Recap of our time Down Under

Out of 5 weeks in New Zealand and 6 weeks traveling in Australia, we were in a camper van for 10 of those 11 weeks!  Let me be the first to tell you, that's way too much time in a camper van!  

BUT, those days spent living like snails meant we got to see a lot of sights and traveled as we pleased which was a huge benefit.  Lunch was whatever picnic area was the prettiest, though finding shower and sleeping spots on our limited budget proved a bit harder.  We loved speaking English Down Under and the familiarity to another Western Culture.  What we did not like was the high cost that came with these benefits!  We were shocked and our budget blown out of the water by the prices from everything from a cup of coffee to a meal in a restaurant.  Since we couldn’t afford anything in a restaurant or shop, nearly all meals were spent in our camper van, see this post for how we survived camper van living for this long.   

RECAP of our time in Numbers:

Countries Visited:  2 New Zealand and Australia (though Tasmania seemed like it's own country!)

# of pounds we carried:  84 (2 bags and a back pack, we were up in weight with all the warm clothes we needed!)

# of times Sarah drove on the left side of the road:  4

# of Camper Vans we rented:  3, one in New Zealand, one in Tasmania, and one in Australia

# of Camper Van Parks we stayed:  58

# of nights in an AirBnB:  4 (Christchurch and Sydney)

# of nights in a hotel:  3

# of nights at one of Gillian & Michael’s houses:  12 (Melbourne, Blue Mountains, and Pearl Beach)

Average cost of a camper van park:  $30

Average cost of cup of coffee:  $4

# of family that visited:  2 (Lynn and Tim, Eric’s parents)

# of meals we ate out after the Roses left:  2  (Eric’s birthday lunch and dinner)

# of food sicknesses:  1 for Sarah, while living in the camper van with Eric’s parents – this one goes down as the worst scenario EVER

Amount of money lost from deposits and currency exchanges going against us:  $650 USD

Favorite cities:  Melbourne, Wellington, Wanaka and Nelson - if these weren’t so far away, we’d consider moving to any of these cities!

Least favorite cities:  None, thankfully!  We enjoyed pretty much every place we went and were so mobile with the camper vans that we could leave any city that we didn’t love.

Best couple we met: Virginia and Michael, the next door neighbors in the Blue Mountains.  They drew us a map of the things to do in the area and had us over for tea before we left.  Our chats with them were some of our favorites!

The map of what to do in the Blue Mountains

The map of what to do in the Blue Mountains

Favorite couple:  Gillian and Michael.  Their generosity literally pulled us out of our campervan and saved us when we needed some consistent hot showers, a nice bed to sleep in, and a bit of room to spread out.  Their houses around Australia made us able to visit some of the prettiest places while still being able to cook our own meals.

Worst accident:  Returning to our camper van in Queensland, we realized our mirror had been knocked off and the camper van scratched from fellow camper vaners.  Luckily the Spainiards stuck around so we could exchange information.  We had to change our plans around and drive out to get it fixed but this made my day because we got free clean sheets and towels.  

Camper Van Living

2 months of camper van living has taught me LOTS of lessons that I'd like to pass onto those attempting to do the same type of travel.  Renting a camper van can be a great way to save money in NZ and Australia because you are getting a rental car and a place to sleep all for under $100 a day.  Yes, gas is insanely expensive, but considering we have made every meal and coffee for ourselves in said camper van, I think we have ended up saving a lot of money in the long run.


Time and time again I think organization is the thing that has kept me sane through 1.5 years of travel.  Our first camper van was a larger model for the 4 of us (Eric's parents came to visit) and then Eric and I moved into the smallest of the options for the rest of our time on the road.  The small camper van is SMALL.  You will be bumping into each other constantly and no position (sitting or sleeping) is ever quite comfortable. 

However, organization can make this process much more enjoyable.  See the list of things below that we purchased to make organization much easier on the road (you could also bring these things with you).  We then have baskets that stay on the counter (on non-stick) that are filled with cooking essentials and other foods.  Think all the spices, rice, oats, fruits, wine, granola, candies, etc. 

Our "pantry"

Our "pantry"

The drawer space is laughable (there is 1 drawer for your food) so these baskets are life savers.  We also then had a bag in the top that had extras (think extra bags of pasta, pasta sauce, tortillas, packaged soups, etc.).  We could then stock up in Tasmania in the bigger and cheaper stores and have a pantry to pull from when we were further off the grid.

There is room for a few things beneath the seats.  We each had a drawer with our clothes.  The other two bins we filled with surplus potatoes, apples, and then our camp chairs and heater. 

Nothing can go on the floor as this is where drawers open, the bed folds out, and where you walk.  So it all must be stored.  Also, everything must be secured before driving or things will roll all around (the fridge also has to be locked for the same reason!). 

Camper Van Parks

Camper van parks are a way of life.  We just found the Wiki Camps app and it's a lifesaver for figuring out where you can park and/or where you can have a shower.  The camper van parks are great to recharge the house battery, charge all electronics, take a shower, and do laundry.  The camper van parks in New Zealand were clean, usually well designed, and sometimes had perks like a hot tub.  Tasmania for some reason all had pretty run down parks that were expensive and didn't offer much.  Each one we stayed in depressed me, they were patches of grass with some sad looking folks in them!  However, Tasmania did have really reasonably priced National Parks and so we usually tried to stay in them.  Wiki Camps is great because you can find free sites or read the reviews to find the costs for the other sites to make sure you are getting the amenities you need.  Traveling off peak season has meant we can always get a spot which is nice!

Favorite, easiest meals

I am a person that makes all food from scratch at home.  However, when you have no counter space, a tiny sink, and you are washing dishes with limited water resources, this is literally not possible.  One pot meals are pretty much the only way to go. 

Breakfast is either eggs with toast, oatmeal, or granola and yogurt.  Fruit goes with all of these, and we also have our own coffee maker to make good coffee.

Lunch is simple sandwiches or leftover of a previous nights meal.  Usually these are quick meals that are easy to prepare and clean up since we are usually on the road for lunch or taking a pause while in a museum to eat our healthy, cheap food.

Dinner is the hardest.  We like to cook and also want our food to taste good so we don't feel too poor all the time!  To accomplish this, at the grocery store, we buy a ready made chicken and I pull it apart, using the meat and storing the rest in tupperware. We also buy a cauliflower, 3 bell peppers (capsicum here), carrots, and other veggies and I prep these ALL at once.  They then go into tupperwares so they can be quickly and easily added to foods throughout the week.  Just because we are on the road we still need to get our veggies!

Chicken soup is a go to.  Also pasta with lots of veggies is great (we boil the veggies before putting the pasta in the pot so they get cooked and then mix them into the sauce). 

What has saved our life and taste buds is the Hansell's line of prepared soups.  They have a range of flavors and we can alternate these to make us feel like we are eating different foods instead of the same thing over and over.  We bulk them up with our own chicken, veggies, and sometimes lentils and beans to make them into a one pot meal.

What we have bought to help with organization

  • Shower caddy (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, razor, and shaving gel)
  • Bucket for general use (dishes or laundry)
  • 2 bins for food storage
  • Non slip
  • Removable hooks to hang towels and damp clothing
  • Tupperwares (1 large, 3 medium sized) to store food

Here are some photos from in the camper van so you can see what it will really look like when the bed is out!