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Tim’s Travel Tips

Tim, Insurance Manager at COTA Insurance offers some great travel tips.


Hi, I’m Tim. I’m the Insurance Manager at COTA Travel Insurance, where I have worked for over a decade. I love to travel, in recent years I have been to Fiji with my young family where we swam with tropical fish and sea turtles. We also visited the Mount Kilauea Volcano and Papakōlea Green Sand Beach in Hawaii. Before that, travel highlights include seeing the big 5 while on safari in Africa, the Rockies in Denver and touching a glacier in New Zealand. Here are some of my tips for travelling, to get you organised, save money and ensure that your trip is everything that you want it to be!


Duty Free

Plan your purchases in advance as some items are offered with significant genuine savings (such as alcohol) compared to others (like perfume or certain electronics devices). Many duty free shops also allow you to pre-order your purchases and collect them on your return to Australia saving you the hassle of extra shopping after a long flight.


GST refund

Are you buying things to take with you on the trip? Check out the terms and conditions of the Australian governments Tourist Refund Scheme which allows you to claim back the GST on a range of items that you take with you on your trip that you buy within 60 days of departure.

Full details on the Australian Government website: www.border.gov.au/Trav/Ente/Tour or by calling 1300 555 043.


Avoid bill shock

Make sure you have an appropriate international phone plan (or turn off global roaming to avoid bill shock on your next phone bill).

A common option is to purchase a local SIM card for use while travelling, either before departure or once you land. Consider using free Wi-Fi where available. Installing one of the many communication apps available that allow you to message and even make voice calls for free, within your phone’s data plan.


Know your cover

Protect yourself and your hip pocket. With the potentially huge costs of overseas medical treatment, it’s no wonder the Australian government says, “If you can’t afford travel insurance you can’t afford to travel. 1”. Understanding the cover being offered ensures you can select the type of coverage that suits your needs – remember to ask questions as policy benefits and limitations do vary and read the product disclosure statement thoroughly. What may seem like a cheap deal may turn into an expensive exercise if it doesn’t cover what you thought.


Theft protection

Tourists can present an attractive target to thieves so here is a simple trick to add to your protection beyond the usual money belt.

1) Buy a cheap wallet (or a new wallet and use your old wallet for this trick).

2) Put in an expired credit card(s) along with a few dollars of local currency.

3) Put the wallet where you would usually carry your actual wallet.

If you do have your wallet stolen, you can be safe in the knowledge that your actual valuables are secure.



It’s tempting when travelling to capture every new sight with a photo. But don’t let taking pictures get in the way of actually experiencing what is going on.

Try to get the travelers (you) in the photos you take – it will make the photo much more personal and capture a moment in your life rather than just be an image.

Leave the painstaking photography of iconic attractions to the professionals and buy a postcard!


Comfort vs Style

Always take the most comfortable pair of shoes you own. They may not match your travel wardrobe or be as stylish as the new shoes you bought specifically for the trip, but after a few days of travel you will be glad to have the option to wear something comfortable.


Organise your packing

Make a packing list and always pack items when you think of them – getting organised before you go will pay dividends.

  • Roll your clothes (don’t fold) to minimize wrinkles and maximise space.
  • Pack socks inside your shoes which will help them keep their shape and save space.
  • Consider using packing cubes or packing cells. These small zip-up bags can be used to organise and separate the items in your case to make your life easier while on the go. They come in a range of styles and even colours – a basic set from Kmart is only $9.
  • Carry a pen with you – passenger cards are still common and filling it out on the plane will allow for an easier exit from the airport.
  • Take a freshly washed cotton pillow case – now your aeroplane pillow (or hotel pillow) can be changed to something comfortable and clean against your face. It can also be used as a laundry bag if needed.
  • Pack a few zip lock bags – They have a wide variety of uses.
  • Always try to leave a little space in your suitcase for souvenirs and purchases you make on the trip.


It’s the little things

Making your trip the best it can be, sometimes comes down to taking along a few extra little things.

  • Ear plugs – From jet engines to crying babies, traffic to noisy neighbours; these compact saviours allow for peace and quiet when you need it most.
  • Snap Lock Bags – Pack a few as they have 101 uses and take up virtually no space at all.
  • Sunscreen (packed inside a snap lock bag to avoid mishaps!) could be an essential item depending on your destination.


