Articles

Creating a travel journal, Keeping your travel memorabilia, Travel, Travel Journal

Creating a Beautiful Travel Journal for your Children

In five and a half weeks we are embarking on a holiday over to Europe and stopping in Singapore on our way home to Australia. One of the many pleasures with the organisation of such a trip is to create a travel journal. On most of our travels I have produced a journal for each of my children that is age appropriate so I thought I would share with you the journals over the years.

There are many reasons why I think a travel journal for children is important. Firstly it gives them a chance to reflect on their experiences each day and offers an educational opportunity. This then becomes a lovely memento that they can share with their friends and extended family when they arrive home. I also found that it was an excellent way to keep them entertained (when they were younger) whilst we were in a restaurant or trying to have a quiet drink in our hotel room after a busy day sight seeing. The journal can be fun and educational at the same time.

In the early years I would buy a large scrapbook and stick a title page on the front with the place names and the dates we would be visiting. I would cover the front and back with contact so it would be better protected from dirt or small amounts of liquid.

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Front Page

Next I printed off free colouring-in sheets based around some of the activities we would be doing and placed them in the back of the scrapbook. I also purchased stickers and other embellishments so my children could paste them into the book. What child doesn’t love to glue things onto paper! My daughter’s first scrapbook at the age of four was mainly drawings and we would write underneath how she described the picture. If we were in a restaurant we would pull out a colouring-in sheet related to that days activity and stick it into the book when completed. It was also a lovely way to store postcards and other memorabilia that she collected.

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A memento page of Disneyland Paris
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Postcard and drawing of a trip to the beach at Calpe
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An example of pasting in pictures from the wildlife park

A few years later when both my children were able to read and write I decided to make the journal myself from card and printer paper. I printed off lots of different activities, for example, games to play, word searches, colouring-in pages and quizzes. I tried to tie as many of the activities into what we were going to see and experience. A few examples were the ‘Chinese food match up’, ‘Dubai sights’ and ‘Jonker walk’.

I also added in some blank and lined pages for my children to explore their own creativity.

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My sons creativity at the age of five

Once I had all the pages in order I stapled them together as close to the left hand edge as possible. I then found a piece of coloured card slightly wider than A4 and I wrapped it around the front of the book and attached it with double sided sticky tape. The image below shows how it looked when finished.

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Front of the journal

To protect the journal during our travels I placed it in an A4 sheet protector. My children loved filling in this journal and it gave them something to do at the end of each day when we were too exhausted to entertain them!

My latest creation is my best to date (well in my opinion anyway!). I managed to finish these in time to give to my children as part of their christmas gift (along with lots of other travel related items for our trip in June).

Here is a list of the supplies I used to create these journals:

  • A5 spiral bound notepad
  • Coloured and patterned paper
  • Stickers
  • Embellishments
  • Double sided sticky tape
  • Scissors

I used my computer and printer to research and print off pages for the journal.

It was handy that I knew most of our itinerary for this upcoming trip so I could coordinate the pages to suit. For some of the sections where I was unsure of our plans I kept the pages neutral.

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I wanted to create pages that didn’t require too much writing and would showcase my children’s creativity. I thought it was important to put as much information and details about our trip so that it could be looked at before we leave. The pages in the above picture were easy to produce using a printout of our flight details with a small lined area for writing and a page with a sleeve to keep the boarding passes. The sleeve was made by attaching doubled sided sticky tape around the side and bottom edges of the yellow patterned paper.

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Maps are a great addition to a page
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Information about the city of Madrid

My children love having their own copy of maps and by placing them their journal they won’t get lost or damaged and are always at hand. The information provides an educational experience and gives your child a better understanding of the place before they get there.

The above pictures show how you can embellish a page instead of leaving it blank and still allow your child to use their creativity.

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Games, quizzes and activities are an excellent way to amuse your child whilst travelling and what better way than to add them to their travel journal. We love playing the alphabet game as it can be played anywhere so why not place it next to the page corresponding to a train journey. A couple of pages about the local food is also a fun activity, it not only teaches your child about the local cuisine but it may encourage them to try new flavours. I also like to include treasure hunts or search and find activities. The picture above has paintings from the National Art Gallery in London, once my children see the painting they can record the name of the artist and the painting. It’s then a great memento of the time spent at the gallery.

I made sure that some pages were designed to store tickets and other memorabilia that gets collected along the way. I found clear pockets (usually used for selling cards) could be stuck to the page using clear double side sticky tape. I used letter stickers to spell the word tickets. I also wanted to leave blank pages at the back of the journal (I left 10 pages blank) for photos, scribbles or anything else my children would want to record.

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The final addition was to make a bookmark and of course I wanted it to have a travel quote on it! By cutting part of the heart out it can slot over the page.

I have to admit that I had so much fun and I learnt so much whilst creating these journals. My children have read them several times already and it has added to the excitement of the trip.

