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Forums Other Destination advice A lengthy trip report on my time at the other side of the world

  • yorkshireRich 194 posts

    Before I begin, I’ll try and keep this somewhat entertaining, but also informative. I’m sure some may not like the writing style, or even the content for that matter, but if it just helps one person improve the trip they have planned, it’s worth it. Unfortunately if you are looking for tips off the beaten track, this probably won’t be any interest to you, as we well and truly stuck to the tourist trail.
    I will add to this topic each time, so by my reckoning there will be 4 chapters. This first chapter will cover us departing the Uk and spending the first week in Australia. At the end of each chapter I will do a quick summary as I will presume some people won’t want to read all of it. I will try and add what I think may be useful as I have come across some awesome information from this site on what I class as “golden nugget” information so this is my way of giving back so to speak. I wouldn’t have been able to plan a trip like this without this site and the people who contribute to it after all.

    A quick background story – Pre Covid we were meant to travel to Australia and Bali for our honeymoon. The Covid storm was about to hit, and Australia was cancelled a week before. Our wedding was cancelled the night before also. During the time of uncertainty in 2020 and after soon getting bored of buying a side door and some Arthur price cutlery, I stumbled onto this site and kept speculatively booking our honeymoon to Australia, each time trying to make a slight improvement on the previous itinerary.
    A few years on, marriage was completed and a baby was on the way. I then had this brainwave that with the Avios earned and my wife on maternity leave, going to Australia in the winter when it’s cold and miserable in Blighty may not be the worst idea I’ve ever had. The wife gave the usual “no, what a ridiculous idea” response but I have discovered this really cool trait over the years where I would just wear her down. It really is a tried and tested method that does not disappoint. After a few days she agreed to my plan and the foundations were set. 2 adults and an infant (infant only a few months created) were going on Qatar airways for 90k avios each plus taxes from Heathrow to Sydney. Well, the infant was 10% avios plus 10% taxes, but even a novice knows that as it’s one of the first things learnt in the HFP training manual. From memory Manchester wasn’t available on the date I wanted, but I wanted to go from Heathrow anyway, as the great Manchester experience is well documented on here.

    The plan over 355 days ago was Australia (only a snippet of it), Nz, Fiji and then Malaysia and Singapore on the way back. We had to change our plans and tailor them to a 5 month old. For example, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef and visiting Uluru just was not practical in our opinion. This is the internet though, Someone will no doubt disagree with me.
    I had some great advice on here beforehand and it helped massively. People who are not used to travelling as much however were quite negative towards our plans, and a couple of times we questioned whether we were doing the right thing. Feel free to skip a fair parapgrahs along where I’ve labelled it “in Australia”

    Departure day – The day of departing our beloved Yorkshire was finally upon us and the wife stated that she only had one hours worth of packing to go. This was 5 hours before her mum was going to give us a lift to the station. Knowing all about her time keeping, I knew at that point it was going to be touch and go. I conducted various checklists from my trusty note pad, and we had realised the baby was going to have everything but the kitchen sink. She moaned at me that I had not done much all morning, but I informed her that I had purchased the breakfast sandwiches, and that was one of the most important things anyone could do on departure day. We had got to the train station with 15 minutes to spare, which for us was extremely impressive.
    Once on the train and in standard class (didn’t bother seat frogging it a few days before, was too busy), I realised pretty quickly I had forgotten my driving licence. I informed her of this, and she just thought I was joking with her. Once she realised I wasn’t, I got it in the neck. “You didn’t do anything, and you had that bloody checklist, how could you forget such an important item?”. I’m at the mindset that as long as I have my family, everything else can sort itself out. I ended up getting it posted out to me in Nz and it arrived around 2 weeks later.

