Saving on accommodation in Australia has never been so important. Australia an expensive country to travel, but one worth exploring.
Don’t think you can’t travel Australia yet? There are many ways you can save on travel costs.
Instead of setting a daily budget, we set a weekly one, to allow for a bit of daily movement. Melbourne blew that budget out of the water, but other than that splurge we’ve been able to keep under budget.
Below are nine ways we’ve saved money on accommodation costs on our Australian road trip. (It will be your biggest expense so listen and learn!)
1. Stay Mid-Week
If you can time your visit right by staying mid-week, you can really save some cash. Especially avoid the big cities over a weekend if possible.
We’re stunned by how much the prices for a bed can rise on the weekend – some places triple. Because we’re on an indefinite road trip around Oz, we constantly see the fluctuations in prices from mid-week to weekends.
We recently stayed in a cabin in Port Campbell on the Great Ocean Road mid-week and grabbed this deal – pay for 3 nights, stay for 4.
And we’ve seen better prices mid-week for all accommodation types from hotels to apartments to caravan parks.
If you have to visit a city over a weekend see tip number 8 for our best online booking sites, or consider staying in a hostel. We stay in family rooms at YHA Hostels. If you have a group of 4 consider staying in a 4-bed dorm to cut down your expense.
2. Negotiate for a Better Deal
One of our favourite ways to save on anything! There’s nothing wrong with a little conversation to help you get a better deal.
Competition is pretty fierce in the travel industry as people are finding smarter ways to travel for cheaper and longer. Put your smiley face on and either call the property in advance, or speak in person once you arrive. They can only say no right?!
Here are a few ways to ask for a cheaper or better deal:
- Is that the best price you have at the moment?
- What if we stay longer?
- Are you able to waive the fee for children? (Many of the campsites in Australia charge per child. We’ve negotiated it off several times)
- Does breakfast come with that? Are you able to include it?
- Is there any chance for an upgrade?
- I did notice XYZ property down the road is advertising $X can you match that? I’d much prefer to stay here, but I have to keep to my budget.
You might even negotiate a better deal by giving up some of their services.
We recently got an entire night for free in Wilsons Promontory National Park as there was a mix up with another booking and our cabin had not been cleaned. We told them not to worry, we’d clean it ourselves (we were desperate to stay here and there were no other options AND it was pretty clean).
3. Rent an Apartment or Home
Another one of our favourite strategies, particularly for families or small groups.
Apartments, or home rentals, are a great way to save on accommodation costs. They are usually cheaper and more practical than a hotel, or even a caravan park cabin. And sometimes even cheaper than a private room in a hostel.
Traveling with other family members or another couple? Why not get an apartment big enough and share the cost.
Craig’s parents visited us during our trip in Tasmania and several times we rented either an apartment, or a cabin with 3 bedrooms. Sharing the apartment really reduced our per-night rates.
Check out these sites for apartments and home rentals:
- AirBnB – they have a growing list of inventory in Australia whether you need an apartment for a night, or a home for a month.
- Booking.com – they are not just about hotels, they have a large inventory of apartments around the world.
4. Go Camping
One would think camping is a cheap option in Australia – yes and no. (just don’t compare it to other countries.)
On average you’ll pay $35 per night, but this can rise to as high as $80 depending on where and when you camp, how many people per site, and if you want a powered or un-powered site.
For families, they will charge you per child, and we have even been charged $12 per night for Savannah – she’s 2 years old – which got up my goat and was able to negotiate away!
Again, staying mid-week versus weekends will save you, as will avoiding major holiday periods.
We look for the right deals and we use our negotiation tactics to at least remove the fees for the kids. One good thing about now having a camper trailer (see tip number 7) is we are self-sufficient so can utilise the many free camping sites in Australia.
Websites to check out for camping:
- ExploreAustralia.net.au – discover free camping in National parks
- Big4 Caravan Parks – sign up for their membership to get better rates
- Top Tourist Caravan Parks – sign up for their membership to get better rates)
- Look at the State Tourism Board websites
- Google search the National Parks sites for each state.
We haven’t used the housesitting strategy yet via an official membership site, although we did sign up for a few at the start of our trip.
To be honest, we’ve found these a little frustrating and expensive, and the competition and flexibility required difficult to land a house-sitting job. Many of the house-sits were in outer areas, and we didn’t want to visit these locations for the sake of house-siting.
You also need time to organize it, or be super flexible to move on a whim. With kids and a business, and a country the size of Australia, it’s too difficult for us to commit to apply for that awesome house-sitting job in Perth in 4 months, or last minute.
In saying that, if you are very flexible on your locations, are retired or semi-retired, work a digital business, or are on a working holiday I totally get the value this can provide.
However, we have been very fortunate to be able to house-sit a few times on this trip for friends in some great locations like Melbourne and Bright. Relationships can really pay off and we hope to return the favour one day!
We have not used the official Couchsurfing website where you can stay in a stranger’s home (which we’ve been told by others is a great way to travel like a local), but we have been fortunate to be able to stay at several friend’s homes in various states.
And we don’t usually end up on their couch either, but a spare room which is always appreciated. The bonus of this is you get to have a night of great conversation with friends and re-connect with people you may not have seen for a while.
7. Buy a Camper Trailer (or Caravan)
Although the initial investment is large, over time it drastically reduces our per-night cost of our accommodation. Plus, it has a kitchen which reduces our eating out expenses.
We purchased a brand that has a high re-sale value, so if we desire at the end of our trip we can sell it and recoup the majority, if not more of our purchase price. Apparently, if you sell up in North Queensland, or over in Western Australia you can actually make money or at least get most back (most of the inventory is down south so people are willing to pay more up north).
Also, we have solar panels on top of our camper so we can free camp in National Parks – and there are many beautiful spots in Australia for this. We can also stay in un-powered sites in caravan parks instead of powered which again reduces our per-night cost.
For free and cheap camping options purchase the orange covered Camping Around Australia book found in all camping and book stores. Or visit their website ExploreAustralia.net.au
If you are on an extended trip around Australia, or on a working holiday in Australia, buying or renting a vehicle that you can sleep in, then re-sell at the end of your trip is a great way to reduce your accommodations expenses + give you unparallelled freedom to explore!
What if you just want to rent a campervan / motorhome? Some rental sites for booking include:
8. Hotel Booking Sites
When we need to stay in a hotel in the city, or a hotel anywhere for that matter, we have a few favourite booking sites we use to find the best deal.
And once we have found our best deal using the sites below, we also call the particular hotel directly as sometimes you can get a better price by going direct.
Our favourite booking sites:
- Booking.com – thousands of properties, easy to search.
- Trip Advisor – millions of reviews, easy to navigate.
9. Partnerships – Exchange Accommodation for Exposure
Even before we had these official partnerships we always stayed at YHA Hostels and at Mantra because they offer great value.
YHA hostels are the best for families in Australia and we trust them and have not had a bad experience yet. And we adore Mantra properties – they are our favourite chain in Australia.
Just because you don’t have a travel blog, or work in the industry, does not mean you cannot use this strategy. I’ve seen plenty of signs in the YHA’s advertising for accommodation in exchange for work. There are also strategies like WOOFING and HelpX.
There are so many clever ways you can save on accommodation.
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We’ve been traveling consistently for 17 years and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that save us money and time when booking accommodation, flights and car rental. Below are our preferred partners:
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