How To Budget

How To Budget For Your Big Lap Around Australia

by Rose Foster

So you want to travel around Australia but got questions on how to budget for your Big Lap adventure?

Well, you’re going to need a bucket load of money… or are you?!

Often when you’re thinking about travelling about the country or doing your Big Lap, it can feel like somewhat of a pipe dream. Having to save for a year, or more, without full-time work may be a barrier that stops many from even considering the prospect, but it really shouldn’t be. In fact, travelling full-time can actually be considerably less expensive than living at home. 

Depending on whether you’re planning to work whilst on the road or not (and you can check out our blog here about making money whilst travelling Australia), you’ll need to save a varying amount before you go.  No matter what your situation, understanding how much your weekly costs will be will go a long way to helping you budget for your big lap.

Here’s a rundown of your biggest costs when lapping Australia.

Your Accommodation

When it comes to travelling Australia, one of your biggest costs is your nightly accommodation, along with food and fuel.

The exact figure you should be budgeting for this element of your trip will really depend on the kinds of places you’re thinking of staying, and the level of comfort you require, so it’s important to know your options.

A hugely popular accommodation option among big lappers is bush camping. Bush camps have limited (and sometimes no) amenities and the cost reflects this. Some bush camps are free while others attract a small cost. Generally, bush camps in national parks attract a small fee but they usually have amenities like toilets and showers. Many towns have campgrounds which offer free camps to travellers too.

If you’re planning to camp in Australia’s National Parks, here’s a rundown of the costs per state:

  • QLD – $6.65 per person per night, or $26.60 per family per night (see more)
  • NSW – Site fees are set on four levels depending on location and facilities, from $0 – $16 per person, per night (see more)
  • VIC – varies per location, from $5- $29.90 per person, per night (see more)
  • SA – from $12.50-$21.50 per couple, per night (see more)
  • WA – $8 (no facilities), $11 (basic facilities), $15 (additional facilities), per person, per night. Sites in Windjana Gorge National Park, Purnululu National Park or King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park are $13, $17 and $20 (see more)
  • NT – $3.30 (basic facilities) and $6.60 (moderate facilities) per person, per night (see more)
  • TAS – varies per location, many parks are free (see more)

**note: you’ll also usually need to pay National Park entry fees too**

Caravan parks are the other option when you’re looking to lay your head while on the road. Most travellers spend at least some of their time in caravan parks for convenience and to recharge and refresh. Since they have better amenities than free camps, they obviously attract a little more cost. The costs really do vary when it comes to caravan parks and you’ll find a number of options in each town you visit, so you can usually always choose whether you’re going to stay in a budget park or a top-of-the-range one.

A caravan park with a swimming pool, kiosk and other ‘luxury’ amenities can cost around $50-$60 per night for a powered site, whereas one with just the basics can cost as little as $20 per night. It’s also important to note that the time of year may affect caravan park rates too (some have been known to cost up to $200 per night), and some parks require a minimum stay.

Remember, while you may set out to free camp full-time, you’d be wise to have some money in your accommodation kitty for caravan parks too. Although it is doable, many people would find it difficult to free camp for the duration of their lap around Australia.

Your Weekly Food Bill 

Your weekly grocery bill shouldn’t change too much from your current weekly food bill. If you are planning to spend time in remote areas, your food bill may increase slightly since groceries can be more expensive in these places. Trip in a Van estimate that they spent an extra $50-$80 per week for their family of 5 whilst in these remote areas. 

You’ll already be aware of how frugally or lavishly you live so you’ll know whether you can reduce your regular food bill or not. The average family of 4 spends around $300 per week.

Your Fuel Allowance

One of the biggest expenses when travelling on your Big Lap of Australia is the fuel which is why adding it to your budget is so important! There are some calculations that you can do to really help you get a good feel for how much you’ll spend on fuel and the Fuel Map App will help you track this when you’re travelling too.

Your Timeframe & Route

When you’re trying to work out how much you’re going to spend on fuel during your Big Lap, your route and your timeframe are 2 really important factors. If we take the standard 12-month lap of the whole of Australia (which is around 35,000 kilometres), you can easily work out that each month you’ll be travelling around 3,000 km, give or take. 

Now, it won’t necessarily be as cut and dry as that but it’s a good starting point.

Your Set-Up

Next, you need to figure out how many litres your car consumes per 100 kilometres. This will vary for each car. 

