It’s those unexpected expenses that can turn a great road trip into a money-guzzling nightmare.
Luckily, with some careful planning, it is not too difficult to hit the bitumen and keep your vacation affordable.
As you know, the best plans are the ones that are well-researched, so invest time to read up. In addition to our articles, you may want to consider reading books written by other road nomads or a travel directory or two.
Record any tips you find useful in one place, either in a notebook or a folder on your computer or electronic device.
A handy app, which may help you locate cheap petrol as you roam, is available free on all smartphones. Called Fuel Map, it is a database of petrol stations with their locations and advertised fuel prices. We say ‘may’ help because the information is added and edited by users rather than sourced officially, and the prices are the last known ones displayed, rather than the real-time pricing.
The motoring associations of some states also offer online guidance on petrol prices to members. In Victoria, you can find this information on the RACV site. In Western Australia, navigate to the government fuel watch website.
But before you head off down your driveway, take your car to the mechanics for a tune-up or mini-service to ensure it is in tip-top condition. This could save you from a costly repair in a town where the mechanic may overcharge because they know how desperate you are to get back on the road.
Your food bill is another costly expense. While not the healthiest of meal options, sometimes a roadside outlet that is part of a large national chain may be the only place to eat for miles. You can find which ones are offering deals and discounts on the website Frugal Feeds.
If fast food is not your thing, a little bit of planning ahead could have you picking up the ingredients for your next feed when you pass through a town. Then hop onto the Meat in a Park website to find the nearest barbecue area so you can put it altogether while you take in the outdoors. All you have to do is type in a location and a map will pop up showing where the nearest public barbecue is and how far from it you are.
While on the topic of munchies, make sure you pack plenty of snacks and drinks if you want to avoid the huge mark-up that roadside convenience stores will charge. You can either make up your own packets of nuts and fruit mixes, or buy in bulk when your regular supermarket has your favourite snacks and drinks on special.
While you are surfing the net, check out which accommodation is offering discounted rooms around the time you will be travelling through a particular area. While some last-minute booking sites can offer tempting bargains, it is advisable to have your accommodation booked in advance. Few things can spoil a holiday more than a ‘No Vacancy’ sign when you have been driving for hours and you need to have some shut-eye.
Among the websites to search for cheap lodgings are Airbnb, YHA Australia, Stayz, Hostelworld, Hostelbookers and, if you are not too fussy, check out Couchsurfing.
Do you have any money-saving tips to share with your fellow road trippers?