How to save money when booking travel is one of my most requested blog posts. Clearly you guys love cutting corners as much as I do! After I saved my parents hundreds on their holiday across both flights and accommodation – I had a record number of requests asking for a post on how I did it. And when I managed to score flights to Germany for just £4.70, I had yet more requests for top tips on how to find great travel deals. I've now lost count of the times I've helped friends and family to save huge amounts of money on travel. So this post will cover all my best tips and tricks to remember the next time you book a holiday.
Whether it's a summer holiday, a year-long trip around the world or a weekend city break. A bit of careful planning can mean the difference between saving enough for a few extra glasses of wine or even two weeks spending money! As we all know, I've spent a long time travelling as a budget backpacker. Well, maintaining that lifestyle long-term means sometimes cutting corners in a bid to travel for longer. I only know the things that I know through a very long process of trial and error. That means I've made all the same mistakes including accidentally booking the more expensive option and learning about the cheaper websites after. But the beauty of that is that I've done all the hard work for you!
Everyone loves a comparison site! They make it nice and easy to see all the deals in one place. But sometimes it is easy to get distracted by what seems like a "good deal" that you don't realise you're actually being overcharged. Skyscanner and sites like Expedia can be great but always price up the flights and hotel independently via their own websites. Check you actually are getting the best deal. My favourite site for booking flights at the moment is Cheap Flights which helped me save hundreds. I booked flights to travel from Australia to Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and back to Europe for less than £500.
I actually cannot believe that people don't know about this! It is vital to getting good deals. On your web browser (whether you use Safari or Firefox or Chrome) there is an option to "open a private window" or "go incognito". Using this means the websites you visit cannot track the deals you are looking at. So you know when you look at a deal, then five minutes later when you look again the price has gone up? That's because the websites are tracking what you are looking at! Get around it by using the private windows. It means the prices stay more constant and they don't reflect you viewing any other sites.
I hate that I always have to sign up and start an account when booking something. We all know the real reason we have to do that is so the companies can send us loads of emails. However, the last year has really taught me the value of these accounts, particularly during my month in Sri Lanka. During my trip, I booked all accommodation through Booking.com. After making so many bookings in such a short space of time, I was promoted to bonus member which meant I was eligible for a lot of extra discounts and bonuses. I saved loads through discounts on the properties I stayed at. I was also eligible for extras such as early check in/late check out, transport, discounts on activities etc.
We've spent years being told the package deal is the best on offer. Depending on where you are going, you can get some great deals this way. I know I booked 10 days in Ibiza for just £200 each for flights and accommodation in peak season around six years ago. But now I would always recommend booking flights and accommodation separately for the best deal. My parents were going to book a trip to Porto as a package until I had a look over their "deal". After a quick search, I managed to save them over £200 despite moving them to a better and more central hotel! It took me all of five minutes and has given them a big chunk of spending money. Booking.com is fantastic for reduced accommodations in better locations and always super easy to use.
When I was first traveling in Australia, I decided to plan my East Coast trip and was looking at four weeks of beaches, activities and transport on a serious budget. It was a daunting task and after doing a lot of research, I decided to book through the tour desk in my hostel. I had been to three other travel agents and had priced it up individually online myself - but this actually worked out the best option. By booking through a travel agent, we actually saved hundreds of £££ and were gifted free meals throughout most of our trip. We also got great discounts on our activities such as Fraser Island, white water rafting and even had a few free extras thrown in. You can read my full post on planning your trip here, and my guide to budgeting your trip here.
I read an article about this a few years ago, about how Tuesday and Wednesdays were the cheapest day to book flights - I wasn't sure whether to believe it. So I did a bit of research and started searching for flights to various locations using my regular websites on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then compared them to other days of the week. What did I find? There was a real difference - depending on where you were flying to it could mean the difference between flying for a few quid or spending much more on your next trip. I've just booked the cheapest flights I've ever found thanks to booking on a Tuesday, trying different websites and airports, and looking at the month-view. I'm taking my first trip of the year on a £4.70 flight to Hamburg in just two weeks, all because I was smart about booking.
This one is hard if you only get specific days off or if you have to book time off well in advance. But being flexible about when you travel or even your destination can really make a difference. I always try to look ahead at month-views of flight prices to see when the cheapest times to travel are. Sometimes I will fly into alternative airports to save money and time, like when I used to use Bremen airport for Hamburg. If you just want a holiday but don't mind where, play flight roulette and pick the cheapest location on Skyscanner (search Everywhere). Or look at flight sales for bargain flights. Looking for long-haul flights? Always check the flight cost from various locations in Europe – sometimes there can be added tax for flying into the UK. You may find it cheaper to fly into Europe, then get a connecting flight.
