If You’re Planning That Ultimate Road Trip.
When Dean and I drove off into the sunset, we were very naive. We had little to no experience towing a caravan, let alone using one as a ‘mini home’ for an extended period of time. We made mistakes, many mistakes, yet slowly but surely, we learnt a few tricks, picked up some tips, and eventually traded secrets with other travellers.
Although Dean and I towed a caravan around Australia, perhaps the following list, my little pearls of wisdom, will be of assistance to anyone embarking on an epic road trip anywhere regardless of the type of vehicle you decide to use.
These are only ten things to think about, and only some of the things we learnt along the way.
1. Live in your caravan before leaving home.
Even if you have to park your caravan in your own yard or driveway, do so and move into it before you leave home. Experience living in it, get a feel for how much room you have or don’t have.
If you plan on travelling all the way around Australia, or across vast distances of your country, your personal space is about to be diminished on a level you may not have experienced before no matter how big your rig is, and it will remain in that reduced status until you complete your trip.
2. If you haven’t used it by the end of your second month, you don’t need it.
One thing we discovered was overestimating what we would or would not need. With the exception of clothing and footwear for all seasons (which turned out to be an absolute must), we had lots of knick-knacks that I thought we would need, but in fact never touched.
If you haven’t used it by the end of your second month of travel, there’s a good chance you won’t use it. Pack it up and send it ‘home’ to family or friends who are willing to hold onto it for you until you return. De-cluttering will provide you with more space and will lighten your load.
3. Speaking of load, DO NOT overload your caravan.
Be aware of your vehicle and caravan weight capacities. Whether it be ATM, tare weight, payload or GCVM (Gross Combination Vehicle Mass), know what they are, pack your load accordingly, and do not overload.
This information is available on your caravan compliance plate and can be found in your tow vehicle operating manual. The dangers of overloading can be catastrophic. The RACQ website states: “Failure to abide by the towing regulations, including maximum loads, may result in a fine, or in the case of an accident, refusal of the insurance claim, and the possibility of further legal action.”
4. Be aware of road rules and speed limits.
I cannot stress how important it is to know the road rules. Road rules and speed limits vary from state to state and in some cases (like Queensland) limits are imposed according to the overall vehicle length. There is a great article on the Without a Hitch website called State by State – Tow vehicle and trailer speed limits. I found this invaluable.
Rules notwithstanding, the other govern factor here is fuel economy. The faster you travel, the more fuel you’ll use. We discovered our optimum speed which was below the maximum allowed and generally we stuck to that.
5. Always research your destination before arriving.
There is nothing worse than finding out later that you were on the doorstep of something wonderful and missed out because you didn’t know it was there. Waterfalls, National Parks, that quaint little coffee shop that serves the best Devonshire Teas – find out exactly what’s available and within easy reach.
I cannot express how disappointed I was when I discovered – after we’d moved on – that the Shamrock Hotel in Echuca is the Home of 101 Parmas. Ok, I was heartbroken I missed out on selecting just one and writing a review to add to the other reviews I did on our trip. Returning to Echuca is already on our Must Do List for next time.
6. Plan your budget, and budget your plan.
Failing to budget can be the biggest mistake. No one wants to listen to their finances trickle away and be forced to return home earlier than expected. Dean and I worked a tight budget, allocating certain funds every month to food, fuel, and accommodation, but these aren’t the only expenses we had.
We had to budget for car, contents, caravan and health insurance every month, not to mention phone and internet charges. Then there are other items such as car and caravan registration, maintenance and servicing, just to mention a few. Make sure you budget for everything. We wanted to be on the road longer which meant we had to be very selective when it came to paying for tourist attractions. We found lots of free things to do.
7. Free camping isn’t for everyone.
We did a little free camping, and there are a lot of lovely free camping spots out there, but for Dean and I the security of parking in a caravan park was more our style. We chose to base ourselves in a particular location and spend a few days enjoying the surrounding.
Leaving a ‘mini home’ full of our possessions in the middle of nowhere while we went exploring was not an option and we met a lot of travellers who felt exactly the same. In our experience, free camping sites were good for an ‘overnighter’ when aiming at getting from A to B across a greater distance.
8. Plan the time of day to drive.
Our preference quickly became AM driving. With a huge weight behind us, we were not interested in driving at night. Many of the roads we drove down were lonely country roads and we had no intention of placing ourselves in a situation where a frightened animal could put an end to our trip – or worse.
Regardless of where we were, we’d pack up and head off early, reach our next destination, usually around 10 am, secure a site and be set up and be ready to explore around lunchtime. This suited us down to the ground.
9. Be flexible.
Sometimes it’s not possible to stay at the destination you’ve selected, particularly if you ‘wing it’ and don’t book ahead of time. With the exception of peak times such as school holidays when a booking is essential, we preferred to not book ahead and would simply arrive and request a site.
If we were unable to, we’d move on. Fair enough, those few times that happened meant we missed out on spending time in that particular location. But it also meant we ended up somewhere else, and perhaps that was the best place to be and spend time after all.
10. Plan some down time.
It can be exhausting constantly moving from location to location and attending to everything that that entails – packing up, driving, setting up, and sightseeing. Not to mention that while you’re doing this, all those everyday tasks that still have to get done too – grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc – it can be exhausting.
Plan some down time to do absolutely nothing and allow the batteries to recharge.
You’ll be glad you did.
In response to the WordPress Discover Challenge – A Piece of Advice
Also in response to the WordPress Discover Challenge – The Poetry of List Making