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The migration to budget-conscious travelers | Don't Ever Look Back

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The migration to budget-conscious travelers

The migration to budget-conscious travelers

During our past travels, we haven’t really worried about budgeting. In fact, we were probably doing the exact opposite – saving up a shitload of cash in the lead-up to our holidays and then blowing it all like it was going out of fashion.

We treated ourselves to 4-5 star hotels in South East Asia (and even a couple in the USA) just because they were affordable in comparison to what you’d pay in Australia. We also spent big on activities – segway tours in San Francisco, elephant rides in Bali and the like.

MGM Signature

Our luxurious room at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Looking back, we realize just how much fat we could have trimmed from our travel budgets. The equation is pretty simple:

Less spending while traveling = more time on the road.

Don’t get us wrong – we’re all for spending money on those once-in-a-lifetime activities like swimming and interacting with beluga whales (you don’t want to regret missing out on these later!). But as for expensive hotels, eating every meal in a restaurant, etc, these are nothing more than an unnecessary luxury and a big drain on the finances.

Now that we’ve embarked on long-term travel, our mindset towards these things has changed considerably. The two major ways we’re making the savings are on our accommodation and what we eat and drink.


Instead of those 4-5 star hotels, we’re opting to stay in hostels or will utilize cheaper accommodation options such as Airbnb. We’re writing this post in a studio apartment in Honolulu overlooking Waikiki Marina, all for well under $100/night! It’s away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy Waikiki but still within walking distance to the world-famous beach as well as other great attractions such as Ala Moana Beach Park and Ala Moana Shopping Center.

Sunset over Waikiki Marina

The sunset from our Honolulu apartment... all for less than $100 a night!


Unless you’re in a country where the food is cheap, always look for accommodation with some kind of kitchen facility. Whether it’s a shared kitchen in a hostel or your own mini-kitchen (or even just a microwave!), the savings you can make quickly add up! Just take our last two dinners as an example:

  • Last Night – Panda Express Takeaway (2 serves)
    2 x Panda Bowl + Shared Large Coke
    $17.52 ($8.76 per meal)
  • Tonight – Homecooked Spaghetti Bolognese (4 serves)
    Angel Hair Spaghetti, 2lb Ground Beef, Ragu Sauce
    $14.65 ($3.66 per meal)

As you can see, cooking for yourself where possible can help you make some major savings! Another tip is to never buy breakfast while traveling – it’s crazy just how much those bacon and eggs (or even a continental breakfast in some places) will set you back.

Boxed Cereal

Instead of buying breakfast, we are eating mini boxes of cereal.

Have you changed your traveling habits to save money? Share your best tips with us!


  1. Posted July 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Cooking your own food is by far the smartest way to save money when traveling or at home. Have you considered using Couchsurfing?

    • Posted July 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

      Hey Roy, definitely planning on trying Couchsurfing once we get across to Europe!

  2. Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    Setting a daily budget is the most important one for me. Do you two have a daily limit in mind or you just trying to be careful with your spending?

    • Posted July 28, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Great suggestion! We’ve got a soft budget of $100/day but obviously it’s gonna exceed that in some places such as Hawaii.
      I think so long as you’re conscious of what you’re spending and not wasting money unnecessarily then that should be enough for us.

  3. Chelsea
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Lol as a side note I nearly posted my comment as Kieron because the profile pic was right in my line of vision. Now I know who I am … I’m the same as you. When I am taking short trips within my annual leave I save lots so I can blow lots. If it’s your only holiday of the year you want to make it good. But long term travel needs budgeting so that’s where I cook my own meals, downgrade the acommodation, look at public transport more seriously etc.

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Haha glad you got your name right Chelsea. 🙂

      That’s very true! You gotta make the most of your 2-3 weeks of holidays which means blowing the budget and trying to cram in as much as possible.

  4. Renee
    Posted July 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Thank you sor sharing your story! What do u guys do for work or volunteering? Brett is a IT guy and I a Certified massage therapist. Our story is Brett and I took 7 months in 2000 to see the western us. We budgeted $50 a day and camped in a high top custom gmc van which carried our supplies (about 10 hotel stays). We came back got to work then saved up for 2008 4 months in Canada and Alaska with a town n country min-van (23 hotels stays) (alot more camping in pull-outs, free). We budgeted $100 a day for that one. On both trips we got to see and do most of what we wanted to with all the carry over $ from cookin our own food and using camp sites. We had a coleman one burner (one burners are a hazard on ferries) Do u travel with one? Now planning another journey to finish the states which may take 2 to 3 months, but have Talked about keepin on after selling everything. we are 37 self employed, not planning to have kids and want to see the world by sailing or buying a car once we get to the next continent working as we go along then selling the car when we are done or backpacking and hostels are not out. Do you meet many 30 or 40 somethings on the road? What do u guys do about vaccinations and insurance while traveling abroad? Have so many questions! I wish you safe travels and a great life adventure!

