Amber shares with us some of her top tips for preparing for a road trip holiday. Some travellers fly by the seat of their pants, others pour over an excel spreadsheet when they are planning their caravanning adventure.
What type of planner are you?
We’re always planning a road trip and after 7 years of travelling Australia with kids, we’ve certainly learnt a lot along the way.
As part-time travellers and with all our kids in school, we travel during school holidays only and sometimes take a week or so extra from either side of the term, to maximise our time away together. Our road trips are a way we can make sure we get quality time to reconnect as a family as it gets so busy during the term. We are so aware that our kids are growing up fast and we want to make the most of the time we have together, while we can.
Because we travel during school holidays and with the caravan and camping industry exploding in recent years, it’s important to be organised and we often have to book certain campgrounds up to a year ahead to ensure we don’t miss out during school holiday periods. As people who would much prefer to ‘wing it’, we sometimes struggle with this but that’s just the way it is.
As we do a lot of outback travel or travel on dirt roads, preparation is key. We currently travel with our caravan and it’s a pretty decent off-road van, but we still like to do what we can to protect it as much as much possible from the perils of the dirt roads.
You can put in as little or as much effort as you like when it comes to your van prep and it will also depend on what van or camper you’re travelling with and how much protection it has already. Most of the newer off road caravans have extra protection underneath and much better insulation than a few years back.
Things you can consider are:
- wrapping foam (like pool noodles)
- slotted ag-pipe around all exposed wires & pipes under the van
- covering all exposed surfaces with rubber sheeting. This will minimise the amount of pummelling/damage caused by the millions of fast-moving rocks & stone chips.
- Some vans now come with a DRS (dust reduction system) which saves time taping up windows and vents etc. On a previous van we also installed a Scupper Vent which did a great drop keeping out the excess dust.
- In recent years, vinyl wrapping your tow vehicle and van has also become a popular option for added protection. Getting this professionally done will avoid the headache and stress of applying it yourself, but be sure to book in with plenty of time before your road trip as some companies are booked out months ahead.
- Gaffer tape to all the front faces of the parts of the van that jut out, to protect against stone chips.
- For older vans – apply silicone to holes underneath the van and tape up other openings to minimise red dust getting into the van. Full off road caravans might not get as much inside – the CWK crew took their new Vacationer to the Tip and had an amazing red dust result – you can read more about that here
- Stone guards
We’ve been using a Stone Stomper for a number of years now, which attaches between the van and car, further protecting against jumping rocks flicked up by the rear wheels of the car. This makes a massive difference to the front of our van & is a product we would not go without.
We always take along two spare tyres for the car & 2 spare tyres for the van. Is this overkill? For us, we only had one blow out on our last trip, but you just never know and the last thing we want when we are on holidays is to be stuck.
Extra items we like to take along:
- spare air filters (as they get choked with dust)
- spare fan belts
- spare diesel fuel filter or two
- spare fuses.
- small array of nuts and bolts, screws, hose clamps and zip ties.
- We also carry a bottle of “Fuel Doctor” (occasionally the fuel can be full of rubbish in some remote towns and can wreak havoc on your engine).
Check with other owners of your tow vehicle for suggestions of other parts to carry. eg: Ford Ranger drivers should carry a spare turbo hose if travelling high kms on the dirt. A fact that the CWK crew wish they had of known when they blew a hose at Cape York.
A CB Radio should be a mandatory item. It’s essential to be able to communicate with other drivers on the road and to be able to make contact in case of emergency.
If you do plan on travelling to a remote location, make sure you’ve organised for someone in your group to have a satellite phone & or Personal Location Beacon (PLB) for your own safety in the event of an emergency. You never know when you might get stuck!
What else do we do to prepare?
We also upgrade our RACQ (RACV, NRMA etc.) membership to the top level for our trips, in case we get into any sticky situations.
The Wiki Camps App is another road trip essential. We always make sure we’ve got it updated, checking all the info for the state/s we’re visiting has been downloaded. It’s very handy for finding campsites you might not know about as well as points of interest along the way. We also have FuelMap Australia downloaded to get an idea of local fuel prices.
Another handy app to download ahead of time is FuelCharge. This app enables you to refuel 24/7 even at the most remote locations.
We’ve been using HEMA’s HX-1 Navigator for years and it hasn’t let us down yet. It’s simple to use and mounts to the dash or windscreen. Quite often we find ourselves without internet reception for days and therefore can’t always rely on Google Maps. If you love pouring over a paper map, you can find the full Hema range here…
Let’s talk Food Preparation.
We always like to prepare a bit of food to take away with us. We still try to eat healthy as much as possible while we’re away & in some instances it’s better to cook some things before we go.
Nourishing & filling soups are great as we can freeze them flat in double bagged, extra-large ziplock bags. They can then lay flat in the bottom of our 38 litre Engel fridge which we keep in the back of the car set to freezer temp. We also do the same with bolognaise sauce. It saves so much space by freezing them flat. It’s also good to have some of the premade meals ready to go if we know we’ll be arriving late into camp on some evenings.
I make up loads of beef jerky before we go. It makes a great protein snack for on the run & is particularly good for hikes with the kids. Thankfully they love jerky & I make sure it’s not too spicy for them. We bought a cheap food dehydrator from Aldi and it does the job overnight!
All the meats, cauliflower rice & any other fresh perishables that can be frozen, we vacuum seal prior to freezing, as that’s also a great space saver. It also saves time and mess to dice the meats and chop up some veggies before freezing.
We have a fridge and freezer in the van, but we do keep our Engel in the back of the car for use simply as a freezer. It’s also good to have it as a backup in case the fridge in the van goes on the blink – which has happened to us before!
We don’t take all our meat and other foods for the trip with us as we do like to support local towns along the way – it just depends on where we are going.
How do we prep the kids for the driving days?
In preparation for long car rides, we download Kid appropriate podcasts.
The ‘Short & Curly’ series, ‘Squiz Kids’ and ‘Off Track’ are always enjoyable.
Audiobooks by David Williams are a favourite in our family & are great to download ahead of time as you usually need Wi-Fi to do this, which is scarce in a lot of country towns.
Older kids (and parents) might enjoy ‘The Ghost Files’ for some Australian ghost stories as well as some age-appropriate episodes of ‘Conversations’. ‘Hunting the Deadly Coastal Taipan’ is a good one!
We equip the kids with their Travel Journals, games and activities for the hours spent in the car and we create and download playlists on our Spotify account so we’ve always got some good tunes for the road!
Finally, we research our destinations as much as we can before we go, especially if we’re planning on doing any tours while we’re away like a river cruise, cultural experience, camel trek or bike hire. As mentioned earlier, if you are travelling during peak season you might have to book these before you go & sometimes well in advance.
We’d love to hear what extra things you do to prepare for your road trips!
Author: Amber – Caravanning with Kids Digital Creation Team. Based in sunny Queensland, Amber and her family LOVE caravanning & camping along with the wonderful experiences & benefits that travelling & connecting brings. You may know Amber through Big & Little Adventures where she showcases her own families’ adventures
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