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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’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’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?