Over the past month I have posted small extracts and adventures from the trip of a lifetime, a month long back pack around Australia. Now I want to share just a taste of the preparation, the route we took, some lessons learned and encourage you to follow your heart. Get those bucket list items ticked off. We are not your average mid-study break back packers, we are in our 50s, one retired early, one on a gap year forced in part by redundancy. We come from an era when only the well off or downright rich went to university in the UK, let alone took gap years or travelled further afield than Europe. Between us we have dodgy knees, achy backs and a fear of flying however decided it was now time to do the once in a lifetime journey to the other side of the world.
I know so many people wait until they retire in their late 60s or even 70s before they plan a trip of a lifetime. Please don’t wait, do it now, apologies if you are already that age, do it now anyway! The older you get the less likely you are to have great health. The cost of insurance, if you can get it as you age, could be prohibitive. You may have other responsibilities, carer duties, grand babies etc that you don’t want to, or indeed can’t, leave. You may not want to sit on an cramped aircraft for hours and hours and hours at a time.
After many months or dipping in and out of preparation, guide books and internet advice forums I had finally drawn up a schedule for the trip. I did the 1-2-3 method of preparation, I’d recommend it, you won’t be able to do everything so this method helps you decide on your priorities and route:
1 – DO NOT MISS!
2 – Would really love to do
3 – If it can be fitted in we’ll do it
Once you start planning and discussing your trip you will realise everyone has an opinion. I had people telling me I just had to stay at this particular 5 star hotel, or just had to fly business class, or use this particular high end operator. Well, I know others may choose that way and good luck to them, however if I’d gone down that route a month long trip would soon end at a week due to budget constraints. I knew if I planned it right I could get a month in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand stretching the budget to fit. I’m a member of YHA UK so knew straight away that would be an option in most cities. I would add in a couple of ‘nice’ hotels along the way, I recommend this if you are backpacking. I booked the nights before big flights, it gave us a chance to pamper ourselves, do laundry, repack from scratch, dump extra baggage etc. The joy of a full length mirror, a king size bed and free toiletries can never be under-estimated.
Below the itinerary shows the places we stopped in and how we travelled between. When we were there we discovered a lot of people travelled in the opposite direction, North to South, so this just gives you options. It is basically a big D shape, up the East Coast, over the top, down the middle and back. I’ve included the initial stop over as it eats into the schedule but is worth the break from the long flights.
- Australia is MASSIVE, you can not see it all. People who live there do not see it all.
- Plan your trip, especially arrivals. A lot of buses arrive in the dark in the middle of nowhere.
- ALWAYS carry drinking water, in your own reusable refillable bottle (bought ours on first day from YHA)
- Driving is often boring, mile after mile of same, it’s tiring, it’s a waste of time if you are on a deadline, road trains are scary.
- ALWAYS let people know your plans, both relatives at home and locals e.g. Hostel you are due to arrive at.
- Speak to the hostel owners, locals, staff, they know stuff that isn’t written down anywhere.
- Have humble expectations, it takes along time to get anywhere, it really is MASSIVE.
I’m not a tour operator, this was very much a personal trip organised to meet our dreams and enable us to see the things we listed as 1’s on our list. We fitted in the 2’s and most of the 3’s but not all. You will have to make sacrifices but when you plan it yourself you can do it much cheaper than organised options, unless you are alone when it could be worthwhile to have the reassurance of company. G Adventures are usually well priced. If you haven’t planned such a trip yourself, or been back packing Australia is probably a good country to try it. I don’t do regret, maybe I would do it differently, maybe not. You decide what you need and plan well ahead to get the bargains, especially on flights. Long haul prices don’t often come down, they go up. If you have any long haul aspirations do them soon, the cost of air flight will grow in years to come as oil becomes more precious. Save the local holidays for your dotage. I plan to do Lake Garda in my old age, maybe I’ve read too many books but it seems that sort of place doesn’t it? Good enough for DH Lawrence is good enough for me.
Day 1 – Fly Heathrow to Dubai (Join Airline loyalty schemes in advance)
Day 2 – Fly Dubai to Hong Kong (AMAZING! I loved it here)
Acc: Hong Kong YHA
Day 3 – Hong Kong YHA
Day 4 – Hong Kong YHA
Day 5 – Fly Hong Kong to Brisbane – overnight – a great way to save money and time
Day 6 – Fly Brisbane to Sydney (indirect saved quite a lot, speak with travel agents like STA who specialise in gap years)
Acc: Sydney YHA Rocks
Day 7 – Sydney YHA Rocks
Day 8 – Sydney YHA Rocks
Day 9 – Blue Mountains (lucky enough to stay with family that night)
Day 10 – Fly back to Brisbane (road journey between is apparently long and boring so we flew to save time)
Acc: Brisbane YHA
Day 11 – Bus Brisbane to Noosa (Buses are good, we didn’t do high season so they weren’t too busy. Take food, book, water, don’t rely on wifi it may not work)
Acc: YHA, Noosa
Day 12 – YHA, Noosa – I loved it here, glad we had time to enjoy it
Day 13 – Bus Noosa to Hervey Bay
Acc: Hervey Bay YHA
Day 14 – Bus Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach
Acc: Airlie Beach YHA
Day 15 – Cruise of Whitsunday Islands (Can’t recommend this highly enough)
Acc: On board
Day 16 – Cruise of Whitsunday Islands (Can’t recommend this highly enough)
Acc: On Board
Day 17 – Cruise of Whitsunday Islands (Can’t recommend this highly enough)
Acc: Airlie Beach YHA
Day 18 – Bus Airlie Beach to Townsville (to break up otherwise very long trip)
Acc: Reef Lodge, Townsville
Day 19 – Bus Townsville to Cairns (maybe in hind sight would re-examine this bit of trip it was rushed)
Acc: Cairns YHA
Day 20 – Fly Cairns to Darwin
Acc: Hilton, Darwin
Day 21 – Fly Darwin to Alice Springs
Acc: YHA, Alice Springs
Day 22 – Red Centre Tour – book through hostel for discount
Acc: Camping under the stars (another highlight)
Day 23 – Red Centre Tour
Acc: Camping under the stars
Day 24 – Red Centre Tour
Acc: YHA, Alice Springs
Day 25 – Fly Alice Springs to Adelaide (I wanted to do Ghan train but it only travels on certain days of the week, plan ahead)
Acc: Adelaide YHA
Day 26 – Adelaide YHA
Day 27 – Fly Adelaide to Melbourne
Acc: Melbourne YHA
Day 28 – Melbourne YHA – I adore Melbourne, think I like it more than Sydney, just
Day 29 – Fly Melbourne to Auckland – I’ll tell you about that very soon
I’m happy to share any other information if you wish to contact me direct.
http://www.christieadamswriter.com/contact-me/ (You will become a signed up member of my online community as a result)