I hope that the pictures will give you some inspiration and help you to create a lovely travel journal for yourself or your child.

 

 

medication and travel, passport, Travel, travel insurance, travel visa requirement

Preparing your Documentation

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I’m afraid there is no sugar coating this step in the preparation of your trip. It’s not exciting or fun, however, it is vital to have your documentation in order as you won’t be going anywhere without it. Even seasoned travellers like myself have slipped up and I can tell you it’s a very stressful situation best avoided!

There are three categories of documentation to consider and organise before you travel:

  • Passport
  • Visa Requirements
  • Health and Medical Documentation

Passport

I hope it goes without saying that everyone is aware they need a passport to travel overseas. What people may not know is that your passport needs to have a certain amount of validity for entry to certain countries. I recommend that you find out what the up to date entry requirements of the countries you plan to visit (and transit through) with the relevant foreign embassy or consulate. I have devised a table further down for the most popular destinations from Australia. Please note that other country requirements may differ from these.

Visa Requirements

I am one of the privileged few that enjoys the benefit of being a dual citizen. This has huge advantages as sometimes I can use the alternative passport to avoid needing a visa. As mentioned at the start of this article I did slip up before I became a dual citizen. Before I became an Australian Citizen I held a Residency Visa in my British passport that I assumed would be valid forever. How wrong was I!! Upon leaving Australia with my two children (aged 3 and 6 years at the time) for a holiday I was informed by immigration officials that my residency return visa had expired (it only lasts 5 year) and that when I returned I would need to organise another visa. I was horrified and distraught, after living in Australia for 10 years it appeared that my future there could be uncertain. After numerous phone calls to the Australian Embassy it did all work out upon my return and I have to say the immigration officials were very nice to me. Having said that it was a harsh lesson and ultimately made the decision to become an Aussie much easier.

To avoid complications at immigration it is necessary to do your research and obtain the most recent information about your visa requirement for the country you are visiting and how to acquire it.

The following table highlights the passport validity and visa requirements for Australians*.

Country Validity of Passport Visa Requirements
New Zealand For length of stay No visa required
United States 90 days Visa Waiver Program for under 90 days
Schengen Zone** 6 months No visa for under 90 days
United Kingdom 6 months No visa for under 6 months (tourist only)
China 6 months Yes visa required
Vietnam 6 months Yes visa required
Fiji 6 months No visa for under 4 months. Return ticket is required
Indonesia 6 months No visa for under 30 days
Thailand 6 months No visa for under 30 days
Canada For length of stay No visa required

You will need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)

*Valid at the time of publication date

**Schengen countries include: Austraia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia,Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Health and Medical Documentation

It goes without saying that our health is extremely important and there are a few considerations to make before travelling overseas.

  • Travel Insurance

The first decision will be whether to take out a travel insurance policy before you head away. We’ve all heard the stories about tourists involved in accidents and unable to get treatment or left with debilitating medical bills. Numerous organisations offer travel insurance and it does pay to do some research into which policies are the best for your own needs. Many credit cards offer free travel insurance to their clients so check with your card provider to see whether that is the case. Be aware though that many insurance brokers will not pay out if you have been involved in an incident and you have alcohol in your system.

  • Vaccinations

It is worthwhile to visit you doctors’ clinic or local pharmacist to discuss whether you will need vaccinations for the country you are visiting. Many Asian, African and South American places have diseases that have been eradicated in much of the western world. We found that when we travelled to Vietnam our children had been vaccinated through their childhood immunisation program against most of the risks so they didn’t require many needles. It’s also a good idea to keep the immunisation card as a record and carry it with you on your trip. The following websites offer more information about health and vaccinations needed for travel:

http://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/health/pages/health-checks-and-vaccinations.aspx#general-recommendations-about-vaccinations

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/travel-vaccinations

  • Medication

If you regularly take medication it is imperative that you carry it with you whilst overseas. Be mindful of how long you are away for and whether you have enough to last the trip. It is also a good idea to ask your general practitioner to write a letter with details of the medication you take, how much you take and state that it is for personal use. Some countries have restrictions on certain medications; for example, you are not allowed to carry narcotics into the UAE and strict penalties such as imprisonment can apply. Always read the travel advice and check with the foreign embassy of the country you are visiting.

Now that’s all finalised…

Once you’ve organised all the necessary documentation it’s time to get back to the fun part of planning your trip. My next article will focus on how to create a beautiful travel journal.

Booking accommodation, Choosing a hotel, Hotel Reviews, Hotels

Finding the Perfect Accommodation

Now that the flights are booked it’s time to look at your accommodation options. After flights this is the next biggest cost of your trip. Your search will primarily depend upon the type of accommodation you wish to stay in. Your first decision is to work out what style of holiday you want; luxury, self-catering, backpacking, business etc. Most people know the type of travel they are going to be doing so the first decision should be fairly straightforward.

