How To Travel, Cheaply

Readers write the loveliest emails. This week I received half a dozen notes from some truly inspiring women. One was off to live in London for the summer and autumn months. (I've done that before and desperately wish I could do it again.) Another had borrowed a friend's house in the South of France for a little while. She was reading the Provence book, and hearing the excitement in her emails made me wish I was returning to the Riviera again this year. Oh for the money (and time) to be able to travel in such style!

Some people are really bad at travel. They whinge and grumble about everything. Most of us realise travel is difficult at times, but the thrill of seeing new places should always overcome the displacement. Even in my darkest hours, when I've stood on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris and cried tears of weariness; when I've flown into a hurricane in the Bahamas (on the last flight into Nassau before the airport closed) and wondered if I'd ever get home?; when I've wandered a snowy road in Denmark and felt a homesickness for Australia that was so deep it caused my heart to ache, I've never regretted travelling. Never. 

Even this morning, while trying to book / rebook an international flight (having postponed a trip that really needs to be done) and failing, and then having to ring overseas five times to chase the refund (FIVE times; from Australia!), and then announcing to my partner that I was NEVER getting on another plane again, I knew in my heart there were lots of rewarding places I still wanted to explore.

Over the years, friends have given me great tips on ways to lighten the travel experience. So here are a few, to keep you inspired and motivated, too.


My parents, who travel the globe like the rest of us have cups of tea, rarely return to the same place twice. It's my father's philosophy, and it's a good one. If you always tread the old London-Paris-Italy-New York routes, think about seeing somewhere new. Go somewhere you've never been. 

We're trying to get to Raja Ampat (above) before it explodes with tourism. My niece just returned from Costa Rica. When today's papers announced that "Sri Lanka is the new Bali" I thought: Oh no, there goes another place I've missed, and now it's too late! 

But it's never too late to get off the beaten track and find the side roads of life.

So if you always do London, you could take a train to Bath one day to see the Fashion Museum (above). 

And if you always go to New York for business you could stay an extra few days and get a $100 JetBlue flight to Nantucket island. (Beautiful.) Or hire a car to explore Sharon Springs (site of the Beekman Boys' famously beautiful store) and the villages of nearby Connecticut. 

And if you always go to Paris, you could hire a bike for a day and ride around the gardens of Versailles. Or explore Normandy, and Chateau Brecy, Giverny and Le Musée Christian Dior

And if you always fly through Singapore or Bangkok you could tack on a week and hop across to Angkor Wat, or the equally astonishing Borobudur, above. (Bangkok Air often have $20 flights.) 


If you rack up the dollars before your trip has started, your stress levels will diminish the joy of the forthcoming departure. Find affordable hotels and reasonable flights, and you'll be much happier about heading out. When I gently warned one reader that she may find her Riviera hotel a little austere, she was unperturbed. It saved money for a few days, she said, and the location was perfect. Wise woman.

Two of the lovely women from last year's garden tour are keen to do further tours and so I've been trying to find hotels. There are SO many beautiful places for less than $200/n. Try for great deals, or travel a month either before or after peak season (ie May is often cheaper than June). 

If you're looking for some affordable hotels, here's a good list to start with, below. (NB If you need some luxe, book into an expensive place for one night every week; for the other 6 nights save the $$$.)


The Marlton, Greenwich Village—
The Jade, Greenwich Village —
The Night Hotel, Times Square —
The Roger Hotel, Midtown —

(Note: Do ensure you research hotels in London as some places don't suit everyone)

The Dorset Square Hotel, Marylebone —‎
The Gore Hotel, South Kensington —
The Ambersand, South Kensington
The Rockwell, Kensington —
The Cranley, South Kensington —
The Main House, Notting Hill —
The Spitalfields Townhouse —
La Suite West, Bayswater —
The Fielding Hotel, Covent Garden –
Fox Club, Mayfair —
The Grazing Goat, Marylebone (not as cheap as it once was, but still pretty) —


Don't assume travel has to be expensive. Even the traditionally expensive long-haul routes, say from Australia to London or New York, can be had for half-price. 

Research and compare fares on,, or one of the other travel sites.

Sometimes there even will be airlines trying out new routes for very cheap prices. For example, while trying to find a flight to Denmark recently, I noticed Norwegian Air are now clearly going into competition with Ryan Air and flying direct from NY to Copenhagen, as well as many other routes, for half the price of the other carriers. It's a great way to see Scandinavia for very little.

If you're criss-crossing the US, try low-cost airlines such as JetBlue for cheap deals rather than bigger airlines such as United or Virgin. 

Or consider breaking up your long-haul flight by grabbing a cheap Jetstar flight to Singapore ($300 return from Australia at the moment) or Hong Kong, then picking up one of the top-tier carriers such as Singapore Airlines from there to your final destination.

Sri Lanka Airlines flies from Singapore to London for just $900, and you can often get a free stopover for a day or two in Colomb -- enough time to pick up a Ceylon sapphire!

Even direct flights, such as Sin-Lon-Sin (return) with Singapore Airlines (the best airline in the world) are only $1000, which will make your return fare from Australia to Europe just $1300. 


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