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Know Before You Go

Travel Insurance I believe is essential. Take this out as soon as you pay for your trip so you are covered in case of cancellation or need to amend your booking. We always book CoverMore insurance.

Medication – get a letter from your doctor for any medications you will be carrying with you. Keep this letter in your travel wallet with all your documentation in case there are any issues at immigration. Keep medications in their original packaging.

Hotel/Accommodation – Phoning the hotel to confirm everything is booked correctly and they are aware of any special needs often makes for a smoother trip. This is a good time to alert the hotel to the fact you are flying in from Australia, if it is an overseas destination. Request an early check in (this is up to the availability and discretion of the hotel). In the US the check in time is usually 2pm or 3pm. After a long flight a shower is a great way to freshen up so you can get out and make the most of Day 1 of your holiday.

Research online and read travel guides – As you research your trip online, print out any information you think will be useful and put into an A4 display book in order of your itinerary. These sheets can easily be recycled as you travel to lighten the load. I kept my folder in the front of the car and I could easily reference things as we travelled (i.e. opening times, places of interest etc). I may be the only person still living in the dark ages and not travelling connected to the internet 24/7 via a smart phone, but for one reason or another you may find this tip helpful!

Currency – keep an eye on the exchange rate once you are thinking of travelling or have booked your trip. When we have travelled we’ve bought cash currency (i.e. USD at Australia Post). They do not charge a service fee like many of the banks do. You can check the rate online here.

You won’t get the rate that you see on the news because they obviously have to make money out of the transaction. My other tip is to order an odd amount so you don’t end up with all larger bills. Order $270 worth of USD rather than $250 for example just so you get some smaller notes to get you started. USD1 bills are essential for tipping in the US and you will need these from when you arrive, so try to get some change at some point. Australia Post do not take requests for certain denominations like the bank will. We found Australia Post very competitive with the rate they offered.

The major bank’s local branches do not all keep foreign cash. A lot will only have the cash that is exchanged by other travellers on their return and it is all sent to head office on a set day each week. You may get lucky and find they have some but they can order it in for you or some of the larger branches will keep major currencies as a standard service. You will pay a commission to the bank to convert your Australian dollars.

Travel card/debit card – check with your own bank and don’t be afraid to compare what another bank offers. Ask questions and make sure you are aware of things like how much you will be charged for cash withdrawals at the ATM.

My preference has been to get the Commonwealth Bank’s travel money card. We found this very convenient. There is a one-off fee to get the card and a percentage charged for loading it, but you can load it at the current exchange rate and know exactly what your cash will buy you. It is easy to check your balance online while you are travelling and you can transfer funds to it if you have shopped a little too much (yes, I’ve had to do this!).


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