Travel Advice

West Coast of Ireland

West Coast of Ireland

I had a terrific phone call this morning from Kylie (my accountant) informing me that my “mega tax return” was just days away. This was the tax return you may recall I promised myself I would spend on overseas travel.

I know where I want to go: Sweden, France, United States. I’ve done a fair bit of travel planning and I have a reasonable idea of my itinerary.

I know when I want to go: August-October 2008 (and maybe longer).

I have more than enough leave: I could actually take 34 weeks of combined annual and long-service leave at full-pay if I wanted to.

But what I’m not sure about is what I should do now.

Should I go for an around-the-world-ticket? Should I go through a bricks-and-mortar travel agent? Should I book online directly with the airlines? Any advice you have to offer would be greatly appreciated.

The last time I went on a big overseas trip, Damo did most of the planning. I’ve gotta be a grown-up myself this time and I need your help.

  1. Round the world tickets don’t seem to be available any more – everything is booked by single flights. Having done a reasonable bit of travel I now do some research on the internet myself, then talk to a ‘real’ travel agent. There’s a lot you can find out yourself, and I think you get on better with them if you have a rough idea of what you want to do before you talk to them, but I’ve found them really useful. They know all the tricks and dodges that you can’t find yourself, or could waste hours of time finding out – eg they can easily advise on stopovers and connecting flights. And they don’t cost anything. And they are endlessly patient. But you do need to check everything carefully when you get the final documents – none of them are perfect!

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  2. On a trip this big I would definitely use a travel agent and make sure you get adequate travel insurance – do not get on an international aeroplane (especially to the US) without it! You can still buy round the world tickets, whether that is your cheapest option needs assessment because the rules around how they work can be complicated. Think about a wide range of accommodation options because travelling on your own can be lonely for a long period – think about ways to actually meet real people instead of just hanging out in posh hotels.

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  3. You certainly can still get round the world tickets, but knowing what your plans are I don’t think that is the right option for you.

    If you just want to visit three cities (Stockholm, Paris and New York), I’d recommend getting a return ticket to Paris. Then use the budget airlines to travel within Europe and to NY – that will save heaps of dough. Having flown around Europe very recently I can attest that the budget airlines I travelled on (Air Berlin, Sky Europe and Sterling) offer good service at ridiculously low prices, if you book early enough.

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  4. Excellent advice all round so far. The consensus seems to be

    1. Do my own research first and then go to a travel agent with a fair idea of what I’m looking for, but being open to their advice.

    2. Choose one central location as a base and fly out/travel to the orther locations from there.

    3. Make sure I have travel insurance.

    PS. The tax cheque arrived today, so I’m all cashed up and ready to spend.

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  5. I’d fly to London as there is a lot more competition on the Sydney-London route than to other places in Europe, and you can get around from there on the Eurostar to Paris (SO much nicer than flying…) or Ryanair/Easyjet etc which are the UK versions of Jetstar/Virgin Blue – but be careful of the hidden charges – by the time you check in bags, have something to eat etc it can be cheaper to go on a traditional airline.

    But shop around both travel agents and online – they all have their own allocations of cheap tickets so they can’t all offer the same deals. It also depends on how restrictive the ticket rules are – if you’re sure you won’t need to stray from your itinerary you can get really good deals – but it’s expensive if you then change your mind and want to stay longer in a particular place and change the flights!

    Trailfinders in Spring Street off Pitt Street in the north end of the cbd is good and whilst they don’t often have the best face-value prices they can throw in lots of extras – free stopovers, tube passes, airport transfers….

    RTW is a waste of time unless you stop in every continent and even then they are quite restrictive.

    Bon Voyage!

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  6. Thanks Tom – hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.

    I’ve received some more advice, which I’ve published below without attribution. I’ve removed a couple of bits and pieces to respect the privacy of those who emailed, but have published their thoughts because they’re interesting…

    Comment 1:

    Sit down with pen & paper (or PC) and work out your itinerary first – what
    flight you chose – direct, round the world, alliance fare….it all
    depends on what your itinerary will be.

    Note that places like Flight Centre, Harvey World Travel etc. – despite
    their advertising – charge you the full recommended retail price. A site
    like Best Flights does have some good specials as does Travel.com.au but
    again, it depends on where you’re going and what route you’re going to
    take to get there.

    Comment 2:

    Sounds like it’ll be a great trip – and a big one at that!

    Do you care about frequent flyer points at all? Do you like stopping along
    the way to break up the journey?

    First of all, you’re not going in high season. Flights in November are low
    season, the others are usually shoulder.

    Multi-stop routings to Europe will usually be a lot cheaper than single
    stop routings. Best value I’ve found is usually with Finnair
    and Royal Jordanian. Both fly out of Bangkok, and you can get cheap cheap
    cheap deals on Jetstar to Bangkok.

    That said, I am mostly familiar with the oneworld alliance (which Qantas
    is a member of and therefore frequent flyer points). However, you might
    get better deals on some other airlines like Thai for example.

    Within Europe, Ryanair is everywhere, but even airlines like British
    Airways are REALLY cheap in Europe as they have to compete with the low
    cost airlines, yet they have the advantage of flying to the major airports
    unlike Ryanair.

    Another thing you may want to consider is the around the world fare –

    http://www.qantas.com.au/regions/dyn/au/specials/oneworldExplorer

    $4,328 all in. You would fly from Sydney to Asia – then get 4 flights in
    Asia, Asia to Europe, then 4 flights in Europe, Europe to either the US or
    South America, with either 6 flights in the US or 4 in South America and
    then home.

    An absolute bargain – I used one to come here. Of course, you don’t need
    to use all the flights, but it’s great to break a journey.

    Comment 3:

    Because London/England is not on your agenda, I would suggest you avoid it like the plague. Heathrow is a difficult airport to negotiate at the best of times, and lots of the cheap flights depart from Stansted or Gatwick instead. Getting to and from these airports takes lots of time and money – overall it really is not worth it in my opinion. Plus, that country is full of english people.

    ACTUALLY, I’ve just done a bit of quick research and there are not as many links from Paris as I expected. It’s not too difficult, but may require a bit more planning. If you’re happy to have one stopover (in Copenhagen or Berlin, most likely) then there is definitely no problem.

    Here are some general tips to keep in mind:

    getting from CBDs to airports can take quite a bit of time. Paris CDG is on the train system, but it’s a good half an hour or more from the city. I’m not sure where the other airport (Orly) is, but it could be even further out. The cheapest option to Arlanda airport from Stockholm is the airbus, and that takes 30-40 minutes. The other airport is even further out.

    The bottom line is doing the research really does pay off – you can never do enough, in my opinion! Here’s some good sites for airport/airline info:

    http://www.bugeurope.com/ [I found this one really useful]

    http://www.worldairportguide.com/airport/7/airports/Europe.html

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