Tips for Spending and Saving on the Road

Posted by Elise Cook on


We live a life that is full of travel. In fact, travel is our lifestyle. Because of this, we are often asked how we make it work financially. While we still work as we adventure around Australia - running our business from the road - the fact that we are constantly moving and in new places, and constantly wanting to explore and experience each new place, has meant that we’ve had to come up with ways to manage our spending and ensure that we are able to still save whilst travelling.

On top of our wanderings around Australia, we saved up for a big overseas trip to India this year, so we’ve shared our tips and tricks for overseas travel and how we managed our spending a little differently for an overseas adventure.  



Avoid Tours and Tourist Traps - Do Your Own Research

Elise does most of the research and map navigation, but in saying that - we are not big planners. We travel spontaneously and make most of our plans a day or two out, or even on the day. This is how we travel within Australia and overseas. In India, we didn’t even plan where we would be beyond our first two nights before we landed, we like to get a feel, and be open to staying longer in a place or leaving earlier if we want to.

With all and any travel research, it can be overwhelming when in a completely new place, and it is easy to see why people just think, ‘I can’t be bothered, I’ll pay for a tour so someone else can work it out for me...’ or end up in crowded tourist hot spots. We are big believers that it is always better experiencing a place in the most authentic way possible, which usually means not being surrounding by big groups of people.

In most cases, some quick research can lead you on far more rewarding adventures and save you a whole lot of money.

  • Google your destination and find personal blogs. Avoid blogs by brands or travel companies (there’s often a hidden agenda). Personal blogs will give you someone’s honest experience and help you to know places to avoid too.
  • Elise uses Instagram and will look at the most recent photos for a location geotag, whether it’s a specific place or a whole region, will get a feel for spots that appeal to us and often finds hidden gems that a google search wouldn’t turn up.
  • We love using satellite maps and looking at the area we are in to find beautiful locations and secret beaches.


Set Weekly Budgets
We find that because we move frequently, weekly budgets work best. We ensure anything we spend
on food, experiences and camping / accommodation stays within this. If we have a really frugal week,
or month, we can afford to splash out on something.

Create Specific Accounts
We have a savings account and a spending account. Once money goes into the savings account it
doesn’t come out. Whatever is in the spending account is all we have to work with.

Credit Card
We use a credit card for all our spending, but we never spend more than what is in the spending
account and strictly pay the card off every single week. This is Dom’s designated task.

We choose to use a credit card primarily to benefit from reward points, and travel insurance (which
we’ll touch on below in the overseas trip). However, we treat our credit card spending as if we are
operating with a debit card, imagining that it is pulling straight from our spending account, and only
spending what that account holds.

See other tips for help tracking your spending (with NAB) - HERE.  

Use One Card for All Spending and Avoid Using Cash
We avoid using cash and do all of our spending on one card. This is so that we can look back and
account for our spending. That way we can easily see what we’ve spent on groceries for the month,
or on eating out and can review where we might be spending too much and can cut back. Our
experience with cash is that is can disappear quickly and a month later neither of us can remember
what we spent it on.


Make Your Own Food

We cook our own meals or eat our own food the majority of the time. We do this for two reasons; firstly, we are fairly health conscious and prefer to know and be in control of what we put into our bodies. Secondly, it is far more cost effective when travelling to to keep eating out to a minimum, to special occasions, or to restaurants / cafes that are an experience in themselves.

  • If you’re spending a whole day out exploring, take something easy with you. If you don’t have time to make something, do as Elise does - she always carries a banana and a jar of natural peanut butter in her bag. Or do as Dom does - a carrot and hummus. Or choose whatever you love on the go!
  • If you're trying to save, and you do eat out, skip the alcohol or bring your own. This is especially important when we are travelling in a place where we have to eat out a lot - we keep it to once a week as booze generally doubles the bill.

Shop at the Farmers Markets & Buy in Season

Wherever we are, throughout Australia and overseas, we love visiting the local farmers markets. This way we can get to know what’s in season and what’s fresh. Eating in season is also more cost effective, and means we’re eating local, rather than something that has had to be imported. This is great for our own cooking, as it means it’s always changing, and is also great knowledge for eating out in those towns.



Camp As Much As Possible

There are a million reasons we love camping in the great outdoors, as it always makes for a far richer experience, but it is also a very affordable way to travel. We use an app to find campgrounds. Australia has an abundance of incredible free camp grounds, as well as very affordable paid ones (which often come with a hot shower too).

