Down Under – Accommodation

After I had firmed up my travel destinations, the logical next step would be to book the accommodation. Given a choice, I would have loved to be able to be laissez faire about this, that is, to determine each daily stop depending on how much ground we can cover. This way there is less urgency to arrive in a particular town and thus rush through the road trip.

Unfortunately I haven’t mustered that kind of courage especially in an unfamiliar environment where I might be forced to sleep in a run down shack with my children if we got stuck in a little village. Now, that sounds fun but I am not sure if my hubby will appreciate that for a well deserved vacation. In addition, hotels tend to be more generous in their discounts if you call ahead before arriving.

I booked all my accommodation using Agoda. I initially started searching using Hotelscombined but realised that Agoda constantly offered slightly lower rates than other booking sites so decided to just stick to booking everything through them. My initial budget was no more than S$150 per night but later realised I had to expand it so as to allow everyone to have a good night’s rest.

It would be very ‘cozy’ to squeeze 2 adults and 2 children on a queen sized bed after experiencing for myself how much my children love to roll around at night. So at the end I narrowed my choices down to rooms that offered either triple sharing, king sized bed or an interesting combination of two queen sized beds. The rooms must be huge in these hotels.

Anyway hotels are in the business of business. Even if I didn’t choose bigger rooms, they would charge me a child premium which was what the hotel in Port Macquarie did. So ended up wasn’t that cheap after all. Still better to let the hotel know you are bringing extra ‘baggage’ than letting them find out the hard way later.

Hotels rates are pretty much a function of demand and supply. Hotels in Brisbane and Sydney city center fetch a premium for obvious reasons. But I chose them anyway because of bad experiences trying to tough it out in the suburbs. The amount of time wasted looking for amenities and navigating the public transport would effectively wipe out cost savings.

I had difficulty finding accommodation on Mount Tamborine. As it is a local resort getaway and I will be arriving on a weekend, most of the B&Bs were fully booked out fast, leaving only the really pricey villas that start from S$300+ a night. It was by God’s grace that I inadvertently stumbled across a chalet with bare facilities for a reasonably good price on Agoda, of all places.

I was surprised that hotel rates in Gold Coast on the other hand are pretty affordable. I can only surmise that this is due to possibly the over-supply of hotels on this coastal stretch. The irony is that when faced so many choices, it became so hard to just choose one hotel. I think humans are not made to sift out between multiple choices rationally.

Southwards from Gold Coast to Sydney, hotel rates fluctuate quite a bit. Hotels are cheaper in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie, a little more pricey in Byron Bay and downright robbery in Port Stephens!

Either there’s a lack of options or every single estate tries to position itself with prime sea view offering and they charge exorbitantly for it. The cheapest I found was at least S$250 per night. Talk about a rich man’s affair.

So I decided to take my business elsewhere. About 20km further southwest is Newcastle. It is the next biggest industrial town from Sydney and I was able to find a really good deal there. A fully functional spa villa for only S$130 per night! You see, all back to demand and supply. In this case, the benefit definitely outweighs the cost of living outside my actual destination.

When I first started scouting options for Blue Mountain, I was comforted that there are many cheap options available for the dates I wanted so I decided to wait a bit to firm up my plans. Barely a week later all the rooms were taken up. Found out that it was a bank holiday in Australia whatever that means. So I had to settle for a rather rundown looking hotel.

The most expensive option I came across in Blue Mountain is this villa located in a private valley for S$3,000 per night. Apparently the sun set is especially stunning here. Sure for that price, even the sun will do favours for you.

Just a concluding observation, Agoda is pretty good in their marketing. I chanced upon one of their email newsletter advertising ‘half-price Fridays’ that got me all riled up to finish booking all my hotels in that one night. Later I found out that this happens every week.

I almost flipped when they sent me an email advertising ‘Australia hotel sale – up to 70% off’. I went back in to check on all the hotels I have booked and calculated I could have saved up to S$70 if I waited. Anyway found out later that this was also partially due to the drop in SGDAUD exchange rates from 1.31 to 1.24 in light of the Ozzies lending money to European countries in debt.

Well so the global economy goes round and round. The positive outcome though is that I actually managed to average the cost of per night to S$150. Brilliant budgeting if I say so myself.

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