If your family is anything like ours, then there’s nothing like the sound of a free family holiday to get the excitement happening! Of course in reality, while no holiday is truly free, it helps to have free accommodation to lessen the burden and allow money to be spent on fun activities instead of high priced accommodation.
Free camping exists in some wonderful places around Australia and is a wonderful option for an Australian family adventure, and one that is overlooked by many holiday makers. Free camps offer the perfect way opportunity for families to stretch their holiday budget further and allow them to stay longer, or experience tourist attractions they may not otherwise be able to afford.
Sounds wonderful right? It really is, so if you’re keen to set off and grab a free campsite for your next family vacation then here’s some things to consider.
1. Pre-Planning your Free Camping Holiday
Just like any other type of holiday, if you’re going to free camp you’ll need to pre-plan. The trick with free camping is knowing where the free camps are. In truth, there has been pressure in many high tourist areas to close free or budget camps, mostly driven by caravan parks who, like everyone else are feeling the pinch within their business. Not to worry though, there are still a whole lot of free camping options, but you’ll just need a little help to find the best of them.
The most recommended book among travel circles is Camps Australia Wide. The current version in early 2012 is Camps 6 with a new version due out around March 2013 and every couple of years continually.
The best option is to grab a copy of this book (it’s a great investment and they hold their resale value too) take a look at the region you’re thinking of travelling to and note all the available sites, or at least find a region that has free camping, as some regions are very limited. The best thing about having a book like this on hand is that you’ll know before you arrive, what facilities are available and if you feel it will be suitable for your camping style, ability and interests.
2. Having the Right Gear to go Free Camping
What gear you’ll need to have a successful camping adventure is very dependent on the type of camping ground you’ll be staying at. It’s important to understand the facilities that exist and prepare accordingly. Just like our guide to buying a family tent, choosing the gear you’ll need for free camping depends highly on the type, location and facilities at the camp site.
Yes, it’s true you can go free camping with just a tent and some basic supplies. In fact, we do just that on a regular basis, and have a great time, the key is understanding your own needs, expectations and making the most of the available facilities. It is important to have your own options for showers/baths if there aren’t any available on site. A porta-loo is also a necessary option if there’s no available toilets. For more avid campers this type of gear is often already on hand, for families with limited camp gear, choose a site with options such as showers and toilets. Sometimes you’ll have to pay a minimal charge for a hot shower, but it will be well worth it.
3. Communication in Free Camps
Most people own a mobile phone and rely on it as their contact method with friends and family or emergency help when out travelling. It’s super important to know the coverage for your mobile phone service if you’re travelling to more remote free camping areas. Chances are that there may be little or no phone reception, so if you don’t have a CB radio, it pays to at least let someone know where you’re going. Often you won’t be camping alone and there’s generally other campers close by, but don’t rely on it. For the most part you won’t need phone contact if you’re out of service, but it’s just good measure to understand if this is the case.
4. Main Points to Consider for Free Camping
Fires and BBQ’s: If you’re staying in a National Park area you won’t be allowed to collect firewood and will need to bring your own. Similarly if there are fire bans in place then open fires are not allowed. Having a gas cooktop in these instances is always a bonus.
Time Limits: Some camp sites only allow limited stays. Be sure to follow any rules in regards to this as you can face fines in some instances, but more importantly, the rules are there to be sure that all visitors to the area have availability to resources. Campers causing problems by ignoring limits and other rules sometimes are the cause of free sites being closed, so it pays to be respectful.
Rubbish: There are no rubbish collection services at many free camp sites. This makes sense because rubbish services cost money, so if you’re not paying or you’re only paying minimal charges, and there are no bins then have respect and take your rubbish with you. Like other problems caused by disrespectful campers,, excess rubbish being left around campsites has forced closure of many sites around Australia.
5. Be Respectful:
Free campsites are a privelege, and sadly misuse or abuse of available facitilies has caused many closures in recent years. Keep it simple, don’t abuse available services, be respectful of the surroundings and other campers, stay tidy and clean and leave your campsite as you found it.
In all honesty, just get out there and have fun. If you’re not used to camping, then start out in a free camp or budget camp that offers great facilities and is close to a town with mobile phone reception, showers and toilets. Grab yourself a copy of Camps 6 and don’t be afraid to test your boundaries by discovering new, more remote places once in a while.