Let’s talk about how we planned our trip to Australia (live blogging!)
We have been wanting to visit Australia for quite some time, and we finally had an opportunity! Wanted to share some advice on how we planned our trip, so when you plan yours you can save some time and some headache.
- Save more than usual for this trip – Getting to and around Australia is expensive – our tickets were around $1,600 each flying in from Seattle to Sydney. (Be careful, there is a Sydney in Canada, don’t book that one by mistake!) The state of Sydney is also called New South Wales, so if you see that, don’t confuse it with the other Wales in the U.K. We decided to explore the city of Sydney and Cairns, and our flight from SYD to Cairns was around $300 USD, plus baggage (you pay by the pound, so we paid around $100 USD for 53 kilos of luggage). Oh there are also food costs, transportation cost and tours/adventures/sites to see that all have price tags attached – most around $50 – $150 per person.
- VISA – Yes you need one. Yes it’s super easy and all online. Digital Visa FTW! Check it out here.
- United Airlines LAX to SYD. United Airlines has quite a nice terminal, and quite a nice airplane. The seats are new, the TV screens are crisp. But the services and the food are pretty rough. I had even asked for sparkling water on the plane, and was told that they only had plain water, which was not true, he just didn’t want to get it for me, because 6 hours later I got it with breakfast. The meals were mostly sugary carbs like fruit, yogurt, bread, pasta – nothing to write home about. I threw away most of my meals. Also, they do not give you any onboard amenities, like socks or lotions or sleep masks- bring all of you own stuff, because you only get a pillow and a blanket (which is thinner than the hair on my chinny chin chin)
- JetStar inside Australia for Domestic Flights – In the Sydney airport this airline has an incredibly long check-in and bag drop off times, so make sure you come earlier than usual. Security was, however, much faster than most US and International airports we have visited. They didn’t even ask about liquids, shoes or belts. (I threw my juice away – knee jerk reaction. It was good too….) The plane was fine, but no complimentary beverages or water, or peanuts / pretzels.
- Getting around Sydney – no rental car planned, as parking and driving seemed to be pretty inconvenient. We used buses, trains, ferries, and ubers when needed to get around downtown Sydney and we booked tours for other sites that provided hotel pick up. You can fill a card (Opal Card) with a specific amount to use on public transportation and trains. Many places are walk-able as well.
- Dates, Dates, Dates – as we discussed in our 5 Key Tips for Planning Your Travel post, it’s all about the date. We are going in the winter time, and weather is pretty variable, between 50F and 80F degrees throughout the day and depending on where you go. We packed with layers so we could add/remove light items when needed for the changes in temperature. Also, make sure you check when peak time is for tourists because that means surge prices, full hotels and tours getting booked out. If you want to go on a whale watching tour – don’t go during Australia’s summer time (Whales = winter).
- Location – We wanted to stay in the heart of Sydney and spend less time with commutes and traffic, so we opted for a good balance of price / location and stayed at the historic Ultimo hotel in Haymarket(a neighborhood of downtown Sydney). We’ll review the hotel in a later post, but we were quite happy with the accommodation, which we paid around $100 USD/night for a single room with 2 beds.
- Activities – Sydney is a really huge place, one of the largest cities we have visited in most of our travels, so you can’t do it all. We wanted to avoid large crowds, so went to shops and café’s off the beaten path. We did a tour with OZ Adventure Travels, visited the Taronga Zoo, Manly Beach, Manly – North Head, Circular Quay, Darling Harbor, Queen Victoria Building, roamed downtown, and used a Zoo pass as well.
- Packing – we each brought a small backpack for the day, one carry-on and one check in bag. We also brought our LUMIX ZS100 Camera and Canon 5D Mark III, with the Canon 28 mm – 70 mm Lens and Canon EF 85mm Lens. We brought along this Neutral Density Filter and this Polarizing Filter for those epic landscape shots. Wear comfortable walking shoes! Dress in layers as the temperature varies from morning to night (drastically). Don’t forget Australia is first world – if you don’t pack something you WILL find it here. Australia is pretty laid back so leave your fancies at home.
- Additional cities – We also wanted to see the great barrier reef (before its all gone) and planned a flight to Cairns (Port Douglas is another hub). We are actually in transit now, so can tell you more about it later – but we are spending 3 nights in Sydney, and 4 in Cairns. Accommodation in Cairns is not easy – so I would recommend to book early and try all avenues, like AirBnB, B&B, VRBO and Trip Advisor. We found accommodation for $100/night – very close to the beach, but no Wi-Fi. Yeah, rough. A word of caution on accommodations in Cairns. Many places are catered to backpackers and budget travelers so expect to pay 150 plus for a decent hotel with amenities like we are used to in the USA. If you are backpacking, solo traveling or enjoy the hostel/motel style – you have A LOT of options.
We have our Great Barrier Reef Dive and Snorkel day tomorrow! SO EXCITED!!!!
More to come including our recommendations for accommodations, restaurants, tours, and our detailed day to day itinerary!