TIS THE SEASON
Well it's that time of year again where hubby and I prepare to jet set off to our next holiday destination - In 9 days we will be jet setting off to Bali for a well-earned holiday.
2017 has been a busy, stressful, fruitful and fulfilling year for the both of us and we are both very much looking forward to spending some quality time together, shopping, scuba diving and laying on a hammock on the beach with a book.
Over the past four years Rob and I have travelled to four different countries and have always been vigilant when it comes to preparing and planning our overseas getaways - I've had a lot of friends, clients and colleagues ask me lately about what sort of planning and prepping we go through to ensure we have a safe, smart and stress free holiday; some of the questions I've been asked include: "Do I exchange my $$ before I leave"? "Who else needs to know about my overseas trip"? "Travel Agent or Flight Centre"?
So with that in mind here are my top tips on ensuring you not only stay safe during your time away but you also get the most out of your holiday destination.
PHONE A FRIEND:
Whether you are travelling overseas or within Australia make sure you let someone know about your itinerary, where you're staying and how you're getting there We always make sure that our families know our flight times, where we're planning to stay, how they can reach us and when we're due back home. Rob always makes sure that he posts an update on social media once we land to let all our friends and family know that we have landed safely.
BE A SMART TRAVELLER:
Let the government know of your travel plans - we live in a beautiful, safe and care free country however some of the countries that we travel to are not as safe as we think. The Smart Traveller website is run by The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and lets the government know of your travel plans in case of an emergency - on the website you'll be asked a number of questions including: Travel dates, Emergency contacts, Country / Countries your travelling too etc. Applying these details onto the website ensures the right person can be contacted back home if an emergency was to arise while you were on holidays - it also allows the government to ensure they know who is where in case of a terrorist attack or natural disaster. We live in a day and age where anything can happen when we least expect it so we need to ensure we follow the right protocol an stay vigilant at all times.
I NEED A DOLLAR:
We all procrastinate when it comes to this question - "to exchange or not to exchange". Depending on what country you visit it's best to exchange your AUD before you leave - once I know what country we're going to I begin to suss out the currency and how our dollar compares. I have learnt over the past four years that the dollar can change at any time so when you come across a good rate - take it!
Where you change your AUD is something you discover yourself - I have been with my bank (St George) since I was 16 years old and am loyal in the sense of sticking with my bank when it comes to all my banking needs. St George Bank has made it easier for their clients when it comes to ordering F.X notes - instead of going into your local branch to order your currency you can now do this via the St George website whilst in the office or at home… simples!
If you're not sure whether your financial institution has this particular service I would suggest visiting their website or contacting them for further details.
Another tip I can give when it comes to this question is have a look and see whether your bank offers a Global Currency Card - Rob and I have one with St George and it allows us to transfer our AUD into whatever currency we like via our Global card. We can use this card at any ATM and store we visit overseas and no fee is charged.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are using a Global card make sure you read and understand the T&C's - the St George Global card has a fee free condition however this is only applicable if you are using the card at any affiliated Westpac ATM overseas - for example: if you are travelling to the U.K the affiliated ATM would be Barclays if you are travelling to the USA it would be Bank of America. The one thing I don’t like about the card is that there are no affiliated ATM's in Bali and a few other countries which means if we use the card in those areas a fee will be charged - the good thing is is that St George is working on making the card available in those areas very soon (so I've heard)
Before you even consider handing over your travel plan details to your travel agent make sure you do your research when it comes to flights, accommodation and tours - have a look to see whether you can get a your hot little hands around some great deals first - my favourite travel sites online are Expedia, Trip Advisor or Travel.com.au. These sites are great when it comes to getting the best deals possible - especially when it comes to flights and accommodation.
Some of the above sites offer great discounts when you book your flights and accommodation together - others offer you room upgrades if you book with them on the spot.
This is what happened with us when we booked our accommodation in Ubud - we purchased our accommodation on the spot and received an immediate upgrade from a standard room to our very own private villa... "insert happy dance"
THE ART OF BARTERING:
When Rob and I were in Thailand in 2016 I quickly discovered the art of bartering - I hated bartering and always got Rob to bring down the price for me every time we went shopping - after a few shopping adventures I soon discovered that bartering was all about your attitude - if you were rude, the shop owner would either give you a small discount or would not offer you one at all - if you were friendly and playful they would be more inclined to play the bartering game with you.
The same principle applies when it comes to chatting to a travel agent about your travel plans.
Whether you're visiting a Flight Centre store or and Independent Travel Agent make sure you use positive language when it comes to negotiating your travel costs - let them know if you have come across a cheaper deal as I'm sure they can look into price matching or providing you a lower price. Remember that they're a business and if they want your business they'll do anything to get it!
I cannot stress how important Travel Insurance is when it comes to your holiday - after you have booked your flights and accommodation your next step should be to book your Travel Insurance. You can obtain Travel Insurance via your Financial Institution or via your Travel agent - we secure out Travel Insurance with St George Bank as I find that Flight Centre is always more expensive.
Remember to always read and understand the T&C's prior to purchasing your insurance plan - some exclusions do apply and you need to be aware of these before making a decision. If you have purchased your insurance plan and are not quiet sure about what’s included and excluded from your plan, reach out to your financial institution or travel agent.
THE 3 R'S
Relax, Restore, Rejuvenate! Enjoy your holiday - slow down and take in the atmosphere around you, do something you've never done before, eat the local food, meet new people, immerse yourself in the culture and create amazing memories that you'll remember forever.
If you have your own tips when it comes to prepping and planning for your holiday I would love to hear them via the comments box! I've also added a "Quick Links" section below to connect you up with some of the places I've mentioned above.
I would like to wish you all a happy and safe holiday season - I hope you all take some time out to rest, relax and spend some quality time with your friends and family.
Smart Traveller: http://smartraveller.gov.au/help/me/australia/planning/Pages/register-travel.aspx
St George / International Travel: https://www.stgeorge.com.au/personal/travel-services
Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.com.au/