Nomad family-of-five reveal their best travel and budgeting tips

Family-of-five travelling around Australia say it’s cheaper than living at home thanks to some clever budgeting hacks including a ‘controversial’ one that HALVES the price of milk

  • Haydyn and Jess Richards travel Australia with their three kids
  • They have journeyed almost 33,000kms in two years
  • Their first year of travels they spent under $70,000 

A family-of-five who packed up their life to live on the road to see every corner of Australia has revealed exactly how much it costs. 

Haydyn and Jess Richards, both 34, along with their kids Connor, seven, Indiana, four, and Mackenzie, two have travelled over 33,000km in two years.

They took off from their home in Quairading, a small farming town 160km east of Perth, and have no plans to stop anytime soon.

Jess had always wanted to get away and go travelling but it took some convincing for former ‘workaholic’ Haydyn. 

‘It was never a priority for him, but since having kids our priorities changed big time and we realised that they grow up too fast and we wanted to make the most of their early years,’ Jess told FEMAIL.

Jess (left) and Haydyn Richards (top right) have shared how they live their life on the road travelling Australia with their three kids (L-R) Connor, seven, Mackenzie, two and Indiana, four

In April 2021, the family packed up their life and planned to travel for 12 months but two years later they’re still loving their caravan life and have travelled almost 33,000kms

Then in June 2019 they took a ‘dreamy’ family holiday to WA’s scenic Kimberley region and suddenly Haydyn was on board with planning a new, nomadic life. 

‘We fell in love with the little snippet of the Kimberley that we saw and that was the catalyst for us to commit to making our distant dream into a reality,’ Jess said. 

‘After that little getaway we just said to each other “Let’s do it”.’ 

They bought a caravan, rented out their home and are earning money through their online businesses.

They initially planned to spend a year on the road but have extended their newfound lifestyle indefinitely.

The savvy parents shared their best tips for travelling with children and how they’ve managed to spend less than $70,000 a year despite the rising cost of living.

The savvy parents shared their best travel tips and how they’ve managed to spend less than $70,000 a year despite skyrocketing inflation and the rising cost of living

Haydyn and Jess Richards: This is what is costs as a family-of-five to travel Australia for 12 months

  • Groceries: $18,790 – $361 per week
  • Takeaway: $5323 – $102 per week
  • Gas (instant HWS, 3way fridge, cooking): $674 – $13 per week
  • Diesel fuel: $14908 – $287 per week 
  • Activities (tours etc): $5292 – $102 per week
  • Petrol (Honda 2.2kva generator): $25 – $0.5 per week
  • Diesel Heater: $339 – $6.50 per week
  • Repairs (car and van service, spare parts etc): $8962 – $172 per week
  • Toilet chemicals: $181 – $3.50 per week
  • Accommodation: $10,414 – $200 per week
  • Miscellaneous (van improvements, Bunnings runs, clothes, souvenirs): $4,835 – $93 per week

Total = $69,754 – $1,341 per week

Their transition to living a nomadic life happened quite quickly. 

Once they made the decision, Haydyn said he became ‘obsessed’ with finding the right caravan for the trip and spent every spare minute researching cars and caravans online. 

‘We went to a few caravan dealers and started getting an idea of what we did and didn’t want. We went to a couple of caravan and camping shows and eventually we settled on what we wanted,’ he said.

They put a deposit down on what is now their ‘humble home’ in November 2019 and made a few adjustments including adding extra water tanks and raising the ceiling to account for Haydyn’s towering 195cm height. 

To manage their mortgage payments, they rented out their house to a single tenant who didn’t need much space so they packed up all their belongings in two of the kids’ rooms and locked them up to save on storage. 

The couple both had to tie up lose ends at their jobs and complete a long list of chores and gardening to get the house ready to be rented.

Fitting everything in the van was no easy feat and they were constantly shuffling and reshuffling their belongings to pack everything before finally setting off on April 23, 2021.

Driving away from their house for the last time was ‘extremely exciting’ and a ‘massive relief’ for the parents after their two years spent preparing for the trip.

Finally driving out of the driveway was ‘extremely exciting’ and a ‘massive relief’ for the parents who had been tirelessly preparing for almost two years

‘It had been a long time coming and we were looking forward to leaving all the stresses and worries associated with ‘normal’ life behind and knock it back a few cogs,’ Haydyn said. 

Where did the Richards stay over 12 months? 

183 nights in caravan parks

69 night at low cost places (Showgrounds, National Parks etc)

56 nights at free camps

51 nights doing driveway pull ups at family or friends houses

6 nights in a cabin while we had warranty work done on the caravan

‘Connor, our eldest, was old enough to realise what was happening but the two girls, who were two and a half and eight months at the time, were too young to know what was going on.’

