No More Excuses…Touring on a Budget
Trent Webster, Editor, Australia
7 October 2018
One of the main things people always say is holding them back from exploring this amazing country is money or lack of. Touring is one of those double-edged swords. Unfortunately, there is no way to get out and about without spending money.
However, when you look at it, fuel and accommodation are generally the only additional things when compared to a normal week at home.

From here… you just need to minimise the gap.

I have been camping and travelling since I got my licence, and over this time I have been refining the process. I’ve put together a few things I have done to minimise what we spend.

Eldee Station, Silverton NSW

Best Sunset in the NSW Outback

Photograph by Not A Gap Year
Look at when you travel

Now, this isn’t always possible, but if you have the flexibility to consider it, whenever possible travel outside of peak times. And make sure you compare state to state when it comes to school holidays. Sometimes there is a week’s difference between the start and finish times of each state, and that can be enough to save some serious money.

We did a trip this year in the last week of the NSW Christmas school holidays to North Stradbroke Island. As the Queensland holidays finished the day before we booked to arrive, the rates had revert back to normal. Even the crowds were down.

Another time to save is winter. We have travelled to so many places during winter only to get there and find out we are the only ones camping there. It can be what makes your trip go from good to amazing.

“Yeah, it can be cold…but nothing beats a campfire to stay warm anyway.”
A million stars are better than 5 stars anyway

Free camp wherever possible. Especially when in transit. If you’re only stopping for dinner and a snooze, then this is an easy way to save money. There are heaps of spots where travellers can pull up safely and sleep for the night. The best part is, 9 times out of 10 unless you are quite remote, there are others who will be doing the same thing. Safety in number makes for a better night’s sleep. Generally, these spots don’t have amenities, so if you have your own it’s a bonus, but if not, don’t stress, just use the ones at a nearby shopping centre or service centre until you get to your next major stop.

Some of the smaller communities actually have set up areas around their rural fire stations, and for a gold coin donation, you can stay there for the night. Some now even have amenities blocks. Also, check rural showgrounds for a similar setup. Just remember, these are usually an honesty box system, and the money you put in is for a good cause.

Embrace technology

Apps, blogs even Facebook groups are an endless source of travel reviews and useful information when planning your escape.

One of the best apps we have found would have to be WikiCamps – if you don’t have this app you need to get it. It is one of our touring essentials.

It’s simply a database of campsites all around Australia. From free camps to farm stays, travellers rest stops to caravan parks, even national parks are listed. Every site is shown on a map and has reviews from other travellers as well as lists of what services it has to offer (Amenities/water/even if you get phone reception).

We use this app as we travel and have found some cracking spots. It has saved us hundreds of dollars on some trips.

Eurimbula Creek Campground QLD

$26.20 per family/night – $60/night cheaper than the closest campground…1000 times better site

Photograph by Not A Gap Year
Dare to be different

Explore the national parks and recreation reserves. If you are reasonably self-sufficient, then there are big savings to be made if you stay in national parks over traditional camping grounds. Most of the states government websites will give you good details around what is there, if you need to take water, and most now even have allocated sites so it’s not a risk to get there and not have somewhere to set up. As they are growing in popularity, national parks authorities have even been increasing the number of places that have amenities and BBQ facilities. Even though the showers are usually cold and the toilets just droppers, they are surprisingly well maintained considering their locations.

Make take away your treat not the norm.

When you’re feeding a family, even the old golden arches becomes an expensive outing.

Instead of just jumping into the drive-through lane, we have taken to finding a shady spot to pull over and make lunch. Not only does it save money but it gets you out of the car to stretch your legs and this is a good habitat to get into for safe travelling. It also doubles as a good time for the kids to burn off some energy.

Even the costs of your daily coffee add up quickly. When we built the trailer (and the truck to be honest) we made allowance for an inverter. This allows us to grab our little Nespresso coffee machine from the kitchen at home and take it with us. Nice coffee in the middle of nowhere…it doesn’t get much better.

Roadside coffees at Mosman Gorge
Shop Smarter

Pack for the duration of your trip, not the apocalypse. When we first started travelling we had so much stuff we didn’t eat. Its then bought usually squashed and put back in the cupboard. Now, we look at the duration, write a list of meals, get those, plus a few spare bits and pieces and that’s it.

Fruit and veggies are always hard to travel with. The supermarket stuff spoils so quickly, especially if it’s not kept cold. We run a fridge and a freezer, so we travel with frozen vegetables and then just keep our fruit in the fridge. Where possible, when we are travelling through country areas we try to buy local fruit and veggies from a roadside stall/farm gate. These guys don’t refrigerate their stuff, so it will last longer. And normally…it tastes better too!!

Lastly, if you are doing long trips, or are just squeezed for space, try and plan to restock only when you get to the bigger cities/towns. The remote guys have additional costs they have to cover, so of course, it is passed on to you. Staples aren’t always too much more expensive, but convenience foods are another story.

Know your vehicle

Fuel is always one of our biggest expenses. So, any savings you can make are going to be worthwhile. I’m not talking about modifications to your vehicle, think simpler than that.

Do a few comparisons at different speeds and compare the fuel usage. A few kilometres an hour can make a huge difference in fuel economy. Especially when you are towing.

Same can be said for tyre pressure. It might be tedious but think about adjusting your pressures back up to highway pressures when you hit the tar after long stints on the dirt. It not only gives you a break from driving, but it can also save you a few bucks.

I’m pretty anal about this kind of things, so on our last trip to the Cape when I noticed a jump in fuel economy I decided it was time to pull things apart and see why. I found that the air filter was pretty well a stuffed. I Swapped it out with the spare we carry and away we went. The fuel economy dropped about 2L/100km.

Cape York Australia
Photograph by Not A Gap Year
Work with what you have

Every time we plan a trip we do it in reverse. We go to the furthest point and then work back from there. That way, we know the worst-case scenario in regard to costs. You can adjust from there to suit your budget.

Another thing we have found works well for us to help cover long distances, especially when we know we are say a week short in what time we have compared to what we think the trip needs, is to divide and conqueror. What we have found works well is to look for the cheapest flights to a capital city that is a couple of thousand kilometres into our journey. We then book flights for Mel and the kids. I will then leave a couple of days before the rest of the family and put in a few big days driving. I can cover about double the distance per day by myself. We might spend a few hundred dollars on flights, but what we save in time and accommodation quickly makes this a viable option.

Weigh in

You will be surprised at how little gear you actually use when you’re touring. The best way I found to refine the process of packing is to write a list. Keep it handy on your trip, and then tick off what you use. Keep the same list for 3 or 4 trips. At the end of the fourth trip when you are at home take everything out. Only the stuff you used on your list goes back in. This could be as simple as only a dozen pegs rather than 2 dozen. But if our experience is anything to go by, I would be surprised if you couldn’t leave about a quarter of your stuff behind.

Other things to consider are, just because you have a place for two jerry cans, two 9kg gas bottles and 300L of water do you really need to take it? If your fuel stops are only 300km apart chances are you don’t need to carry all that extra fuel. If you are only going for a week, do you need 2 gas bottles? Same with water…maybe only fill the tank half way?

Even look at your tools and spares. If you don’t need them…leave them at home. I even went through and took out all the spanners that I knew we didn’t need.

Even if you can drop even a hundred kilograms you’re in front straight away.

All these things are changes you can look at making when planning your trip and they won’t cost you anything more than your time. Chances are…they will save you a few dollars, and that might mean you are able to do that bucket list trip after all.

Safe Travels



Finding The Pines in
Barrington Tops
Island hopping in
South East Queensland
Following the Tele Track
to Cape York