The ultimate road trip – where to stay and how to get there
So you’re off on a road trip. Itinerary mapped out? Check. Given the tyres the once-over? Yep. Packed the bags and the toys? Of course! Now all that’s left to do is to book the right accommodation to complement your road trip. Here’s what you need to know.
Plan plenty of stops
When you’re planning a road trip, take the advice of a well-known road safety campaign that says: stop, revive, survive. So start by not being overly ambitious with the distances you will tackle each day. Plan to drive no more than about 500km a day – less if you want to stop to explore the sights along the way.
In Australia, there is usually a good cluster of accommodation options in towns that make natural overnight stops such as Port Macquarie (roughly the halfway point between Sydney and Brisbane) and Albury-Wodonga (between Sydney and Melbourne). What makes one property stand out from the rest as the perfect choice? It may be location, brand, price or even the fact it’s pet-friendly.
Points and programs
If you’re keen to stay in traditional motel-style accommodation, consider the benefits of signing up for hotel-chain membership or earning frequent flyer points with your trip. Both options have major benefits. Accor Hotels, for example, with brands ranging from the budget Ibis to the mid-range Novotel to the luxurious Sofitel, offers a free loyalty program called Le Club. Benefits include early access to major sales and earning points for future stays. Rather than have guests book via an online travel agent such as Wotif or Expedia (which involve commissions), hotels use loyalty programs to encourage direct bookings. Keen to ratchet up your frequent flyer points tally? Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer program partners with Hilton and InterContinental hotels. Those two chains, as well as Hyatt, also earn points for Qantas Frequent Flyers
Airbnb and traditional B&Bs
Airbnb has been a game-changer for many travellers. Not only can you often find cheaper options, but you can choose to stay in places that let you live like a local rather than on the tourist trail. Most Airbnb places also have kitchens, meaning you can save money by bringing your breakfast, and preparing lunches and dinner instead of eating out. But don’t forget about traditional B&Bs. The very best offer a warm welcome, a room that feels like a home away from home, a cooked breakfast made to order and plenty of local knowledge about what to see and do in the area.
With a caravan in tow
Australian caravan parks are often located near spectacular beaches and attractions. If you’re unsure about tackling an epic road trip with a caravan in tow, hire one for a short trip to see if it’s for you. Caravan hire outlets can offer a range of pop-top and full-size rental caravans starting from around $800 a week. Caravan owners are also sharing their vans through peer-to-peer camper rental sites such as shareacamper.com.au.
Buying or hiring a home on wheels
So you’ve decided to spend the kids’ inheritance and splash out on a mobile home? Today’s range is wider than ever. Jayco sells everything from a compact J-pod that sleeps two, up to luxurious motorhomes that boast a washing machine. Just like a caravan, you can also hire motorhomes and campervans of varying comfort. When you’re doing your sums, however, don’t forget to include the cost of staying at a campsite.
What about my four-legged travel companion?
The good news for pet owners is that the Australian accommodation industry is offering more and more pet-friendly options. Check out private rentals offered through Stayz and Airbnb, pet-friendly motels such as the Comfort Inn Big Windmill near Coffs Harbour, and caravan parks (many BIG4 Holiday Parks welcome pets). There are even ritzy hotel options such as Pier One Sydney Harbour and The Langham, Sydney. Remember, pets aren’t permitted in national parks, but they can come along if you’re camping in some state forests.
The range of accommodation options is expanding all the time, meaning you’ll often be able to find what you want with a little research. But if you keep an eye on busy times of the year such as public and school holidays, and approach it with an open mind, there’s every chance you’ll remember the destination as much as the journey.