Australia Planning

This weekend we did a lot of trip planning. Preparing for an undertaking of this size — four weeks in three varied regions of a continent — is always a fine balance between ensuring that we have a place to sleep at night and leaving enough freedom to do whatever we want with a bit of spontaneity. I think we’ve pretty much done what we need to do, and we can relax again for a while.

About six weeks ago we bought our tickets to Sydney after devising a rough, month-long plan. And then we didn’t do much until a few days ago.

Well, that’s not exactly true. We did get our tourist visas online. I’m a little sad that we won’t get full page documents pasted into our passports like when we went to India, but it was a lot less expensive and much more convenient than sending away our passports to the Australian consulate. In fact, the whole process took less than five minutes for the both of us.

We also debated whether to get an RV for our trip through the Northern Territory or to hop between towns with a rental car. In the end, we decided to go half/half: We’ll carry our home with us on our backs as go from Darwin to Alice Springs; and then we’ll drive point-to-point hitting up the desert parks in the “Red Centre.” I have grand visions for this part of the adventure, at the same time that I’m a bit intimidated that the first vehicle I’ll be driving in Australia (on the left side of the road) will be a 22-foot, manual-transmission RV.

And it took us a while to figure out which part of the reef we wanted to visit. I had great hopes that we’d be able to spend a few days on a resort island on the reef itself. But, even though we’ve been saving for a couple years, neither of us could justify spending the same amount for one night on the island as for a full-week rental of a condo 20 yards from the beach. Especially, when you consider that there’s a two night minimum.

But we eventually got the big things figured out. So we bought all of our domestic airline tickets and booked all of our hotels over the last few days. I discovered that the Australian version of Expedia had the same airline tickets at half the price of the US site, even with our credit card’s “foreign transaction fee” and the currently poor exchange rate. Bonus! Of course, this did end up triggering the credit card company’s fraud protection system, and I had to contact about it  . . . twice. But it was so worth it. (Update: Also consider Wotflight.)

I’m glad all most of those decisions are made. Picking hotels is hard. Picking the right RV or rental car is hard. Finding the right flights is hard. I get wicked buyers’ remorse on almost everything I do online. In the back of my mind, I’m sure that I spent too much for not enough. I’m slowly getting over that . . . slowly.

So what’s left?

Well, I still have to rent a car or two and an RV. And I need to make sure that our health insurance will travel with us.

And I want to learn a little bit about Australia. Just enough so that I have completely the wrong idea about the place. So I think I’ll start with some fiction. My friend recommended Peter Carey, Tim Winton, and Sally Morgan (especially her autobiography My Place, which probably isn’t fiction).

Better add another book to my never-ending list.

This entry was posted in Australia, Book Notes, Life Lessons, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Australia Planning

  1. Gary says:

    Hello Jeff
    some gratuitous advice from a bloke living in Australia (Alice Springs in fact – come and visit me at the Desert Park and we’ll go for a stroll – I would be delighted, but do let me know ahead of time) is to read Bill Bryson’s Down Under.
    Gary Fry

  2. Jeff Mather says:

    Thanks, Gary. I had forgotten that Bryson wrote a book about Australia. I really enjoyed reading A Walk In the Woods about the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States.

    The Desert Park looks a bit like the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, which was quite nice. We’ll have to keep it in mind.

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