How to Blow Your Budget on a Road Trip Around Australia

How to Blow Your Budget on a Road Trip Around Australia

‘How to Blow Your Budget on a Road Trip Around Australia’… now there’s a title I didn’t ever want to be writing. I really would rather write a post on ‘How to Spend the Millions Left to You as an Inheritance by a Long Lost Great Uncle’. But alas, my knowledge base is firmly in the ‘how to blow your budget’ camp, so that’s what we’ve got.

I’ll show you how we did it, so that you can follow in our footsteps. Oh, NO! I mean, so that you can learn from our mistakes and avoid having to face this same situation for yourselves.

Just a heads up: this is looong post, I’ve got a lot to say on the topic of our expenses and the lessons that we’ve learnt in our very short time on the road. So grab yourself a cuppa, or a glass of French bubbles (only the best dahh-ling) and get ready to read about our bumbles on this journey.

The Budget

Okay, so you may remember in my previous posts I detailed how we were saving for our trip and what our weekly budget is. For a quick recap, the budget is (was) $623 per week to include camping fees, food, fuel and sightseeing/spending money. Other one off expenses like car or trailer maintenance, insurance etc were covered separately.

In my last post updating our budget I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were pretty much on track for our living expenses. We were coming in at about $600 per week, sometimes a bit more and sometimes a bit less.

Yeah, it’s not like that anymore.  We’ve been on the road for a full 12 weeks now and have settled more into the way that we like to travel.

So cutting straight to the chase, here’s what our numbers look like on a week by week basis. (I’ve tried a gazillion ways of displaying this data, so I hope this makes sense to people).

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - How To Blow Your Budget On A Road Trip Around Australia - we have a budget with the best intention of keeping to it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way. This is how we managed to completely blow our budget and some takeaways of how to prevent it happening to you.
FYI – the numbers in red brackets show how much we were OVER budget for that week.

Of course, the devil is in the details huh. So I’ll break it down week by week so you can see exactly what the big overspends were on.

Week 1 – Port Macquarie – Fingal Heal, NSW

Ben & Michelle's Road Trip Around Australia - Yuraygir National Park - July 2017

Under budget: $10

Things are off to a good start. Without even thinking about it we already know that camping fees are going to be higher than we’ve budgeted for but we’re okay with that, I mean, we’ve only just started so we’re giving ourselves some leeway to settle into things.

Week 2 – Fingal Head NSW – Gladstone QLD

Ben & Michelle's Road Trip Around Australia - Still trying to sort stuff out - Gladstone - July 2017Under budget: $10

Still doing well because we’re not driving too far (about three hours driving, every three days or so) and not doing any of the touristy stuff (we’ve been here before so we didn’t need or want to do the Gold Coast or the theme parks) so it’s helping to keep costs in line.

Week 3 – Gladstone – Molongle Beach QLD

Under budget: $153

Ditto to the previous weeks. Just finding our way and taking our time.

 

Week 4 – Molongle Beach – Townsville QLD

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - Townsville

Under budget: $19

Yeah, same, same.

 

Week 5 – Townsville – Cairns – Ravenshoe QLD

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - Getting Into The GrooveOver budget: $218

And look, it only took us five weeks to go over our budget, and it’s a doozy. :-O

It’s actually because our Telstra bill was due and that was $140. The Telstra billing is a pain, they bill in arrears and if you add any data packs during the month (which we do) then that gets billed… I dunno when… I just pay the bill when it’s due.

We also overspent on food, it was a couple of takeaways, lunch with a friend and a couple of sneaky snacks and coffees.

Week 6 – Ravenshoe QLD

Ravenshoe Railway Caravan Park - we stayed at the Ravenshoe Railway Caravan Park for nine days and the did the waterfall circuit (driving) while we were there.

Under budget: $255

Look what happens when we don’t have to spend $25 per night on a caravan park. Since we stayed put in Ravenshoe, did free sightseeing in the area and only paid $10 per night, it was easy to stay within our budget.

