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Kid-Friendly Australia

Plan a Trip That’s Affordable and Easy

Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park
JD Worcester imitates a turkey on stage at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park, near Cairns, Australia

Australia is a kid-friendly country. A dizzying number of options will keep your youngsters enthralled and entertained. Finding a focus for your trip—animals, scenery, arts, history, or whatever suits your style—helps maximize your enjoyment and create memories that will last a lifetime. Here is some advice based on my experience:

Stay in Hostels. For the price of a low-end hotel room ($15-$30 per night) you can get high-end hostel accommodations: a private room with ensuite bath and shower. Many hostels are kid-friendly, with swimming pools, children’s movies, ping-pong tables, and board games. Several offer free breakfast. One in Cairns even added a free dinner. These savings add up over the course of a 3-week trip. You can check out customer ratings and book in advance at www.hostels.com.

Establish a base. Young children need the security of a home away from home. Choose accommodations that are centrally located for your chosen activities, and stay there for at least three days before moving on.

Book tours yourself. There are numerous tour options and package prices for all major tourist attractions. Make your own reservations, via phone or online; you not only save agents’ commission costs but also avoid getting stuck (like we did) committed to a Barrier Reef cruise on a stormy day when the underwater viewing was less than ideal. Two web sites, www.viator.com and www.greatadventures.com.au, provide a good range of popular tours.

Involve children in decision-making. Remember that your children have their own opinions and preferences. Have a plan, but prepare to be flexible. If you're trying to decide between a day in the ocean or the mountains, show your children the brochures and let them help choose. For a half-day in the mountains, my son preferred horseback riding to a guided jeep tour. We had a blast.

Keep your eyes peeled for discounts and freebies. Australia is extremely kid-friendly, and there are usually discounts for children age 4 and under. At some restaurants, kids eat free if you're seated early (before 5:30 p.m.).

In Sydney, a monthly booklet, “Sydney For Kids,” lists events and has discount coupons for major attractions. In Brisbane (Southbank Parklands) and Cairns (The Lagoon/Muddy’s Playground), there are unique, free children’s pools and play-grounds where you can relax and kill a day without spending much money.

For More Info

Two web sites in particular, www.holidayswithkids.com.au and www.kidsholidaysonline.com.au, helped me plan my journey.

If you have trouble deciding which theme park to visit, www.themeparkinsider.com and www.virtualtourist.com will be useful.