What should you live in while you’re travelling Australia as a family?
We’ve travelled at different times in a tent, camper and caravan, and so we’ll give our thoughts on all of them. What will be best for your family? The answer to this question is one that’s almost impossible to refine, there are so many variables, and so many differences from one family to the other. If you’re new to caravanning and camping, the decision can be even tougher because you don’t quite know what you’ll like and what you’ll dislike about the options available to you, so hopefully we can make the decision a little easier for you.
My best piece of advice is that; nothing you travel in will fit every need you have. All choices have their own pros and cons, and it really comes down to what features and benefits are most important to you. Take time to look at what’s out in the market, and don’t purchase the first thing you see unless it fits your requirements perfectly and is a good price. We searched lots of online market places as well as local papers when buying, but Gumtree was where we ended up finding our caravan and our Jayco Swan, so that’s a great place to start your caravan shopping.
Pros and Cons of Camper Trailers to Travel Australia
Camper trailers are a popular choice for families, and there’s plenty of people who hit the road to explore the country while living in a camper. There are different types of campers available to consider, and each will have it’s own benefits:
[column size=’1/3′]Soft Floor Camper Trailers
The biggest benefit of soft floor campers is that they are generally the most economic choice of camper trailer. They range from a few thousand dollars right up into luxurious campers priced $50,000 or more. For families, they are often a good step up from a tent, and allow parents to have a ready made bed, with some styles like the Trak Shak folding sideways to include 2 double sized beds. There’s usually plenty of storage underneath inside the trailer, usually stored in plastic tubs or sliding drawer systems. [/column]
[column size=’1/3′]Hard Floor Camper Trailers
Hard floor camper trailers provide the benefit of being up off the ground with the ease of a soft floor camper. Cub Campers are a great example of hard floor camper trailers. They are generally a little bit more expensive than soft floors, but have a few extra options and possibilities.Some can include inbuilt cupboards, and we’ve even seen them with a bunk setup inside. Many hard floor camper trailers are forward flipping, and do give the benefit of the fold down floor being up off the ground a bit. [/column]
[column size=’1/3′]Hybrid Campers
We originally chose to travel in a hybrid style camper, a Jayco Swan. The biggest benefit of this style of camper is the caravan feel on the inside, the kitchen being all set up inside, with cupboard space, and the fact that you’re camped high off the ground. This option is generally more expensive, with fewer brand options available. Another benefit is being able to camp in areas where tents and camper trailers are not allowed. Options such as air conditioning can also be added to hybrid campers, as well as hot water services, and a variety of bed setups.
Pro for Camper Trailers: Cheaper option, generally more suitable for off-road travel, lighter to tow, easier to tow.
Cons for camper trailers: Pack up and pack down time can be a hassle, Canvas can be restrictive especially in wet weather, generally an outdoor kitchen for soft/hard floor campers (although hybrids have a kitchen inside), storage can be a hassle without cupboards.
Pros and Cons of Caravans to Travel Australia
Caravans are probably the most common choice for people wanting to travel Australia, of any age. But, where choosing a caravan might seem like a straight forward task, there are so many variables and options available that it can be really overwhelming. A walk around any caravan and camping show will open up a world of luxury, on-road and off-road models, and gadgets galore, so here’s our tips for caravan travel and shopping for your perfect caravan.
[column size=’1/2′]New vs Second Hand
Budget is a huge consideration for any family wanting to travel. There can be mixed opinions on buying new vs second hand when it comes to caravans. Purchasing a new caravan means you’ll be covered by warranty, where purchasing a second hand van means you’ll save money off the new price that you can use elsewhere. The time of year you purchase a second hand van can affect the amount you pay, as well as the type of van you’re aiming for; bunk vans for example tend to sell quickly and for more than other layouts. If you’re looking to purchase a new caravan, then “Caravan and Camping” shows can offer a good opportunity to get a great deal and have bonuses thrown in.[/column]
[column size=’1/2′]On-road vs Off-road Caravans
There is a school of thought that says an off-road van is essential to travel the country, and it’s one of the reasons we originally chose to buy a hybrid, because we couldn’t afford a full size off-road van. Off-road vans generally sit higher than on-road versions and may come with extras that toughen them up. The way I see it, is that while off-road vans can be handy when heading along dirt roads, corrugations and more remote areas, most of where you’ll want to go is going to be accessible with an on-road van. Also, if you’re paying $60,000 and more for an off-road van are you really going to drag it anywhere it can sustain damage? There are definitely benefits, but we carry a tent with us for really remote camping, and if we had to choose between an on-road van or not going at all because funding an off-road van was impossible, then give me an on-road van any day. [/column]
Pros for Caravans to travel Australia: Ease and speed, safety and comfort, are some of the biggest pros to travelling Australia with a caravan. Caravans are as easy as pulling up into your campsite and opening the door to step inside. This is a big bonus for saving time on holidays, overnight stops are quick and easy, and moving from one site to another is easier too compared to tents or campers. Safety is increased in a caravan, purely because of the increased ability to lock the doors and windows. While some vans such as expandas and rapids do have beds with canvas, a majority of vans have solid walls making break and entering more difficult. Comfort may just be the biggest plus for caravan travel.
Cons for Caravan travel in Australia: The size and weight of caravans can be prohibitive to some travel, especially in tight spaces, busy areas and driving in windy or hilly conditions. The size of your caravan will also be determined by the tow capacity of your vehicle and the bigger the van, the bigger your fuel bill will likely be. Yearly registration fees can be more expensive for caravans as can insurance premiums.
Travelling Australia in a Tent.
Of course, not many families are likely to head off full time travelling with only a tent as their accommodation, but never fear, there are families out there doing just that! Our first ever expedition on a long distance trip was in a tent from Darwin to Kakadu and then down the centre to Adelaide in a hire car and a tent to sleep in and it was one of the best experiences of our lives and set us on the path to full time travel. If you are passionate about getting out to see the country and your only option financially is to do it in a tent, then why not! Of course it isn’t as luxurious as a van or even a camper, but there have been many moments we’ve been so sick of towing that we’ve joked about going back to only having a tent, and if we hadn’t decided to travel for such a long, open-ended trip then we may have done just that!
Whatever it is you choose to travel in, do plenty of research, ask lots of people and talk to them about things they like and dislike about their set-up and know that nothing will ever be completely perfect, there is always compromise, and that’s ok, it’s all part of the experience and the journey. You can read more about our decision to change from the swan to our classic 70’s caravan here, and if you have any questions then just pop them in the comments below.