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TRAVEL TIPS / WHAT TO PACK / WHAT TO BRING / YOUR TOILETRY BAG

You need to decide what kind of a traveller you are and what kind of a trip are you going on? – Are you looking for an adventure and getting amongst the elements? – Are you going on a trip to relax? Are you one to look the part while you travel? Are you one to just go with the flow and see how it goes day by day. This is a major influencing factor in how you plan, pack and what you experience.

Due to the nature of our jobs, travelling is often short term and structured so this is what we have learnt over the last few years of travelling


 

PLANNING & RESEARCHING YOUR TRIP

Create a travel calendar – plan your trip and what you want to do each day. This helps you get the most out of your trip and having to make decisions each morning on what you would like to do.

For the love of god – GET TRAVEL INSURANCE. I cannot stress how vital this is. We usually go with Travel Insurance Direct – they are hassle free and their coverage matches up with our needs. Before you book, research and compare who suits best your needs & requirements for your trip as you do not want to be in a predicament where you need help and cannot either afford to etc. Yes, some of you are saying but my ‘credit card’  has travel insurance. Except have you actually carefully checked the inclusions? As some cards will cover on ‘x’ amount say for a excess on car rental, but the car rental excess could be another 1-3000 dollars more. Check thoroughly to ensure you’re covered well just in case.

Plan your flights to minimise jet lag – I like to arrive at my destination in the morning so you can have a full day of sightseeing and staying awake.

Write a list of what you are planning to take a week before your trip. Writing it down helps you see what is necessary and what might be over kill. This list also helps you keep track of your belongings when you are overseas and minimises any chances of things getting lost or misplaced.

Book your flights with a travel agent – they often get better connecting flights, yes it may cost a little more at times but you will save a lot of time in layovers and often have better departure and arrival times. If you want to do it on a budget, just remember these budget airlines will stop 3-5 times before your destination so an 8 hour flight or 12 hour flight turns into 18-48 hours including overnight stop over possibility – be wise, realistic and try maximise your time away enjoying yourself rather than transferring yourself through airports.

Book your hotels and tours yourself. It is so much cheaper and you can tailor it to what you want to do. Tours companies are great and convenient but it’s done on their terms not your own. However, you can use it as a foundation to create your own trip. You can gather enough information on tripadvisor and similar sites that should offer plenty of ideas and reviews on guides/tours.

PACKING

Ahhh the dreaded part of travelling – well mine at least, packing L It’s best not to leave it to the night before as that’s just a recipe for disaster!

  • When packing, think to yourself – Am I really going to need this? When I first started travelling I was guilty of over packing so many items that just weren’t necessary. Plus packing light means you can take more stuff home with you :P. It is possible – just be ruthless if you’re unsure about taking it, don’t take it – trust me, you’ll feel so much better..
  • Don’t pack items like moisturisers, hair products, body washes etc. as you can buy that when you arrive at your destination. It adds unnecessary weight and eliminates the chances of it ruining your clothes in transit. Added bonus is overseas health and beauty products are different to back home so you get to try some new products!
  • GIRLS – make up! Pack the bare essentials. Take products that can double up for other areas, cream blush = lip tint. Eyeshadow = highlight. Pack what is going to accentuate your features rather than creating a transformation. I generally take a BB cream, cream blush, mascara, curler, compact eyeshadow quad, 2 brushes, eyebrow pencil and a lip balm. Done – no more, no less.
  • Roll your clothes! It makes your packing more compact and is easier to organise.
  • Use your shoes to put items in there that have a chance of being damaged. It not only minimise space wastage but also has a protective factor.
  • Bring some washing soap with you in case you can’t access a laundromat– you can always wash your clothes in the bathroom and hang it over the shower to dry while you are out exploring
  • I travel with my pillow wherever I go – people laugh but it eliminates getting tension headaches and is a familiar comfort that assists me in getting quality sleep.
  • Keep a folder or a plastic sleeve with your travel documents, addresses of hotels, print outs of car rentals etc. Having copies or scans of your documents is good too. I always leave a copy at home with a trusted friend or family members just in case you get in trouble somewhere.
  • Keep some basic essentials in your carry on – jumper (it gets cold on planes) toothbrush, paste, deodorant, change of t shirt, socks, underwear etc.
  • SHOES – if you are planning on doing LOTS of walking like we do – buy good quality shoes. My first trip I lasted 1 week in a pair of Onitsuka Tiger shoes and had the most horrendous hip, lower back and leg pain. I used to laugh at all those “tourists” in their daggy shoes – but I ended up joining them. I swear by Merrells and North Face shoes. Some days we can cover anywhere between 10-20km and I never get sore feet. But again this depends on what kind of a traveller you are. Choose wisely, you have been warned lol
  • Pack some medication like nurofen, dulcolax, Imodium etc you don’t want to be stuck in case you have a headache.

