Top Tips For a Cheap Campervan Trip in Australia

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Whether you’re dreaming of dusty red dirt roads of the outback or crystal blue waters of a coastal road trip, campervan travel (if done right) is one of the many ways to make your money go further while enjoying all the best Australia has to offer.

Travelling in a camper is a great way to save on accommodation by staying in caravan parks and taking advantage of free camping. On top of that, having a fridge and stove onboard means you can avoid the premiums on food in touristy destinations and have affordable snacks with you at all times.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why we have created this guide of our top tips for a cheap campervan trip in Australia so that you can make the most of your road trip experience all while travelling on a budget.

Tip 1 - Stock up on supplies when you can

Remote or touristy destinations tend to be quite pricey due to the high demand and remote location markup on food. Luckily, travelling in a camper means you can take advantage of the fridge and cupboards on board. Try to stock up in city centres where the prices are lower, and you can search for the best deals. Aside from that, having plenty of supplies means you won’t have to buy things at short notice or spend more on gas to take a detour to get essentials.

When stocking up, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Buy in bulk where you can to save money on repeat buy items.
  • Stock up on pantry items like canned goods, rice and pasta when you’re in cities and stock up on fresh produce at local farmers markets along the way.
  • Planning your meals in advance can save you from having to make too many top-up shops.
  • Buying family-sized packs of food or cooking in bulk can be better value than making individual portions.
  • Try to buy at bigger supermarkets as the prices tend to have less markup.

Tip 2 - Make the most of your onboard kitchen

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One of the biggest expenses on the road is often food. All those takeaway meals and petrol station premiums add up (not to mention the limited options that can get a little boring). A few ways to make the most out of your camper kitchen is to shop within your budget:

  • Pack snacks for when you are out and about, then come back to the camper to cook your meals.
  • Bring Tupperware – it is a great way to store your leftovers which can make for extra meals or snacks.
  • Make your own coffees - those $5 coffees add up!

Stuck for campervan meal ideas? Check our Campervan recipes to get inspired for cheap eats on the road.

Tip 3 - Create your own bar

If one of your favourite parts about travelling is being able to unwind with a drink at the end of a long day, then bring your own bar. Why pay for expensive cocktails every night when you can make your own?

Stock up on your favourite drinks (and cheeses if you like), get some nice drinkware, pack a speaker and you’re all set. Also, be sure to grab your drinks before heading to remote outback areas. A lot of these areas have drink purchase limits, and you will have to show evidence where you will be drinking it (which rules out free camping). Save yourself the hassle and bring it from a city where you will have more variety of choices and the prices will be way cheaper!

That way, whether you have spent the day exploring the outback or a day at the beach, you can end the day with a cheeseboard, your favourite drink and enjoy it out under the stars with the best views.

Tip 4 - Plan your route

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Planning a route for your trip is the best thing you can do ahead of your trip to help you save time and money while on the road. Planning your itinerary is a great way to make sure you don’t miss anything as well as to help create a budget for fuel.

Knowing your route can also help avoid backtracking or taking longer routes and wasting fuel. This is especially true in remote areas where fuel prices are at their ultimate high, and backtracking can put you way over budget.

Using a trip planner like the thl Roadtrip App is a great way to create an itinerary and plan your trip around Australia. This trip planner app allows you to search for caravan parks, free camp spots, dump points (essential if you have a toilet on board), attractions and more, and save them all to create the ultimate travel itinerary so you won't miss a beat.

Tip 5 - Book campsites in advance and travel off peak

Travelling off peak is a great way to save on school holiday premiums. Booking in advance can also bring those costs down further. A few other things to consider when planning times and places to stay:

Avoid school holidays

Avoiding long weekends also means avoiding surcharges. A bonus? The roads are quieter and the campsites are less crowded so it’s easy to nab a site! Check out the Australian school holiday calendar for more information on this year’s school dates to plan around them.

Get off the beaten track

If you can’t avoid the holiday times, try getting off the beaten track into national parks and into the remote parts of Australia.

Travel during off-peak seasons

Warmer months (October-March) are usually busier and the colder months (April-September) are quieter and often cheaper. Pro tip: these winter months are the perfect time to explore the north end of Australia and the outback with a more temperate experience.

