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Oz on the cheap! Your suggestions?

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My niece and I are planning a trip to Australia in late July into August (17 days total, so only fourteen days on the ground) and we're trying to make a way for the next two (twin) nieces to come along, as well. They're still college students and don't have a whole lot of money, so we're trying for quad accommodations and such in order to save them lodging costs.

In brief, our trip would start out in Brisbane, go on to Cairns, then Alice Springs for an Outback (Uluru) camping excursion, and finish in Sydney. (Here's the itinerary: http://www.fodors.com/community/australia-the-pacific/my-very-first-trip-to-australia-the-second-time-around.cfm )

Some money-saving ideas I've garnered so far...

1. www.wotif.com.au for hotels for Brisbane and Sydney--best to book just a few weeks ahead, I believe? Might there be difficulty in booking for July/August, or should there be plenty available? Or is name-your-own on Priceline a good way to go for either city?

2. YHA hostel in Alice Springs--the one in a movie theater--sounds like fun, but I'm open to other suggestions as well.

3. Self catering where poss and street food! (What's best, what should be avoided?)

4. Public transport--what about from airports to hotels/hostels? I'm very accustomed to using public transportation, the girls not so much, but we won't be driving. Of course, sometimes there's a courtesy shuttle from hotels, I suppose, so where we stay might have an impact.

5. Walk ON the bridge in Sydney rather than over top of it! :)

At the moment walkabout fares for all international (from Philadelphia) and domestic flights involved is about $2100, so that's pretty good; lodging is obviously the next big expense, so any tips on that and general cost-saving would help.

I'd love to be able to just give the trip to all of them, but I'm squeezing the cash a bit myself--and, of course, the exchange rate is no longer in our favor!

Thanks for any advice and tips. :D

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