31 January 2018

Our Tight Budget Holiday

Melinda wrote that she would love to hear about our holiday this year, and how we are going to do it as Cheapskates.

First, let me clarify: we have always enjoyed holidays, and, even before disaster struck, we enjoyed them on a budget.

Where are we going?

Back to Cape York! Yes, we were there two years ago, but we only managed to see a fraction of the area and decided back then that we'd be back this year.

How do we get so much leave? 

This year we will be away for six weeks.

Wayne will have four weeks annual leave owing to him, and he will take two weeks as long service leave. This means that we will still get a wage while we are away and our spending plan will just roll along just as if we were home.

I, of course, am my own boss, so getting time off wasn't that hard - I just had to convince myself it was a good thing (absolutely not hard, I love spending time with my husband).

How will we get there?

We will be driving. Our 4WD is fully set up for off-road adventures, and we can be self-sufficient for up to two weeks if we can't get fresh water, longer if we have access to fresh water.

Driving means no fares, but we will have fuel costs. On our last trip the most we paid for fuel was $2.63/litre at Bamaga, otherwise it wasn't too much more than we were paying here at home.

The Patrol carries 227L of fuel (70L in the main tank and a 157 in the long-range tank, so filling up hurts when prices are high. I will start tracking fuel prices in mid-April so we'll have a rough idea of how much it's going to cost.

Right now I'm budgeting 10 fill-ups. We probably won't need that many, but it gives me wriggle room. I'm also working on an average of $2 per litre for fuel at the moment, giving me a fuel budget of $4,500. Last trip we came home with fuel money, and I'm certain we will this time, but I'd rather leave home with more than have to come up with it if we under-budget.

Where will we stay?

We will have seven nights in caravan parks while we are away. We always aim for and plan one night a week in a caravan park so we can have real showers, although our camp shower is lovely and works really well, and to have access to a washing machine. The budget for accommodation on this trip is $700. Again, we'll probably come home with some left.

The rest of the time we will camp, and we always choose free camps, and not just because they are free. They are usually off the beaten track, quiet and in beautiful spots. We're hoping to go back to a few we loved last trip. Free camping isn't a problem for us, as I mentioned above we are self-sufficient for food, water, cooking, showering, sleeping and yes, even toileting. Some campsites will have toilets - they are checked and if not up to snuff then we don't bother with them. In the box of goodies under the back seat is a can of surface spray, a can of Glen20 (it's the only reason I buy it), a brush, a bottle of Miracle Spray, paper towel and disposable rubber gloves. They are used if the toilet isn't completely gross - it may look clean, but it has to be clean if you get my drift.

What will we eat?

There isn't much of a budget for food, it's covered in the monthly grocery budget. Just like at home, we have a meal plan, and while it may get moved around a bit, we pretty much stick to it.  Between now and when we leave I'll be vac sealing meat, chicken and ready made meals and freezing them. I'll also add UHT milk to the monthly shopping list, and that's about the only extra grocery item we use when we're camping.

I'll also make up crumble, custard, donut and damper kits, vac seal and freeze them ready to take with us.

Vegetables are easy to take with us when they're vac sealed. We tend to have lots of camp oven roasts, so I make up packs of roasting veggies: potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, onion, carrots. Because they're vacuum sealed they last for weeks in the fridge and we get to eat fresh veggies. As a side, I do this at home too - a whole pumpkin can take a long time to get through, prepping it and vac sealing means I can keep the packs in the crisper for weeks - no more mildewed pumpkin.

Bread is very expensive and is usually frozen, so instead we take wraps, Mountain Bread and English muffins.

We usually eat out once or twice while we're away, so we put aside $200 for meals and another $100 for treats - coffee, ice- creams etc.

One of traditions we have on any of our trips is to always stop and buy something - fuel, and ice-cream or a cold drink or sometimes a meal - at the small towns and communities we visit. It's one way we can treat ourselves and support these remote communities. They need all the support they can get, this is our way of helping keep them in business, and it blesses everyone - these little stores and roadhouses and cafes stay open and support locals, and they're there when visitors and travellers need them.


With this trip there will be the ferry fee to cross the Jardine, although we're not sure we'll actually cross - we've been to the Tip, taken the obligatory photos, done the walks, driven the Five Beaches (and found eight!), spent some time on Thursday Island (a highlight of the last trip - glorious spot), looked at the WWII memorials and spent a lot of time walking and exploring around them, so for me I'd rather spend time exploring spots we haven't seen yet. We'll see. I've budgeted $130 for the return ferry fee - right now I can't find an accurate cost. The National Parks fee is included in the ferry fee, so for parks on the Cape we won't need to pay extra.

