Our travels with 3 kids and a wheelchair.


10 things we learnt living in a Mongolian Ger that will positively change our daily life.

10 things we learnt living in a Mongolian Ger that will positively change our daily life.

Staying in a traditional Mongolian Ger taught us more than we had imagined so much so that we are taking what we learnt on the land and applying it to our every day life at home. 1. Going Green. Our Ger had no power or […]

Self catering ideas while you explore.

Self catering ideas while you explore.

We partnered with Tip Top to bring you this post. One of our favourite things about travelling is trying new foods in different environments. Being a family of 5 we tend to choose to stay at apartments or houses while we travel. These allow us […]

How to get a Chinese tourist Visa in Melbourne.

How to get a Chinese tourist Visa in Melbourne.

If you are an Australian heading to China on holiday you need to organise a visa before you go. Just follow these simple steps and you’re passport will be stamped and the visa pasted in ready for you to explore China.

I have learnt a lot about applying for visas this last fortnight.

I know how to do it now and really needed to share it here after I learnt from my own mistakes along the way.

This is all about applying for a visa in person at the Melbourne Visa Service Centre. Each Australian state will be different.

 

First up You can never have too much paper work!!! just keep that in mind as you seemingly photo copy so much information.

 

  • Apply for your visa less than 3 months before your trip. The visa will only be valid for 3 months. We applied for ours with 6 weeks to go.
  • Head to the website and download the application form. You can find it here. You could also drop into the office if you live in the city.
  • You will need passport pics which you can do yourself at home, at Australia Post or Officeworks. Usually they cost around $14 for 6.
  • Prebook all your accommodation for the entire trip. I used Booking.com as it meant I could book without payment just incase I needed to change things later on. On my first appointment ( yes I went in twice!) I was told that for a 15 night stay I needed 8 nights booked but I thought it smarter to just book the whole trip and have too much information.
  • Book your flights/train/bus in and out of China and print this information out. We printed out our voucher from the Trans Mongolian train even though the tickets had not been issued as yet.
  • Photo copy your passport page.
  • Photo copy the kids birth certificates and bring in the originals for the appointment.
  • You can make an appointment online or just turn up. I went on a Wednesday at 11am and was second in line.
  • Fill in all the forms per passport. We filled in 5.
  • Take in your original passport.
  • Take all your paper work mentioned above to the appointment.
  • At the appointment grab a ticket from the machine and wait for your number to be called.
  • Staff will thoroughly go through each piece of paper and ask questions about your itinerary.
  • Receipt will be issued and it takes 4 days for the visa to be issues.
  • Come back 4 days later and take a ticket and join the queue for passport pickup. Payment is made on the day. There is an ATM in the foyer if needed but I just paid with a Credit card. Each visa at time of writing was $105
  • Enjoy your trip!

 

Getting there:

The Visa Centre is located at 570 St Kilda Road, Melbourne.

There are trams that go out the front.

Parking is ticketed in all streets around the building and very limited and busy so best to park around the corner and walk back.

The building is wheelchair accessible and has a designated wheelchair height desk for your appointment.

Cafe onsite.

 

 

 

Getaway with Airbnb.

Getaway with Airbnb.

We have stayed in Airbnb properties all over the world. We stayed in an apartment in Verona, Italy just around the corner from the best coffee shop in the world. We stayed in  a house in Mittenwald, Germany with outlooks to the Alps. We have […]

New Zealand Top 10 with kids.

New Zealand Top 10 with kids.

We spent 10 days exploring the North Island of New Zealand. Our kids are aged 12,8,5 and we travel with a wheelchair. It was our first time in New Zeland even though my Dad was born there. With amazing scenery, beautiful people, rich cultural heritage and […]

Exploring New Zealand by Campervan.

Exploring New Zealand by Campervan.

If you are going to explore with a campervan then New Zealand is the place to do it! We had never been camping, caravanning or in a campervan before and honestly it had never really appealed to me. As a young kid we would go camping quite a bit around Victoria and I loved it. As a parent doing all the organising, setting up and packing up I just couldn’t get excited about it. To be honest the fact that camping seems pretty inaccessible to a wheelchair user also put me off. However I booked our sale fares back in August and decided this was the time to experience a camper van adventure and we never looked back.

We hired a campervan for six nights/seven days and covered 1600kms of the North Island of New Zealand.

Booking.

I did lots of research online and chatted to lots of people about which camper van to choose. Weighing up price , convenience, facilities and size.

With our family of 5 choice was rather limited as we needed 5 seat belts to travel safely.

