Experience the perfect Australian Road Trip on a budget
It’s been less than 24 hours since I arrived home from my Great Ocean Road trip and already my fingers are itching to type and tell you guys all about it. I’m feeling so unbelievably happy and refreshed after a few days away from the city and with two amazing friends, especially knowing that I have ticked another amazing experience off my bucket list. Ever since before I touched down in Australia, it has been a goal of mine to road trip across the country. Although I’m putting off road tripping the West Coast until my second year, at least now I can leave in a few months knowing I’ve experienced an Australian road trip and what has to be one of the best road trips you can do in the world! From the moment I arrived in Melbourne, my friends and I have been talking about organising a trip down the coast, but typically with there being so many of us we hadn’t quite got round to organising it. Last week was a stressful week for a few of us and with the four-day weekend looming, we thought it would be a perfect time to get away from the city and get some breathing space.We planned absolutely nothing, we didn’t even book the car until about two days before we were due to leave! We ended up with a perfect combination of myself, my flatmate and someone who has become one of the best friends I have met since travelling – all equally laid-back girls who just wanted a stress-free weekend. We got exactly what we wanted – packing up our things the night before we just took the bare essentials – warm clothes, good shoes for hiking, duvets and a tent. Our tent cost us $33 from K-Mart, and we struck gold last weekend at the Grand Prix when spectators left behind their brand new camping chairs for whoever could be bothered to carry them home! For food, we raided our kitchens and took tins of tuna, salad, wraps, fruit, bread, nutella and peanut butter. Sticking to backpacker mentality, we all wanted to cut back on costs as much as possible and didn’t see the point in spending a fortune unnecessarily, plus we didn’t want to spend hours perusing the supermarket shelves when we could be out having adventures. We took plenty of snacks for the drive – rice crackers and crisps kept us going, and saved our money for cider and wine. In the end our trip cost us a grand total of around $150 per person – that’s for the car, petrol, food, booze and campsite!The trip itself was amazing – I can’t think of a single thing that could have made it better. Considering we didn’t plan anything, I’d say our trip was an even bigger success than I ever could have expected. So what made it so good? Amazing attitudes, great people, stunning surroundings and the freedom of life on the road again all played their part, but there are some far simpler things you can focus on to ensure your road trip – whether its from Devon to Newcastle, across the USA or outback Australia – will be a success. Here’s my guide to the perfect Australian road trip:
Don’t over plan
The more planning you do, the higher your expectations are and the more likely you are to let the small things bother you. Australia is a big place and you rarely have to plan far ahead – we did GOR over Easter and still managed to book a car two days before leaving, and found accommodation when we arrived at our destinations rather than pre-booking. Doing it this way gives you more flexibility and for me, that is a huge part of the experience. Being able to change your plans at the drop of a hat has led me to some of the most amazing experiences yet! Don’t stress about finding somewhere to park or sleep, it always works itself out!
Book a car with a good company
We used Turnbulls Hire who were fantastic, they provided us with a brand new, spotless Toyota Yaris which was the perfect size for us there girls and all our stuff. It was great on fuel and nice and small for those winding coastal roads. It also had a great sound system – essential for a good road trip! It cost us just $180 for three full days and petrol added very little to this bill. Plus the staff were fantastic and allowed us to drop off the vehicle later the next day, before offering us a lift to the train station! Now that’s great service.
Choose your road trip gang wisely
You’re going to be stuck in a car with these people for three or four days, or possibly longer, so make sure you can actually cope with them being in such close quarters. It’s important to make sure you are compatible to travel – it won’t be fun being trapped in a car with a person who stresses over everything if you’re the most laid back person in the world. Or it may work as a good combination if you level each other out! Make sure everyone is pulling their weight by taking turns to drive, organising the car/food, and most importantly, make sure the person who is supplying the tent can be counted on to not forget it!
Don’t be over-ambitious with food
Road trips and camping is about getting back to basics – it’s not about tapas and three-course meals. A barbecue is always great, but think carefully about how long the meat will be sat in a warm car before you buy, and think about how much space it will take up in the car. We were planning to camp for a few nights so a barbecue wasn’t practical, plus we were pretty happy with just raiding the fridge at home and taking salad, wraps and tuna for dinner. Bread and peanut butter/nutella made a great breakfast, plus snacks of fruit and carrots throughout the day. And what road trip would be complete without crisps?! Keeping it simple can save you a LOT of money – we spent nothing on food over three whole days – and it can save you hours deciding in the supermarket.
Skip the hostels
Most of the time they’re overpriced and unnecessary when you’re on a road trip. You already have a great gang of people in the car and can save a bundle if you take a tent with you instead. Camping adds to the experience and gives you a chance to have more freedom with your trip – you can build camp fires, barbecue your own meals, arrive and leave when it suits you, plus you meet some great people in the campsites. The first night we camped at Cape Otway National Park – an amazing campsite with fantastic facilities. It cost us $50 for a pitch and we had heaps of room around our tent and car, we had access to clean toilets/showers, a kitchen and barbecues. In a hostel over Easter weekend we would have paid around $30-40 per person. On our second night in the Grampians we actually camped for free in an amazing campsite full of great people and had the best time.
Take your time
Do your road trip at a pace that suits you – it sounds silly but so often people either rush the trip or dawdle too much because they don’t organise their time well. It’s important to take time out to stop and explore the sights, otherwise all you will have seen is the inside of a car. But at the same time, you don’t want to take too long at one sight because you may miss out on seeing something else. We planned our trip as we went but we all had the same priorities – see as much as possible without stressing over whether we would make it to the campsite in time. Flexibility is key to this!
Get the perfect soundtrack
If you ask me, after the people in your car, the music pumping out of your speakers is the most important thing on your trip. Even if the weather is rubbish and you get stuck in traffic, you can still have a great time and put everyone in a good mood by belting out some great songs. Whether you prefer he older stuff or all the latest chart-toppers, make sure your iPod is charged and ready for action. We were lucky because my flatmate loves music and had all the best stuff downloaded on her phone. We had a great time singing and dancing along the journey! Also – don’t forget to choose you road-trip song! This is the one that five, ten or even twenty years from now will remind you of this trip.
What was your favourite road trip? What countries would you love to road trip around? What has made your road trips so epic?