ENTERTAINMENT & ACCESSORIES

  • Mobile phone charger – wall charger, usb charger, and 2 phone cables as you’re bound to lose one or need one in the car at all times (if driving, or for the plane)
  • Headphones – our personal pick are the BOSE Noise-Cancelling Headphones, whilst they are not within everyone’s budget they are the best investment you can possibly make if you are a regular travel. The amount of airplane noise they cancel out combined with the quality of the sound for either your own music or in-air entertainment is second to none. Get a pair
  • Torch – yes really. You may arrive at your destination late at night, lost something, coming into an area where its too dark or even looking for something during the travels that will require it.
  • Fork/Knife – camping fork & knife set are particularly useful for those of you like us that travel in a car. This makes life much easier when you want to buy your own snacks at a supermarket vs a local petrol station to eat.
  • Pocket Knife – additional to above, also handy in times of need. Just keep one, you never know
  • Adapter plug for country that you are going to, provided it is the same voltage as your home country you should grab one before you leave and not at the airport for 5x the price. (eBay?)
  • A backpack – not your handbag because a backpack offers more versality in carryign food, water, a spare jacket, hat and so on.
  • A smaller wallet – if like many you have a wallet with 50 cards inside, pick up something small that keeps only the bare essentials on you. We ourselves are not money belt or body wallet users but in some instances and for some people it may be worth of some use
  • Sunglasses
  • Powerbank (battery pack) – used to charge your phone, ipad, drone or other accessories on the go.

MONEY

  • Organise your cash weeks in advance – minimise last minute rushing to banks or transferring money to cards and hoping that it will clear by the time you reach your destination.
  • We use the 28 degrees MasterCard rather than bank cards. You upload your own money onto the card via direct deposit, however in recent times there are many options from Bankwest, ANZ and so forth. Hop online and check which card suits best your situation of travel.
  • Make sure you have some of the local currency on you on your arrival. It is always best to be prepared, however, I have never come across any city that hasn’t accepted our credit card.

AT YOUR DESTINATION

  • Wake up early! Use as much of the day as possible to experience the area you are visiting and also allow more opportunity to see more and other areas.
  • Try not to cram in as much as possible into your trip. Be selective in what you want to do and experience. Often not seeing everything gives you can excuse to come back again 😛
  • Eat where the locals eat – if you want to experience the best cuisine that is traditional and true to the core, that’s where you’ll find it – my favourite restaurant in Phuket is literally under a garage but the food is just AMAZING!!! I was recommended this restaurant while playing beach volleyball with some locals 😛
  • Learn the basic language of where you are visiting – the locals love it. They can see you are making an effort and trust me they will reciprocate (after a quiet giggle first, but that’s okay).
  • Be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Unfortunately in many countries you will find unsavoury people that prey on naive tourists. Which also means, do not roam the city late at night in areas that obviously are not as ‘safe’ as main areas. Be realistic, would you do it in your own City? No?.. then do not do it when travelling.
  • Have a stash of tissues and wipes – you never know when you will need them. Ahem roadside and countless kilometres away from a toilet.
  • Be sure to know if the water is safe to drink – It can cause debilitating sickness that takes some time to recover from and it is so easily prevented.
  • Don’t be “one of those tourists” and even worse, a statistic. We’re all for having fun and experiencing the culture, but do so while being respectful to local people and their town/city. It is their home and quite often that is forgotten.
  • Be kind to your body – listen to it and treat it well. There is nothing worse than being unwell and ruining your trip.
  • Get off the beaten track – some of our most memorable experiences have been in the most obscure places that people wouldn’t have a clue where they are.
  • Don’t forget to call mum or dad 😛 they will miss your voice and will worry about you regardless how old or young you are.
DRIVING

We hope we can offer some guidance, information and tips for driving throughout Europe and SE Asia for you (mainly Thailand)

Driving through Europe between countries, cities and towns is actually quite exciting as you see many things that you would never see, have the ability to stop anywhere you like and choose your own bathroom stops! . However if you are concerned and not confident to drive on the other side of the road (for some) or even in a foreign country, it might be best to get your way around via train, bus and ferries if needed – it’ll keep you safe, and the locals from you!

Our suggestion is to fly into Germany or France if you intend on hiring a car, simply because the rental rates are a lot cheaper and allow you to drive between countries without an issue. Whoever you book through query whether or not they allow you to drive the type of car you booked through or your destination. Some rental car companies do not allow for example an Audi or BMW to go to Serbia or Italy and so on, the statistics may show that type of car is a target in those countries – not what you want on your holiday!

