The great thing about traveling in Australia is the only thing you need to book before you arrive is your first accommodation and any internal flights you know you are going to take. Everything else, don’t worry about it until you arrive. You’ll get the best prices on location. You can book it all separately through the tour operators directly or through your accommodation, which sometimes has good deals, but the best deals are through the chain travel shops with store fronts in all the major backpacker towns. And they want your business! All have different deals and the more you buy with one store up front, the more you save in buying everything separately. The way it works in this is you are paying for all your trips up front, but you can call and cash in your voucher usually anytime within 365 days of purchase. I booked all my tours and experiences all different ways and when I go into detail later about the trip, I’ll say how I booked it and if I think or know that I got the best deal and if not, what I would have done differently. But this post is just a general travel store experience in Australia.
Everyone is usually loyal to whatever chain you start with as you’ll continue to get good deals and discounts from them as you travel. The two big ones are Peter Pan’s and Backpackers World and those are the ones that I had the most contact with on my travels. I am just going to say up front that I ended up using Backpackers World as they seemed to have more variety and didn’t pressure me into buying anything ever, which I always appreciate. Both stores have arrangements with different local operators, so you may be only able to buy something through one of the stores and not the other. Of course, you can always just book everything on your own, but these stores package a lot together to get you a good deal as well as throw in extras like free internet! Backpackers World also works in conjunction with Global Gossip, which was my favorite internet chain and I practically collected the free time they would hand out. My card was actually so old, that when I got to Australia 16 months after I got my card no one knew where the pin number was! Anyway, I used Peter Pan for their free internet and always perused their brochures and talked to some of their agents, but I just never felt comfortable in the stores. I know I would always have a good conversation with the agents at Backpackers World, even if I didn’t buy anything that day. When I was booking my last bit of travel, which was nearly 2 weeks of using the same operator (not something I like to do in case they suck) but when the agent at Backpackers World was booking it for me, she even said, this isn’t an operator that they use a lot as they try to sell travelers on this other operator that is slightly more expensive (I actually wanted to travel part of the way on this other company, but they couldn’t compete, price-wise with the company I ended up using). When I joined the tour, I actually had a great time but in chatting with other travelers, they actually all seemed to book their travel with Peter Pan’s.
And just as an example on how Peter Pan’s just wants to make the sale, whether it’s something you are looking for or not, this tour included about half the nights sleeping outside (which I was happy to do) but one of the other girls did not want to sleep outside and her agent told her that there would be an option to sleep inside. In thinking back about all my research and chatting with the agents, I think this girl might have had a better time on the slightly more expensive tour, but since Peter Pan’s didn’t have a “deal” with them, to someone just walking into PP, they wouldn’t know their options of other tours, they just want to make the sale. Peter Pan’s was definitely cheaper as a whole, but also had more of the backpacker party-ness that goes along with it.