Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Planning a Family Trip - Part 1


Initial Planning

The first thing is to decide on WHERE you are going, then its the WHEN.  Which is often the hardest decision as there are so many places to go.

The WHERE and WHEN is closely linked to the  ..... COST part.  Unfortunately when you have kids WHEN can be dictated by school holidays, exams etc.  Guess what, those school holiday flights are....not the best deal around.

Going off season or shoulder can give significant savings, its quieter but you may be exposed to things like undesirable weather conditions. 
So the first step is to roughly decide on where you want to go, when an how much.  That’s the hard bit.  Once you are committed, its easy to pull it together. 


Decide on when you want to go and have a back up plan.  Peak times, like school holidays, Christmas/New Year and Easter are best avoided, as these are the most expensive.  Also how long you want to go for.  The spring break and summer holidays can be peak times in the Northern Hemisphere.


Set a budget so you know how much money you have to plan your trip with.  That way you can track how much it is going to cost and make any changes. 
I'll put up some more info on budget spread sheets soon.
Start gathering information,  sign up for travel special emails, like facebook pages and start picking up travel brochures.

It is usually more cost effective to book it yourself than use a travel agent.  Search the airline websites as well as ones like


www.skyscanner.com It’s a really good on for finding the cheapest flight.

If you only want to go to Canada then have a look at Air Canada, they are the only airline that does a direct flight from Australia to Canada.  It is Sydney to Vancouver, one of the longest flights but it is a good one.  Service is pretty good and it isn’t a low cost carrier so not too cramped.  That was you avoid having to transit through the USA.  It will save time and frustration.

Once you book stop looking at the specials! 

Plan to have 1-2 days at the when you arrive to recover from the flight before you start any planned activities.


These are a great way to see the place and very cost effective.  It includes your transportation (so no one has to drive and you don’t have to stress about driving on the other side of the road or hire cars!), accommodation, some meals, a tour guide and some activities.  A good guide is anything under $200 per person per day is a fantastic deal. 

Most companies offer pretty similar packages but there can be a great variety in the prices.  Ones like scenic tours and APT are the most expensive.  Evergreen is midrange and Cosmos is the best value, I have found.  The standard of accommodation is 4*.  It is a lot better than Australian standards.  Rooms are bigger and flasher!  One thing to note thou is that coffee makers are usually provided not kettles, so if you are a tea drinker, you can either bring a travel kettle or ask if they have one.  The other option is to pick up a cheap one and leave it at the last place you stay.  They usually provide creamer, its nothing like milk and I think tastes like crap! 

Visas & Passports

Check if you need a visa for the location you are going to.  The best place to do this is www.smarttraveller.gov.au If you are going to the USA (including a cruise to Alsaka) you will need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization)  They cost $14 and are applied for online.  There is only one official website https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov .  There are a lot of websites offering the service but really its just charging you more. 

Some countries require you to have a passport that is valid for six months after you come back or a certain number of pages. 

Make a photocopy of your passport and keep it with your other documentation.  Never ever let a hotel, tour company etc hold your passport. 

If you loose your passport you will need to contact the nearest Australian embassy. 


International roaming costs are huge.  You can get prepaid travel sim cards.


You might like to think about getting some business cards printed up with your name and address details to hand out to people you meet.  A cheap website is www.vistaprint.com.au they often have deals where you can get them free.


Take this out as soon as you make your first booking, that way you are covered if you have to cancel it. 

Take a photo of your luggage and what is packed in it, that way if you need to make a claim you have some evidence.  Keep a copy of this on your phone so if your bag goes missing, you can show a photo of it. 


Check if you need vaccinations or have proof of vaccinations like yellow fever (tends to be Africa or Asia).  Some need time to give you coverage and some are more than one shot and have to be spaced apart.

Get a copy of your prescriptions and a letter from you doctor about any medication you may be taking.  Make sure you leave it in the original pack.

Australia has recripcal health care agreements with Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  This is for emergency care.  It is still best to make sure you are fully covered under your travel insurance.

Also carry a copy of your glasses prescription as well as a spare pair.  Nothing worse than not being able to see after breaking your glasses and then having to find an optical store to get them fixed!


Register your travel plans on the smart traveller website ( http://www.smarttraveller.gov.au/ ).  That way if something happens the government know you are there and can render assistance in the event of a disaster.

Print a copy of all your documents and reservations.  Put this inside one of your bags and also email a copy to someone at home you can contact in case something goes wrong and also email it to yourself to a gmail or Hotmail email address, that way you can access it anywhere