HOW TO BE A BETTER TRAVELLER
When Qantas inaugurated the Kangaroo Route in 1947, the Sydney-to-London flight had six transit/refuelling stops, two overnights and took an exhausting four days – sometimes more. And, for the privilege of taking this arduous and at times unpredictable flight, travellers forked out the equivalent of 130 weeks’ pay. Imagine a long stopover in Calcutta without the preparation and knowledge we have access to now?
But how times have changed. In 2018, Qantas launches direct Perth-London flights, and by the time this year is over, an estimated 10 million Australians will have travelled overseas. If you’re looking to join them next year, check these tips to ensure you have the best holiday.
This is your No.1 tool.
Look up your destination, and get an idea of its layout.
If it’s an island, is there one side that’s desolate, full of nightclubs or maybe even nudists? Are some of the beaches more suited to surfers than young children, and what transport options will you have?
If it’s a large city, do you really want your accommodation downtown? You may be closer to the centre, but you may also be in a boring commercial district. In some cities it’s more desirable to be based in a suburb or outlying village for a more authentic encounter.
A train trip through Europe might be on your bucket list. Get out a map, mark the places you want to include, then have a look at some of the inbetween villages. Do a little investigating and you will come up with some amazing attractions and genuine experiences in little townships often overlooked.
Or it could be a cruise. That island in the Caribbean looks amazing in the brochure, you can picture yourself sipping Cosmopolitans on the white sand and frolicking in the turquoise waters. A few minutes will confirm if the ship actually stops there and, most importantly, for how long.
I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – don’t travel without it. I agree, it is an extra expense and holidaying is expensive, but going without it is a gamble not worth taking.
For example, last year insurance company Covermore provided emergency assistance to more than 42,000 Australians. One claim amounted to $97,000 after a lady was knocked off her bike in Vietnam; another more than $52,000 after a heart attack on a cruise through Fiji; and, had the family of a 12-year-old boy not been covered while they were in Bali, they would’ve been up for more than $35,000 after an unexpected medical emergency.
LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE BEHIND
Travelling is all about trying new things and seeing things we never thought imaginable by enjoying new cultures. Don’t be afraid to try the local cuisine, be flexible with your plans and open to different customs.
When you’re looking for an electrician, a housekeeper or even the best school for your kids, you ask your friends for their opinion. Do the same when looking for a travel agent. You will no doubt have “those” friends who are constantly travelling and I bet they always return to the same agency. They have built a rapport with the consultant who now knows their preferences, budget and the styles of holidays that suit them.
Armed with a referral from one of their existing clients you will be comfortable knowing the consultant will do their utmost to assist you and it could even result in a discount. Otherwise, pop into your local shopping centre. You will usually find an agent there and probably one that has been helping locals plan their travels for many years. Make sure they are ATAS accredited (there should be a sticker on their front window). The AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme is an industry standard with strict criteria.
Create an account and register your travel plans at the Australian Government Smart Traveller website, smartraveller.gov.au. Registering informs the department of your intended plans, keeping them up to date in case of a situation. You’ll also find facts on each country’s current circumstances, visa requirements and other helpful information.
PUT MORE INTO TRANSIT TIME
Airports including Singapore, Doha, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Salt Lake City offer free city tours for their transit passengers. This is a fantastic way to check out some of the sites if you have a transit time of five or more hours. Also, most airports have public lounges available at an hourly rate. Here you can shower, eat and relax.
JOIN A FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM
Link your shopping card and as you travel, gather enough points for an upgrade on your next trip.
Some countries require you have specific vaccinations before entering and in others, they are highly recommended. The World Health Organisation recommends them for a reason. A quick visit to a Travel Health professional could potentially prevent a nasty illness.
BE A TRAVELLER, NOT A TOURIST
Exploring, indulging, learning and forgetting our stresses are why we travel, so to get the most from your trip, slow down. Twenty cities in 20 days ends with photos you can’t remember taking and a whirlwind of memories.
Make time to relax in a park or, one of my favourites, sit in an outside cafe people-watching. Take it all in, embrace the culture, the diversities, communicate either verbally or non, make new friends and broaden your mind. Forget the norm and, as Bill Bryson once said, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”
Singapore Airport offers a free city tour for transit passengers (main); research will uncover factors such as the amount of shore time on cruises.
LUXURY OF TIME