“The open road, the dusty highway, the heath, the common, the hedgerows, the rolling downs!”
From Mr Toad’s ‘gipsy’ caravan in Wind in the Willows to the glamorous Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, life on the open road is a dream for many. One of Australia’s most common bucket-list items and retirement activity, is cruising our sunburned country in a caravan. But what costs do you need to consider to make this a reality?
Caravan or campervan
Obviously the vehicle itself will be one of your biggest expenses. Considerations here include whether you buy a new or used vehicle, or rent one for your trip. If you go with the caravan option, you’ll also need to ensure that your current car is up to the task of towing it.
As well as the no-brainers like beds and living equipment, there are a host of optional extras you can buy for a caravan. These range from additional awnings and stone guards to solar panels and bike racks. All these will of course increase your weight, which may affect safety, longevity and fuel efficiency.
Depending on the weight and size of your motorhome you may have to get a special driver’s licence. A towing course can also be a wise idea for those towing camper trailers.
You’ll need to insure your caravan or motorhome, but make sure you choose your policy carefully. Does it include personal contents, or urgent repairs and emergency accommodation?
Fuel costs can be significant across a country as vast as Australia. You may also need to carry spare fuel if you’re planning to venture far into the outback, where the distances between petrol stations can be hundreds of kilometres.
While you can find free campsites, many caravan parks charge you to use their facilities, so make sure you budget for this. Even if it’s much cheaper than a hotel or motel room, these costs will add up over the long term. And beware parking by the roadside – if it’s not allowed, you could face hefty fines.
You’ll need to budget for food and other living expenses while on the road. Don’t forget your mobile phone bill. Depending on where you travel, you may want to hire a satellite phone as well.
Even if you have good insurance, you’ll still need some ready cash to pay for repairs or other emergencies before you are able to claim these costs back.
Back home costs
If you’re planning an extended trip and have any financial obligations – a mortgage, utility bills and council rates – you’ll need to make sure you can cover these while away. You may be able to rent out your property while you travel, helping to cover these expenses.
You’ll be visiting a lot of fascinating places along the way and may want to visit local attractions and buy souvenirs. So allow a little ‘fun money’ in your budget for these.
Caravanning can be a great way to spend your long-service leave or retirement if you’ve saved enough funds beforehand. Plan your trip and plan your finances carefully and you can enjoy the freedom of life on the road from beach to bush.