Patty's Travel Tips

Passport

You need to ensure that you have at least 6 months validity on your passport from the date of your return to Australia

Visa

Re-entry visa’s will or may be required for travellers leaving Australia holding a foreign passport. It is your responsibility to check if your re-entry visa is current.

Travel insurance

“If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel!”

You have probably heard this phrase at some point before, and it could not be more accurate. Travel insurance is essential to any trip as it covers your medical expenses, valuables, and travel plans should there be a delay or interruption to your schedule. Pre-existing conditions and any specific activities, such as skiing, can also be covered.

From the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade

“Travellers without travel insurance are personally liable for covering any medical and associated costs they incur. The Australian Government will not pay for your medical treatment overseas or medical evacuation to Australia or a third country.  Your family may foot the bill.”

https://smartraveller.gov.au/help/me/australia/planning/Pages/travel-insurance.aspx

Travel Insurance – Cruising

Medicare benefits are not payable for journeys between an Australian port and a foreign port, or between two foreign ports.

International Driving Permits

If you intend driving overseas an International Driving Permit (IDP) is a useful travel document and is required for renting a motor vehicle in many countries.  Also, most car rental companies require a credit card imprint before allowing the vehicle to be hired. If you require more information on

Taxes

Most airport taxes are pre-paid. However, some countries still require travellers to pay arrival/departure tax locally.

Some hotels charge a resort fee which is payable locally on check-in.

Medicine

If you are unable to carry enough medication for your entire trip, make sure you take a letter from your doctor detailing the medication, dosage and what it is for. Some medication is illegal in some countries.  A letter from your doctor explaining that your drugs are medically prescribed and are for personal use can also ease your way through customs checkpoints. It is recommended all medication be packed in your carry-on luggage as checked luggage can get lost.  You do not want arrive at your destination and the first thing you have to do is look for a doctor and pharmacist to get a new prescription.

Australia has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements

(RHCA) are with 11 countries – Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, Nederland’s, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden, and United Kingdom. They cover the cost of medically necessary care when Australians are abroad.

This does not replace your need for travel insurance.  Not all services are covered and there may be additional expenses.

Vaccination

Check with health professionals for information on recommended vaccinations and other health precautions.

First-Aid Kit

Bring a travel first aid kit with the following: pain killers, decongestant, NyQuil, bandages, hydrocortisone cream. You will not believe how often it will come in handy.

Are you pregnant?

For most women, travelling during pregnancy is safe, but it requires forward planning, see your doctor well in advance.  Some airlines around the world have different restrictions on pregnant women travelling and you may not be allowed to fly as late into your pregnancy as in Australia.  It is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor verifying the stage of your pregnancy & check your travel insurance covers your pregnancy.

Checked Luggage and Seat Fees

Bookings made on some airlines may not automatically include a check-in baggage allowance. Check-in baggage allowances included in the fare purchased will be listed on your booking confirmation. Baggage fees may be charged directly by the airline for adding or increasing check-in baggage allowances, please note higher charges may be imposed at the airport for any additional requirements that are not pre-arranged. Check-in baggage fees are non-refundable once purchased.

Some airlines allow seating to be requested once tickets are issued. Requests cannot be guaranteed.  Some airlines will charge a fee to request specific seats or exit row seats (terms and conditions vary from airline to airline). Once this fee is paid, seats are non-refundable and non-changeable.

