How To Plan a Trip To Australia: Easy Step-By-Step Guide

Planning a trip to Australia can be an overwhelming experience. Not only because you are going to the other side of the world, but because a cost-effective Australia Trip plan requires time and effort that can get out of your control. Australia is (in) famous for being an expensive destination, and a thoughtful travel plan is a key to keep the overall costs within the budget.

By now, I have been ten times to Australia and have planned all kinds of trips, from bus and train rides to flights and road trips around the country. In 15 years, I have gathered a lot of experience while planning my solo trips, and that’s why I put together this guide to help you plan your trip to Australia.

Australia Travel Planner - A step-by-step Guide for planning your trip

What you need to know about travelling in Australia

Travelling around Australia can become the most significant expense if you are not timely budgeting for it and exactly know what has an impact on the overall travel expenses. But once you know about what things not to do in Australia, then you will soon realise that travelling on a budget in Australia is possible and without having to break the bank.

The most important thing to know how much is that many things work differently in the Land Down Under, and without a thought-out trip plan, you are bound to overspend and exceed your budget very quickly. These are the main reasons why an accurate travel plan for Australia is necessary.

Here are the things you must know:

You cannot make changes to your travel plan in the last minute.

Making changes to your trip plan will increase the cost of your trip by 100% and even more. In Australia, distances are enormous; it takes a long time to move from A to B. Cheap flights, and internal transportation must be booked well in advance, to save 30-100% on regular rates. Last-minute bookings of airfares, car rentals will cost you at least up to 100% more than a normal price.

Don’t waste time with further trip planning when in Australia.

You’re there to discover places and experience a new country, not to plan and revise the itinerary all the time. The vast majority of your trip planning must be completed before leaving home. And most importantly, you must stick to it.

You need a clear focus on what you want to do in Australia.

Like any good blueprint, your trip requires a goal, a purpose. With a clear focus, it’s easier to identify areas and destinations to include in your itinerary, and it makes planning a trip more accurate. So, I suggest making a list of the places you want to see in Australia and match them to the time frame you have set, and then go through them and whittle it down to a maximum of four to five destinations for a 20 to 30 days vacation.

I used to print out a colourful map of Australia and draw my itinerary on it, starting from my arrival destination, drawing lines to connect all other places where I planned to stop. This helped me chopping and dicing my trip itinerary into single detail. I felt it was vital for me. If you wish to follow this, take notes next to it for your records.

Learn the basics of how to Plan a Trip to Australia

The first things you should consider when making a trip plan are the following:

How much time do you have for your Australia Trip?

The time frame and when you travel during the year is what determines where you will go and what you will. If you have one week, then focus on one region or city only, with a few nearby attractions. If you have two weeks, you can plan two or three destinations. And the more time you have, the more you can plan in. Don’t overdo. I know it’s easy said than done, but in Australia good timing is crucial.

Where do you want to go to Australia?

Choosing your destinations in Australia is the hardest part of any trip itinerary. To make it a little bit easier, think back to this question: What is the reason for you to travel to Australia?

Make a list of let’s say 10 places and narrow down to half of them, according to the time of year you plan to go (climate and weather) and how much time you have to visit. Then pull out a map and work out the time frame and transportation options. If you plan a road trip, time varies completely depending on the destination, remote regions and Outback requires much more time than what you see on the Google Maps, so plan in ample time for your journey.

How much time do you need to see the destinations you want to see?

This is one important thing to factor in, and a big challenge for first-time travellers to Australia too. Especially when you want to go road tripping. What looks like a short distance often turns out to be a several-day trip. Australia is a great country for road trips, but you must figure out how much time you need for each road trip to pace yourself. And unless you are on a long-term holiday, good timing and pace play an important role for a good Australia trip planning.

The hardest part about creating a good itinerary in Australia is balancing your time frame with the places you want to see and the distances you have to travel.

How much time do you need to visit places in Australia?

As said, whether your trip to Australia is two weeks or three months, the allocated time is vital. It is the most critical element in crafting the perfect Australia Itinerary. You need to know the minimum time you’re going to allocate to each place. On the one hand, you don’t want to miss out on essential things, but on the other hand, you don’t want to stay too long in one place and waste precious time. Key is to optimise your time when travelling around Australia.

Most people do underestimate this critical issue and think two weeks will be enough to visit Australia. But in reality, it is not so. Australia is a vast country with largely deserted areas. If you are travelling to Australia for the first time, I don’t recommend to go for at least three to four weeks.

If you only have one week to spend in Australia, you should first consider whether the long journey is worth such a short stay. Anyways, keeping the focus on one specific region of Australia is the way to go.

Why Travel Distances in Australia matter

Australia it’s twice as big as Europe. Travel distances are vast and often underestimated and challenging first-time travellers. By looking at this map, you’ll realise that you cannot put the whole of Australia on an itinerary of a few weeks. That’s why it’s essential first to get a feel for the vastness of the country, then choose a region that most suits your travel style and allows enough time to visit the desired destinations at a slow pace.

