Want to know how to Travel Australia for less? The kilometres may be getting more expensive to cover, but these 5 thrifty tricks are guaranteed to save you money and drive your Aussie road trip further.
Travel Australia in the off-season
Ever rocked up to a Broome caravan park in winter without a booking or tried to snare a beachfront campsite in Byron Bay at Christmas? It’s chock-a-block in Daintree once the wet season dries up and not even a bunch of crocodiles on the beach can shake off the backpackers!
There’s no way around it, peak season travel in Australia is problematic, no matter how far off the beaten track you head. The crowds, the noise, the inflated campground fees all point to planning adventures when everyone else is back at work.
No, it’s not a mad camper’s dream, this is off-season travel baby!
The pluses? By going against the flow, you’ll enjoy discounted camping fees and travel deals, but fewer travellers around means there’s always hot water in the showers, you get to choose your pick of campsites, there’s firewood around and gas in the barbecue, and most heavenly of all, a roll of loo paper still hangs in the toilet.
Out bush, campgrounds are quiet, luring wildlife that little bit closer, and you can actually hear the evening critters without a symphony of generators humming. No, it’s not a mad camper’s dream, this is off-season travel baby!
Make your rig self-sufficient
To maximise your time off the grid, stay longer away from holiday parks and save yourself big bucks, amp up your onboard power supply by installing as many solar panels as your rig needs (including a mobile panel so you can park in the shade and stick the panel in the sun). Consider investing in a micro wind generator (perfect for moody off-season weather) and most definitely wire up a generous bank of deep cycle batteries.
Reduce your power drain by switching to LED lights, installing the most energy-efficient white goods you can afford, insulating your rig (or yourselves) against the cold and heat, and replacing the seals on your fridge and freezer. To stretch your precious water supply, install low-flow taps and water-saving showerheads in your en suite, and ensure your greywater tank is large enough to accommodate prolonged stays in free and low-cost camping areas.
Sleep cheap & play for free
Free camping when your travel Australia saves you money every day and once you vacate the hectic East Coast, you’ll discover a diverse network of free and low-cost rest areas, community camps and state forest campgrounds that provide scenic places to stay. In some states, national park camps are a budget-busting choice: the NT charges a tiny $3.30-$6.60 per adult for many camps (half-price for kids and family rates too), in Queensland it’s $6.15 per person, and you can still find freebies off the beaten track in NSW and Victoria too.
Tassie’s blissful Bay of Fires is utterly free for month-long stays and in nearby Freycinet National Park, you can free-camp for up to two weeks in the big camping nooks at Friendly Beaches. Unless you are old-school like me and still use hardcopy guidebooks, the best way to track down free camps is via a free camping app like wikicamps.com.au, or your vehicle’s navigation unit.
Large holiday park chains such as Big 4,Top Tourist Parks and Family Parks offer 10% discounts to club members for fees of around $40 – $50 (2-year membership). These memberships can work well for long-term travellers but you should check park locations and facilities before signing up (some do not allow pets). Be aware: the amount you save is often capped at around $40 per stay, so these memberships work out best on short stays.
Motoring association membership cards, seniors cards (www.seniorscard.com.au) and pension concession cards attract discounts on a wide range of products, services, national park and holiday park stays, so don’t be shy in flashing your card and you’ll save up to 10%.
When planning your travels, search regional online calendars and free travel publications for fun, low-cost events that are not to be missed: rodeos, horse races, music festivals, art exhibitions, town shows and markets.
If travelling to any major Aussie national park during our school holidays or over the peak winter months, join the free, ranger-led walks, talks and activities on offer, and scour local travel guides for discount coupons that will save you money on everything from fuel and meals to boat cruises and wildlife park admissions, scenic flights and snorkelling trips.
Tap into free Wi-Fi
You can make huge data savings by seeking out free Wi-Fi zones as you travel Australia, and putting off your daily Facebook fix until you hit those spots. A surprising number of local Aussie shires and city councils offer free public Wi-Fi, sometimes limited to popular recreation zones or centrally located malls, but there are some great surprises too.
On the Warlu Way in WA’s Pilbara region, free, solar-powered Wi-Fi is available at 18 Welcome Rest Stops – free overnight and day-use areas – located between Exmouth and Port Hedland, and from Karratha to Karijini National Park. Tourist information centres can tell you where to find free Wi-Fi, but generally, libraries, shopping centres, fast food outlets, and some pubs, bars and cafes are good bets.
Stock up & slow down
Fuel is a major expense when you travel Australia so squirrel away those discount vouchers and haul a couple of jerry cans to get you through those stretches of road where prices skyrocket. Although we love to hate them, the big supermarket chains offer great fuel savings, but better yet, you can use their vouchers at many independent servos too. Similarly, stockpile lower priced food, vehicle spares and other supplies to avoid being hit with inflated prices off the beaten track.
Vehicles use up to 25% less fuel travelling at 90 km/h than 110km/h, so lifting your foot can slash your expenses. But slowing down in the big picture means covering shorter distances each day and staying longer to enjoy free camping areas and the company of fellow free-gans who can usually be counted upon to share details of their top secret spots. You’ll save on fuel every single day and really get a feel for the Australia you set out to see.