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Traveller Advice: Cheap Flights and Domestic Travel

In preparation for becoming a globe trotter I’ve done/been doing a lot of research and hunting around for advice and tips on how to travel as cheaply as possible in an adventurous and non-cushy style.

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you.” – Mark Jenkins

If you want to hole up in a resort then I probably can’t help you, apart from maybe finding cheap(er) flights. That isn’t the kind of travel I envisage and any advice I give won’t really be applicable. But I’m sure you will catch on pretty quick. My ideal of travel is unhurried and free flowing, with time to spend in places that interest and with people that inspire.

Now that I’ve done talking about what I won’t tell you about, I shall tell you what I will do. This post is about finding cheap(er) flights, and briefly domestic and international transport. I’ll do a more in depth post about those later on.

Domestic Travel 

In Australia, please do not buy any domestic flight that isn’t on sale. Air travel is getting too cheap these days to pay for the mark ups. I am based in Adelaide and can fly to Melbourne for $39 return with JetStar when they are having a sale, which is every second week or so. I can’t say much more about domestic flights, but also consider other means of domestic travel. Bus/coach can sometimes be a viable option, and there are also trains (not always the cheapest, but an adventure in themselves), and driving is not impossible, especially when you have more than one driver available. Ride sharing is also very common and an awesome way to meet foreign people while getting to your destination. If you have a car and are making a roadtrip it is a great way to split fuel costs at least, and also driving if licences permit. The best place to find or advertise a ride is your local section of the Gumtree.com.au website. Look under Community -> Travel Partners or Rideshare.

International Flights

When looking at flying to an international destination there are some things to be considered, such as the popularity/demand for your destination as obviously less demand = higher flight cost. Also consider your departure point. It is always cheaper flying from Sydney or Melbourne than from Adelaide (excluding Asian destinations, you want to get your butt to Darwin for super cheap deals there) and without fail you can save bucket loads by booking a separate domestic flight. Going back to the point about destination demand, if your final destination is not Los Angeles or London, consider how much time you have to spare and if your itinerary will allow you to make some detours.

Working example: I am planning a trip to Indanapolis in June/July for study purposes. Booking flights from Adelaide to Indanapolis would cost me upwards of $3000, and that was when I was looking mid-February. However, I am planning on my travel itinerary looking more like this:   Adelaide -> Melbourne/Sydney -> LA -> domestic American travel -> Indianapolis.

  • Adelaide to Melbourne: $39
  • Melbourne/Sydney to LA: $1500-ish
  • Domestic American Travel: $350 (approx) for 15 day coach pass, planning on seeing San Francisco and Chicago as well as LA

So all up a three week trip that would have cost me $2000+ can be extended to a five week trip with transport costing $2000 approx. I am aware that I will incur additional costs such as food and accommodation, but with a few smart decisions I can also minimise those. I will do a post on that soon.

All in all, my trip will take longer, but I can afford the time where I cannot afford the dollars. I will also need to be more careful in regard to departure and arrival times to ensure I stay on schedule (to a certain degree, I always like to have a plan, but be flexible enough to change it as necessary). It is worth noting that my $1500 return airfare is flying via China, flying direct it costs about $2000 with Delta, AirNZ, etc. Flying via China takes longer, but as above, I can afford the time where I can’t afford the dollars.

I have not looked into Europe travel much yet, but I imagine a similar thing can apply by flying to London and then taking a train, bus, or rideshare to say Italy, or Paris, etc etc.

If you can afford to spend the extra time, I think this has a few upsides; primarily that you get to see more of the country, meet more of the people and have more opportunity for spontaneous adventures!


Travel Alerts

I’ve subscribed to a few travel alert sites, my favourites are travelzoo.com.au and studentflights.com.au. Webjet.com.au can also be a good place to look, but I don’t really rate their deal alerts as highly.

Travel Zoo has an awesome Weekly Top 20 which basically sources some of the best deals going around, ie: cheap flights both domestic and international and often a heap of apartments and hotels going at a discount in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney. They also offer other international deals, such as Phuket resort packages, Everest base camp adventures and Inca Trail treks that have some decent package deals that include accommodation and food. Sign up for Travel Zoo Weekly Top 20 to be delivered straight to your inbox. It is a good idea to keep an eye on these things if you are even thinking of making a trip of some kind, simply so you can get a better idea of what a good deal is when you see one. To book flights you punch in the dates you want to travel, where, etc; and Travel Zoo goes into the databases of websites such as Expedia and so many more that just aren’t on the Google “cheap flights” search radar, and they find you the cheapest options out there.

Student Flights is catered specifically to tertiary students and people under 26. They are great for having lots of information available on lots of different travel options, as well as being a travel agent that can book you a trip. For example, they have pages on volun-tourism trips, gap year options, adventure packages, as well as lots of flight deals. Deals are usually to young adult-centric places, such as Los Angeles, London, Bali, Bangkok, etc. They do have awesome awesome flight deals to LA though, this week I saw Melbourne to LA for $899 return (usual conditions such as specific travel periods apply). I am looking at their LA flights as that is a lot lower than booking through expedia.com or WebJet, so will do a post when I figure out why it is so cheap. That said, I’m not ready to book my LA flight just yet, but when I do I will know that paying more than $2k out of Sydney or Melbourne is above standard.

Lastly, I highly recommend checking out Nora Dunn’s blog/website theprofessionalhobo.com. If you have any aspirations about full time travel, she is the inspiration and guru to go to, though her advice is Canada/America centric sometimes.

Happy travels,


Flying into Los Angeles at dawn, 17 January 2012

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