These can be a goldmine or just another suck on your money. If you thinking more of days out than a holiday, you could check out sites like Groupon for budget deals. I always check them for any spa/hotel deals and make sure I get the email updates for Norfolk and London. My sister uses sites like these to get great deals and has often done dinner and a West End show for cheaper than just the show tickets thanks to the deals. But do be cynical - read the small print carefully and make sure you are actually getting the best deal because most of these are non-refundable. You can also check out buy and sell groups on Facebook - often people will sell on deal vouchers like this if they can't use them for a reduced price.
This turned into an epic post but I'm hoping these tips and tricks will help you guys with planning your travels. Trial and error is my best teacher and I just hope some of my tips can help you guys to have your dream trip. Shop around when searching and definitely devote some time to searching. It can seem tedious when you first start, but the more you do it, the faster you'll be and the more you'll save. Don't forget to let me know if I've managed to save you some money!
Have these tips helped you to plan your next trip? How much have you saved using these pointers? Whats the cheapest flight you've ever booked?
Life can be pretty expensive as we get a bit older – with mortgages to pay and bills ever increasing, it's no surprise that so many twenty-somethings are being forced to sacrifice some of their favourite music events in a bid to pinch pennies. I've always been an avid festival goer - you guys know how much I love my glitter and fancy dress - but I've always been lucky and through my work and this blog, I have been able to attend most of them for free over the years. But not everyone is that lucky, and most are having to fork out a few hundred pounds before even arriving at the festival and seeing the costs mount up. By the end of a four-day weekend, you can easily have spent over £500 and for that price could have had a week's holiday in Europe. Is the price of festival tickets depressing you? I'm not surprised, before you even get to the venue you’re looking at a hefty dent to the wallet, with festival camping gear, fabulous outfits to rock and travel costs.
So many are trying the cheaper alternative of creating their own festival at home – why not give it a shot? A little planning, enthusiasm from friends and family and it’s sure to be a big success. If you create it, they will come…
A popular success story in the back-garden festivals sphere is Leefest. Lee Denny started his own festival in his mother’s back garden back in 2006 and this year the festival entertained over 5,000 people! Pretty impressive. In recent years, there has been a shift towards staying home more and making the most of the space you have for entertaining. Staycations have become common practice for those who simply want some time off work without the hassle and expensive of a foreign holiday. With this in mind, a back-garden festival could be a perfect alternative to next year's festival ticket-buying frenzy.
To differentiate between a normal garden party and a festival, you need to include a few festival must-haves. Lighting is a big part of this, so be sure to get some fairy lights to place in trees, across garden fences and dotted about the place to give a great ambience to the festivities. Lanterns are also a great shout, especially those with battery-powered candles so you don’t need to worry about fire risks.
A drinks bar will always be appreciated. There’s a couple of ways to go about this, but the best (surely) is a homemade tiki bar! This can be done relatively cheaply by upcycling some old pallets and wood, and then all you need to do is dress it up in grass skirts and decorative fruit – job done. Who will you trust as bartender for the night?
There’s also an addition to your home that can really up the ante for entertaining in the garden. Having bifolding doors can open up the back of your home into the garden, almost creating one big entertaining space for guests to mill in and out of. Also very handy if the weather suddenly turns on you!
Tipis are also key to the theme, dotted about the garden as little meeting places for people to mingle at. All you need are some cushions and throws to make it nice and cosy.
The good thing about a back-garden festival is that people won’t be expecting a lot of food. Little nibbles here and there will suffice to keep the revellers satisfied, or why not ask everyone to bring a dish? Here are some ideas to help you pull out all the stops:
Crushed pea and mint dip with carrot sticks – This yummy and refreshing dip will have the carrot sticks gone in no time. Even the vegetable haters will be reaching for one. This recipe from BBC Good Food is a must-try.
Quick fish cakes – Choose between skinless cod, haddock or pollock for this recipe from Jamie Oliver. The addition of herbs such as dill, chives or parsley (whatever your preference) will add a great flavour to the fish cakes.
Peanut chicken satay sticks – Chicken and peanut butter, what’s not to love? All Recipes uses a teaspoon of hot sauce in this recipe so be ready for a kick!
Spring garden potato salad – Even though it isn’t spring anymore, this delicious salad will still hold its own at the festival. Full of veggies but still that little bit naughty with potatoes and cream. Try this recipe from Food Network.
If there’s any burgeoning artists in your family or friendship group, give them the stage of your back garden to entertain your guests. If not, a kick-ass playlist will suffice. You can even get a Wireless Festival playlist on Spotify if you’re lost for where to begin. Plus, there’s always one guest who fancies themselves as a DJ so you could leave them with a laptop and a speaker to entertain everyone.
Other activities could include a little coconut shy or a limbo pole to bring out the competition amongst the festival goers. Face painting is always good fun too, even if the one painting isn’t all that skilled. As long as there’s a good amount of glitter thrown in, everything will be fine!
