Typically my partner and I are very focused on maximizing our travel budget by forecasting and planning on each trip’s spend. My spouse does financial planning in his day job and loves to create elaborate spreadsheets to not only anticipate the overall price tag, and get me to “approve” the expense.
This January was unusual. One of my girlfriends from high school was getting married in Australia, which had been delayed 3 years in a row due to COVID. January is a busy time in my spouse’s career and he had already been to Australia as a kid – lucky duck, right? We came to the decision together that I would go to the wedding solo, accompanied with my other high school gal pal, and he would go on a shorter ski trip with his family. Great! I hate skiing, and he couldn’t afford that amount of time away from work anyways.
That said, both his ski trip and my Australia trip were a “net add” to our overall family budget. These aren’t “family vacations” so they aren’t pulled from our family budget. SOS. This means everything we spent was an impact to our bottom line and just out of pocket. Thankfully we have solid savings and can absorb this out of pocket trip pretty easily, but it was not pleasant when running our overall January spend!
See below how much I spent during my 3 week trip to Australia & New Zealand and my key takeaways on where you can save a bit more money than I did:
Australia & New Zealand Trip Spend
|Air Fair||$ 453|
|Transportation (per person, this is my portion, 1/2 of total spend)||$ 381|
|Lodging (per person, this is my portion, 1/2 of total spend)||$ 769|
Here are my takeaways for how to save on your trip to Australia & New Zealand:
1. Use credit card rewards for your international flight, if possible. I saved between $2000-$4000 by applying my credit card reward points to my international flight. It wasn’t direct and I was sandwiched among a ton of people in the back of the aircraft, but it was free. The <$500 I spent on airfare outside of that were my flights to and from New Zealand from Australia. Someone we met also got a great deal flying from San Francisco into Auckland rather than Sydney directly.
2. Use public transit in Sydney and rent a car in New Zealand. Sydney has the big city luxury of a solid transit system. You can get away with staying in the city and using the rail or walking to get to major tourist sites. We stayed in China town, and I walked everywhere. It was only at the end of the day when I was tired that I got the rail line back to the hotel. New Zealand is a different story. There is no public transit and you will quickly get frustrated and priced out calling ubers or taxis in every town. The best bet is to get a rental car as you drive around South Island.
3. Maximize grocery store trips to save on food. We visited many grocery stores both in Sydney and New Zealand. A piece of fruit for breakfast is less than $1 and packable snacks like nuts are easy to tide you over and avoid spending out. I was surprised with how far the dollar went on food compared to Australian or New Zealand dollar, so I didn’t consciously try to save money here. You could spend quite a bit less than I did by planning ahead and seeking out more budget friendly options. I didn’t try that hard but also didn’t want to! Food was great.
4. Prioritize the activities and entertainment. More likely than not, you will not visit Australia or New Zealand again. Let’s be real. It is a freakin’ far way away. There are a ton of free activities with how beautiful nature is in New Zealand, and the museums or gardens in Sydney. That said, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t spend the $400 to go on a helicopter hike on the Franz Josef Glacier. That is a once in a life experience on a glacier actively receding. I would regret not climbing the Syndey Harbour Bridge at $260 and I would regret not climbing up a 1500 foot waterfall in New Zealand at $200. These are expensive activities and not even the totality of what I spent on entertainment. This is very scalable based on your priorities, however I would absolutely encourage you to spend more here and less in other areas.
Have you been to either of these countries in Asia Pacific? Would love to hear your thoughts on where you saved or spent more in your budget. Once you get there, I found it VERY affordable compared to other vacations.