Week 7 – Ravenshoe – Normanton QLD

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - Things Get Interesting - this week we drove the road from hell and covered a huge amount of kilometres in the process

Over budget: $373

Holy guacamole! That got outta hand real quick!

The big kahuna was paying for two tours that we did; Undarra Lava Tubes ($88 each) and Cobbold Gorge ($89 each). Also adding to the costs was the big shop we did at Atherton Woolworths before going remote, which did help to keep food costs in hand in the following couple of weeks.

Week 8 – Normanton QLD – Darwin NT

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - Things Get Interesting - this week we drove the road from hell and covered a huge amount of kilometres in the process

Over budget: $237

Travelling large distances coupled with high diesel prices has tripled our diesel costs. From averaging $106 on diesel per week to a massive $309 for Week 8, has blown the budget. Camping is more expensive too.

Week 9 – Darwin – Alice Springs NT

Over budget: $285

And the money keeps pouring out of our bank account. Fuel is the killer, as you can see; and continued high prices for caravan parks. We also spent some money on buying two diesel jerry cans and another duvet (for the chilly Alice Springs nights).

Week 10 – Alice Springs – Uluru NT – Port Augusta SA

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - The Week of Bigs... incl Big Car Trouble - This week was big, in many senses of the word, big drives, big scenery, big rocks, big carparks, big car troubles...Over budget: $252

Same again, diesel (our highest spend of $345 in one week) and paying for the sightseeing at Uluru and Coober Pedy.

 

Week 11 – Port Augusta – Adelaide SA

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - Slowing Down - After a fantastic few weeks in the outback we're slowing down in order to give our budget a chance to recover, and to catch up on posts and to stay long enough in one place to enjoy it! #roadtriparoundAustralia #chalkscampOver budget: $22

Phew! We’ve almost returned to some kind of normal and can breathe a sigh of relief that we’ve finally had a week where our budget hasn’t been blown completely out of the water.

Well actually… the Telstra data bill is gonna be horrendous in a few weeks. We ran out of data about half way through the month, but we thought that rather than buy extra data packs, we would try really hard to limit our data usage and just pay $10 per extra gig that we used.

Ahem. We used an extra 11Gb. Yeah, we won’t be doing that again.

Week 12 – Adelaide SA

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - How To Blow Your Budget On A Road Trip Around Australia - we have a budget with the best intention of keeping to it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way. This is how we managed to completely blow our budget and some takeaways of how to prevent it happening to you.Under budget: $300

Ahhh, breathe a BIG sigh of relief…

Upcoming Plans

Week 13+

We’re currently staying in the Mt Crawford Forest Reserve in the Adelaide Hills, where an unpowered site is $20 per week. The camping is open until 1st December when the fire danger increases so they close the park until April.

Ummm, we’re thinking of staying here until the park closes at the end of November. Seriously. It’s idyllic here; we’ve made friends with Maggie the magpie (now known as Betty… ‘I can call you Betty, Betty when you call me, you can call me Al…’), we’ve got a fantastic spot nestled among the pine forest on one side and red gums on the others, and have I mentioned it’s only $20 per week?

There’s heaps of walking trails around here, it IS the Barossa Valley so wine tasting MUST be done, and the weather is quite pleasant here at the moment. Okay, it is a little cool, but I can handle that a lot better than I can handle too hot.

Lessons Learnt

So what are the takeaways from all this talk of money and spending lots of it?

1.     Free Camping

Free or cheap camping is a MUST if you want to keep your costs down. We’ve been crap at this and it’s shown in every single week of our expenses. Week 6, where we paid $10 per night in Ravenshoe, and Week 12 where we paid $20 per week in Adelaide, are the ONLY times where we came in below budget for camping.

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - The Week of Bigs... incl Big Car Trouble - This week was big, in many senses of the word, big drives, big scenery, big rocks, big carparks, big car troubles...
Our favourite camp so far. And it’s free.

We’ve found free camping to be a little trickier than we had anticipated, but I’ve written a post about why we didn’t free camp sooner here.

