Keeping brass in your pocket
ASK JOAN:All your travel questions answered
Heads up on Down Under
Our son is living in Sydney, and my husband and I want to visit in February 2013. We are planning on going for four weeks and would like to know how to go about getting the best deal on flights and accommodation while exploring as much of the country as possible. We would also be interested in hiring a car. Our budget is limited.
– MT, Wicklow
February is a good time to go to Australia as the weather will be changing from high summer into autumn. From Ireland you can expect to pay around €1,100 return for flights to Sydney with Emirates or Etihad via the UAE.
The key to getting best value for your trip will be to book as much in advance as possible, and be flexible on dates. Get a map out and see where exactly you want to go. Use australia.com, the national tourism website to help you plan.
Or, having decided where to go on your trip, you could get the advice of one of the travel agencies that are good on Australia such as trailfinders.ie, usit.ie, abbeytravel.ie, joewalshtours.comand justsplit.ie.
In Sydney you will have your son to take you about. You should do things like take a boat trip around the harbour, do a bridge climb, go to Bondi Beach or walk the Bronte to Bondi Beach coastal path, and visit the Northern beaches. Day trips to the Hunter Valley wine region and the Blue Mountains are also possible.
You could combine car hire and accommodation by doing the classic Australian thing of hiring a camper van and doing a road trip, see Mightycampers.com.aufor good quality vans. For the Red Centre of Australia and to see Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the Olgas it would be best to fly.
The yha.com.auhas good quality private rooms in some of their hostels and this could be a way of keeping your costs down. You could also consider renting an apartment in a nice location for a week or two and use it as a base, ie Port Douglas to explore the Barrier Reef and Daintree forest. See stayz.com.au. Ask your son to check local car hire companies. They may be cheaper than the international brands.
Petty crime in Barcelona
My husband and I, our two boys aged seven, plus my Dad have plans to visit Barcelona at the end of November for four nights.
However, since I started to look for an apartment (the Gracia and Eixample areas had been recommended) the many online stories of pickpocketing and robbery of tourists – on the street, on buses, the metro, in cafes, in hotel foyers, driving a car – seem a bit scary to be honest. One tourism website has 16 safety recommendations for visitors to the city. So we are thinking it is best to avoid Barcelona and perhaps look at one of the smaller towns nearby that might be more suitable for a family who want a nice relaxing holiday. Can you provide a couple of recommendations other than Sitges? – AMD, Dublin