Five ways to save money on a caravan trip

Australians embraced van life during the pandemic and the trend doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon.

But towing a small house around behind your car is expensive. You won’t get much change out of $30,000 for even a smallish new one, and they can go for up to almost $500,000.

So, it’s a good idea to make budget cuts where you can. Here are some of our best.

Free camps

‘Some of the best things in life are free’ is a saying that usually is a big fat lie, but not when it comes to camping in Australia. 

There are plenty of free or low-cost camping sites. Granted, some of them may be very basic – don’t expect much in the way of toilet blocks – but they can slash your budget. And some of them are in the most beautiful places in Australia. Some are also little more than roadside layaways, but you take the good with the bad.

Your next best friend is Wikicamps, which lists more than 13,000 free or low-cost sites. Wikicamps also lets you filter out your requirements such as pet-friendly, toilet facilities, etc. 

If you are travelling for an event, see if they offer free camping. Many music festivals will provide camping as part of their ticket. 

Please don’t camp on private land without permission. This enrages farmers. Not you, never you, but they are generally sick to the eyeballs of people camping on their land and leaving a mess. And not just mess. They often cut fences, pollute waterways and their dogs damage or kill stock.  

You wouldn’t rock up to a suburban front lawn and start pitching a tent without permission, so don’t do it on a private farm.

Not-so-free camps

It’s also a good idea to research who will offer you campsite discounts. Many auto groups such as the NRMA or RACV have discounts on camps. Or you could join the rewards programs for groups such as the Big4.

It’s also worth checking out if there are discounts for booking ahead or group discounts if you are travelling with mates. 

Make a meal of it

Like living at home, a big part of your budget is going to be food. But unlike living at home, you are often not going to have the luxury of a tonne of storage space or the ability to pop down the shops. 

You need to make a plan, or indeed several plans. 

For short trips, you should pack meals ahead such as sandwiches, pasta dishes, and heat-and-eat ready meals. 

For longer trips, check out online or at camping stores for ‘just add water’ type meals, but try before you go. Some of them are good, but some of them are little more than flavoured sawdust. 

Also, take a step back and enjoy more simple meals. Scrambled eggs on toast is a meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner as far as I’m concerned. Same for porridge, if I’m honest. Insert beans on toast or spaghetti on toast for your own personal preference.

Do your research. Check out what’s available at your destination. Uluru is a classic example. There’s a neat little supermarket, and while its prices are eye-watering, it’s still certainly cheaper than eating in restaurants at the resort.

Pack snacks. All those greasy treats at petrol stations are tempting, but the cost soon adds up.

Timing is everything

Avoid school holidays as charges are often inflated during these periods. Check out the various state’s holiday dates and plan not to be there then. 

Also, do an online search for any big events. All you need is one triathlon competition and there will be no camping sites available for miles around.

Gear bargains

Camping is expensive, but you don’t have to buy all that shiny new gear. Look online for what you need as many selling sites have gear at a fraction of the price. 

Camping expos and shows are also good for a bargain, and most capital cities and larger regional centres host them.

If you plan on going off the grid, one good idea may be to invest in a solar panel or two. It could save you money by powering your van and you may not have to pay for a powered site.

Do you have a caravan? We’d love to hear about your budget tips in the comments section below?

Also read: The caravan maintenance you can’t afford to ignore

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
- Our Partners -


- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -