This is now Part Two of my takeaways. Click here to read Part One.
My travel essentials:
- Macbook Air
- Selfie Stick
- GoPro and Pole
- Beats headset
- iPhone 6 Plus
- Power Adapter (for Australian power outlets)
- T-Mobile SIM Card
- Back-up battery
- Nikon D3300 DSLR
My attempt to stay fit
If you know me quite well, you’d know that I started to join a workout program back in mid-September. I go to the gym 4x week, with sessions that begin at 6:00 am. I was doing quite well, been very consistent even with my eating. I stayed away from food with lots of heavy carbs such as rice, pasta, bread, etc. I drank lots of water, and stayed away from soda. My goal wasn’t to lose weight or anything, but to be fit. There’s no denying that I’m not getting any younger. So I made a conscious decision to take control of my health. I’ve since lost 7 lbs., lowered my cholesterol, and improved my blood sugar level.
I knew that the trip to Australia would mean that I’d be eating a lot…and I ate very well. Everything I stayed away from, I ate. Aaaaarrrrghhh!!! And to top it all off, when we returned home was Thanksgiving – so more food!!! I told myself that it was okay. It was the reason why I wanted to exercise so I can have days like these. So yes, no regrets. It just gives me more reasons to stay on my fitness quest. But hey, we walked over 17,000 steps per day and burned over 3,000 calories. Another excuse! LOL
Travel Deals by the Numbers
Flight to LA to Sydney (Roundtrip) – paid $844 for two (regular price $2679 for two)
AirBNB Cost – Sydney (Surry Hills) – paid $71/night for three nights
AirBNB Cost – Melbourne (Southbank) – paid $70/night for three nights
Airfare between Sydney and Melbourne (roundtrip for two)
- # of British Airways points used to fly Qantas – 18,000 points
- Out of pocket cost for two – $52.32 total for two
- Cost if paid with NO points = $483
The AirBNB Takeaway
As I had mentioned before, we’ve stayed at many AirBNBs in Hawaii (Maui and Kauai), Italy (Milan, Florence, Venice), France (Paris), and California (Mammoth Lakes). I’ve always rented the “entire” apartment because we have such a huge family. But this time around, Nancy and I rented a shared unit. We ended up sharing the apartment with the owner/s. It was a wonderful experience. I will consider doing that again in the future.
People have asked me how I decide where to stay. So these were my personal guidelines:
a. Type of Rental – Shared or Entire Apartment, I had to choose based on my needs. For this trip to Oz, all I needed was a shared unit.
b. Location, location, location – knowing that I had no clue where to stay, I asked members of TripAdvisor and Sydney/Melbourne subreddit where it might be good to stay. In some case, I gave them the specific area of the apartments I was considering. Many experts were happy to share their knowledge of the area. Nancy and I also decided to make sure we stay close to the city center, be near to public transportation. We didn’t mind paying extra as long as we’re near the action.
c. Cost – this was a biggie. I didn’t want to spend anything more than $70 per night. There’s a price range slider in the AirBNB website that allows you pick the amount you’re willing to spend. I set the limit around $70 and gave me a handful of shared listings. It was at that point when I picked the properties.
d. Reviews – the Melbourne apartment owned by Patrick had over 70 stellar reviews. Grace and Greg’s apartment only had a few reviews since their listing was still quite new in the market. But I took a chance. My next deciding factor was the responsiveness of the owner. Before booking, I was able to communicate with the owners, inquired if the dates I was considering were still available. Both Grace and Patrick responded timely. After a few inquiries, I booked the apartment.
e. Payment Type – knowing that I’m a big fan of earning points with my credit card spend, I picked the credit card that would give me the most points. I chose my Chase Ink credit card. I didn’t use the card directly to pay AirBNB. Chase Ink, when used to purchase things from an office supply store such as
Office Depot or Staples, gives you 5 points per dollar spent. So what does an office supply store have to do with AirBNB. For my AirBNB stays in Melbourne and Sydney, I purchased $400 worth of AirBNB gift cards from Staples. Typically, you get a 1:1 ratio. But by going through an office supply store when I use my Chase Ink, that gave me 2,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points ($400 x 5 pts). Any other charges not covered by the Ink card, I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred since that card gives me 2 points per dollar on travel expenses.
The Mistake Fare Takeaway
As I mentioned during my first blog entry for this trip, our airfare per person was valued close to $3,000. But Nancy and I only paid $844 total for both of us. I came across a mistake fare. I had no plans in going to Oz, although it was one of the places I knew I wanted to visit. So I booked it. I’m not exactly sure if this was the actual headline back in April….but here’s what I found when I scrolled all the way back to April.
Do I advocate purchasing a mistake-fare? YES, but you need to know what to expect. One thing to remember, the airline reserves the right to honor or deny the fare. It happened to me once before. In my case, since I love to travel, and I’m quite flexible with my schedule, and I tend to drag Nancy and the kids to our crazy out of this world escapades, it suits us.
Will I keep banking on mistake-fares? I wouldn’t wait for a mistake fare to happen. Why not? You just can’t plan for it. I can’t say that I’ll be going to Thailand this summer because I plan on booking a mistake fare. Big mistake. Another thing to consider, if you have to be at a wedding in Singapore on August 15 (just as an example), then your needs are quite specific. Mistakes happen whenever or it may never happen. Mistake fares work best for those who are highly flexible. Having said that…my eyes are always open for last-minute dash away deals or mistake fares. So cheers to mistake fares!
Back in La-la Land
Our plane landed at 6:15 am. We made it safely after traveling close to 15 hours. I watched Bad Moms during the flight. Hilarious!
We were able to go through customs quickly since we have a Global Entry card. We picked up our luggage, got our car from the extended stay parking lot, and we were on the road by 7:30 am. It was Thanksgiving morning, no traffic. We made it back to Camarillo within 40-45 minutes. Unbelievable. Our garage was open and our four kids were waiting for us. They were the reason why we wanted to make it back on Thanksgiving morning.
Will not miss Thanksgiving again
Exactly one year ago, Nancy and I were in Europe. We explored London, Budapest, and Prague. We were gone for two weeks and we missed celebrating Thanksgiving for the very first time. When the opportunity to travel to Australia came about, I knew that I wouldn’t want to miss Thanksgiving again. So when I looked at the available dates, there was an opportunity to return on Thursday, the morning of Thanksgiving. Bam! We booked it.
I love to cook a feast for Thanksgiving, and my kids requested that I prepare the turkey instead of buying a store-bought turkey. During our trip, I was in communication with Ethan, my 15-year old, and he followed my instructions in preparing the bird, the big bird. I’m so proud of him. By the time this blog is published, Thanksgiving would’ve been over already in the US.
At the end of it all, Nancy and I are always so grateful for the opportunity to travel. We’ve found ways to make this travel hobby work for us without hurting our wallets. Australia was a part of our bucket list, we got to see Sydney and Melbourne, enjoyed the variety of food, and met a lot of wonderful people. Seeing the Sydney Opera House was a lifelong dream, and to this day, I pinch myself that I was able to see it up close. Hoping the next time I visit Sydney that there’s a show that I would go to and watch for a more wholesome experience.
Since it’s still Thanksgiving weekend here in the US, here are the pictures from our Thanksgiving dinner celebration with the family. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thank you, Australia…until next time.