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Old 07-12-2014, 04:26 PM   #1
mathgeek
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Australia ABD trip advice

I am seriously considering Discovery Down Under as my next ABD trip. Does anyone have any advice for this trip?
What did you do with your time on your own? Where did you eat on your own?
What were the hotels like? Did you have free wifi and were there hairdryers? What was something you were glad you did or glad you packed? Was there anything you wish you hadn't done?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. I felt like I was pretty well-prepared for Backstage Magic and that I could have done a little more preparation for Cities of Knights and Lights (or at least the Paris part, I got a lot out of my time on my own in London). I want to make sure I'm more prepared for this one going in, especially now that I've done an international ABD trip and have a better idea of what to expect.
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Old 07-18-2014, 12:50 AM   #2
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First off - this is an amazing tour and I highly recommend it. We went on the ABD December 2013. It was my third trip to Australia and I can honestly say this tour is worth the money.

Wi-Fi. It wasn't great.

In Cairns, we had access at the airport, hotel pool and lobby. If I stood outside the balcony and pointed my device at just the right angle towards the pool, I could get coverage - but got nothing once I was in the room.

No coverage in Uluru

Sydney - coverage in hotel lobby only, none in rooms. However, lots of Wi-Fi access around town. There's a Starbucks close by, you can get access in the mall across the street, etc.

Tasmania - zero coverage at Freycinet - they actually pride themselves on it. We had some coverage in Hobart.

I recommend getting your phone unlocked and buying a card from one of the local phone companies. You can buy this at the airport in Sydney. It won't work at Freycinet, but we didn't have a problem with it anywhere else.

Free Time

You don't get a lot of time on your own. It's a fairly busy itinerary.

Cairns - either hang by the pool or walk along the beach. You cannot swim in Palm Cove Beach as it is infested with crocs and jelly fish.

Uluru - barely any free time. We chilled in the hotel room as we had a very early flight that morning.

Sydney - lots to do here! We purchased a pass that let us go to the zoo, aquarium and Sydney tower. You have lots of free time here, and you can do anything you want with a little planning. The theatre is near by, there is a shopping mall across from the hotel.

Tasmania - in Freycinet there is a beautiful beach and some trails you can walk. In Hobart you'll be able to tour the city and see the markets.

This is really an excellent tour with a lot of fun excursions. You will really get a great sense of what Australia is all about and enjoy some exciting adventures along the way.

If you have any other questions, I would be happy to answer them.
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Old 07-18-2014, 10:39 AM   #3
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Did you feel you had enough time in Sydney? Did you spend any days in Australia before or after the ABD?
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Old 07-18-2014, 04:38 PM   #4
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I have family in Australia, so we were there about 10 days earlier, but we only went to Sydney for one day during that time and spent the day at the Aquarium (we travelled with kids).

You'll have plenty of time to explore Sydney the city on your own during your free time. ABD takes you to all the key places (Opera House, Harbour, Bondi Beach, etc.). What will be harder to do is to go out to see the Blue Mountains or the Jenolan Caves, and explore beaches outside of the Sydney area like the Entrance.

My thinking is that if you are going to fly all the way to Australia, beg, borrow or steal as much vacation time as you can and tack on a few days and spend some extra time there. Australia is an amazing country.

If you want to get a sense of the country, and have a laugh, I recommend reading "In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson. It is hilarious.
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:31 PM   #5
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If you are interested in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb be sure to pre-book it before you arrive in Australia. It is by appointment and it will be unlikely you will get a same day or next day reservation. It is a bit pricey, but one of those once in a lifetime experiences you won't want to miss. There's a bit of climbing involved, but the pace is slow and very manageable.

If you are going over Christmas, St. Mary's cathedral (which is right across the street from the hotel) puts on an amazing show called the Lights of Christmas. It takes about 10-15 minutes from start to finish and loops through all night. It's free. There is also a 50 foot Christmas tree in the QVC building that is quite the site to see.

There's a wildlife centre at the harbour next to the aquarium. It's not much of a zoo, but you will see a koala, kangaroo etc. Keep in mind, you'll be seeing these animals while in Tasmania, where you'll have the opportunity to pet a koala and feed kangaroos.
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Old 07-21-2014, 04:04 PM   #6
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Thank you so much HavinABlast! Reading a bit about what you did is making me more confident about booking this trip.

I know there are a few meals on your own. Where did you eat? I found it difficult sometimes on the Knights & Lights tour to figure out where to eat b/c of where we were at the time, especially in while we were at the Tower of London, in Windsor, and near Notre Dame in Paris. Wish I'd done more research about those locations in advance and not just about the areas near the hotels.
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Old 07-21-2014, 09:45 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mathgeek View Post
Thank you so much HavinABlast! Reading a bit about what you did is making me more confident about booking this trip.

I know there are a few meals on your own. Where did you eat? I found it difficult sometimes on the Knights & Lights tour to figure out where to eat b/c of where we were at the time, especially in while we were at the Tower of London, in Windsor, and near Notre Dame in Paris. Wish I'd done more research about those locations in advance and not just about the areas near the hotels.
If you *don't* do research ahead of the time, you can always ask the Adventure Guides! They will have plenty of suggestions!