Chat to Locals and Other Travellers On the Road

Travel with an open mind and an open heart. We are often approached for a chat, and we are always open to it. We have discovered some of our favourite spots because of a tip from a local who knows the place inside out. Likewise, we’ve been pointed in the direction of beautiful campgrounds, or heeded many warnings of cautions from other travellers.

Don’t Underestimate Fuel Costs and Car Maintenance

Work this into your budget. If you are driving around Australia, or any country, this will be one of your primary expenses.

  • Avoid having to fill the tank in small towns, as the cost of fuel is always slightly higher. Use small towns for tops ups only if possible and carry fuel with you when travelling in remote parts of Australia.
  • Get top cover roadside assistance, they’ll be your best friend if something goes wrong on one of Australia’s long roads to nowhere. Especially if you’re in a Kombi van, you’ll be on first name basis in no time.
  • Most importantly, if you are hoping to travel on a small budget we don’t recommend travelling in a vintage car! Ha-ha. But it’s worth it for all the good vibes and incredible people we’ve met.

Carry Refillable Water Containers

This is a quick way to save a whole lot on the road. Keep them full at every opportunity.



We booked our flights to India with our reward points, which we accumulated with our credit card as we travelled around Australia. The credit card also gave us travel insurance, which - even if you were just activating a new card - is still a better way to go than paying for insurance but it is important to check the cover meets your needs.


Set A Trip Budget

Set a budget for your entire trip, and then work backwards. We went to India for one month, so set a monthly budget which worked great for us. However, we have friends who still prefer to have a weekly or even a daily budget when travelling overseas. Anything is fine, but it’s important to set a limit before you leave.

For us, a monthly budget worked so that we could take our mind off the money and just enjoy ourselves. Being conscious of our limit, but not letting it dictate our trip or be too front of mind. We could easily use hop on our app and review our spending at any given time.


If Using a Credit Card

We treated our spending overseas the same as we do in Australia, we only spent what we had set aside in the spending account. The only difference was that we chose to clear it at the end of the month rather than weekly, because it kept us accountable to a certain set amount for the entire trip.

  • Rather than having to withdraw cash in another country, and then go to a money exchange where you may get caught out with high commission rates, it can be far easier to travel with a credit card if you do your research beforehand to find one with the best fees and charges for your destination.
  • Importantly - know your fees and charges, and the currency exchange rate before you go. You can read more about this here  on NAB’s tips for tracking your spending while travelling.

OR Thought about a Traveller Card?

If your destination uses one of the currencies on this LIST , a prepaid Traveller Card could be the best way to go.

Things to think about:

  • Can you load your budget onto the card? Whether you load your entire trip budget onto the card, or you prefer to reload it weekly online - fantastic for setting and keeping to a budget.
  • Can you load it in the currency of the country you are visiting? This means you don’t have to worry about exchange rates per purchase.
  • Are you paying fees for reloading funds, or for using overseas ATM’s while travelling? If you are, it could mean that costs can add up really quickly when using a credit card overseas but just remember that some ATM operators may directly charge a fee.

We hope some of these tips for sticking to a budget while travelling are helpful, and we hope they help you get out and explore this beautiful world and live a life full of a million incredible moments.

If they were - we'd love you to say hello in the comments below :)


This article is a NAB paid promotion and was written in collaboration with NAB.

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  • Hi, I love your blogs and Instagram account my partner and I are taking our Kombi on the road in January 2019 and I would love to know what app you are talking about in this blog post!
    Thank you.

    Tullee on
  • Great advice! The itch is growing to take our children around Oz.. we already love camping in our canvas camper on trips around WA, and often dream about taking 12months… ☺️

    Bec on
  • I have been following a while now but not that long. It may surprise you I have just read MY FIRST EVER BLOG not just of yours – at all. Very happy this is the one that chose me! I’ll be reading of yours going forward!

    Through your experiences I’m really interested in hearing your opinion and advise on ANYTHING & EVERYTHING haha

    What you speak about here would be GREAT to apply to every day life aswell really :)

    Thanks for your words!

    Totz travel and relationship goals! Haha

    Ps – I want to get a drone and learn. Can you maybe please suggest a cheap enough good one for a first timer or is there no such thing? TIA

    Sarah on

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