Say G’day, your way

When travelling internationally make an effort to learn at least a few basic phrases in the local language. A little can go a long way:

  • “Hello”
  • “Please”
  • “Thank-you”
  • “Sorry”
  • “Goodbye” and
  • “Where is the bathroom?”

It will help improve your interactions and the locals will appreciate that you tried.


Tastes of the world

Take the chance to eat local because travelling provides a great opportunity to experience new flavours. You may be surprised by exactly how popular dishes taste when made locally. When the menu is in multiple languages – it’s a tourist restaurant. Instead get recommendations from locals and look for street vendors with long lines.


International flight changes

Do you know what international flight schedules and European daylight savings have in common?

Coinciding with the daylight savings dates in Europe, the global aviation industry undergoes a bi-annual refresh of flight routes and times. So if you enjoy exploring your travel options then twice a year it’s worth having a look to see if there are new flights or exciting destinations for you to consider.


Look online before you go

Before you head off on your next trip have a look online for all the resources that can be used to enhance your travels. Often being forewarned is forearmed, so take advantage of the huge amount of information available online when making plans for your next holiday.

From being able to check which is the best seat on the plane, through to details of the culture you will experience, there is so much to learn – so check out some of these handy sites and make the most of your travel experience.

SeatGuru – www.seatguru.com

SeatGuru was created to help travellers choose the best seats and in-flight amenities for their flying need. By simply entering flight details you can see a seat map of the plane with ratings (Good seat, Be Aware, Bad seat etc.), details of in-flight amenities available as well as comments from other flyers. A great seat can make all the difference so it’s worth a little research before you make your next seat selection.

Dondoo – www.dondoo.com

No traveller wants to feel awkward abroad or disrespect others while travelling due to lack of knowledge about local customs. To help you know more about local etiquette your destination, check out dondoo before you go. It can provide you with a handy list of the do’s and don’ts for things like hand gesture, customs and symbols, topics to avoid, weather and sports.

Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) App www.abf.gov.au/entering-and-leaving-australia/tourist-refundscheme/use-our-trs-apps

Previously we have highlighted the benefits of the TRS which allows you to claim back the GST on a range of items you take with you on your trip that you buy within 60 days of departure. To further enhance this and allow you to prepare your refund lodgement in advance, there is now a Tourist Refund Scheme App. The app allows you to create your refund request on your phone and will generate a QR code which is then scanned at the airport TRS office as a digital lodgement. Just make sure you allow enough time at the airport prior to departure to get your QR code scanned to complete your refund request.

Pro-Tip: If you purchased items by credit card and earned reward points make sure you select the refund option to be paid by bank transfer – this will make sure you keep your credit card points.

And just for fun check out a new online tool for travelling foodies – Just don’t blame me if you start to get hungry!

TasteAtlas – www.tasteatlas.com

TasteAtlas is a world atlas of food and drinks, an encyclopedia of flavours. Already they have over 10,000 dishes and ingredients on their interactive site.


Travel more

If you’re interested in travelling (and since you’re reading travel tips I assume you are!) make an effort to not let the challenges of the everyday get in your way of making travel plans. A night away, a weekend interstate, a short trip overseas or a month’s long worldwide odyssey – there are so many options to choose from and so many places to go.

Financial pressures, responsibilities, pets to feed – these everyday things will all be here when you get back and none of these can truly stop you – if you want to go.

The reality is that many people who wait to travel the world never do – the world is amazing so explore some of it now!

And remember to take your sense of humour! It takes up no space and can be invaluable if you end up in an unexpected situation while travelling.



Have a question or your own travel tips to share?

Email Tim at timstraveltips@cota.com.au or post to Tim’s Travel Tips, 16 Hutt Street, Adelaide SA 5000.


1 Source: Smartraveller – provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. For further information visit www.smartraveller.gov.au. 

Insurance and Membership Services Limited ABN 59 057 159 743 AR 246235 trading as COTA Travel Insurance is an authorised representative of nib Travel Services (Australia) Pty Limited ABN 81 115 932 173, AFS Licence No. 308461. Before deciding to purchase the product, please read the Product Disclosure Statement available at www.cota.com.au. This insurance is underwritten by certain underwriters at Lloyd’s.