Iceland (not Finland!)

Very excited about our flight to Iceland tomorrow! (Mum keeps accidentally mixing up Iceland and Finland, hence the title!) It has been a while since I’ve had a chance for a real small-suitcase, long-flighted, prim and proper adventurous holiday with all of the extra frills of camping and songs around the campfire and canoeing and famous sights that you never knew where famous and some people blabbering strange words in strange languages but also people speaking english and log cabins and big lakes and wildlife spotting! Well, Iceland and Canada have got it all! From the sight-seeing and style of Iceland to the tree-blanketed peaks of Algonquin, Canada I think this holiday is possibly one of the best! (I’m not bragging, honestly!)

We’ve nearly finished packing! YAY! (This may sound like we are very organised but may I remind you it is only 12 and a half hours until the taxi comes to pick us up for the airport!?!!?) I have managed to shove in 2 swimming cossies (1 old, 1 new!), new (NEW!?!!?) sunglasses and sunhat and my (ALSO NEW!?!?!) playsuit and maxi dress! I can’t wait Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! 🙂 😀 Need to get an early night! Bye Bye! x P.S- zzzzzz!

Almost time to leave…

Just one week to go and we’ve started packing in earnest. I also just noticed that a couple of the airlines (Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand) allow you to choose your seats at any time after booking. It’s tricky keeping track when you’ve got flights with seven different carriers…

Another thing I noticed was that TAM have now joined the Star Alliance group of airlines. If that had been the case back when we were planning this, we would probably have got our round the world ticket with them. As I said before, we chose to book with OneWorld because they were the only group to include a South American airline. It did mean that we had to book our Brazillian flights ourselves though. Oh well, next time!

Travel insurance and allowed activities

We bought our travel insurance straight after buying our round the world tickets. After all, if you have to cancel the trip, it’s best to have insurance in place. We got it through Columbus and to be fair it was not expensive – something like £200 for the whole family for nearly 12 weeks worldwide cover (excluding North America). It also came with an impressive list of allowed activities including tobogganing, camel riding and water skiing.

I realised later that one thing that we were thinking of doing was not covered – cross country skiing. We will be flying into Queenstown in the south of New Zealand in ski season and we’re not skiers, so we have a booking to learn cross country skiing, which you can pick up in a matter of hours apparently. The place that offers it is the Snow Farm near Wanaka.

With all of those other activities covered, many of which look more risky than cross county skiing, I phoned to ask what it would cost to add a single day of that activity to our policy. I was quoted £50. Not a huge sum, but large compared to the basic policy and a large additional cost for one day’s cover. I think the problem is that the premiums are set up assuming that you are going on a ski holiday, rather than spending one day out of eighty in the mountains. So I held onto my money. Looking around I discovered that it is possible to buy top-up cover for just this situation. DareDirect and SportsCover Direct will allow you to buy single days of cover for extra activities. This was about half the cost of the additional premium from Columbus. Even more interestingly, New Zealand has a government backed insurance scheme that covers visitors as well as residents for personal injury. So maybe we don’t need to buy any top up at all?

Renting a car in Central Australia

We’re visiting Ayers Rock/Uluru and Alice Springs on our trip. Most flights into the red centre of Australia go to Alice Springs, but it is a 4 hour drive to Uluru, so we opted to fly direct to Ayers Rock airport and then fly out of Alice Springs to avoid making the journey both ways.

However, we discovered that getting a one-way car hire here can be very expensive. To make matters more complicated, there are going to be 6 of us, since my Mum and Dad are going to be joining us. If you go to one of the big car rental companies and look for a one-way rental for a minivan over 4 days you’ll be quoted some astronomical amounts. Luckily, Voyages, the company that runs the Ayers Rock Resort offer car hire with no one-way supplements so long as you have the vehicle for 3 days or more. It’s a bit of a pain as you can’t just book it online and I ended up phoning their reservations centre in Sydney about 4 times to get it sorted, but it does end up being significantly cheaper than elsewhere.

Japanese Rail Passes

We’ve bought our rail passes for Japan. We’re going to take the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima and back. The passes aren’t cheap, but turn out to be about the same cost as that return journey. I thought it was slightly odd that the promotional leaflet that came with the tickets had a famous picture of a tsunami on it. Not sure many other countries would advertise their natural disasters in tourist literature! Anyway, it’s pretty exciting to be going on some of the world’s fastest trains. Check out this video of a Nozomi Shinkansen. This is the only one we can’t use our pass on, so we won’t quite make 300 km/h, we’ll have to be satisfied with 285 km/h…

Last flight booked

I’ve booked our internal flight in New Zealand. We’re flying from Dunedin all the way to Rotorua. So that means we are going to be seeing the far south of the country and the far north and missing out the whole of the middle. In the south we hope to see Queenstown, Wanaka, Milford Sound and Dunedin. In the north we are going to see Rotorua and then head to Auckland via the Coromandel peninsula. We knew we wouldn’t be able to see it all in the 13 days we have available, so this seems the best way to maximize the sightseeing and minimize the travelling time.

We’re flying Air New Zealand. If you’re looking for internal flights I recommend using, as they can get the cheap domestic flight offers on Air New Zealand that are not available outside the country.