Most people planning to travel long term worry about whether a camper trailer or caravan is best for travelling Australia
? Some people will choose a motorhome, but if you’re going to be towing your home behind you, possibly the biggest consideration should be given to the type of car you’ll be towing with, as well as maintenance and preparation for keeping that car in great condition and suitable for long term travel.
Car Preparation Before You Leave for a Lap of Australia
First things first, please be sure the car you have is a suitable car for towing your caravan or camper. Having a car that is under-rated for the van or camper you are towing is not only illegal, it is also extremely dangerous and happens regularly unfortunately. Once you have the car sorted, here’s some tips before you hit the road for long term family travel.
- Be sure to do a full service on your vehicle, this includes changing your oil, fuel and air filters, and any gear box and transmission fluids. It’s great to do them all before you head off so you’ll know for certain when they are all due again.
- Check all drive belts or other belts and change them if necessary, if possible take spares, there’s nothing worse than a broken belt and no supplies close by, they are relatively cheap.
- Tyres are really important to ensure safety, especially when driving long distances. If you’re due for a change of tyres, it’s probably best just to replace them all around the vehicle.
- Wheel bearings are also something to get checked before you head off. If you put your car into a mechanic to get a full service before you leave, ask them to check for you.
- It’s vital that your brakes are in great working order when you’re towing so be sure to make sure you’re brakes are in great working order, if in doubt replace what might need replacing when on the road anyway.
Car Maintenance Tips While Travelling Long Term
Keeping your car healthy during long term travel ins’t too much of a hassle as long as you take the time to keep essential tasks done.
- Check water levels and oil on a regular basis. Yes this sounds simple enough, but forgetting these things can be disastrous especially if you’re in a remote area.
- Do regular oil changes. For some cars, especially if they are under the stress of towing will be best suited to changing oil more regularly than otherwise recommended by manufacturers. Many people swear by changing oil every 5,000 or 10,000 kms minimum. It’s not a hard job to do on the road, but please be sure to dispose of oil wastage responsibly and take it to an allocated waste station.
- Upgrading tyres on the road will be a necessity if you’re travelling long term. Our tyres were fine when we left, but we’re now shopping for new ones. We’re looking at BF Goodrich tyres at tyresales.com.au which is a great website to save money on what can be a pretty big expense.
- Take some spare parts with you to avoid disaster. We try our best to carry essential belts, wheel bearings, and spare filters with us. These things can all be maintained on the road, and save us needing to go to a mechanic and wait for parts to be ordered.
Most of all, just stay safe, use common sense, treat your vehicle kindly, after all, it’s what keeps you moving and on the road. Major vehicle issues can push people off the road for quite some time, so err on the side of caution and being that little bit extra careful and you should enjoy many long days, weeks, months or years travelling Australia on your big lap.
One of the big considerations when you decide to travel, especially if you aim to free camp, is having showers and staying clean. Gone will be the days of unlimited streaming hot water, and long hot baths, but it’s really just a case of being practical, thrifty and sensible and once you find your groove it’s not too hard at all. We get lots of emails asking about shower set ups for free camping and travelling on long term family holidays, so here’s some starting pointers.
Options for keeping clean quickly while travelling?
Quick and Easy Travel Hygiene
Let’s get honest here, some days it’s just not possible to have a full wash. It may be too cold, you may be driving all day and not arrive to camp until late, or there’s just such limited water having fresh drinking water is more important. Never fear, you can always freshen up if you carry 2 important items:
1: Baby wipes
2: Hand Sanitiser – The water-free kind.
Baby wipes are great for an all over clean up, or just the vital areas. Hand Sanitiser allows you to ensure your hands are clean and hygienic, so a combination of these works great for a light freshen up.
Water Saving Travel Bath
It’s surprising how effective a sponge bath can be. This is a common option for campers and travellers when there isn’t another option.
A small bucket or large bowl can be filled with warm water and a face washer or cloth is all you need to get a thorough clean. For travelling families who need a little privacy a shower tent is a great idea.
Another handy thing to know is that using sensitive skin, soap free options will still clean you but you don’t have to worry about the skin-drying soap residue if you don’t have running water to rinse with.
Camp Showers while Travelling
The ultimate in shower options for Travellers and campers is to imitate a “real” shower as closely as possible, and this is where camp showers come in.
