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Home > Tips and Hints > Keeping costs down > More ideas for keeping costs down

Saving on telephone costs

Most of us travel with a mobile phone, and if you are on a plan, you may have a certain value of calls included each month and may be able to choose free calls to selected nubers, or have a 'free hour' each day.  Unless you are on a larger and more expensive plan, this can be easy to over run when talking to family back home.  We choose pre-paid rather than a plan as it works out much cheaper for our usage.  Credit can be lost if the phone credit is not topped up prior to the expiry period, and when travelling and mostly out of range, I found when I needed to used the phone that the credit had expired and been lost. 


If making a local call or one to a 1300 or 1800 number, use a public phone rather than your mobile or satellite phone. 


Use two way radio rather than phone to talk to other travellers and those in your convoy.


I use the computer to communicate with family and friends as well as for businesses when ever possible. Depending on your internet connection plan (if you travel with a lap top and have internet connection), communication with family and friends can be a lot cheaper than using mobile phones.  I have not used free internet spots, but some travellers rely on these, and they can be found at various cafés and at a few caravan parks.  When travelling without a laptop, I used community access points such as telecentres, resource centres, libraries and the like for backing up photos to CD, occasional correspondence and bill paying. For our longer trips I have had internet connection via a laptop for communication with family, trip research and keeping in touch with the world. Even if you need to order parts in the case of a breakdown, find the supplier’s website and check out the ‘contact us’ as you can usually communicate by email instead of expensive long distance phone calls.  Generally our phone usage is very low. 


Property: Insurance is a cost, but it can give you peace of mind that should you have a major accident all will not be lost. Before you leave, make sure you insurance company or broker is aware that you will be travelling, and ensure that you have the level of cover you want and that your contents are included in the cover while removed from your home.  If your home is left vacant for a specified number of days or weeks, you also need to advise your insurer, and higher premiums may be levied.  Alternatively get a family member or close trusted friend to stay for a weekend periodically within the period your insurer requires and keep proof of the visit, such as they telephone you from your home phone.  They can also spot any maintenance issues needing attention and check security measures are still operating correctly.  If you use timers to put on lights and radios, they can change the sequence to keep up the appearance of someone being in the house at all times.  Power failures can put timer light and watering systems our of order.


Breakdown: Breakdown insurance through your state motoring organisation, eg RAC (WA), RAA (SA), RACV (Vic), RACQ (Qld), RACT (Tas), AANT (NT) and NRMA (NSW & ACT), will give you breakdown cover and some out of pocket costs in the event of a breakdown Australia wide through reciprocal arrangements with the other state’s motoring bodies.  If you take a high level of cover, benefits are far greater than with standard cover.  Towing distances are still limited so real outback recovery still comes at a high cost. 


Ambulance: This information is based on advice from St John Ambulance in Western Australia.  Check with your state provider as cover varies.  St John Ambulance cover is not expensive and you can use this in other states.  Check with those covering Ambulance benefits in your state about what happens with your membership in other states before you leave to ensure you have the correct cover.  In most cases, the other state Ambulance group will bill the St John Ambulance where you have membership should an ambulance be needed.  Some states will just accept your membership number; it depends on the arrangements between the state St John Ambulance branches.  Some Health Insurance companies allow you to select ambulance cover as part of your benefits package so you would have Australia wide coverage this way, but there may be a ceiling on the amount of costs covered eg $3,000 per person covered. 


Royal Flying Doctor: An emergency or transfer flight with the Royal Flying Doctor Service is covered by Medicare for Australian citizens with a Medicare Card, but the RFDS welcomes donations as the whole infrastructure is not funded by Medicare.  RFDS does not operate solely in the outback, but throughout Australia.  As there is no charge, it is not a component of a Health Insurance package.  Overseas visitors should check that they have suitable cover on their travel insurance policy if venturing into the outback.  Watch this website for news of the RFDS policy regarding overseas visitors when it is released.