Packing for your holiday

  • Check the weather.  Before you even put one item into your suitcase, check the upcoming weather forecast for your destination. Having an insight into the weather conditions will help you to decide the type of clothes you will need.
  • When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take away half your clothes and add twice the money.
  • Roll your cloths.  Roll each item separately or roll a group of items together before packing them, and you will be amazed at the extra amount of space you will create in your bag!
  • Always pack a small towel.  It is the key to successful galactic hitchhiking and plain common sense. You never know when you will need it, whether it is at the beach, on a picnic, or just to dry off.
  • Do not pack anything that needs ironing.
  • If you cannot afford to lose it, either financially or emotionally, do not pack it.
  • Be prepared for the possibility you could be separated from your checked luggage. Pack in your carry-on luggage cloths for two days
  • Pack in your carry-on luggage basic travel-sized toiletries.  You will arrive to your destination feeling fresh.
  • You can bring batteries on planes, although how you pack them depends on the type of battery.  Dry batteries (your common household AA, AAA, C, and D batteries) are allowed in both carry-on and checked bags. Lithium batteries with 100-watt hours or less in a device are allowed in carry-on bags and checked bags, with some limits. Lithium batteries with more than 100-watt hours are only allowed in carry-on bags, under the same limits as above. Non-spill able wet batteries are allowed in carry-on bags with limits on quantity and size, and in checked bags with no restrictions. Spill able batteries are not allowed to be brought on the plane, except for those in wheelchairs.
  • Toilet paper is not a given in many parts of the world. Which is why those little packs of tissues they sell are a godsend
  • Bring an empty water bottle.  Instead of buying bottled water at the airport, bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it up after you pass through security. If possible, bring a collapsible bottle that can be tucked into your luggage when it is empty to save you carrying it around.
  • Bring a massage ball with you.  A simple ball can work out sore muscles during a long flight. You can also place it between your seat and your shoulders and lean back on it for muscle relief.
  • Put all your tech stuff in one bag.  Cords, chargers, devices, camera accessories and external drives.  All these tech items, small and tangled as they are, can make a mess in your luggage. Tame them by storing all tech items in one zip able bag.
  • Make sure your luggage is unique and easily recognisable. There is nothing worse than getting off a long flight and standing at the baggage carousel being unable to locate your bag amongst the 33 black suitcases with silver handles. Put your name and address on a travel tag and attach it to your bag, tie some colourful ribbon around one of the handles or decorate your baggage with stickers from all the different travel destinations you have been to. Do something that will distinguish your bag from the rest, so that somebody doesn’t accidentally take your luggage (or vice-versa), leaving you without your belongings on your holiday, and creating a whole lot of easily avoidable hassle.
  • Before you leave, create a checklist of the essential things you use every day so that no important item is overlooked. You wouldn’t want to be a thousand miles away without your phone charger, would you?

Before Departure

  • Centrelink Payments:  There are rules about how Centrelink payments or concession cards may be affected if you leave Australia.  You should check the Department of Human Services website to find out how many absences from Australia could affect your payment.
  • Power of attorney:    Make sure you have considered what may happen in the event you are unable to make important decisions, and whom you may trust to do so on your behalf. Consider who will pay your bills or look after your finances when you are out of the country, appoint a trusted person to make decisions for you in the event you become unable to.
  • It is always good to have a spare copy of your important documents. Scan them and email them to yourself and make two photocopies.  Leave one copy with someone at home and keeping the other copy with you, separate from the original.  Documents such as passports, travel insurance, itinerary and tickets, credit card numbers, driver’s licence, or international driving permit.
  • Notify your bank of your overseas travel plans.   Banks do whatever they can to protect you from identity theft. But if you are not careful, your bank’s eagerness could backfire when you travel. If they spot transactions in an unfamiliar location, your bank may assume your card is being used fraudulently and shut it off. When you let your bank know that you are going away, they add a record to your account and share it with their fraud detection system. This prevents your “abnormal” spending patterns from triggering a block on your card.
  • Organise for someone to water your plants and collect the mail.
  • If you do not speak the local language of the places you are heading, then at least learn the following phrases:  “Please”  “Thank you”  “I am Sorry” “Do you have those shoes in a size 8”.
  • Change money ahead of time.  Avoid changing your money at the airport, where you will most likely pay high exchange rates.  Instead, shop around for the best rates and terms and order currency in advance to get the best deal.
  • Register your holidays with DFAT: https://www.orao.dfat.gov.au/pages/userlogin.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fpages%2fsecured%2fdefault.aspx

