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Friday 14th June 2024

Backpacking in Australia: failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Sophie King updates on her experience backpacking in Australia, sharing tips on how to organise a spontaneous trip while managing anxiety

Backpacking in Australia


Backpacking in Australia needs a plan. It’s the classic saying, fail to prepare, prepare to fail. If you’re backpacking Central America or South East Asia, then this saying won’t entirely apply to you.

You’ll probably be fine winging it, or not having a set plan for the entire time you’re travelling. 

But for backpacking in Australia? A plan is vital, or at least in my case it was. Since the pandemic, backpackers have been flocking to Australia in huge numbers.

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You’ve got those who wanted to come during Covid but couldn’t, plus those who had plans to come last year, this year and so on. On top of that, lockdown caused many businesses like hostels to suffer, with several shutting their doors for good.

I had dreamt I’d be rocking up to hostels the night of, making friends and spontaneously choosing to travel somewhere else the following day. Of course this is all possible. If you have a car or van then it’s much easier to go with the flow, or if you’re not there during Australian summer it’ll be quieter. 

When I booked my East Coast tour in August to start in November, some of the hostels I intended to stay in had sold out and I had to rework dates to make sure I was able to do all the trips I’d planned on doing.

For example, most travellers enjoy two days camping on K’Gari (Fraser) Island and as it’s so popular, you can’t book it less than a couple of months in advance. As a solo traveller, it’s easier to book last minute as things usually have one spot going.

Though a girl I had met in Cairns who was working her way down the East Coast had to miss out on this camping trip to K’Gari because she was booking all her trips as she went along.

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Others I met along the way had not planned their accommodation well, and were finding themselves having to stay in locations extra nights until the next location had somewhere with a room going. This meant they were paying more money to fill in the gaps until something spare came along.

So if you’re planning on travelling Down Under, then get booking as soon as you can. You’ll also find that things are cheaper the further in advance you book them.

For example, I booked my hostel for New Year three months in advance. Of course, my plans may have change but I was comforted knowing I had somewhere to stay at least. A friend who was staying in the exact same dorm as me had booked the hostel just two weeks before New Year – she was paying about £300 more than me.

When you are planning your trip along the East Coast, make sure you’re looking at different travel companies and tallying up costs of booking things separately. Booking through a company can be a great way to make friends or ensure that everything is covered, but they’re often a little more expensive than booking everything yourself.

I booked through a company though and I did ask for a discount, which they honoured very kindly. If you don’t ask you don’t get! Give yourself time to look at what each company offers, or the different trips that you can do. Think about what you want from this experience and make sure that it’s included.

Having a base plan will put your mind at ease, especially for Australia. There are times that you can go with the flow and when you can do! Just make sure you’re giving yourself the freedom to enjoy your backpacking time, that’s what is most important.

Photo credits: Pexels

Sophie King

Sophie is a freelance consumer journalist who has worked for major brands including The Sun and MoneySavingExpert (MSE). She’s covered all things consumer finance, benefits, energy bills, refund rights and regulation. During her time at MSE she managed to get the Department for Work and Pensions to stop sending envelopes out to vulnerable people with info on the back telling them to switch energy provider - at a time when no one should have been switching.

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