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 key to keep the overall costs within the budget you have for Australia. I have been travelling Australia for many years 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 Australian solo trips, and with this guide put I want to help you plan a trip to Australia on a budget.
What you need to know before planning a trip to Australia
Travelling around Australia can become the most significant expense if you are not timely budgeting for it and exactly know what impacts the overall travel expenses. Once you know what things not to do in Australia, you will soon realise that travelling on a budget in Australia is possible without breaking the bank. 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:
1. You cannot make changes to your travel plan at the last minute.
Making changes to your Australian trip 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. You must book cheap flights and internal transportation well ahead 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.
2. 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. Most of your trip planning must be completed before leaving home. And you must stick to it.
3. Have a clear focus on what you want to do in Australia
Your trip requires a goal, a purpose. It’s easier to identify areas and destinations to include in your itinerary with a clear focus, making planning a trip more accurate. So, I suggest making a list of the places you want to see in Australia and match the time frame you have set, and then go through them and whittle it down to a maximum of four to five destinations for 20 to 30 days of vacation.
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?
If you have one week, 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. Don’t overdo it. 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 you travel to Australia?
Please make a list of, let’s say 10 places and narrow it down to half of them, according to the time of year you plan to go and how much time you have. Then pull out a map and work out the time frame and transportation options. If you plan a road trip, time varies depending on the destination: if it is in the Outback it will require more time than what Google Maps tells you, so plan in ample time for planning a road trip journey.
How much time do you need to visit 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 explore Australia on road trips. 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 each road trip to pace yourself.
The hardest part about creating a good Australia itinerary 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. The 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 Australia is a vast country with largely deserted areas. If you are travelling to Australia for the first time, I recommend going 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 when planning a trip
Australia it’s twice as big as Europe and about the same size of the US. Travel distances are vast and often underestimated, and challenging for 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 country’s vastness, then choose a region that most suits your travel style and allows enough time to visit the desired destinations at a slow pace.
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 from Adelaide to Perth, 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 make a travel plan – when and where to go
Australia is a vast country with different climates 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 Australia’s northern tropical regions is between Nov and Feb, and it’s best to avoid travelling to North West Australia during the wet season. The best time to visit is between May through September (winter in Australia).
Places not to miss in Australia: Where To Start
There are many places in Australia, and this may be challenging for 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 seeing all of these destinations. Here are the top destinations I recommend having in your trip itinerary plan of Australia:
What to add to your Australia trip itinerary
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Uluru (Ayers Rock) is a must-see place, as it is an icon of the Outback and a rewarding experience for a fantastic road trip in the Australian Outback.
- 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.
- Tasmania is a place that also fascinates local and international visitors alike with its many national parks, abundant walking trails, stunningly beautiful beaches, 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.
- The Top End is where you love tropical national parks and indigenous heritage in the Northern Territory with Kakadu National Park. Darwin is a place not to miss out if you love adventure and enjoy the typical Australian lay-back lifestyle.
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.
Things To Know About Road Trip Planning 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 a book help you plan your trip itinerary to Australia
That’s the reason I have created a handy Australia guidebook 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.
A well thought out itinerary allows you to see the best places of 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 guidebook 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.
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 guidebook has helped thousands of travellers planning their Australian Adventures.
Check out our Australia Itinerary Guide Book
Australia Trip Preparation
This easy step-by-step trip planning guide helps you quickly go through all those crucial things you need to do when your travel plan for Australia is ready, and you want to move to the next stage: from the planning to arranging and preparing for your trip. You don’t need an over-detailed trip plan. What you need now is making all necessary travel arrangements before going to Australia.
Here is the list of what you need to prepare at 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. And here you can read my flight review with Emirates Australia Ecomony Class.
- Book All your Internal Flights
I recommend booking all your internal flights that are the frame and backbone of your travel plan soon after booking 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, book all accommodation in Australia and use a site that allows cancellations and changes with no fee, like booking.com.
- 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 minute.
- Buy Travel Insurance
I’d buy travel insurance for Australia soon after having purchased the flight tickets. If you plan outdoor activities, make sure that your plan covers all activities you plan to do in Australia.
- Check Baggage Allowances for Australia
And also what you can take into the country and what you can’t take on the plane. In this article, I thoroughly explain how much weight you can carry in your luggage and cabin bags with all airlines, plus Australia’s baggage rules and restrictions.
- Get an international driving license
If you plan to drive in Australia as a tourist and rent a car, you need an English driving license. 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 time, 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 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.
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Resources for planning your trip to Australia
Here is a list of popular articles and guides that will help you plan a trip to Australia.
Back To Rocky Travel
This article was first published in March 2017 – last updated in May 2023
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