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Everything you need to know to plan a budget-friendly road trip

Australia is one of the most diverse and scenic places in the world to explore by campervan. People travel from all over the globe to experience its vastness and observe its unique wildlife. While not commonly noted as a ‘cheap travel destination’, there are plenty of ways to save money while exploring this majestic land down under. From Queensland to Western Australia, there are seemingly endless possibilities for a budget traveller to experience the very best of Australia.

Planning a budget-friendly road trip for the first time? Whether you are looking to budget for a 2-week road trip or simply looking for a few hacks to stretch your campervan budget – we've got you covered with everything you need to know to plan a budget-friendly road trip in this guide. Let’s dive in.


Why you should budget for your road trip

While budgeting is not the most alluring part of travel, it is hands down the best way to ensure you will be able to do everything you want to on your travel itinerary. This is especially important when travelling in a campervan. If you are still on the fence, here are some of the top reasons you should consider creating a budget for your upcoming road trip:

It will help you plan your trip

First and foremost, identifying your budget will help you understand how long you can afford to travel and the places and activities you may include during your trip. Australia is a big place, with so many beautiful places and attractions to explore. As such, longer road trips require more time as well as long drives (and fuel costs) to get from place to place. As such, having a budget in mind will help you decide how long to travel, as well as the amount of travel you will do on your Australia road trip.

It will allow you to set aside money for the must-do activities

In addition to fuel and the length of your trip, budgeting allows you to get an idea of the cost of your bucket list activities and plan accordingly. Imagine reaching a famous tourist attraction and then realising you can’t afford the entry cost - checking prices beforehand and adding money to the budget will ensure you can have the holiday you are dreaming of.

It will prevent you from overspending

Things like food, accommodation, activities and so on, can add up quickly on the road, and there is nothing worse than having to come home after an incredible trip to a lengthy and unexpected credit card bill. Planning how much you can afford to spend each day on these essentials will keep you on track and will ultimately help prevent overspending – win-win!

How to plan a budget-friendly road trip

To help you plan an adventure of a lifetime, we’re giving out top tips on how to plan your next road trip on a budget. From hacks on road travel, accommodation, activities, and everyday essentials – we have covered everything you need to know in order to plan a budget-friendly road trip.

How to save money on the road

When it comes to travelling in a campervan, there are a number of hacks that will help you save a little on your journey. From fuel efficiency to itinerary planning, here are our top hacks for how to save money while travelling in your campervan:

Check your tires

Before setting off, check that your tires have the right tire pressure. This small adjustment will ensure your camper is running efficiently and will help avoid overspending on fuel.

Compare fuel prices

The cost of fuel can vary greatly between petrol stations, so it's important to check the local prices before fuelling up. One of the best ways to do this is by taking advantage of free apps like Fuel Map, which shows you the live prices at each of the local fuel stations so you can choose the best deal!

Park sensibly

Parking in inner city areas can get expensive, with some requiring a whooping $7/hour fee to park! As you can imagine, these add up. Try parking up a little further out of the busy city areas and walking, biking or catching public transport to your location.

Plan your route

One of the many perks of travelling in a camper is that you can go wherever the wind takes you. However, if you are a budget traveller looking to get the most out of your trip, it pays to plan ahead. Planning your route is a guaranteed way to help you to save on petrol (no unnecessary driving!) as well as to get an idea of your overall fuel budget and the kind of itinerary that may suit your travel budget.

One of the best ways to plan your trip is by using the thl Roadtrip App. This road trip itinerary planner is great for helping to plan out your stops, including accommodation, attractions, dump points, and even has an offline map feature for remote adventures. That way, you won’t ever have to backtrack or drive unnecessarily to top up your fuel or get back on track.

How to save money on activities

One of the biggest expenses outside of food and fuel while embarking on an epic Australia road trip is the activities. While you do not need to do every activity in order to have a great trip, these special moments can turn a good trip into a trip of a lifetime. Here are our best tips to help you save money on activities on an Australia road trip:

Book in advance

Many of the most popular Australian activities and attractions can be easily booked online ahead of time. Pre Booking for tourist attractions can mean discounted rates or bonus inclusions such as extra days of access and so on. While costs for popular tourist attractions will vary, here are a few examples of what you can expect to pay for top Australian attractions:

  • Museum entry - $30-50AUD
  • Wildlife tour - $100-$200AUD
  • Aquarium - $30-50AUD
  • Zoo - $30-50AUD

Take self-guided tours

Instead of paying for expensive tours, why not try the self-guided options? In addition to saving money, this means you can take everything in at your own pace and go where the day takes you!

