Saturday, July 27, 2013

Talking road trips

So lets chat about road trips, me I love them because you get to see places you would normally just fly over and never get to experience.  On our recent road trip with Teddy, we decided to go to places we have wanted to stay at for a long time but in the need to get somewhere else we have  just driven past primarily due to the distance from the highway.

For those that travel north by car regularly in Queensland they have probably enjoyed the wonders of 1770 in the past, but for us, we had never been there before - its 60 kms off the highway and for many years when road travel was the main form of transport, the road itself was suspect.

I am glad we made the choice to finally discover this wonderful place, the roads now are excellent and once you get into the Agnes Water and 1770 area (named by Captain Cook himself) you can definitely see why this place is so popular with those in the know.

I was surprised that it wasn't as isolated as I had thought it would be and it's a bustling little township and yes full of NINKERS and all people retired looking for a great beach holiday slightly warmer than its southern beach counterparts, with the added bonus of nice accommodation, good restaurants, beaches and beach walks that go for miles, lovely BBQ areas on the beach and plenty of things to do including boating, diving, fishing etc.  Given its location it probably isn't a place you just drive to and drive back from, its a place to stay for at least 1 night, if not more.  We were there for 2 days and found plenty to fill in our time.  With a great pub come eatery right on the beach, with sunsets to die for - note the sun rises in Agnes Water and sets in 1770 - so depending on your preference choose the side that you will enjoy most. Both areas also have a great array of accommodation styles, from the cheap and cheerful, caravan parks right on the beaches and extremely up market 4 star plus accommodation with it all.  1770 tends to be the lagoon side, with Agnes Water being the surf beach which is paroled  Only 5 or so hours from Brisbane, this place is great for a warm winter beach holiday - I even ventured in the surf as it just looked so inviting and the day was up in the mid 20's so definitely warm enough for swimming in winter. We stayed at 1770 Sovereign Lodge which was a Balinese style accommodation and very pretty, great views, lovely gardens with a good size lounge area and possibly the best bed I have ever slept in.

Heading further up we decided to go to Yeppoon, while we did stop here on our last road trip it was dark when we got in and we did leave first up the next day.  This is another spot that doesn't lack for great wide beach areas with plenty of surfing and situated off Keppel Bay offers a great gateway to the Barrier Reef without the need to driving further up north. We stayed at Kinka Beach which was a quiet little beach area - a Caravan Park and a few older style Motels, but there are plenty of these little beach areas some more isolated than others - Kinka was a little more isolated ie:  not much here but only a few minutes drive to anywhere in the area. I must admit after reading some of the travel apps we were not sure about this motel, as some people seemed to rave about it, and others cast some doubts.  We definitely thought Kinka Palms Motel was nice for an older style budget style accommodation, and right across the road from the beach, very quiet, but with good size bathroom, nicely stock kitchenette and clean and again in the right price range for our road trip.  Don't go past Yeppoon its a lovely little town, with a lot of do and offers some great beach areas, fishing and of course diving and island getaways.

Both of these areas are just a days drive from Brisbane and both have accommodation of varying styles, so for us and possibly other retirees they offer good value holidays we were able to pick up older style Motel accommodation for $100 a night (1770 was twice this amount and the most expensive we stayed in) and while not the 5 star luxury we use to enjoy, were clean, roomy, self contained, close to everything and right on the beach.  The days were definitely that 5 degrees warmer and it was nice to be in shorts and T's all day even at night.

Last road trip up North we went through Airlie Beach but didn't get the opportunity to stay here, so after our Yeppoon visit, off we went up to Airlie for our 3 night stay.  Last October there was heaps of roadworks both up to this area and by the way there still is, so the drive does take significantly longer than it should as you get stopped every half hour or so, and also the main street of Airlie was being torn up, unfortunately it still is and it didn't appear that too much had been done in that time.  

Airlie Beach was the first major tourist destination I went to as a kid, and perhaps my memories of this area are of those days before major tourism and holidays where the standard, but with the main street still in disarray there really isn't much in Airlie Beach or its surrounding areas to do unless you use it just as a gateway to island hopping and reef touring.  It definitely has lost its shine to me  and it has just become a transit center which is a shame.  It was also raining when we were there, but we met lots of people like us up here but not really interested in doing the island boat trips etc who were pretty bored.  Other than do shopping in cheap sourvenier shops, or eat and drink in street side cafes and pubs with the jack hammers going - this in't a place to just come and visit, it really is a place to come and go from.

The place we loved the most was Harvey Bay, again its been years since we had been there and back then it wasn't much, but boy how this area has boomed.  We stayed at Shelly Beach on the main drag only 1K from the main center at the Shelly Beach Motel for $90 a night and while this was again an older style Motel, it has been refurbished and is fantastic value for money. The owners have a beautiful garden area, a nice BBQ area as well and the broadwalk area is fantastic and beaches with lovely sand easy to walk on and enjoy.  There is heaps to do in this area including trips to Fraser Island, diving trips and lots of day excursions around the area so less than 4 hours from Brissy offers a fantastic beach holiday environment. We will be going back in the near future.