2.     Move sloooowly

Without a doubt, the speed at which we travelled through the centre of Australia contributed to our high expenses. Not only is fuel expensive but, since we were driving such huge distances each day, we were filling up a lot more. We do have an extra 20L jerry can of diesel but we’re loathe to use it just to save some money, when it’s purpose is for emergencies.

The main reason we were moving so fast is the temperature. We were not really coping with the heat so we just wanted to see the main sites and keep moving. So on that note, the next takeaway is:

3.     Better planning of seasons / temperatures

We thought we were pretty clever going through the outback in September; being the shoulder season there is a dramatic reduction in traveller numbers at the caravan parks, on the roads and at the sights. At first we were a little bemused at why there is a mass exodus at the end of August, but as the days heated up things became much clearer to us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not unbearably hot. Probably those that are not overweight and unfit and have a reasonable tolerance to heat will be totally fine and love it. Not so for us. While it wasn’t horrific, the hardest part for us was that we couldn’t get any reprieve from the heat except to go for a drive. So that’s what we did.

Maybe if you’re a bit concerned about the heat, then you should plan your trip for June/July/August. I reckon if you’ve got a caravan with air con you could just stay at powered sites and you’d be totally fine.

4.     A caravan

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - The Perfect Little Caravan - this little caravan has all the features that I would love to have in a van but in the smallest package that I've ever seen (and I like small).
This is the one I’d like…

We’re both very keen on getting a caravan next. We want to keep doing this kind of lifestyle for a lot longer yet and we feel that a caravan will help us manage our costs. We’d be able to (and feel more comfortable) doing a lot more free camping because we wouldn’t have to set up a tent and we’d have a toilet on board. And we’d make sure to get a caravan with air con so that when we’re in hot regions, we can pay for a powered site so that we can have the air con on, and stay in the region for a bit longer.

So how are we going to get back on budget?

Well, we’re pretty happy with where we are staying at the moment. As I mentioned before, we’re seriously considering staying around here, or at one of the other forest reserves in the area, right up until they close at the end of November. If we can keep our expenses to about $400 for the next couple of weeks that will help immensely. It’s not like we’re sitting here twiddling our thumbs though, there’s lots of walks and wine (!) and catching up on the blog to be done. As well as some brain storming of how to make some money (online) without having to go back to regular jobs.

Oh, by the way, we’ve got no regrets about our budget blowouts. Basically, it costs what it costs and there’s nothing we’ve spent money on that we’re wishing we didn’t. This post is about letting others know what you can do to manage your costs if you’re planning on doing your own road trip around Australia.

What do you guys think?

Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - How To Blow Your Budget On A Road Trip Around Australia - we have a budget with the best intention of keeping to it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way. This is how we managed to completely blow our budget and some takeaways of how to prevent it happening to you. Ben & Michelle - Road Trip Around Australia - How To Blow Your Budget On A Road Trip Around Australia - we have a budget with the best intention of keeping to it, but sometimes it just doesn't happen that way. This is how we managed to completely blow our budget and some takeaways of how to prevent it happening to you.

AuthorMichelle

Michelle is the half of the duo that is planning everything to the n'th degree, making sure that we're on budget and waving excitedly to any, and all, animals.

19 replies to How to Blow Your Budget on a Road Trip Around Australia

  1. Excellent post. Thank you for putting it together! It was an easy read and good to get some feedback from someone who has done it 🙂

    Hope that you keep finding great places to stay!

    Sean

    • Thanks Sean! 🙂

  2. Thanks Michelle. Great info. And remember to keep waving excitedly at the animals. 🙂
    Janette

    • Haha! Will do, Janette. The problem is, sometimes I get a bit too excited, and I started clapping… and it frightens them away. :-O Hehe

  3. Great read… we are nearly at the end of our 6 month lap with 2 kids and a husband that cares not for saving money where he can… luckily he has been on annual and long service leave so a wage still coming in has supported our ‘holiday mode’ spending!!! One thing I will say if you get a van (and great choice on your dream van – we have a New Age Big Red) is that your accommodation costs will creep up because if there is the hint if warm weather around you take the convenient option of powered sites so you can use your aircon. Trust me, we know lol.

