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One of the biggest questions we faced when planning to travel Australia is; how much will it cost?

You can dig your way through a million and one articles on this topic and never really get an exact answer. There are just too many factors to consider; How long are you going for? Where are you going? What are you driving? What are you towing? Do you plan to camp free or in parks?  What is the status of your other financial commitments? … and the list goes on.

The most common figures we seen thrown around are $100 per day or $1 per kilometre. These equations are said to cover everything; fuel, accommodation, food, luxuries and activities, as well as other financial commitments and an ‘unexpected costs’ kitty.

We used these figures as a guide to plan out our budget; and being a little family of 3 we were able to come in even a little lower… and better still far lower than our current weekly costs!!

The costs can be divided into two categories; start up and on road. Start up costs comprise of the following:

– The vehicle; do you need to budget for an upgrade or is your current vehicle suitable? Ours was; however, we factored in funds for accessories, maintenance and registration

– The home; once you have the car covered you will need to select your ‘home away from home’ vehicle. With the abundance of options out there from motorhomes & caravans to campervans & camper trailers; saving for this expense can easily become the biggest delay in your trip planning. For us, we had some readily available savings; so, we based vehicle search on the funds we already had. We opted for the camper trailer; we bought local and private with the plan to ‘fit it out’ ourselves.

-Insurance; once we had the above sorted it was obvious to us that these two vehicles will be our livelihood for the duration of our trip so insurance for both and contents they contain was a no brainer. It was easy enough to get quotes for this from insurance websites and their online calculators.

-Equipment; everything from your pots, pans and cooking appliances to your lights, showers and solar panels. These items can range from $1- $1000. If you’re already an established camper or if you’re prepared to take some items from home then you will be able to keep your equipment outlay down. Once we made the decision to travel Australia we started a comprehensive list of what we would need (can be found in our post entitled ‘Our Big Lap Checklist’) and we started chipping away at purchasing items each week, whilst we still had a steady income.

The other thing to start think about in your start up budget is your assets, what you will be doing with them and how will this affect your budget? Are you a home owner, will you sell or rent your home and, will this free up funds? Do you own a second car and, what of your furniture will you be storing these items or selling them too?

For us the best option was to sell our home for a profit that would clear our debt and fund our trip. We also budgeted in annual payments of our other financial commitments (insurances, phone bills and storage); the idea being that this will bring down our on road costs.

Our on road cost estimates comprise of the following:

– Fuel; to calculate this we first approximated that our trip (around the coast with a bit of backtracking and a few inland detours) would be 34,000km; an average of 95kms a day. The current average cost of diesel is about $1.60/L, to which we added a 20% ‘remote area’ loading. Lastly, taking our tow weight into account we estimate that our car will use 15L per 100km. E.g.;

  • $1.60 x 20% > $0.32 = an average of $1.92 per litre
  • $1.92 x 15L = $28.80 per 100km travelled (which basically equates our daily fuel allowance)

– Food; for our grocery estimate we basically took what we currently spend at home, deducted a few ‘non-essentials’ and added a 20% ‘remote area’ loading to play it safe

– Accommodation; at this time our plan is to free Camp the majority of the time however; for the sake of our estimates we based our calculations on:

  • 50% (183 days) Free Camping
  • 25% (91 days) National Parks Camping at $12 per night and,
  • 25% (91 days) Caravan Park Camping at $24 per night

NB: we used the per night figures as set by our ‘Camps Australia Wide 7’ and ‘Budget Camps & Stops Australia’ books

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– Activities & Luxuries; we will not be doing paid activities on a daily basis and basically plan to work with whatever we have left over for such. But, for budget sake we are allowing $20 – $25 per day (keeping in mind our little man is still at an age where his admission will mostly be free)

-Unexpected Costs; when venturing on a long term trip it is inevitable that there are going to be some unexpected costs that you have not planned and budgeted for. Touch wood but, it’s always a possibility that you could break down, require a non-bulk billing doctor, cop a speeding fine etc. As such, it’s wise to have an ‘unexpected costs’ kitty. We made the decision early in our trip planning to have a set amount of funds in a secondary account for ‘resettling’ at the expiration of our journey. We decided that we will ensure this account remains accessible to us for ‘backup’ in the event of any unforseen expenditures.

Lastly, whilst budgeting for your on road costs don’t forget to factor in any income you may be receiving from investments, work or government benefits.

We hope that this  helps a little in answering your ‘how much does it cost to travel around Australia?’ question. Our parting words of wisdom at this point are to do your homework, certainly. BUT, don’t number crunch to hard… if you do you will probably scare yourself rotten, curl up in a ball and never go anywhere!!

Remember, the beauty of a driving holiday is that you set your own pace. Meaning; if one week you find yourself over budget, you can cut costs by free camping and staying put the next.

I’ll leave you now with a few resources we found useful when establishing our budget:

– Steve Baile provides (amongst other great resources) a FREE ‘Big Lap Budget’ spread sheet on his Expedition Australia blog below:

http://www.expeditionaustralia.com.au/2012/09/how-much-does-it-cost-to-drive-around-australia/

– Camps Australia Wide books are the ultimate guide to free and budget accommodation. The RRP is $59.95, we picked ours up in our local BCF. Their website is:

http://www.campsaustraliawide.com/

– For reference on the current fuel prices we used the Australian Institute of Petroleum website:

Diesel: http://www.aip.com.au/pricing/retail/diesel/

ULP: http://www.aip.com.au/pricing/retail/ulp/index.htm

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