Leisure travel was once the sole province of the rich and the famous. Up until about a decade ago, the average Filipino would have to save up for years just to go on vacation abroad for a week at the most. Booking airplane tickets and hotel rooms alone would already eat up most of your travel budget, and the visa application process could be torturous (Php100,000 for show money alone? Eekkk!!!).
Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. So many budget airlines have emerged, forcing major ones to introduce drastic discounts during the promo season. Then there’s AirBnB, which is a great alternative to hotels that charge an arm and a leg for a room that’s the size of a shoebox.
It still isn’t cheap to vacation in Australia (the country does rank high on the global cost of living index), but with a bit of effort and resourcefulness, you can save up enough to have yourself a memorable holiday. From my own personal experience, you don’t necessarily need a high-paying job to visit Australia if you can simply do the following instead:
1. Create a Budget (and stick to it).
Pocket money of around AUD100 (about PHP3,360 as of this writing) per day can be sufficient to cover the costs of lodging, food, and transportation while allowing a little extra for emergencies. If you plan on taking a seven-day vacation, that amounts to AUD700 or PHP23,520. Airfare would be at least PHP38,000 via PAL, but Cebu Pacific has direct flights to Sydney from Manila for as low as PHP26,000.
For a leisurely seven-day vacation in Sydney, for instance, around AUD1,480-AUD1,785 (roughly Php50k-Php60k) per person can be sufficient, even if we allow for the AUD110 (Php3,696) tourist visa application fee.
2. Save up.
Yep, there’s no way around this, my friend. If you want to go to Australia, you have to cut down on weekend shopping or clubbing sprees. But then again, what’s missing a few mall sales or a few beers compared to being able to go on a potentially life-changing trip to some big, beautiful place that you’ve never even dreamt of visiting before? Why save up for a new iPhone with an 8-megapixel camera (especially when your old one is working perfectly well) when you can, instead, save up to lay your own 576-megapixel eyes on a glorious Australian sunset?
What I like to do when I’m saving up for a trip is to store a small photo of my dream destination’s landmark in my wallet. So, when I open it up and see a picture of say, the Sydney Opera House, peering up at me, I get reminded to put my spare cash towards seeing it in person rather than buying yet another ticket to the movies. (That’s what the Internet is for, anyway.)
3. Explore other income-earning opportunities.
If you aren’t earning a lot at your day job, you can try your hand at other income-earning opportunities (or sidelines as we call them in the Philippines) to supplement your travel savings. There are lots of ways to go about this:
Raid your closet for clothes or gadgets that you no longer use or wear, and then sell them in a neighborhood garage sale or on an online market like olx.ph or ebay;
If you’re into crafts, you can make artsy products like bracelets or greeting cards and sell them online through your Facebook page or through Pinterest. Avid bakers can also try selling their specialty cakes or cookies to interested parties;
Take on a part-time job that allows you to work flexible hours. Good at bookkeeping, writing, or transcribing notes? You ought to find something suitable from the many outsourcing applications available to Filipinos online.
Bear in mind that it takes time, patience, and a great deal of commitment to make this step work. But the pay-off is great if you manage to pull it off: at the very least, you’ll have another income stream bringing money in long after you’ve accomplished your goal of visiting Australia, and who would say no to that?
4. Book your plane ticket during the off-peak season.
Summer is usually peak season for Australian tourism, especially for the famed Southern states like New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Generally, winter is your best bet for booking airplane tickets at a lower price. Worry not if you’re not too fond of cold weather; temperatures rarely dip below freezing in Australia and snowfall, if any, affects only a few select parts of the country.
5. Troll AirBnB or hostels rather than hotels.
Hotels are usually the most expensive part of traveling abroad, but if you aren’t too picky, you can save money on lodgings by seeking out hostels or AirBnB (unless you’ve already got a relative in Australia who’s willing to take you in, lucky you).
Hostels are like dorms where you share a room with other travelers. They generally give you a locker for storing your belongings, but their kitchens and bathrooms are common areas for you and your fellow guests. It’s not as exclusive as having your own hotel room, but Sydney has plenty of hostels with clean accommodations in safe neighborhoods. Staying in a hostel also helps you meet new friends from all over the world, and at AUD35 (PHP1,183) per night for a bed in a six-person dorm, it’s quite affordable.
AirBnB, on the other hand, is a bit more pricey, with studio apartments near Sydney’s Central Business District starting at AUD71 (PHP2,395) per night. However, if you’re traveling with a friend, that cost gets split in half. Another great thing about AirBnB is that you get the space to yourself, along with a bathroom, living room, and fully-equipped kitchen, which leads us to:
6. Go to the grocery and cook your own food rather than eating out often.
Dining out in Australia can be costly. A value meal at McDonald’s can set you back by AUD8 (PHP270) while a meal at a nice restaurant can cost AUD40 (1,344).
If you’re renting an AirBnB with a kitchen, stock up on basics like pasta, fresh vegetables, bread, sauces, and perhaps some sausages or ham at the nearest grocery so you can cook your own meals. Since doing so is likely to save you quite a few pennies, so you can use those to splurge on a nice restaurant towards the end of your trip to celebrate.
7. Travel with someone.
If you’ve got a travel buddy, most of your expenses are automatically halved, so that’s always good for your wallet (and perhaps for your sanity since it lessens the impact of sticker shock). Another benefit is that you will always have someone to hold your bag or watch your things while you go off and snap a photo of the city skyline behind the famed Sydney Harbor Bridge, making you less likely to misplace any valuables.
Done right, an Australian vacation need not drain your bank account. And if you’re really careful with your money, you may even have enough left to purchase a pair of those ridiculously popular Ugg boots as a souvenir.