Thursday, November 24, 2016

Australia Spring 2016 - Costing and planning

First trip with our son, and his first time on a plane! Total nightmare!!! We'll talk about that in another post :P

3 cities we picked this time are Melbourne (MEL), Hobart (HBA) and Launceston (LCS). Launceston is just a drop by city because we wanted to visit the tulip farm in Wynyard which is 2 hours drive from Launceston. Driving all the way from Hobart is way too long since we are traveling with a kid. Frankly, if we would do this again, we'd skip the tulip farm and spend the 2 nights in Hobart, its a beautiful city!

You can only get to Tasmania via Australian domestic flights. So the route was KUL-MEL-HBA first, stayed 2 nights, then we took a drive to Launceston, spent another 2 nights before heading to Melbourne for 4 nights. We choose SIA this time because we read many good comments from parents who travel with kids and they received extremely good service from the airplane crew! And I totally agree with them!

Some notes for first timers flying with kids, bottles of water (hot/cold), baby formula, baby food, porridge, crackers, baby snacks are all ALLOWED into the plane.

If you have a stroller and would like to bring it all the way into the departure gates, just inform the friendly staff at the check-in counter, they'll tie a tag on the stroller and you can be on your way. At the departure gates, just fold the stroller and pass it to the staff there, they'll stow it away. Now you have 2 options:
1. You can let them know if you need the stroller back during transit or arrival
2. You let them transfer the stroller all the way to the oversize baggage area where you collect your baggage after clearing immigration. This is the default. So if you need the stroller when you get down from the plane, let them know immediately and wait for them to get it for you at the exit.

Note on the budget airlines at Melbourne. We took Jetstar to Tasmania and they didn't allow us to bring in the stroller just because it wasn't wrapped! They told us to wait at Hobart airport so that they can transfer the stroller in the next flight! WTH?! Actually you just need a bag/plastic bag or anything that can wrap the stroller with. We don't know why the inconvenience because SIA had their own plastic bag and they wrapped it for us!

Below is the cost breakdown:
Air tickets for 2 adults and a baby (below 2 years old):
  • SIA KUL-MEL return ticket  - RM5895.80 (comes with 30kg/adult and 10kg for the child)
  • Jetstar MEL-HBA one way (comes with 20kg/adult) - AUD237
  • Jetstar LST-MEL one way (comes with 20kg/adult) - AUD257
  • additional 10kg baggage both ways - AUD48
Car rental:
  • Car rental in Tasmania (Camry from Apex with zero excess and child seat) - AUD276 for 4 days
  • Car rental in Melbourne (Pulsar from Cheaper Car Rentals with zero excess and child seat and GPS) - AUD179.83 for 2 days
Hotels (Tasmania hotels booked via booking,com, Melbourne booked direct from Hilton):
  • Wrest Point Hotel Hobart (2 nights) - AUD305
  • Best Western Plus Launceston (2 nights) - AUD287
  • Double Tree by Hilton Flinders St (4 nights @ AUD169, +AUD50/night for station view) - AUD876 
  • Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, Tasmania (AUD28/pax) - AUD56
  • Table Cape Tulips, Wynyard (AUD10/pax) - AUD20
  • Optus My Prepaid Daily Plus (AUD2/day and AUD10/recharge) - AUD22
  • Food budget at AUD90/day/pax - AUD1620 
  • Starbus return ticket from Melbourne Airport to Double Trees Flinders St @ AUD30/pax - AUD60
Another note, do not rent a car if you are staying in Melbourne CBD, i.e. within the free tram zone. The parking is freaking expensive! Our hotel doesn't have parking and we need to park at a public multilevel car park nearby and was charged AUD30/entry for 24 hours! And that's a "special" hotel guest rate mind you! Paying for parking is really convenient though, almost every machine accepts credit cards, some charges a small fee. If you are driving to Crown Casino, look for the multilevel car park, its much much cheaper at AUD6/entry

For car rentals, if its your first time driving in Australia, spend a little more by getting a "zero excess" package. If touch wood you got into an accident, you don't have to pay a single cent. There are no tolls in Tasmania so you don't have to worry. In Melbourne, remember to set "toll avoidance" on your GPS, we were slapped with a total of AUD16.91 worth of tolls on a single trip from St. Kilda back to CBD!

Some guides on food prices in these cities we visited:
Asian in general - AUD10-15/meal - e.g. Ramen, Malaysian
CBD level (medium class) - AUD17-22/meal
Hotel level (Crown Casino) - AUD22-AUD35/meal
Coffee - average AUD4/cup at cafes, most expensive was AUD4.50 at hotel lobby