The world is changing fast, and if you're off to explore it then you need to know the latest tricks before you go.
The lure of the unknown, the wonder of other cultures … and the confusion of planning. It has never been easier to plan your travel experience … or get lost in a sea of options.
With so much information at your fingertips, you could end up spending as much time on the research as you do on the trip.
The trick to successful travel planning – and the actual travelling – is getting the basics right. Like these …
This is the start of a series of travel tips stories in future editions of RoyalAuto that will open up the world even more.
Finding a flight
Expedia, Skyscanner and Flight Centre compare a range of airlines and sort by price, duration and even stop-overs. Still check the airline’s website because the price may be cheaper.
If your schedule isn’t overly strict, try changing the day of the week on your flight search; a travel agent told me that, for departing Australia, Wednesdays are cheaper than Fridays, and on a search for flights to Europe he was right.
But it's a far bigger picture than just the day of the week, and a good website for getting the best fare on a flexible schedule is matrix.itasoftware.com. You set parameters such as stops, cost, availability and so on, and you get a calendar of various fares.
The fun doesn’t stop there. If you need to search or book an internal flight between European, American or Asian cities, start with Kayak.com to compare airlines. Short flights can be cheaper than train travel and are a great option for the time-poor traveller.
Map it out
A friend using their home mobile in Paris did a Google Maps search which cost $400. He had a paper map but wanted to visit an area on the city's fringe and took a peek on his phone. Kapow!
A solution is offline maps – work out which areas you'll visit and store the maps on your phone or tablet before you leave Australia. Google Maps has this, but other apps do just as well, e.g. City Maps 2Go and Pocket Earth.
‘Free’ is a word much loved by travellers, and when paired with ‘walking tours’ it’s even sweeter. Search TripAdvisor for free tours in a particular city. Sandemans is popular in Europe, taking in major sites and attractions. Guides work for tips only, so pay what you think it was worth.
Cash or card
There’s a generation of Australians who have never seen a traveller’s cheque, because there are smarter ways to manage your cash.
Credit cards such as GE Money’s 28 Degrees Mastercard have no annual fee or conversion fees.
Pre-loaded travel cards, available from banks and companies such as Travelex, can be purchased for a fee, loaded with the currency – or multiple currencies – of your choice and used like a ATM or credit card, with cash withdrawals attracting a small fee.
Just remember that when buying these cards, you’re converting your dollars into a foreign currency, and that conversion rate is locked then and there. If exchange rates alter drastically while you’re away, you don’t get the benefit – or the disadvantage – of the current rate.
You can transfer more cash to them via BPay but sometimes there’s a delay of a few days before the money is credited, so don’t leave it to the last minute to top up. This usually isn’t the case if you use a card issued by your bank; you just do an internet banking transfer and it’s instant.
Be smarter than your phone
For many, the threat of a huge phone bill is enough to leave the mobile at home, and this threat is genuine! If you access your local carrier’s data or make calls overseas, the cost is very high.
So tell family and friends to contact you via email. You no longer have to look hard to find free wi-fi; only high-end (or mean) hotels now charge for it, and many public areas have free wi-fi zones.
RACV members get discounts on roaming SIM cards, travel insurance, car and campervan hire (Aust and NZ) and more. Go to racv.com.au/travel, call 13 13 29 or visit any RACV shop.
If you're planning to drive overseas, the International Driving Permit is essential in some countries. Get the details of how to apply at racv.com.au/travel.
RACV shops have a wide range of discounted international guides and maps. Visit any RACV shop or buy at racv.com.au/shop.