Choosing your holiday destination

Kicking back at Katherine Gorge, NT.

So, you have decided now is the time to set off on a new adventure and explore more of what Australia has to offer.

If you’re the type of person who has a bucket list prominently displayed on your corkboard above your desk with locations and experiences that routinely get crossed off as the funds and time permit, that’s wonderful! You have the luxury of being able to jump right into planning that dream trip. For the large majority though, this isn’t usually the case. Many people have no idea where they want to go or what they want to do. They may simply want to kick back and enjoy every minute of holiday time.

There are many, many factors to consider when deciding on your next travel destination. I’m going to attempt to cover some main points which will hopefully narrow your choices down a little and minimise the overwhelm.

Your Reason For Travel

The first thing I think about when selecting my holiday destination is WHY I want to do this trip.

• Is it to attend an event or festival I’ve been dying to go to?

• Do I want to get away and clear my head and chill for a few weeks?

• Do I want to show my children a place where they can experience a different culture or have a learning opportunity?

• Is it bucket list location?

This plays a huge part in how long you will be away, who you will travel with, the amount of money you will need and help you to make the first cut in location options.

Bit too close for comfort on the Adelaide River, NT.

How Much Time Do I Have?

Australia is a big place! If you are planning on doing a road trip through outback Queensland for instance, you may need to budget a fair amount of travelling time. The distances between towns can be very long and you don’t want to be exhausted each time you arrive in a new location, or worse be tired while you drive.

You also need to look at the environment you will be travelling in, it’s not safe to travel on outback and country roads at dawn and dusk due to wildlife being on the roads. This will affect your travelling time frames even more. Be realistic. A wonderful option if you have a week or two is somewhere like Tasmania or maybe a road trip through country Victoria. The towns and attractions are nice and close and you can fit so much more into a day.

Get your map out, look up Google maps and figure out the distances in kilometers and time to go from A to B.

Who Will Be Travelling With Me?

Over the years we have travelled as a couple, then with my father, then with one child and now, with two kids. Our last major trip included all the above plus our friends and their two children.

Depending on who you choose to travel with will impact on the following-

• When you will be able to set off (taking into consideration work and school holidays)?

• The modes of transport you will use (is everyone able to fly, will flying mean having to bring prams and child seats, is there someone who can’t bear the thought of being on a ship crossing Bass Strait to get to Tasmania, can everyone travel long distances in a car, will you need to hire a larger vehicle to fit Nan and Pop in!?

• What accommodation will you need? Will you be staying in a motel, cabin, hotel or caravan park or were you hoping to take your caravan or camper and free camp? Will everyone be happy to ‘rough it’ a little or are hot showers daily be a non- negotiable?

• Will you need to make regular stops for kids to stretch their legs and release some energy?

• Will you need to be close to medical help as someone has a health condition?

• The activities you choose. If you’re planning to tackle the Uluru base walk with your 4 year old whose little legs tire easily, after almost 10klms in the heat carrying a little one will definitely be memorable, maybe just not in the way you imagined!

Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.Dalai Lama

When Can I Travel?

As a family, we usually work in with the slow time for Trev’s business and also look at the seasons.

The northern parts of Australia are not ruled by spring, summer, autumn or winter, but by the wet or the dry season. The wet season (also known as the monsoon season) runs between the months of October to April. It’s usually very hot, very humid and very … wet! The dry season is usually between May and September and is the most popular time to travel in these areas as the skies are clear, the sun is shining and the smiles are big.

Australia’s outback is obviously an extremely hot place to be in summer. Because of this most tour companies operate during the cooler months. Be sure to check beforehand.

As mentioned above, school and work holiday times are also something to think about. Do you want to avoid school holiday time so it’s quieter? Remember each state has different school holiday dates.

Grub’s Up in Narrabri, NSW

What’s Your Travel Style?

Like your ‘why’, your travel style will set the foundation for your holiday. If you are planning on travelling in a group, it’s important to be clear on what you’re hoping to get out of this time away. If you’re looking to fill every spare moment with adventure and dare devil activities, whereas the rest of the group love wandering through museums and galleries this is something that needs to be ironed out well before you finalise any plans and bookings.

On our last trip with our friends, we agreed if either of us didn’t want to do a planned dinner or activity, there was no issue, we’d just have a meet up location and time and catch up afterwards. When travelling in a group, especially with other families, it always pays to be upfront and honest with your plans and be open to other suggestions and compromises. That way everyone enjoys their experience.

Have a good think about what you are hoping to experience. Below are some examples:

• Do you dream of a road trip on a budget, camping or staying in cheap cabins and cooking your own food rather than eating out? Or are you looking to really live it up, fly to your location, stay in a nice hotel and eat out at restaurants each night?

• Do you have your heart set on exploring Aboriginal culture in the outback or would prefer to experience a farm stay at a working cattle station.

• Are you looking for an adventure holiday or are you seeking some much needed R and R?

• Do you prefer to map out your days and get off the beaten track on a DIY tour or would you prefer to jump in an air-conditioned coach and let an experienced guide do all the driving and talking while you sit back and enjoy the view.

Remember, it’s important to be true to yourself and do what makes you happy. You don’t want to get back home and be kicking yourself because you didn’t get to take that flight over Uluru like you had hoped for!

Sharing a Kakadu sunrise with fellow travellers in our tour group.

What Is Your Budget?

Sure, this will have a massive impact on what you are able to do, where you can stay and your dining experiences but the beauty of Australia is there are so many budget conscious options available in all locations. So you mightn’t have the cash to splurge on a scenic flight over the bungle bungles and stay in the lap of luxury at The homestead at El Questro Wildnerness Park, but you can still camp or stay in a cabin at El Questro and walk around the Bungle bungles.

It just takes a bit of researching, looking into peak and low seasons, checking out hot deals and being a little bit more creative!

Look into rewards and memberships such as for BIG4 and other holiday parks, NRMA, pensioner concessions and student discounts.

Learn about and understand your vehicle. See how many litres it will do for every 100klms travelled and use our fuel calculation post to get an idea on your fuel budget.

If you want to see as much of Australia as you can for as little money as possible, I suggest also checking out some budget tours. We did a tour through a reputable company over a two and a half week period. We travelled in an air-conditioned coaster bus or 4WD specially designed troop carrier, slept either in hostels or in permanently erected tents in a private campground, we had to help with preparing meals and cleaning up afterwards but I tell you it was the best bunch of people to travel with. The tour guides were second to none, the kilometres we covered and the amount of awesome sights we saw was fantastic, I couldn’t fault the food served and the best part was we saved an absolute fortune! In fact, it was quite funny because each location we went to we were followed closely by a much more expensive coach tour who in some locations, couldn’t gain access due to not having the ground clearance that we did. The people on that other bus saw exactly the same locations as us, but like when we arrived in Uluru to watch the sunset, they stood next to us with their champagne flutes while we drank our champagne from plastic cups!

When it all boils down, when deciding on where to take off to for your next trip away, you need to take into account the reasoning behind why you are making the trip, consider your fellow travellers, be realistic, use a bit of common-sense and do some research.

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