Why do we love the road trip though you ask, because we get away, experience new places and can do all of this quite easily on a budget. This is a big country and there is so much to see, and so many places we have never been to.  We take our own food and enjoy exploring areas without the need to be spending all the time, really outside of petrol and accommodation which we have now learnt to be happy in the older style motels it doesn't cost much, but we enjoy the warmth, lovely beaches, we meet nice people and experience new things, without spending a fortune.  They are good fill ins between the big holidays.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pet Friendly Travel: The good and bad

Like every good retiree we decided to head North for some more sunshine and where the days are warmer, however this time we decided to take Teddy and see what a pet friendly holiday was like.  Why?  We feel pretty horrible leaving him every time we go away - he gets the shakes every time we get the suit cases out, he knows we are leaving him and now that D2 doesn't live at home anymore, it was a case of what do we do with him, so we decided to give it a go, see what it's like and if it works for us.

Travelling with a pet is less spontaneous than we like it and we did have to do a lot of research on pet friendly accommodation in the areas we wanted to go to, and obviously book in advance. Beware though if travelling with your pet because not every pet friendly place is created equal.  There are lots of rules associated with pet friendly travel so ensure you check these out prior to making your booking.

I was amazed though that places that are pet friendly generally don't provide some sort of enclosed  veranda area on the room or fenced grass areas were pets can easily roam in a safe environment unleashed - so while they have the rules for you and your pet, they don't help generally in making this easier to abide by.  Open verandas mean you either have to keep your dog inside even if you are out on the veranda soaking up the sun, views etc while there - obviously making mishaps more likely , or on a lead.  Even taking them for their you know whats in open yards means leads when you have a dog like Teddy who will have a go at anyone, or anything it makes for your well behaved pet rules difficult to uphold. Obviously I also felt more comfortable in places that had tiled floors and not carpets just in case there was an accident.  So I would highly recommend you check out these things with the establishment if they are important to you and they were not things I thought about while booking - as I had assumed the rooms themselves would be more pet friendly.

I must admit I had never really noticed before how many people do travel with pets before, but let me assure you its becoming quite a common thing.  Even Virgin now are providing "Points for Pets" and one establishment we stayed in said they had to restrict rooms for animals to 2 only at any point given the amount of people now travelling with their pets, or otherwise the whole place is full of dogs - interesting.  

Road trips for me should be something where you meander along, stop and take in places you haven't been to before, take that turn off that 40kms off the highway and have a look so the advance booking does make this more difficult, and of course anyone who has traveled the road from Brisbane to North Queensland will tell you, its a long drive at the best of times.

Travelling with Ted though was difficult, and it did seem like all we did when we stopped was to try and get him to pee, eat, have a drink etc - to some extent it was worse than travelling with a baby.  He was excellent I will say and slept most of the way each day, but trying to find the right place to stop where he could get out and wander on his own without being on a lead also made the travelling tedious.

He was much better in the places we stayed at for more than 1 night, as he got use to the conditions, found is little routines and learnt his boundaries, but I would say for a dog like Teddy, the trip was probably more stressful for him than being at a kennel where he might well feel shaky for a day or two but not all the time as he seemed to with the road travel.

After a big morning out on the beach at 1770 where the weather was perfect I found myself needing to take Ted back to the room for a sleep, and again it reminded me of when the kids where babies, so that was somewhat annoying as well.

If you have an older dog and one that doesn't have a need to bark at everything, one that can just go to sleep anywhere it might be OK, but with a dog like Teddy who won't relax anywhere out in the open, who can't help himself from barking and growling at everyone he meets, and who is not keen to leave his scent anywhere it was a hard holiday.

The other thing to take into consideration if travelling with a pet is while the accommodation may well be pet friendly," is the general area?". We stayed 3 nights at Airlie Beach and while the accommodation here was the most pet friendly we came across - the area generally was not ie:  No Dog signs everywhere even on the main walking trail around the foreshores, (we resorted to putting Teddy in a bag which of course he didn't mind at all, just so we could  walk the beach area) something we didn't take into consideration and of course that made going anywhere hard and made the stay far less enjoyable.

You will pay more at each place you stay for cleaning, and that's OK, however none explained what exactly they did extra - which made me a bit suspect, I was happy to pay extra and in fact felt that this was more than fair and reasonable, however when their rules say no dogs on furniture I wondered if they properly cleaned down the furniture just in case, or if they took doonas off the beds and washed these in case.  