    Once arriving at King’s Cross after a fairly uneventful train journey, we stood on the platform and laughed at all the luggage we had. A member of LNER asked if we needed assistance. We smiled, politely declined and gathered our bearings with the wife then seeing it necessary to take a photo to add it to the book of memories for the child. I was walking through with a short sleeved top, and still sweating. It was meant to be cold, wet and miserable. I had that brief moment when I questioned why we were even going to the other side of the world in the search for sun.
    As the Elizabeth line wasn’t overly accessible on the day of travel, we opted for the Piccadilly line from King’s Cross straight to Heathrow T4. 3 lifts later, we were on the tube and the little one had her feet up on the pram looking around and smiling at other passengers. We just hoped this was start of things to come, and that she would take this travelling malarkey all in her stride. Spoiler alert, she did.
    Once off the tube, we were armed with a trolley and that trolley was not going to leave our side. At the Departures hall at T4, I had a quick look where the Qatar check in was and then we took it to the covered walkway. A passenger behind me walked behind me and said “welcome to the tunnel of doom”. I did wonder if he knew something I didn’t as I thought it was a very pleasant walkway. At the Crowne Plaza and with check in completed, I politely asked the lady in if I was still entitled to drink vouchers (Platinum), and she was apologetic that she had forgot and gave them to me. In the room we had realised there was no bath. No big deal but I thought that there was no harm in going to the reception to see if there were any rooms with a bath. The lady then managed to upgrade me, so off we went with our baggage, baby, and the trolley. I was assured by someone on FT that it was perfectly acceptable to take the trolley into the room. We headed to Urban Brassiere and the fish and chips were lovely.

    Leaving Uk – The morning of flying Qatar business was upon us. We went back on the walkway and I realised a poster on here (Sam G) had stayed in our hotel. It was 50/50 whether they were on our Qatar flight and I was unsure whether they were even in our cabin. Was I ever going to meet the elusive Sam G?
    Arriving at security, it appeared very quiet. It became apparent with all our hand luggage and baby formula, that there was going to be a queue very soon. They opened up the other security lane pretty quickly. I looked apologetic and the paranoia in me had these thoughts that everyone was thinking “I hope you are not sitting near me”. As we got through, a lady had forgot to take her water out and she said “how come you have all that and a baby and you manage to go through no issue, and I can’t even do that”, I took that as a compliment.
    We weren’t in the lounge long enough to really appreciate it, but we had a quick bit of breakfast and a coffee. The flight was comfortable and I spent majority of it stood up in the bar area on the A380, as I’m not great at just sitting there. I’m genuinely not feeling overly enthusiastic about travelling in what some people describe as the claustrophobic qsuites. I felt the dine on demand was alittle bit of a gimmick, unless I was just unlucky. I say this because I felt very much like they were prompting me when I needed to eat. I had the same issue on the flight from Doha to Sydney. On that particular flight, one FA informed me that I could have my main meal when I woke up if I wanted, yet when I did wake up, the other FA told me that it was just the breakfast meal now. Like I say, maybe I was unlucky?

    Arriving at Doha, we landed at Gate c13. I knew the probability of flying from C13 to Sydney was quite high, as I had checked it everyday beforehand. I was ready to take a brisk walk to the Al Mourjan Garden Lounge. That process had been sped up as we realised we didn’t have to go through security after leaving the aircraft. My plan had been scuppered though as the wife was insistent that we had to trail all the way to the other end so we could have a photo with, yes wait for it, that big Bludy teddy bear.
    At the lounge, there were ample staff members. All extremely polite and wanting to help. We had some decent sushi in there. I think the proper way was that we were meant to do that fancy ordering on the phone, but the old fashioned speaking to a member of staff did work. The shower system was quick and easy, but I know some people don’t like it as there isn’t a toilet in there. I personally don’t give a sh11t, see what I did there? On that theme, the baby did her business in the lounge. She could not have timed that better. What a superstar.

    Arriving in Australia – Arriving at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, we stuck to our usual left side of the plane and we had great views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge whilst landing. Once landed, we had a lovely stroll to the stand seeing a few people on the beach and then going over the runway bridge with the cars underneath us. I find the small things fascinating.
    Immigration was quick, as after joining the queue for the automated machines, we soon realised we were exempt. We went straight through and with luggage collected, the wife did the usual Airalo sim on arrival in the airport and gave herself 10gb of data for a week and assumed I would be fine with a measly 2gb. We joined the taxi queue and paid 80AUd to get to Intercontinental at Circular Quay. The exact words from the driver at the taxi rank was “it will be 70AUD, maybe. I questioned the “maybe” bit and he said that I could fix it for 80 AUD. We had looked at what Uber were charging a few moments before and it was extremely similar. We realised once we were in close vicinity of the hotel that it would have been near impossible to have taken the airport train and completed the walk up that hill with all the luggage from Circular Quay. A poster on here said to me that we had to balance cost with connivence, and what wise advice that was. We did pay less going back to the airport, and we booked that through the hotel.

