To Darwin And Back: How To Budget For A Big Caravan Trip

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When putting together a family holiday budget there are many unknowns, but a lot of your big costs can be calculated ahead of the journey. They include fuel, fuel consumption and accommodation, as well as your existing costs back at home. To illustrate the breakdown, we’ve used a case study of a fictitious family, the Walshes, who are planning an eight-week caravan journey from Melbourne to Darwin and back.

The Walshes aren’t interested in capital cities and will only ever pass through them when necessary. A key reason for their coastal route is that they’re visiting the grandparents in Tannum Sands, half an hour out of Gladstone in Queensland.



56 days

Melbourne to Darwin

The Walshes are taking their family caravan up the east coast, focusing mainly on beaches via Bairnsdale (Vic), Batemans Bay (NSW), Budgewoi (NSW), Yuraygir National Park (NSW), Tannum Sands (Qld), Mount Isa (Qld), Barkly Highway, Stuart Highway and Kakadu National Park (NT). They estimate that they’ll arrive in Darwin at the 40-day mark.

Darwin to Melbourne

Heading home will be much quicker as they’re heading down through South Australia, passing through Uluru (NT), Coober Pedy (SA), Flinders Ranges National Park (SA), Mount Remarkable National Park (SA) and Horsham (VIC), before heading home to Melbourne.

Family: The Walshes

The Walsh family consists of two adults and two children, aged 15 and 12.


Tow vehicle

2013 LandCruiser 200 GXL Diesel. It’s good for fuel consumption of 13L/100km combined and somewhere around 17L/100km with a caravan on the back.


2011 20 ft Paramount Duet Utility, six berth, GVM 3300kg.

Budget breakdown

The Walshes’ overall budget is $21,000.

The family won’t have an income during their holiday and are funding it with a combination of holiday pay and savings. Both parents have taken a combination of annual leave and leave without pay.

Bills: $8500

Not only do the Walshes have to cover the cost of the holiday, they still have to meet their costs back at home, namely their $2,400/month mortgage, $1,300/month car repayments and other bills such as mobile phones, internet and insurance.

Accommodation: $2800

Out of 56 nights, the Walshes expect to spend at least 40 of them at caravan parks. They’ll spend 12 nights in national parks and may free camp on some of the longer stretches in the NT and SA. The average cost for the family comes in at $50 per night for a powered site, with the exception of a two-day theme park stint at the Gold Coast ($139 per night). They’ve budgeted $50 per night for the entire trip and will set aside the surplus for luxuries such as snack foods.

Fuel: $2900

The Walshes will be travelling approximately 10,500km, round trip. They’re going with 17L/100km, the fuel consumption figure they returned on a previous caravan trip. Diesel is currently about $1.30/L in cities, though it hovers at $1.45/L and higher once you pass Cloncurry in western QLD. They’ve budgeted $1.60/L for their trip.

Food: $250 per week

The Walshes have budgeted $250 per week for groceries. On previous trips, they’ve pared back their menu to a combination of basic, easy-to-prepare staples and fresh ingredients.

Extras: $4000

Although many activities (like the beach) are free, the family wants to make the most of tours and experiences along the way, so they’ve budgeted $4000 for activities and extras. The budget gets hit hard on the Gold Coast, as a one-day family ticket to Dreamworld and WhiteWater World costs $375. They’re expecting this to blow out to $500 after factoring in lunch and drinks. To help reduce the amount of money spent on activities, the kids have been given schoolwork to do while they’re away and have iPhones and iPads to keep them occupied.

The family also has a few thousand dollars in savings set aside for emergencies, which they’re not factoring into their budget.

The overall outlay is high when you include your costs at home; however, the actual cost per person, per day is relatively low – especially when spread over a 56-day timeline. The per-day figure for each of the Walshes comes in at a mere $93.75.

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