Alex O'Brien

International Travel

Tips to plan a long overseas holiday

Tips to plan a long overseas holiday

Lindsay Walker, 63, and his wife Dalaine, 65, are global humanitarians with a passion to make a difference in impoverished areas in the world.

We are far from unique when it comes to global travellers. What makes us a little different is that we went to four continents, 28 countries, staying in 96 different cities and towns, going on some 28 flights, 26 high-speed trains, local buses, taxis and ferries – all in six months. If you do the maths that is less than two nights in each place and we are 65 and 63 years of age!

Obviously travel of this kind is not for everyone. I had to check with Qantas for an interpretation on their myriad of rules and regulations – and I was told I must be either mad or someone in the tourism industry. Well, hopefully not too mad and yes, I am a retired veteran after 30 something years at the coalface of travel.

The very first thing you must have is a supportive wife (or partner). Not only to be totally compatible in six months in often quite demanding and tiring situations, but one who can physically keep up, is strong physically and mentally.

It took two years in planning this mammoth expedition, a tremendous amount of research went into investigating various options, and as we had an accumulation of air points these had to be incorporated with standard airfares and air passes, trains and accommodation – all during the northern hemisphere high season!

Interspersed in all of this were visits to six children from developing countries we sponsor through TEARFund, several of which were in remote areas of the world who don't see any tourists. Getting replies back from the various projects takes time and so many things can change, which makes the chances of error a real possibility.

Precise planning is essential, one of the major concerns is keeping to a budget. A mere $10 over in spending a day adds at least $1800 over the six months!

The much vaunted little yellow health inoculation book full of doctors' illegible scribbles telling the authorities that you have had everything to guard you against every bug and virus going was largely ignored (it comes at a cost of some $500 per person). But then again not having all the boxes ticked could invalidate any insurance claims. In over 107 countries and 45 years of travelling, I have only had two travel claims but my rational is if you can't afford travel insurance you shouldn't travel!

There are lots of things to check off before you travel – some pretty standard, some maybe particular to your circumstances. Obviously having people back home on the ground looking after valuables like house, car and contents is a big bonus, but if you are away six months you need to remember such things as deflating your car tyres and to rotate the wheels.

Money is always something that concerns a lot of people. What is the best way to secure your money overseas? We now have many options: debit cards, credit cards, currency cash cards and so on. It is amazing how times have changed. I remember the days in New Zealand where you were only allowed a daily allowance of $10 a day – if you wanted to buy anything of significance you needed Reserve bank approval! Remember when traveller’s cheques were the only way to transact business? You had to guard those little pieces of paper with your life. My tip would be to share the money when travelling so if you lose or misplace your money, or are robbed, you have a way out.

It has happened only twice in my lifetime but the feeling of being violated and the utter grief and despair caused is something to be avoided at all costs!

What to pack? We went from 42 degrees and 100 per cent humidity in the Caribbean (Colombia) to a chilly four degrees (mid-summer in Norway, 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle). So when we packed we had to consider all the climates we were visiting.

Where to stay? We stayed in budget accommodation and ate where the locals ate. That saves money but can increase person safety and health safety risks.

We love interacting with people, that is how we learn. That is why we have a trunk load of stories and adventures that we want to share with you and some of the tips we give you may help you next time you travel. Here are the first of many:

Tip 1 – A credit card is perfect for cutting watermelon or soft fruit, but always use the corner away from the data capture. Or better still use a less important card.

Tip 2 – Use dental floss as a clothes line! I think this is a world first but it works perfectly fine and just great especially for “smalls”.

Tip 3 – Unless you have a date with royalty wear practical clothing. Think quick-drying, easy, washable, light-weight, but always prepare for weather and temperature change.

Tip 4 – Be prepared for suitcases getting wrecked. We had to replace both and have done so on every long distance adventure. Put something that will identify your luggage at baggage claim – be creative!

It is a real surreal feeling putting your bags in a friend’s car and in our case been driven the three or so hours to the airport. This is the moment you have been dreaming about and if you have forgotten something – as long as it is not absolutely essential or life-threatening – you can either do without or buy one to replace whatever you left behind.

Follow Lindsay and Dalaine’s journey to make a difference in impoverished areas of the world and learn how you can be part of it at Make My Name Count.

Related links:

6 tips to keep the peace on holidays with a friend

The cheapest way to travel from Venice to Paris

7 household items that make travelling easy