Planning a Trip to Australia: How I Did It
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to go to Australia. It may be because my mum lived there for 9 years in the ’70s. It could be the stories my Australian cousins told me when they visited. It was probably because I loved The Rescuers Down Under so much. Whatever reason, it’s been a bucket list item since day one. So why did it take me until the advent of my 30th birthday to plan my trip to Australia and book those flights?
Aside from my deathly fear of spiders, my very British intolerance to temperatures above 25 degrees, and my inability to sleep on long haul flights, I think I was just too scared of the planning. But once I finally took that first step and got into working out the logistics, it turned out to not be so bad.
I’ve grouped all my various thoughts into seven specific categories. If you’re procrastinating too and wondering how to even start to plan a trip to Australia, this should get you thinking!
How to Plan a Trip to Australia: 1. Timing
For me, the most important consideration when planning a trip to Australia was timing. While I’m pretty desperate to escape British winter, I also know to be careful what I wish for; I don’t want to melt in the height of antipodean summer. As much as I’d love to be on the beach for Australia Day, I chose to go in March, when temperatures are beginning to cool but it’s definitely still bikini weather.
There’s also the time difference to consider. New South Wales is currently 11 hours ahead of the UK, Western Australia is 8. I originally thought I’d fly out to WA and then take an internal flight across, but realised that a 4 hour flight + 3 hours ahead = an entire day wasted. Going the opposite way means that the flight time is absorbed by the time difference, plus flying out to NSW first also means I get the longer flight out of the way and can rest easy knowing that at least the flight home will be a few hours shorter.
Now that I knew I wanted to travel around March, and I wanted to fly out to the east and back from the west, the question was, where did I actually want to go? I only have two weeks to squeeze in a potentially once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia; my itinerary prioritisation became vital.
It’s hard sometimes for Brits, on our little island, to wrap our heads around how massive the country is. This can be formidable when trying to take in a lot in a small space of time. I have friends in Sydney and Perth and I’m excited for Melbourne, so those were given. I was sad for a few days thinking that I wouldn’t make it up north to the Great Barrier Reef, but I gave myself a bit of a mental slap and realised I was limiting myself. Who says I can’t go? What do I really want to do, and how long will it take?
Once I started researching, I realised I could fly to Cairns in the early evening, get a shuttle to Port Douglas, stay in a hostel, do a day cruise of the reef that includes snorkelling and a beginner scuba dive, and fly back south the next afternoon. I could definitely spend longer in QLD, but as long as I get in there with my snorkel and find Nemo, I’m happy.
With this decided, I settled on five days in Sydney, four days in Melbourne, three days in Perth, and one full day in Port Douglas. I spent a long time fiddling with dates and times on Skyscanner and Netflights, and managed to get Emirates flights for £635, 6th March to 22nd March.
One of the most important things when you plan a trip to Australia (or anywhere!) is, of course, getting your visa. They can be tricky, but this one was surprisingly easy to acquire. The Subclass 651 eVisitor is free, and you can stay for up to 3 months as many times as you like in 12 months. I submitted the form and by the time I’d opened Gmail my visa had been granted. Painless!
When I was younger, I didn’t really see the importance of nightlife when I was travelling. I was always on such a tight budget and thought, ‘I can go out whenever I want at home, so why waste money tonight and time tomorrow being exhausted and hungover?’ It wasn’t until I went on Contiki tours and had so much fun in bars and clubs in different cities every night that I realised I was wrong to shun it abroad.
This led to some fiddly planning, to make sure I spent my weekends in the right place. If I flew on a Friday after work, I would land in Sydney on a Sunday morning, so I took an extra two days off. Now I’m flying on a Wednesday evening, arriving 7am in Sydney. I have everything crossed that I’ll sleep on the plane, but even if I don’t, I’ll have plenty of time for a big nap and a long shower before hitting the espresso martinis!
I figure the GBR isn’t likely to become more amazing on the weekends (but hey, if I’m wrong, let me know!), and I definitely don’t want to miss the Melbourne nightlife, so I’m going to fly from Sydney to Cairns mid-week, then back to Melbourne on Friday afternoon, ready to check in to an Airbnb and hit the CBD.As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to go to Australia. Click To Tweet
How to Plan a Trip to Australia: 5. Accommodation
The last big piece of the puzzle to sort before I fly out was my accommodations. I love Airbnb, but when I was in LA and San Francisco last year I stayed in private rooms, and found it quite lonely. So, despite thinking I was too old for them, and the likelihood that I’d have a better night’s sleep in a dorm room, I’m going to stay in a hostel in Port Douglas at least.
The huge benefit is the price – I’m looking at the Port Douglas Backpackers hostel, and it’s currently £24 for two nights WITH air con. Can’t beat that! The combination of staying with other travellers and using Travltalk should mean I’ll find some people to grab dinner and drinks with, rather than drinking margaritas alone like I did in San Fran…
I’m staying with friends in Sydney and Perth, and my friend is meeting me in Melbourne so we’ve got an Airbnb there; prices start at £57 a night for full apartments (one even has FREE WINE) in the CBD, so that’s also much cheaper than I was expecting.
6. Must See & Dos
I have so many things I want to see, do, and consume while I’m in Australia, so I’m going to have to be organised! My current plan: wear comfortable shoes, sleep on flights as much as possible, and bring snacks everywhere (Tim Tams – tick!) because it’s going to be pretty fast-paced. Inevitably, there will be things I don’t get to, but that’s okay, because it’ll give me a reason to come back.
7. Pre-Trip Purchases
I’m not the type who packs tea bags every time I leave the UK, but I certainly have a lot of shopping to do in the next couple of weeks. I’ve been buying batch after batch of summer clothes online, trying to imagine what I’m going to want to wear when I’ve forgotten what sunshine even is.Kangaroos. The Sydney Opera House. Koalas. BEER. The Blue Mountains. Tim Tams. QUOKKAS. Bondi Beach. Pavlova! The 12 Apostles. Snorkelling. St Kilda Pier. Vegemite. What are your must sees and dos in #Australia? Click To Tweet
I also want to be prepared for the flights. 10 hours is the longest I’ve flown before, and this will be more than double that. I want to make sure I’m comfortable, and get some good shuteye. I tried out many, many travel pillows before finally finding the Trtl pillow, the best of the bunch. It properly supports your neck, and stops your head lolling.
For my LA trip, I bought a travel footrest that you can hang off the tray table, like a little hammock for your feet! This time, I’m trying out an inflatable, but some airlines don’t allow them on account of cabin pressure, so I’ll bring both. I don’t usually like airline earplugs so will bring my own; rolling down a beanie is a great alternative for a sleep mask (especially if the air con is too strong); and I’ll carry large bottles to fill at airport water fountains past security, so I stay hydrated without paying heavily-inflated airport prices. It didn’t occur to me for ages: liquids over 100ml are banned, empty bottles aren’t.
Planning Your Australia Trip: Just Do It
Maybe you’re a bit less “Type A” than I am, and this seems like heaps of planning, but it doesn’t need to be done all at once. If you book far enough in advance, you can arrange flights and not think about anything else for months! Although, once you start to think about your itinerary, and all the amazing things you’re going to do, it’s so exciting – you might not stop there. I can’t wait to get there. Wish me a happy, sleepy flight!