19 January 2024

Will a good old-fashioned camping holiday save your hip pocket? We've worked it out for you

| Zoe Cartwright
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Kids toasting marshmallows around a fire.

How does cost shape your decisions around family holidays? Photo: Daiga Ellaby.

Illawarra dad Alex Specogna loves camping with his family of five, but the rising costs of campsites and unpredictable weather in Australia prompted his family to try their first overseas holiday.

“You can come out in front financially camping if you tent it, but prices have almost doubled over the past seven years,” he said.

“Bali is a bit more expensive but you get to enjoy the culture, and we love to show the kids how different people live.

“If you’re spending thousands of dollars and taking time off work either way, you want to get a proper break.

“That said, I really cherished camping with the kids when they were younger, and we made amazing memories.”

So what is the more affordable family holiday, camping or a cheap destination like Bali? With most families struggling with rising costs, Region decided to take a deep dive into the two options and determine which came out on top.

For ease of comparison, our reference point is a family of four – two adults and two kids under 10 – who are planning a 14-day holiday.

We’re assuming this family is staying in a tent in a caravan park and while secondhand deals are off the table, we have included specials. Like any good family heading off on holiday to any destination, we’re bound to have forgotten something, so these costs are approximate.

Getting there

Camping: A tank of petrol, $100.

Bali: Return plane tickets for four, $2300; passports $164 per child, $325 per adult; vaccinations – as long as you and your kids are up to date on your regular vaccinations, are sticking to tourist areas, and don’t plan to pat wild dogs or monkeys, the Australian Government doesn’t advise any additional vaccinations.

Although travel insurance is not mandatory, you’d be pretty silly to head to Bali without it, so factor in about $200. Total is about $3500.

Budget winner: Camping by about $3400.

READ ALSO Summer savings: How to avoid getting taken for a ride at the petrol pump


Camping: Unpowered, walk-in tent sites start at about $50 per night, or $650 for 13 nights. A powered site in a caravan park is closer to $150 per night, or $1950 for 13 nights.

Bali: For a 13-night stay, costs vary between $1000 and $2000 at the budget end – but still with a rating of eight or more on booking.com. This includes a free airport taxi, wifi, and in some instances a complimentary breakfast.

Budget winner: This one is too close to call, and depends on your standards and the needs of your kids.


Camping: Variable. If you’ve got a family of grommets who are happy to swim, ride their bikes, and play the odd game of cards for two weeks, you’re off free. Some caravan parks offer pool areas and indoor entertainment options, although they may incur a fee of about $10.

The kids are probably going to want to head into the closest town for ice creams (say $30) and minigolf at some point (about $17 per adult, $12 per kid at Holy Moley), and if it rains, maybe another trip for a movie ($81.60 for two adults and two kids at a Saver Session in an Event Cinema – $10.60 for a large popcorn and $26.40 for four small drinks). Plus the cost of petrol.

Total: About $250. If you’re really unlucky and it rains every day, you might have to spend more.

Bali: If you’re happy to laze on the beach and take long walks, entertainment is pretty close to free.

You could add in a massage, visit a temple or museum, spend up big at the markets, or use the pool and in-house kids club for free. Averaged out to $10 per day (not including flying days) per family member, entertainment costs about $480.

A private car with a driver will set you back $35 a day, or if you’re game, you can hire a scooter for about $6. For a 14-day holiday, with transport to and from the airport on your first and last day included in your accommodation costs, if you spend four days in a car, four days on scooters and four days doing nothing, travel costs would add up to about $170.

Total: $650 for daily entertainment, and transport most days.

Budget winner: Camping, by $400.


Camping: If you’re going camping, a big grocery shop should cover it, although you do have to cook yourself. The NSW Government suggests budgeting about $100 per family member per week for groceries, so $800. Alcohol is on top of that and depending on your drink of choice, it could blow out the budget.

Bali: Most accommodation includes breakfast and lunch for the kids at kids clubs. Dinner for a family of four with desserts and a cheeky beer, cocktail or two will set you back about $40. If you have the odd lunch out for about $2.50 a head, you’re spending about $700 for the fortnight.

Budget winner: Bali, by $100.

READ ALSO Summer savings: How to keep the food bill down while staying healthy


Bali: Here’s where the overseas holiday comes into its own. Equipment costs? Nada. Pack some clothes, toiletries and entertainment, and you’re set.

Camping: Let’s assume you’re new to camping and need to buy all the gear.

For a four-person, single-room tent with an awning out the front big enough to pop a table and barbecue under, the cheapest option came in at $1100.

If you keep things cheap and cheerful and shop for specials, adult sleeping bags are about $80 each, kids are $45. Foam sleeping mats are $20 each, and if you bring your pillows from home, bedding will cost $330.

Then you’ll need a barbecue ($150), cookware ($40), gas bottle ($50), crockery/cutlery ($100), camp chairs ($50 per person), a trestle table ($50 – if you stretch to $150 you can get one with storage for non-perishable groceries) and don’t forget the 50L Esky on special, $150.

You’ll need ice, about 5 kg ($5 per bag) to start with and you’ll probably want a couple of top-ups, so about $20.

A good-sized tarp to cover dirt out the front of the tent, or leaks in an emergency, will set you back about $40.

Then there are the things you don’t really think about at home – a couple of torches for late-night loo runs, a lantern for card games and a decent first aid kit – which could add another $100.

A total of about $2400 for a pretty basic camping setup.

Budget winner: Bali, by $2400.


Camping: $4200-$5500

Bali: $5800-$6800

A bare basics camping holiday comes in cheaper but not by a whole lot. However, once you buy all the equipment, your next camping trip will definitely be better value for money.

We know everyone’s budget will be different – some people can rack up air points via work, others have been gifted the family tent. At the end of the day, it comes down to what works for you and your family, so enjoy your holiday.

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