Basically we had two choices for this experience.

  • There is the 6 berth fully self contained ( with toilet and shower) fixed bed, bunk bed and dining table turned into bed. We were quoted anywhere from $2,0000 to $2500 for the week in April. The bonus of this camper was that you can freedom camp which would negate any fees for overnight stops.

You can find these types of  campers here.

  • We chose the Toyota Hiace converted camper which had seating for 3 in the front and two in the back. ( both back seats have anchor points for car seats) It cost $800 for the week. I figured for this more affordable price we could be a bit squished for a week.

We found our camper here.

Freedom to explore and park anywhere, anytime.

Picking Up

Arriving at Auckland airport we could pick the camper up after 8:30am. Just keep in mind that the Jetstar flights from Melbourne get in at 5:30am so its a bit of a wait. We had breakfast in the upper food court.

A shuttle bus collected us and took us to the camper van office offsite.

When picking up your camper there will be some paper work involved and we also recommend taking your own screen shots of the camper just incase any issues arise with damages etc.

We also recommend organising insurance and excess etc with either the camper company or your own travel insurance.

Driving.

Our camper took Diesel Petrol which ranged from $1.00 to $1.50 a litre.

We also paid a diesel tax ( $80)  on returning the vehicle. We filled up for around $50 a time and did this 4 times.

Stretching our legs during a 7 hour drive.

Where to stay.

 Within the North Island of New Zealand there are three options for where to park at night.

Freedom camping.

Here is a list of places to Free camp. These can only be accessed if you are fully self contained. We were not so we did not use these sites. Interestingly all the campers we saw that were self contained seemed to stay at the Holiday parks anyway so it may just depend on your budget and what sort of experience you are after.

Department of Conservation Campsites.

These sites have basic facilities like toilets and maybe a cold shower. They differ between sites and you can find lots of info here.

We stayed at two DOC sites.

The first one was near the Kauri forest and was brilliant. We parked on the grass by a picnic table with no power access an loved the rural feel.

Facilities included.

Powered and non powered sites.

Simple Kitchen with fridge and hotplates.

Warm showers

Toilets

Picnic tables.

It had access to a great walk in the Kauri forest and lots of space for camper vans amongst nature. When we stayed there were 4 other camper vans and a couple using a tent. It is a great way to meet other travellers.

In the kitchen area you sign in and grab a ticket for your dashboard. You can leave money in an envelope, wait for a ranger to pop by or use your DOC pass.

Playing at our first stop.

The second site we stayed at was at Matai Bay.

Facilities included:

Non powered sites

Toilets

Cold shower.

It is right on the bay beach and a stunning location.

Tip: bring a head lamp to access toilets  at night!

All rubbish must be taken with you.

This site has an upper and lower ground area and when we visited in April there was around 50 other campervans/tents.

For our family the prices was around $50 for DOC campsites.

You can also get a DOC campsite pass for seven days.

Matai Bay

Holiday Parks.

There are lots of Holiday Parks to choose from and we loved the TOP 10 sites in both Hot Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula and Rotarua.

You can get certain discounts if you are a Top 10 member in NZ or a Big 4 Member in Australia.

Hot Beach is an amazing location and the kids voted this their favourite as did we. The grounds are huge and the scenery is spectacular everywhere you look.

The Holiday park has every type of accommodation from non powered sites to glamping bell tents to beautiful cabins and great access to the famous Hot Beach along a boardwalk.

Facilities include:

Hot amazing showers

Full Kitchen

Bathrooms

Laundry

Kids go karts for hire

Jumping pillow.

Playground

Fish n chip shop onsite from 5.30-7.30pm.

Dumping stations and rubbish bins.

To stay here for our family of 5 in a powered site cost $80 a night.

Hot Beach Holiday Park.

Top 10 Rotatrua

This Holiday park is close to all the Rotarua attractions so a more city base. It was fully booked ( powered and non powered sites) when we were there and it also happened to rain all day and night.

Facilities included

Kids playground

Lounge area

2 x Kitchen and BBQ’s

Laundry

2 mineral pools at varying temperatures to relax all year round.

Swimming pool for Summer.

For our family it cost $100 a night which was the most expensive stay on our trip.

Dinner prep at Rotarua.

Our camper.

*Pros

Easy to drive and park when we were out sightseeing.

It fits in a typical car space.

Affordable option

5 seatbelts.

Small fridge

*Cons

Packing up each day to turn bed into dining and vice versa.