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Old 07-22-2014, 01:37 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HavinABlast View Post
If you are interested in the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb be sure to pre-book it before you arrive in Australia. It is by appointment and it will be unlikely you will get a same day or next day reservation. It is a bit pricey, but one of those once in a lifetime experiences you won't want to miss. There's a bit of climbing involved, but the pace is slow and very manageable.

If you are going over Christmas, St. Mary's cathedral (which is right across the street from the hotel) puts on an amazing show called the Lights of Christmas. It takes about 10-15 minutes from start to finish and loops through all night. It's free. There is also a 50 foot Christmas tree in the QVC building that is quite the site to see.

There's a wildlife centre at the harbour next to the aquarium. It's not much of a zoo, but you will see a koala, kangaroo etc. Keep in mind, you'll be seeing these animals while in Tasmania, where you'll have the opportunity to pet a koala and feed kangaroos.
Thank you HavinABlast, it's nice to hear from someone who has actually done this tour. The tip on the WiFi is especially helpful. We are booked for October 2015 and I am very excited to finally have to chance to go to Australia. Have you, by chance, been to the Australia National Maritime Museum. We are considering that as an option for our free time in Sydney.
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Old 07-25-2014, 03:27 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by pixiepirate View Post
Thank you HavinABlast, it's nice to hear from someone who has actually done this tour. The tip on the WiFi is especially helpful. We are booked for October 2015 and I am very excited to finally have to chance to go to Australia. Have you, by chance, been to the Australia National Maritime Museum. We are considering that as an option for our free time in Sydney.

Glad to be of help! No, sorry we did not visit that particular museum.
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Old 07-28-2014, 01:20 PM   #10
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Glad to be of help! No, sorry we did not visit that particular museum.
Do you have any suggestions for filling the free time in Sydney other than the Bridge Climb?
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Old 07-28-2014, 01:30 PM   #11
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My friend and I went to a show in the Sydney Opera House.

We did not have a great deal of free time in Sydney. this was the previous incarnation of the tour, back in 2009. It has changed.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:52 AM   #12
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Do you have any suggestions for filling the free time in Sydney other than the Bridge Climb?
There's so much to do in Sydney. We travelled with children and took them to the Aquarium, Wildlife Centre and up the Sydney tower, which they quite enjoyed. There is also a Madame Tussaud's if you are into that.

There is a shopping mall right across the street from the Sheraton with lots of great shops. This is going to sound funny, but the food court there is really good. It's not filled with McDs, KFC, Taco Bell, etc. like the food courts in the US and Canada. We ate some very good food for very reasonable prices there.

You could also do a harbour tour. You'll be doing one as part of the tour, but we did another one at night, which was really beautiful. Luna Park looks completely different at night.

Luna Park is an old fair, similar to Coney Island.

You could spend some time in Manly Beach (a very popular spot), it's about a 20-30 min walk from Darling Harbour or you can take a ferry from Circular Quay. The timetables are available on-line at http://www.sydneyferries.info/timeta...anly-ferry.htm.

The theatre is within walking distance of the hotel (10-15mins, I think).

You could also see who is performing at the Opera House while you are there and experience the acoustics first hand.

If you are ambitious, and depending on the amount of free time you have, you many want to consider booking a tour to the Blue Mountains. There are some easy hiking trails that take you to several look outs with spectacular views. It will take you 1.5-2 hours to drive one way.

Sydney and its subway system are very safe and easy to navigate. We found everyone to be extremely friendly and helpful.

As you can see, there are endless options - it really depends on your interests.
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Old 07-29-2014, 01:13 PM   #13
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So it sounds like the mall might be a good place for souvenir shopping and a quick meal. Do you have any recommendations for moderately priced restaurants for a nice evening meal? I believe we may have two evenings free is Sydney so I may look into the evening Harbour Cruise. Thanks for the suggestion. We may look into some walking tours as well.
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Old 08-02-2014, 10:29 AM   #14
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Can anyone comment on the snorkeling in Cairns and surfing lessons in Sydney? My 10 yo son has been taking swim lessons for years now, but just is not the best swimmer. I'm sure he gets my lack of coordination. For snorkeling, how deep is the water? The ABD Australia video on YouTube makes it look pretty far out as opposed to Hanauma Bay Hawaii style snorkeling. For surfing, I assume that involves going out into the ocean where you would need to be a good swimmer. Is there an alternative activity or should we just plan to have some free time that morning in Sydney?
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Old 11-09-2014, 07:25 PM   #15
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It looks like we have a dinner on our own on day 3 - Tjapukai and Kuranda, but I can't tell from the description where we will be. Will we be in Caravonica or do they take us back to the hotel before letting us on our own? I found that I sometimes need to ask these things b/c there was one day in London that we had lunch and then they gave us a transportation pass for the rest of the day from the restaurant. I wasn't prepared to go off from there. I thought we'd go back to the hotel first.

It also looks like we have a dinner on our own in Tasmania after checking into the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Any advice on restaurants here?

I feel like I'll be OK in Sydney for meals on our own. Although if someone knows if we go back to the hotel after the Sydney Opera House tour on the 2nd day in Sydney or after lunch at Bondi Beach on the 3rd day in Sydney I'd love to know.

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If you want to get a sense of the country, and have a laugh, I recommend reading "In a Sunburned Country" by Bill Bryson. It is hilarious.
I just checked this book out of the library then came back and saw this advice. Glad I checked it out then and am looking forward to reading it!
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