Before we left for our Lap of Australia, we’d been very interested in what it would cost to travel Australia, and had seen a heap of comments from other people doing the lap. We’d also done extensive travels in the past and had a pretty good idea of how things go.
That said, things have changed a lot and prices have skyrocketed for a lot of things, so adding up the figures from our first 100 days on the road was still an interesting experience, with the end result somewhere around what we’d expected ($794 per week), and in the scheme of things extremely good.
So, when someone asked recently on social media if its possible to travel around Australia with 2 adults and 2 kids for $800 a week, I was keen to read the responses.
Can you travel Australia on $800 a week?
The overwhelming majority of people commented and said no, you absolutely cannot. There were some pretty blunt, and even rude comments suggesting that sort of figure is ludicrous, and I was quite surprised.
There were some saying its possible, and a couple of people saying they are doing it for that much, or even less, but a lot of people were saying $1000 – $1600 per week is as low as they could get it.
Given we’ve done our first 100 days (without being as frugal as we could be), at around $800 a week, I was left to wonder how our travelling expenses can be so different to others. I even said to Sarah, surely we added the figures up properly?!
I’m positive we did, and when we release our next 100 day cost, which we will keep doing it will be interesting to see how much it changes.
Now, I don’t feel there is a right, or a wrong way to travel around Australia. If you do it for $1500 a week and have the time of your life, that’s amazing. If you do it for $800 a week and love the travel lifestyle that’s awesome too; how much you spend is not a competition, but I was left seriously wondering how there can be such a discrepancy. Obviously there are a huge number of variables, and I want to cover some of them below, and give my thoughts.
In our mind though, it is possible to travel Australia on $800 a week, and I’d bet my left kidney that there are a huge number of people doing it for less (and sometimes much less) than that.
How long are you travelling for?
The biggest factor that I can see influencing cost per week to travel Australia is the time frame in which you have to do it. I’ve seen people do a ‘lap of Australia’ in 3 months, and I’ve seen others who do just 12,000km in 12 months (and some do even less).
In many ways, a lap of Australia has a fixed cost, and you can use that in a short period of time, or you can extend it hugely and spread the cost out. If you are going to do 30,000km in 6 months, its going to cost you a LOT more in fuel each week than it would if you did the same kilometres over 2 years.
The end result is similar in terms of fuel cost (unless they go crazy again), but your cost per week for fuel alone is going to be vastly different.
We read of people who were spending north of $500 a week in fuel, and that is WAY more than what we spend. Some of it comes down to the next point, but a lot of it is purely how many kilometres you are doing on average each day.
We move fairly slowly, and explore as much as we can in each area before moving on. We could travel faster but our kids wouldn’t enjoy it as much (and then neither would we), and as a result our low kilometres each day (averaging just 86) means we have a low fuel bill. We’re only averaging about $26 a day in fuel, or $180 a week, which is pretty low.
What are you travelling in?
The next thing that makes a world of difference is the travel setup, with the primary issue being fuel consumption, but also maintenance and the level of self sufficiency that your setup has.
Our fuel consumption seems to sit between 14 and 15L/100km, with a mix of towing and not towing. If you had a fuel efficient 2WD vehicle and you weren’t towing anything, you’d get that down to 10L/100km fairly easily, and even lower in some cases.
We actually met a Tesla owner at Nanutarra Roadhouse that was driving around Australia, and he’d paid for virtually no power for the last 1500km, but that’s another story.
On the flip side, if you have a big caravan, you will be using a lot more fuel. There’s plenty of people averaging 24L/100km, and sometimes even more, and that means you are going to be paying a lot more to travel the same distance.
At 10L/100km, you are looking at somewhere around the $200 per 1000 kilometres. At 24L/100km, you are looking at somewhere around the $480 per 1000 kilometres. That’s a massive increase and explains how some families struggle to get their expenses down. You are literally battling against physics, and that never ends well.
It does however, give merit to ensuring that you have a fuel efficient travel setup if you want to save money travelling around Australia.
Going back to the self sufficiency side of things, there are a lot of vans that don’t even have a 12V system, which means people jump from caravan park to caravan park each night, and pay the exorbitant rates that many are charging now.
You don’t need much to camp off grid, and if you do, you can save yourself a fortune each night by avoiding paying premium prices at caravan parks for things that you don’t really need.
How much tourist ‘stuff’ are you interested in?
