HOW TO DO THE BIG LAP ON A BUDGET


How to shave thousands off your big lap costs! Two vanners learnt their lessons on the first trip to make the second round a whole lot cheaper

WHAT WE FOUND HARD
The biggest issue we had was confidence. We were concerned about living off the grid, and didn’t 100% trust in free camp resources like Camps Australia Wide and WikiCamps. However three or four months into it, we became good at picking where to free camp and where not to. The other big money guzzler the first time round was wind. We had a horrible time through NT and WA with head and crosswinds – we used a heap more fuel. We were also travelling too often and too far in a day.

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HOW WE SAVED SECOND TIME ROUND
The biggest change in our second big lap was confidence in free camping. We had the setup, we had the knowledge, and knew our limits. We could be very picky with the caravan parks we stayed at, choosing ones that didn’t want to charge us an arm and a leg to pay for jumping castles and the like. We cut our average camp fee spend to just $4.50 – over half what it was the first time round! We also slowed right down – so much so that we took an extra 116 days to do the same amount of kilometres. This saved us $7 a day in fuel, and a heap of attraction fees because the locals showed us the gems that were free of charge. We also kept inland – the coast is just so expensive to stay. We couldn’t believe it – these
simple lifestyle changes saved us about $2,000 a year! Our other hot tip? Spend time in Tasmania – it’s the cheapest place in Australia for a caravanner

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SETUP COST:
FREE CAMPER VS. PARK STAYS

In our case studies, the full time park stay couple has a setup many would say is beyond what is needed for caravan park stays. On most occasions you would get away with a much cheaper setup. Having a van and tow vehicle setup solely for caravan parks can be up to $50,000 cheaper than a full blown off-road free camping setup. Let’s drop that to a setup that’s $20,000 cheaper to be modest, and crunch the numbers. If you spend that $20,000 savings solely on camp fees, you can travel for an extra 609 days in caravan parks (based on Ron and Sylvia’s $32.80 avg. Cost). For many of us, that’s at least three years of extra travel. If you flip the scenario, a $20,000 investment into your free camping setup could pay itself off in just three years of full time travel. The point of this exercise? To show you just how important it is to buy a van and vehicle that suits your needs. Why buy a fully off-road free camping caravan if you’re only free camping 50 days out of 365? You’re better off spending that money on other essentials.

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WHAT’S EASIEST?

If you factor in the map, case studies and real world stories from our travellers, being setup for 50/50 travel will definitely make your big lap easy. Having the freedom to free camp when you want, yet having a budget that means you’re not solely relying on free camping means you can choose the right accommodation option every single night. Our advice for 50/50 travellers? Have a setup that can get you three or four nights off the grid. That’s a happy medium that’ll mean you won’t have to worry about power for your whole trip. You can invest more money into it, but unless you plan on staying in a free camp for a week or more, you might find it hard to get a good return on investment.

3 TIPS TO HELP YOU FREE CAMP MORE
1. Alternate water sources Robyn told us they fill up at showgrounds, footy fields and info centres so they don’t have to fill up at caravan parks
2. Cook outside Robyn uses a $14 gas stove to cook on. Cooking inside smells up the van, and you’ll naturally use more water to clean your fancy van than your old table and stove outside.
3. Hand wash your clothes “We take a washing machine with us and use when we can get access to a tap. If not, it’s hand washing for us – it works fine and means your water stocks will last longer.”

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5 WAYS ANY TRAVELLER CAN SAVE MONEY

SPEND TIME IN TASSIE
The secret’s out now – no wonder pensioners love spending time in Tassie. They make back the expensive trip across on the Spirit very quickly due to the huge amount of free camps and small distances between places. Put it on the bucket list – a month in Tas will be the cheapest month of fun you can have!

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STAY LONGER
“If costs are an issue, try slowing down after you arrive. Stay an extra day or two; learn something about where you visit. Park fees are still far less than fuel bills. And there’s far more to running a vehicle than simply putting fuel in it.”
Noel Smart

WATCH YOUR WEIGHT
“We save a lot of by being fanatical about watching what we carry and how much we tow. We therefore pull up and do day trips from a central location to avoid unnecessary towing. We don’t fill the fresh water tanks unless we’re heading into a remote area and we empty our grey and black water tanks as often as possible! We buy food regularly to avoid carrying unnecessary weight.”
TRINA MORRIS

DROP 10KM/H OFF YOUR SPEED
We mention this a lot in this magazine, but there’s a reason why – it’s the single best way to save on fuel, which is undoubtedly the biggest expense on travels, especially if you’re a free camper

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