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!
Ever wondered what the best camping sleep gear is? Self Inflating mattresses, air beds, eva mats, swags, foam mattresses, camp bunks, camp beds….. there’s a whole lot of choice.
If you’re travelling in a camper trailer or caravan, then chances are, you’ll be sleeping on a high density foam, or even an innerspring mattress. If you’re using a tent/swag or similar, then chances are you’ll be needing to find the most comfortable, yet cost effective way to sleep in some sort of comfort. The same dilemma occurs for those families who have children sleeping in annexes or outside of the main bedding within any camp set-up as tends to happen with larger families, or older children, being easily transportable, yet comfy enough for a good night’s sleep are the main criteria.
SELF INFLATING MATTRESSES:- Ranging from around $70.00+
A self inflating mattress is in fact a foam mattress that has an outer cover on with valves which can be opened and closed. The air is able to be squeezed out of the mattress so it can be squashed down to a smaller size to allow for easier transportation. When arriving at your destination, simply grab the mattress out of the bag/roll, undo the valves and leave it to sit for half an hour -an hour to draw the air in by itself. There is a wide range of self inflating mattresses available on the market, ranging from those suitable for bushwalkers or trekkers starting at around 28mm thick to queen size at around 10-15cms thick. There’s some advantages, such as no pump being required and greater insulation from the cold ground, however Self inflating mattresses can be bulky (especially the larger sizes) and can be more expensive.
EVA FOAM MATS:- Ranging from around $10+
These mats are sometimes known as yoga or exercise mats that are often used when people need to travel light. These mats are extremely light weight, they don’t provide much padding or comfort, but they do help to insulate your body from the cold of the ground. Sizes and thickness vary, generally in thickness from 8mm to 20mm.
AIR BED or INFLATABLE MATTRESS:- Ranging from around $20+
These are a great and comfortable option if you can find one that stays inflated while you sleep! They can be comfortable and come in a range of sizes, although they are not without their problems. In winter, an inflatable bed is cold and it’s important to place a blanket or even one of the eva foam matresses down where you will lay, to protect yourself from the cold air circulating underneath you. It’s also important that you have the gear needed to inflate the matress. Generally a 12v air pump which is relatively inexpensive works well.
CAMP BUNKS or CAMP STRETCHERS:- Ranging from around $25+
These are a great option for kids and adults alike with a huge range of sizing, pricing and styles. Take some time to try the beds out in store if possible and lay down to feel if a particular stretcher suits you. This style of bed generally packs done to be small and the frame packs away by either pulling apart or folding. Lightweight and they don’t take up much room, it might be necessary to use an eva foam mat during colder months to add some protection from the cold air that may flow underneath the bed.
I’ll let you in on just a little secret…. It may (or may not) be true that I’ve become well known in my circle of friends for convincing my children that toasted sandwiches or weetbix for dinner is a great menu choice! The truth is, that I HATE being tied to the kitchen! It doesn’t matter if we’re travelling, I’m preparing camping meals or cooking at home, I get super frustrated having to decide day in, day out what to feed the 5 of us for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So that’s why I need awesome gadgets to help me cook amazing food!
With all that said, it’s really important to me that when we’re out exploring Australia that meals are easy, yummy, and yes, even nutritious! Steak and sausages on the BBQ might be ok for a couple of nights, but for longer term travel I like variety and I need an easy way to provide all that for the 5 of us without too much mess and fuss. Sounds like I’m asking a lot doesn’t it 😉
Introducing the Dream-Pot!
We first spotted the Dream-Pot at a Caravan and Camping Show and were instantly excited by how amazing it seemed. We’d never really seen anything like it and weren’t sure if it would be a good investment for our family, as so many things aren’t useful when you multiply by 5 people, but we were assured that this, indeed would cook enough food for our entire family. By the end of the camping show, we were the proud owners of a sparkly new Dream-Pot.
