do they count your handbag or laptop, or your tablet even, as the only piece? Are you allowed to take a jacket as well? Can I take a charger for my phone? Will it work onboard? Is the total permitted weight in KG’s or Pounds? Do they actually weigh it?
That last one – the answer is, more and more, yes .
In fact, in some smaller airlines, and with almost every helicopter, they may weigh you and your carry on. Yep, they really do.
Do you know the airline rules for carrying liquids? You may have to remove them at the security checkpoint, and they go straight into the bin.
Lastly, there are constantly changing rules about what can and cannot be taken onto flights, sometimes they are different city to city within the same country, so make sure you know in advance.
Even your mobile phone could be a problem – just ask in advance!
Gather the required documents before your flight as you are responsible to present, as required, documents by the relevant authorities at all entry and exit lanes, health and other documents required by law, regulations, order, demands or requirements of the countries flown from, into or over.
Self-check-in is mostly free, simple and quick! It will save you time at the airport.
Otherwise, counter check-in’s open up to 3 hours before the scheduled time of departure and generally closes 1 hour before the scheduled time of departure.
Note: Check-in deadlines may vary at different airports and for particular flights. Airports may have long queues due to the complex security checks. We suggest that you check-in early and proceed immediately to the departure gate or you may risk being left behind in security.
Pre-book your checked baggage to save money and time. Each piece/item of checked baggage must weigh less than the maximum allowed. Guests may not combine their checked baggage weight with other guests unless travelling in the same booking, and even then, sometimes this comes down to the person behind the counter.
The baggage drop counter opens up to 3 hours before the scheduled time of departure and usually closes 1 hour to 45 minutes before the scheduled time of departure.
Guests are required to hold a boarding pass to use the baggage drop counters.
In most cases, travellers may take liquids on board in their cabin baggage with a maximum volume of 100 ml. The items must be placed in a transparent, resealable plastic bag. You should always double check this prior to checking your baggage through – remember, it goes straight in the bin if it’s too much!
Of course, everyone loves a lounge visit before your first class round the world adventure. But what about if you’re only flying 45 minutes out of the city? A lot of airports now offer the option of having a pre-booked, pre-paid lounge pass.
So, this means, you can buy your way in! Ask us about the options in your itinerary!
Guests are required to be at the boarding gate at least 1 hour to 30 minutes before the scheduled time of departure or you may be denied boarding.
Every Airport, cruise port, rail station and entry and exit port, has different rules regarding times of the above. Make sure you know beforehand!
On board the Flight
Make sure you get up and stretch during the flight. DVT is real, and happens mostly to people who sit still or sleep the entire journey, cramped up. Enjoy your meals on board, but remember if you are looking for a way to help handle jet lag at the other end, stay hydrated by drinking lots of plain water during the flight.
Every few hours, close your eyes and rest them if you are watching every episode on catch up. Your eyes will dry out on board too, so make sure you have some eye drops if your prone to this.
Avoid tea, coffee, and alcohol; and yes, even the cool cocktails with the little umbrellas.
Whilst flying is fun, (for some), it’s not for others. Be aware of your other passengers, mindful or your space and mindful of your belongings, particularly wallets, watches, phones and other valuables.
As you leave your seat, always check you have your passport and wallet specifically – you will probably need one or the other immediately upon landing. Whilst everyone is in a rush to exit a plane, 5 more seconds of checking will not hurt.
Arrival Into Your Destination
Once you land, or arrive, remember to check the baggage tags you’ve been given. A lot of bags look alike, and you really do want your own things. If there is an issue, address it immediately with the travel providers on the ground near the collection point.
If you wait, the old lady with the pretty hat may just take your little black number home herself.
Always ensure that your baggage is intact, and is in a similar condition to when you dropped it off. Remember that if you do have an issue, address it with the ground staff immediately. They cannot help you once you leave the terminal.
Make sure when you collect your vehicle, you understand which side of the road you need to drive on. That’s ridiculous, right? Well…. That’s where most people have the problem, thinking “Of course I know what I am doing.” If you are getting off a long flight, your mind may be a little muddled, and you should take a few moments in the car, before moving off, to get to know the vehicle.