There are also speed cameras throughout these countries, especially in Switzerland. Each smaller town through Europe will have speed cameras also fitted and well camouflaged so be warned! Have i ruined your dream yet? Don’t worry, you can still have a little fun through Germany on the autobahn. Please take in mind a few things, the left hand lane is the fast lane so unless you’re passing someone keep to your right. Do not think you’re a race car driver, and respect the locals drivers.

Some of us, mainly male will think of Germany and no speed limit! Well, truth is some areas are ‘speed limit free’ but most are limited to 130, Austria itself is a maximum of 130, Switzerland between 110-130 and Croatia, Italy also the same. It is only Germany that offers ‘no speed limit’ but with saying this, not entire German autobahns are. Check the signs carefully!

This sign means ‘free speed’ (no speed limit)

This sign means speed limited back to 130 or otherwise posted

There are also speed cameras throughout these countries, especially in Switzerland. Each smaller town through Europe will have speed cameras also fitted and well camouflaged so be warned! Have i ruined your dream yet? Don’t worry, you can still have a little fun through Germany on the autobahn. Please take in mind a few things, the left hand lane is the fast lane so unless you’re passing someone keep to your right. Do not think you’re a race car driver, and respect the locals drivers.

Firstly, choosing the right Car Rental Company. There are the standard international companies to choose from; Thrifty, Hertz, Avis, Budget and Europcar followed with the German, Austrian, Italian, Croatian, and Swiss national companies also. Check the rates, check the coverages including insurances and choose who you feel most comfortable with. Yes, of course these larger companies will be more expensive but from experience (previously working in the industry) these larger companies will offer free road service 24/7 (or may be additional cost), cover and replacement of vehicle if something were to happen including an accident even if your fault (so you won’t have to cancel your trip) and have locations throughout Europe in many major and smaller Cities.

Coverages such as accidental waiver/3rd party cover may be covered through your credit card or travel insurance, check what they cover. Just note that you will have to pay for it up front and then be reimbursed at a later stage most likely after you have returned so ensure you have 2 cards just in case.

Secondly, choosing the right car. If there are 2 of you and you will be regularly driving throughout towns which may include keeping your luggage in the car whilst sightseeing we would highly recommend getting a wagon of sort. This will allow the retractable shelf to hide all your luggage and hopefully be somewhat safe whilst you’re sightseeing for a few short hours.

Lastly, plan your trip via google maps and don’t be afraid to google a name of a City you’re passing by as it may be small but might have something big to offer, after all a few years back Hallstatt was very unknown and now well it has become very popular! So this will add onto your trip which includes more stops. You may encounter the occasional traffic if you are driving through peak times, standard for the whole world these days so take this in mind if you have anything booked such as tours, dinners or flight/trains to get to.

As you drive normally in your own city you may forget a few things that you will need when abroad. The basics such as your mobile phone charger, some music to listen to (whether via cable, bluetooth or cds) and most importantly a GPS unit. A GPS (or navi to most Europeans) can be rented with your car, for those who are super organised you can use this on your phone via TomTom or maps.me and Garmin – do note sometimes you will need to pay for the maps so work out what is best value for money. If you intend on say driving from Germany to Croatia you’ll need western Europe maps to cover Germany, Austria and Italy or you may get a little lost.

Be smart, get yourself some mini paper maps in case from a local petrol / service station just in case but more importantly so you can gauge the direct you’re going in case anything were to happen. This is also incredibly useful as a lot of towns you’re passing are most definitely worth stopping for, even if its for 30m to an hour!

We always check on google maps from where we are to where we are going for each leg of the trip, in fact i plan everything out on google maps as part of the trip planning – you should also!

Reminder;

  • GPS / Navigation
  • Paper maps (if you have no data or gps available)
  • Music
  • Phone chargers
  • Mobile phone holder
  • Handy wipes

For Australians. a international drivers license is required and can easily be obtained from your local auto club such as NRMA, RACV, RACQ etc and costs around $20-40.

A Reflective Safety Vest are required to be carried in your vehicle at all times in Austria, normally this is given by the rental car company, but check just in case and let them know you’re going to drive to Austria. Failure to do so, you’ll receive quite a large fine by a lovely Austrian policeman or woman.

Austria also required a vignette, this is almost a registration permit to allow you to drive through Austria. Without this you will receive a very hefty penalty so i would suggest you pop into any service / petrol station or posted ‘vignette’ seller and purchase one for the amount of days you intend on driving through Austria.

