A small Brisbane family, travelling, homeschooling and doing it on a budget!
Broaden your horizons and your mind, and follow our journey!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Guidebooks, Loneliness and Lonely Planet

Loneliness is Travelling without a Guidebook- Lonely Planet (by Jason) 

With a fresh new image, Lonely Planet have shown they are still the leaders of the travel guidebook industry. The Lonely Planet Guides are no longer for those travellers wanting to see the world on a dollar a day, they are now brightly filled with colour pages and although still giving budget tips, there are options and books for those with slightly higher tastes. 

We have countless copies of guidebooks littered on our shelves.  I find the planning of the trip is nearly as much fun as the trip itself, studying maps, reading about must see villages, and tips on local customs, are all part of the travel experience. 

Just some of our travel books! 

These days Lonely Planet seems to have a book for every taste, even my 8 year old son is a fanatic, owning a fair few of the new release children's "Not For Parents" series.

With an upcoming trip to Europe, my eye is firmly set on the blockbuster - Europe on a Shoestring. Weighing in at a suitcase exploding 1264 pages, this covers the entire European Continent. If you can't fit the book in your backpack, then there is no need to worry as there are options to buy PDF files of every book or even just chapters.

No matter what the country, it seems Lonely Planet has a book on it. 
New releases include ( and I hope my wife is reading this), Ireland's Best Trips and the strangely titled "British Language and Culture".  

Buy a guide and start planning your next trip away. 

Happy Travelling!  

PS. We recommend Book Depository for great prices, and speedy, free delivery! 
Free Delivery on all Books at the Book Depository

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

10 Tips to Save Money Before You Travel

There are many ways you can save money before you leave on your trip.  The more money you save before you leave, the more affordable and achievable, your holiday will be.

1.  Google is your friend.   You will find most travel websites will either match or provide cheaper air fares than what you will find in a retail travel store.  We prefer to use Expedia for our trips.  Not only did we find the cheapest fares there, you can call and talk to a real person!

2.  Book flights early!  Yes the early you book, the cheaper the fares, almost always.  Watch out for airline sales and when you see cheap, buy.  The closer to the date, generally the higher the fare.

3. Travel in non-peak times.  We always travel to Europe in winter.  We do have snow fetish, but in all seriousness (and I was being serious), airfares are just cheaper in winter.  Car hire and accommodation costs are also lower.  Just avoid the Christmas week and New Year's Eve if you can.  I won't even go into our horrendous few nights in Prague in the most horrid hotel, paying 5 star prices.  Peak periods are not only more expensive, all the good and reasonably priced accommodation sells out quickly.  PS you also avoid the crowds!

4.  Book accommodation in advance.  We use booking.com a lot for this purpose.  Most of the time you do not have to leave a deposit and if you cancel within the guidelines, it doesn't cost a cent if you change your mind, destination or plans.   You can sometimes grab last minute deals, but it doesn't hurt to reserve a place, well ahead of time, for just in case!  We once booked with booking.com well in advance only to watch prices fall in New Caledonia.  No problems though, booking.com promise to price match the lowest price even after you have booked.

5.  Shop around for travel insurance.  There are some great deals to be had online.  Do not purchase travel insurance through a travel agency, you will be paying twice the price.  Choose travel insurance that covers your excess in the case of an accident with car hire and you can then save on car hire insurance. We recommend and use 1Cover Insurance.

6.  Choose accommodation with cooking facilities. Even if you pay slightly more at the time of booking, this will save you a fortune whilst travelling. You can still enjoy the local cuisine by shopping in foreign supermarkets and visiting local markets. It is a fabulous way to mingle with the locals and feel part of the community.  Shopping for food is one of my favourite things to do in foreign lands.

7.  Stay longer periods in one place.  Longer stays mean cheaper rates.  Weekly rates often mean at least a night's free accommodation and a month stay can mean a week or two free!  Less travelling also saves on rail passes and fuel and/or car hire.

8.  Choose central locations for accommodation.  If you are hiring a car ensure there is free car parking or if travelling by public transport, stay within walking distance to bus stops and metro stations.   In places like Europe, small towns can be found only a small train ride away from bigger cities, and you will save a fortune on accommodation costs.

9.  Pack a lunch and snacks. If, like me, you like to get to the airport really early, take food!  Yes pack a lunch (or dinner) and buy all plane snacks before entering the airport.  There is nothing worse than spending $100 before you even take off.  That money could be better spent on your holiday.

10.  Always check luggage allowances.  If you need more, it is often cheaper to purchase online before you leave.  We have a travel bag weighing device to ensure we never pay excess baggage fees and we take it with us on our trip.

Happy travels!  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Europe is Calling!

We have been home some 4 months, since our New Zealand stint and we are itching to go again.  We have done some camping in this time, but no major trips, and we have itchy feet!

A few years ago we managed to spend our summer in Europe, in the lovely cold, for 3 years in a row. Business was thriving then, it was easy to do.  We did not really budget, just went and enjoyed ourselves.  Not to excess, but with little financial concerns.

Things are different now, small retail businesses in Australia are not doing too well and things are tight. We are not complaining, we still feed our children and have a house, a car and still go camping, but our budget leaves very little room for an overseas trip.  That would stop most people, but not us.  I remember hearing Rick Steves say once, if you have to drive a bomb of a car, if you have to do without every other thing in your life, still travel!

Why?  Because there is no better experience in the world.  There is no better way to appreciate what you have, to understand other people and to really learn.  The world is a wondrous, amazing place, waiting to be explored.  Unfortunately once have you been bitten by the bug, it is hard to shake.

