Make a plan for your caravan

car pulling caravan on holiday

It’s that time in your life, time to buy a caravan of course.

Grey nomads have been hitting the roads in record numbers since the pandemic, but with that comes an increasing number of accidents involving caravans with inexperienced drivers.

If you are embarking on the van life, here are a few tips to make your first trip, or your next, a dream.

Go with the tow

If you have never towed a caravan, don’t head out on Highway 1 with the wind in your hair and a rocking playlist as your preparation.

You need to learn how to tow. There are plenty of towing courses in most major cities. Failing that ask your retailer for advice on where to get lessons.

If you can’t even manage that, get a caravanning friend to ride shotgun on some short trips until you feel confident.

And don’t feel defeated if your towing skills are a bit rubbish to start with, even the most experienced driver occasionally encounters a few wobbles.

Be prepared

Write a checklist of everything you need before you travel. This list, at the minimum, must include a fire extinguisher, wheel chocks, caravan jacks, sway control device, towing mirrors, and extra coolant and oil.

You will find that as you become more experienced there will be more items to add to the list.

Buckle up

Travelling with a van is a moveable feast of things that can go wrong. One of the main ones is loose items in the van when you are on the road; a thermos can become a missile if you take a corner at speed.

Test all latches and locks before you head off as trying to find replacements in the back-of-beyond can be an exercise in frustration.

It pays to have a few back-up latches and a padlock for the door, plus a small tool kit to replace anything that becomes loose or gets lost during your trip. Insulation tape is great when all else fails.

Cut back

Heavily edit what you think you might need on your trip. More stuff just means more setting up and packing up.

Carefully consider if you need everything you have packed. Cull, cull and cull again to the bare minimum. If you find you do desperately need something, you can usually buy it on the way. The opposite problem is having too much stuff getting in the way of enjoying yourself.

A caravan holiday is all about getting away from it all, not taking it all with you.

And pack for your destination. Don’t overload your van with every assortment of clothing. If it’s going to be warm, just pack for that, but I would always advise at least one warm jacket as desert climates can quickly turn once the sun sets.

Here comes the sun

If you are going for any length of time, a good solar power set-up is vital unless you want to run everything on batteries.

Having power puts you in a position of power. You are no longer tied to formal camping spots, so going off the grid is an endless possibility and you can travel further for cheaper costs.

While the initial set-up will run into the thousands, the savings in campsite fees and recharging should make it worth it.

Are you an experienced caravanner? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Also read: The caravan maintenance you can’t afford to ignore

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

2 Comments

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  1. Great article for “very” beginners!! However, a couple of major points were missed in this article.

    DO A TOWING COURSE – LESSON 1 (Well stated)
    All too often I have had “weekend warriors” in their Toyota Landcruiser, brand new 22ft caravan, and the car packed to the hilt with extra fridges, bikes and rooftop camper, flash past me at 110klm/hr – only to reach the same destination within a minute of us.

    The “BIGGEST” problem with new caravaners is understanding “weight!!” More stuff – means more weight, and having lived on the road for over 10 years, even some towing and 4X4 driving instructors struggle with that concept. “Living and “holidaying” on the road are two totally different situations.

    “Holidaying” – means MINIMAL!! LESS IS MORE!!
    6 Month PLUS trips – totally different situation!

    Off-grid! Yes – it is amazing, and Yes – you save money. BUT WHE.N THE SUN DON’T SHINE – YOU DON’T HAVE POWER!! No matter how many solar panels you have, NO FULL SUN – NO SOLAR!!
    Yep, I have seen lots of ‘newbies’ park in free camps, near trees, in shadows of mountains, and even behind buildings (to get a cooler, quieter spot), only to find that their batteries aren’t charged by 5pm. Just a small amount of shade on your solar panels, will stop any charging of your batteries.

    Water – 2 x 90 ltr water tanks = 180kg of weight!!

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