Think you can’t afford to travel Australia? Think again… One year of living on the road between NSW and Queensland, avoiding the winter cold and seeing some epic shit cost us less than what a year of living our lives in Melbourne would have cost. Plus, we actually made more money than what we spent on this roadtrip – even when you add in all the pre-deaprture expenses!

Interested, you should be! This is a great result for us, and one that we did not expect at all. We would have just been happy not to be broke at the end of 6 months, but now we’re both overseas and planning another 12 months on the road.

Think you can't afford to travel Australia_1

Just how much did we spend?

12 months roadtrip expenses = $16,795

You can see a full breakdown of our expenses for the first 6 months here and the second 6 months here, but a brief summary is:

  • $9,166 food and ice for the esky
  • $5,762 accommodation
  • $3,534 car expenses (fuel, servicing, rego and insurance)
  • $706 on camping and cooking equipment
  • $184 Entertainment
  • $111 public transport and ferries
  • $67 on coin laundries and hot showers

… and how much did we earn?

Income from working on the road = $24,279

We only of 19 weeks worked across the whole year, some of that part time!

  • $16,014 Scenic Rim Trail
  • $7,400 Belyando Crossing
  • $308 cafe work
  • $250 store credit ($120 in Flybuys Coles credit, $10 Woolworths rewards credit, $70 Telstra credit and $25 BCF credit)
  • $118 WeekendNotes articles
  • $99 sale of iphone
  • $90 Fruitpicking Jobs Australia writing

    If we can do this, you can too.

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How YOU can afford to travel Australia

We are not super special. We do not have contacts all over the country and we are not trust-fund kids. We are just hospitality workers who want something bad enough to make it happen. So how can you do the same? Here are some tips and tricks we learned along the way:

Don’t buy a tour package, travel independently

We could not believe the amount of backpackers who are simply buying a travel package and seeing the sights that someone else has chosen for them. Surely alarm bells must be ringing when you buy your travel experiences from someone who is making commission of you – maybe they don’t have your best interests at heart. You can see Australia much cheaper than what the travel agencies are offering. We are slowly putting together a bunch of DIY itineraries with budgets that will make you realise how much more you see traveling outside of a package deal, and how much cheaper it can be!

Record everything you spend

This will help you to keep on top of your spending. There is something about writing down your expenses that makes you more accountable to yourself. Plus you can see exactly where you are blowing out your budget and work to fix it. I use an app called Expense Manager and every thing we spend gets tracked in there. Once a month I download the data and make this neat little tables for you to enjoy (if you’re a number-crunching nerd like me). Here are our total expenses month-by-month from 16 January 2016 – 15 July 2016, you can see the month-by-month expenses for 16 July 2015 – 15 January 2016 here.

Be open to new experiences

I can guarantee you that if you are only willing to work right next to the beach and only stay in YHA hostels, you are going to spend a fortune and not make much money. You left your hometown for a reason – so get out there and explore Australia. We took a job in Belyando Crossing in outback Queensland when we were looking for coastal work. The job came up and it matched everything we were looking for in a job (it paid and came with free accommodation) so we packed up our shit and left the coast for a new adventure that we would not have otherwise even thought of having.

Chill the fuck out man

Seriously. Just… chill…

Slow travel saves money. It might not make sense now but it will once you’re on the road. The slower you travel, the less you spend. Slow travelers get jobs working for accommodation because they’re not in a hurry to see the next spot. They save money on food because they’re not leaving all their perishables behind in the fridge every second day or eating out to avoid wasting time on cooking (when you only have 24 hours to see each town, who wants to spend 1 of those cooking?!). Slow travellers make local mates and get money can’t buy experiences. Slow travellers know the value of a day well spent on the beach, or waling the rainforest, spending nothing but taking away priceless memories.

Use loyalty programs

They don’t pay you in cash, but they do save you money. We received $120 in Flybuys Coles credit, $10 Woolworths Everyday rewards credit just for using our loyalty cards. We also have $30 unused Coles credit at the moment just waiting for us to use. Also a lot of caravan park chains have loyalty programs, we used the North Coast Parks loyalty program to get free nights in their NSW parks (Big 4 has one of these too). Keep your dockets and use the discount fuel and booze offers on the bottom of them! These are all small savings but they all up at the end of the trip.

