12 months ago I packed up the kids and the car and took off on a year long road trip around Australia, that still continues.

The big lap around Oz is a dream of many and I always thought I'd do it later in life and continue to seek adventures in foreign lands. But later may never come and after returning home from many years living abroad I fell in love with my homeland again it was time to explore my own backyard.

There is never a perfect time to do anything so we pulled our six year old daughter out of school and hit the road, knowing full well she'd gain much more in education and life skills than sitting in a classroom. And we believe life is about accumulating memories, not just possessions and the family bonding time we'd have together would be priceless.

Not everyone is in the position to take a year of travel, but even if you take your annual four week vacation period or a few extra weekend getaways per year Australia needs exploring and in my mind there is no better way to travel than a road trip.

Below are 6 things to consider when travelling in Australia:

1. Australia is massive

Many travelers disregard the size of Australia in their travel planning and end up regretting the choices they make. If you are visiting from overseas, let's put Australia into perspective quickly:

  • It’s the sixth biggest country in the world (about the same size as mainland USA)
  • Our coastline stretches almost 50,000 kilometres and is linked by over 10,000 beaches.
  • We have a cattle station in South Australia the size of Belgium
  • If you were to drive from east coast Sydney to west coast Perth that's a 4,000 kilometre trip!

Considering Australia is so vast you have to seriously consider how much time you have and the types of experiences you're looking for.

2. How long is your trip?

If you only have two weeks you'd be better off sticking to one or two cities and their surrounding regions. If you have two months you could take in one or two whole states. If you have a year road trip like me you have to prioritize which states you'll visit and the speed of your trip. Constant moving around gets exhausting.

If your time is short you want to be smart with your flights by choosing the closest destinations to your origin to save time. If you're coming into Australia from North America it would make sense to concentrate on the east coast. If you are coming in from the UK or Asia you may be better off hitting the west coast.

Think about how much time you have and then make a list of your must-see places and plan accordingly. There’s no point spending a good chunk of your vacation time in airports, on planes or driving.

3. Types of experiences?

For many traveller's Australia is their trip of a lifetime, so you need to make a list of things you really want to see and the type of travel most suited to you. Ask yourself:

  • Do you like cities or country areas?
  • Adventure travel or relaxation?
  • Coastal or the Outback?
  • Food and wine or water activities?
  • Wildlife and nature or the party scene?

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Your answers will go a long way towards making sure you give yourself the best chance to have a richly rewarding travel experience.

If you love cities ...

If you're after a city style trip Australia has modern, vibrant, and diverse cities unique from each other .

Australia’s major cities showcase its outdoor lifestyle, multicultural precincts, shops, theatres, bars, cafe scene, and sporting culture.

If you love food and wine ...

For a food and wine experience you are well catered to downunder.

We have world class wine regions such as the Barossa and Clare Valley's in South Australia, the Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Orange in NSW, Margaret River in Western Australia, and the Yarra Valley in Victoria.

Melbourne is great for the cafe scene and the fresh produce in Tasmania has been some of the best I've experienced.

If you love the coast ...

Australia is the island nation so a coastal vacation is a popular option. You can swim, sail, surf, kayak, dive, snorkel, go boating, parasail, sandboard, and then end the day with a beach BBQ.

Highlights could include:

  • Learn to surf at Byron Bay or Bondi Beach
  • Learn to dive at The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland or Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
  • Whale watch in Hervey Bay, Queensland or Exmouth, Western Australia
  • Lay on the beaches of the Gold Coast or Perth

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4. Getting around

How you get around will depend on your budget, whether you are travelling solo or in a group, and the length of your trip. Remember Australia is the land of long distances.

As a travelling family I can’t rate road trips highly enough as a memorable travel experience. They are just so practical and cost effective. Things to consider:

  • Who is going?
  • What type of car are you driving?
  • Are you wanting a warm climate or a wintry destination for a change?
  • When are you available to go and for how long?

Fuel is expensive and the price will vary from state to state. If you’re driving around Australia long-term fill your car with friends or family members and split the costs. Road Map Australia estimates fuel costs for various distances.

Vroom Vroom Vroom is a good car rental site. It compares all the major sites at once to find your best deal. Remember one-way drop offs usually incur a fee! Try and plan your flights and trip so that your driving loops back to your original pick-up destination.

Consider buying a car if you intend on being in Australia for a long time. You could sell it at the end of your trip and reclaim some of your initial outlay. Check out:

Alternatively, air travel is getting a little more competitive and cheaper. Virgin and Jetstar are the two carriers where you’ll find cheap flights within Australia. Tiger Airways also has cheap domestic flights but they've had cancellation, financial and maintenance issues in the past.

On a budget and you don't like flying or driving, Greyhound Australia is our national bus service. Oz Experience is another option and operates like Greyhound with the hop-on-hop-off system and have different passes depending on length of trip and areas covered.

5. Time of the week / year

On a big road trip timing the seasons are important. In the summer months the Top End and North Queensland is in the wet season and you can't swim due to the stingers. Whereas the winter months are still warm with less humidity and you can swim at the beaches.

Down south in places like Victoria and Tasmania the winters can be long and cold, not so good if you're into outdoor activities.

On short trips if you can time your visit by staying mid-week you can really save some cash on accommodation, especially avoid the big cities over a weekend if possible. I'm stunned by how much the prices for a bed can rise on the weekend – some places triple.

The time of year can seriously impact your flight prices too. Traveling during peak school holiday periods and expect to pay premium prices. Try and travel in the shoulder seasons and a day or two outside major public holidays.

6. Eating cheap in Australia

Besides flights and accommodation, food will take a big chunk out of your budget. It can be tough to get cheap food in Australia, and the majority of your cheap meals will come from your own culinary skills.

Picnics are still one of the best ways to have an economical meal. Take advantage of the beautiful city parks, beaches and foreshores. Lay out a blanket or towel and source your supplies from the supermarket or farmers market and pick up a cheap bottle of wine from the bottle shop!

Eating in and cooking your own meals with supplies sourced from the supermarket or farmers markets will save you money. When not traveling in our camper trailer we make self-contained apartments a priority on our travels.

If you’re going to eat out often, go for breakfast or lunch instead of dinner – prices will be cheaper.

RSL’s, Memorial Clubs, Bowling Clubs  and Surf Clubs – Almost every town in Australia will have at least one of these clubs that have relative cheap food and drink.

Menu Log is a great app for finding takeaway deals. This app tells you what restaurants are nearby and who home delivers. It’s on iPhone and Android.

Don’t travel in Australia just for the sake of it. And don't race around trying to see a million things as you will end up feeling like you need another holiday.

Give yourself time to absorb your experiences and create life long memories, not memories of planes, packing and sitting in your car.

 

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