Low income earners in Australia may be eligible for a Centrelink Low Income Health Care Card, even if not eligible for any other Centrelink benefit.  Most medical centres will bulk bill Medicare with no extra charge being levied to Health Care Card holders.  Prescription medications where eligible are dispensed at the same low charge as for those who receive the Health Care Card when on a Centrelink benefit.   Other medical providers may offer a discount to Health Care Card holders.  If you do not have your card with you when purchasing your prescription, you can claim a rebate from Medicare by completing the Medicare Claim Form However most pharmacies charge a higher fee for the medication, so the rebate will not bring it back to the basic charge levied when you present the card at time of purchase.    


Low Income Health Care Card eligibility  


Extracts from above web publication:  A low income Health Care Card is available to people with incomes below set levels. The income test applies to average gross income for the eight weeks immediately prior to applying for, or renewing the card. The low income Health Care Card is not subject to an assets test.  The low income Health Care Card is not automatically reissued. Cardholders must reapply every six months.


Recipients of Youth Allowance, Austudy and ABSTUDY may also be eligible for this card.

Customers are required to notify Centrelink of any change in their circumstances that may affect their eligibility for all Health Care Cards.


Commonwealth Seniors Health Card


Income eligible self funded retirees of pension age may obtain the Commonwealth Health Care Card, as it is not subject to assets a test.   There are additional benefits from holding this card. 


The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is available to self-funded retirees not receiving a Centrelink (or DVA) income support payment.

You may get a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card if you:

   meet residence requirements

   are of age pension age

   provide you and your partner’s Tax File Numbers or provide a valid reason why you can not do so, and

   meet an annual adjusted taxable income test. There is no assets test.

Note: information from Australia’s immigration department may be used in assessing claims and can be used to assess future entitlements.

The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is reissued automatically each year (subject to continued qualification). Customers are required to notify Centrelink of any change in their circumstances that may affect their eligibility for this card.  Holders of a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are entitled to the Seniors Supplement. Seniors Supplement is paid to Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders to help with household costs.


Those with Department of Veteran's Affairs cards will be aware of where discounts can be obtained eg medical services. See Department of Veterans Affairs 



Discounts can often be obtained by Seniors Card or Pension Card holders.


Most Australian residents over sixty years of age and not working full time are eligible for a State Senior’s Card; check out your state for eligibility as age and conditions vary from state to state. This card is accepted for discounts and many venues, businesses and government charges.  See Seniors Card for links to your home state. 


Many government owned attractions such as caves and National Parks offer a discount to senior’s card holders and pensioners. 


Discounts and concessions for Seniors Card holders apply in every state.  Check out the details state by state from this Tasmanian government web page Seniors Card Transport Concessions.   


The independent fuel outlet on the Stuart Highway to the north side of Tennant Creek, Northern Territory offers a discount to seniors card holders, as does the Shell service station near the Hall of Fame at Longreach Queensland.  Customers of the Ilfracombe Caravan Park are also given a discount voucher for this Longreach service station. 


If you ask for a Seniors Card discount at any business, and if you are speaking to the Proprietor of the business not just an employee, they are hard pressed to say no.


There is also a National Seniors card with paid membership for over 50s.  Discounts are available at certain places for this card also.  See National Seniors Australia


Motoring organisations memberships, such as RAC (WA), RAA (SA), RACV (Vic), RACQ (Qld), RACT (Tas), AANT (NT) and NRMA (NSW & ACT).  See more about motoring organisation cover and options. 


You may also obtain discounts using your motoring organisation membership card.   Each state organisation have a network of businesses, particularly travel related, which offer discounts to members.  RAC (WA) offer generous discount on Western Australian National Park passes to their members. See also Discounted Holidays and Accommodation hereunder.

Souvenirs and gifts

Within the constraints of your budget, you may have grandchildren you want to purchase gifts for or you may want to collect souvenirs from different areas. 


While many items may appeal, a major consideration is durability for travel and room in your rig. Often packing and posting can be rather expensive.  We post small birthday gifts to the little ones, but large souvenirs travel all the way with us.   I keep a roll of bubble wrap in the caravan for packing purchases; either for travelling with us safely or for posting, as it is always on hand for convenience, and cheaper than purchasing a small quantity when posting a gift. 


Gift shops at venues can range from very expensive to good value.  With several months to shop for the little ones, we pick up small gifts along the way.  Small towns may have specialty gift shops with local ownership, but most shopping centres across the country have much the same shops and range, so that does not bring out anything different to what they can get at home. 


