As you all know I am allllll about the #vanlife after my campervan adventures around Australia and New Zealand earlier this year. I’m a total convert to a minimalist existence on four wheels; something I never thought I’d say! Last week I opened up a discussion using the Instagram Q&A function in an attempt to ease, myth bust and encourage all your wildest campervan questions and concerns. There were just too many great topics to cover on my stories, so instead I thought I’d answer them here.
I’ve enlisted the help of my pal and campervan guru Sammy RatPack. Okay, that isn’t really his surname but it is the name of his awesome travel company and it sounds pretty bad-ass. RatPack Travel are my absolute go to experts for all things on hiring a campervan in Australia or New Zealand.
In an attempt to break down the impersonal, often extortionate face of the travel and rental industry, Sammy runs things very differently. In a nutshell: give him your dates, let him know who you are, who you’re travelling with and what kind of trip you’re after and he’ll do the rest. He runs a search comparing all the available vans on the market then brings you the best one. THEN (!) he cuts into his own commission and makes it at least 10% cheaper.
Yep, the guy gives away his profit so you have extra beer money for your epic roadie. Now you see why I shout about them so much?
Anyway, he also really knows his shit when it comes to vanlife having adventured off on many roadies of his own. His knowledge proved invaluable to me when I campervanned it around New Zealand and he’s forever answering all my weird and mildly irritating questions via WhatsApp. He’s a good egg.
10 Things YOU Wanted to Know About Hiring a Campervan in Australia and New Zealand
(ranked in order of popularity!)
1. How much does hiring a campervan in Australia or New Zealand cost?
This is easily the most frequently asked and the hardest question to answer. I totally know why you want to know exactly what your van is going to cost whilst you’re still in the planning stages of your trip. Here are some of the factors that make it so hard to give a definitive answer:
- What time of year is it?
- Where are you picking up from and dropping off to?
- What style of van do you want?
- Which company you go with: are you happy with an older model, or do you want something flashier?
To try and give you a really transparent idea, I asked Sammy to run a search for a 21 day road trip from Sydney to Cairns at the beginning of February (the height of Aussie summer). This is the most expensive time of year to do this journey.
I think you’ll be really pleasantly surprised by the price!
Pickup Location: Sydney, 1st February 2020
Return Location: Cairns, 21st February 2020
Youngest Driver: 19 years
Daily Rate: 21 days x $99 = $2079
Administration fee: $70
Sub total cost: $2149
RatPack Discount: 10% = $89 daily rental
Total cost: $1869 (£1,038)
So between 3 mates, that’s just £346 each for your TRAVEL AND ACCOMODATION for THREE WEEKS!
Product image of actual van in relation to above quote.
2. Where do you poo?
YOU GUYS! I poo in….a toilet. Dun, dun, duuuun.
I’ve never driven a self-contained van (one with a loo or shower in it) and simply do my number twos in gas stations, in a McDonald’s, in public loos etc. You’ll probably be surprised by the wealth of facilities on offer, especially in Australia. There are day use areas, rest stops and loos at the beach all over this massive country. People are used to doing long journeys so the facilities are there.
Even in the remotest part of New Zealand, not once did I ever shit in the woods. Sorry guys.
As for wees, the great outdoors always sufficed. Ladies, the trick is squat super low and aim downhill. Nobody wants pissy Havaianas.
3. Should I go for freedom camps or paid campsites?
Vanlife can be ultra cheap. One of the biggest things to decide that will massively dictate your spending is freedom camp or paid for campsite?
For a period I did the latter, then one night we got stuck after closing and ended up wild camping. IT WAS THE BEST. Waking up surrounded by total nature, no having to be in a set spot by a set time, finding some awesome places to spend the night by the beach, in forests and in secluded locations. All for free!
If freedom camping doesn’t float your boat (but do try it at least once or twice) then you’re looking at an average of around $40-50 (£20-25) for a powered pitch in the summer. Ouch.
Obviously if you pay for a campsite you will have facilities like showers, toilets and often communal kitchens, you may have wifi (though I wouldn’t count on it being any good) and you’ll have access to power should you want it.
The view from one of my favourite freedom camps, on the shores of Lake Pukaki on New Zealand’s South Island: do you really want to pay for a campsite now?!
4. How do you wash if you’re freedom camping?
In Australia I found almost all of the beaches had facilities. Washrooms, outdoor showers and some even had indoor heated showers! We’d go for a morning walk on the beach or a swim, then shower off and get ready for the day. Sometimes just a bucket of water will do!
In New Zealand there are less beaches but more lakes, creeks and rivers! We would always choose freedom camps near some kind of source of freshwater for a morning or evening dip. At times it was freezing, at others literally glacial but it was always good fun and I always ended up clean.
Of course, it’s great to use the most eco-friendly products you can find for hair and body washing. Have a look at Ethique World shampoo, conditioner and body bars; they’re an ultra earth conscious kiwi brand.