    I emailed IC beforehand as I do most hotels. The app informed me that I was upgraded one room category to the east harbour view months before. I bought the points when it was 100% purchase offer and the cost was 158k for four nights. I felt I made a decent saving in comparison to paying in cash. I ended up paying for an extra night in cash as we agreed we would stay and watch the fireworks by the harbour and see the Australia Day celebrations on the Friday. I had requested a cot in the room beforehand and it resembled something of a hospital trolley. The decision to bring the bassinet for the little one was justified immediately. As my diamond had expired, I didn’t have access to breakfast but the wife had a genius idea that the 25 Aud allowance we had received for been a platinum member could be used for breakfast on one of the mornings. I had argued that it was non negotiable that this is used for beer in the bar, but that didn’t wash. The breakfast was okay-ish.

    Day 1 – The forecast wasn’t great for the first day, but the view was good from our room as the sun was only just rising. We woke up around 5:30 am (and went to be bed about 1am) as we soon discovered our baby was not prepared to go back to sleep. It was not overly warm, and we thought it would be a great time to do the walk from Coogee to Bondi, but first we had to have breakfast. We ate at Bertonis on the first morning, which was situated just round the corner from the IC, and we thought it was superb. Unfortunately we went a few days later and the service was absolutely abysmal. We were told to sit down despite others ordering food at the counter and after countless members of staff walking past our table, we just walked out.

    Once we had breakfast, We took the tram from Circular Quay all the way to the end, which is to Randwick. What then followed was a quick 2 minute walk to catch a 9 minute bus to Coggee. The sun came out at this point and I’m glad we had the sunshade for the pram. She slept all the way through the walk. It probably helped that she had the fan going on at full speed. We did have to deviate on the walk somewhat as it wasn’t completely stroller friendly. Once finally at Bondi, we stopped off and I had some oysters. For those people that follow rugby league, one of the players once said “I’d rather be on Blackpool Beach than Bondi Beach”. I looked at the beach, and I looked at the sea, just as I did in 2010, and I’m still not convinced by that comment.
    We had planned on visiting Watsons bay that day from Bondi, but the time was very quickly running away from us so we had to swerve it. We spent a short bit of time at Bondi junction catching abit of shade and doing abit of shopping.

    Day 2 – we woke up at a normal time and we were relatively pleased that we felt all 3 of us had beaten the jet lag. We visited Taronga zoo as we felt it was a decent excuse to jump on a ferry. I wanted to go to Manly but I was outvoted. The wife claimed that we had to do something that our baby would like, and it shouldn’t just be what us two were interested in. It turned out she didn’t give a monkeys and she fell asleep 5 minutes up on entering. After visiting Kruger and also Knowsley safari park, I can’t say I was too fussed about spending much time at Taronga zoo, but it was okay-ish. Sydney Opera House tour was the highlight on day 2. I had done it 14 years ago and it hadn’t really changed. We were just a minute or two late for the tour as we had underestimated the size of portions at pancakes on the rocks. We visited there more than once.

    Day 3 – We had planned on doing the cheapo version of the Sydney harbour bridge Climb, in the shape of the pylon lookout. On entering, we realised that it wasn’t a sensible idea as the baby needed feeding so we accepted defeat and trundled across the bridge and found a cafe over there. We then ventured to luna park before catching the ferry to Darling Harbour. We had a few hours spare in the evening and we opted to go swimming at the hotel. We felt the pool was more than adequate and despite some people moaning online about the temperature, we felt it was absolutely fine. The view from up there of the harbour bridge and the opera house was certainly up there with most pool views.

