Travel Indulgences on a Backpacker Budget

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A younger, slightly less bald Aussie on the Road enjoying his first backpacker experience back in 2010.
A younger, slightly less bald Aussie on the Road enjoying his first backpacker experience back in 2010.

Travel Indulgences on a Backpacker’s Budget

Backpacking is one of the most independent and intimate ways to travel the world. You experience a closeness with the world around you that you can’t hope to encounter when on a package tour or staying in a five-star resort. For some, this ‘rough’ kind of travel might seem a bit daunting – but there are ways you can get a few creature comforts without sacrificing the opportunity for authentic experiences.

With several thrifty tips, you’ll be able to indulge yourself while you travel and still have the quintessential backpacker’s experience.

How to Score an Upgrade to Business Class

If this is your first rodeo, it’s probably a safe bet that there you aren’t going to have a few thousand frequent flyer points to spare. Though it is by no means guaranteed, there are ways to increase your chances of getting bumped up from economy to business class. For one, solo travellers are much more likely to get upgraded. Business travellers don’t typically fly on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so it’s worth booking your flight during the weekend.

Though it is by no means guaranteed, there are ways to increase your chances of getting bumped up from economy to business class. For one, solo travellers are much more likely to get upgraded.

Fair Warning: Business class will ruin you for economy.
Fair Warning: Business class will ruin you for economy. Photo by Kenneth Lu.

Business travellers don’t typically fly on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so it’s worth booking your flight during the weekend. Airlines also value loyalty, and if you have flown with the same airline a number of times already, your chances increase again.

Upgrade availability can also be found on the airline’s website 24 hours prior to departure. Online check-in is also possible at this point, so the earlier you check in, the more likely you are to be upgraded to business class by the airline.

Live Like a Nomad, Eat Like a King

You shouldn’t travel under the misconception that a backpacker’s budget won’t allow for occasional dining out or indulging in quality food. Instead of surviving on cereal for breakfast, a packed lunch. and microwave noodles every day, these tips will ensure that you cut down on the cost of eating without having to sacrifice the experience of dining out.

Lunch specials are everywhere, and an average lunch meal is almost always cheaper than the average dinner. In Australia, you’ll find great deals on pub meals all over the country – with a main usually no more than $10.

The humble chicken parmigana is an Aussie staple and usually only $10 at lunch.
The humble chicken parmigana is an Aussie staple and usually only $10 at lunch.

Most international hostels include free breakfast and though they aren’t usually anything extravagant, they are plentiful. Take advantage. Fill up on high protein foods such as eggs or treat yourself to oatmeal, which keeps you full for longer.

A big breakfast is guaranteed to keep you going until late afternoon when you can enjoy dining out for a late lunch – this also means you will only need a light (and likely cheaper) dinner.

I couldn’t in good conscience advise giving up alcohol, but choose your battles. Avoid drinking at hotels or upmarket restaurants, and instead avail yourself of the age-old ‘pre-drinks’ concept. Hit up a grocery store, corner store, or liquor store to grab your drinks and make sure you’re merry before hitting the bars or clubs.

If you are backpacking around Australia, it’s near impossible not to take advantage of some of the world’s best restaurants. If your aim is to dine like a king, sign up with Yumtable.com.au and gain access to special offers at a wide range of restaurants across the country.

Find Last Minute Hotel Discounts

Part of the charm of backpacking is bunking with a dozen strangers, and staying in a hostel comes with the territory of backpacking. But you’d be forgiven for preferring your own bathroom and not wanting to share a bunk bed with a habitual snorer.

A few nights in a hotel could be the breather you need, but you’re probably already mentally calculating how much the accommodation fees will set you back. Thankfully there are ways to avoid excessive costs if you are prepared to be a little flexible.

After a few weeks of cramped dorm accommodation, a hotel room is going to feel like luxury. Photo by Canadian Pacific.
After a few weeks of cramped dorm accommodation, a hotel room is going to feel like luxury. Photo by Canadian Pacific.

Hotels want to be at full capacity for the evening and will lower their rates on the day the closer it gets to check in time. Third-party booking sites like wotif.com, expedia.com, quickbeds.com etc. are frequently updated and are extremely useful in monitoring the fluctuation of nightly hotel rates.

Two bedroom or three bedroom apartments/rooms are much harder to sell than single or studio rooms, so hotels will often advertise vacant one bedrooms even if there are none available (to ensure a sale either way), then offer the guest a complimentary room upgrade on arrival. There’s no reason why a backpacker can’t enjoy a night of pure luxury!

Free Accommodation

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a service like Couchsurfing. While you’re not likely to land something spectacularly comfortable (indeed, the fact you may be sleeping on a couch goes with the territory), you’re still going to be saving some money by staying with somebody for free.

Couchsurfing also has the added benefit of letting you meet a local who can furnish you with advice on what to do, where to go, and the best food to eat. It’s a great way to build a network from the moment you hit the ground.

With the money you save staying somewhere for free and getting insider tips on the city, you’re going to have a little extra cash for extravagances such as extra drinks or a ticket to that attraction you weren’t sure you’d be able to afford.

Blog

Perhaps the biggest perk of having a travel blog of some reknown is that it does occasionally mean I get to partner with hotels, hostels, and tour companies to review their product. In exchange for my review and social media coverage, I’m often able to pick up a free or substantially reduced tour or room.

You didn’t think I could afford to stay in places like the Four Seasons Serengeti on my meagre earnings, surely?

A pool with a view. I never wanted to leave the pool at the Four Seasons Serengeti.
A pool with a view. I never wanted to leave the pool at the Four Seasons Serengeti.

While you can’t just set up a site on Blogspot and demand a discount, the opportunity is certainly there if you’re willing to do the hard yards and get your name out there.

Resources like Travel Blog Success are a great way to learn the ropes and hit the ground running, and many of the biggest bloggers out there (including the likes of Adventurous Kate and yTravel) can attest to the value of such programs.

Your Say

What are your tips for scoring a bit of luxury when you’re on a budget?

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