We homeschool our son, so I cannot think of a single better way to educate him.  We are not talking about history and geography education, we are talking about real learning.  Learning about people, what makes them tick, what rituals and cultures drive them, what the world is really about.  Travel awakes the soul and broadens the mind.  It might sound cliche, but it does.

This is how Rick says it, and I so wholeheartedly agree.

Follow us as we show you how we shrimped and saved to get to Europe and how we will manage a small tight budget while travelling around the UK and Europe for 60 days!

It won't be easy, but it will be fun!  It will be worth all the sacrifices and cans of baked beans on toast!

In the process, we will be de-cluttering our house and our lives!  A bonus we think!

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Home for the Gypsies!

Well we are back home after another 7 nights in one of our favourite camping grounds Killarney View.
Lovely fresh air, afternoon breezes and sunsets to die for!

After almost 4 months straight being with my son and husband 24/7 I am in need of a break and a little re-charge!  Hubby is busy working for the rest of the week and I sent my son off to the movies with his big sister!  I know it was only a few hours, but it was nice.  I think a visit to Nanna is in order this afternoon.

Hadley sent to see Percy Jackson.  He tells me it is the BEST movie he has ever seen - high recommendation indeed.  I have never heard of Percy Jackson but have been told there are books!
Yes books!  I feel Hadley does really need a break from reading adult non-fiction books so look forward to introducing him to something new.

We purchase lots of our books from the Book Depository.  Cheap, fast and free post!  Not sure which ones to start on, but found a pack of 3 so might start there.

Book Depository - Percy Jackson

I hope you are surviving the school holidays!  We are going to catch up on Maths and English next week before heading off to Rainbow Beach for a bit more camping!

You cannot keep a good gypsy still for too long!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Last Leg by Jason

The last leg of our trip saw us spend our final week split between Queenstown and Christchurch. 

It was certainly great to get back to Queenstown, a place we have been lucky enough to see many times. This time we stayed at the Lakeside Holiday Park, which is the closest park to town. It is just  a couple of minutes walk, to grab a well liked ( and well known) Fergburger, a hamburger bar and a bakery, that is famous in these parts.  We really enjoyed our few nights, staying in a nice clean unit with kitchen. We spent the days just walking into town and not really doing too much apart from eating and drinking. 

Lakeside Holiday Park - our cabin

A wonderful freebie is the Lake Hayes reserve, where you can feed the ducks, and walk around the lake, on several paths depending how fit you feel, locals have weekend Barbeques here. 

Lake Hayes 

We had to be back in Christchurch on Monday, so left early that morning to make it by the  mid afternoon. We had our car to sell on a local auction site,  as we were going home in 3 days, and were very happy to see it go for pretty much what we had paid for it several months prior.

We always go to the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, and once again we spent a couple of hours here as Hadley just loves this place. It was sad to drive the streets, through some of the worst hit areas from the 2011 earthquake. 

Make sure you do stop off in Christchurch if you come to New Zealand, the city is open and there are attractions like the Antartic centre, the pop- up shopping mall, built by containers, and great day trips to Akaroa or the Oxford markets.
Stunning Queenstown

New Regent Street in Christchurch is back up and running!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Queenstown by Shona

I was just reading an old blog I once started, Ramblings of a Wannabe Kiwi.  The first post about Queenstown was made in June 2009.  Unfortunately I cannot continue with this blog as I don't know any log in details!  Being in Queenstown again made the think about the blog and have a quick read.
This is my first entry in 2009 - I am still a Wannabe Kiwi - and I still ramble a lot!

I first stepped foot on New Zealand soil 6 years ago. A spur of the moment trip, with my 3 children and my new partner Jason (an ex Kiwi).

I loved the fresh crisp air - a fresh optimism hitting us as we walked out of the Christchurch airport. I felt like we were almost stepping back in time - a time when the word traffic jam was not part of our every day vocabulary - when people greeted you with a smile - when a high-rise was 5 storeys. My first drive into the city evoked such strong childhood memories of happier, carefree times.

Everywhere we went, people chatted and smiled - we were almost dumbfounded - this did not happen in Australia. People held open doors, gave way on roads, pulled over when they were driving too slow and waved on country roads.

Breath-taking is just too underwhelming a word to describe the scenery of the South Island - I cannot even think of an apt term to describe the beauty of this country. We were blessed with brilliant blue skies as we made our way to Queenstown. On your first trip, it is hard not to stop every few kilometres to take photos and simply breathe in the astounding beauty.

I certainly had expectations as I drove to Queenstown. We have all seen the photos, the ads campaigns and the travel hype surrounding Queenstown. We arrived around dusk, and to be honest, driving through Frankton to our hotel, I felt a little let down.

Next morning, we headed off to Deer Park Heights. As we meandered up the gravel road, Queenstown's beauty was laid out before our eyes. Nestled in the hills, surrounded by the magnificent Lake Wakatipu and snow capped mountains, this was better than any travel photo I had ever seen. This was the moment that I truly lost my heart to New Zealand.

A few years ago I read a book by an American who visited Auckland and within 2 days he was house hunting. He said he felt at home, like this was where he was meant to be. I know exactly how he feels.

I am now heading towards by 7th visit to New Zealand in 6 years. Each time is no different - I start to feel a deep sense of melancholy as my holiday nears its end. I do not want to go back to Australia, I never want to leave.

Unfortunately until I can convince 4 children that New Zealand is the best place in the world, Brisbane is where I lay my hat.

I know I will live in New Zealand one day, until then, I dream of living there, visit as often as I can, and continue to bore my friends and family with the "ramblings of a wannabe Kiwi".