There’s several levels of luxury and lots of options available, so here goes:
Solar Shower Bags For Campers
This option is a tried and true remedy for accessing heated shower water when camping. Black rubber bags are laid in the sun for a natural heating method. It’s best suited to when you are staying more than one night as the water bladder will need to lay in the sun for the day. Similarly it’s better for warm regions as the bags won’t heat properly on cold, overcast, rainy days.
12 Volt Shower & Heat Your Own Water
Of all travelling families we’ve spoken to, this option is probably one of the most common options for showering while camping. It’s simply the use of a portable 12 volt shower pump.
Heat up some water, over the camp fire is a great option for saving gas and making the most of the fire, other than that, just on the gas stove will do.
Mix the hot water into a bucket with some cool water until it’s the right temperature and then use this and the portable shower to wash.
12 Volt showers are mostly hooked up to a battery, either the car, or a spare to run the shower pump which is immersed in the bucket of warm water.
Complete Hot Water Units.
For those who don’t want to worry about having to pre-heat water, the use of a hot water service offers even more convenience. You’ll still need a bucket of water, but instead of having to preheat, the 12 volt shower runs as part of the hot water service, which has an adjustable temperature gauge on it. Brands such as Coleman hot water on demand, and Companion Aquacube are popular choices.
Top Tips for Camp Showers
The vital ingredient for this type of shower is the shower tent. These range from pop-up kinds to more sturdy dual ensuite options. Regardless of which one you purchase, it will provide welcome privacy for both a shower, and if you carry one, a portable toilet.
It’s a great idea to put some foat matting at the bottom of your shower tent to keep your feet clean and allow the water to run away. This type of matting is available at camping and discount stores.
When camped near a clean power supply such as a river or lake, this will allow you to use available water supplies instead of water that’s better saved for drinking and cooking. If you can make out in our photo here, we’ve got 3 pots of water on the fire to save on the gas so we could have enough hot water to wash everyone. It took a few rounds of water, but the water from the lake was fresh and beautiful, and it was a lovely warm day, perfect for a good clean up for the kids.
What tips do you have for camp showers while travelling?
So you’re heading off for a family holiday, the first thing you should pack is your family holiday first aid kit. While a basic first aid kit is fine, it’s much better if it contains things that are useful for your travel destination.
Whether your taking a road trip, going camping in a remote area, or spending your days lounging around a resort, there’s a chance you’ll need a first aid kit at least once during your travels. If you’re heading to remote areas or doing a lot of outdoor activities, not only is it essential to pack a well equipped first aid kit, it could save your life.
For families who do a lot of remote travel, it’s a great idea that one parent has a first aid certificate, or at least attends a first aid course to teach the basics. If that isn’t an option, then a good first aid guide that fits into your kit is a great option too.
What Basic Things Should A First Aid Kit Contain?
Every first aid kit should contain the following essential items:
- Sterile gauze
- Saline (can be used to flush wounds or eyes etc)
- Insect repellent
- Burn cream
- Bite cream
- Safety pins
- Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
- Sterile gauze
- Non adherent dressings
- A couple of bandages
- Notepad & pen/pencil
- Antiseptic wipes
- Paw paw cream
- Tea tree oil
- Resuscitation protective shield
For more remote travel you should also consider adding the following to your first aid kit:
- Emergency thermo blanket
- Cold packs or heat packs (instant type)
- Snake bite kit, containing compression bandages, a sharpie, gloves and a sling
- EPIRB in case of needing remote or urgent assistance
- A Satellite phone for remote/out of service travels
- Gauze swabs
- Senekot or similar
- Sudafed or similar
- Immodium or similar
- Menstruation pads/tampons
- Oil of cloves
Choosing A First Aid Kit
If you’re really wanting to have a specific kit with particular items, then designing and purchasing your own kit is definitely a great idea. Either that, or purchasing a ready made kit and adding your own touches to it could be less expensive and more thorough. Brands such as St Johns Ambulance or Red Cross offer thorough, high quality kits for sale. No matter which kit you purchase or how you put it together, it’s important that each time you head out (or if you’re on the road full time) that you check the expiry date of your first aid kit contents regularly or before you head away on holidays.
Do you have any tips, advice or preference when it comes to Family holiday First aid kit ideas for travellers? Let us know below in the comments…
When it comes to the best camping gear for families, we know how to put it to the test.