Pre-plan but we open to last minute changes

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. If you do the preparation beforehand you will be rewarded. By knowing where the cheap or free campsites are, free activities and work for accommodation opportunities are, you can save yourself a lot of ‘panic’ money. By panic money, we mean freaking out as the sun sets or a storm rolls in and ending up staying in a hotel or motel for the night. Of course, if you do not feel safe driving then you should stop and book into the nearest place (we have certainly done it ourselves), however making a habit of it will blow your budget very quickly.

Be sure to know where to find the info you need easily, like where to find info about cheap campsites, and know where the next major town is with a supermarket to stock up on cheap food! Running out of staples like rice, pasta, milk or coffee in a small town can send you broke pretty quickly too.

However when an opportunity rears its head, you need to be flexible enough to jump on it. This might seem like the opposite to our pearl of wisdom about planning, but they do compliment each other nicely. Your plans need to be flexible, especially if you’re looking for work or bargain deals along the way. E.g. after we reached Cairns we had no idea what we were going to do next. We jumped online and saw that there was a WFA offer at Mission Beach. Live for free at Mission Beach? Yes please! So we called up and a few days later were headed out to paradise. That deal saw us land three weeks of free accommodation and breakfast.

Don’t hit up the tourist traps

Places such as Airlie Beach are full of louts and will suck your bank account dry! Instead, be a smart traveller and find a place closeby that still has the charm that the major destinations have lost. Examples are Airlie beach vs Bowen, Tweed Coast vs Gold Coast or Agnes Water vs Noosa. Or think bigger. A sailing trip around the Whitsundays will last 2 days and cost you about $500 per person. Yes, it will be pretty, but that is a lot of money for 2 days. Instead, head to Mission Beach (where you can work for free accommodation) and use the free kayaks to paddle at sunrise, hire a boat for a full days for only $165 (grab a few mates from your hostel and this is great value) and snorkel around Dunk Island for the day. Much better value and a more unique experience. That $500 could last you months in Mission Beach.

Travel with a buddy

The cost for one person to roadtrip is not all that different that the cost for two. Grab a buddy and split the costs of fuel, van hire (or purchase) campsites and activities. The more the merrier, well… the more the cheaper.

There is so much free accommodation out there if you’re willing to work for it

We have a whole article dedicated to how you can find free accommodation in Australia, so we wont go into it here, but just know that if accommodation is blowing out your budget, there are ways to get around paying out the nose for your stay.

Belyando Crossing Campsite Review pic 4

Things we would change with the wisdom of hindsight

Now that we have 12 months of travel under our belt, there are a few things that would change if we were to start the trip all over again. Learn from our mistakes.

Travel in a van, not a car with a tent

Yep. if we had our time over again (and we will when we head over to the west coast eventually) we would have travelled in a campervan, and not a car and tent. Why? Because we would have had access to many more free camping options. Most of the free camping around Australia is for self contained vehicles only. Campervans are welcome but tents are not. You’re also a lot safer in a free campsite in a van than a tent, and more comfortable.

We originally opted for the tent over a van because we though that there would be times where one of us was working and the other was not. If the worker need the van to get to work, then the other would be left without a house! But with the car and tent, then the worker could take the car and leave the other person perfectly happy and secure in the tent at the campsite. That did not eventuate though and we found that the the better jobs for us were the ones that came with accommodation and took us both at the same time.

We were also a little worried about the fuel consumption on a van, but it turns out that with the money we would have saved on accommodation, we could have more than afforded more fuel.

Take some exercise equipment with you if you work in outback areas

Working in regional Australia is a unique experience, and one that we highly recommend. However it is very difficult to exercise out there. The sun is HOT, and the prospect of going for a walk or jog is a lot less appealing when you know you’re surrounded by nothing by deadly wildlife, and have no phone signal. We both put on a lot of weight working at the roadhouse and the next time we head out to regional Aus to work, I will be buying a treadmill or at the very least a skipping rope to take with me! I really missed exercising everyday…

Buy a good camera

We wish that we had taken the time to buy a good DSLR before we started this trip, instead of half-way through it. Out phone cameras are good, but a DSLR is just that other level – plus it’s fun to play with!

Telstra is the only phone company with decent coverage in Australia

Monique started the trip with Telstra and Anai started with Vodafone after a sales rep told her that Vodafone had just as good coverage as Telstra with their new regional network. They do not. As soon we left the Sunshine Coast Anai lost reception and we had to spend a few days on the phone to Vodafone getting her released from her contract. It was a nuisance but not horrible because Monique still had reception. That being said, you will not be able to get reception everywhere, even with Telstra. Australia is big and the mobile reception is pretty horrible in the country areas, but Telstra is your best chance for reception in most places.

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