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Tips to Score a Budget Room in Sydney for New Year’s Eve

new year's eve

Booking a Budget Room in Sydney for New Year’s Eve

It is almost 9 a.m. on April 11, 2013 in Sydney, Australia; however, I’m not in Sydney.  I’m in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee where it’s almost 5 p.m. on April 10.  On the desk in front of me sits my mother’s desktop computer flanked by my iPhone and iPad.  All are online and ready to go.  The only things standing between me and New Year’s Eve in Sydney are 9,000 miles and reliable WIFI.

From the moment we decided to go on our RTW journey, I had to be in Sydney for New Year’s Eve (NYE).  There’s no way I was going to be in that part of the world and miss the opportunity to experience the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration in the Southern Hemisphere. NYE in Sydney is Times Square on steroids.  However, the price tag for this bucket list experience is on steroids too.  Rooms with views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House book up a year in advance. The rooms that are available run $700-1,000+ per night, with a 5-10 night minimum. Definitely not budget friendly!

However, there is one, and only one, hotel option that provides both the First Class location and view with Coach Class pricing:

The Sydney Harbour YHA.

This hostel, located smack in The Rocks with a rooftop terrace overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, is our only chance at ringing in the New Year in Sydney.  If we can’t score a budget room in The Rocks, then NYE in Sydney won’t happen.  That would be like going to New York City for New Year’s and getting a room in New Jersey.  No thank you.

Lucky for me, a quick visit to Sydney Harbour YHA website last February reveals I’m not too late.  Being a hostel, they run things a little differently than most hotels in the area. Rather than jacking up their rates so high that only those born with silver spoons can get a room, they keep the prices the same and use a lottery system.  The hostel holds all of the rooms back until a certain day at a certain time.  At that time, all of the rooms are released and can be booked online by the lucky souls with fast fingers and faster WIFI.

I schedule the date in my iCal and wall planner–April 11, 2013 at 9 a.m. Sydney time.

With only ten family rooms and 108 rooms total, I know I have to be fast.  People from every corner of the globe will be trying to get these same coveted rooms.

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At 4:55 p.m. I make my first reservation attempt, but the rooms haven’t been released.  I move to the next device and try again.  Still blocked.  At 5:01, I try again.  This time I get the spinning rainbow wheel.  It spins and spins.  I pick up another device.  Another spinning rainbow.  I try my mom’s desktop; the response: a rotating hourglass.


Like a madwoman, I go from device to device resubmitting my reservation.  Unfortunately, the outcome is always the same–rainbow wheels and hourglasses.  Oh, how I hate them.  With my heart racing, I fire off an email to the hostel, desperately pleading for them to take my reservation by email.

“No, I’m sorry we can’t do that.  The system is overloaded with reservation requests, but we have our IT department working on it. Just keep trying.  No one else has gotten through either.”

10 more minutes of spinning rainbows and rotating hourglasses, and I’m beside myself.  Maybe if they hear my voice they will help me out, I think.  So I call them.

“Hi, I’m calling from the United States.  I’ve been trying to make a reservation for half an hour but it won’t go through. Can you please take my reservation over the phone?”

The bad news is that the hostel still won’t accept my reservation over the phone.  The good news is that not one single person has gotten through either.  Wow.  Apparently everyone else put it in iCal too.

Anxious and frustrated, I go for a walk with my mother.  iPhone in hand, of course. Another couple of hours pass with no changes to the rainbows and hourglasses.

Then, just before 9 p.m., I take a quick peek at my email.  What I see takes my breath away…

An email from the hostel.

The email explains that the system is so overloaded with requests that it cannot process them.  So they will accept reservations by email in the order in which they receive them with all of the required information included.  For a moment I panic, wondering how long this email has been sitting in my inbox.

Just five minutes.

Typing like my fingers are on fire, I submit all of the necessary information and hold my breath…until I receive a confirmation that we are going to ring in 2014 in Sydney, Australia!

I just won the YHA New Year’s Eve lottery.

After waiting almost nine months for the big day, I can honestly say celebrating New Year’s Eve in Sydney lives up to the hype.  It was worth every bit of planning and effort to make it happen.  Without a doubt, it has been the highlight of my RTW journey thus far.  My future New Year’s Eves will never compare, but I have the memories of December 31, 2013 seared in my memory forever.

Want to ring in the New Year in Sydney?  Following are a few tips to help make that happen:

  • The early bird gets the room.  The booking date changes from year to year, but it is usually in March or April.
  • *Like* www.facebook.com/SydneyHarbourYHA/ to get early notification of the booking date.
  • Once the booking date has been announced, make sure you put it in your calendar.  Most rooms sell out within 30 minutes!
  • Be sure to take into account the time difference, as well as last minute time changes due to Daylight Saving Time at home and in Australia.
  • Make sure you have access to reliable WIFI.
  • Book tickets to the NYE party on the rooftop terrace.
  • Finally, if you run into any issues, be sure to email the hostel immediately.  This way they can reach you if the server crashes due to demand.
  • Be sure to check out these ideas and tips about other things to do in Sydney.

Fortunately, scoring an inexpensive room in Sydney isn’t completely impossible. With some planning and a little luck, you can celebrate a Condé Nast style New Year’s Eve with a Budget Travel wallet.

4WornPassports.com It is possible to experience a Condé Nast style New Year's Eve on a Budget Travel budget, if you know this one secret!

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