Van Packing vs Backpacking

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Van Packing (travelling in a van) vs Backpacking, both are two amazing ways to travel Australia. From partying in city hostels to camping out on secluded beaches, we'll compare which of the two is better?


I break backpacking expenses down into 4 groups: accommodation, transport, food and fun- for the most part this meant drinking for me haha, but this article will focus on the first two. When it comes to getting around, public transport in Australia is pretty descent. From flights, to buses, travelling the east coast of Australia is made super easy by big companies such as Greyhound, linking all the popular destinations, and for the most part city infrastructure makes it pretty easy for travellers to get around town to check out the sites. For those travelling on a shoe string, there’s always hitch hiking, which although is ’illegal,’ I’ve come across a fair few people getting around like this.

When it comes to accommodation, backpackers will have no issues. Hostels, compared to the rest of Australia's inflated standard of living are pretty affordable and you are guaranteed to get a pretty comfortable standard of living. The number one selling point for hostels is the social aspect. It's why they exist. There’s no better place to meet like minded people, all doing the same thing. Hostels provide a great stepping stone for your next step, with most housing travel agents, and are a portal to the city. The best part of travelling is meeting new people and hostels provide the perfect platform for this.

With getting around and your nights sleep covered, lets way up the pros and cons of backpacking: travelling via buses and living out of hostels:


  • social atmosphere to hostels is great for solo travellers, or groups looking to mingle
  • hostel facilities make travelling a breeze in this day and age
  • central location of hostels put you in the heart of the city
  • luxuries such as a/c, hot water, cooking facilities


  • expensive accommodation. Spending a minimum of $20 a night on hostels adds up
  • restricted to set public transport routes
  • living out of a backpack can become soooo monotonous
  • less privacy living dorm to dorm

Van packing

Getting to a new country ready to explore is one thing, buying a car/van in a new country and hitting the road is another. Having the freedom to stop and do what you want, when you want, parking up on a beach for the night, for me, there’s no better feeling. Sydney, Melbourne, Surfers Paradise, Cairns. There’s a reason these places are always on top of the backpacking itinerary. But the places in-between, the hidden beaches, the secret waterfalls, the free camping spots, that’s the real Australia and these places are easily missed without your own vehicle.


  • freedom to do what you want, when you want. Anywhere is home for the night.
  • get to see more of the places in between the big named locations.
  • can save money on accommodation.


  • expenses that come with owning/renting a vehicle eg. fuel, tolls, breakdowns, registration
  • not as social as staying at hostels

In my 4 years travelling I was lucky enough to have done both, across multiple continents. I spent about 3 weeks living out of dorms in the US before buying a car for a road trip, where I spent week nights sleeping in my Subaru Forester and spent the ‘social’ nights in hostels, with my car parked up, out of use for three days.

Across Europe I did several road trips, but this time in a camper van, where we never really got the opportunity to stay in hostels because we were too big to be driving in cities. We found ourselves staying in camp sites outside of town, not wanting to stay on the street for security reasons. This made it a bit of hassle getting into town, and although we were travelling in a group of 5, I personally feel like I missed out on a huge social part of the travel. But the trade off was some epic drives through some amazing scenery through 20 European countries with 5 child hood mates- so I can’t be too disappointed haha.

In my opinion, you can’t pass up a road trip. I'd choose the van option every time, especially in Australia. The only place I know that makes van packing hard in Aus is Byron Bay. But I’m pretty stoked to be able to say that The Aviary offers the best of both worlds. We provide a spot for backpackers/van packers to park up in the vehicle and spend the night with us. You will get access to all hostel facilities, enjoying #vanlife while getting the social side of a hostel. So if you are ever in passing through Byron in a van, looking for a place to park up, give us a shout :)


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They say a picture tells a story of 1000 words...

This picture sums it all up for me. The above shot was taken in Feurtaventura, 2016. Myself and 3 mates booked a dirt cheap, 30 pound Ryan Air flight from Leeds to escape the dreaded English winter, meeting another mate who had the joy of the 60 hour transit from Aus.

What followed was close to the best 2 months of not only my life, I’d put a safe $100 on it being the best 8 weeks for all the boys.

We purchased the van, later to be name ‘little miss piggy’ (license plate was P69PGT so the ol’ girl fell in to her name) from a fellow aussie i crossed paths with months before in Peniche, Portugal doing the opposite trip - UK>Canaries. And what ensued for me, was a dream trip of surfing, camp fires, beers and wild nights - a massive juxtaposition to the wet, overcast English life.