Armed with our Dream-Pot and recipe book, we set out to see what delicious meals we could create, and we haven’t been disappointed yet. My favourite meals are ones with rice, because the rice always emerges fluffy and perfect! Remember I said that I didn’t think it would cook enough food for us all? I was wrong! The greatest thing is, that by cooking in the Dream-Pot I know we’ll have enough to go around and I don’t cook too much! Having left overs when you’re travelling can be a real hassle, and I hate wasting food, so this way, Its much harder for me to overestimate the amount of food we’ll need, and if we’re a little hungrier than usual we just add some bread or a salad and it’s perfect!
What is the Dream-Pot?
The Dream-Pot is a thermal cooker. This means that it is highly insulated and allows food to continue to cook (or to be kept cold) for extended periods of time without the need for external heating. Depending on the size, your Dream-Pot will have either one or two internal metal saucepans, these are used to start the cooking process, and then transferred into the thermal capsule with the lid closed. Your food will continue too cook itself without risk of overcooking, burning or drying out.
Benefits of the Dream-Pot.
- Convenient – Prepare and start dinner in the morning, and leave in the Dream-Pot to cook during the day while enjoying your holiday, your dinner will be perfectly cooked the eat that evening.
- Environmentally Sound – The reduced time needed to initially cook food means using less gas and electricity. It’s a great way to be eco conscious while being convenient.
- Safe – The Dream-Pot is completely safe. You are able to leave food cooking while you travel on the road.
- Variety of Usage – Don’t limit your usage to camping trips or holidays. Save yourself time and money on your power bill by preparing dinner hours early and letting the Dream-Pot finish the cooking for you. Another great idea is to use it when entertaining guests and you need to keep things hot or cold, and just secretly, it makes GREAT rice!
Does it Work?
We love our Dream-Pot, and we’ve used it successfully to cook casseroles, stews, curries, chicken, pasta and desserts and our friends are always amazed. Our Dream-Pot recently went away on a 10 week holiday with my Best Friend with her and her family while they travelled around Australia. It came back wearing stickers to show where it had been exploring 🙂 They used ours for everything for cooking to using as a washing up dish when they had a trailer mishap and couldn’t get into part of their camper leaving them with no washing up bucket! So yes, they are useful and versatile.
I must however admit that we did purchase the loaf tin at the last Camp Show we were at (yep you can cook loaves of bread too) but we haven’t had a chance to try it out yet. My final confession is, that even though the Dream-Pot is great for hot and cold meals of all kinds, I still haven’t got into the habit of using it at home, which is my loss entirely!
Watch the Dream-Pot Demonstration Video
What Does it Cost?
We own the 5 litre model, (a 6 litre would come in handy though!) All pricing is correct at time of posting and was sourced from suppliers online pricing. Add $20 for postage. Pricing is as follows:
- 3 litre (this only has one inner saucepan – $175
- 5 litre (we have this one – 2 adults, 3 children age 4-8) – $269
- 6 litre (I’d buy this one for the extra litre!) – $299
- Extras – Loaf tin – $29
[easyreview title=”Dream-Pot Review” cat1title=”Good For Families?” cat1detail=”Definitely useful for families, serving an extra salad/side dish may be necessary depending on appetite/number of people” cat1rating=”4″ cat2title=”Quality” cat2detail=”Our Dream-Pot has had plenty of use and is in great condition, definitely tough enough to withstand family usage” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Value for Money” cat3detail=”Starting at $175 for the smaller size (this wouldn’t be big enough for families, right up to $299 for the largest it may seem a little expensive,however it can be used on the road as well as at home, for entertaining etc, so definitely able to get value for money even though initial outlay may seem high” cat3rating=”4″ summary=”The trick with the Dream-Pot is to make sure you don’t tuck it away in a cupboard and forget about it. It’s a product that can be used at home and on the road and is great for entertaining when you need to keep things hot/cold. Definitely a useful piece of gear for the family and traveller alike.”]