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Budgetting For Your Big Lap: Save or Splurge?

by Rose Foster

Preparing for your big lap around Australia? Overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ you need to buy? We hear you!

Getting your car and van ready for your Big Lap can be a minefield of information-overload and shiny object syndrome. Not a great combination. But with so many products on the market that you absolutely ‘need’ as you travel around Australia, the big question is, which items should you invest wisely in and which can you afford to save a few dollars on?

Well, It Depends…

Cop out, right?! Well, hear us out.

It really does depend on your travel style, the weight of importance you put on certain aspects of your trip and what you can afford.

For those who love being one with nature, spending a fortune on a flash caravan may not be necessary if you’re happy with a tent or camper trailer. Conversely, if you like your creature comforts and really want to feel like you’re home away from home as you travel around Australia, spending up big on the van that suits your needs is probably a no brainer.

That said, price does not always determine quality. With some items, you can get away with buying cheap. With some items, you should avoid cheap versions at all costs.

But which is which?

Read on for the full run down…

Your Car and Van

Buy the best you can for what you can afford

The two things that all big lappers really need to consider is their car and their accommodation. These will be the two parts of your trip that you spend the most money on, but do you need to buy top of the line to be able to do your lap? The simple answer is no.

Although you might want all the bells and whistles, practically you need to adopt the mindset that you’ll just buy the best you can afford. There is no point in bankrupting yourself to do your Big Lap, and while you might want to have the best of the best, to get you out and on your lap as soon as possible, you may just have to compromise.

So, rather than asking yourself whether you should spend or splurge on your caravan and car, you should make a list of your requirements, breaking them down into ‘must-have’, ‘would like’ and ‘could do without’. This way, you’ll be able to narrow down your budget and answer the question about spending or splurging.

Your Caravan or Accommodation

  • Do you want to feel like you’re camping or would you prefer to feel like you have all of the creature comforts of home? Or do you fall somewhere in between? The options available to you will start here.
  • Are you going off-road? If yes, invest in a set up that will help get you there – you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere!
  • Do you want a toilet/shower/washing machine or can you handle using facilities at caravan parks? Are you happy with bush-toileting if you stay at remote free camps?
  • If it rains, are you ok with potential leaks that could come with older vans?
  • Are you going to be off the grid often (ie do you need solar)?
  • Do you NEED aircon?
  • Would you be able to cope if your van needed urgent repairs and you were stranded for a few days? Obviously this can happen with any kind of set up but you can avoid some issues by opting for a newer van.

Your Car

  • If you break down in the middle of nowhere, could you cope?
  • If you break down anywhere, would it greatly impact your trip?
  • If you break down anywhere, could you afford repairs?
  • Are you ok with a slow trip? Some cars are not built for towing so you may have a slow ride!
  • What about comfort?

Now look at your answers. Most of us ‘would like’ all of those things, and if it’s in your budget to have them, then fine. But if a set up with everything on your list is pricing you out of doing your lap around Australia altogether, it may be time to start culling the ‘must-haves’ and making them ‘can-deal-withouts’.

Chairs

Splurge!

When it comes to chairs, you need to remember one thing: you’re going to be sitting on these chairs practically every day. They are going to be set up and packed down hundreds of times, and they are going to experience life outdoors. While buying decent chairs will generally ensure you’re buying the comfiest, it will also ensure you’re buying ones built to last, which is paramount when travelling.

If you’re not too worried about being totally comfortable and you don’t mind replacing your chairs during your Big Lap, cheap chairs will see you through.

Cooking Equipment

Go Mid-Range

Cooking equipment is another thing that you may want to spend a little extra on. While cheap camp cookware will last a little while, after months of use, you’ll often have to replace it. That said, you don’t need to spend an absolute fortune on cookware either. Camp ovens, camp stoves and utensils such as knives come in a range of price ranges, and middle of the range options will generally last you your lap, if you look after them.

Tech Equipment

It depends

From cameras to your wifi options, whether you spend or splurge on your tech equipment all depends on what you want to use them for. If you absolutely need to be online wherever you are, you’ll need to splurge on this set up. Whereas if you’re quite happy to go off the grid for a while, you won’t.

The same goes for camera equipment, laptops, drones etc. If you’re just wanting to capture some family memories, you don’t have to spend too much, but if you’re looking to use your footage to grow your Instagram account etc, you may need to spend a little more.

Non-Essentials

Save!

Non-essentials are things that don’t impact your ability to continue your trip or live life normally. Think things like cutlery, crockery, bedding, clothes etc. If your bedsheets aren’t top quality, you won’t be stopped in your tracks if they become threadbare, nor will you have to immediately replace them.

The important thing here is that the items which impact your ability to live a normal life are entirely objective. Something that may be considered ‘non-essential’ to one person may be absolutely essential to another. So, if there is anything you can think of that you’d be lost without, you might want to splurge on these things.

Assessing Price & Quality

One thing that is really important to realise is that sometimes price doesn’t equate to quality. Buying the most expensive option won’t always mean you end up with the best product for you. That said, if something does break or you’re not entirely happy with an expensive option, it is more likely to have a good warranty or you’ll be able to return it.

If you do buy the cheapest option, you may have absolutely no problems and go your whole trip without having to replace it.

The best way to assess which option to go for really depends on the item itself and your care-factor if it breaks. Whatever you’re buying, you can generally find an online review to help you assess which direction you should go. With lower ticket items, it may not really matter if you buy the cheapest and have to replace it, so you may not even bother doing the research. But for the more expensive ones, reading some reviews and making an informed decisions is a good idea.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, you shouldn’t let your ability to buy the most expensive products stop you in your tracks. Big Laps are what you make them and the range of budgets – from shoestring to no-expense-spared – are vast. Buy what you can afford, compromise where you can and do the research where you need to.

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