A while back I did an article about free and unusual things to do in Sydney, and it seemed fairly popular (if WordPress stats are to be believed), so consider this Part II- how to save money travelling within Australia.
To make the understatement of the week, Australia is really big. If you’ve backpacked in Europe, see below (but please disregard the saltwater croc about to take a bite out of Northern Ireland). If you want to get from one place to another, as I sometimes do, then here are my two cents on saving a few bucks in travel.
1. Ask for a discount. Yes, it sounds like a trick, but this can actually work, especially if you are looking to travel in the off-season. On my recent trip to Victoria, I had previously seen the tour I was interested in on sale for a much lower rate; however that price hadn’t been extended to the weekend I was looking to travel.
As luck would have it, turns out many people aren’t looking to travel the Great Ocean Road in the middle of a very cold and wet winter, and the tour operator would rather sell the trips at a lower profit margin than not sell them at all. The other obvious selling point of travelling in the winter, besides saving some money, is that the attractions you are looking to see will be far less crowded, fewer tourists with tripods pushing in front of you to photograph their 6 crying children, shorter queues for ice cream cones, etc. etc. There’s always the possibility that you won’t get a discount just by asking, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
2. Skyscanner. This is one of my favourite travel sites for finding cheap flights, both Australia and worldwide. In fact, I almost hate mentioning it, in case the rest of the world discovers its awesomeness and it somehow becomes less effective for me. Unlike some of the American flight search engines, it doesn’t exclude certain (low-cost) airlines from its search results, and it doesn’t charge booking fees, as WebJet and other Australian search engines do. Before I came to Aus, I booked a London to Bangkok trip, and saved the equivalent of about $200, plus flew with a better airline than I had budgeted for.
3. Get paid (sort of) to caravan. Campervan (RV) rental companies often need to move their cars quickly between rental locations, depending on demand. If you are cool with last minute planning, you can often rent a campervan for $5/day, as well as get reimbursed for fuel along the way. (Google Standby Relocs or Drive Now) You need to put up a bond, which gets returned as long as you don’t wrap their caravan around a telephone pole, and you are limited in the number of days you have to make the trip (although sometimes you can purchase extra days for the full rental fee).
I haven’t tried it yet, but I think it sounds like a great way to (frugally) do an Australian road trip, especially when you look at the daily rate for rentals. You can always drop the car off, spend a few days sightseeing, then get a flight back, or even pick up another caravan and keep going. If I was unemployed, this is where I would be right now.
4. Sign up to Travelzoo Australia and airline mailing lists. Get the current travel specials in your inbox. Tiger and Jetstar, the two Australian budget airlines, often do Friday afternoon mailings, with super cheap flights, the catch being they are limited to the first few hundred seats sold.
As with all the budget airlines, you’ll pay extra for checked luggage, but carry-on is free. Don’t let the system beat you- pack light and wear your heaviest clothes on the plane. Nothing wrong with doubling up on tops or sweaters to keep under the weight limit, then taking them off once you get past security (not that I’ve done this…)
Also, I’ve noticed that while travelling domestic, security controls allow liquids to go through, unlike at home. (While chugging a water bottle before I went through security, a guard gave me an exasperated look, rolled his eyes, and told me I didn’t need to throw away the water. No doubt he had done this numerous times, probably to every American he encountered.) But, that means you can take shampoo, soap, etc. in your carry on and not create an international incident. I’d probably still leave the fireworks at home though.