With good decoration, good food and good entertainment – your back garden festival is sure to be a success. Why not try and squeeze in one last end of summer hoorah before the autumn weather really kicks in - or, if you have a marquee available to you, why not host a winter festival?
I will always be a backpacker at heart, but even I cannot deny the dream of luxury travel. While I love the simplicity and the freedom of carrying my life on my back and being able to change my plans at the drop of a hat, luxury travel does give you a wealth of opportunities to stay in some incredible places and doing amazing things you only dreamt of until now. Having worked in hospitality at a rooftop bar in a 5* hotel, you soon get to grips with what takes a regular hotel stay and turns it into a luxurious one. It's those tiny details, and most importantly the staff who really transform your experience. This combined with my experiences as a traveller has really showed me what defines the 5* experience and how you could get this on a budget to still live within your means while travelling.
Most importantly - you don't have to be filthy rich to live like a queen on your holidays. You just have to be smart and do your research before you go. putting in a few hours of reading and booking time before you go can make a world of difference to your trip. Especially when it comes to planning your actual travel.
Travel tips for luxury on a budget
Accommodation tips for luxury on a budget
Activity tips for luxury on a budget
Fancying some serious luxury for your next adventure? Try a tailor-made holiday from Travelbag to one of countless worldwide locations.
It could be the trip you never forget.
One of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you've been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you're watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some - so it's important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I'm all about making the most of your money and every possible experience - I don't want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let's be honest - I'd rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.
So how do you budget for a long-term trip?
First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go - weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance - travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you're on a break from work and only have a month - perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you're looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic - you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you're looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad - why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?
What kind of trip?
What are your priorities when you travel - are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate - what's that quote?
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."
I couldn't agree more - take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time - it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn't have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won't be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am - then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more - best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.
We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I'm definitely guilty of that at home and since I've ben travelling - but it's good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.
Remember to account for any home costs while you're away - if you're still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don't end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.
Don't let budgeting put you off
Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don't let that stop you from travelling - I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember - there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days - those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I've been both the richest and the poorest I've ever been since travelling and I can assure you I've lived the dream throughout both. If you're determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.
Need budget tips for your upcoming trip - leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?
Okay so my travels kind of ran away with me and writing has taken a bit of a back seat lately. The last six weeks since I left home have given me endless reams of adventures to share with you all, but I just haven't had enough time to sit with my laptop and actually write. It's frustratingly satisfying when your life is so full that you don't have time to share it, but I can't help but miss the process of writing and sharing every step with you guys. So I'm here, I'm back guys, and I bring endless amazing photos, anecdotes and reviews of all the fabulous places I've been over the last few weeks. I'm writing this from Sydney Airport, halfway between Cairns and Tasmania, but I want to take you back in time a few weeks to when I first arrived in Bali. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to stay at Grandma's Hotels in both Kuta and Seminyak during my first week in Bali and I think it's about time I shared my experiences with you. I was invited along to review the two hotels and I was excited to check them out - as part of easing myself back into backpacker life it was nice to start out with all the luxuries of a hotel but perfectly aimed at business or budget travellers.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Seminyak
We started off by spending a couple of nights at Grandma's Plus Hotel in Seminyak and it was a perfect place to kick off my time in Bali. The hotel is perfectly positioned to enjoy all the bars, restaurants and nightlife Seminyak has to offer while also being right next to the beach. Despite being so close to several big clubs, the hotel is very peaceful and you wouldn't even know that you were just down the road from some of the biggest nights out in the area. As we pulled up in the taxi, we were instantly impressed by the style and design of the hotel, unlike others on the street it looked almost as though it had been reclaimed by nature. The tropical greenery and vines wound through the walls and around the pathways throughout the building, it was such a unique look and I loved the way all of the interiors had been designed to fit with this natural theme. Combining natural jungle paradise vibes with a sleek, modern layout worked really well and set the hotel apart from the rest.
As we walked past the swimming pool and made our way up to our room, I was even more impressed by the high standard of comfort available for those on a budget. We had a twin room with an en suite, but doubles are also available, and my oh my, let me just tell you about the beds. Now beds are a big deal, especially when you're a budget traveler or backpacker, all too often I end up sleeping on springs or some lumpy mattress! So laying down on this incredible mattress was an absolute dream - I almost didn't get out of bed the whole time we were there! After spending a month in Bali I now know how often you get promised hot showers and actually find cold water running out of them, so the showers in the hotel were heaven - powerful and with endless hot water. The room was great, it had everything we needed and more, it was compact and well-designed so that it actually had those fun hostel vibes but with the privacy and comfort of a private room.
