Ask Lonely Planet: Where to go for that dream trip

Hawaii would be a memorable destination, but other great holiday spots are closer to home. Photo / Thinkstock
Hawaii would be a memorable destination, but other great holiday spots are closer to home. Photo / Thinkstock

My brothers and sisters (and their families) want to find a holiday destination for a double birthday celebration. We are all in our 40s and 50s. We want somewhere exotic but not too expensive. We had initially thought of Fiji or Hawaii but is there somewhere else we would find memorable for a once-in-a-lifetime trip?
- Kathryn Brown

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

We've been on three such family trips in the past few years, although we've mercilessly left the children at home. If we've learned one thing from these trips, it's keep it simple. Not everyone enjoys an intrepid journey.

Hawaii is a dream destination, but of course it will take you longer to get to and cost more than our closer Pacific neighbours. The quickest route to Hawaii is via Australia, which can take more than 12 hours door-to-door, whereas a direct flight to Fiji or Samoa will take less than half that.

We went to a Fijian resort for one of our family holidays, and found it easy and affordable. However, if you're after something a little different, why not consider Vanuatu? Travel times, climate and prices are similar to Fiji, and it boasts many of the same charms. Vanuatu, however, enjoys the distinction of being voted on to Lonely Planet's Top 10 Countries list for 2011 - there's just so much to do when you're ready to drag your butt off that sunlounger.

In keeping with the keep it simple principle, don't rule out Australia. Get some cheap flights across the ditch, and head straight on out of the city. There are endless opportunities to see something new while still satisfying a wide range of tastes. We had a ball in the Hunter Valley (two hours drive from Sydney).

Another easily accessible Australian option is the Whitsunday Islands near the Great Barrier Reef - a verdant landscape of drowned mountains fringed with coral and cerulean waters. Stay at one of many resorts or try your own private boat charter - although we're not so sure about being marooned on a boat with the whole family. Sounds risky!

Two-year plan

My wife and I are trying to work out the cost of living and travelling abroad for two years around the world. Our destinations would be the USA and Canada, Europe and England, Silk Road, Africa, each for three months and Australia for a year. We heard that caravanning around Aussie worked out to cost $100 a day for two adults, food and transport and a few attractions. Our accommodation and transport around the world would be at the modest level rather than luxury. We were thinking $200,000 to include lots of tourist attractions, a safari, national parks etc. We are in our mid-40s and in good health.
- Steve Corkin

Lonely Planet's Sarah Bennett & Lee Slater write:

Good on you - this sounds like a trip of a lifetime. Getting the most out of it, however, will rely heavily on sound planning and budgeting. It's hard for us to provide specifics without more information, but here's how you might like to get started.

Do your sums. If at all possible, set up your budget in an Excel spreadsheet on your computer. You can do this on paper, but an electronic version will allow you to recalculate it easily, and even take it with you on your travels.

There's lots of research to do, but it's fun. We recommend you start with the latest Lonely Planet guidebooks for each of the regions or countries you're visiting. Near the front of the books you'll find Costs & Money or Your Daily Budget, which give approximations for budget, mid-range and top-end travellers.

The internet will be your next best friend. Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum has questions and answers on every imaginable topic, and you can post specific questions there if you wish. Good advice will save you money, leaving more for that Turkish rug.

There will be many variables and unexpected costs (besides the Turkish rug), one of which will be exchange rates. The best thing to do here is to allow a contingency. So, once you've calculated everything, add an extra 10 per cent. It's always better to have too much rather than not enough.

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- NZ Herald

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