Family Travel in Kid-Friendly Australia
Plan a Trip That’s Affordable and Easy
|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 Hostelworld.
- 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, Viator and Great Adventures.com, 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.
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Two websites in particular, Holidays with Kids and Kids Holidays Online, helped me plan my journey.