Grandma's Plus Hotel, Legian
After a couple of nights in Seminyak, we moved to the Grandma's Plus Hotel in Legian, not far away but in a whole other section of the popular stretch of Kuta. Streets lined with shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants awaited us, this section was far busier but proves a big draw for travellers of all ages who want to relax or party on their holidays. This hotel is designed along a similar theme of jungle greens and staff welcome you in to the towering structure through a leafy pergola. This hotel is set around the restaurant where breakfast is served, with huge, high ceilings and trailing vines dangling from the rafters, it's a beautiful place to start your day with a delicious breakfast included with the room price. You can choose from an Indonesian breakfast to Eggs Benedict and all plates come with fruit and treats from the bakery - a perfect meal to set you up for a day of sunbathing or exploring.
The hotel has the feeling of an oasis after stepping off the chaotic, busy street outside into the cool, calm atmosphere, it's soothing. Again the rooms are of the usual high standard and came with all the amenities we would need during our stay, and the beds were just as comfortable as the ones I had just left behind at the other hotel. The only thing we did notice with this hotel was that there was a bit of street noise despite us being seven floors up, but understandably we the hotel was in the middle of the busiest part of Bali. I can't fault the staff at both hotels, they were amazing and so helpful. Everything from moving us into our rooms to organising taxis and even trying to help me fix a SIM card for my phone. They made our stay go from good to excellent with their great attitudes and friendly manner.
While we were staying at the hotels, we were also invited along to try out their spas. At Grandma's in Seminyak we headed to De Nyuh Spa and Salon for a full body Balinese massage - my first in the country - then at the hotel in Legian we went to Rehat Massage and Reflexology. Both spas were located within the hotel building, so super convenient if you fancy a pamper but aren't ready to face the outside world yet. Both were beautiful designed and brought instant calm and peace to you as you walked in the door, the soothing music combined with the floral displays and the dark wood kept the spas cool and laced with gentle Balinese aromas. Having now had several Balinese massages, I can say that these two massages were actually two of the best I had while in Bali. If you're staying at either hotel, I would really recommend visiting the spa for a bit of me-time - you'll come away feeling like a new person and ready to really embrace your holiday.
Have you stayed at Grandma's Hotels - how was your experience? What kind of accommodation do you normally go for on holiday?
I write a lot about budget travel - about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that's what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I've been the poorest I've ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don't know how you'll afford a bed for the night or how you'll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I've worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I've given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I've worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I've ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.
Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don't just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap - without any control over what was happening. Now I'm not saying all employers are like this in Australia - some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you're desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don't like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I'll talk about that more in a later post, I've had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don't get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we're over there. I know it's not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don't feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.
So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you're getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia - a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne - I also managed to work a lot. If you've worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you'll understand why I feel like I've had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It's an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There's something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself - I'm always proud of the fact that I've funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it's like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let's face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.
What's that quote? "If travel was free, you'd never see me again" and how true that is, if it wasn't for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I'm just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don't need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don't have expensive tastes - I've spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you're jetting all over the world. Even if you're staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you're talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it's like some new version of the American Dream - as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who's to say it wouldn't, these days money spells freedom and that's all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.
That's why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers - because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven't already applied for your tax rebate - why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I'm getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 - so it's definitely worth doing. Don't be put off by the paperwork - it doesn't take long and it's more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way - don't miss out on claiming back your money because you're lazy - that's your next travelling fund right there!
What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax - can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?
It's now been a month since I touched down in the UK after 18 months of travelling. That's nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it feels like a painfully long time since I last saw my Melbourne home, and the people who make it so special to me. I keep having that moment when people ask how it feels to be home, and I think to myself that home feels 3,000 miles away right now. That's the hard part of being a traveler, leaving such big pieces of your heart all over the world that when you do finally come home it can feel a bit empty. That's why so many struggle to deal with the comedown from travelling. I've had it much better than most – I've come back and walked straight into a great freelance job that works with my schedule, and I've instantly started planning trips away with family and friends, knowing my plan is to travel long-term again from September. It makes it much easier to know my situation is temporary, because after a year and a half of utter freedom, the thought of being tied down to one place gives me chills. It's been quite easy for me to slip into the life that I'm living now - after working flat out in Melbourne, I finally have time to relax and catch up with friends. I have time to recuperate from the effects of long-term travel and I can still earn a good wage while I do it.
