So you’ve decided to take the kids on holiday to a different country, or a cruise. With the right preparation, it will be as enjoyable for you, as for your family. Rather than leave the wife to do all organising, be a man and share in some of the work. This could include investigating accommodation, destinations and the red-tape you have to navigate. We’ll even give you a starting list of family friendly destinations. You will impress your wife, and delight your children.
Eastern philosophy aside (it’s the trip, not the destination and all that “Zen”), it does help if you know where you are going. So what do you want to look for in a family destination? You need a location that provides activities that will appeal to your children and yourselves; sometimes as a family and sometimes apart. You may also want to visit places that entertain and inform, or are in line with your family’s values. Here is a list of places and their qualities that you may choose to visit.
Of all the places in Australia, Queensland would be the most family friendly and has the most diverse range of activities. The Gold Coast below Brisbane has a lot of great family attractions, including theme parks and family resorts as well as natural beauty spots for quieter (aka cheaper) jaunts. So too does the Sunshine coast above Brisbane, what with the famous “Australian Zoo” (Steve Erwins place) and The Big Pineapple. If enjoying sealife is your thing, then use Cairns as your springboard to the Great Barrier Reef or the tropical rainforests of the far North Coast of Queensland.
If you favour a cooler climate then Tasmania is also good for eco-touring and historical flavour. If culture and shopping is your thing, then a trip to Melbourne is advised; it has a world class gallery, lots of theatre and museums and great restaurants. Melbourne is also good for older teens, as the night life is vibrant. Foodies may wish to visit Adelaide and the Barossa Valley in South Australia. If crocodiles, camels, breathtaking desserts and a big red rock “rock” your world, head for the beauty of Kakadu in the Northern Territory. Canberra is very family friendly city in the middle of nowhere with history, great kids activities, flat enough to bike around and only a short (5 hours) drive from Sydney. Just don’t feed the politicians, it might encourage them!
If you wish to travel further afield, then I would recommend Japan, great for the family that wishes to expose itself to a different culture. Japan has many family-oriented sites; Tokyo and Osaka are both great destinations to visit, but must warn you, very expensive place to be. If you’re not comfortable with totally foreign fields, then USA is in the opposite direction. Of the major cities worth visiting try Los Angeles, California, or Orlando, Florida as they have lots of family attractions. Alternatively London and Rome offer a great historical experience. Of course with careful research, any location will reveal its family-geared attractions and events. Get yourself on line and look around. Alternatively drop in to a travel agent and grab a few brochures to see what’s on offer and use them as a springboard for your holiday plans.
If going somewhere specific is not your flavour, then perhaps a cruise ship might be what you’re looking for. Make sure you choose one that is definitely family-centric. Some cruises specialise in senior travel and others on single travel. Check online to see how they advertise the boat and ask a travel agent for their opinion.
A roof and a plate
Having settled on a destination, you then have to decide where you’ll stay. A family will increase the cost of accommodation greatly, and on top of that you have to factor in food and sundries as well. But a roof over your head is the first concern, the good news it can be done very cheaply.
One such roof is a canvas roof – i.e., camping. However, if you holiday in summer you will want to stay south of the equator, unless camping in cold weather is something you can do. Camping is great; you get to choose the size of the accommodation to suit your family and can buy a tent that can be used and re-used. On the downside, you have to travel with your accommodation and that might boost your luggage bill with your airline. Some camping grounds/caravan parks may provide cabins or tents for your family. In that case, they may require that you provide your own sheets, blankets and towels. When choosing a caravan park/camping ground it’s a good idea to see if they offer kids activities during peak seasons. This gives the parents a chance for a break from the kids and vice-a-versa.
If camping is not for you, then you can look at a range of bricks and mortar. Firstly Hotels/Motels; the more stars the more facilities and theoretically the better quality, but normally at higher prices. It can be done cheaper. Check and see if the accommodation offers extra beds for extra kids, perhaps adjoining rooms might work. Some accommodation offer family suites for a premium. Resorts provide both accommodation and food, and some resorts also offer programmed activities for all family members, even sullen teenagers (well, if they can be bothered). Meals on cruises and at some resorts are usually included in the cost, but once again you’ll have to confirm that. Some hotels and most B&B’s (Bed and Breakfasts) will throw in a free breakfast. Finally self-contained apartments are a home-away-from-home affair, but that means providing your own food and entertainment, as well as, possibly, a few extras.
In order to travel overseas you need to organise the following:
A passport is a document that identifies you and your family and your country of origin. It means that you are allowed to travel to different locations and is required to be shown when you enter any country whether you travel by air, boat or even car. Your starting point is the NZ Passport website where they offer a 10-day turnaround when applying online. First time passport holders pay $140 per adult and $81.70 per child, and everyone needs their own passport. Children will also need signed consent from their parents/legal guardian in order to travel (click here for the relevant form). You must get a passport BEFORE you get a visa.
Visas are authorisations issued by a country that entitle you to travel within its borders. They also specify what you can and can’t do in that country while you are visiting. You would normally be applying for a tourist visa that entitles you to a defined period of stay but prohibits you from earning income within that country for that duration. Other visas will allow you work and holiday for a limited time, or to live temporarily in that country. Every traveller will need a visa in order to enter the country, and some countries also require you pay for an exit visa to leave the country. Your first starting point is the embassy of the country you are travelling to. This webpage contains a list of embassies in NZ. Please visit the embassy’s website for information on how to obtain required visas and their associated costs. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has a similar list.
Most countries charge a departure tax that will need to be factored into the cost of travel. These are usually charged at the airport but may be included in your ticket costs. Please confirm with your travel agent and with your destination in order to be prepared. In New Zealand the standard fee is $25 per person (children under 12 are free) if you are travelling from any airport except Auckland, where the tax is normally included in the price of the ticket.
Travelling to a foreign destination requires the local currency for spending. It’s a bit of a gamble as to when to get it, also where, as the exchange rate fluctuates on a daily basis. Then there is the issue of protecting your currency when you’re there. So here are some tips.
Get your currency from a post office or a bank. Don’t go to a small foreign exchange booth or do it at the airport as they charge a premium on top of the normal exchange rate. They say they don’t but they always offer a rate of exchange that is slightly less than the market rate in order to profit from the transaction.
It might be wise to invest in Traveller’s cheques. Available from several organisations in New Zealand, like American Express and Travellex, these are private notes with security features that can be exchanged and traded like real cash. Be careful though, not all shops accept them. The security features protect your currency holding so if they are stolen or lost they are easy to replace. Once again they charge a premium rate, but they do provide peace of mind.
Another option is to get a credit card that is specifically for travel. It can be any credit card, but asked for a maximum limit on transactions. Note that transactions conducted overseas are exchanged at a rate determined by the issuer and then an additional processing charge is applied on top of the transaction. However a credit card is a good form of protection and can be cancelled and reissued easily.
These are starting points for organising the basics. Other things you need to think about include what to pack, when to go and travelling safely. There are lots of sites out there that provide this sort of advice. I’d like to know what your travel organisation tips are, please feel free to post in the comments below. And I hope you have a great holiday!