Australia! Expenses Down Under

I love to travel, but I don’t have travel sponsors. (though I would love travel sponsors!) To stay true to my dollars, I track what I spend while on vacation and report back here. This is what Hubs & I spent down under.


Background: On an random Sunday morning in April, I was browsing Reddit. I came across a travel thread. A travel thread like none I’d ever seen before. The thread claimed I could book airfare to Australia on a reputable airline for cheap. I was skeptical. I clicked and sure enough, Cheap! We both thought it was a glitch. People in the thread expected it to go fast. We had to do it. This was too good to be true.

We texted our bosses and asked for the days off. They agreed and we booked it. From finding it to booking it, it took less than 2 hours. Australia, here we come!

Trip Details:

Length: June-July 13 nights, 15 days, because we are time travelers like that.

Itinerary: Fly to Sydney, Gaze at the Opera House for 5 days, Fly to Brisbane, Drive to Byron Bay, Stay for 2 nights, Drive to Gold Coast and spend 2 nights there, Drive to Brisbane, Take it all in before flying back home.

Entry Fees: $1466, including..

Tourist Visas: $29 Whatever it takes not to get deported!

Flights: $1437 including

  • 2 people, round-trip from the Midwest to Sydney, 3 total layovers: $1170 What a deal! We didn’t even have to fly on an Albatross!
  • 2 people, round-trip, Sydney > Brisbane: $267


I am not a rescuer down under!

I am not a rescuer down under!

Transportation Expenses: $372, including..

Rental: $177 We had the car for 5 days, picking up and dropping it off at the airport.

Tolls: $11 Gotta pay the tolls.

Gas: $20 1 tank. Return it full!

Public Transportation: $146 We took public transportation everywhere and it is expensive! We used it to and from the Sydney Airport with their crazy airport access fees, for 2 day trips out of Sydney (the ferry to Manly & the bus to Bondi), 1 ferry trip from Darling Harbour, 1 day trip out of Brisbane, and 1 transfer between the domestic and international terminal (with more access fees). 

Uber: $18 To get to the Brisbane airport at 4am. 

Accommodation:  $1285, including..

  • Sydney: $810 5 nights right in The Rocks overlooking the Opera House. Spendy but amazing.
  • Byron Bay: $151 2 nights near the beach. 
  • Gold Coast: $0  Staying with friends for 2 nights!


    Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast

  • Brisbane: $363-297 = $64 4 nights 1 night overlooking the entire city! Our Airbnb in Brisbane was our first bad experience. We got in late, things escalated quickly, we stayed the night as we communicated with Airbnb Customer Service and we got out of there in the morning. Fun fact: Because Customer Service got involved, we can’t leave them a review. Seems like a loop hole to avoid bad reviews.
  • Brisbane 2: $260 We booked a room at the Ibis Styles hotel right off Queen Street. Great location!

Adventures: $614, including..

  • Blue Mountain Tour: $182 ($91 each)  A full day trip out of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. We stopped to hang with some koalas before we made out way back to the city.
  • Whale Watching Tour: $132 ($66 each) It’s whale season. This was mandatory. It lived up to all my dreams. Thank goodness I’ve been practicing speaking whale


    There are whales out there!

  • Story Bridge Climb in Brisbane: $200 ($100 each) Hubs likes to climb stuff. This is continuing his tradition. We did the Twilight Climb and it was spectacular.
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: $54 So many koalas!!
  • Sydney Opera House Tour: $46 The outside is fantastic, the inside is … unique? I wasn’t impressed, but it was fun to learn more about the building. 

Food: $675.49

This covers groceries, eating out and alcohol. We ate in for breakfast every day, either from the grocery store or at the continental breakfast provided at the hotel. We had snacks while we were out, but we left our frugal card at home and ate out for lunch and dinner. This includes a limited amount of alcohol. It’s higher than I was hoping, but we didn’t break the bank. Food is expensive!

