Tag Archives: tips

Tiny and Light But Worth Packing

Some things are so light and small they’re not worth leaving home without. Despite the plethora of travel aids and gizmos the best travel knickknacks are cheap, light, small and (generally) multi-use.

SarongsScarf / Bandanna / Sarong

A towel might definitively be the ‘most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have‘ but for my money, with the advent of the micro-fibre towel, this is the new champion. High fashion or improvised basket, sun hat, sheet, towel, sling (with some safety pins) and many other uses besides. Available world-wide and probably more cheaply than at home.

Light strong cord

For use as a clothes line and for securing bags in a pinch. A travel clothesline, designed to hold clothes without pegs, is a widely popular alternative but I’ve always managed to survive without one.

Zip-lock bags

Literally millions of uses – for dirty laundry, snacks, carry on liquids, keeping a travel journal dry, the list goes on. Larger bags are simple replacements for packing cubes.

Universal rubber plug / sink stopper

Cable TiesA must if you’re planning to do your own laundry. Whereas laundry powder is easy to buy most places, it’s worth buying a decent plug at home. Even if you never have to use it, it’s light and small enough to be worth packing and lugging.

Cable ties

A simple and cheap means of securing your luggage during flights – not necessarily tamper-proof but tamper-evident (as suggested by Budget Travel)

Rubber door stop

A small rubber doorstop is the simple and effective means of securing a hotel or hostel room door.

Passport PhotosSmall tupperware container

Useful if you have anything you wish to avoid crushing in your bag. In the meantime, perfect for storing most other things on this list.

Passport Photos

A few spare recent passport photos tucked away in the bottom of your bag may well save some unnecessary grief if you need a visa extension or a replacement passport.

Medicare Card

For Australians travelling to countries with reciprocal health agreements your medicare card is worth taking along.


You should ensure you always have access to:

  • Photocopy of your passport
  • Details of insurer and your policy
  • Contact details for Airlines/Lodging
  • Contact details for your consulates or embassies
  • Bank / ATM or Credit card provider contact details (especially emergency contact numbers)

Photos of your luggage (highlighting any identifying features) and any valuables you’re carrying are also worthwhile. You can keep copies of these details in paper format at the bottom of your luggage or store them or electronically – a good approach is to either email them to your web-based email account (or simply save them in a draft message) or take advantage of a free online storage site. It’s also worth leaving a copy of all of the above with a friend or family member back home.

Anything I’ve missed?

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[Sarong image via somesatellite], Cable ties image via fotocitizen, passport photos image via imperialdoghnut]


Travel Insurance – Hints and Tips

What travel insurance learnt from religionTravel Insurance

Religion, it is not frequently observed, is a lot like travel insurance. The marketing involves lots of threats of fire and brimstone (and a promise or two of heaven and nirvana); it’s hawked everywhere (and by a schiester or two) but ultimately there are only a handful of providers; by the time you find out whether it was worth the price you’ve paid it’s too late and if you get it wrong you can be left well and truly up the creek.

I’m generally incredulous towards the insurance industry, but I believe the only way to buy travel insurance is to wade into the morass find a policy that covers what you need without paying over the odds.

Where to Start

A good first step is to read tips in Choice’s fantastic guide to travel insurance, the Insurance Industry Ombudsman’s brochure on buying travel insurance and the Insurance Council of Australia’s Guide for Travellers

My Cardinal Rules For Choosing Travel Insurance

Check what cover you may already have. If you have a credit card, particularly a gold or platinum card, travel insurance may be one of the benefits. A recent Cannex survey judged the insurance offered by many cards quite favorably and even ‘as comparable to stand alone products’.

However, do not assume that your trip will be properly covered by your credit card travel insurance. Before you even consider relying on your credit card insurance exclusively ensure you are familiar with the terms and conditions and the maximium duration of any cover. In particular, check whether it is necessary to charge some or all of the value of flights or other expenses to the card to activate the insurance.

LuggageShop Around – listed below are are list of many Australian providers of travel insurance, including a couple of comparison sites.