Try free camping

Free camps can be found all around Australia and can really help stretch your budget further on a camper trip. Try alternating nights of free camping and enjoy the space offered in these more remote free camp locations.

Tip 6 - Plan for the unexpected

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As you can traverse such varied climates while on a campervan holiday, it’s important to be prepared. One of the best things about van travel is that you have your suitcase with you at all times. That being said, there isn’t infinite storage in a campervan, so it's good to know what essentials to bring. Some things to think about when packing for your trip:

Pack for all weather conditions

It’s a good idea to pack a variety of essentials and clothes for every condition, as Australian weather can change quickly.

Look at what essentials are included onboard

When considering what things you may need, it’s a good idea to check online what’s included in your van before picking up your campervan. Some campervans have certain kitchenware items along with other bits and pieces already.

Plan for downtime

After a few long days of driving and sightseeing, you will probably be ready for some downtime so plan accordingly. A few ideas of things to pack for downtime:

  • Books or Kindle devices
  • Family board games or compact card games
  • Music devices
  • Projector or portable DVD player
  • Sports equipment (consider things like balls and other compact equipment due to the finite storage space in the camper)

Tip 7 - Give the smaller towns a try

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Planning a trip packed full of tourist destinations is a sure way to go over budget while travelling in a campervan. Rather than staying at the most popular place, try planning a route that takes you further out to small Aussie towns.

These remote towns tend to have well-priced eateries, campsites and attractions (not to mention the locals always have the best stories). Weave these in with a few of your ultimate bucket list destinations and you will be sure to have a trip to remember.

Tip 8 - Look for free attractions

There are so many things to see and do in Australia that cost nothing at all! These can be anything from walks, natural attractions, beaches, gardens, and so on. The best way to find these free things to do is to check local council websites and ask at information centres. While free attractions vary from place to place, they may include:

If you are looking for a more personalised experience, be sure to do your research as some places will offer free tours, especially in national parks (e.g. the ranger-led Mala walk at Uluru).

Tip 9 - Beware of fines and fees

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There is nothing worse than a ticket to dull the mood of an otherwise exceptional time away. So there are a few important things to consider when travelling in a campervan to help make sure you fly by without a hitch:

  • Understand the rules of where you can park in your camper.
  • If you’re free camping, be sure that you are following signs and double-checking council regulations for free camping.
  • Check if there are toll bridges, and detour to avoid them (the thl Roadtrip app can help with this).
  • Dispose of rubbish and follow the rules of the area (including free camping) to avoid fines
  • Understand the road rules in Australia and be aware of the speed limit.

Tip 10 - Create a budget and stick to it

Creating a holiday budget is one of the essentials to getting the most out of your campervan trip. Before you head away take some time to decide on how much you want to spend to keep you on track while away. Things to consider in your budget:

  • Fuel costs
  • Food (both eating out and groceries)
  • Gas for cooking
  • Entertainment/experiences
  • Campsite fees
  • Hire costs
  • Toll fees (planning ahead can also help to avoid road tolls - the THL road trip app comes in handy for this!)
  • Insurance

Choosing the right campervan

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Choosing the right campervan can also be a big factor in helping you to save money. Picking the right size for your group will help avoid paying more for what you might not need, so there are a few things to consider:

Bed configuration and space

What kind of space does your family need? Do you want separate sleeping areas? Or are you happy with an intimate set up? Will you spend a lot of time indoors or mostly just inside to sleep?

Where will you be parking up?

Make sure you know where you are staying and what amenities are on site, e.g. are there free toilets and showers, or are you wanting to have them onboard so you can try a mix of free camping etc.

How much storage do you need?

Are you wanting to try hiking, snorkelling, or other activities? Be sure to pick one with enough storage to carry your gear.

Hire a Mighty campervan for your next trip through Australia

There you have it. Those are our top tips for a cheap campervan trip in Australia, helping you get the most value out of your campervan trip.

If you’re looking to rent a van for an upcoming campervan trip be sure to check out all our latest deals and book your Mighty camper today in a branch or online. If you’re looking for more travel inspiration and ways to budget for your trip you can read more on our blog.