Here are the average fuel consumption rates of the most popular Big Lap cars:

  • Ford Ranger – 7.4L/100km
  • Toyota Hilux – 8.1L/100km
  • Isuzu D-Max – 7.8L/100km
  • Nissan Patrol – 14.4L/100km
  • Toyota Landcruiser – 9.5L/100km

It’s important to note that the above are just estimates for new standard models, so taking into consideration age, modifications and model type is something you’ll need to do. Buses, campervans and other transportation vessels all vary considerably, but you could do some testing of your set-up before you leave, tracking it over a certain distance. 

Another thing to be mindful of is how weight affects your fuel consumption. While you may be able to get 10 litres for 100 kms without your van hitched, it may be a different story when you’re fully loaded. For example, OneTripAtATime averages 20 litres per 100km when pulling their 3-tonne van.

There are, of course, tips for getting better fuel economy, including lowering your speed and choosing a more aerodynamic setup. You can check out this blog on fuel-saving tips for your trip around Australia here.

The Fuel Allowance Calculation

So, with the timeframe, route, and set-up considered, the fuel allowance calculation for your trip looks like this:

(Estimated kms per month ÷ 100) x fuel economy x price per litre

So, if you’re travelling 3,000 kms per month, with a 12 litre per 100km fuel economy and an average of $1.35 per litre of diesel, you’re looking at…

3,000 ÷ 100 = 30 x 12 x $1.35 = $486 per month

But Remember…

The cost of fuel can fluctuate, the number of kilometres you drive in a month won’t always come in at your estimate (and you don’t want to limit where you can go based on your fuel allowance) and you won’t always get the same fuel economy. 

Your Current Commitments

We can’t advise you on how much your current commitments will be when you’re on the road, but we can give you some advice and a few reminders so you don’t forget about these costs.

  1. Your mortgage – are you renting your home out? If so, you may have an extra cost in landlord insurance
  2. Loan and credit card repayments – can you consolidate before you go?
  3. Memberships and subscriptions – make sure you cancel anything you don’t need
  4. Insurances – life insurance, health insurance, etc

Your Activities

It’s important to think about your travel style and the activities that you’ll want to do along the way. Do you like fishing? Are you going to visit paid attractions and theme parks? Are you going to go island hopping? Make sure you really think about what you’re going to be doing on your trip, because it could become the most expensive aspect of your lap!

National Parks

Most travellers will go to various National Parks at some point during their trip, so it’s probably helpful to know how much entry to National Parks across the country will set you back.

  • QLD – day passes not needed, vehicle permit needed for Bribie Island, Fraser Island, Moreton Island, Cooloola and Minjerribah (see more)
  • NSW – from $4 – $12 per day (some exceptions) and All Park Yearly Pass is $190 (see more)
  • VIC: no fees
  • SA – some parks do not charge entry but some do, $99 Annual Multi Park Pass (see more)
  • WA – $15 per vehicle (see more)
  • NT – no fees except Uluru-Kata Tjuta ($25.00 for 3 days) and Kakadu National Parks ($40 for 7 days) (see more)
  • TAS – day pass from $12 per person or $24 / $96 for an Annual All Park Pass (see more)

Your Pets

If you’re travelling with pets, then you will have extra expenses you need to consider. Pet food and insurance are probably obvious but the one big expense to pet owners travelling in Australia is pet care. You can’t take your furry friend everywhere with you – national parks and certain islands don’t permit dogs so you’ll have to find a temporary solution for them.

Your Hidden Costs

There are a few other costs that you’ll need to consider when you’re on the road too. Some of them are the types of things you’d be paying for at home, some are things that are exclusively incurred by your Big Lap.

  • Car and Van insurance – you might want a higher level of coverage during your trip, including Australia-wide recovery
  • Your internet solution – you can check out this blog about keeping connected on the road to get an idea of your options.
  • Your little luxuries – love your coffee in the morning or a nice glass of wine in the evening? Well, don’t forget to add this to your budget!
  • App subscriptions – do you have any paid subscriptions to apps that’ll help you when travelling?
  • Laundry – coin-operated machines usually run at around $4 and while it may seem insignificant, 1 wash per week will cost you over $200/ year
  • Takeaways and eating out – you probably won’t want to cook three meals for yourself every single day, so make sure you have a budget for eating out and takeaways.
  • Hair and beauty – even if you’re not too worried about keeping up appearances on your trip around Australia, you may want at least 1 haircut while you’re on the road!
  • Clothes – while you may think you’ve got everything you need, there will be some things you need, need to replace or simply just want to buy!


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