Torches are no exception to this rule. As a family of 5 you can be sure that at least 3 of us will end up needing a torch at exactly the same moment.
While in the past, such a situation may have caused all sorts of chaos and tantrums to take place, as we scrambled in the darkness to locate enough torches for everyone (if we’d even remembered to pack enough torches) during a visit to our local camping store, we were really excited to find a product that we figured would save all our problems!
The Coleman Quad LED Torch – Great For Families
This lantern offers a unique design that gives great flexibility to families, or groups that are camping, or, for that matter, even just to have around the house.
The torch can operate as a full lantern, or 4 smaller style lanterns can be removed individually from the centre section, allowing up to 4 people to use the torches individually.
The smaller torches operate by charging from the main unit, which runs on 4 x D size batteries. Surpisingly the batteries last quite some time which is great news if you’ll be away from shops for a while, but to be sure, take spares also.
Do We Recommend This Product?
We sure do! It offers great flexibility for a family, or anyone who might need separate torches. We’ve used ours during power outages, every camp trip and on long drives it’s always in the back of the car in case of emergencies.
If you’re a family looking for adventure, keen to pitch a tent and explore the great outdoors, then one of the most important things you’ll need to know is how to choose a family tent to be used as your home away from home. Deciding on the right tent is something that should be done with planning, consideration and research. Be sure to physically look at the tents you’re considering and get a thorough idea of the features and price range available in the tent ranges you’re considering. Not sure where to start? The good news is it’s not as hard to find a great tent as it may seem, if you follow some simple tips.
Many people feel overwhelmed when choosing the right tent, simply because of the large range of options that are available, but, by asking yourself some simple questions, the process of choosing a family tent will become a while lot easier.
1. How Will the Tent Be Used?
This may sound like a silly question, the answer is camping, sleeping right? Wrong! Of course those things are true, but there are other important factors that come into play here. Will you be hiking long distances and need to take the tent with you? If so you’ll need to go for compact and light. Will you be staying for extended periods of time? If so then extra space and durability may be necessary. Generally for extended camping trips it’s a much more comfortable experience in a larger tent that has space to stand. Ask yourself what kinds of camping trips you’re likely to be doing and choose a tent that will fit that style well.
2. How Many People Will Be Sleeping in the Tent?
The size of your family will be one of the major deciding factors in the type of tent you purchase. Although do you notice it wasn’t listed in position 1 of the points to consider. That’s because the size of your family won’t always be the major deciding factor in the type of tent. For example, for trips that require a plane flight to get to your destination, or require hiking on foot, a lighter more compact tent is needed. So in this case, even a family of 5 may decide they can squeeze into a 4 man tent for short stays. However if a family loves to camp for weeks on end in one spot, then a 10-12 person multiple room tent may be just what they are looking for. As a rule, the number of people a tent size allocates is for the maximum number of sleeping adults that will fit comfortably. If you’re needing to store clothing etc for 4 people in your tent, then it wouldn’t be wise to buy a 4 person tent (unless for short hiking trips) a family of 4 would more likely look at 6person and above for these purposes.
3. Where and When do Your Family Camping Holidays Take Place?
Going back to the first two points, the next point to consider is the likely location and timing of your camping trips. If you know you will be camping in summer then a tent with great ventilation is an absolute must! Tents with inadequate windows, lack of fly screening and ventilation points will fast become unbearably hot during the Aussie summer heat, so take this into consideration. If you know you’re likely to do some camping during wet periods or areas where there’s high dew levels at night, then it’s vital to have a tent that is waterproof, has zippers that won’t leak and sturdy flooring that won’t allow the water to penetrate. It’s important to understand that even family camping trips can be inundated with all kinds of weather, so tents that offer these features are always a bonus.
4. Budget Vs Quality
When it comes to the final decision for the tent, the reality is, that the tent you purchase will come down to price vs quality. Once you know where you’ll be using your tent and for what purpose, and how many people you need to accommodate with an average time of stay, then the final decision will be the pricing and quality.
There is such a large variety of pricing across tent ranges, but generally with that pricing range comes a huge range in the extra features and also a major difference in quality. For many families, purchasing a top of the range, ultra expensive tent may be out of the question, but be sure at least to look at the top of the range tent with the features that will suit you, then take a look at the bottom of the range. Once you have an idea of what’s on either end of the price scale, it’s wise to go with an option somwhere in between.