But as you guys will know, I've always been a bit of a workaholic, so it's difficult for me to adjust to this lifestyle after pushing myself 110% in all of my previous jobs. Especially being back in the UK, I've noticed this incredible pressure since I arrived home and I'm not sure whether it's coming from my own mind or society. My whole attitude to life was much healthier when I was travelling – I was relaxed and focused on having an incredible travelling experience rather than how much money I could earn or how many extra hours I could work. My priority was earning enough to live comfortably as a backpacker, so it never became more important than living my life. Before I went travelling, work took over my life in an unhealthy way and it was this that really pushed me to focus on something else that made me happy - travel. Since travelling, my bank account has been both the fullest and the emptiest it has ever been. But even when I was broke, I always found a way to make ends meet and to survive, even then I was happier than the times I was sitting on a stack of savings. So when I had learnt to live happily on so little, why do I find myself feeling this constant need to achieve since being home?I don't know whether it is just in my own mind, or whether this is a common feeling for travelers returning to the UK, but I constantly have this feeling that I haven't done enough. That I haven't worked enough hours, that I haven't sent enough emails, that I haven't got enough views on this blog, and that I haven't seen enough places in the world. I find myself plagued with worries that time is running out and I just don't have enough left to achieve everything that I want to do in life, that the success I have isn't quite enough. It's such a strange feeling, but one I remember from before I went away. While travelling it was pushed out of my mind by the happiness of living life in the present, by the success of achieving everything I did on a daily basis. So why have these feelings all come rushing back now I'm in the UK? It's easy to forget that everyone has insecurities, and it can be hard to identify our own. I never realised before I went away that I am my own worst enemy when it comes to enjoying success. Instead of relishing and enjoying the moment, I constantly push on to achieve the next thing, to push the next boundary. I love that about myself because it has driven me to make some huge changes in my life that led me to travel the world solo, and to leave a life that made me miserable. But at the same time, it can leave me feeling like what I do will never be enough.
While I was travelling, I focused on nothing more than living in the moment. I focused on the beautiful sunsets, the laughter at work, the nights we won't remember – I lived every second and everything else came after. I never stressed about work or money, just knew I would always figure it out. I didn't think about blogging, just enjoyed the natural progression of reminiscing about my experiences and writing them on the page at my own pace. Put simply, life came first. But since being back, I find mentally that I'm struggling to keep it this way. I've managed so far, but can always feel the pressure and stresses of thinking about money, stats and figures. It's true the UK is very financially driven when it comes to success, and I can only think this is mirrored in the way we view our own successes. I've only noticed this because I have been away from it and had to reintegrate myself, but how many others are left to feel this way without an escape? It's just so easy to get sucked into worrying about money and how successful you are when there are constant reminders of how much we are failing. Every time I look at a magazine or newspaper, listen to the radio or watch TV, there is a stark reminder that there is so much I haven't yet achieved, so much that I'm behind on.I shouldn't feel this way, in the last few months I have had countless successes that I need to learn to just celebrate. I worked as a sales manager and built my own team, ended up as the highest paid manager in my last job. I was a finalist in the travel section of the UK Blog Awards two years in a row. I have made it onto a list of the top 15 travel bloggers of 2016, and I'm even being featured by other bloggers I love as one to check out. I have another huge success tucked up my sleeve, but that one will have to remain a secret for now. All this, and yet I still feel that craving for more, it's soul destroying at times, endlessly frustrating. I just don't understand why I feel it so prominently when I'm in the UK compared to Australia, or Asia, does the distance really chip away at these feelings so much? Perhaps it's just something I'm better able to control when I travel, because it just becomes so much less of a priority for me, instead I use this drive to achieve great things in real life as well as on the screen. I guess when I'm in the UK, I use my laptop as a means for escape, by working on this little world I have created at www.absolutelylucy.com I can be transported to the worlds I have left behind. Work has always been the one escape for me when I don't want to deal with my feelings, so perhaps it's just my way of coping with coming home.
Speaking to some of my fellow travelers on the Girl vs Globe Facebook group, I found I wasn't the only one who has suffered from these feelings. Ro Lee, who blogs at The Travel Captain, said: "Having lived in both NY and Dubai, you're bombarded with constant reminders of how "important" financial success is. But as I've approached my mid thirties, I realize that true success is a measure of the strength of your relationship with others. Helping others succeed is equally important or "lonely at the top" is a saying which holds very true." While Yoanna Guerra-Cuevas, who vlogs here, added: "After doing some travel around Europe and living in Spain for a few months, my whole mindset has changed. In Spain they have a saying "no pasa nada". It basically means everything will be okay. I learned to stop worrying about expectations to succeed and just worry about being happy." Amrine Obermueller, who blogs at Dancing Around The World, said: "I think that if you're feeling the pressures then sooner or later you just have to realize what is right for your life and try not to live it based on how everyone else tells you to. It took me about 10 years to figure that out...but here I am, so happy that I finally know how I want to live my life." Great advice ladies, time I took a leaf out of your book and stopped stressing. Every time I start to feel like this, I'll think back to that traveler mindset and ask myself What Would Traveler Lucy Do? (WWTLD)
Have you felt the pressures of home closing in after returning from travelling? Do you find it hard not to slip into old ways? How does your traveler mindset differ from your home mindset?
For months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you're finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money - all us backpackers say "if travel was free, you'd never see me again" and I can tell you it's true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We'd rather sleep on someone's floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you're starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia - one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world - I think I've picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:
Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!
Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring - there's always the chance you'll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!
So far life in Melbourne has proved to be everything I dreamed it would be and more. I finally have the perfect city/coast life balance, I’ve found a job I really enjoy, I have an amazing apartment and I’m surrounded by amazing friends both old and new. I’m a lucky girl and I feel so grateful every single day I wake up here and realise how amazing my life is. I’m appreciating every second because I know it won’t last forever and the clock is already ticking down on my time in this incredible city. Since starting my new job I’ve already been promoted and am now managing a sales team of 12+, I’m loving the job despite never having worked in sales before now. But it is very demanding on my time and I’m working long hours, so blogging is having to take a slight backseat and I will be posting a bit less frequently over the coming months. It’s a strange adjustment after having all the time in the world spend on writing, editing and creating for you guys, but it’s nice to have a new challenge. I will still be posting at least once or twice a week, so keep checking back here to stay up-to-date with my adventures.With working so much, I’m making sure I make the most of any downtime I get whether it’s having late-night catch-ups with friends over a bottle of wine or dinner, or getting tickets to the biggest event in the city! So I could hardly resist when I found out the Australian Grand Prix would be taking place, not only in Melbourne but just a five minute walk from my apartment! I’ve always loved watching Formula One, I’ll be honest and say I know very little about it all and would’t be able to tell you much about it as a sport, but I’ve always loved the atmosphere that surrounds it - the whole spectacle. It’s something that I would happily watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, but probably never would have had the opportunity, or the drive, to buy tickets for and watch live in the UK. But halfway around the world, it was taking place right on my doorstep and it would be rude not to get involved. With one friend set to leave the city to return to Darwin the very next day, it was a great excuse to get loads of my mates together for one final hurrah and a fun day out together. We ended up with a gang of around ten of us and scooped up tickets for a bargain price of $99. I was really impressed at the price - for a backpacker it’s a good wad of cash but considering you get a full day of entertainment plus the chance to watch the race unfold in front of your eyes. You can’t put a price on the experience.We rocked up around 11am, just an hour after the gates opened and already there was a steady stream of people arriving. Being typical backpackers, we were all doing our best to save money and brought along a picnic and snuck in some alcohol to avoid spending a fortune once inside the gates. Although prices weren’t actually too steep at the bars and food stalls, we were still glad we came prepared because it was nice having our lunch at the side of the track while everything was going on. There was so much to see and do around Albert Park, from live music stages and mini race tracks for the kids, to games and challenges, and loads of food and drink stalls. It was great just to walk around for a few hours and see everything that was going on, especially when you reached the collections of racing cars scattered around the grounds and had the chance to meet some of the drivers. All of this excitement was set against the stunning backdrop of Albert Park lake and the beautiful natural park. It was a perfect sunny day and we felt insanely lucky to have such good weather after the previous two days had brought nothing but cloud and rain - typical Melbourne bringing one extreme then another!Finally, after walking the whole way around the track and the grounds, we decided to head back to where we had entered around Gate 5. We were keen to secure a good spot to sit and watch the race when it finally kicked off at 4pm, and we had spotted a good place early on. We ended up with the most amazing view of the track - sitting right on a bend where we could see the cars approaching and zooming off into the distance, plus had a great view of TV screens to keep up with the rest of the race. Sitting on top of a hill meant we were looking down on the track and we didn’t have anyone blocking our view - I actually can’t believe how amazing our view was and how close we were to the main track. It really was something special. Just before the race, and during, there were constant flyovers from various jets and even an aircraft carrier from the airforce which sent eyes gazing into the skies with amazement and wonder. The race finally started to screams and cheers of excitement as the cars sped around the track and we became engrossed. The atmosphere was electric and you couldn’t help but be gripped by every passing moment. It was a dramatic race for sure.For anyone who missed the drama - the whole race took a turn for the worst when the drivers headed into lap 17 and both McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutierrez were involved in a pretty terrifying crash. As the BBC put it: “Trying to pass Gutierrez on the run down to Turn Three, Alonso's front right wheel tagged the right rear of the Haas and he was launched into a barrel roll, coming to rest upside down in the barriers. The two-time champion was clearly shaken but, although he limped away from his car, he was uninjured.” It was bloody scary to watch, on TV you’re always so detached from these incidents as you’re too caught up in the drama, but being there just metres from the track when this happened really made you realise how dangerous the sport is. I was amazed to see Alonso walk away uninjured from the crash - it really took your breath away to watch the footage and to see the remains of the vehicle. It really is a testament to the quality and the strength of these cars that it can withstand such damage and still protect the individual inside. Mercedes' Nico Rosberg won the event. The whole race was just incredible to watch and I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to not only witness such an amazing event, but also to share it with such great friends. If you ever get the chance to go to the Grand Prix - whether you know a lot about racing or not - I would seriously recommend you go! It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and one I won’t forget in a hurry!