But don’t purchase on the basis of price alone. Price is no more and no less important than the policy’s excess, inclusions, exclusions and limitations. Make sure you know these in detail for any policy you are considering. Consider some scenarios (e.g. lost luggage, an extended hospital stay, sudden sickness of a loved one at home, a flight or tour cancellation, a missed connection, a flight delayed for many hours or even an airline going under) and compare policies you’re interested in those situations. Does the insurer have a presence in the countries you’ll be travelling through or a free (from those countries) twenty-four telephone helpline?

Ensure you have faith in the organisation selling the policy and also the insurer underwriting it -you’ll be relying on them to come through quickly and with a minimum of fuss. Double check the policy covers the correct destinations, an appropriate length of time, everybody travelling (for instance dependents) and you’re eligiblility. Finally, check any extras offered by the policy – private hospital cover for example.

Make sure pre-existing medical conditions have been declared and are covered. If you have an existing condition it may not be covered by default. Do not take the risk that your policy may be effectively rendered worthless if your conditions worsens while you are overseas. Ensure the condition is declared to the insurer, but be aware that extra premiums or special terms and conditions may be applied.

Ensure you’re properly covered. Firstly, make sure the policy is as outgoing a you are. Check that any adventure sports, climbing, skiing, scuba diving or the like you’re planning to undertake are covered.

Consider the value of items you’re taking with you – a few grand is generally more than enough when I travel but with a decent camera set-up, if you’re taking a lot of electronic kit or if you like your sparkly things this can be exceeded very quickly.

Get It! I save money on all sorts of things when I travel but personally I think insurance that I feel comfortable with is worth the price.

Reciprical Health Agreements

Australia has reciprocal health care agreements with New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Malta and Norway. This means that as an Australian resident your are entitled to assistance with the cost of medical treatment on presentation of an Australian passport and Medicare card. It is important that you advise medical staff in the country you are visiting that you wish to be treated under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia. Medicare is explicit that this scheme, however, is not a replacement for travel insurance: while you may not be liable for the full cost of treatment travel insurance is still strongly recommended.

Choice’s Travel Insurance Checklist

To find a policy that covers your needs take the following steps:

  1. Read What’s covered and take note of the coverage you need, and any traps to watch for.
  2. Contact a number of insurance companies for quotes and policies.
  3. If you travel regularly, check whether an annual policy might be suitable and cheaper.
  4. Read several policies before making your final decision.
  5. If you have any questions, double-check with the insurer and get it in writing before you sign the contract.

Read the fine print in policies very carefully to understand exactly what’s covered and what isn’t:

  • Is there sufficient cover for medical expenses, personal liability and legal costs? If you’re travelling to the United States, Japan or Europe unlimited medical cover is recommended.
  • Check what excess applies; some policies have an excess buy-out — you pay a flat fee and no excess applies.
  • Do you want to do any adventure activities, such as scuba diving, and are they covered?
  • Do you want to rent a car and is the collision damage excess covered?
  • Check the cover for baggage and especially for your valuables, such as cameras and laptops. You may be able to pay a fee and extend the cover for valuables if the standard limits aren’t high enough.
  • If you have special needs, such as a pre-existing medical condition, check with the insurer whether you’re covered.

How to avoid problems when you have a claim:

  • Keep receipts or valuations to prove ownership of valuables.
  • If your goods are stolen report it to the police and keep a copy of the report; list all items stolen.
  • If you need medical treatment or assistance contact your insurer’s medical assist hotline.
  • If you have a dispute with your travel insurer you can contact the Insurance Ombudsman Service (IOS), a free and independent ASIC-approved national dispute resolution service, on 1300 780 808 or www.insuranceombudsman.com.au

Source: Choice.com.au

Travel Insurance Providers

Comparison Sites

An (Incomplete) List of Australian Providers

1Cover NAB
AIG Australia NRMA
Allianz Ouch.com.au
ANZ Qantas
APIA (for those over 50, not working full time) QBE
Australian Unity RACV
Bendigo Bank SGIO
BudgetDirect STA
Colombus Direct St George
Commonwealth Bank Suncorp
Covermore Suresave
Downunder Travel.com.au
FlightCentre Traveller’s Assistance (CUA)
GIO TravelInsurance.com.au
HBA TravelInsuranceDirect
HSBC TourSafe
ING Webjet
insure4less Westpac
iTrek WorldCare
MBF WorldNomads (Specialises in long trips)

[Signs image from Jamesbeard on Flickr; Luggage image from mag3737 on Flickr]

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Loose Change – A round-up of recent travel tips from around the web (26th of April)

Travel Tips of the Week

Gadling: Big in Japan: 5 mistakes made by first-timers in Japan

In a country where using the word “no” displays ‘as much social grace as a bovine’ and “toilet slippers” should be kept out of the kitchen some cultural tips come in handy.