5 blokes , 6 boards + a foamy, camping gear and 5 big travel bags all crammed into a run down postal van sounds like a nightmare for some, but for myself and the boys, nothing could top this idea and that’s what brings us here. #vanlife

Not the best quality pick but you get the idea...

From first getting my license at 17 and planning strike missions on the NSW south coast for swells, to 12000 km road trips, across continents, to now sleeping in my van, living rent free, running a hostel in Byron Bay, the one common denominator has been the freedom of life in a van.

So kicks off a little saga of another boring travel blog about the pros, cons, the ups, the downs, freedom, fun, adventure, arguments, ecstasy, flat spells, beers, pumping waves and more of the last 10 years of my life, living the #vanlife.

Why now is the best time ever to come to Australia on a working holiday visa

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Why now is the best time ever to come to Australia on a working holiday visa

Ever dreamed of visiting Australia but didn't have the money? Or perhaps you have been planning to come and work in Australia, but were too old for a working holiday visa?

Well there is some good news recently announced by the Australian Government, where in a media release they have announced a few key changes to make it easier and more enticing for people to come to Australia on a working holiday visa.

Lower tax

It has been announced that those on a working holiday visa will be taxed at the very competitive rate of 19%. This they claim offers "working holiday makers the highest post-tax income among comparable countries".

Bigger age range

The working holiday visa will no longer just be available to those under 30, with the maximum age being extended to those up to 35 years old.

Lower application fee

The application fee has been reduced by $50. Sure its still $390, but that $50 saving is at least a case of beer!

Work for the same employer

It used to be that you had to change employers every 6 months. The government has now changed it so that you can work for the same employer for 12 months, as long as you change regions. This means that if you are lucky enough to get employment with a company that can transfer you, then you don't have to reapply for a job!


All of this basically adds up to making it slightly easier and more open to those wanting to come to Australia for an extended period of time on a working holiday visa.

If you need a break whilst visiting down under, then be sure to get in touch with us to have an authentic tour of Australia or stay at our private comfortable camping in Byron Bay over summer.

5 signs you're too old for a hostel

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5 signs you're too old for a hostel

I love staying in hostels, always have. Such a great way to meet people in different places and of course they are usually extremely cost effective. But recently I've started mostly booking myself in to private rooms when I stay in them and wondering when is the time that you are too old to stay in a hostel? Here are some indicators that I have come up with to suggest it might be time to slightly upgrade or change approach for your holiday accommodation.

You just want a decent nights sleep

Have big plans for the morning? Why not, the morning is a great time of day. But sharing a dorm isn't overly conducive to early mornings or sleeping well. Inevitably people will come home at varying degrees of late, and always have to rustle through countless plastic bags to find that perfect late night snack.

You don't want to talk to people

Hostel dorms are built for 24/7 human contact. Kitchens, bathrooms, lounge areas and bedrooms are all very much shared. It's encouraged that you talk and people are there to meet other people. If you're getting over the same conversations of "who are you", "where are you from" and "where are you going", then it might be time to get a little more privacy.

You won't wear clothes that have already been worn

Have you found yourself disgusted or even annoyed by your room mates clothes thrown all over the room? Perhaps you have a well organised dirty clothes compartment or bag in your luggage, and plan ahead as to when you are having a washing day? Pretty good signs that your time in shared dorms may be coming to a close.

Your dorm buddies were starting school when you were in uni

Ever find yourself chatting to that cute girl or handsome guy, then added them as a friend on Facebook or similar and see the age gap is over 15 years!? Well for some it may seem cool, but for the rest of us its probably time to move on.

There isn't that weird old person in your dorm

Not much really needs to be said here, except perhaps just make sure you're not the creepy old person.


The good news is you can still stay in hostels and meet lots of great people by staying in a private room. But if you don't want the expense of a private room, nor share a dorm, but still want to stay in paradise for a decent price then check out our private comfortable camping at Byron Bay!

Tasty and cheap backpacker meals for under $2!

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Tasty and cheap backpacker meals for under $2!

It can be hard to eat well whilst on a budget. It can be even harder when also travelling around. So I thought it would be useful to list my favourite cheap dinners for when you want something tasty to eat without breaking the bank account.