Check-in – Recommended

International – 3 hours prior to departure

Domestic – 1 hour prior to departure

Whilst you are on holiday

  • Laundry.  Wash your clothes in the sink/shower.  Use the hotel soap or take a little traveller sized bottle of laundry detergent with you. It is much easier than finding a laundromat in a foreign country.
  • Keep an open mind.  Do not judge the lifestyles or customs of others if different from your own. Embrace different possibilities, opinions, religions, customs, and interests. Ask questions. You do not have to agree with everyone, but you may be surprised what you will learn from the people you meet during your travels. Be respectful of the culture you are going to.
  • Always reconfirm your transfers and tours with the land operator, 24 hours prior to the date booked. If language is an issue, ask the receptionist at the hotel to reconfirm on your behalf.
  • Airlines do not require you to reconfirm your flights. However, it is recommended you go to the airline’s website to check if your flight number and departure times are still the same as per your ticket.
  • Keep in touch.  Every year, DFAT receives thousands of calls from worried family members and friends who have not heard from someone who is travelling. Keeping in touch not only saves your friends and family a lot of worries, but it can also make it easier to find you in an emergency.
  • For the best of the best local food, look for places that are popular with the locals themselves.
  • Arrive at the airport with a fully loaded portable charger and plug it in whenever possible.
  • At the end of a long flight, it is likely you will want to grab your luggage and escape the airport as swiftly as possible. Make luggage identification easier by tying a bright ribbon or colourful luggage strap on your bags so you can spot them easily.
  • Patience is important.  Do not sweat the stuff you cannot control.  Life is much too short to be angry and annoyed all the time.  Did you miss your bus?  No worries, there will be another one.  ATMs out of money?  Great! Take an unplanned road trip over to the next town and explore. Long security lines at airports! Just take a deep breath and remind yourself that it could be worse.
  • Wake up early to avoid crowds.  Rise before sunrise to have the best attractions all to yourself while avoiding large tourist crowds. It is also a magical time for photos due to soft diffused light, and it is usually easier to interact with locals getting ready for their day.
  • Observe daily life around you.  If you really want to get a feel for the pulse of a place, spend a few hours sitting in a park or on a busy street corner by yourself just watching day to day life happen in front of you.  Slow down your train of thought and pay close attention to the details around you. The smells, the colours, human interactions, and sounds.  You’ll see stuff you never noticed before.
  • Laugh at yourself sometimes.  You will look like a fool many times when travelling to new places. Rather than get embarrassed, laugh at yourself.  Do not be afraid to screw up, and do not take life so seriously. Relax!
  • Slow down to enjoy your trip.  Do not try to cram 6 countries into 6 weeks of travel. All the good stuff happens when you really take the time to explore

How to take great photos on your smartphone

Those of us old enough to have experienced the highs and lows of taking photos with actual film may recall, with wistful nostalgia, what it was like in the “old days”.

You never really knew what you’d managed to capture and often it was weeks or even months until a) the film was completed and ready to develop, and b) you reached a place where it was possible, practical, and economical to develop it. Then there was the period of sharpened anticipation, when you collected the envelope of processed photos, which you opened at the first possible moment.

These days, the ubiquity of high-quality camera phones means that much of that drama and pathos have been removed. With a little practice and a few helpful tips, you can wow your friends, family, and even yourself with your spontaneous shots.

  • The classic rule of thirds still apply to composition. When lining up your shot, the points of interest should be placed on the gridlines and their intersections. Adjust your settings
  • Let negative space enhance your shot. All that open sky/water/field can be used to form a striking backdrop for your subject. Getting up high or down low can change the entire feel of your shot. Consider a different vantage point, use reflections and leading lines such as train tracks or staircases to draw the eye, but don’t do anything silly or put yourself (or others) in danger just for the sake of capturing an image.
  • Light is still a major consideration in the capture of a great shot. Some smartphone cameras allow you to mess around with shutter speeds, but sometimes just turning your flash on or off will make all the difference. Smart use of natural light or from other light sources such as illuminated signs can bring interesting results. Don’t use your flash excessively, as often it just makes your subject appear strangely lit and/or hued, plus there’s a high potential for “red eyes”.
  • Save your editing for later. Instagram is a fun tool, but for truly great photos, forget the fancy filters and instead download your images to a photo editing app. You’ll achieve much clearer, sharper results by simply taking the shot and cropping to your desired composition later.
  • Try changing the focal point of your image. Many smartphones allow you to refocus simply by touching an object in the foreground or background.
  • Clean your lens.  Chances are you don’t treat your phone with quite the same TCL as an actual camera. Often you’ll find a fingerprint on your lens which is easily wiped clean with cloth and will ensure a sharp shot.
  • print some of your favourites. Social media is great for sharing, but your photos can be easily forgotten, even by you. Put them in an album or create a photobook to be re-enjoyed again and again.
  • Take lots of photos.  You may only see these places and meet these people once in your lifetime.  Remember them forever with plenty of photos. Do not worry about looking like a “tourist.  Great photos are the ultimate souvenir. They do not cost anything, they are easy to share with others, and they do not take up space in your luggage. Just remember once you have your shot to get out from behind the lens and enjoy the view.

Coming home

The Australian Government has released a new digital system to collect information from passengers entering Australia.

The Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) will replace the existing Australia Travel Declaration (ATD) web-based form. The ATD will be phased out on 21 February but will be available in a read only format so you can refer to your previous records.

If you’re arriving in Australia on or after 18 February, you’ll need to show your DPD when you check in for your flight. To complete the DPD, go to the Department of Home Affairs website.

The DPD will allow you to quickly and securely supply the information needed to meet health requirements for entry into Australia. This includes your:

  • travel history
  • most recent COVID-19 test result
  • COVID-19 vaccination status.

You can also upload your Australian COVID-19 international vaccination certificate or other foreign vaccination certificates.

Information collected through the DPD will help the Australian Government manage important health and safety measures, including quarantine arrangements.