There’s a lot of amazing things to see and do in Australia. There’s also a huge number of things that cost money to see and do, and some of them know how to charge. If you do every single tourist thing that you see, you will blow a ginormous amount of money.
Just being in the tourist hot spots almost guarantees that you’ll spend additional money, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, I like to be aware, and to justify our purchases. We’ve done plenty of nice experiences on our lap of Australia already, but we’ve also turned a lot down, and we explain this to the kids as well.
What are you including in your expenses?
This next point fascinates me, as there are a huge number of people who are doing the lap of Australia and reporting their expenses, but you don’t always know what is being included in the costs.
I think fuel, registration, insurance (for your trailer and vehicle only), maintenance, breakdowns, food, camping costs, additional clothing, haircuts, medicine, doctors appointments and other random expenses should be included, and are very relevant.
I question why you’d include health insurance, income protection, house rates, mortgage repayments, second vehicles at home, house insurance and some of the other interesting additions that I’ve seen. Yes, they are an expense to you, and I guess you can argue it’s a cost you paid while travelling Australia, but its not directly related to travelling Australia, and more importantly, its completely and utterly irrelevant to other people.
My mortgage repayment is going to be vastly different to yours, and perhaps we don’t have health insurance, but you do? How is it helpful if you include your at home costs if they are irrelevant to mine?
You’ve got to compare apples with apples, and I appreciate reading costs to travel Australia that are written with as much detail as possible, so you can actually work out what is applicable, and not.
What are you prepared to pay for camping?
I read a huge number of comments from people saying that they were paying $100 a night for camp sites for months on end, and it blew my mind. On the very rare occasion we could be (with much force) convinced to spend that sort of money on camp sites, but not on a regular basis.
Honestly, I’d pay $50 to a stranger in suburbia to camp on their front lawn for the night than spend that sort of money paying for a patch of grass.
I get so upset hearing caravan parks say they’ll charge $20 each night extra for our two kids, and just that is enough to make me move on to somewhere else. Some of the tourist hot spots are incredibly expensive (particularly in school holidays), but if that is the case, we’ll either skip them, or we’ll head inland to more suitable camp sites.
We won’t be paying $100 a night for a caravan park, I can guarantee you that. Honestly, we’ll do almost anything to avoid that sort of money.
How much do you spend on alcohol?
Apologies in advance if this upsets anyone, but its a major factor. Alcohol costs a huge chunk of money, and many people travelling Australia spend a substantial amount of money (several thousand dollars) on alcohol each year, and that hurts the old budget badly.
We’re in the fortunate position to not drink alcohol, and we stick to the odd juice box for the kids, and mixing soda water with lemon lime, or grapefruit essence, on rare occasions. We don’t even really buy Coke or other soft drinks.
It’s a lifestyle, not a holiday
A lot of people who head off into the sunset on their lap of Australia do it with the mentality that they are on one big holiday. Whilst you can do this, the attraction soon wears off, and this is especially the case when you log onto your banking system and see what its been costing you.
Life on the road doesn’t have to be fancy, and you soon realise that you can live a pretty simple, and quiet life and have an amazing time. Those who treat their lap of Australia as a lifestyle tend to save a bucket load of cash over those who treat it as a holiday!
You can save a bucket load of money on food
Food is expensive. There’s no denying that, and its not gotten any cheaper in the last couple of years. If you have older kids, you will be spending even more on food, and trying to find the balance between ease of food, price and health is not always a battle you win.
Sarah does an amazing job at keeping our food bill down, and we are generally set up to travel for 2 weeks at a time without seeing a shop, except for milk and bread. If a particular food is expensive, we just skip it and get something else.
We don’t buy organic only, or live on junk food, but make a conscious effort to eat as well as possible, and do fairly well. We almost never eat packet pasta, or pre made food, and buy in bulk, freeze what we can and almost never throw left overs out.
It’s possible to travel Australia on a shoestring budget
There are couples travelling Australia on a pension, and that is much less than $800 per week. You can travel Australia on a shoestring budget if that’s what you want (or you need) to do, so don’t let people tell you otherwise.
I met a couple just the other week who told me they left Victoria in the middle of the lock downs and so on that were happening around the country with their two 15 year old boys, and they travelled for 11 months all the way around Australia for just $550 per week.
They said they did it as cheap as they possibly could, but it just shows that it is absolutely possible to travel Australia on $800 a week, and we’ll continue to share our cost updates in due course, with the next one due in mid April.
Have you done any long term travel in Australia? Do you think it can be done on $800 a week?