Travelling around Australia on a budget with a campervan

Australia is an incredible country to explore, so it’s crazy that so many of us spend our holidays (and our hard-earned cash) overseas.

Many people assume that hopping on a flight to Thailand or Bali makes for a much cheaper break than anything to be found on our own soil – and in some ways, they’re right.

But there’s one exception. It’s called the campervan holiday. And it’s possibly the best kept travel budgeting secret around.

Read on for our guide to thrifty travel, the campervan way.

A hotel that goes with you

Why get a campervan? One word: accommodation. With the average hotel room in Australia costing around $188, any holiday budget balloons with any trip that’s longer than a few days, even if you stay in budget motels.

A campervan, or motorhome, is essentially a hotel that goes with you – your transport and accommodation in one. And while it might not include buffet breakfast or a minibar, an upscale model may surprise you, with clever use of space creating impressive storage solutions – and some even including toilet and shower facilities.

Best of all, the longer you’re away with a campervan, the more you save. Which is a good excuse to max out your leave.

Buy or rent?

Of course, you’ll need to find your campervan in the first place. Here you have two options: buy or rent.

Purchasing a campervan can cost from around $70,000 new, or from about $15,000 used – plus, of course, your insurance and maintenance costs.

To put that into perspective, if you get the most basic used model, you’ll want to spend at least 80-100 nights sleeping in your campervan instead of a standard hotel room in order to break even.

If you get something more luxe, then you’ll want to have a major road trip planned – breaking even means spending at least a few years, over the lifetime of your purchase, sleeping in the campervan on the road.

Of course, you don’t need to buy a campervan to save with one. With rentals available from as little as $500 a week, you’ll save money on accommodation even if it’s just a short trip. Best of all, you don’t need to worry about maintenance or depreciation – just remember to factor in your fuel costs.

Get out your notepad

A campervan trip requires a bit of planning.

Overnight, you can’t just park it anywhere, but need a designated area, such as a campground or approved parking area – and some of these carry a cost ($25 per night plus, and up to $40 for a powered site.) You’ll also want a bathroom block and showers available nearby, for obvious reasons.

The logistics may seem fiddly, but compared with a standard holiday where you’ll need to align flights and hotel bookings, a campervan road trip offers a real taste of freedom.

Save on food

Another benefit over hotel holidays? The fact that you won’t need to eat out (unless, of course, you want to).

Many vans include cooking facilities and mini fridges, which means you can save plenty per person, per meal – especially if you’re stopping at a campsite with a full kitchen or public BBQ available.

$20 for a questionable pub burger, versus about $5 per person on the ingredients, is a financial no-brainer. Plus, it’ll probably be healthier, and taste better too.

The final tally

You’ll need to do the maths to figure out whether a campervan holiday makes financial sense for you. But of course, there’s more to the decision than dollars.

The whole experience of a road trip holiday is entirely different to the standard fly-and-stay approach. You’ll see things you never saw otherwise. You’ll experience the tiny towns barely on the map and meet people from all walks of life. And you’ll no doubt have some truly memorable sing-a-longs along the way.

To make a campervan, caravan or motorhome your own sooner, take a look at these loans from Latitude.