ContikiNational Geographic has a list of the world’s top guided tours. Continki gets nary a mention.

Patronising quote of the week goes to Flight Centre’s marketing manager in The Age’s tips for using budget airlines to get around the place:

“We have people who have spent time on the internet to put their own itineraries together, and then come in to talk to our agents,” Bowman says. “That’s when the agent might say, ‘Are you aware that flight to London goes in to Luton and not Heathrow?’ The response is usually, ‘So what does that mean?’

“That’s when we need to explain all the details that the customer has not found on the internet.”

In our experience workaday wage slaves simply LOVE receiving bulk emails from you gloating about the simply wonderful time you’re having in exotic climes. If that hasn’t been you’re experience Traveler’s Notebook has some tips for writing emails the folks at home will actually want to read.

Intelligent Traveler has a guide to guides; five tips on how to pick a guidebook. Vagabondish goes one better with four alternatives to let you dispense with the darned things for good.

MSNBC makes taking children on a plane trip sound a marginally less complex operation than Dunkirk, while the Perrin Post has the Top Ten Toyless Ways to Occupy Kids on Planes without alcohol OR Prozac.

‘To have tasty and nutritious food on board, and be the envy of your fellow passengers, you need to bring your own. With advance planning, you can eat like a King or Queen on the plane.’ How to eat well at 30,000 feet via Beat of Hawaii featuring lots of Tupperware.

James Wysong has some tips for navigating customs: no fruit, no jokes, no phones and no porn are apparently the secret to avoiding being patted by down by your friendly neighbourhood customs officer. Hardly seems worth it.

Vagabondish has 12 clever and creative uses for a digital camera on the road.

The Americas

TorontoThe Times recommends six destinations in the United States, while Intelligent Travel has an excellent guide to taking teens to NYC. 10 free things to do in LA from Frommer’s.

Toronto is oft-overlooked even by travellers to Canada. Peter Greenfield has an introduction to its lesser known attractions.

Get closer to nature with five gems for the eco-tourist in Costa Rica.


The New York Times spends 36 hours in Naples where incredible history, garbage and toxic mozzarella meet.

About.com has a list of the five worst wookie rookie France travel mistakes. You’ll feel like Captain Cook with PeterGreenberg’s secret spots in Paris and The Times Undiscovered France: Poitiers. Alexander Lobrano reckons it’s possible to eat well in Paris. We remain unconvinced.

KrakowThe Guardian’s Blog by Blog section has some really interesting and unusual tips for things to do in London

The Telegraph has published a Madrid city guide, and claims to have a list of Madrid’s best budget hotels (£44+). To get there the Independent has some tips on tourist trains in Spain.

Eurocheapo has five free things to do in Krakow.

Whether or not to get a Eurorail pass can be a difficult business, here are some tips as to when it is likely to represent a decent deal.


Business Week (of all places) has a list of India’s top five yoga centres.

Seth Mydans has some tips for Singapore hawker fare, street food heaven.

Viator has some tips for Kuala Lumpur.

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[Contiki image via Glenn Ross on Flickr, Toronto image via Photofusion on Flickr, Krakow image via astilly on Flickr, yoga image via premasagar on Flickr]

Loose Change – A round-up of recent travel tips from around the web


Streching the dollar in Europe (MSNBC)

How to survive airport stopovers (Travelling Board)

That’s Sick! 9 Ways to Avoid the Bug When You Travel (Frommers)

How to survive your next bumpy bus ride (Gadling)

The waiting game: How to cope when widespread delays hit the air travel system (MSNBC)

10 ways to get the best airplane seat (MSNBC)

How to avoid Heathrow Terminal Five (The Telegraph)

How to Avoid Being Pickpocketed (eHow)

How to Avoid Getting Bloated on a Long Flight (eHow)

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