Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PART 3 Conclusion:

A Real World Example

uluru at sunset
Travel hacking, or the art of getting everything on miles, is the best way to travel cheaply.  So let’s create an example using the tips above. Say you want to go to Australia for two weeks. It’s a long way and Australia is an expensive country. How do you do it without busting your budget?

Flights – It takes about 70,000 miles for a round-trip flight to Australia from United States. You can earn that many miles by signing up for these two cards:
United Airlines card (30,000 miles)
Chase Sapphire card (40,000 miles)

or sign up for two American Airlines card (40,000 miles per card)
Or you can simply pay the $1,500 USD for the flight!
Cost: about $100 USD in taxes and fees for your flight using miles.
To find out more about using credit cards and miles for free flights, read this article.  And while I used the US an example and we have the most deals, there are a number of reward cards for Canadians, UK citizens, and Europeans.
Accommodation – Couchsurfing while you are in Australia will allow you to stay with locals for free, plus you’ll have access to a kitchen where you can cook your meals and save money for traveling.  There are a lot of people on Couchsurfing in Australia and it’s very easy to find someone to stay with. Additionally, Global Freedloaders also has a lot of users in the country.
Cost: $0
Food – A friend of mine once told me they simply get screwed with the price of food in Australia and it is true! However, if you cook your meals, expect to pay $70–80 USD per week. For that price, your groceries will include pasta, vegetables, chicken, and some other basic foodstuffs. Because food costs so much, campsites, hostels, apartments, and even some budget hotels have kitchen facilities for you to use. An average restaurant meal in Australia will run you around $15 USD for no-frills eating. This includes pub food, fish-and-chip shops, Chinese restaurants, and quick lunch shops. If you are staying in hostels, most offer meals each night for $6 USD and under. They call these “Special Backpacker meals,” and the food is typically pasta, fish and chips, or burgers. It’s not very healthy, but it is very cheap.
Cost:  $100 – 300 USD (Assuming you alternate cooking your own food and eating out a few times.)
Transportation – The easiest way to see Australia is via Greyhound, and they offer good value bus passes. On the popular Sydney to Cairns bus route, a normal bus ticket is about $400 USD for a direct one-way trip. However, the pass for the same route is typically $350 and lets you hop off and on as much as you would like. Not only is the pass cheaper, but it allows you to see other destinations along the way.
Another popular and cheap way to travel around Australia is to rent a van and drive yourself. Campervan and car rentals do two things: they lower your transportation costs because van rentals are really cheap and driving yourself is cheaper than taking the bus or flying. They also double as a bedroom, so you can save on accommodation by sleeping at a campsite instead of a hostel. You can rent these for about $35 USD per day.
Using web classifieds like Gumtree or hostel message boards can allow you to find travelers looking for rides or those wanting to get rid of their car. Taking on a few travelers to share the cost of the van and gas can cut your transportation/accommodation expenses to less than $20 USD per day! (Or use them to hop rides with other people and only pay for gas!)
Cost: $100 – $400 depending on which method you use.
Activities – Activities are really expensive in Australia, generally costing $150–400 USD. For example, a one-day trip to the Great Barrier Reef can cost $170 USD, while two nights sailing the Whitsunday Islands can cost upward of $400. A three-day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs is around $355. A day trip to Kakadu National Park is around $100. There’s really little ways to get around these costs if you go with a tour company. If you organize a trip on your own, you can cut the costs by about 50% depending on the activity.
Assuming you pick the two big activities with a tour company, you’re looking at about $600 USD.
Cost:  $600
Total cost: ~ $1,400 USD (or less)
(It should be noted that once you are “on the ground” everyone pays the same local price. Travel hacking works for everyone because on the ground, we all hack the same way – no matter what your nationality.)
Looking at the itinerary above, I didn’t compromise a lot. True, you’ll be staying with other people and cooking your own food, but that’s not the end of the world. (These tip work even if you are traveling as a pair since sites like Couchsurfing do accept pairs.)
I often talk about how you can travel around the world for $50 USD per day. While this particular journey works out to be $100 per day, but my aim here is to highlight that while in this example you aren’t able to stretch your costs out over a long period of time (which is how you lower expenses), a two-week vacation doesn’t need to cost a huge sum of money. If I can go to London for $700 and design a two-week trip to Australia that costs $1,400, then the argument that you must be rich to travel holds absolutely no water. You don’t need thousands upon thousands to travel. In fact, while $1,400 is a lot of money, that is the maximum amount of money you would need as there are still ways mentioned in the example to lower your costs even more.
The key is to get out of the mindset that you must travel using the flight/hotel combination.  While my real world example doesn’t utilize all the bare bones tips I included in the beginning of this post, it does highlight one thing – using out-of-the-box, non-traditional ways to travel can lead to big savings.
And that turns travel from a dream into a reality.