Australia Travel Distances
Australia Travel distances do have an impact on your trip plan.

A few examples of travel distances in Australia

The distance from Perth to Adelaide is over 2,500km. The best way to get there is to fly. With the GHAN train, it takes two days two nights. If you plan to drive, you need at least 8-12 days. It means that driving is doable on long-term trips only. From Darwin to Cairns, the fastest way is to fly.

The same for Sydney to Cairns. If you’re on a long journey, driving can be fun; the best approach is to hire a camper van and plan for three weeks on the road. With nearly 3,000km from Adelaide to Darwin, you need between 12-16 days on a road trip or a four-hour flight.

How to plan a trip to Australia – When and Where To Go

Australia is a vast country with different climate and time zones ranging from tropical to temperate. Depending on which time of the year you plan to visit Australia, you can choose the areas accordingly. If you wish to spend most of your time in the Australian Outback and the tropical regions, May through October will be the best time.

If your trip includes the southern areas of the country, like Victoria and Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia, then the ideal time is to visit between November through March (Spring to Summer in Australia).

Australia’s tropical wet season in the northern tropical regions of Australia are between November and February, and it’s best to avoid travelling to North Australia during the wet season. The best time to visit is between May through September (winter in Australia).

Make sure you also read >> The best time of year to visit regions and places in Australia.

Australia Trip Plan Guide
Your Complete Australia Trip Plan Guide

Places not to miss in Australia: Where To Start

There are many places in Australia, and this may be challenging you in your choice. When I went on my first trip to Australia in 2004, I chose a classic round-trip itinerary.

From Sydney to Melbourne along the South East Coast, then a 3-day trip to the Great Ocean Road, on a guided tour over to Adelaide to then fly into Alice Springs and visit Uluru and the Red Centre to end my trip with a visit of the North Tropical Queensland and coming back by bus back to Sydney. And I spent 9 weeks to see all of these destinations.

So it’s important to understand how much time to allocate to places. Cause distances are not what you think.

  1. Sydney is a unique city that offers you places that stand out, like the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach. I will start your trip from Sydney and build your itinerary from there.
  2. Cairns in Tropical North Queensland is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkelling and scuba-diving and many more attractions like the Daintree Rainforest. They both belong to World Heritage Sites, and they should be on your plan when visiting Australia for the first time.
  3. Whitsundays, the Gold Coast, and Fraser Island are unique places where you can experience dunes adventures, sailing and snorkelling, as well as hiking in the forests. If you love water sports, then Queensland should be on your bucket list for Australia.
  4. Uluru (Ayers Rock), is a must-see place, as it is not only an icon of the Outback but also a rewarding experience for a fantastic road trip in the Australian Outback.
  5. South Australia with Adelaide, offers excellent vineyards and a beautiful coastline. You can plan a trip to Barossa Valley for wine tastings. Or cross over to Kangaroo Island for natural attractions, wildlife and isolation at its best.
  6. Tasmania is a place that also fascinates local and international visitors alike with its many national parks, the abundant walking trails, the stunningly beautiful beaches, the great food and the freshest air in the world. I love Tassie and have been 3 times on my trips. I recommend it if you love hiking.
  7. The Top End is the place if you love tropical national parks and indigenous heritage in the Northern Territory with Kakadu National Park and Darwin is a place not to miss out if you love adventure and enjoy the typical Australian lay-back lifestyle.

Don’t forget to read our guide with all Destinations and best places to visit in Australia.

Planning Road Trips around Australia

Driving in Australia for tourists isn’t an issue, and anyone can drive, even if you drive on the left-hand side. I recommend going on a road trip, at least once. Choose your self-drive destinations based on 
your level of driving experience. Keep in
 mind that four-wheel drive can be
 challenging, especially if you have no experience.

Anyone can go on an Outback road trip on sealed roads with no problems – even if you’re travelling alone, you can enjoy self-driving in Australia. And I’m the living example, with over 15 road trips of which 10 completely alone.

You can check what to know before hiring a rental car in Australia.

If you are thinking of going on a greater adventure and travel around the country by campervan.

Where to travel in Australia

Before creating a road trip plan for Australia, answer these questions:

1. What distances can you drive to on your own?

2. What alternative ways of transportation can you consider?

3. How much time do you need to visit a place or an area?

Once you’ve done that, cross some destinations off your list and shape more Australia Itinerary Ideas.

If you have three or four weeks for your trip, reduce the list to four or five places. Once you have the rough itinerary set, you’re halfway there. The next important step is to make a travel plan for Australia that perfectly fits your budget and time frame.

Here are my best tips on how to plan a road trip in Australia.

Let our book help you with your Australia Trip Plan.

That’s the reason I have created a handy Australia guide book to take you through all the above steps of planning a trip to Australia. It shows how much time you need for each place, what you can and can’t do, how to maximise your time and make cost-effective choices with destinations, transportation and finally set up the right itinerary for you.

The first part focuses on the how-to. The second part outlines five detailed itineraries around Australia that you can extend or shorten with suggested places to visit and things to do in Australia.

Now you won’t need six months, or even six weeks to create your itinerary. With this book in hand, you’ll need one hour to read it, plus a week to make your choices and put together a detailed travel plan.

On this page, you can learn more about our Australia Guide Book.

All crucial things that you should know to make a cost-effective plan for your Australia Trip. From the basics to in-depth advice, here are my best best tips to help you create your own itinerary around the country.
How to create the perfect Australia Trip Plan

Australia Trip Preparation

This easy step-by-step trip planning guide that helps you quickly go through all those crucial things that you need to do when your travel plan for Australia is ready and want to move to the next stage: from the Australia trip planning to the trip preparation. You don’t need an over-detailed plan. What you need now is making all necessary travel arrangements, before going to Australia.

Here is the list of what you need to arrange from home for your Australia Trip.

  • Find the best flight deal to Australia
    The first thing to do when you have a fixed plan, book your return flight to Australia. Book your flight between 2 and 3 months for low-season and 6-8 months for high season (Christmas in December and January, and Easter time). On this page to read how to find the best flight deals.
  • Book All your Internal Flights
    I recommend booking all your internal flights that are the frame and backbone of your travel plan, soon after having booked your flight to Australia. Read my tips on how to book domestic flights.
  • Browse through all accommodation options
    There is no need to book all accommodation before going to Australia, but you should have a rough idea of where you want to stay. I would book the first 3-4 nights if you travel in the shoulders months, but if you travel during the peak season, then book all accommodation in advance and use a site that allows cancellations and changes with no fee, like booking.com (aff).
  • Get your Passport and Travel Visa for Australia
    Make sure your passport is valid for at least 6 months after the date of your return ticket. And apply for an Online Visa for Australia. It’s easy and uncomplicated, and you do it online in 1o minutes.
  • Buy Travel Insurance
    I’d buy travel insurance for Australia soon after having purchased the flight tickets. If you are planning outdoor activities, make sure you that your plan covers all activities you plan to do in Australia. Check out this article, for more info about travel insurance for adventure travel.
  • Check Baggage Allowances for Australia
    And also what you can take into the country and what you can’t take on the plane. On this article, I thoroughly explain how much weight you can carry in your luggage and cabin bags with all airlines, plus the baggage rules and restrictions for Australia.
  • Get an international driving license
    If you plan to drive and rent a car in Australia, you need a driving license in English. If your driving license is not in English, then you need a translation that you can provide from the local transport authority in your home country.
  • Packing for Australia
    Packing for Australia isn’t something to take for granted. The weather is most of the times, not really what you expect, the myth that Australia has warm and sunny weather all the time isn’t a rule of thumb. Before packing for Australia, read about what to pack and wear when in Australia.
  • How to exchange money in Australia
    I recommend using debit cards and credit cards with low fees. Do not exchange money in your home country, use the local ATMs instead to withdraw Australian dollars. All over the country, Mastercard and Visa have widely accepted debit/credit cards. Read more about money exchange here.

Your Australia Guide Book by Michela Fantinel

A well thought out itinerary allows you to see Australia without having to make changes last-minute. It means you’ll maximise your time and potentially save up hundreds if not thousands of Australian dollars on your trip. The guide book stretches from iconic landmarks to less-visited small towns and regions of Australia, and it is the reflection of +15 years of my explorations of the country.Australia Solo Travel Book

I wrote this book from my experience as a solo female traveller in Australia to help women travel to Australia safely and with a perfect travel plan. Over the past 5 years, the guide book has helped thousands of travellers planning their Australian Adventures.

Check out our Australia Guide Book.

Australia Travel Planner Guide

Resources for an accurate Australia Travel Plan

Here is a list of popular articles and guides that will further help you plan a trip to Australia.

All Travel Destinations in Australia

The Complete Travel Guide for Australia

Tips for Travelling Solo in Australia

Trip Planning Services for Australia

This article was first published in March 2017 – last updated in November 2020

TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES

BOOK ACCOMMODATION AROUND AUSTRALIA
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GET HELP WITH YOUR AUSTRALIA TRIP

GET YOUR AUSTRALIA ITINERARY GUIDE BOOK
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AUSTRALIA TRIP PLANNING SERVICES
Get Michela’s expert advice to answer your questions, clear doubts, and craft a personalised Australia itinerary with rock-solid knowledge, first-hand tips and professional help to plan your trip to Australia.

How To Plan a Trip To Australia: Easy Step-By-Step Guide