There will also be the ferry fee to cross the Daintree, at least one way. At the moment the fee is $24 return, so that's what I've budgeted.

I mentioned washing - it is so expensive at coin laundries - around $4 a load. Over the six weeks I've budgeted for 10 loads - so I've already saved $40 in $1 and $2 coins and they are safely in a zippy bag, ready to go into the laundry box.  I take washing powder, stain removing soap, a nail brush and pegs - I flatly refuse to pay for drying too.

National Park fees - there will be some fees to pay to visit National Parks. They vary, depending on the park. I've allowed $100 for park fees.

RACV Total Care - we don't leave home without it, ever. Yes, it is expensive, but absolutely, totally, completely and utterly worth it. You only need to use it once to recoup the cost and save a bundle.  I am a gold member, so it costs $200.60 a year. The benefits have changed since we first took this cover out, but for us and the travelling we do, it is not only good value, but great peace of mind. And yes, we have used it, twice in the last six years! This isn't really a holiday expense, we take it out every year, but it is worth mentioning if you don't have it. As a bonus there are other benefits to RACV membership, such as discounts to attractions, accommodation and so on.

How much is all this going to cost?

Our budget for this trip is $6,500.

We have been saving and planning and budgeting for two years for this trip, and we're not going to skimp on anything. There most likely will be money left in the holiday fund  when we get home, and if there is it will roll over to start the next holiday fund - and we'll start planning another trip.

I'll share how we saved, made or found the money next Wednesday.

Follow on Bloglovin


  1. We are with RACQ and it i so handy. As a bonus we can get discount vouchers for shops if we buy gift cards through them. A saving of 5% from coles or woolworths straight away, definitely a great bonus!!!

    1. We love the RACV resorts too - lots of benefits to membership that we use to our advantage.

  2. Love how u have everything covered in this post! I too plan for everything when going away

    1. My financial OCD kicking in - I need to know exaclty how much everything is going to cost beforehand, then I relax and enjoy the adventure :) And it helps with the planning - no point planning something only to find out when we arrive that we can't afford it! Wayne laughs, but I even work out how much TP we will need and pack exaclty that amount :)

  3. So envious of this trip you are doing. Enjoy!

    1. We will! We waited a long time to do these trips by ourselves. We spent our holidays when the kids were growing up doing kid style holidays and adventures - still camping and fishing and hiking, but with more theme parks and zoos and things thrown in. Of course we have more time and more disposable income now we are pretty much empty nesters :)

  4. Before you travel do you get a mechanic to give your car a once over? Or do you have basic mechanic skills? I have an NRMA membership and the only time I've had to use it was when the car was in the garage!

    Do you have a car fridge or just an esky?

    Thanks very much,


    1. I married a handy man - he has many skills and basic mechanics is one of them. We get all our cars checked over regularly by a very good local mechanic who knows where we go and what we do (he has the same hobby), so between Wayne and Rob the mechanic everything is always in good repair. Wayne has a good toolbox, and we carry spares of things that are most likely to give up/fall apart/fall off/break/disintergrate or whatever. We've had a few trackside repairs over the years, but we've never been stranded. Funnily enough each time we've used RACV it's been on a major highway :) We have a Bushman fridge/freezer that we bought secondhand off eBay and love it. It was expensive, but well worth it. Before then we had an ice-chest and used frozen ice packs I made. It worked well, kept food frozen for 4 -5 days if it wasn't opened, and cool for about 7 days before the ice was completely gone. Wayne built the fridge into it's spot, so I can easily get into it and reach the bottom - being short has it's challenges.

  5. Great blog today , thank you for sharing the details of your vacation costs and plans. It was very interesting to see the difference in costs between the US and Australia. I was also inspired by how much advance work you do to make it affordable. Great ideas for our family to use for our vacations!

    1. I expect given the exchange rate that costs are pretty even - I know when I do the conversions on food costs they are often even, sometimes we are a little cheaper than the US. It may seem like a lot of work, but we've been planning for almost two years so it has been spread out, well worth doing though, if for no other reason than it makes the entire trip stress free as far as finances go.


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment...I just love hearing from you!

Just a couple of things:

Please don't use your comments to advertise your business or goods for sale, any such comments will be removed.