Key Points:

We have booked a campervan to travel from Darwin to Perth, allowing 35 days to make the trip. Our main interest is nature. What are our options when we are restricted to bitumen roads? With the long distances to be travelled, and our 14-year-old - "I'm bored" - daughter in tow, it all seems a bit daunting. - Greg and Elizabeth Adelt

The distances are huge, so allocating 35 days is wise. The route is tried and true and largely follows the coast, with plenty of stops to break up those distances. It should seem less daunting if you plan your route, do your preparation and stock up on things to keep your daughter entertained - buying an MP3 player could be a good start.

Get ideas from people who've done the trip by chatting on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree travel forum (Lonely Planet). Another way to organise your trip is to buy a self-drive package from companies such as Let's Trek (letstrekaustralia.com) or Discover West Holidays (www.discoverwest.com.au).

Your itinerary should take in Katherine Gorge, Kununurra, the Bungle Bungles and the Gibb River Rd, Windjana Gorge, Broome, Eighty Mile Beach, Karijini National Park, Exmouth, Monkey Mia, Denham and Kalbarri. Western Australia's natural environments are stunning, combining pristine seascapes, reefs at Ningaloo, the rugged Kimberley, the ancient rock and gorge country of the Pilbara - and seemingly endless desert. If rains come, you could see the state's famous wildflower display. The Wildflower Way heads inland from Geraldton, north of Perth

A matter of trust
My partner and I want to do some self-guided walks in Germany next July. Travel agencies here don't seem to cater for anything in this region. Using the internet we have found what looks to be a suitable trip organised though a British-based company, but how do we know it is reputable? Its booking terms say it follows the EC Directive 90/314/EC and all passengers booking with World Walks are fully covered by De Montfort Insurance Company. Is this enough to ensure we will arrive in Germany to find all is as we have booked and paid for? Do you have any recommendations on the best regions for for walking? We are considering the Black Forest and the Romantic Road, starting at Rothenburg. - Robyn Smith

You would think that with this sort of information on its website, World Walks would be a reputable agency, but we can't find any reference to this company on the internet, so can't comment on its reliability.

Booking anything through the internet has its risks, but so does booking through an agency directly. You must ensure you have the necessary receipts and so forth.

If you wanted to check this company, contact the German National Tourist Office in Sydney (ph +613 9267 8148, email gnto@germany.org.au, or or www.germany-tourism.de, and seek their advice.

Pre-arranged walking holidays in Europe that you book from home can be expensive but there are alternatives. Hiking is popular in the summer and German tourist offices are well set up with information on walking trails.

They also offer packages for multi-day hiking, in which they take care of luggage and accommodation. They supply maps and information and take your luggage to hotels along the way. It's a semi-independent way of enjoying Germany's great walking trails, and it will cost you much less than many of the pre-arranged walking tours.

Some of Germany's most popular regions to explore on foot are the Black Forest, the Harz Mountains, the Bavarian Forest, the Thuringian Forest and the Sauerland. Many of these hiking trails are through valleys and over mountains - more of a wilderness experience than one of hiking from town to town.

In the Bavarian Forest you can follow the route of the region's glass traders on the Route vom Lamer Winkel, which stretches 99km and takes you past glassworks and traditional glass-making villages.

The Rhine Valley is also great hiking country, and four long-distance trails parallel the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen. Each side of the river has a Rheinhohenweg (Rhine Heights Trail), which takes you from hilltop to hilltop, offering spectacular views.

Along the riverbank or on the hillsides just above the river are the new Rhein-Burgen-Wanderweg and the Rheinsteig (www.rheinsteig.de). The main tourist office in Koblenz can help you with information. Visit (www.touristik-koblenz.de).

The Romantic Road long-distance hiking route does not always run alongside the road. Instead, it traverses meadows, forests and farms as it makes its way from town to town. The Franconian Heights part of the trail, from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Wallerstein, offers some wonderful views and passes through ancient villages.

Contact the central Romantic Road tourist office (www.romantischestrasse.de) or the Rothenburg tourist office (www.rothenburg.de) for more information. If you read German, the German Hiking Federation has an excellent website filled with route descriptions, tips and maps. It's at www.wanderbares-deutschland.de

Exploring Ireland
We intend to tour Ireland by car, finishing in Dublin. We then want to take the ferry from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead and go by train to Portsmouth. Can we buy a sea/rail ticket, and what's the cheapest way of getting to Dover to continue our holiday? - Lynn Lord

Stena Line's (www.stenaline.ie) Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead ferry crossing takes around 3 hours and costs $56 one-way. A faster service takes a little over 1 hours and costs $78. Similar services are operated by Irish Ferries (www.irishferries.com) from Dublin to Holyhead, with morning, afternoon and evening sailings.

Combined ferry/train fares with Stena Line can be booked by calling Ireland on (01) 204 7777. Destinations include Crewe and London (from $95), from where you can pick up services to Portsmouth. The quickest route, at just under seven hours, is Holyhead-London Euston-London Waterloo-Portsmouth Harbour. The regular train fare for this route is $49 one way. The train trip to Dover takes 3 hours from Southampton, via London, with fares from $128. By bus it would take six hours. Train fares and timetables are on the National Rail website (www.nationalrail.co.uk)