Bunk bed max weight was 60kgs and only suited to small children. My kids didn’t like the closeness to the roof!

We ended up sleeping 5 of us on the bottom area but once the kids get bigger this wouldn’t work.

Anymore than a week might have pushed us all a bit! (limited space inside when raining all day outside)

Breakfast in the camper.

Our extra tips.

Having a table outside next to your camper is ideal. You can hire one, buy one or use picnic tables at camp sites. It just gives you that extra bit of space.

Make sure you have a heater to dry off! Our camper came with one.

Head to Countdown supermarket for supplies before you head off from Auckland. There are other small supermarkets called 4 Square but they are extra expensive. On that note we found all groceries and eating out to be more expensive than Melbourne.

Because we travel carry on only this was perfect for the camper too. In our camper there is no way big suitcases could have fitted comfortably with us all.

We used Google Maps on our phone for directions. We are with Vodafone in Australia and there is no extra charge for roaming in NZ until Jan 2018. View current info here.

If you are planing on exploring Europe by camper van check out these top tips from our friends Thass and Vix.

To see all our adventures head over to check them out on Instagram.

 

Exploring the Docklands, Melbourne.

Exploring the Docklands, Melbourne.

The Docklands in Melbourne is fast becoming THE place to visit. When staying in Melbourne we have usually chosen the centre of town or in the Southbank area. We spent a weekend in the ever changing Docklands precinct and think you should check it out too! We […]

5 Ways to have a Staycation.

5 Ways to have a Staycation.

Not exploring right now? Saving up for that trip of a lifetime? Why not have a Staycation in your own hometown with all the things you love about being overseas? Right now we are living in Melbourne with our next adventure planned for Easter. We […]

Show me the money- Global Money week.

Show me the money- Global Money week.

Its Global Money week! Over 100 countries are teaching the importance of financial literacy to children.

Global Money Week (GMW) is a money awareness celebration. The goal is to teach children and youth about money, saving, creating livelihoods, gaining employment and becoming an entrepreneur through fun and interactive activities.

Cooper sat down with Carl from Violeta Finance and asked him the all important questions about saving, travel and millionaires!

(more…)

Keeping Healthy while travelling.

Keeping Healthy while travelling.

When we ask people what they worry about most when travelling with kids, it always comes back to keeping healthy while exploring. We have had our fair share of ups and downs with travelling. It is not always gazing at the Eiffel Tower or taking […]


Top tips for traveling with a 3 year old.

Top tips for traveling with a 3 year old.

This adventure saw our youngest child aged three.
On reflection it is at this age that some things become easier, gone are naps, nappies and prams but you also have to allow for a lot of flexibility as far as tiredness, determination and moods go!
Here are our top tips:
  • Reduce expectations. Gone are the days of cramming in activities from dawn to dusk! Be happy if you get one outing and limited tantrums.
  • Schedule pool time. It was the hottest month in Laos and a pool was a necessity. We would have two swims a day which kept Woody happy and allowed us all to cool off.
  • Reduce travel speed. Once you slow down to three year old walking pace you get to experience a lot that you may have missed. You get to talk to more people and make new friends.
  • Stock up on favourite snacks and drinks. Woody is not as adventurous with his food like his siblings. He’s happy if there is a steady supply of strawberry milk and biscuits. We always had these handy at airports, on the train and by the pool. We encouraged all efforts of trying something new.
  • Praise all efforts made to say hello to new faces. It’s beautiful the response kids get when they say hello and please in the local language. Encourage politeness but also understand that kids may get annoyed with the costant attention, arm and cheek squeezing and touching of golden locks.
  • Take small adventures in new vehicles. The experience of getting from A to B was enough of an outing if it involved a tuk tuk, push bike or motorbike. Woody loved the journey as much as the destination.
  • Join in activities with local kids. My kids loved swimming in the river at sunset in Vang Vieng and running through the markets with kids in Vientiane. Having kids opens up so many conversations with both locals and other tourists. Language is often a barrier but hand gestures and facial expressions go along way.
  • Bring along notepads, stickers and a favourite toy for the plane and waiting around airports. iPads are also great filled with favourite short tv shows to hold interest. Lollipops are also great for take off and landing as well as waiting in Immigration queues.
  • Tag team parental repsonsibility. We always try and get a morming or afternoon alone to explore while one of us stays with the kids. This allows the kids to rest around the hotel.
  • Our kids were welcomed everywhere we went. We went for family massages, temples and out for dinner and the kids were always greeted warmly. Don’t be afraid to get and and try everything even with kids in tow!

 

Tips