Market days may bring out some bargains for souvenir hunters with unique local crafts and second hand art works.   


Art galleries seem to be priced by what is in fashion, which is not always the style of art we want in our homes.  We purchased Aboriginal style art from the authentic Warmun Art Centre in the Kimberley Western Australia, and art from some well known artists commands high prices.  Here work is by local artists and only using traditional pigments.  Galleries from all over the world purchase from this gallery.  Dot style Aboriginal art can be purchased at many venues and galleries through Central Australia, and good value unframed dot style paintings were cheap at the Tilmouth Wells roadhouse, however these used modern pigments. Some towns have annual art exhibitions, and these are a good source of quality local art for collectors.


When touring Tasmania, woodwork from the wonderful local timbers was lovely, and in some places very expensive.  We found very good value for woodwork and other souvenirs and gifts at Tasmania’s Top Bric-a-Brac Shop six kilometres out of St Helens on the Tasman Highway heading towards Scottsdale. 


Other items travellers collect include sea shells and rocks (bearing in mind any constraints on collecting such as in national or marine parks) which have no purchase costs, but can be bulky or heavy to carry.  Be aware that soil on rock or shells may prohibit them being taken across some state borders and exclusion zones.  Wash them thoroughly when collected and tell the inspectors what you have. 


Stickers, hat pins and other souvenirs with the name of the town or attraction on are other collectables which are usually small and easy to carry, but can of course prove expensive if you want to purchase your chosen collectible from every town that you visit. 


I save tickets to places we visit or from cruises and flights as souvenirs at no extra cost, and these can be placed into your trip photo albums or diary. 



A model showing a typical interior of an Royal Flying Doctor aircraft on display at the RFDS base in Alice Springs, Northern Territory.

If you are travelling with children, what they want to collect may be very different and not costly (eg shells, bugs, leaves) or postcards, but remember restrictions that may apply crossing state borders with things collected from nature.  In most cases you cannot collect these items in National Parks.    Space and weight allowance will also dictate what can be collected.

National Park passes

If you plan to visit a number of National Parks within a state, check whether an all parks, annual of holiday pass will save you money.  Also ask if a discount applies if you have a Seniors or Concession Card.  For New South Wales parks an NPWS Exemption Card is available for individuals who hold a valid Pensioner Concession Card or Veterans receiving an Extreme Disability Allowance, Intermediate Rate and Special Rate Pensions.  There are variations with a few key parks.  Apply here


Read all about how to obtain park passes here


More ideas for keeping costs down

Shopper fuel discount vouchers


A number of grocery store chains offer fuel discount vouchers with purchases of over $30. In the case of Woolworths and Coles stores, these are redeemable in their fuel outlets, which may or may not be in towns with a store. It is still worth checking prices of nearby fuel outlets, as independent fuel outlets can sometimes be found selling fuel cheaper than the one with the discount.  Also check for a litre limit on your fuel voucher; some are for the first 100 litres only. Independent grocery stores, such as IGA, compete, and usually offer a discount voucher for a fuel outlet in their town.  There can be additional discounts from time to time on the Coles and Woolworths vouchers, such as purchase an item above a specified value from the outlet to gain an extra two or four cents per litre discount from your purchase.  As the goods are usually more expensive from the fuel outlet than from the store, be wary and do the sums as it may safe a dollar or two, or may just gain a sale of something you didn’t intend to purchase for the retailer.   Customers at the Ilfracombe Caravan Park near Longreach in Queensland can obtain a four cents per litre discount voucher redeemable at the Shell outlet in Longreach.  

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Discounted holidays and accommodation:  On Travel Auctions (on line or by phone) selected accommodation offers, including caravan park holidays, are up for auction with a limited number of places.  Look in your area to see if anything you would like is listed for auction, pick your type of holiday or accommodation and place a bid - you may be lucky.  If successful, accommodation is not to be in peak periods, and can usually be taken any other time within twelve months.  See Travel Auctions Powered Sites
Some state motoring organisations have invested in accommodation resorts, and offer a discount at these to their members. 
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How much does it really cost to travel?  See How much money do I need?