Random expenses: $48.50, including..IMG_1121

  • Koala Picture: $13 At Lone Pine, you have to pay extra for a picture with a koala, but you do get to actually hold it! Hubs wanted to hold a koala, so he got to hold a koala.
  • Kangaroo food: $1.50 Hubs wanted to feed the kangaroos, so he got to feed the kangaroos. We both fed the kangaroos.
  • Born to Fight by Mark Hunt: $14 Mark Hunt is one of Hubs’ favorite MMA fighters. He happens to live in Australia and his biography is only distributed down under. We looked at a few book shops and it was over $30. We found it at this bargain price at Target. Thanks Target! 
  • Finding Dory movie: $20 Finding Dory came out the weekend before we left. Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies and I quoted it the whole time we were there. On our last day in Brisbane, we woke up to pouring rain so I seized the opportunity to see the movie.  It’s cute! 

Drum roll……

TOTAL COST: $4460.99!

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. My goal was to keep it under $4500 and we did just that! Outside of Sydney CBD, everything was new to us. We didn’t face any major challenges and we keep learning how to roll with whatever we may face.  Now if only that flight was a little shorter!!

Do you keep track of vacation spending? 


20 thoughts on “Australia! Expenses Down Under

  1. Oh man you saw so many great things! This is pretty close to the trip I did before settling in Sydney for a semester of school and it definitely sounds like a very reasonable budget – Australia is bonkers expensive. The food + alcohol prices alone! If anyone reads this and thinks you spent too much on food, they have clearly never been to Australia. I’m so glad you had a good time!

    • I didn’t know you studied down there! How fun!

      Food there is unbelievably expensive. We had sticker shock the whole vacation. Thankfully, the exchange rate was favorable and got better because of BREXIT. Last time we were there, the exchange rate was horrible! Everything was like 40% more expensive. So like $1000 for food. 😱😱😱😱

  2. Amazing trip! And well done! I totally saw those prices as well and was REALLY tempted (barring the fact we would already be in the UK for 3 weeks!). Also, travel sponsors? How do we get those!? 🙂

  3. Very cool! And crazy cheap. (Confession: we spent about HALF this on a trip for less than a week just to Queensland, and we just live across the ditch from Aus)

    I still want to visit the Gold Coast, and Melbourne…

    • The ditch! Is that what you call it!? lol Gold Coast is wonderful. You should totally go. They are gearing up for the Commonwealth Games so they have their best face on.

      This trip was crazy cheap. I did 3 weeks in Aus/NZ/Fiji 4 years ago, and the cost for that is stomach turning. We spent so much! Live and learn and capitalize on cheap opportunities when they arise.

  4. Not bad. Just under $150 a day per person. Considering airfare, hotels, cars, food, and other activities, this is a good price. Plus, you have memories for a lifetime. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on that.

  5. You did amazingly well! Not too many people can pull off planning a trip like that on a whim.

    I’m tentatively planning on working a stint in either New Zealand or Australia as a transition to retirement. If it works out, travel and living expenses will be fully covered. If not, we’ll be retired and better able to take advantage of a fire sale on the flights like you guys did.


    • Thanks PoF! This was a bit of a shotgun trip but everything came together nicely. 10/10 would do it all again.

      Flights are a key factor. On our last trip, we spent more on flights than we did on this entire trip! The exchange rate was brutal last time too!. Find a sale and live it up! Good luck figuring it all out! Both New Zealand and Australia are magnificent. I can’t pick a favorite.

    • The Blue Mountains were excellent. I would have liked to spend more time there. We stopped at the 3 sisters, did the rides at Scenic World and headed back to Sydney. You could easily spend a ton of time there.

      Glad it’s helpful!

  6. I had a friend who was in Australia a couple years ago for work and I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t take advantage and go! Great trip – and I definitely track my vacation spending (which tends to be one of my highest budget items… oops).

    • I’m disappointed in you too for not going.

      Sometimes its painful for me to see how much I spent on travel, but since I started, its made it incredibly easy to justify more travel. If I know roughly how much I can spend on a trip, I can plan more trips!

  7. So awesome! You did a whale of a trip (see what I did there?) for cheap! The whales, the koalas, the kangaroos… I’m super jealous. 🙂 And so reasonable in such a notoriously expensive country! Well done. Glad it was a great trip for you guys!

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