Thursday, 7 February 2013

A cheap bastard's guide to travelling

Here are some random travelling tips:

  • Travel agents are redundant. We have not used a travel agent for many years after several stuff ups - thanks, Flight Centre - and that grinning prat isn't even a pilot. They don't shop around for you and always want to sell you their "preferred" travel insurance. If something goes wrong with your flight booking once you have left the country, you are on your own. Deal with the airline direct. Airlines can beat all quotes on their websites. Cut out the middleman.
  • Flights  Investigate round-the-world fares, travelling return to a destination is sometimes more expensive than a round-the-world fare with Star Alliance or One World, plus there are no seasonal surcharges.
  • Travel Insurance  If you travel overseas more than once a year it will pay you to get a "gold" credit card that includes travel insurance cover (e.g. Amex). We have had two claims using this cover - both resolved beautifully. Do the maths - yearly card fee is around $200 - you can't buy much travel insurance for a family for $200. Plus you get perks like Qantas Club lounge access if you play your cards right. You also get frequent flyer points with your card.
  • Accommodation Use trip advisor website hotel reviews. Check out best rooms, views, proximity to supermarkets, restaurants, train stations. Use google maps to ascertain walking distance. Ask to see the room on check-in - this eliminates moving rooms later because of crap view, smoky smell, dampness, etc. Don't unpack until you are happy with the room. Always bring a plastic bowl, knife, spoon - invaluable for self-catering. We took a small sandwich maker once to Europe - amazing range of hot dishes are possible, from mini pizzas to warming up stuff. Yes, I know I am a cheap bastard. Don't forget to open a window if you have sandwich maker on - in case of automatic fire alarms. Many hotel rooms include microwaves now, anyway.  Pack a powerboard/extension cord and international  plug adaptor. Invaluable for charging, watching movies on your device in airport lounges when there is a delay.
  • Money  Download oanda currency converter cheat sheet. Good to know best time for ATM withdrawals.
  • Transport  Walking and taking public transport is the best way of getting a feel for a city. Plus it is cheap. You can travel the entire Beijing, Buenos Aires or Mexico City subway network for less than a dollar. NEVER pre-pay for airport transfers in your home country. Many airports have integrated train links to the city. Even Los Angeles, a city renowned for its reliance on motor cars, has a brilliant underground system. We have travelled with our daughter from the age of two - using everything from the Rio de Janeiro underground to the river ferries in Bangkok.

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  • One last point: Don't wait until you retire to do all your travelling overseas. Travelling with a kid, despite all the hassles, heightens the experience. But, let's face it, travelling before you have kids is even BETTER. Travelling as a couple, now your daughter is old enough to house-sit is the BEST.

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