Have you been to the Grand Prix? What's your favourite sporting event to attend across the world? When did you last have a great day out with friends?
I've been a bit off the radar for the past week - don't worry I'm still alive! I've just relocated to the other side of Australia to start my regional work which will qualify me for my second year visa. It all happened a bit suddenly and I didn't have time to plan on some posts to cover the moving and settling in time but don't worry - I'll be making up for that soon and have lots lined up! But for now, I'm back with a competition for all the backpackers who read my blog - I've joined forces with a new company called Backpay to offer you all the fantastic prize of all that dollar you forgot about. Remember when you arrived in Australia and everyone was talking about new back accounts and superannuation funds? Well, the money in that superannuation fund is something that you get back by filling out the right paperwork. For most backpackers that can mean getting thousands of dollars returned to them upon leaving Australia - a pretty sweet deal if you ask me! I'm looking forward to claiming mine back when I leave, but for now I'm sure there are plenty of backpackers who have still left theirs unclaimed and would love a cheeky cash boost.
Founded by a former backpacker, Backpay is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Damien, who spotted a niche in the market after progressing from being a backpacker himself, to starting his own backpacker accommodation in Sydney, and eventually setting up the company. Back in 2000, during the Sydney Olympics, Damien moved to Australia for a working holiday and now, 15 years later he prefers Damo as he's now a proud Aussie citizen. After years of getting to know backpackers personally, Damien discovered that it was a pretty common occurrence for many of them to leave unclaimed cash in the form of superannuation and sometimes tax. This year has seen the launch of his new company, Backpay, which is here to solve the problem, with Damien remaining passionate about driving the business towards returning every dollar to backpackers after they leave Australia. The only criteria travellers have to fulfil is that they have been in Australia at some point on a working holiday visa and that they have now left the country - you cannot claim while still in Australia.
Now I'm still a long way off claiming my own superannuation or tax back, but that doesn't mean I haven't thought carefully about how I would spend it... My top five ways to spend it seem to boil down to the same final list:
How would you spend yours?
WIN - WIN - WIN
To win the chance to claim back your super and tax free of charge - click this link to like my Facebook page then comment on the link to this post and tell me what you would spend the money on! The winner will be announced Friday 20th November.
Being a seasoned backpacker not only opens your eyes to all the wonders certain regions of the world has to offer but also helps you know where to look for cost effective experiences. The ability to save money in certain areas can help you prolong your travel and get the most out of all the experiences along the way. Not everyone has an eye for detail when it comes to saving money but with the explosion of travel blogs, it has made it easier for us to look for useful resources online to aid us in saving that extra bit of money.
Many have blogged over the years about how London has ruthlessly depleted their budget through its expensive amenities, but if you seek cost effective travel and visit budget-friendly events, then you can experience a lot of culturally astounding places for a minimal cost. So, without further ado, here are a few tips for people visiting London to help them experience a lot for as little money as possible through the eyes of a seasoned backpacker:
Stay at a Hostel, Not a Hotel
There are many useful websites that you can source respected hostels to stay at while in London. Back up your research by going on Trip Advisor to look at the reviews of the respective hostels you are considering staying at, and you cannot go wrong.
Take Advantage of Public Transport
Using the tube or the buses in and around London will save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. It can be time consuming sometimes to use the night buses however it’s better than incurring huge taxi fares, as so many have fallen victim to over the years.
Visit the Free Museums and Galleries
There are a plethora of free museums that you can visit in London such as the National History Museum and the British Museum. There are also many galleries that allow you to view their exhibitions for free. London online zine Time Out regularly post all the free gallery listings for London, and is definitely worth checking out before you visit London.
Eat at Buffet Restaurants
Places like China Town in London is revered for its all you can eat buffets that are extremely affordable. In most of the establishments you can also take your own alcohol – an altogether more affordable way of dining out.
Incorporate Out-of-London Travel in Your Budget
Travelling to our capital wouldn’t be complete without trying to sample the surrounding areas of London. Something that most backpackers try and do is set aside some money for vehicle hire at some point during their trip.
At busy aviation hubs such as London Stansted, they have Mid stay and valet parking services, that allow travellers to pick up hire cares from the airport terminal car parks. Many use the process, because it is extremely easy and efficient. Within an hour or so, you can be on your way, taking in the sights away from London and its surrounding boroughs en route to your final destination. Additionally, valet services mean you can return the cars to the departure terminals, too and the hire companies will pick them up for you. Which means there’s no lugging your bags on the Tube or buses before saying good bye to London and travelling home.
Hopefully, some of the tips to save money when visiting London will inspire some other cost efficient ideas for when you’re planning your travels. Feel free to leave any other money saving ideas In the the comments sections directly below this article to aid your fellow travel enthusiasts.
