Hello from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! We’re having a very quiet few days at our favourite hostel while we all get over nasty colds ( flu, in the boys, obviously.). That’s one of the great things about this kind of slow travel, if we’re sick we can usually afford the time to just relax and do nothing too taxing. A bug like this could really ruin a short holiday!
But the world doesn’t stand still for me. Tomorrow we arrive in Sri Lanka, a few short weeks after that we’ll be in London, by mid January we’re in the USA. Guess who has a lot of organising to do? Yep, me.
Because I’m the stress head/perfectionist/control freak it’s usually me who organises accommodation, transport, all the stuff that we sometimes have to book in advance. So while the boys watch movies and munch curry puffs I’m online researching, trying to find the best, cheapest, easiest way to do everything.
We booked a bargain flight to the UK with Sri Lankan airways ($1700 for the 4 of us from KL, it can be that much each from Australia!) and we have friends and family to stay with once we’re there, but there are so many extras to think of. The sort of extras I usually don’t consider in my excitement to book yet another flight.
Passports: They’re really expensive! An Australian or British passport is around $300, first time or to renew them. The kids’ passports have to be renewed every 5 years. We have British AND Australian passports. It adds up quickly, particularly for large families.
Getting around at your destination. Bus, train, taxi or hire car? In Asia this is usually easy, public transport is cheap. It’s best to give it a Google in advance and get an idea of what taxis should cost. Find out if taxis should use their meters or if you are supposed to haggle over price. I’ve just emailed our accommodation in Sri Lanka to ask how much a taxi should be, we know we’ll have to haggle, at least now I have an idea what price to aim for.
Arriving in the UK on a cold December evening is going to be interesting. Four bus tickets from Heathrow to my mum’s house will cost us $160. The taxi quote we got was $260. Car hire will probably work out better value.
Travel insurance. Travel insurance for 1 person for a short holiday can be cheap, I’ve paid under $100. But make that insurance for 4 people to multiple destinations over a longer period and you’re looking at thousands. I would never, ever travel without insurance. I don’t care so much about my bags, my clothes are rags now anyway, but you never know when you’ll need accident or medical coverage. My husband’s $7500 bill for his totally unexpected hernia operation on Ko Samui made us very glad we had good cover.
How to get to the airport. Back in Australia we were an hour away by road from our nearest airport, Cairns. We were 24 hours away from the cheaper airport , Brisbane. Being budget travellers there was no way we were going to fly to Brisbane to get our international flight. That would be 4 extra flight tickets and around $800. We picked the 24 hour road trip every time. We figured out that the diesel plus airport parking was cheaper overall than the 4 flights.
When we lived in the UK things were the same, there were buses to the airport, but public transport in the UK costs a lot. It was usually cheaper and easier for our family to pay for to park our car at Heathrow for short holidays. It’s nice to have your own car ready to go when you get back.
Visas. Visas are a hassle too. Some countries, like Malaysia and Thailand, offer free visas on arrival. Other countries make you buy a visa in advance. We’ve just organised our Sri Lankan visas, booked and paid for online. I love Sri Lanka for making children’s visas free.
Vaccinations. We shopped around and did a lot of research into what vaccinations we really needed. The vaccinations we bought in KL cost us a lot less than they would have done in Australia.
Travel equipment and wardrobe. I’m a big believer in making do with what you’ve got already to keep costs down but everyone has to buy something. We don’t buy expensive travel clothes, I’m not a fan, but we did need three new backpacks before this trip. That was another $400. I had to buy a pair of hiking shoes, flip-flops alone weren’t going to cut it!
Then there’s computer equipment cameras phones and portable hard drives. Can you manage with what you have already? I have my old lap top with me, it’s big and heavy but so far we’ve got along together just fine, I don’t think I need a smaller one.
We’re about to fly from perpetual tropical summer to winter in the UK and US. We’re all going to need new wardrobes, including shoes. I’ll be hitting the January sales hard.
Wear and tear. On a long trip like this things wear out. Six months in and we’re already replacing clothes, particularly for the children, they’ve grown! My camera is on its last legs, my computer has sand in the keyboard, I’ve lost most of my knickers and a towel and had some clothes stolen. The bags are lighter but we need to buy new.
Admission prices. We visited Legoland Malaysia for free, we were really lucky. Once we get to Florida we’ll be digging really deep in our pockets for Disney. It’s worth it to us, you have to decide what’s important to you, what you want to pay for and what you don’t.
If you hire a car don’t forget car seats. In the UK car seats are compulsory up to 12 years or 130cm. Back in the days when we owned a car we’d take our own with us, car seats don’t count towards your baggage allowance. To hire them this time is going to cost us about $9 each per day. That’s a lot!
Always check car seat requirements for the country your visiting.
So that’s what I’m up to in these few days, trying to find ways to keep costs as low as possible while making things as easy on ourselves as we possibly can. I’m really excited about these next few months, it’s going to be something different for us and of course I get to see my family and friends again after far too long.
Stick with us, see how we cope with the cold!