Top Tips for Travelling with a PET

  • Check out the accommodation prior to leaving - establish if veranda areas are enclosed, if the internal areas are tiled or carpeted if this is important to you
  • Book in advance and ensure they know you have a pet and let them know what type of pet you have
  • Check out the pet rules and ensure you are happy with these prior to booking
  • Be prepared to pay extra for cleaning
  • Establish if the general area you are going to is pet friendly

Will we do the PET FRIENDLY holiday again, I doubt it - we ended up paying more in extra cleaning fees than a kennel would have cost, most of the places while pet friendly in so much as your pet could stay, where not pet friendly in their layouts for us and I really do not think Teddy enjoyed himself all that much and it definitely cramps your style if you want to eat out, go to places etc.  If you are just going to one place, and its layout is for you and your pet and you don't really want to do anything but sit somewhere its probably OK but for us we like a bit of action and Teddy was definitely an impediment to achieving a great holiday status for us. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Getting in the groove

Next week marks our 1 year anniversary to tendering our resignations and the start of our NINKER (No Income No Kids Earlier Retirement) journey.  Whilst we both handed in our resignations the same week Derek was finished up almost immediately in a very ungrateful for your 3am starts and 10pm finishes, 7 days a week for 14 years service while I had a 3 month handover period and a very lovely departure and  presentation/party even getting the Rolex in thanks.  

This milestone however started me thinking of the various changes we have been through over the last 12 months, the emotional changes, the physical changes, the financial changes and of course the mental changes.  While we holiday, while out walking on the beaches , picnicking or at cooking schools etc, we seem to come across a lot of early retirees like us - not the aged 65 plusers, but the 50 somethings who have gone we want to make that change, cross that line and take some chances, however most of us when we have our 10 mins of conversation talk a lot about the changes NINKERING and early retirement brings.

This started me thinking about the various changes our NINKERING early retirement journey has taken us though.

So 12 months ago I was feeling somewhat scared to tender my resignation after 9 years of service, friendships and the change it would bring to my life- for those who know me I am not afraid of change in fact I have always tried to embrace it have always tried to push both family and colleagues to change - after all if we never changed we would never achieve and to quote Price Prichett - "Change always comes bearing gifts" is something I have always truly believed in.  Nevertheless you still get that sinking feeling when resigning, never quite sure how it will be taken so this time last year I was feeling scared, apprehensive and of course a little giddy.

In the first few months of NINKERING you can't help but want to start with a bang, and show the world and all the doubting Thomas's exactly the freedom you are experiencing - you wake up in these first few months ready to go where you have never gone before either via travel, learning, doing nothing - but it seems like everyone generally wants to travel without being time bound, without thinking about work (alas technology has robbed us in the last 10 years of ever getting away from work) and of course without thinking about going back.  You feel foot loose and fancy free and you don't really think too much about finances etc at this point, its about doing and going for it.  You feel alive and free, you feel a sense of satisfaction with your choice and of course you just have a general feeling of happiness.

Once the initial euphoria rubs off and you get into the head space well this is life now as a retiree, I can begin to slow it down a little I don't have to be globe trotting everyday and of course for most of us we can't afford to, so after about 3 months you sort of start going back to some basics and begin to look at your finances.  Everyone I speak to seems to have the 3 month time bomb or bugger me moment when you look at what you spent in the last few months and come to that realization that there is no money or not much money coming in anymore and think to yourself " how do we sustain this?"  At this point you change again and tend to get a little scabby and start looking at the things you can do that don't cost anything, you start looking at your bills and shopping habits (no more I will get that just in case, or I love that dress must have it) and get frugal - again this is what we experienced and what others have suggested was about their time line (obviously it may be less or more). Its a bit like a period of morning I suppose as you grieve for a steady income and at times you feel a little sad as you wonder how do I keep this going for longer - can I keep this going for longer.  Its also about the time people start calling you wanting to know if you are ready to go back to work, offering jobs etc - its seems like the 3 month time period is what people think will bring you back to reality and maybe in our new fast paced world long service leave should be shortened from 10 years to 7 or 8 years so that people can get that break that is needed.  At this point you feel financially you probably should, but you don't feel emotionally its right - so its a time where you have mixed feelings - financially probably should, emotionally probably shouldn't.  Some people do go back at about this time because they can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Don't worry though this period only lasts a short while 2-3 months maybe.

Of course this period  doesn't last forever because after being scabby you go was this what it was about, and of course the answer here is NO, so at about 6 months or so you work out the balance.  You begin to think about downsizing some assets ie house, boat etc to cash up a bit more, up-sizing others ie:  for us we up-sized the car so that road travel would be more comfortable and really started to think of things you wanted to achieve, places you want to go to and begin to start thinking outside the box - finding that fine balance between feeling more comfortable about your lot, what you have and that I can do this - as long as we don't do that.   You start to look for the best value you can get from things and just like a corporate balance sheet you learn how to blend in the important elements into your plan.

So we are now getting in the groove of retirement - some days well we don't do much, other days we don't stop.  We have learnt to be comfortable with what we have and we have become better at stretching our dollar further (that will be another blog) - become better hagglers, better at waiting and being more patient for that travel deal, learning to live on less when we need to so we have more when we want it.  We have begun new thought journeys for the long term and changing the status quo slightly to ensure we continue to mix it up and continue NINKERING and early retirement longer.

Getting into the groove takes a little time no matter what you do, and retiring is no different you will go through change no doubt about that.  You will have ups and downs, and then you will find that happy medium that place where you feel the mix is right for long term enjoyment.

My thought to leave you on is:  "the thing about plans is everyone has one until they take the first punch".