    Restaurants – I know there’s many foodies on here, but I am certainly not one of those (you are talking to a toby carvery season ticket holder), therefore I would most definitely take my recommendations with a pinch of salt. I thought I would keep this a separate paragraph. Our restaurants whilst in Sydney were China Doll, Grana and cafe Sydney. All 3 are on the Amex platinum overseas dining credit. I know cafe Sydney gets rave reviews but it was actually our least favourite. My reasoning being that it was the most expensive, yet the portions were the smallest. I definitely think you are paying for the view. I was just as happy strolling through the botanic gardens and marvelling at the views of the finger wharf at Wooloomooloo, whilst eating at the fantastic China doll where you can only describe the portions as overly generous. We purchased a gift card online for China doll as we did quite a few restaurants before we came out for our trip. Some transactions worked out quite lucrative and worked on the 2023 overseas dining credit. A lot didn’t.
    For breakfast on more than one morning, we found a cafe. It was absolutely no thrills and probably not the hfp type of place but it was busy and it set up for me the day. This was Alpha gourmet cafe.

    Day 4 – Australia Day was hot. I think someone had told me it was the hottest day Sydney had seen for 5 years. That morning, I got talking to someone waiting for the lift and he was telling me how he was looking forward to watching the celebrations by the opera house. Unknown to him, I actually had tickets for the concert later in the evening. Back in the Uk a few weeks earlier, I had joined the online queue at around 11pm and secured tickets for the concert just before 1am. I had my doubts at the time that it would be practical with an infant, and I soon realised it would be unfair on our baby and it just was not practical one little bit. I ended up giving the tickets to him, and we just watched it in a bar/restaurant by the harbour under air conditioning where we had plonked ourselves for most of that day.
    Let me quickly think if there was anything of note that had happened in that intercontinental lift. Ahh, yes, I went up to the top floor to the visit the pool and was asked “how’s the lounge up there”. I smiled and stated that those days are long gone now and I’m the lowest room category type of person for quite a whule.
    One last thing, now I appear obsessed with Intercontinental Sydney and its lifts. When I tapped the room card as I entered, it had already programmed which floor I was on. I possibly just don’t visit hotels with fancy lifts very often, but I found it interesting nevertheless.

    Back to Australia Day, in the morning I ventured on a short train journey from Martin place to King’s Cross where I explored the area. It had changed considerably from when I stayed there 14 years ago. In the blazing heat I walked back then went down the harbour to see the festivities.

    Day 5 – After a few lovely days in Sydney, we were ready to leave and my thoughts on our stay were all positive. In an ideal world, I would have preferred to have done more, and if I was travelling on my own, I most certainly would have. It was certainly better than nothing though.
    It was now time to fly up to Brisbane airport. I originally had a Jetstar flight booked (from multiple credits in the covid era), but having had visions of Ryanair esque charging tactics, with all the baggage we had I felt it was a safer option to opt for Qantas. I had booked for the 13:00 flight, but only a few days before, I had an email saying we had been rebooked onto a different flight one hour later. That flight time was too late for us, but the flight one hour earlier had then jumped in price. I noticed all of a sudden on BA, avios redemptions had opened up. Wanting to protect my precious avios, I paid the difference in cash. I think I potentially may have been better just getting the refund and booking in avios. Going back to Qantas and the cancelling of flights, it seems that’s a tactic they use a lot now. It doesn’t sound like the Aussies are particularly impressed with any domestic offering at present. I would say that our experience wasn’t too bad. With having the equivalent of Qantas gold, We breezed through check in, flew through security and had ample time to luxuriate in the Qantas club lounge. There was an element of sarcasm there, as the lounge was okay, but boasting a little bit of salad and bread, I certainly would not have wanted to pay for it. I would describe the food as mediocre at best. It was no issue to us at all but the Booze does only start to flow after mid-day, so I assume some people may factor that in when booking flights.
    Our flight was completely full, but the free (and extremely quick) wi fi was a pleasant surprise. It was interesting that Qantas were the only airline up to press that wouldn’t let us take our stroller on board. Tbh, I think it may have just been one specific lady before boarding who was quite keen, as the check In lady did assure me that it would be absolutely fine.

    At Brisbane, domestic arrivals was a doddle. Our bags were straight off, and we headed to the car park where all the car hire firms are located. I had completed All the pre arrival stuff online for Avis, meaning that my name was already on the screen telling me where to go. The keys were in the car, and it was easy as that. As we have Avis preferred, I let my wife drive being the second driver, as she had her driving licence on her.