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Hey Renee, sent you an email answering your questions!

    • ken
      Posted August 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      I’m in my 50’s now and have been traveling since I was born you are never too old or young to travel.I’m also self-employed and work 6 months and travel 6 months.I meet people from 18 to 80’s traveling.

  5. Posted July 28, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    MMM Panda Express! Just a hint, next time get the 2 item combo there, it’s always enough for me to share it with someone else.

    Homecooked meals are definitely the way to go…unless you’re prone to setting the kitchen on fire. Glad to see you’re going that route.

    Looks like you got a steal on the apartment in HI. Where are ya’ll planning on staying when you visit Vegas on this trip? Have you given it any thought?

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the tip Elle! We love Panda Express (we may have had it again today – the Garlic Lovers is great but can’t go past Orange Chicken!) and took your advice to make a big saving.

      No idea where we are going to stay in Vegas yet… hopefully somewhere on the strip! We’re waiting for a special deal to pop-up although for that Saturday night of the long weekend everywhere quadruples in price.

  6. Robyn
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 12:18 am | Permalink

    I always try to stay where they have continental breakfast. Depending on what they offer, sometimes you can take some food with you to tide you over for lunch or even a snack later in the day.

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Great idea! If you can borrow some of the hotel’s breakfast food for later then it’s definitely gonna help make some serious savings.

  7. Posted July 29, 2011 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    I just went on a trip out to Eastern Canada where things aren’t really cheap, and not many hostels. So I had to work out where to splurge and and where to save money – not always easy. But I agree with what you’ve said – food is somewhere you can save a lot of money. I had one or two decent dinners out – the rest of the time, fish and chips on the beach is hard to beat. And it meant I could afford to do the incredible stuff like a boat trip amongst the icebergs which I would have regretted not doing.

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      It’s a lot harder to save money in some places than others! Fish and chips on the beach is awesome no matter where you are – we did it at Bondi Beach a few days ago and it was amazing.

      Definitely don’t give up on doing those amazing things, you’re bound to regret something you didn’t do more than something you did every time!

  8. Posted July 29, 2011 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Picnics with goodies from the local grocery store are a great way to save on meals as well. Also, good to stock up on snacks from there when on the move so you’re not forced to purchase high-priced eats from airports, trains and bus stops.

    And of course – yes, couch surfing is the best. Yes you save bunches, but even better – the opportunity to really get to know locals who clearly know the best places around.

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Yes, any type of food that you can put together yourself is always going to be cheaper and you’re spot on about CouchSurfing being fantastic to not only save money but meet some awesome people!

  9. Posted July 29, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Great post guys!

    It’s not the reason I’m vegetarian but, since coming to Australia where meat is more expensive than in the UK (but probably/possibly better quality – who the hell knows anymore?!) being vegetarians has saved us lots of money. And even if we do want to eat out, there are some fantastic Asian vegetarian restaurants in Australia, especially in Melbourne.

    • Posted July 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      Not eating meat would save you a lot of money! It’s not cheap in Melbourne – we had chicken fillets and ground beef regularly before this trip to keep the costs down (the cost of lamb is insane!).

      We’d love to do the same as you but unfortunately the two of us love our meat way too much to give it up!

  10. PostcardFromBK
    Posted July 30, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    We’ve been balancing when to splurge versus when to save for our entire trip. Home cooking as mentioned above is easiliest the best way to save. Also, if couch surfing isn’t for you, longer stays are the way to go. If you can find the right vacation rental, it can be cheaper than a hostel in the long run.

    • Posted July 30, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      100% right – the longer you stay in the place, the more you’re going to save. Transport to other destinations is always going to cost money!

  11. Posted July 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    As someone who worked at a hotel I can say continental breakfasts aren’t really all that great. The food isn’t of a good quality, it’s often processed, a prepacked (ready for reheating in the morning). You’re much better to make your own breakfast, and it’s usually a lot cheaper to do so.

    I always do some research before a trip to see what free activities there are. If there’s a museum or art gallery I want to see, I try to go when it’s free, or there’s discounted admission. Every little bit helps.

  12. Posted August 1, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    It’s a transition for sure, after a while though you start looking at everything and saying “did I really used to buy that?” Was I …!?

  13. Posted August 26, 2011 at 12:04 am | Permalink

    Hey guys, thumbs up on the adventure, myself and the little lady Gem are setting off on a big RTW trip in november for 12 months, and actually set up a website like this, but didnt follow through with it. We can symphasise with you on all the ordeals of to store or not to store, and savings etc as we are currently going through all that! As far as budgeting, when we were travelling through Thailand three years ago we would always eat at local food stalls and most of the time eat for 3 square meals for around £5 ($8) each a day. We would also stock up on uber cheap pastries in the morning, packed with sugar to keep us alive and kicking on the long bus,train/boat journeys that passed through lunch!

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