Evening shower at Noosa National Park, Queensland
5. How much does fuel cost and how far will a tank take me?
CHEAPER than the UK let me tell you…
The Facts (prices 11th September 2019)
- Petrol price in the UK (per litre): £ 151.9 GBP ($2.72 AUD)
- Petrol price in Oz (per litre): £0.78 GBP ($ 1.40 AUD)
The Estimates of a road trip between Sydney and Cairns:
- An average Fuel Consumption is Approx 14L Per 100km
- Price per 100 km’s = £10.92
- The Km’s between Sydney and Cairns is 3140 km’s
- Total price over the road trip = £342
6. What are some easy campervan meals?
I’m going to answer this more in depth in a separate post. Inevitably you’ll eat a lot of pasta. It’s just so easy, cheap and filling. However I started to get a bit more adventurous (and a bit healthier) when I realised I was slowly morphing into penne.
My top tip is to buy seasonings. Salt, pepper, some chilli flakes and maybe some kind of mixed green herb seasoning.
- Pasta variations
- Soup and bread
- Salad with cold meat
- Potnoodles (sorry, not sorry)
Basically anything you can make one pan!
#AUSSIEBBQ: as well as toilets and showers dotted all over, almost every beach has free barbies for you to chuck a few shrimp on. We don’t stereotype at all round here. Basically, Australia is just one huge campout. Get some SNAG on the BBQ (if you know, you know).
Cooking up a storm (okay, reheating a pouch of soup…) on the banks of Lake Taupo, NZ
7. I thought you had to connect to power every few days for the van battery to charge?
I’m sure Sammy will correct me if I’m wrong but I reckon this is a bit of a myth. We definitely didn’t do this in New Zealand, even in a proper old banger of a van, and had no issues. The trick is to drive enough; driving charges the battery. If you’re going to stay in the same spot for 3 days then you’re going to need to plug in.
We always had enough power to use the houselights in the evening. We weren’t fussed about the plug sockets or microwave (which do require the van to be connected to a power source) and we would turn the fridge down overnight then back up when we set off again.
As for charging devices, we would do so during the day in cafes etc.
Thats correct each van has a second deep cycle battery to run the fridge (if you opt for a van with a fridge – which is highly recommended). This means that the battery is charged when the engine is running… Beth you are now a fully certified ROAD TRIPPier knowing this : ) *Beth bows*
8. Is it realistic to campervan with children?
Again, Sammy will be better equipped to answer this one than me as I’m sure he’s helped customers with sprogs. On the road I’ve seen plenty of families in a variety of vans (usually dependent on the number of offspring they have) and if you look on Instagram, there’s a pretty big movement of nomadic #vanlife families on the road.
I’m not sure if I’m better equipped here hahahaha – a mini RatPacker has not appeared yet…
NOOOOOO joking aside, I have helped a small amount of young parents book vans with little ones! With this, just 100% be sure to tell me when you get in contact as it is VITAL that the seats have the correct anchor point for the baby seat. You DO NOT want to choose a van without the right features; if you rock up in peak season and its not the right model of van, its highly unlikely there will be a spare one knocking around.
9. How do I control the temperature at night?
I have one distinct memory of being way too hot: camping in the outback during a 45 degree South Australian summer night. One of being too cold: underneath Mount Cook in New Zealand (also in the summer).
The first one was me being a mug. It was the worst night I had in the van (aside from #kevinthespider but I’ll save that story for after you’ve booked -ha!) The second could’ve been solved by being better equipped, but that’s tricky when you’re packing light. On that occasion, sleeping in jogging bottoms, socks, a jumper and in a silk sleeping bag liner under the duvet helped.
It’s tough in a rental. You don’t want to spend extra money on a battery powered fan so yes, it gets hot. One of my non-negotiable van qualities became having one with windows with good bug nets. Sleeping with them open makes all the difference!
10. How old do you have to be to hire a van?
Most direct sites charge extra if you are under 21.
I have contacts with all the companies to ensure that you will not be charged any extra providing you are 19 and over with a full licence.
If you are 18, still get in touch, just ensure you tell me when we are chatting about your trip as again, this is a vital piece of info as there are a few companies that will refuse to insure you : )
Extra: Sammy’s Top Tip
I say this year on year to people:
Campers are a little like booking flights; the longer you leave it, the more expensive it will be.
There is NO upside to waiting until the last minute.
AS SOON as you know your travel dates and those flights are booked HIT ME to start comparing rates and camper styles. The BEST thing with campers is that to secure a booking, the companies only require a small deposit, with the remaining balance only payable when you actually pick up the camper. This of course means that you are not out of pocket before the trip and it allows most people the luxury of being able to pre-plan a trip without forking out all the cash up front.
For more information on hiring a campervan in Australia or New Zealand with RatPack Travel click here or WhatsApp Sammy here!