It’s a hallmark strategy of budget travel to visit cheap places to stretch your money further, and that’s good advice. There are enough cheap, beautiful, interesting places in the world to spend your whole life exploring. But there are also a lot of places in the world that aren’t cheap, but are awesome. You'd be forgiven for wanting to visit those too, but making a small budget work in pricey places is higher level travel skill. In 2018 -19 we’ve spent about 4 months of the year doing just that - traveling in Europe, Alaska, Canada, New Caledonia and New Zealand. We haven’t had a big budget, and I want to talk through some of how we’ve made it work, so this is the first in a series of posts on cheap travel in expensive places. (We already wrote up a few posts on the topic in New Zealand and New Caledonia if you want to check them out!)
Before I start posting our own experiences though, we have a couple of friends who are expert at this stuff doing a round the world honeymoon trip on a budget. They're starting in Hawaii, and out of the blue the started sending budget travel advice about Hawaii via text. We asked if we can share, so that's what you'll find here.
On the ground advice from an expert.
Hawaii is among the last places you’d think of when you think of budget travel destinations. It's a beautiful group of islands that are a long way from anywhere, and a major tourist destination for Americans and Japanese vacationers. It's resorts and beautiful golf courses and helicopter tours and fancy restaurants.
But it's also lots of other things, and if you avoid the main money traps, it can be a better option than you’d think. If you're traveling on a budget, you're not going to be staying in resorts, most likely, but if you want a taste of the real place, and the way real people live, you don't have to break the bank. Real people don’t live in resorts, after all.
Six2’s practical tips.
I wrote a book on this stuff, but I have a friend who goes by Six2 (not his real name, obviously, but let's keep the mystery) who's the real deal. He's a budget travel goldmine, and the kind of guy who plans trips for years, builds spreadsheets, and stays up all hours of the night researching the best options. He's been living and travelling on like 10 hours a week of employment for years, and has been to dozens of countries and all fifty states, along with hiking about 2 1/3 of the 3 major American long trails. He's the kind of person you want to know if you can - an old school budget travel nerd who has reams of information stored away in his head and I'm guessing his Google Drive. He's not some hip fake travel influencer writing throwaway articles. He travels for the love of the game and has an engineer’s mind so does it in the most organized way possible.
He recently got married, and left on a months-long round the world honeymoon, and randomly started sending us dispatches from their first stop in Hawaii, unsolicited. For a couple of days last week, Angel and I were receiving a barrage of texts with his dashed off thoughts, which were of course excellent budget travel advice, sent for no reason other than this is what he's interested in (maybe we did goad him along a bit...). The information was too good to keep to ourselves, so we asked to share the wealth with you. He said sure, why not, and here we are.
I've organized the texts he sent by locale and general topic, but I'm keeping them in their original dashed-off form. I could have cleaned things up, but I wanted you to have something of the pure, exhilarating and amusing experience of getting random texts from an expert with their offhand thoughts on the subject they're fluent in. So, the rest of what you'll find in this article are his unvarnished observations.
He and his wife spent time on Oahu and Big Island, and the first thing he said about the experience was:
It’s possible to do Hawaii relatively cheaply, but it’s a lot of effort.
The Big Island
I hope you found Six2's dispatches as amusing and helpful as I did. Some other general things to know about Hawaii: camping is cheap to free in many places. Freecampsites.net doesn’t show much, but hipcamp has a good number of private options, and check in with each individual island's State Park options, because there are a bunch! This article has more great camping advice. The weather’s always warm there. Why not? Beach bums are a thing. Other good news is that, unlike most of the US, Hostels are a thing in Hawaii, and can be a good budget option - especially for a solo traveler.
If you want a whole lot more wisdom gleaned from experts like Six2, check out my book The Dirtbag's Guide to Life. It's full of good ideas from people who've been living the dream.
Tim and Angel
The goat in the picture lives in Silverton, CO, and tried to kill us. We survived to bring you this dirtbag wisdom for the ages.