American money

The Poor Writer’s Guide to Cheap Travel

July 22, 2011

in blogging, budget travel, hostels, writing

Brooke vs. the World has asked travel bloggers to put together their best thrifty and resourceful travel tips for a helpful, free ebook. If you think you’re thrifty and would like to participate, check out the official rules.

I live in super-pricey Australia and deal with fluctuating income levels as a freelance writer. Those two facts alone should equal no vacation for me ever. In reality, I manage to travel to places around Oz and beyond several times a year and still come home with pocket money. Here’s how I stop a costly country and a  pauper’s paycheck from butchering my travel budget.

I Pack LightMe holding American money.

I’ve yet to bring a suitcase on a domestic flight in Australia; all my luggage is carry-on. That can make a big difference with airlines like Jetstar, which offers much cheaper fares to passengers who don’t check bags. I don’t need more than a pair of jeans and a few shirts, and makeup and jewelry don’t matter if I’m hiking in the bush or going surfing. In addition to bringing travel-sized liquids, I reuse the empty containers and bottles on future trips.

I Stay at Hostels

Australia is not like America: it’s hard to find a hotel for less than $70 a night. Hostels are the cheap motels of the accommodation world. I also shave even more off my hostel bill by keeping a (cheap) membership with Hostelling International. Depending on the hostel and the type of room, HI members can save between $3 and $10 a night.

I Eat In and Don’t Drink

Alcohol and restaurant meals can send my travel budget into the abyss, especially in oh-so-pricey Australia. So I typically dedicate only one night to grabbing a drink or two and maybe eat one meal out. For the rest of my meals, I either pick up some items from the supermarket — bread, cans of tuna, spinach, oatmeal — to store in the hostel kitchen or eat the lunch offered as part of the tour I’m taking.

I Book Tours at My Hostel

I don’t know if it’s a hard-and-fast rule, but I’ve found I can save a few dollars by booking tours to nearby sites through my hostel rather than on my own. Many tour operators have deals with hostels to lower costs for backpackers. I also try to choose itineraries that include as much of an area as possible. This might mean one super-long day of sightseeing, but then I have more free time later in the trip, plus more money in my pocket.

I Walk

I’ve gotten acquainted with downtown Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns by foot. Yes, this means a lot of walking. But is there really a better way to see a CBD? Plus, seeing the city by foot lets me go wherever I want, ask questions of locals and linger in certain places. I also avoid that 5-lb. vacation weight gain.

What are your frugal travel tips?

17 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. Brooke vs. the World

    First off, I love the photo of you so enjoyably holding your wad of one dollar bills… it’s only missing the appropriate Chappelle caption underneath 🙂 Secondly, great, practical tips, and most of which I use myself. When it comes to grocery store lunches, oatmeal is a winner in my book: filling, healthy, cheap.

    I’ll be sharing this around. Thanks heaps!

    Reply
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  4. Christine

    I walk SO much when I’m on vacation because I hate paying for public transport…and I never take taxis!!! Such an easy way to save/see more scenery/soak up some sunshine when it’s nice out 🙂

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      And as we know, public transport and taxi service in cities like Sydney are below average, so walking saves you money, plus time and aggravation!

      Reply
  5. Chris

    All good tips. Walking makes such a big difference, it’s healthy, and it gives you a much better opportunity to take in the world around you.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks Chris! Walking is one of the reasons I often like to travel solo. I find that others don’t want to walk as much as I do and would prefer to takes public trans or cabs.

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    When it comes to saving cash…I’m all about going the extra mile.

    If this means taking trains or buses at off-peak hours (and by “off-peak” what they really mean is “too early”) or doing a bunch of transfers just to save a couple bucks. Maybe it will quadruple travel time but I try not to think about that…and just concentrate on the large wad of bills still in my pocket.

    I have also been known to purchase fruit and veggies well-past their expiry date when traveling. But then I ended up getting sick and had to buy a bunch of meds at the tourist pharmacy. Ya…that ended up being an expensive way to travel cheap.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Haha, lesson learned on that last one. I’m with you on the trans thing — I will sometimes take longer trips if it’s cheaper. Transfers seem to be non-existent in Oz. Just another thing I miss about Philly.

      Reply
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  8. josh

    Hey!

    First of all don’t forget the other free travel options some cities have free transport, like Melbourne’s free city circle tram… I am sure other cities have some too!

    Also if you prefer a little faster than walking, bicycles are sometimes available and can be a good alternative to the taxi/train/bus, just like walking exercise and getting from a-z.

    Reply

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