How much does it really cost to take the Big Lap?

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Big Lap budgets for grey nomads
Dave and Catherine share their budget from their three recent trips

For many grey nomads, keeping tabs on trip expenses is about more than adding a bit of interest, it’s vital to ensure that the RV wheels keep turning.

So, how much does it really cost to ‘live the dream’? It’s a bit like asking how long is a piece of string as everyone travels differently … but let’s give it a go, anyway.

David and Cathy Miller have a 2013 Mazda BT 50 and tow an Avan Aspire 555, which is strictly a ‘bitumen hauler’. The Sydneysiders avoid takeaways and tend to do a ‘big shop’ every three weeks or so, picking up consumables like fruit and vegetables in smaller townships as they travel.

The couple has taken three major trips in the last few years and kept meticulous financial records.

Trip One:
25 days through Outback New South Wales where many of the paid campsites were cheaper, more basic ones.

“Our average daily food costs were a bit lower than usual as we ran down the stock of food consumables in the van rather than replacing them while we travelled,” said David.
Average cost per day: $100.60.

Trip Two:
111 days across the Nullarbor, up the west coast to Darwin, and then down the Centre. The fact their caravan isn’t off-road meant the couple incurred $2,000-plus in additional expenses storing it and hiring an off-road camper to ‘do’ the Gibb River Road.

“We also did a lot of paid sightseeing tours on this trip, including the Horizontal Falls out of Broome at a cost of $2,000 … it was on our ‘bucket list’ and wasn’t going to be missed,” said David.
Average cost per day: $194.47

Trip Three:
139 days travelling to Karumba in the Gulf, across to Queensland, and down the coast to Sydney. They spent $1,400 on tours, including a couple of fishing charters. They also spent around $1,000 on an unplanned return trip to Sydney to attend a funeral.

“We also caught up with lots of family and friends scattered over the east coast and this generally meant going out for dinner and a significant uptick impact on our average daily food costs,” said David.
Average cost per day: $134.51

The couple say they could have done things much cheaper but that it’s important to remember why you are out there. ‘Penny pinching’ and being totally focused on expenses will just detract from the overall travelling experience,” said David.

  • So, how does your spending match up to the Millers’? Comment below
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5 Responses to How much does it really cost to take the Big Lap?

  1. It’s a little different if you are staying in park while partner works 600 ks away on a big station when we both buy food and fuel we wouldn’t be doing this otherwise and we are in our 60s and been traveling 12 years permanently

    • And things have gone wron and has cost us thousands to repair and insurance jobs on van and warranty jobs on a new frig not even a year old and insurance jobs on our ute with a silly woman backing straight into it backing out of woollies as we drove past to find a parking spot it all adds up

  2. Spent 12 months on the big lap, done just over 40,000kms, land cruiser and a 20ft off road van, 90% stopping at powered sites. Total cost just south of $60k. ($1200/wk) Guess could have done it a bit less if we cut down on the wine and takeaways 🙂
    Know another couple who are careful with the $ mostly free camping have done it for $40k

  3. I have a mate with small family, wife and 2 small boys 6 and 8
    Currently on a 6 month lap.
    Not sure of the budget but I was told trip would not be possible if free or low cost camps not available.

  4. We have a 2014 Colorado 7 towing a 21ft road van mainly using caravan parks. Based my calculations on cost per km. This included all purchases (necessities & souvenirs) and fuel. First trip was 2755km mainly in NSW outback with cost being $1.09 per km. Second trip through outback NSW, QLD, NT & SA was 8016km with cost being $0.99c per km. If I work on around $1.00 per km planned, cost budget should be pretty accurate

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