Make your own fun

You can have just as much fun skipping the tourist spots and finding your own spots to adventure. Whether it's finding secluded beaches, exploring national parks on foot, or going bird watching, there are plenty of ways to make your own fun in Australia.

How to save money on everyday travel costs

Everyday travel costs, such as food and entertainment, are another expense where you can easily save a few pennies. Here are our top tips on how to save money on your everyday travel costs.

Bring everyday essentials with you

Bringing everyday essentials in the camper means you don’t have to buy extras on the road. While there are many essentials already included in your campervan such as pots, pans, bedding and so on, there are a few things you can bring from home that will help minimise your expenses, such as:

  • Bulk pantry items
  • First aid kit
  • Toiletries

Make the most of your camper kitchen

In Australia, a meal will typically cost between $15 for a simple lunch, to upwards of $40 for a sit-down meal, while coffee will generally cost around $5. While this can be a great thing to do every now and then, eating out for every single meal can add up quickly when travelling. Luckily, with a campervan, you have your kitchen with you no matter where you go! Cooking your own meals and making your own coffee and drinks in your campervan, is easily one of the best ways to save money on everyday expenses.

Bring your own entertainment

Bringing your own entertainment is a foolproof way to help you from spending money on expensive activities every single day. Besides, sometimes a relaxing afternoon by the camper or down by the beach is all you need to end a long day on the road. A few easy entertainment options to bring include:

  • Speaker with Bluetooth (and a few saved playlists)
  • iPad (with a few movies downloaded)
  • Deck of cards
  • Small board games
  • Ball or frisbee to play catch

How to save money on accommodation

One of the many perks of travelling in a campervan is that you have access to incredibly affordable camping at holiday parks and free camping options as you go. Here are a few hacks to ensure you are getting the very most out of these already great value accommodation options:

Pre Book your campsite

Holiday parks are an affordable option, with a powered campsite typically costing between $40-80 AUD per night. If you are looking to get an even better deal, booking in advance will ensure you get the best deal, rather than having to take what is left for a higher cost.

Travel at off-peak times

Travelling during the quieter times of the year is also another great strategy to ensure better campsite prices. If you are hoping to take advantage of the off-season specials, it's worthwhile looking at the Australian school holidays calendar, as these tend to be some of the busy times of the year.

Try out freedom camping

Freedom camping is another great option that will save you a lot of money on your Australia road trip. Free campsites can include anything from basic roadside stops, to national park campsites, and fully serviced public free camps. As you often don’t have to pay anything, choosing to do a mix of low-cost paid camping alongside free camping can help you put a little extra into activities and meals out!

How to make a road trip budget

With all these things in mind, it's now time to sit down and make a budget. Here are a few things to consider when creating a budget for your upcoming campervan trip:

  • Decide on the overall budget – How much do you have to spend?
  • Plan out your daily expenses – Look at what you are happy to spend on everyday items such as meals, coffee, drinks etc.
  • Make a list of the activities – Research the activities you want to do and the cost.
  • Plan your itinerary and the total distance – Look at which locations you want to travel to and the kilometres you plan to cover. You can use this to get a rough idea of your petrol costs to see if that will fit your budget.
  • Add campsite prices to the budget – will you predominately free camp or make use of paid campsites? Allocate a price accordingly.
  • Consider additional costs – Things such as parking costs, road tolls etc.
  • Be sure to put money aside for emergency costs - It’s always a good idea to travel with a little bit of extra money for emergencies.

After answering these questions for yourself, you should have a good idea of how much to budget for your road trip. Then all that's left to do is book your campervan hire and begin your Australia road trip itinerary!

Head away on a budget road trip with Mighty

An Australia road trip is a budget planner’s dream. There are so many ways to save money for accommodation, everyday essentials and activities, to ensure you can put that money towards the activities and experiences that you value most.

Ready to head away on a budget road trip to remember? Book your Mighty camper today for the ultimate budget holiday adventure. For more tips for travelling on a budget, as well as other campervan hire hacks, such as tips for your first campervan holiday and how to find and book a caravan park, be sure to check out the Mighty blog.