How else can you save money while visiting or travelling through London? What tips can you apply to any cities?
Image credit: www.ontheluce.com
Millions and millions of backpackers move through Thailand each year, probably more, all looking for golden sands, cultural experiences, outdoor activities and more. Thailand is a huge centre for us all to forge connections, friendships and to chase that elusive backpacker dream of being the first to discover something amazing all the while treading a path that has Ben walked by billions before us. Yes I have been reading Alex Garland's The Beach, and yes it is amazingly accurate to several tourists I have met along the way, although it's definitely not the incredible utopian thriller I hoped for. Anyway, I digress, it's no surprise that along the way much of Thailand has filled up with tourism agencies, guides and basically all kinds of Thai people who are offering to plan your trip for you and make it all easier... For a cost. Many of the tourism agencies try to outbid each other and in certain areas off the same trip for various prices leaving you to find the best one. In other areas, they all work together to keep the price the same, but still at the added cost for the traveller.
It's difficult to know whether you are ever really getting a good deal and that's why so many choose to just organise the whole thing themselves, but others, out of laziness or just misinformation choose to book all the trips on offer, often seriously affecting their budget and limiting their experience of Thailand. I was most definitely one of these people who likes to organise everything myself from the beginning, I hate brag ripped off and would rather shop around or barter for a good deal, but I know there are others who feel less comfortable doing this. So I wanted to share something with you guys, in case you haven't already discovered it, that might help save you a bit of money and organising. I had never heard of this until I was halfway through my time in Thailand, but it was sheer luck that I found it when I did. And it really helped shape the rest of my trip.
While staying in Bangkok, I walked out of my hostel one morning and not paying attention fell straight over a woman in the street. Of course, in the British way, I was busy apologising profusely while she was far more interested in having a chat with me. She spoke great English so I explained where I was from and what I was planning to do that day, she was really excited about our plans for food and to go visit some of the smaller and lesser known temples. She was really interested in the rest of my trip as I told her my friend was due to fly home in days and I would once again be travelling solo but up to the north this time. I was touched by her interest do siding I had nearly floored her out of nowhere, in my experience Thai people are very friendly, warm and welcoming, but this woman was something else altogether. She was so kind, helpful and clearly wanted us to have the best day in her country, and for me to have an amazing rest of my trip.Within minutes she had found a government tuk tuk, which is slightly different to all those that drive around manically on the street and overcharge you - but are very hard to spot. They have a licence in the front window that you have to look for, and they charge a hell of a lot less than the rest. She told the lovely tuk tuk driver where to take us - to an amazing little temple with a huge standing Buddha in the centre - with an adorable food market and fair happening outside. After waiting for us to eat and check out the temple, he took us to the Red Mount where he left us to explore but we only paid 30bht! We were so astonished he didn't ask for any more money for a trip that could normally have cost five times the price, but it was purely because he was working in a government run tuk tuk. I never knew these existed before but it was a revelation and definitely helped our purses over the next few days of exploring.
Inbetween the temples, the tuk tuk driver also stopped off somewhere else at the orders of this amazing Thai woman after she heard about my plans to travel north. The Thai Tourism Agency is a government-run office in Bangkok, just a short walk from Khao San Road, and it is perfect for anyone who doesn't know where to start when planning their trip, or who is worried about being ripped off. I was greeted straight away by a lovely half Indian and half Thai woman who was eager to help me plan my trip, she straight away booked us on the Floating Market trip for way cheaper than I had seen it elsewhere, we would go the next morning. Then she planned for me a full two weeks of travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for just £250. Doesn't sound much? Well I've been budgeting about £250 a week and this was for twice as long and that price included travel, accommodation, some food, and a three day hill tribe trekking trip. It also meant I would be stopping off in some really amazing places including Sukhothai and Ayutthaya - the old kingdoms - along the way to Chiang Mai. It was incredible that she managed to get it down to such a good price and was promising me air conditioned buses, my own room and bathroom in each place and time to explore with flexibility to move travelling dates at a day's notice.
Put simply, I was really bloody impressed by the whole thing and when it came to the travelling and accommodation, it really was pretty good. Everything ran smoothly and I met some lovely people along the way who were on the same trip. The hill tribe trekking was so much fun, and I will write another post on it for you. This post was just to say a huge thank you for organising this section of my trip, something I had very little motivation to do myself after two of my friends flew home. It was also to try and help wise travellers up to this huge money saver that is right under their noses. It's suitable for those backpacking for months or a year like me, it's suitable for retired couples, for young couples, for friends - for anyone. You can only use this service in Bangkok, but you can organise trips for all over Thailand for a couple in weeks of your whole trip - why not go see them and see how they can save you money?
Have you booked travel with the government-run Thai Tourism Agency? How did your journey go? Have you got any other Thai travel cost cheats to share with my readers?