Choosing a Location

When I book accommodation for my family I always start by researching information in regards to the location of tourist attractions, accessibility to public transport or parking if we are hiring a car and whether there are facilities such as restaurants / shops in the local area. Sometimes it is cheaper to stay outside of the center and catch public transport. It is also worth checking the cost of public transport to double check that the savings are worthwhile. Also we noted that in Singapore it was always cheaper for our family of four to take a taxi instead of buying four separate metro tickets, crazy hey?! I then go onto Google maps and look at the area noting whether there is an adequate amount of accommodation. Street view also gives you a good indication of the type of area, for example, residential, business, touristy, trendy etc.

Booking Websites

It first appears that there are a myriad of hotel booking sites but in reality two key players own most of them. Priceline Group bought Kayak and they also own Booking.com and Agoda while Expedia Inc own Trivago, Wotif Group, Travelocity, Orbitz and Home and Away. On the other hand Airbnb is a privately owned company that provides a service for people to list their property as a place to stay.

If you are new to booking online it is best to use a comparison booking site such as hotelscombined.com or Trivago.com. Over time you will find your favourite site to use, however it is always beneficial to check for the lowest price (see further down for information about prices) on different sites.

I personally have successfully booked with Booking.com, Expedia.com, Home and Away, Wotif.com as well as booking directly with several accommodation hosts.

Search Criteria

Entering the correct search criteria is crucial as getting it wrong could cost you more money. First enter the name of the place, e.g. Melbourne and then enter your travel dates noting that the second date is the day you check out. Some sites may want a check-in date and then ask for the number of nights instead. It is also important to enter the number of guests including all adults, children and infants. Usually there is a drop down button that allows you to change the search from a double room to other options such as family rooms or multiple rooms. I will also try different search criterion; for example, sometimes it has been cheaper to book two double interconnecting rooms instead of a family room.

Filters

Most of the booking sites have options to filter the results displayed. It is pointless trailing through hundreds of accommodation options if a number of them are not appropriate for your needs. For example, the price is above your budget or there is no car parking available. Think of as many filters that apply to your needs, maybe you need a kitchen to prepare food, you will require baby sitting services or you want to eat breakfast at the hotel. Usually on the left hand side of the page it lists the different options that can be selected or deselected. Set the price to your budget on the slider bar and you will get the best results for your needs.

Coming soon, my article on many other considerations when booking your perfect accommodation.

Check the Reviews

Once you have narrowed down your search to a few choices it is time to do a little detective work to make sure the pictures and information are true to form. For 18 years Tripadvisor has become a useful resource for reviews on all types of accommodation as well as tourist attractions, restaurants and other travel information. The only downside to Tripadvisor is the possibility of astroturfers, the practice of writing false reviews in favour of the accommodation. It is worth reading the reviews on the booking sites as they tend to use reviews from clients who have booked the accommodation through their site. It is also worth noting that some people will complain about everything, for example, a complaint about no lift may not bother you.

Best Price

Ok, so now you have found a few places that meet your requirements and the reviews are fantastic. How do you get the best possible price? As previously mentioned the comparison websites such as Trivago and Hotelscombined are terrific to see which sites offer the lowest cost. It is also worth checking directly with the hotel to see if they can offer a better deal. However this may not give you the best price as detailed in the explanation below from the Choice website, link; (https://www.choice.com.au/travel/accommodation/hotels/buying-guides/hotel-booking) written by Zoya Sheftalovich and Jodi Bird.

An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation found Expedia and booking.com had parity clauses in their contracts with Australian hotels. These clauses bind the hotels to offer the best price and availability to the online travel agencies – the hotels can’t offer better rates on their own site.

Parity clauses aren’t unique to Australian hotels. The booking behemoths have similar clauses in many markets. This explains why in our mystery shop, the prices on the hotel’s own sites were the same as on the online booking engines.

Some competition authorities in Europe are fighting back. And the ACCC reached agreement with Expedia and booking.com to allow accommodation providers to “offer lower rates through telephone bookings and walk-ins, offer special rates and deals to customer loyalty groups, in addition to offering deals via Expedia and booking.com”.

That’s not much use if, like most people, you book online. The contracts still prevent accommodation providers from even marketing or publishing offline rates on their website.

So if you find yourself stonewalled by the same price for a room everywhere online, get on the blower and ask for a price over the phone.

Time to Book

Before you press the book button have a look to see if they offer free cancellation before a certain date or if they offer best price guarantee. Both these options will allow you to back yourself in the event you find a better deal at a later date.

And finally….don’t forget to either save or print your reservation confirmation.

Happy holidays!

