Caravanning around Australia: What you need to know
For many Australians the freedom and independence of caravanning holds a powerful attraction as a practical way to see the country at their own pace.
With great distances to cover, a caravan gives the flexibility to be able to take it all in at a leisurely pace, without the hassle and expense of finding fixed accommodation and dining facilities.
With a caravan you have your kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living areas all in tow for self-contained comfort.
Of course, the convenience and mobility of having a caravan requires quite a learning curve when it comes to trip planning, equipment planning and making sure you can tow your home on wheels safely and confidently.
If you are considering joining the growing band of caravan tourers, we have put together here some great tips to get you started.
Towing a caravan safely
The skills involved in towing a large object like a caravan are obviously significantly different to just driving a car. There is a lot of weight behind you and a caravan is usually wider than the tow vehicle and issues such as wind and road conditions are magnified in their influence on how you drive. Having said all that, safe and successful caravan towing can be mastered quite effectively by most drivers if they follow some proven rules and techniques.
To get you started on some of the driving issues you will encounter and how to handle them the Travel Australia online resource provides a handy and succinct checklist of tips. This is a great starting point for beginners, but it may also be worthwhile investing in a caravan towing class, which are provided by a variety of caravanning clubs, state motoring associations and private operators.
Getting ready for take off
Once you have made the decision to set off on your trip, there are a quite a few areas of preparation that you need to cover off for yourself, your ‘rig’ and what you leave behind at home.
- If you are going on any extended trip, it’s important to ensure your home retains that "lived in look" by having someone collect mail and take care of the garden. Ensure your door and window locking is at a high standard and maybe think twice before announcing your extended absence on social media, where people outside of your immediate family and friends may have access to your information.
- Gather documents that you may need on the road, such as warranty info for appliances, car logbook and insurance papers. If it is going to be an extended trip, consider arranging someone to forward your mail to you via an express post envelope sent periodically to wherever you are staying. Alternately, arrange for someone trustworthy to open your mail and make bill payments on your behalf.
- Make sure your car and caravan are in tip top condition for the journey. Arrange a car service before you leave and pay particular attention to tyre condition (it can be more expensive to replace tyres in a remote location), air conditioning, towing gear and your vehicle’s cooling system, which is placed under more pressure when towing a heavy van.
- It’s not just your vehicles that need a check-up! Make a visit to the GP before you leave to ensure you are in good shape and to plan ahead for prescriptions etc. Get a basic medical kit together for the trip too.
- Consider what entertainment options you may need. The countryside and the people you meet along the way will provide most of the enjoyment, but most of us will still want access to TV, sound system, DVD and perhaps other mental stimulation, such as books, games and puzzles. A good arial may be a wise investment for reception in remote areas.
- If you want to keep in contact with friends and relatives, a laptop is essential for emails and social media. It is also handy for maps and storing and accessing trip planning info.
- Equipment-wise your home away from home needs to contain many of the things you would use at home, so go through your kitchen, bathroom, laundry and garage to make a checklist of items you may need to take with you.
Getting out on the road
Once you have set off a good rule of thumb is to limit distance to 200 kilometres a day to. Towing can be more tiring than normal driving so a useful practice is to get on the road early and aim to be at your destination by early afternoon.
When it comes to planning your itinerary, make use of other’s experience and research websites that have suggestions for successful and stimulating routes.
The latter website has a great trip planning tool to help you map out your journey in advance and give recommendations for van parks to stay at along the way.
If you intend doing the great Aussie dream of circumnavigating the continent, a good tip is to start in southern latitudes in spring or summer and head north for winter. This avoids the summer heat and hazardous monsoon season in the north and the cold winters of the south.
A general guide is to be north during May - October and south during the November- April. Following an anti-clockwise direction will generally take more advantage of prevailing wind conditions, which can make a huge difference in fuel consumption.
Good preparation makes all the difference for a fabulous trip and ensures you can fully enjoy the freedom and independence that this wonderful form of touring offers.
What about you? Are you keen to explore? Do you have any other tips to share?