People often as us how we afford to travel to Europe from Australia so often. They assume we must be very wealthy, leading a lavish lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth.
We are just two ordinary Australians, semi-retired in part time jobs to pay the mortgage, bills and day to day living expenses. We simply prioritise travel and tailor our lifestyle around our next trip.
Having three of our children living overseas in Berlin, there is a huge incentive for us to save to visit every couple of years.
We are also at a stage of our life when we are still young, fit and healthy enough to explore the world and we want to take advantage of this time.
We’ve often looked at Australian holidays. Five days on the Ghan, two weeks in the Kimberley. But the reality is we can have a month in Europe for cheaper. So overseas travel is our priority at this stage of our life. Australia will come later when we hitch up the caravan and travel off to explore.
Saving for travel
We save money each week towards our next trip in a few simple ways. We lead a simple life, not buying things we really don’t need. We have learned to distinguish a “want” from a “need”, so no longer accumulate “stuff”. If it doesn’t need replacing, we don’t buy it.
- We take a cut lunch to work each day- $10 each per day to buy a meal is $100 per week. That’s $10,000 saved over two years towards our next trip- a huge amount. A very simple thing that adds up to the bulk of an overseas trip.
- We don’t have the latest “gadgets”. When Ian dropped his old Iphone 6 when fishing recently, we were amazed to find that a cheap $89 phone works for us just as well as the latest $1,200 Iphone
- We don’t have netflix or cable TV. OK, so we both work nights and don’t watch much TV, but it is an expense we can do without because we want to travel.
- We don’t drive late model cars. As long as our cars are sound and getting us to work each day, we don’t need to trade in on the newest model every two years, because travel is our priority. When we do need to replace, we look for late model second hand vehicles or demo models. A shiny new car decreases in value as you drive it out of the showroom, whereas our travel memories last forever.
- We have realistic travel goals and are flexible. We don’t aim for luxury travel, preferring to see more of the world on a budget.
- We are very fortunate to have children living in Berlin, and we certainly haven’t enjoyed our stay there any less sleeping on our daughter’s sofa bed, than we would in a luxury hotel. Not everyone has this option, I know, but there are other budget accommodation options available.
- When our daughter suggested a hostel when we were travelling to Prague, we were aghast at first. But by choosing the right hostel, we were pleasantly surprised. We actually had a private room with a spa bath for a fraction of the price of a hotel. Far from rowdy young backpackers, we found a mix of travellers in our hostel which made for a very enjoyable stay. An option we will certainly investigate in the future.
- There are also well established “house swap” sites where you holiday in someone’s home in London, for example and they come and stay in your home. Not something we have ventured into, but I do know others who do this regularly and have travelled to some amazing places through the program.
That said, the money we save in accommodation has enabled us to “splash out” on the occasional night’s hotel accommodation along the way.
Road tripping around Germany, France and Switzerland with our family was a very economical way to travel. The B&B’s we stayed in actually cost less per night than a budget motel in Australia.
Renting a holiday house for a week was cheaper than in Australia, with the advantage that we could go to the local supermarket and self-cater. We also got a better cultural experience than if we had stayed in a hotel, at a fraction of the cost as we were living in a local community for a week.
Have a look on some of the local tourist sites, and you will be amazed at how cheaply you can get accommodation.
We are flexible with dates and days to travel.
- Flying out of Sydney, Tuesday is usually the cheapest day and we also found with a trip planned for early June, bringing our plans forward to May saved us thousands in airfares.
- Travelling in the “shoulder season” also offers significant savings in accommodation and entry into attractions, with the added advantage that there are less crowds, so smaller queues.
- We look out for great flight deals – these are by far the costliest part of our trip. While we are not interested in a multi-stop flight on a budget airline where we pay for food, baggage and a cramped seat, with a few 10 hour airport stopovers along the way, there are still significant savings to be had if you look carefully. For example on our last trip to Berlin, it was significantly cheaper to fly into Frankfurt than Munich.
- Also look out for some of the great package deals offered by the airlines. When we were planning our first trip to Berlin, flying through London Heathrow, we actually saved money by taking a package deal of five night’s accommodation in London and two day trips. The deal was cheaper than we would have paid for the airfare to London and then onto Berlin.
- We never fly business class. Yes cattle class is long and uncomfortable, but we could never justify the phenomenal added expense of flying business class – the fares saved pay for the rest of our trip and then some.
To give you an example, I searched a theoretical return flight to London this May. The return fare for two in economy is $2,600 (a great deal by the way). Travelling on the same plane in business class would be $21,166 return for two. That would pay for two entire holidays!
- We take opportunities. When my sister invited us to go on a four week road trip with their family last year, the cost savings we would make by travelling in a group meant the new carpet we were saving for could wait until next year.
Do your research
Once we have decided on a rough time frame, we research. Websites like webjet and skyscanner are great for finding the flights available, but we then find we can often book these just as cheaply by going directly to the company.
Our “extravagance” is that we do tend to fly with the major airlines – you can save even more if you are prepared to go with the cheapest flight available.
For example, last trip it was going to cost us around $6,000 return to fly economy to Europe with Qantas, and we then had to pay around $1,200 for flights to Berlin and back to Munich through an internal carrier.
By doing a little research, and flying a few days earlier. our Lufthansa flights were only $4,400 including the internal flights. This was in peak season, I might add.
We pre-purchase travel cards before our trip. The London Oyster Card is cheaper to buy before you leave, gives you prepaid travel on the Tube and Thames ferries and also gives you discounts into the London attractions.
Most major cities have a similar card in place, so it is worth investigating. For example the Swiss Pass gives you some great discounts on rail, cable cars and entry into attractions.
Watch the Australian Dollar
If you are getting close to your trip, and the Australian dollar goes up, that’s the time to load your foreign currency onto your travel card and prepay your overseas accommodation. You will be amazed at how many hundreds of dollars you can save.
So what are you waiting for? Start saving to make your dream of an overseas holiday a reality and do some research into how you can make it happen.