The hard work was all worth it for the parents who have enjoyed every moment of the 32,922km journey with the three kids in tow. 

‘We love what Australia has to offer, and it’s such a great mix, you can park your caravan on world class beach’s and literally have million-dollar views at your door,’ Jess said. 

‘Caravanning is a great way to see Australia properly, because you literally can drag your house with you wherever you go and spend as much or as little time as you want in a certain spot and then you have your car with you to go off and explore.’

Haydyn and Jess have multiple income streams from a series of online businesses.

‘Part of what we do online is help others get set up and started in the online world as we are pretty firm believers that if you aren’t doing anything online to earn an income and diversify, you’ll get left behind,’ Haydyn said. 

Haydyn is a diesel mechanic by trade and Jess a nurse and could easily pick up work along the way, but they decided to stick to their lucrative online businesses to bring in the cash.

To cut down on costs, the mum and dad keep careful track of their spending’s, rarely eat out, stopped ordering takeaway as often and don’t drink a lot of alcohol

‘It would mean that one parent was stuck at the caravan in a foreign environment whilst the other half went off to work, hence why we pursued income we could generate online which we absolutely love,’ Haydyn said.

‘We understand that it’s a foreign concept to most and along with that comes a bit of the unknown which is why we enjoy helping and mentoring others through the process. We also have a few affiliate deals with small companies that is a bit of bonus income.’

The Richard’s top travelling sights and experiences 

  • Uluru sunset – NT
  • Camping at Gregory River – QLD
  • Day trip to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef – QLD
  • Many weekends wake boarding and skiing at Lake Tinaroo with close friends – QLD
  • Picking and consuming copious amounts of mangoes at Bowen – QLD
  • Bowhill Dairy Farm – SA
  • Climbing Mount Kosciuszko – NSW
  • Snow experience in the Victorian High Country – Bright, Falls Creek, Mt Hotham, Dinner Plain, Mt Buffalo, and our amazing and generous friends Mark and Diana who were our personal snowboarding instructors – VIC
  • The perfect day at Wauraltee – SA
  • Camping at Bunda Cliffs – SA
  • The beaches in Esperance – WA

To cut down on costs, they keep careful track of their spending, rarely eat out, stopped ordering takeaway as often and don’t drink a lot of alcohol. 

‘Spending habits can tend to blow out if you don’t keep an eye on it. Reviewing your outgoings periodically can help you identify where you can rein it in and cull some unnecessary spending,’ Haydyn said. 

They also stick to one big supermarket shop a week and store food in the large fridge and freezer in the caravan and an extra fridge in the car. 

‘We find that if we just get a few things every day or two it quickly adds up and at the end of the week the shopping bill is out of control,’ Jess said. 

‘We plan our meals out for the week so we know exactly what we need and we don’t end up buying unnecessary or excessive groceries.’

The family’s to-go cheap meal is pasta which Jess says the kids love and keeps everyone full.

For snacks they prepare cut-up fruit and vegetables in the kids lunchboxes so they’re not getting hungry during long stints in the car.

Jess also has a ‘controversial’ hack for saving on milk which she said the family drinks a lot of. 

‘We buy milk in three litre (full cream) bottles, decanter it into two 3L bottles then water it down, so we get six litres from the price of three,’ she explained. 

‘The kids don’t complain so we think we are onto a winner! We go through A LOT of milk so this definitely helps in that regard.’ 

At age seven, Connor is the only sibling old enough to go to school which he does through the Meekathara School of Air, a form of distance education through a government-funded school.

For parents who want to travel with kids, Haydyn and Jess recommend sticking to a routine but also having the flexibility to ‘go with the flow’

Connor (right) is the only sibling old enough to go to school which he does through the Meekathara School of Air, a form of distance education through a government funded school

He has also has stints in regional schools and spent term four of last year at Yungaburra State School in Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland.

‘It was great to give him a taste of normal school. It gave him a routine again and the chance to make some friends who we didn’t have to wave goodbye to in a few days’ time,’ Jess said. 

‘It was also a nice break for myself and Haydyn from the home-schooling as it can be a real chore at times. Schooling is definitely the hardest part of full-time travel in our opinion.’

For parents who want to travel with kids, Haydyn and Jess recommend sticking to a routine but also having the flexibility to ‘go with the flow’.

‘Don’t get too bent out of shape if things don’t go to plan. Kids can have a meltdown at the drop of a hat and make life difficult,’ he said.

‘If it means you have to change the plan then so be it, your better off coming back when everyone is in a better mood!’

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