Everything you need to know about 'Flashpacking'

Recently we spoke to Jane and Duncan Dempster who travelled the world as 'Flashpackers' during a golden gap year. Flashpacking is a term used to describe a travel style somewhere between luxury travel and backpacking. Jane and Duncan went to South America, Europe and Asia where they spent four months in each destination.

Here's what they have to say: 

We are creating our own travel brand "To Travel Too " targeting "Baby Boomers" with inspiration, advice and insights on how to gift themselves time and to let go of the old ways of chasing the $$$. We are advocates of chasing time and choose to fill our time with travel experiences. So, if a Baby Boomer has such inspirations and wants to know what steps to take, then our forum and our experiences will assist them greatly. With this in mind, we wanted to travel the world affordably yet with comfort, whilst engaging with the locals and the backpack travel community.

Hence we became "Flashpackers…

When describing Flashpackers, we like this description as it captures the essence of what "To Travel Too" and flashpacking is all about: 

“Flashpacking is a neologism used to refer to affluent backpacking. A flashpacker shares some of the characteristics of a backpacker: a sense of independence, no fixed itinerary and relatively long periods of travel to more exotic and far-flung destinations. Whereas backpacking is traditionally associated with budget travel and destinations that are relatively cheap, flashpacking has an association of more disposable income while traveling and has been defined simply as backpacking with a bigger budget.
A simple definition of the term Flashpacker can be thought of as backpacking with flash, or style. In another sense, the term defines a growing segment of travellers who adhere to a tight accommodation and meal budget, while spending freely for activities at their chosen destination." (Find the rest of the quote here). 

In February 2013 we commenced one year of global travels. We spent four months travelling throughout South America visiting Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. Our next four months were spent travelling and visiting the US, UK, Croatia, Spain, France, Italy and Turkey. Our final four months we travelled and visited Jordan, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

During that year we:

  • Travelled 11,602 miles, 18,671 km
  • Visited 21 countries
  • Stayed in 72 different types of accommodation
  • Flew on 20 planes
  • Travelled on 65 buses
  • Took 18 trains
  • Sailed on 14 ferries
  • Rode on 11 Tuk Tuks
  • Flew in 2 Hot Air Balloons in Myanmar and Turkey
  • Rode horses into the sunset at the bottom of the Andes Mountain Range in Argentina
  • Took a horse and cart ride around the many 3000 temples in Bagan, Myanmar
  • Trekked for 4 days/3 nights in Machu Picchu
  • Sailed on a steamer down the Mekong River in Myanmar
  • Climbed Pyramids in Mexico, Temples in Guatemala, Peru, Bagan and Thailand
  • Survived the Devils Throat Boat Ride at the Iguassu Falls

We always get asked, what were our favourite places? We actually don’t have any, they are all our favourites, but we have fun experiences that always spring to mind. Top of our list is our 4-day/3-night Inca trek to Machu Picchu in Peru and our two Hot Air Balloon rides in Cappadocia, Turkey and Bagan, in Myanmar. You cannot beat wandering around the local markets for fresh produce and getting lost in the back streets of the towns and cities you visit.

In terms of accommodation, our 72 types of accommodation consisted of hostels, where we stayed in private double rooms with ensuite bathrooms, self-contained apartments, hotels, camping in Peru whilst trekking Machu Picchu and a Bedouin Tent experience in Jordan. Excellent hostels are available these days providing more than the regular dormitory style rooms particularly in South and Central America, Europe and Asia. Typically, the hostels have lounge or chill out areas where travellers can connect and share experiences. Most hostels provide well-equipped kitchen facilities so that travellers can self-cater which enables them to keep their costs down. Some hostel booking sites we use, include hostelworld.com, hostels.com and hostelbookers.com.

When we have been unable to book a hostel we would look for a self-contained apartment, centrally located, Marseille and Buenos Aires spring to mind. For this type of accommodation we use search engines such as booking.com, homeaway.com and airbnb.com. When all else fails we will look for a hotel and will use search engines such as agoda.com and once again, booking.com.

Once we have decided on a location, we will check out Trip Advisor and look at speciality lodgings as the filter, along with Hostelworld and Booking.com. This search triangulation gives us the latest up-to-date reviews on the accommodation, facilities available and the costs for a private room with bathroom. Free Wi-Fi is a must. If we get a personal recommendation from a fellow traveller this will always be considered. Couchsurfing is always an option and one that we would consider if all else fails.

Upon returning to Australia, Jane and Duncan began house-sitting. They told us a little about the benefits of house-sitting and what they've learned from it...

There are many benefits to house-sitting. We are able to keep our costs down considerably. We can live like a local and experience many places where we have not stayed or visited before. We have the opportunity of caring for pets and animals and our experience has shown that they are more relaxed when their owners are absent as they are in their own environment and are kept in their regular routines.

We believe house sitting on average saves us between $150 - $185 per day.
The costs that we manage are food, transport and entertainment. All other costs such as accommodation rental, utilities, telephone and Wi-Fi costs etc. are provided for by the House Owner in consideration for looking after their pets, garden and the home. So far since March 2014 we have had nine days without house-sits. So when you do the maths we can save many thousands of $$$ each year. We believe this approach is like having an increase in your savings by 4% net. We also get to meet amazing people and animals and so far we have worked with cats, dogs and chooks.

We have had only one dislike, which was a house-sit that was extremely grubby and unhygienic. We had met the owners and visited the house before the commencement of the house sit and whilst we observed the unclean nature of the property, we naively assumed that it would have been cleanly presented at the start. It was not and the expectations of our contribution were not mutual. House-sitting is typically a mutual exchange with a no monies transfer and the house-sitter receives accommodation at no charge and the house owner is able to travel, knowing that their house and their treasured pets are safe. Many insurance companies prefer to have persons occupying the residence rather than have empty properties. The cost to the house owner for placing their pets into boarding accommodation can be high and the disruption to the pets can be quite traumatic.

Finally, we asked Jane and Duncan why they felt it was so important that over 50s incorporate new technology into their lives..

Reports show that Baby Boomers are more tech-savvy these days. They adapt easily to the latest technology. They can be grey nomads on the road keeping in touch with their family and friends as long as they have good internet connections. Technology is so important for us on the road. We travel with two laptops, two iPads, two mobile phones, a back-up disc drive, a digital camera and a 4 point electrical power extension board so that we can charge our devices with ease. We also have a mixture of technology platforms e.g. Windows 8, Apple, and Android. This enables us to be across all available platforms. We never leave home without our backup drive, even when we go down the road for a coffee; this is our IP. It is essential with our technology to have access to Apps, be it for banking, checking on accommodation, using the GPS, currency converters and also locating fun places to visit using Tripit etc. Skype and Viber are essential for us to maintain contact with our family and friends. Skype is also essential for our house sitting assignments. We use Skype in the initial interview process as we get to interview and chat with our future house sitting clients. We recently had Skype calls with our home owners for our forthcoming house sits in Ecuador and Mexico in 2015.

 You can learn more about Jane and Duncan Dempster by visiting their Facebook page here.