How to get around Australia, best holiday tips and tricks

Are you scared you will get lost?

Definitely, it is a major concern, especially when I am in an area where the native language is not English. I smile and ask for assistance.

Suitcases, packing and what to take, what is your opinion?

Layers, clothing layers so that I can pop on a jacket or remove a layer and feel comfortable. The issue sometimes is how to carry clothing layers. This is where rolling the jacket into a small shape and packing in the day pack works. I tend to pack spare socks to keep my feet dry. As well as a sunhat for too much sunshine. Waterproof breathable clothing means the shower of rain is not going to stop us enjoying the day. 

In my checked suitcase my weakness is shoes! Yes, Jane takes way too many shoes, sneakers, boots, sandals, flip flops, mules, wedges, – get the picture. Then I see a bargain overseas to join the overstuffed shoe cupboard. And then the problem is how am I going to wedge chunky, bulky knee high boots in my duffle bag.

TIP:  try to carry shoes as carry on so that your checked in suitcase is not overweight.

 HEALTH: How do you avoid food poisoning?

  • Wash hands regularly with soap or use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • If I am unsure who has been handling raw fruit or vegetables I peel the fruit before eating.
  • Meat and fish stored in a warming tray is avoided as I am not sure how long the food has been kept in the warmer.  
  • Processed meat is eaten when I can see the sausage being cooked in front of me. 
  • If I am not sure about the meat or chicken I will eat vegetables and grains avoiding meat products altogether.
  • Australia and New Zealand have high food safety standards and it is unlikely that our visitors will suffer from food poisoning.

 What is your worst travel mistake?

Arriving at the airport at destination arrival time. Missed the flight and now my itinerary has a last minute rewrite. And then I started to panic, in my head about confirmed and paid for accommodation bookings. 

And getting on the wrong bus to the wrong destination…  there is quite a list of mistakes.

What type of accommodation do you choose or recommend?

My holidays are a mixture of luxury indulgence to austere holiday park motel units. I enjoy the indulgence factor when on holiday yet I am not going to miss out on an experience or opportunity to go places. An experience opportunity can be getting up early in the morning (sigh, I am not a morning person) to sit outside my holiday unit and watch wild koalas having their breakfast. It was magic sharing day break with wild animals. The accommodation was functional, basic, clean with a shower and clean bed linen. It did not have a spa or luxury soaps and the fitting utilitarian. The accommodation was in the perfect spot to view wild koalas. I simply opened the door and there they were, high in the trees reaching for leaves to eat.

Luxury accommodation, soft beds where you sink into the feathers and down and sheets that feel like silk on the skin are a special treat for being you. Fabulous bathroom accessories for pampering yourself encourage you to soak in scented water. Sensory experiences can be the icing on the holiday experience. Especially if you have spent the day walking long distances over rugged terrain to catch a glimpse of an elusive bird.  

I am usually a mid-range budget traveller. Clean, tidy and most importantly, in the right location to see and do the activities planned on my trip. I will indulge in a helicopter ride or a solo boat trip rather than luxury at the end of the day. It is really about what you want on your holiday. Luxury pampering with an infinity pool just outside or a packed schedule with lots of activities.

Getting to a place?

Homework and friends’ comments assist in deciding whether to fly, catch a train, board a boat or use public city transport. If it takes three buses to get to a destination or the train station is over 2km from the activity  then I consider the easiest way to get somewhere so that I can arrive enthusiastic and fresh for the activity. To arrive, where you want to go, yet the journey getting there has taken half a day, or hot and tiring can spoil your journey.  

I was visiting Blue Springs, Putaruru New Zealand and quickly realised that there was effectively no public transport. The Springs are in the countryside down a rural road. The easiest way to visit the Springs was in a vehicle. Cycling would mean negotiating a major highway which was in areas narrow with corners where visibility is not that great.  Renting a car made the experience easy.  

How to work out the length of time, on the road when booking a day trip?

