16th October 2013

With only a few weeks to go before we depart, we’ve started putting the finishing touches to the arrangements and as a result, were finding the snags.

 We’ve made countless lists, ticking off each task once they’ve been achieved (redirect Mail, stop the papers etc) but as fast as we cross off a task, another comes along.

 Money.

 We did some research on money and how best to pay for things whilst we’re away (trying to avoid the charges as best we can) and it would appear Travellers Cheques are reasonably safe and not too expensive, though there is a small cost to be considered.

If you buy Sterling Cheques there is a fee and then there is the additional cost of conversion when using them.

I ordered the Travellers Cheques through Avios in order to get an additional 1020 Avios points and as far as I can see, there is no difference between buying from Avios or from my bank, Lloyds TSB except that I get the additional points.

We chose to do this on line and have them delivered to a local Lloyds Branch but we could have chosen to have them delivered to home address for a fee.

 However, the Avios web site would only allow us to buy Australian Dollar Travellers Cheques and not Thai Bahts, so the Thai currency was ordered through Lloyds TSB and that is being delivered to home address.

 Getting to Heathrow.

 We didn’t expect this to be a challenge as Bristol is only 2 hours away from Heathrow on the M4 but it has proved more difficult than expected.

We initially thought we could travel by bus direct to Heathrow terminal 3 but that isn’t the case. There is a Bus but it stops at the Heathrow Marriott and then there is some sort of procedure for getting from the Marriott to the Terminal which adds an hour to the journey.

Our Flight is about mid day and we have to check in 3 hours before, so 0900.Allowing an hour to mess around and a 2 hour drive time, we expected to leave home at about 0600hrs.

The bus leaves Bristol before five in the morning so well have to be leaving home at about 0400hrs which sounds horrendous. There doesn’t seem to be any competition with National Bus Services for this route, however it is the cheapest way of getting there at about £40 each.

We then looked at the Train, though this is a ‘No Brainer’ as we would have to catch a train the night before to get into Heathrow on time. The Train only goes as far as Reading and then there is a coach to Heathrow. In this day and age, there is no direct route from the South West to Heathrow airport!

 And the cost is double that of the bus fare.

However, our last option was to hire a car and drive to Heathrow, leaving the car there and hire another when we got back. This would mean me doing the driving but at least we could go straight from home to the terminal with no fuss.

We sought out the most competitive rate on line forone way drop off’ with a car about the right size (Ford Focus as it happened) and it was available from North Bristol at £32.

However when we tried to book it they added an additional £50 fee for one way drop off, so with petrol it would work out at about £100 each way.

Shouldn’t the drop off fee have been included in the headline price?

I am reluctant to book this now as I feel im being cheated.

We then looked at Taxis @ £130 but there is absolutely no competition, they all charge the same rate. Talk about ‘price fixing.’

So we still haven’t organised any transport and we have no idea how we’ll get home again in January.

Its OK for the Kids, they just ask Mum and Dad to ‘drop them at the airport’ and don’t have to consider the expense but when you are the Mum and Dad its a different kettle of fish, and a smelly one at that.

 Alterations.

When we first booked the trip my daughter was happily living in Sydney but immediately after we paid our airfare, she moved to Brisbane.

We also booked to fly out of Melbourne as we intended to spend some time with friends but they have just advised they are traveling to Adelaide so wont be around when we’re there. Is it us?

This leaves us with a dilemma.

Do we try to change the arrangements and fly out of Brisbane (or at worst Sydney) and pay the administration/cancelation fees, or do we travel all the way from Brisbane to Melbourne, just to catch a flight?

If only we had known all this before we paid!

Accommodation

We have accommodation booked in Sydney for the first few nights so we can at least catch our breath but we’ve done no home work at all on the route up the East Coast.

So we’ve spent an awful lot of time looking at brochures and maps, Web sites and Blogs, trying to decide what we want to see and where we want to stay.

 This is a nightmare as we really want to see everything and stay everywhere.

We’ve identified a few strategic points along the way which will be the hooks to hang the trip on. Nothing very adventurous but covering the ‘must see’ places without driving for hours on end. We’ve allowed a few weeks to make the journey, arriving in Bundaberg late November.

There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of places for rent in and around Bundaberg (Elliot’s Head, Hervey Bay and Bargara) but we need to be reasonably close as Georgia is now working 11 hour days, 7 days a week packing Tomatoes and wont be able to take more than a few days off.Having not found any work for the first 6 months of her stay it is now peak season on the farm and they are all working flat out to earn the money to travel on to Vietnam and Cambodia after Christmas.

So after travelling all that way, paying all that money we will only have her company for a few days or a few hours late in the evening, after work.

Its a bit like being at home only without the toilet roll Fairy. Thats the one that takes the cardboard tube off the toilet roll holder and replaces it with a new roll. However she is planning a ‘Fat Boys Breakfast’ Aussie style as my birthday treat and if she pays, that will be a milestone in our Father-Daughter relationship.

So we’ve looked at the accommodation on offer and compared prices (it seems most places have a 4 night minimum stay) and made contact with a few favourites. We are now waiting for a response, though one agency told us they had no availability for 24th and 25th December, even though we requested 24th & 25th November which doesn’t bode well.

One thing we have noticed is the decor in some of the places is shocking. Not so bad if we were being ‘evacuated’ during the Second World War, but come on people, modernise.

That said, the temperature is predicted to be extremely hot so im not sure how well cope with the heat and what well find to do all day?

As a  result, most of the properties we’ve looked at are either Beach front or have a pool and that makes them a bit more expensive but without that we fear for our survival.

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