Lessons learnt by two grey nomads who are taking off the L-plates

In April, we joined a tidal wave of grey nomads criss-crossing Australia. Over three months, we travelled almost 13,000 kilometres, ticking off bucket list destinations and experiences as we went. We think we can take the grey nomad L-plates off now! For other ‘rookies’ planning to hit the road, these are some key but less obvious takeaways. We’d love to get your additions in the comments section at the end of this article.

For the record, we were travelling in a four-wheel-drive and towing an off-road camper trailer. We’d done a moderate amount of camping – mostly in Victoria –  but nothing like this trip across the Nullarbor, around the bottom of Western Australia, up to the Ningaloo coast, over to Karijini National Park, down the Goldfields route and back via the Eyre Peninsula and assorted South Australian locations.

1. Don’t be daunted by the distances you need to travel. Before leaving, we wondered whether we would be happy just exploring the bottom of Western Australia rather than heading up the west coast, but some of the best times were the travel days. The vastness is amazing, but keep the travel times real. We rarely drove more than four to five hours on any given day. And put together a few good playlists. Also, on long stretches, fill up when you can, not when the fuel is cheapest.

2. Sometimes paper wins. Given the recent problems with the sale and revamp of WikiCamps, probably the most popular app for campers and caravanners, a Camps book could be a security blanket. As could a collection of paper maps in addition to a maps app.

3. Watch the weather. Always. And particularly note strong winds. It can be marvellous watching the sun go down while camped on a headland – until the wind hits 55kph with gusts up to 100kph later that night. If you’re planning on stopping somewhere for a week with no reception, check the long range forecast. And – my husband’s favourite saying – prepare for the worst every night before you head to bed.

4. It’s okay to go backwards to see something you hadn’t realised you wanted to see, depending, of course, on the time you’ve allocated for your trip. Information centres and other travellers can throw up many more destinations.

5. Different states have different public holidays. It might seem obvious to some, but such dates as the King’s Birthday holiday are different in different states and territories. And check school holiday dates because you might need to plan ahead more fastidiously for those times.

6. Consider having Telstra and Optus coverage. Karijini and Cape Le Grand national parks had fantastic Optus coverage but no Telstra. Luckily, hubby had Optus.

7. Pack as lightly as possible – even if you need to prepare for heat and cold. And could there be a lot of red dirt and dusty locations? A beanie is a must for campers on those zero degree nights and the white shorts are a no-no.

8. Be organised. Everything should have a spot and particularly essential items, such as head torches and phone chargers, should go back in the right spot – every time.

9. Buy moisturiser by the bucket. Whether it’s winter or summer, all that fresh air and sunshine takes a toll on the skin. You’ll want to lather up.

10. How to stay in touch with the grandkids? Of course that depends on their ages. We did FaceTime calls when reception allowed and sent a couple of holographic postcards, but for the younger ones, a video clip was popular: grandma and grandpa showing the emus that wander through the Exmouth caravan park or the perentie at Cheelah Plains Station.

11. Pack extra tea towels or buy more on the road. They get dirty and caravan park laundries don’t seem to do a great job. We found the Reject Shop perfect for those sorts of items.

12. Be mindful of quarantine spots. Shop accordingly and do a cook-up of all those vegies that are likely to be confiscated the day before you cross a border.

13. Each to his own but don’t take the dog (or cat, and plenty do!). Of course pets aren’t allowed in most national parks and it seemed to me that the whole of WA is covered in baits.

Over to you. What can you add before we plan our next getaway? What are some of the lessons you’ve learnt? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

Read also: The Nullarbor – beast or beauty?

Janelle Ward
Janelle Wardhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/janellewa
Energetic and skilled editor and writer with expert knowledge of retirement, retirement income, superannuation and retirement planning.
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