Kids under the age of 12 who are below 150cm must be in an appropriate child-safety seat, this can be obtained again from rental company or alternatively some families bring their own.

The alcohol limit for Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, France, Monaco and Croatia is 0.5 per mill. I am sure you’re aware of the consequences if you’re caught over.

Fuel in Austria / Germany / Italy / Croatia / France is unleaded regular-grade 91 octane petrol as well as Euro-Super (unleaded 95-octane) petrol and are available at all petrol stations. Unless you’ve rental Diesel, then you need diesel of course. Do not mix the two up.

And finally, most importantly. Check your car that you are hiring very thoroughly in the car park and if required again once you leave – as most cars are collected in the airport the light in the car parks aren’t fantastic. Photograph everything!

DRIVING IN THAILAND & SE ASIA

A lot of travellers, especially Aussie travellers head over to Thailand and Bali quite often. Most wouldn’t quote ‘dream of driving over there’ but somehow end up on a Scooter? A bit baffling if you ask me and even more dangerous considering some so called travellers become a little more lose and forget there is a very strict law in South East Asian Countries.

We have driven quite a lot through Thailand and i don’t mean just through Phuket but also Bangkok City, south of Bangkok and many other cities and towns throughout Thailand. It is very unusual to say but i find that driving over there is in fact almost better than driving at home in Sydney. Granted the traffic is a bit more frantic, but there is little to no arrogance or rudeness when driving. Everyone understands you may need to merge, change lanes and get to your destination so they almost always let you in without hesitation unlike back in Australia.

If you’re not confident in driving in Thailand or Bali by all means do not, you either made to drive overseas or not. If you feel that you would rather hop onto a bus, taxi or coach definitely do because sometimes it is always better than being safe than sorry.

Car hire is available basically everywhere throughout most Airports, Avis, Thrifty, Budget, Europcar and few local companies also will be available to hire from. I would recommend if peak season pre-book, and also book direct with the companies vs third parties due to costs and coverages.  Don’t hire something that will stand out, you will become a target! Be realistic, a minimalistic functional car is all you need.

For those who are hiring Scooters in Thailand or in Bali please take note of our advice from years of riding around, hiring and overall experiences. Firstly, check your paperwork and spend the time to read it because as some of you who travel regularly to these countries know that many hirers aren’t entirely truthful so to say. Read the paperwork, question about the accident damage and never, ever give them your passport to copy nor leave your passport with them. Provide a photocopy and show that the photocopy is real copy with your passport on hand, never surrender your passport! Secondly, get a pen and put 2 strikes through across your passport photocopy (yes really, like a cheque) and literally write “PHOTOCOPY FOR BIKE HIRE HO

SCOOTER HIRING TIPS
  • You must carry your national license (eg. your Australian license) in case of an accident or if you were to be pulled over by the Thai Police for whatever reason it may be.
  • Inspect the Scooter’s condition thoroughly – condition, damage, brakes, tyres, overall including license plates. Note everything down with the hirer prior leaving. Photograph the bike.
  • Expect the Hirer to ask for a “cash deposit”. Usually this is around 1000 baht standard.
  • Do not surrender your passport, provide only a copy. Regardless of what they say.
  • Try use a reputable hire company, some aren’t even licensed to hire out bikes.
  • If you don’t ride a bike in your own country, Thailand or Bali is NOT the place to learn. Your holiday may end early and in a hospital and commonly does unfortunately. Whilst you want to have with your mates and friends, fun isn’t inside a hospital in a 3rd world country unless you’re lucky enough to get to a private hospital!
  • Please obey all Thai/SE Asia’s traffic rules & signs, remain vigilant and alert.
  • Riding at night is very difficult for some, and street lighting is not as good in all areas and neither is the light on the Scooter – be careful or avoid it altogether.
  • Wear sunscreen and sunglasses!

The biggest note is that its not often that when you hire a bike you’re covered for damage. You have what they call 3rd party insurance, which in short means any damage to other vehicles involved and possibly some personal injury insurance as this is mandatory for each bike (like our greenslip in Australia). The damage to the bike you have hired is to be covered by you unfortunately! Be

DRIVING IN NEW ZEALAND & AUSTRALIA

Whilst our rules in Australia vary state to state, the normal guidelines and law enforces the speedlimits in each state. This varies from 50km in suburban (suburbs/towns) areas, 40km during school zone times and otherwise 60-110 as a maximum speed.

NSW (our state) have fixed and mobile speed cameras, the fixed cameras are listed online for their locations and most GPS systems will advise/warn you when coming near. Be sure to update your GPS before arriving to either of the countries to avoid any risk of surprise after-trip penalties arriving in your mailbox.