My advice is not to travel from your accommodation on day trips where 40% plus of the journey is spent in a vehicle getting you to your proposed destination. It is tiring, frustrating and when you arrive you do not have enough time to wander, ponder and soak in the atmosphere of the location you have travelled to see. Use google maps to check distances from your accommodation to the proposed activities. 

Wrong time of the year?

Quiet or low season can mean some museums, galleries and events are either closed or running on limited opening hours. Low season offers fewer people, discounts and an opportunity to linger with locals. 

Do you think about the weather when planning your trip?

Definitely as it can be scorching in summer (Perth, Western Australia) or consistently raining (NZ Fiordland in winter). Best time of the year to visit is based on weather forecasts. This does not mean it will not rain when you go. Rather it is likely not to rain. 

How do you get to sights and attractions without a vehicle?

If the destination is going to take hours with multiple transport options such as a train(s) and then a bus I could consider a day hire of a private driver. The bonus of a private driver is the local knowledge of when and where to get there, plus places you have not found out about yet.

You are thirsty and tired and have no water…

Not happened yet. I always have water, to drink, wash my hands, dampen my sweaty face, wash fresh fruit …  and if the worst happens there is always a soda / soft drink vending machine. At least it is liquid. 

Where is a public toilet?

Ask your accommodation provider before departing for the day. Locals know best. In museums, art galleries, I always use the facilities. And there are always fast food chains. I will flag if a park or activity in the countryside has public toilets. It is useful information for all of us.

Lost, no idea where you are?

Google maps are invaluable, either online or downloaded. Download your accommodation address into your mobile. Request an accommodation address card with instructions in English and the local language. Then walk into a shop and ask for assistance.  

How do I start to organise independent travel as I usually travel on a group tour?

Question one: What do you what to see and do?

Question two: What is there to see and do in the place?

Question three: Where is the place located?  Is it on my planned route?

Question four: How to get there?

Question five: Getting around the place?

Question six: What is the best time of the year to go?

  • hot tourist spot alert
  • weather
  • opening hours
  • is it a seasonal attraction
  • upcoming major events which impact on the place

Question seven: Ask yourself Where do you want to go? (and why are you interested in this place, is your information source correct or is it advertising making the place look better than it is). What is my budget? 

Travel insurance

Of course, check the details. The devil is in the details, especially the exclusions. Make a copy of the insurance document reference number, the international contact details and leave a copy with a relative or friend. You will have a paper and electronic copy with you in your carry on luggage. 

Document identity, what is your advice?

Make copies, both on paper and on my mobile. Leave a copy with a relative or friend. Additionally have at least two copies of a passport photograph. You will have the copies in your carry on luggage. 

How do you keep in touch with friends and family?

Make copies, both on paper and on my mobile. Leave a copy with a relative or friend. Additionally have at least two copies of a passport photograph. You will have the copies in your carry on luggage. 

What is your favourite country?

Australia and New Zealand (Downunder).

What is your favourite place in New Zealand or Australia?

The last place I visited as well as the next place on my list.

I am a first time visitor to New Zealand / Australia. I have only ten days holiday / vacation. What do you recommend?

Check out Australia highlights tour, it is one week then perhaps add on an additional night or two in a town / region that appeals. Check out our weekends away for ideas

I recommend you do not spend five minutes in one town / attraction / destination and then travel onto the next place. You will spend too much time travelling. Avoid every day for ten days in a different place and different hotel. You will forget the name of the place you are in. It is the worst tiki tour experience; you will have to go home for a rest. And remember:

  • Australia and New Zealand are at the bottom of most maps, it is a long flight from North America or Europe.  
  • Some ideas for you to ponder while you plan the trip of a lifetime. 
  • Do you want to focus on culture with a bit of scenery / birds and landscapes with a historic overview / water, sand and beach escape with food and feast tastings / historical indepth exploration with scenery as part of the journey…
  • Think about the best holidays you have had in the past,  what did you enjoy doing… then make a list of the type of activity.  Once this is completed you have a framework for organising the journey down under.

The journey is worth it.