    We drove to Noosa heads, and I had booked the Sofitel pacific. I read between the lines on the reviews beforehand (as some are wishy washy on TA nowadays), and I came to the conclusion it wasn’t going to be the ritz. As Accor Gold, I got a small welcome drink. Apple juice or fizz was the question. I think that was as much as my benefits got me from what I can remember. A couple of quick points about the hotel. The towels and sun beds were far from great, and the cleanliness of the room had left a lot to be desired. I didn’t know the half of it until my wife had told me after we had checked out. I’d just get a standard reply back now if I reviewed it on TA or mentioned someone thing to the GM so I’ll just let people on HfP know instead. The room did have a microwave which was good for us with the baby milk. Overall, the hotel needs a re-fresh and although not terrible, I wouldn’t particularly recommend it.
    Noosa Heads itself was thoroughly enjoyable. We strolled along the beach and running into the sea (before my beautiful baby threw up over my clean shirt) was a highlight I’ll remember forever. She looked like she enjoyed it, but she didn’t have much to compare it with as the only other time she had been on the beach was on cold miserable October day in Bridlington.

    Day 6 – On the Sunday morning, which was our first full day in Noosa, we stood on the balcony from our room and marvelled at the Noosa river. The boat leaves right by the Sofitel, so we hopped on and had a 35 minute ride to the other end. We had some coffee (that also means feed the baby), and wandered round a couple of shops before taking the boat a couple of stops back. We got off at Noosaville and had a gentle stroll by the river. I Can highly recommend the kings prawns at Noosa boat house. We also visited Noosa beach house (as we did each day) and it had a great view of Hastings street and it was a one minute walk to Noosa beach.
    On the evening we visited Locale. It is on the Amex dining. I would thoroughly recommend this restaurant.

    Day 7 – we went for a walk in Noosa national park. We went at a leisurely pace and then visited a few cafes on the way there and back. I had quickly noticed that coffee shops closed extremely early in Noosa. A local later told me that I would struggle to find a coffee after 2pm. As well as coffee shops closing early, restaurants also close early. We struggled on the last night to find anything to eat that night as we had left it later than 20:00. It was either room service or a domino’s, so we chose the latter and ate it on the balcony. I can feel the shudder from here.

    Day 8 – We were on our way again travelling to Brisbane after 3 lovely nights in Noosa Heads. We would have loved to have stayed at various other destinations on the Sunshine Coast, and we had been looking at visiting Maroochydore for an hour or two, but the weather was such a washout that we headed straight to Brisbane and checked in at the Sofitel Brisbane. It was a much better hotel than the one we had just come from. At check in I did however have to politely mention in conversation about the drinks vouchers. Have you realised a theme here? It did get me thinking if they genuinely forget about informing the customer of certain benefits or if it’s a common tactic that they are instructed to perform to help penny pinch. The hotel itself is a distance away from the other “up market hotels” which are located by the south bank. I wouldn’t let that deter you from staying there though.

    We spent the afternoon in Brisbane walking by the river and looking at how much the city had changed since I was last there in 2010 when they had the floods. After our brief stop at the Sofitel Brisbane, it was time to collect the car from the car park (15 AUD cheaper than valet), and get our luggage together. Having dropped the car off, which I forgot to mention was an absolute beast, We walked to the Domestic terminal, then had to get a free shuttle to the International terminal for our flight to Fiji. I will carry on my next post from departing Brisbane as I have a slight story to tell from there. Well done if you have got up to here and hopefully I have you for my next few chapters.

    To summarise – Qatar, a great way of getting to Aus on avios and don’t discard the A380
    IC Sydney is perfectly acceptable and you could save on points.
    China doll is very good, as is Grana.
    Locale Noosa is awesome

    The good news is, that will be the longest post by far.
    Cheers
    Rich

    The Savage Squirrel 565 posts

    Thanks Rich, looking forward to next few installments!

    Impressed you got a Leon Pryce quote into HfP! I think he even said he’d rather be in Bradford than Bondi, to which the Sydney Telegraph wrote (in typical undeerstated Aussie tabloid style) something about how it wasn’t safe to venture out in Bradford without a gun :D.

    marshy11 250 posts

    Thanks very much, I really enjoyed reading that. I have no plans to go to Aus but it was an interesting read all the same.

    ed_fly 196 posts

    Thanks, that was an enjoyable read

    Annie 183 posts

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading that and look forward to more. I’m planning a trip to Australia for next year which will be my first return visit since 1993. I expect I’ll see a lot of changes. No children or grandchildren in tow just my southern husband and me, a Yorkshire woman in exile!