Before moving off, use the brake, use the signals, adjust your chair and mirrors.
Ensure children are adhering to the local laws regarding carriage of minors. Some places require special restraints.
Always wear a seatbelt, for every single person, regardless of what the law may say, or where you are.
If your car comes with a GPS, use it to see where you are. Plan your route before you move. If you do not have a GPS, make sure you picked up the free maps from the counter. We have never seen a car rental outlet without something – so just ask if you’re not sure.
Sometimes, you can’t rely totally on GPS and the local location maps come in handy.
If you are using your phone as a GPS, remember – your phone service may not work correctly in the new destination, regardless of the what “The guy at the phone company” said before you left. Finding out that he was on his first day, has never left his city, and got fired 10 minutes after you left, doesn’t help at that particular moment. Good thing you picked up the local maps, right?
Once you get the engine started, lock your doors. Safety first. Pack enough liquids/water (not alcohol, as its illegal to have it some parts of the world, in the actual vehicle) and snacks in the car as some stretches of driving may be very long and may not have rest stops.
As a side note, carry a small amount of toilet paper or napkins in your carry on, just in case. Trust us on this one.
Particularly when driving out of cities, try to reach your destination before dark as many stretches of roadway may have limited street lighting. No matter where you are in the world, dusk and dawn bring the local animals out to see you. Some are cute, some are not. But one thing is for sure. They all want to see you up close and personal. Particularly in Australia.
Be aware of the local conditions and try to stay off roads from dusk through to dawn. Plan some games, pack short story books or sing along rhymes if you travel with kids or adults who need distractions. Umbrellas are great in case there are light drizzles or rain.
Always ensure your tank is full and refill before it reaches quarter tank as it may not be easy to find another petrol station nearby. Plan your journey. Ensure you have insurance coverage for the driver and passengers.
When you are overseas or at your holiday destination, call, text or email your close relatives or friends to let them know you have arrived safely and keep them updated of where you are if you are moving around.
Make sure to always keep your luggage locked when leaving it behind in the hotel, and keep it locked and out of sight in vehicles.
Carry your passport with you and ensure you don’t carry excessive cash that might attract attention. The rolling of cash only looks great in movies. In real life, it’s like a beacon to the wrong people.
If you are abroad and want to try something local, make sure it is a recommendation from a trustworthy source.
Don’t drink the local water. Seriously, bottled water may be a lot of things, but safe sits at the top of the list.
To make life easier, get a local map and identify the tourist info centres. Just don’t open it on the street corner and start turning it upside down. Moreover, for safety precautions, avoid walking alone at night or in dark areas and beware of pickpockets whose modus operandi is to distract you first.
Before your return flight, confirm your flight details at least the day before, and if possible on the day of departure as well in case of sudden delays or cancellations.
If your airline or cruise line has an online portal for check in, ensure that you read the details attached to it, regarding arrival times and check in times. They vary significantly.
It is best to ensure that you have all travel documents prepared and easily accessible for check in. It will always be the time you say, “Who needs the paperwork?” that turns out to be the exact time someone official asks for it!
Always plan your packing and don’t do too much last-minute shopping that can’t fit your luggage.
Keep in mind the luggage requirements of the next flight. If you do find yourself with excess luggage, check to see what the costs would be to upgrade your seat as well as the luggage excess. Sometimes it’s not much more to get the whole benefit! If your still stuck, and you just cannot stand to part with that amazing set of boots you just had to have, try to repack with the heaviest items of clothing on you – scale down once your onboard.
Finally, make sure you are at the airport two hours (or 3-4 hours in some countries) earlier to avoid missing the flight. If you do happen to miss it, remember that there are always ways to help. Don’t panic, and above all, don’t allow yourself to get emotional. Talk to the Airline or Cruise representative, ask for a supervisor or manager, or call us and let us know. Just remember, people react better to warmth and humour, rather than anger and rage.
Do not forget to remind your close relatives or friends of your return and make arrangements for an airport pick up. Keep track of all your valuables and make sure that they are at hand- wallet, passport, camera, watch, jewellery.
Welcome Home! Don’t forget to contact us and let us know how it all went!