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24 practical ways to manage your expenses whilst on a road trip!

Thanks to American Express for sponsoring this post

Motorhome driving dirt road in Queensland Australia in the rainforest

Is there anything better than popping your favourite track onto Spotify and heading off on a road trip to somewhere new? If you’re anything like us, the very thought of this will get you pumped to jump onto planning your next vacation! We all deserve some time for adventures, but we also know that sometimes the costs of planning a trip can quickly add up!


We have taken many, many road trips both domestically and internationally. Each time we prepare to make sure our costs don’t get out of control, while still making sure we have the best time possible!

We have put together a comprehensive list of practical tips that will help you make money-smart decisions on the road.


Prep and planning


Consider your costs

The first thing we do for every road trip (whether it’s a short road trip for a week, or for an extended period of time) is set a budget and do your very best stick to it!

Blonde girl eating gyoza in Brisbane Australia Harajuku

Some factors to think about are:

  • Accommodation – this might be campground fees if in your campervan/motorhome, or finding accommodation like hotels and/or self-contained places

  • Fuel – finding ways to ensure you’re getting the best deal on fuel and not paying more than you need to

  • Car hire (if renting)

  • Groceries – a good way to save on food costs

  • Eating out - your luxuries like coffee, restaurants, bars

  • Activities – these include low-cost and more splurge-worthy activities

  • Miscellaneous costs – such as trips to the pharmacy, parking costs, tolls, etc.

  • The boring stuff – big cost items like car insurance, phone insurance, camera costs, etc

  • Emergency - medical/hospital cover and being prepared for unexpected costs like vehicle breakdowns.

We will dive deeper into each of these costs throughout this article.

Building skyline on the beach in Gold Coast, Queensland Australia
Gold Coast, Queensland Australia

Map your route in advance

We usually start this task by literally drawing a map and populating it with all the stops we want to make, which will help give us a general direction of route and what direction to go in.

This will help with planning accommodation along the way and also save the risk of needing to backtrack or missing out on places that you want to see.

Couple walking sunset on Currumbin beach, Queensland Australia

Packing

Put some thought into what kind of things you are going to want to take with you. Think about the kind of terrain will you be heading to and what kind of climates you are likely to experience, as this will help minimiz last-minute and more expensive clothing purchases on the road.

For example, if you are heading to the beach but then also heading into the mountains, you will want to take a mix of clothing to accommodate both climates! If you are travelling through a variety of climates, take smaller layers rather than heavy bulky items.


Making a list of smaller items you might need, like sunscreens and toiletries, also goes a long way!


Sign up to a good credit card

We have been long time Qantas American Express Ultimate Card Members, and have taken advantage of their awesome benefits many times whilst being on the road. We utilised the Plan It Instalments feature during our bus build (allowing us to pay off big purchases over time, with a fixed monthly fee and 0% interest). If you’re in the market for a new card, American Express’ new Cashback Credit Card is currently the highest uncapped Cashback earning credit card in Australia! And it comes with a heap of very handy benefits which can help you save on costs in a big way. That includes:

- 12-month access to Centr Fit (sign-up before Feb 2022) – no need for a gym membership, which we all know can get pretty expensive!

- A Binge BASIC subscription valued at $10/month – lots of relaxing movie nights under the stars

- Smartphone Screen Insurance, when you pay for your device outright or pay your monthly plan using your Card (exclusions, limits and 10% excess applies) – definitely handy when you’re exploring new terrains, climbing mountains, trekking through bushland.

Couple watching binge in a toyota coaster bus conversion

Having a good credit card also just makes sense for those unexpected costs that you may not necessarily be prepared for. We have found it’s always better to be prepared for the unexpected, which is why we love Plan It Instalments!


Have checks done before you leave

If you’re taking your own car/campervan we would recommend having checks done while you are still at home. Having a routine service done (and picking up any issues) before you head off on your trip can save you a potentially much bigger bill if you get stuck in a more remote location. No one wants mechanical headaches while on the road, especially if it is possible to avoid with a quicker and better-planned trip to your local mechanic.


Book accommodation early

If you have a route mapped out, this will be an easier task. We appreciate you may want to maintain some flexibility on your trip, but even if you have a few places booked and leave some unbooked until a little closer to the time, you’re likely to save a few $$, plus you have more options to choose from.

Travelling in a campervan will be easier as your accommodation is travelling with you, so all you need to do is find a campsite. Similar to booking hotel accommodation, some campsites offer a discount for earlier bookings.

Couple sitting outside a cabin in the rainforest in Byron Bay Australia

Think about your Bucketlist

After all, this is the reason you are going on a road trip right! Of course, you should totally have bucketlist... in saying that, you might find yourself considering doing a random tour that looks fun, but that you could actually do in a million other places, and potentially cheaper.

You should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this activity something I really want to do?

  • Is this location/area the best place to do this activity?

  • Will I be super sad if I don’t do this activity?

If you’re answer is yes to all these questions… then go ahead and enjoy!

Pod of dolphins swimming in Australia ocean

Pre-book activities

There may be a number of activities on the route that you know you 100% want to do. There are often discounts online if you pre-book, it is also always worth doing a quick google search on any promo codes or referral codes to save some $$ that you may not get if you turn up on the day.

If you’re an American Express Card Member it’s also worth checking out the ‘Offers’ section of the Amex App as there are sometimes offers for tourism operators available, which can help you snag a great deal. Pre-booking will often also save you queuing for ages at the ticket booth.


On the Road


Loyalty

This can be applied to many aspects including things like

  • Credit card – in our opinion, it makes sense to stay loyal to one credit card company where you can build up points or earn cashback. The American Express Cashback Card gives you up to 1% Cashback per $1 spent – so you’re basically getting rewarded for money you’re going to spend anyway! You can also receive a bonus 1.5% Cashback when you save the Shop Small Offer to your Card and spend at participating Shop Small businesses (up to $200 Cashback. Ends 31 March 2022).

  • Hotel bookings – We often utilise certain hotel price comparison websites such as booking.com where we have now achieved a status that we receive 10-15% all of our hotel bookings

  • Grocery shopping – if you shop at one supermarket you can often earn points which will go towards your next shopping. If shopping at Coles or Woolworths, you will also sometimes receive petrol discount coupons for their affiliated petrol stations.


Pick up the brochures

Check out those destination brochures you see lying around on tables of hotels, restaurants and cafes and tourist information centres. They are often packed full of coupons and discounts for visiting attractio