In all of these recipes, I used Coles home brand products for pricing, or the cheapest alternative. You should be able to get pretty similar from any of the main supermarkets.

Spaghetti puttanesca

This is such an easy and fast meal. Puttanesca translates to slut or prostitute, so this spaghetti dish was developed as a simple and cheap alternative dinner by the working girls.


  • 200g Spaghetti (20 cents)
  • 2 cloves garlic (10 cents)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (60 cents)
  • 95g tuna in lemon and pepper (80 cents)
  • Teaspoon of dried italian herbs (10 cents - yes the container costs more, but you can easily keep and reuse it for so many recipes)
  • Half a handful of black olives (20 cent worth and optional, but can get a 450g jar for about $2 and will last)
  • Tablespoon capers (20 cent worth and also options, can get 110g jar for about $2)

Total cost $1.80 (or $2.20 with options)!


Cook pasta in boiling water. Simmer garlic in oil until golden, add tomatoes and herbs and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly reduced. Add tuna, olives and capers then stir through pasta to serve.

Mi Goreng with chicken and vegetable

Mi Goring noodles are a staple among those looking for a cheap eat. Add some vegetables and chicken and you have a fantastic, easy and filling meal. I usually like to add a little more soy sauce, and even a tablespoon of peanut butter works a treat to give more of a satay taste!

Mi Goreng


  • 1 pack of Mi Goreng noodles (65 cents)
  • 250g of frozen mixed vegetables (40 cents - using a quarter of a 1kg bag)
  • 1 small chicken thigh (80 cents)

Total cost $1.85


Dice chicken to desired size and cook through until tender. Boil or steam vegetables and cook noodles per packet instructions. Combine all cooked ingredients and serve.

Mini muffin pizzas

This was one of my favourite recipes growing up, and I still love it now. Like a pizza, you can pretty much put any ingredients on top. Italian herbs, salt, pepper and tabasco all add great flavour to make them even tastier.


  • 2 english muffins halved (67 cents)
  • 50g ham shredded (50 cents)
  • 50g tomato paste (25 cents - from 170g tin costing 80 cents)
  • 4 slices cheese (50 cents - from 24 pack for $3.00)

Total cost $1.92


Preheat oven to 200C. Spread tomato paste on to muffins. Tear the ham up and spread across the tomato paste, then layer a slice of cheese on each muffin. Cook for 5 minutes or until cheese melted and muffins are slightly crispy.


There are so many ways to make delicious meals on a budget. Personally I always have italian herbs on hand to make anything italian more flavoursome. Similarly for asian food, I always have some soy sauce. Otherwise generally always check out the food near to its use by date in supermarkets, where you can often find some great discounts for dinner that night. Happy cooking and bon appetit!

5 ideas on how to enjoy a long road trip with mates!

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5 ideas on how to enjoy a long road trip with mates!

Do you get bored when traveling long distances? Or perhaps traveling with some new or even old friends and wish you had some ideas to help make the trip more fun? Well we have put together a few of our ideas for how to make the trip part of the adventure. And don’t worry, these aren’t the kind of ideas for keeping kids happy. These are the grown up versions, for the big kids in all of us!

1. Snacks and drinks in the car are critical. Check local laws on what type of drinks you can have in the car, as we take no responsibility here. But equally know what type of beverages we pack when able!

2. Make sure you each have a good lineup of songs to choose from. Rotate who is in charge of the music and even play a game of seeing who can guess the artist and song first.

3. Test each other with a different game such as getting one person to name a category, then everyone taking turns to name something in that category. Eg category of beers, then one person may start with Corona, the next Heineken etc…

4. If you are looking to get to know each other a bit better, another fun game is to take turns in each make three statements. Two of them need to be true, then the third a lie. Tell it in any order and be as crafty as you like. A good way to learn more about it each other, or test how much you actually do know about each other!

5. Really any sort of drinking game can be adapted to a road trip. We are certainly not suggesting drink driving, and the driver should always be sober and below legal limits. But whether you incorporate the drinking aspect or not, feel free to adapt any drinking game. For example even something as simple as arrogance, where before someone picks up a card you have to choose whether its going to be red or black, can be pretty fun, with or without the drinking aspect. Either that or never ever have I…

What are your favourite tips and tricks to making a long car ride more enjoyable?

