I can’t believe it has been 5 months (almost to the date!) since we left for our 3.5 week trip to Australia and Asia. It feels like it was just yesterday. I also cannot believe that I haven’t blogged about the trip yet. To tell you the truth, the thought of organizing all of my thoughts on this particular vacation has been quite daunting. It is the longest both Alex and I have traveled abroad aside from our studies out of the country and we really packed in a lot during our vacation. I really want to share this trip with all of you before the New Year, so what better day to start than today?
Like I have in the past with our big trips to Peru and Ireland, I will be sharing all of the must-know information about our trip in a series format mostly broken down by city. Below is the guide to the series (links will be activated as the articles are posted) so make sure to bookmark this page for reference, especially if you are planning a trip to Australia and Asia!
- 2 week Australia/1 week Asia itinerary + Flying on the Qantas A380
- 4 days/4 nights in Sydney – Restaurants and activities
- Day trips from Sydney
- 2 days/2 nights in Melbourne – Restaurants, activities, and day trips
- Driving the Great Ocean Road with 1 night in Port Campbell
- 3 days/3 nights in North Queensland – Cairns, Port Douglas, Daintree, Great Barrier Reef
- 2 days/2 nights in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast
- 2 days/2 nights in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
- 2 days/3 nights in Kuala Lumpur
- 3 days/4 nights in Hong Kong
This is what our total travel itinerary looked like:
It is broken out in more detail below:
If you are traveling to Australia from the United States, I recommend 2 weeks at the bare minimum. Also, do yourself a favor and take domestic flights between the cities rather than driving or taking a train. You won’t save much money by not flying and the money you do save will definitely be offset by the time you will lose. Australia is a huge country and it is much more convenient to fly between cities. The flight from Dallas to Sydney on the A380 jet with Qantas is the longest flight in the world, clocking in at nearly 16 hours. With that amount of travel time, you’re going to want to see as much as you can while you are on land. If you can swing the time, I would take 3 weeks to see all as much of the country as you can or head to New Zealand or Asia (like we did) for the tail end of the trip.
A lot of people have asked me why we went to Asia instead of New Zealand. The simple answer is that we were flying on points and the flight schedule worked out best that way. It was also appealing because it has been a major goal of mine to see 6 continents before turning 30. With the visits to Australia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, I met that goal just in time for my 30th birthday in July! Next up, we hope to visit Antarctica by 40 and I feel very confident that goal will be met as well!
Our itinerary worked out perfectly for us. I think it is logical to decide on your Australian vacation itinerary by which coast you plan to visit. We decided to limit our trip to New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, so that is what I will be addressing in the upcoming series. An alternative itinerary might take you to Perth in Western Australia and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory or New South Wales with a jaunt to Adelaide in South Australia.
I believe that our NSW/QLD itinerary was the perfect introduction to Australia and I’ve made a list of the top 10 highlights from our trip that support this theory. If you ask me, our trip had it all!
Top 10 highlights of a trip to Australia
- Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef.
- Wine tasting in the famous Yarra Valley in Victoria.
- Enjoying a luxurious big city experience in Sydney.
- Hiking in the Blue Mountains.
- Driving the Great Ocean Road.
- Visits to the famous Bondi and Manly beaches near Sydney.
- Exploring the quirky laneways and international cuisine in Melbourne.
- Having a tropical getaway in the Daintree rainforest.
- Experiencing the laidback Sunshine Coast culture in the parks and markets of Brisbane.
- Encountering wildlife in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
If you are coming from the United States, there is not much you need to do before you go to Australia. You must apply for an Electronic Travel Authority visa, but it is thankfully a very simple process. As long as you are visiting the country for less than 90 days, all you have to do is apply online for a small fee of $20 USD. The visa is completely electronic and automatically linked to your passport. Mine was processed almost immediately, but I would recommend applying for the visa at least a few days in advance in case of rare problems.
Australia is very safe and the only information that I would recommend keeping in mind while you travel is that the country is extremely strict about driving under the influence. Between public transportation, Uber, ferries, and taxis, you have no reason to drink and drive, so just don’t do it.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the flight to Australia from the US is probably one of the longest you will ever take. If you have the means (or have points like we did), do yourself a favor and fly business class. I cannot say enough positive things about Qantas and their International Business Class, but I will share some highlights. In case you need a second opinion, I found another blogger’s fantastic write-up of Qantas business class.
- Massage seats: Fully reclining massage seats on a flight? Why is this not an industry standard? I probably had a 2 hour massage when all was said and done.
- Sleeping pad: Again, let’s talk about why this is not an industry standard. When the flight attendant came around to ask if I wanted her to make up my bed, I wasn’t quite sure what that entailed. She strapped on a sleeping pad (compare this to a thin mattress) to my seat and not only did my fully reclining seat magically become infinitely more comfortable, but also my germophobe fears about touching a dirty plane seat were allayed. In addition to the sleeping pad, the making of the bed also included a real comforter and pillow.
- Pajamas: Having my own clean long-sleeved tee, sleep pants, and socks made my sleep on the plane actually feel cozy. As an added bonus, my travel clothes stayed clean and I was able to wear them again during the trip.
- His and Hers Jack/Kate Spade amenity kits: I had actually read about these in a T+L article about best amenity kits, but the lack of surprise did nothing to lessen my glee about getting an adorable Kate Spade bag with Aurora Spa products in the sweet orange scent.
- Food/drink menu: Dare I say that the food in Qantas business class was delicious? I agree that plane food can be quite “meh,” but with a menu designed by an Australian celebrity chef, there were a lot of high quality options. The only problem was that my need for sleep took precedence over my desire to try all of the things. I had a large bowl of corn chowder for dinner along with some snacks from the lounge (see below), but saved my appetite for a big breakfast. Qantas also has a great selection of Australian wines and boasts that it won the Best Business Class Cellar at the 2013 Cellars in the Sky Award.
- Lounge: We loved the lounge area where you can sprawl out on a sofa to watch TV, read magazines, and/or have a drink. The lounge featured several snack items like chips, fruit, fig bars, and fancy chocolates. It was the perfect place to stretch your legs and relax.
- Entertainment: Naturally on such a long flight, there are a lot of entertainment options- movies, TV, radio, etc. Qantas stood out from other international flights with its sheer number of options, including recently released material (according to the Qantas website, over 1500 entertainment options you’ll be able to enjoy over 100 movies, 500 TV programs, 800 music options, 18 radio channels, and up-to-date Sky News coverage). Qantas also provides noise canceling headphones as an added bonus.
- Plugs/ports: Keep your devices charged at your seat with individual outlets and USB ports. Genius!
Until next week! I’ll be back with the next installment in the Australia series!