Escape’s Doc Holiday, Dilvin Yasa, answers all your travel-related questions.
We moved to Melbourne just before lockdown (worst timing ever) and now that we’re free to travel again, we’re keen to discover Victorian life outside the city. Can you recommend any kid-friendly farm stays?
You’ve probably not heard the following words since you made your home in Melbourne but you’ve certainly moved to the right place. No matter which direction you head, you can find all manner of farm stays, from high-end or adults only to the kind where you might grit your teeth as you tell your partner, ‘Wow, you can really feel the savings’.
Happily, with so much choice, there are plenty of family friendly options, and chief among them is Phillip Island’s Bimbadeen Phillip Island Farm Retreats. Located right by the famous Penguin Parade and the Grand Prix Circuit, the 340 acre family run property has three retreats and is teeming with all manner of animals, including alpaca, cattle, sheep, alpaca, hens and well, some half a million bees.
Take a scenic 2.5 hour drive to Princetown on the Great Ocean Road and you can check in at Macka’s Farm, which serves up a quintessential farm experience. The kids can help (or watch) Macka feed the animals or they can cuddle the baby animals in their large indoor animal nursery. Macka’s Farm has three self-contained lodges and a farmhouse.
Nearby, Bellevue Farmstay also kicks goals in the family department, the working farm not only offering guests young and old a chance to play with their pets (everything from a camel to alpacas), meet the local wildlife around the walking trails, or just play with the Lego, totem tennis and the chalkboard walk on the rumpus porch.
Of course, you don’t have to head too far from Melbourne to enjoy the quintessential farm stay experience: Animal Land Children’s Farm is located just 30km from the CBD at Diggers Rest. Your fellow house guests? Cows, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, ponies, alpacas, donkeys, peacocks, rabbits and more.
It looks like we’re never going to be able to leave Australia unless we relocate. I’m a dual citizen, but can I leave the country if I go for at least a year? Will I be able to come back easily enough?
I suspect many of us are pondering the same question right now. Temporary visa holders can return home any time they like but they will generally not be permitted to return to Australia. For Australian citizens (including dual nationals) and permanent residents, leaving the country is a little trickier. Since you’re planning on being overseas for longer than three months, you can apply for an exception but our Government warns that your proposed travel must be for a compelling reason.
Evidence must be provided in the form of a Commonwealth Statutory Declaration to support your claims and this may include confirmation of leave from employment for three months, enrolment confirmation for study and/or a confirmed flight itinerary with a return date of at least three months after your date of departure. Will your request be approved? It’s hard to say.
Figures from Australian Border Force show that while applications for outbound travel exemptions are increasing, the number of approvals are decreasing. That said, travelling abroad for more than three months (as an official exemption category) accounted for at least half of the approved exemptions. As a travel writer, I understand your frustration better than most but I think it’s also a good idea to take time to weigh up the risks of leaving Australia.
Health and safety is, of course, the big one (you can read more about that on smartraveller.gov.au), but you’ll also have to factor in potential (and, let’s face it, highly likely) disruptions to travel including quarantine requirements and flight cancellations – both in other countries and also on your return to Australia. Check out covid19.homeaffairs.gov.au for further information.
Samoa gets ready
Following the travel bubbles between Australia and New Zealand and New Zealand and Cook Islands, Samoa has been ramping up its visitor-ready preparations in anticipation of borders opening later this year. Preparations include a national vaccination rollout, upskilling for local employees, bolstered testing capabilities and a digital tracing app, the Samoa Travel Tracer.
A travel cancellations survey by consumer group Choice has revealed 53% of respondents surveyed waited more than three months for a resolution,, with nearly a quarter waiting over six months. Choice is calling for the Federal and State Governments to implement a range of travel protections for consumers including easier refunds and minimum voucher/credit rights. You can sign the petition at choice.com.au/travelcampaign.
Rex refund portal
Regional Express Airlines (REX) has created an online portal for Covid-related refund requests which ensure eligible fares are refunded within seven days of applying. Only those who’ve booked directly with Rex may use the Covid Cancellation and Refund portal; those who booked through a travel agent or travel company must instead email REX to obtain an approval before contacting your agent to have the refund actioned.
Flight Centre roadmap
The Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) has presented its own roadmap to opening up our borders. As part of the plan, 70% of adults would be jabbed by September – a time when five-day home quarantine would be introduced. By November, this would be further reduced, with hotel quarantine only needed if travellers were arriving from a high-risk country. The goal? International departures by January 2022.