Australia as a backpacking destination is so popular and talked about it has almost become a cliché, something to roll your eyes at when somebody reveals it as the destination of choice for their backpacking trip. It no longer holds the cool card that it used to, with the likes of India and Thailand stealing a march on our commonwealth friends.
I remember travelling to Oz in 2006, and even I became a little disgruntled at the number of UK tourists I found out there would talked about "doing" Australia, yet all they did was set-up shop at Sydney or the Gold Coast and stay there for three to six months. Bikinis, hammocks and booze was enough to keep them on the East Coast. There's a lot worse traps to fall into I guess.
Just last year the likes of Sky News were ringing the death knell for Aussie backpacking, reporting a 20% drop in UK travellers heading to Oz and citing the rising cost of living out there as the reason that many UK travellers were opting for cheaper locations.
However, Tourism Research Australia have stated that international visitors are up 5% this year, a sure sign that the blip on the radar may have gone and that Oz is back in favour with UK backpackers again. But with the UK financial climate in such a sorry state (how long have we been - and will we be - saying that for), it begs the question how travellers without the rich parents and student loans going to pay for their travels?
The key to travelling is to set up a budget. Sure, nobody likes the word "budget", but nobody likes to travel with somebody who a) moans about having no money, b) borrows money from everyone and anyone, and c) runs out of money and has to go home or stay indoors all day as a result.
It's actually pretty easy to set a travelling budget. I failed my Maths GCSE and just the idea of opening a Word Excel spreadsheet scares me to death, so as the old adage goes... If I can do it, anybody can. A really good way to work out how much money you can save for your travels is to work out how much net income you have and then work out your individual expenses, e.g. housing, utility bills, pets, etc. You can use an Excel spreadsheet for this, or you can use a budget planning calculator to do so. These are also used by people who are trying to improve their credit history and to save for homes, so the model definitely works.
You can use the budget plan to calculate how much money you can save towards the goal you've set yourself for your travelling needs. The more cash you can save during this period the better, so try and make it a competition with yourself to save a little more than you've budgeted for each month. It'll give you that extra bit of confidence that you won't be running out of money once you get out of the country.
When I went backpacking to Oz, I knew that I was going to be flying out of the country in March, so I started saving from the previous May, when I bought the tickets from STA Travel. That gave me approx. 9-10 months to save enough money to last me the full year. My idea was to try and go the full year without having to work. Fruit picking for a guy who's scared of spiders didn't really add up for me. I worked out exactly how much my rent and my bills came to each month, then set myself a weekly budget for food, going out, travel, etc. The money that I had left over was labelled my 'Australia Fund'.
Originally, the idea was to save £200 a month so that I would have around £2,000 to go with (plus a credit card that was down to zero and had a £3,000 limit on it). £5,000 for the year? No problem. The good thing was, the more money went into the Oz fund, the more I tried to beat the month before, and before long I was doing just that. I ended up saving just over £3,000 instead of the £2,000 originally budgeted. I did that without cutting out nights out and anything else, just by making it a competition with myself to improve on the previous month. Like dieting, as soon as you start to limit yourself on things you want to do, it turns sour pretty fast.
I'm sure that this mind-set won't work for everyone, but it is one idea on how to get yourself into a pretty healthy financial position when you go travelling. If you take away the boredom from budgeting, it can be a pretty good exercise leading up to the big trip, and stop you worrying about where those pennies are going to come from.