As you read this, I'll be
part-way through a family
trek across Europe.
I'm the obsessive travel
planner of the family, so took great delight
in spending months researching options
for every step of the journey. And while
I enjoyed the process, it wasn't without
Despite having carefully chosen the flights
we wanted based on the timing that would
work best for our family, a few months out
from our departure I received an email
asking me to agree to a schedule change.
It was a yes/no choice – if I'd said no, there
was no guarantee of getting comparable
flights at the same price.
Then came the challenge that every
family who has taken a long-haul flight with
children understands: trying to ensure you
are seated together. Apparently airlines don't
think that kids under the age of 12 need to sit
with their parents, even if you have booked
as a group. Another few hours of online
wrangling hopefully sorted this out.
I booked most of our accommodation
through sites like Airbnb because when
travelling with kids, we find it better to
have some space. I was really taken by one
apartment that seemed perfect for a family.
But I got a bit suspicious when the owner
asked to communicate via email, then tried to push me to pay a deposit outside the
system. A Google Images search for his
profile photo revealed that it matched the
corporate photo of a German football star,
which was when I realised I had been about
to fall for a scam.
When it came to booking train travel
in Spain, some advice from CHOICE
campaigns director Matt Levey came
in handy. The website of the rail operator
Renfe is geoblocked in Australia, forcing
you to go through travel agents who
charge an outrageous mark-up. But
with the help of a VPN and an online
translator I was able to book like a local,
at local prices.
I didn't have to be convinced of the need
for travel insurance but choosing the right
policy took some work because travel
insurance can be full of little traps that you'd
never expect. Like the fact that if you're
travelling as a couple, some policies require
you to be together 100% of the time. If, like
me, you think that's a recipe for relationship
breakdown, CHOICE's travel insurance
policy reviews can help you to find
something more appropriate.
Hopefully all of the preparation has paid
off. It won't all go to plan – that's part of the
mystery and delight of travel. But I do hope
to come back unscathed by any major scams
Wherever you may be travelling this
summer, I wish you similar luck – and if in
doubt, this edition of CHOICE is packed
with tips to give you the best chance of
a happy holiday.
Alan Kirkland, CHOICE CEO