Road Tripping Australia: Our Experience

Yesterday we began our series about our epic road trip in Australia. We wrote about relocation rentals and how they work. Today we continue our series describing what our experience was like and how much money we actually spent.

What was our experience like?

We had a great time using the relocation rental and road tripping along the eastern coast of Australia but we really felt the time crunch. Our original plan was to do 2 relocation rentals, one from Cairns to Brisbane and a second from Brisbane to Sydney. We had been monitoring Drive Now’s rental list for about a week and wasn’t seeing anything that would get us to Brisbane from Cairns within our travel window. After spending a couple extra days in Cairns waiting for something to come along, a rental from Cairns to Sydney popped up. We debated back and forth about taking it, but since it was available immediately, we knew we couldn’t wait any longer for something else to come along.

We picked up a 4-berth (4 person) Maui campervan just outside the downtown core of Cairns, and boy was it a beauty. It was very spacious, could sleep up to 4 people comfortably, was equipped with a toilet, shower, and a fully loaded kitchen, and included bedding and all the kitchenware we would need.  We got a full run down from the excellent customer service rep working at the branch, watched an in-depth video about how the campervan worked, and how to maintain and clean it. We were even given a GPS unit to use for free for our rental period too.

Driving the campervan was easy (though the size of it took some getting used to), but we had a very ambitious journey. The distance between Cairns and Sydney is about 2,700km and we only had about 7 days to complete it in. We didn’t get on the road the first day until about 2pm and we had to deliver it in Sydney by 3pm, so we really only had 6 full days.

Be careful of kangaroos! They like to come out around dusk when the pavement is nice and hot.

Parking the campervan overnight was never an issue. One of the six nights, we paid to stay in a campervan park so that we could plug the vehicle in, charge up our laptops and camera batteries (you can’t do that solely from the vehicle battery), take some showers, and empty our waste-water.  Another one of the six nights we stayed overnight with friends in Port Macquarie. The other four nights, we simply pulled into one of the rest stops off of the highway and parked our vehicle overnight. Since we never stayed in the same rest stop twice, it wasn’t an issue.

We stopped a number of times along the way, including Airlie Beach, Hervey Bay, a visit to the Australia Zoo, Byron Bay, and Port Macquarie. But with the exception of the Australia Zoo and an overnight in Port Macquarie, our stops were usually only about 1-2hrs in length.

One aspect of driving in Australia that wasn’t made clear enough to us when we picked up our vehicle was paying for toll roads. There are a number of toll roads in the major cities (including Brisbane and Sydney which we had no choice but to drive through). All the toll roads are done electronically, there’s no paying on the spot, so you have to either set up payment in advance or remember to pay within 3 days of driving on that toll road. It sounds more complicated than it is, but I would highly recommend you have the customer service rep give you a detailed explanation about how to go about setting up and paying for your toll fees before you set out on the road. Personally, I think if you’re doing a relocation rental, the company should just eat the $3 or $4 toll and save you the time and hassle trying to understand the system.

Both Tristan and I love road trips, so spending the majority of our time in the vehicle wasn’t a problem for us. We got to see so much of the landscape and enjoy the scenery along the coast. It was a smooth and beautiful drive and we would definitely do it again if we had the opportunity. My favourite time of day was always just before the sun set. I loved looking out the window and seeing the stunning countryside illuminated in a warm, orange glow just before the sun disappeared in the west.

How much did it all cost?

Our relocation rental was available for 7 days, so we paid the extra $75 for the 7th day. By paying for that 7th day, it also gave us an additional 250km on our mileage allowance, but we didn’t even get close to the maximum we were entitled to, so we didn’t have to pay any additional km fees.

Factoring in all our costs, including the daily rental fee, insurance, fuel (minus $300 in credit we received), tolls, and refilling our propane tank, the total rental charges came to $496.13 AUD. We also lost an extra $80 on our deposit as the exchange rate wasn’t in our favour when we returned the vehicle in Sydney. And, our overnight stay in the campervan park cost $30.60.

Grand Total: $606.73 AUD

That’s a phenomenal deal, especially when looking to rent the exact same vehicle outright will run you well over $1,300 for a one-way trip! And if we had had two more people in our campervan (since it slept 4 people), our costs would have been cut in half.

Getting our deposit money back and our $300 fuel credit was very easy. It was processed on the spot after we dropped off the vehicle and was determined it was clean and in perfect working condition.

Relocation rentals are a great option but they aren’t a good fit for everyone. They are ideally suited for those who are looking to book a trip in the next 2-3 weeks, have a flexible travel schedule, and love to be on the road. We really lucked in with the timing of our rental and felt like rock stars driving our pimped out Maui campervan. It was our favourite experience while traveling in Australia and we can’t wait to do it again!

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