No matter what tent you choose, be sure to hold onto your purchase receipt, as a good tent should come with a warranty period, and be free from defects. Before you head out on your first camping trip with your new tent, it always pays to do a mock setup at home (or let the kids have a camping trip in the backyard) so you get to know how to set the tent up and pack it down. It’s much more fun if you arrive at your campsite knowing how to pitch your tent instead of wasting time trying to figure it out instead of relaxing!
Now you’ve got your tent sorted, the next decision will be choosing sleep gear for family camping!
Travel can be a crazy experience, even the most well laid out plans don’t go as expected, especially at times where Mother Nature plays havoc! We know our way around Australia with kids pretty well. Both ourselves and the kids are used to driving long distances, and we know the average travel time to our most common travel spots which helps us plan a little more easily. Until…….
A flood happens.
We learnt these things:
- Don’t trust Google Maps.
- Don’t trust Google Maps.
Mid 2011, I was booked in to attend a photography workshop, a wonderful international photographer was holding a workshop in QLD and I was so excited. To make the most of the trip interstate, we’d booked family accommodation, had tickets to The Australian Outback Spectacular, and were looking forward to some relaxation in the sunshine. We knew what time Matt finished work so we could leave, and what time we’d arrive. All sorted right? Wrong. There was a week long flood just days before my workshop started. The Pacific Highway was blocked right where we needed to drive through, and not in just one place, but several places, The Oxley Highway was our only chance to get there via the inland route, things weren’t looking good with that under water as well. It was very lucky for me that the Oxley Highway cleared the day before we were due to leave, so I dodged an expensive plane flight and we decided we wouldn’t let natural disaster defeat us, we’d just go anyway, even if the inland route was a little longer.
Our Biggest Mistake with Planning an Alternate Travel Route.
As I’ve said, we generally know how long it takes to drive from home, to most places around NSW and QLD, so we had a “rough” idea of what we were facing. We had some idea of which way we needed to travel and the towns we needed to go through, but trying to do our research, we decided to hit Google Maps to see if we were travelling efficiently or if there was a shorter way. BIG MISTAKE! We trusted what we found. Google maps appeared to show us a shorter way that appeared to save at least an hour, we printed out the details and didn’t think much more about it. Little did we know (and we didn’t realise until we were smack bang in the middle of nowhere) that Google had sent us up a very “unique” selection of roadways!
We knew about the “correct way” to go. I’ve marked it out here in red, but we honestly thought there might be a better alternative, so perhaps naively consulted Google Maps to advise us of other possible options. Thinking it was a major road that Google was leading us on, once we hit Tenterfield we kept following Google’s advised path….
The Turn off Gave it Away…
You know you’re not about to travel up a major road, when you drive past your turn, having just mistaken it for a road into a farm, without there even being a signpost. That’s what happened. We were driving along, expecting to hit some sort of town, when we drove through a few houses, some paddocks and then my “little blue dot” on my iphone Google Map told me we’d gone past the turn. It was at that point I laughed, I mean, what else was I supposed to do!
All I can say about that road is, that it’s probably a good thing we were in a 4wd!
It Must have been a Miracle
After an extra couple of hours of driving we were running late not only to check in, but also to our dinner booking for Australian Outback Spectacular! There were some wild, crazy roads on that journey, but it was somewhat compensated for by the amazing rainforest we drove through…..
We were severely running out of time, a quick toilet stop in a rest area gave the opportunity to change into “nicer” clothes for dinner, nothing like a family of 5 rummaging through luggage in the back of a car and getting changed in the dark in the bush somewhere! We had no other choice, we’d called our accommodation and organised an alternative access to our room, and drove straight to dinner.
It truly must have been a miracle that we made it to dinner. We’d pre-paid around $300 so it wasn’t something we wanted to miss, although we did end up missing all of the pre-dinner entertainment!
Don’t Trust Google Maps
Now, of course, it may sound a bit silly that we planned our entire route just on what Google told us. Truth be told when we reached Tenterfield I had said to Matt “I’m not sure if we should trust this or if we should just go the longer way”. The longer way would have been much quicker as their would have been proper roads and not goat tracks, but we couldn’t have predicted what a wild ride Google would send us on!
So just a notice to those who do as we did and plan out their travel route relying on Google, DON’T take it for granted that it will be anywhere close to correct!