    Jess 33 posts

    Thanks for taking the time to write up your trip report. I read it just after I had eaten dinner on my last night in Noosa. We looked at Locale but we felt we weren’t suitably attired to dine there! I wish we had eaten there after all. We are leaving Noosa tomorrow to head back to Brisbane for our qatar flight to Dublin. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your holiday.

    AFKAE 140 posts

    We’re planning something similar in Jan and Feb next year, so this is great info.

    Thanks.

    strickers 662 posts

    Thanks, nothing wrong with a takeaway on the balcony, reet posh nosh that is.

    kelliea1 92 posts

    Thanks, great read.

    rams 224 posts

    Thanks for sharing your trip report. Fun to read

    Jess 33 posts

    Forgot to say that we used Virgin Australia for our internal flights and they were a very good price and included 23kg case as well as a 7kg carry on and a lap top/handbag, and free seat selection. They were very punctual too.

    SamG 1,636 posts

    Love this! Sorry we didn’t meet ! Seems like an awesome trip, 90k Avios biz to Aus is just such good value. It’s great that you decided to go for it whilst your LO is still at a portable age. In hindsight our plan to do it with the eldest was 18m was not one I’d rush to recommend 🤣

    Scottpat78 235 posts

    Great trip report Rich. Looking forward to the next instalment.

    I’ve only ever been to Sydney for work. You’ve done more in 5 days there than I have in over a dozen trips! I seem to do the same Bondi / Manly / Coogee bay sights each weekend I’m there in the middle of a 2 week trip.

    David D 35 posts

    Great read Rich – I would like to plan such a trip soon for next year/year after. I will also have infants in tow though so this was a relevant read.
    Any specific tips you could share on travelling with a 5 month old?

    Ladyshopper 113 posts

    Great read, thank you!

    We’ve got 2-4 days in Sydney later this year (not fully decided on our itinerary yet, we fly into Auckland so depends how long we spend there) and looking at what we want to do (and stay, no hotel booked either!).

    FatherOfFour 273 posts

    Thanks for sharing. We have a budget version of this coming next month. Some good ideas in here

    yorkshireRich 194 posts

    Thanks all for the kind words. I’m just finishing off the next 2 instalments now.

    Now I know my audience, I’ll try and put more rugby league quotes in and some more memories of some posh eating on balconies.

    As for advice, I feel I could almost write a book. There must be a gap in the market. I could call it “dummies guide to taking a baby to other side of the worlds from a tight Yorkshireman that won’t pay full price for anything and that just about knows how to change a nappy and sterilise a bottle”.
    I took a lot from a thread in the destination forum. There really is so much helpful advice. My top tips with 2 weeks to go in no specific order:

    Make sure you have a compact stroller that folds down to cabin size. I know some people swear by it but it doesn’t have to be a yo yo. We have the silver cross clic, and it’s done the job. It sits up right and fully reclines. It’s one of the cheaper ones but we are happy with that and glad we left our regular pram behind. Make sure you definitely buy the bag with it as qatar havent cared upto now, but other airlines have. A baby carrier is useful to take the baby on the plane whilst the pram is folded and in the bag. Tbh that’s the only time we have used the baby carrier.

    The Cozi go 3 in 1 bassinet, travel cot and playpen. It will come in handy at home and it’s really been brilliant out here as it’s just another thing that gives the infant some continuity.

    When you book a hotel room, if it’s sold out or more expensive to book for 2 adults and an infant, then just book the room for 2 adults and email the hotel to confirm and request a bassinet. You can always cancel the bassinet request but it’s more of a way of informing the hotel of the number of guests arriving.

    We have a folding baby change mat. Not all baby changing facilities are the cleanest and you never know if you need to use it in the middle of no where or in the back of a car.

    If formula fed, then take two flasks out, one with hot and one cold. This enables you to make bottles on the go with no hassle. That said it’s easy to get hot water in cafes, on the aircraft etc.

    The main thing is that babies are so adaptable, and I think some people underestimate this massively.

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