Secret spots between Sydney and Brisbane

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Secret spots between Sydney and Brisbane

There is a reason the east coast is one of the most popular destinations in Australia, let alone the world. If you are a surfer, world class waves abound. Foodies will find a plethora of delicious fresh and local meals. Walkers love the abundance of national parks, filled with waterfalls, old rainforests and so much beautiful fauna and flora. Plus there are so many retreats and peaceful places for those who just want to relax and unwind.

The main attractions like Byron Bay are popular for a reason and are an absolute must see. But there are lots of hidden treasures in amongst these famous locations.


Sydney is amazing, but hectic. We love getting out of the suburbs and in to the hidden treasures. If you are looking for something a little different and out of the city, then definitely head to the northern beaches.

The Collaroy hotel on the northern beaches is definitely worth a quick stop for lunch. Right on the beach front, it has amazing views and very decent prices. Newport is also really cool, with the further north you go, the less you will feel the hustle and bustle of Sydney.

Watagans National Park

This is only one hour west of Newcastle, and about 2.5 north from Sydney. But it feels like you are much further away. It has beautiful hikes and stunning scenery. Any of the walks are great, but check out Turners track for the best waterfalls.

Seal rocks

Seal rocks is an absolute must for the surfers out there. The beach is angled in such a way that there are often off shore winds and great banks. Just be aware as there can often be a few rips in the water, especially in the shallower parts.


Sawtell is an absolute treasure of a town. Just south of Coffs Harbour, it has an abundance of charm with a great little main street full of bustling cafes serving delicious local and international foods. The point of the beach also often has an excellent wave, though can get busy. For great value and arguably the best fish and chips, head to sea salt on the main drag. A fish and chips for one pack easily feeds two adults, with a good serving of chips and at least two fillets of fish!


Just inland from Sawtell is a town called Bellingen. The moment you drive in you will feel the hippy vibe. It is uber relaxed and made for the slow and relaxed pace that life is really meant to be lived. There are many great national parks around for hiking and plenty of good options for food in the town itself. Our favourite is 5 Church Street, which as the name suggest is at 5 Church street in Bellingen! The vego burger and fries are delicious and home made chai tea superb. Also a very cool venue for live music at night. If you happen to be coming through on the 3rd Saturday of the month, then head to the Bellingen markets too.


Woolgoolga is just north of Coffs Harbour. It is a small and beautiful little town with a twist. It has a large population of Indians, which is great because it means there is great food there! The curry fest is usually in late September and very much worth checking out. But there are always good curries in town, plus White Salt also does superb fish and chips. The bay in Woolgoolga is also a little more protected so nice for a swim, though some good clean waves often break around the point too.

Lennox head

Lennox head is just south of Byron Bay but so much less crowded. Surfers who get sick of the traffic in the line up at the pass in Byron absolutely must head to Lennox head. It is a long right hander and gives one of the best rides on the east coast. The town also has some great cafes and bars - it feels a bit like a mini Byron Bay!

Byron Bay

Byron is Byron. If you haven't been there, you definitely need to check it out. But be prepared, it is full on! Summer months get particularly busy, with christmas and new years often having proper traffic jams! But there is a reason for so many people being there. Beyond its beauty, there is a remarkable energy in Byron. Good people are attracted to Byron and there is generally a feeling that people will mostly help you if in trouble. Hitchhiking for example is extremely common in the area. It's hard to get around the expenses of Byron, but if you are open to camping then that is probably the best way (we can help sort that if you want - just contact us). Otherwise you really just need to dive in and do as much or as little as you want!

Burleigh heads

There aren't many places along the Gold Coast that we need to mention, it being so touristy and well covered already. Pretty much anything you want to do will be there. But if you are looking for something slightly lower key and more relaxed, then definitely check out Burleigh Heads. There is a beautiful walk around the headland from a perfectly positioned caravan and camping ground. The beaches and waves are still busy, but slightly less so than the main parts of the Gold Coast.


There is no surf in Brisbane, but there are lots of great places to eat and a pretty cool night life. Definitely hit fortitude valley if you are heading out. The Beat is a gay club, but very straight friendly. It is genuinely one of the most fun places to go out whether you are LGBT or not.


These are just some of the amazing places to check out along the coast. Feel free to email us with any questions. If you would prefer to have someone show you these and other great places on the east coast, then check out our all inclusive trips and come and make some great new friends along the way!