Around four years ago, my husband took me out for a drink one night, and he had big news to impart. I was concerned that his news could be that he was ill, or had decided to leave our marriage or change careers. However it was none of the above. He said: “So you want to caravan around Australia”? In other words, he wanted to know whether I would be prepared to leave my job and home, and travel around Australia in a caravan for six months or more! I said yes and here are my tips on planning your caravan trip.
[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kathy Marris of 50 Shades of Age. Kathy and her husband Tom are experienced caravanners and keen travellers Be sure to check out Kathy’s blog. This post contains affiliate links, if you purchase a book from Booktopia, we will earn a small commission but you won’t pay any extra].
My initial reaction was one of delight. Leave my job – YES! But leave my home and our two adult children and beautiful Labrador dog behind – I was not so certain. I had hundreds of reasons running through my head as to why not to go. After all we were both only in our mid to late fifties and maybe a little too young to be classified as ‘grey nomads’. How would I survive without the luxuries of life I had grown accustomed to? And how would I cope being with my husband 24/7 in a small caravan?
There were so many reasons not to take this gigantic step, but after thinking and talking it through with my husband I thought “What the heck. What have I got to lose”? There really wasn’t one plausible reason why we couldn’t go (apart from the fact that we had to rent out our house for six months).
Planning your Caravan Trip
And so the planning began! We decided to depart on our trip from the Gold Coast in Queensland at the end of the Christmas school holiday period which was the day after Australia Day on the 27 January 2014. We also, after doing some research, decided to take our dog with us, as we discovered there were many pet-friendly camping spots and caravan parks around Australia.
As for the dilemma of what to do with our house, after discussions with our 25-year old son he asked whether he could get some friends together and rent the house from us for the six-month period. We agreed to this under certain strict conditions and at the end of the day it solved one of our problems.
Purchasing the Right Caravan for the Trip
We immediately started looking around for a new caravan as the one we owned was not suitable, plus it didn’t have a toilet or shower. We both felt we needed a caravan that was solid in construction for all the off-road stuff we were intending to do, plus it had to have an ensuite. After shopping around we decided upon a New Age 16-foot Manta Ray caravan. We discovered that this very modern caravan had all features that we required and aesthetically it was very pleasing to the eye.
There are hundreds of caravans on the market, so do your homework well and attend Caravan and Camping Expos, talk to fellow caravanners, get onto online caravan forums and visit some caravan dealerships. Work out what you’ll be comfortable travelling in and make sure that your motor vehicle is big enough to tow the caravan. A four-wheel drive is paramount for towing most caravans.
Think about things like the length, weight and manoeuvrability of the caravan you’re going to purchase. There is no point in buying a huge monster of a caravan if your vehicle isn’t up to towing it and it’s going to use up hundreds of dollars of petrol every day. So economical planning is extremely important.
Planning an Itinerary
The preceding four to five months to the trip were a blur of being very busy planning and preparing for our trip. We spent nights poring over maps and camping guides working out where to travel. My husband spent endless dollars on buying accessories and equipment required for the trip and I spent mine on buying odds and ends for the interior of the caravan.
There were two invaluable resources we discovered and that was the Camps 9 Australia Wide book and an app we downloaded on our phone called Wikicamps. Both resources informed us of the best places to camp with detailed information on each campground/caravan park and gave us co-ordinates that we could plot into our Navman.
Packing the Caravan
Pack as lightly as possible. If there is only the two of you travelling you only need a small amount of crockery, cutlery, cooking utensils and kitchenware. Ladies, you will only need very casual clothing like shorts, t-shirts, yoga pants, a couple of casual dresses and a jacket for cooler mornings and nights. You won’t need dressy outfits, high heels and heaps of makeup or beauty products, because you won’t be going anywhere dressy (unless it’s to the Pub or local Sports Club for a counter meal).
Take a change of linen and towels, in case you can’t get them laundered and take an extra blanket, because some nights do tend to get cold in the caravan. Pack a few books, magazines, cards or board games for entertainment. Also put some movies or TV shows on a hard-drive to watch on TV because reception can be dodgy in a lot of areas. Also buy yourself a 3G/4G portable WiFi modem so that you can keep in contact by email or messenger with family and friends. Most places have Telstra 3G/4G reception.
The most important thing is to relax, go where the road takes you and don’t try to plan too far ahead. We never made too many forward bookings at caravan parks or camping grounds because we didn’t want to be too regimented. This is one of the best things about caravanning around Australia – no set itineraries and absolute freedom!!!
Or maybe you are ready to hit the road without the caravan, check out this Essential Summer Road Trip Packing List.
Are you a keen caravanner? Is a caravan trip around Australia on your wishlist? What tips do you have for planning your caravanning trip?