I remembered when we first started planning for family vacations at the turn of the century. Internet use wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is today, and the web pages that did talk about various places of attractions tend not to be community-based. In fact, we routinely bought DK Travel Guides to plan itineraries. Things have of course changed a lot. Sites like Tripadvisor produce a useful – if not always authoritative – indicator on how good an attraction or property of temporary stay is, and the latest fad today is online trip planners.
The planning for our Melbourne started several months ago, and possibly because we’re not doing anything particular adventurous or dangerous (not with two young kids), our itinerary has been pretty ordinary and kids-friendly. So, some random notes off the top of my head:
The Sygic trip planner – used to be known as Tripomatic before Sygic took a 51% equity stake in the company – is a pretty useful tool that works across platforms, and provides useful day by day maps to guide one in getting from one point to the next. It doesn’t do as well though with less urban areas, and a couple of places we were interested in outside the main city confounded the planner.
The projected daily temperature the 9 days we’re there is 5 to 13° C. Brrrrr!
We exchanged our cash for use several weeks ago when the exchange rate was 1AUD to 1.044SGD, thinking that the AUD could not fall any further against the SGD. And today, it’s 1AUD to 0.999SGD. Arrrggh.
We booked the Pegasus Apart’Hotel. No kidding on the odd name – it seems like a play between the words ‘apartment’ and ‘hotel’! We’ll be staying in a 60sqm two-bedroom suite. We did consider explore several Airbnb options for stays, but concluded that the savings between a similarly sized Airbnb unit were minimal compared to what we paid for the Pegasus Apart’Hotel. The property is by no means a five-star stay – and no, that wasn’t our expectation for what we paid – but I did appreciate that the hotel’s management seems to take feedback seriously, judging from the somewhat personalized replies to most comments left by Tripadvisor reviewers. The hotel though has an odd security deposit for incidentals which some reviewers have bitterly complained about. We’ll have to be mindful of that and play by ear.
The property sits along a quiet side road, has an Independent Grocers of Australia supermarket just across the road, is within easy walking distance of Queen Victoria Market, and not too far from public transportation too. It also offers complimentary WIFI, but we’ll be picking up some travel data SIM cards for our mobile gadgets too.
We’re still deciding on our transportation options to/fro the airport and accommodation. There’s the Skybus with its complimentary hotel transfer service, and for slightly more, more direct options too.
Our list of places within Melbourne city include the usual tourist-y sites and the places that will interest our two kids: including Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum, and Eureka Skydeck. And for daddy/mommy: Royal Exhibition Building, Parliament House, Royal Botanic Gardens, St. Patrick’s and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, Fizroy and Treasury Gardens, and Queen Victoria Street Market.
The list of places outside the city would include: the PUffing Billy Train-ride, Dandenong Ranges, Healesville Sanctuary, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Wildlife Park, and the Great Ocean Road. The Healesville Sanctuary and Ballarat Wildlife Park will be especially interesting for the kids. We dropped Phillip island off the list as we figured that the kids wouldn’t fare well waiting for the penguins to show up on the beach in cold winter, and that we didn’t want to be associated with the spectacle of seeing tourists – apparently often from a certain country north in Asia – spoiling it for everyone else with over-enthusiastic flash photography.
We did consider self-driving, but concluded that we’d rather pay someone else to do it – especially after we had to cross fruit-picking off the list, winter being off-season for such. We are however finding day tour operators who keep the number of guests they bring on each tour to a small number though (a dozen or less).
We’ve started booking and confirming our Day Tour packages, starting with going with a company called A Tour With A Difference (what a name LOL) for the Great Ocean Road trip.
We’re still looking for a suitable multipass ticket across the attractions we’re checking out, and haven’t found something suitable yet.
Well that’s the summary of it. More notes to come soon enough! :)