Camping was once considered the cheapest way to get the family out and about for a long weekend or an extended summer holiday jaunt. You would pile the kids, your tent and the esky in the back of the car and set up shop somewhere by the beach to while away the days doing nothing at all as the kids entertained themselves. They ate sausages wrapped in white bread every single day and maybe hassled for spare change to buy a Bubble O’Bill, but other than that, no one was imploring you to part with wads of cash…It’s all a bit more complicated than that now, isn’t it? Camper trailer touring is just that much more comfortable and after a taste of the good life, why would you want to go back? But it needn’t be reserved for those with the deepest pockets and you won’t need to part with your first born as well as one of your kidneys to get out of the dome tent and into the lap of luxury. Yet, for most families, time and money are major limitations when planning the annual touring pilgrimage, so follow these starting points and save yourself some coin.
Reasonably-priced travel is within reach of most people and you can save money before you even start by getting the right rig. Bigger is not always better and it certainly doesn’t have to be new, so buy what is going to suit your family’s needs for space, comfort and affordability. One of the best strategies for saving money is to be self-sufficient with things like water, power and cooking. Bush camps won’t break the budget and the experience is closer to the real deal, so use resources like Camps Australia Wide to find free and low-cost sites; you can splash out on a caravan park once a week to have a decent wash and let the kids play with other kids for a day or two.
Fuel is the biggest portion of your spending on any touring holiday and driving style, speed, weight, tyre pressure and aerodynamics can all weigh in to blow the budget. If you buy fuel from large outlets with high throughput there is less chance of contamination that can lead to unforeseen costs and you can save money by using fuel discount vouchers. Additionally, installing a long-range tank negates the need for mucking around with jerry cans and allows you to reach a major centre before you need to fill up, so you get the cheapest prices.
Pre-planned meals are the best way of reducing food costs and it’s easy to stock up on what you need when you’re in a larger town where prices will be cheaper. Vacuum-sealing meat and other produce can increase its shelf life dramatically and systems suitable for camping are readily available. Use a water filter when filling your tanks and avoid the expense of bottled water; you can mask any local flavours with cordial and spend the savings on extra beer.
The more vehicle and trailer maintenance jobs you can do yourself while you’re touring, the more you will save, however in readiness for a big trip make sure both are fully serviced covering all major components, fluids and filters. Make sure you have an adequate roadside assistance subscription as this will cover remote recovery and save you a hefty bill if it’s needed. Also, have spares on-board of commonly replaced items, as parts are not always carried by regional service centres and the delay and higher cost will eat into your budget. Estimate costs for the trip with items such as fuel, food, accommodation, permits, entertainment, activities and repairs based on the season and then record your actual expenditure along the way. Get a receipt for everything you buy and update a spreadsheet daily to compare with your budget. Not only does this let you see where you need to tighten the belt on the current trip, you’ll be well equipped to plan for the next one.
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