Booking flights, Cheap flights, searching for flights, Travel

Planning an Overseas Trip

Planning an overseas trip can feel extremely daunting; there are flights and accommodation to book, local travel and activities to organise as well a myriad of other matters to arrange. Add to that a foreign language and different currency and it can seem like the odds are stacked against you.

Fear not though as the process can actually be enjoyable once you have strategies in place.

I am currently organising a five-week trip to Spain, France, the UK and Singapore with my husband and two children. I will offer my experience, strategies and tips in order for you to accomplish a wonderful itinerary. I will break the information into several sections so that it is easier to follow and won’t feel like an overload of information in one go. I will start with the process of booking flights as without flights you won’t get anywhere!

Searching the Internet

Of course, some people still like to arrange their trip through a travel agent and that is fine if you are happy to pay a little extra for this convenience. However, most people nowadays are confident enough to book their own flights on the Internet. The first step is to decide which search engines you will use to find the best deals. I personally like to use the following websites (please note, I am not affiliated to any of these sites) they are just my preference:

www.Momondo.com.au

www.skyscanner.com.au

www.budgetair.com.au

www.jetabroad.com.au

I will be honest and say that I have never booked through any of the above websites. I only use the sites to provide a comparison as to which airline is offering the best deals. I then search on the airline’s website with the identical search criteria. I know many people who have booked through the above websites companies and everything has gone to plan. Personally, I feel more confident booking directly with the airline as I like the security that if anything in the booking goes wrong then you are dealing directly with the airline and not a third-party. In the majority of cases the airlines’ price is comparable to that of the above sites.

The key to finding excellent deals is searching regularly and as early as possible once you know your dates. In days gone by airlines would sell seats for bargain basement prices at the last minute. Sadly those days are over and airlines put the prices up as the departure date gets nearer. I learnt this when I had to fly to Spain unexpectedly at the last minute.

I have read so many articles claiming that six weeks prior to departure is the ultimate time but in my opinion it’s a good idea to keep an eye on flights as early as possible and to continual monitor prices.

My family has found amazing deals for flights just because we happened to search at the right time.

Date of Travel

If possible be flexible with your dates as this can drastically reduce the cost of a flight. There are many articles on the Internet claiming that a Tuesday is the cheapest day to fly and in contrast Friday or Sunday are the most expensive.

If you can be flexible most comparison websites allow you to tick a box that will produce results for 3 days before and after your selected date of travel. The majority of the time I do not have the luxury of adjusting our dates as we have to give a long period of notice for holiday leave and of course we want to make the most of every day we have off work. Having said that I have always been happy with the deals we have managed to find.

Origin and Arrival Airport

I will always search alternative origachievement-art-camera-970203 (1)in and arrival airports as this can make a huge difference in the cost of travel. For example, when we fly to Spain to visit family I always compare flying to either Madrid or Barcelona. The distance to our final destination is roughly the same to each of these airports. I also go one step ahead and check train prices from each airport as that can sometimes cancel out any savings on the flights.

If you are contemplating a stopover it is also worth exploring different places as part of your search. For example our flights to return to Melbourne from Madrid worked out cheaper with a stopover at Singapore as opposed to Dubai with Emirates.

Top Secret

No I don’t mean that you are going to become a spy! Have you ever noticed the adverts that pop up based on what you have been looking for on the internet. This is called behavioural targeting. It is a technique used by online advertisers to increase the effectiveness of their advertisements based on information collectedon an individual’s Web-browsing habits, such as the pages they have visited or the searches they have made. It is also claimed that these companies will alter pricing based on your search history. I have never noticed this myself, however, I always turn on incognito mode just in case.

Sign Up

Signing up to several airlines will give you the latest news regarding their sales. I have an email address set up just for such correspondence. That way it doesn’t clog up your everyday email with numerous offers and bulletins.

Added Extras

It is worth checking to see what is included in your fare before pressing the purchase button. Many budget airlines add

on exorbitant fess for luggage, seat selection and meal plans. It is also worth noting that some ‘all inclusive’ airlines are venturing down this path. For example some ‘all inclusive’ airlines now charge a fee for seat selection if you purchase a saver/economy fare. Of course if you don’t care where you sit then these fares are excellent choices.

What..Not More Charges!

bank-banking-blue-50987It matters a great deal how you pay for your flights. Paying by credit is very convenient, however, most airlines will add an extra fee for this payment method. Personally I am happy to pay the extra fee as we get the added benefit of free travel insurance from our credit card provider. The credit card provider may also add an international transaction fee to the total amount if the payment is made in a different currency.

Other ways to pay to avoid extra fees can be by debit card, BPay (although you may still be charged if it is linked to a credit card) and POLi (an Australian based payment company). It is always advisable to check on the airline’s website to find out the best and cheapest way to pay.

It’s an amazing, somewhat exhilarating feeling once the flights are booked and the foundation for your trip has been created.

Now the fun begins…bon voyage!