    Sounds like you are having a ball… all the best for the rest of your travels!

    • Thanks Bec! Yeah, I’ve been following you on facebook, looks like you’ve had a fantastic time. (Although I had serious doubts about following you while you were posting all those pics of crabs and oysters galore. I was salivating all over my keyboard.. it was getting messy! :-O)
      Hmmm, fair warning about the powered sites for air con thanks… the way I was feeling while we were up north, I’m pretty sure that would easily become a problem for me!

  4. Great post. I love the way you you keep it simple.
    Des

    • Thank you, Des 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing, Michelle. It’s interesting you are thinking of a caravan. Many others post about downsizing, mostly to do with towing weight costly.

    Looking forward to your next post.
    Fiona

    • Thanks Fiona. 🙂 I gotta admit… not having any drama with towing is awesome. Our fuel economy is great (less than 12L per 100kms) and our car barely notices the trailer. I think it’s just that we want more comfort because we want this to be our life (at least for a couple of years) and not just a holiday. While we want a caravan, we want as little as possible while still having all the things that are important to us. Don’t want much huh! 😉

  6. Wow thanks for the info you are super organised and your budget is pretty good for two people.

    • Oh, thank you Kathy. 🙂

  7. Great read! We’re setting of January 2019 so i love reading things like this! Excited to read your othe blogs x

    • Yay, that’s so exciting Laura! The waiting and planning (and saving) can seem endless but it’ll all be worth it! 🙂

  8. Love this post Michelle & the fact you have recorded your budget details. We have been travelling Australia for nearly 12 months. And we relate to many of your comments. Luckily for us we coped really well with the heat. But we have a caravan & if it was too hot we got a powered site. We free camped about a third of the time. But we have had to really think about our expenses and what we really wanted to spend money on. But we have enjoyed the most amazing trip. Stopping in one place for a while eases the budget and gives you a rest from the road.

  9. My lap is years away, but its good to learn for those that have gone before. I think getting accurate costs and setting the budget is one of the last thing to do when planning process can take years.
    It seems to be an obvious start point “how much will it cost and what will I need”.
    After deciding to do a lap, I immediately downloaded a budget sheet and a packing list. It would be good to keep them for reference and see how close it is to the expected costs when I finally set off.

    Your average is $676 which doesn’t look too bad vs $623, but thats $50/week. Week 9 ($908) was extreme and you dont want many of those.

    • Hi Ron, thanks for reminding me of that; I was freaking out a bit as we had more and more weeks over budget. But you’re right, our average isn’t too bad, so as long as we have the cheap weeks to balance out the expensive weeks, it’ll all pan out in the end.
      I hope you enjoy this planning and preparing stage; for me, that was half the excitement!
      All the best, Michelle 🙂

  10. Hi Michelle, your spot on with what you’ve said- we started our trip 3 months ago and(stupidly) did the bottom half of the country first(cold)! We are lucky that we’ve got a van with Reverse cycle A/C and your right the option of having it makes you go the powered site over the cheaper alternative- it took us until crossing the nullabor to do our first free camp!

    Now we are on the WA coast and the weather is warming up we can free/low cost camp a lot more- hopefully 4 out of 7 days- our budget was 500 a week and I think we’ve only come I under twice in 13 weeks- we are averaging about 750 a week.

    The caravan over camp trailer is a good option- we used to have a camp trailer and I hated the set up pack up- the ease of a caravan is huge- we have a pop top and if it’s only an overnighter we are good to go in 2minutes!

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • Thanks for you comment, Matt. I’m jealous of your caravan!! But, I do remember to stop myself from getting jealous too much; we’re on a trip of a lifetime and I’d still much rather be doing this than living in the grandest mansion but having to go to work everyday.
      I’m really looking forward to when we cross the Nullabor!
      Safe travels 🙂

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