Will the ‘great Aussie road trip’ be for me?

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Barbara thinks hitting the road for a great Aussie road trip might be the safest way to travel once social distancing stops, but she’s uncertain if a driving holiday is ‘her thing’. She asks Lee Mylne for some tips to help her decide.

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Q. Barbara
It’s the great Aussie dream to hit the road and travel, and my husband and I are thinking that might be the way to go as soon as we can get out of this lockdown. While I’m quite keen on such a thing, I’m worried that once I get on the road, I’ll decide it’s not for me. Are there groups or classes I can join to get a feel for what’s involved?

car driving along an australian road

A.
I think you’re wise to think hard about this before you set off on the great Aussie road trip, Barbara, because the truth is that, although thousands of people do it each year, an extended road trip is not going to be for everyone.

A good idea might be to do a few shorter trips from your home base before striking out on a really long one. If you plan to buy a motorhome and spend months – or years – on the road, then you really need to be sure before making such a big investment and heading off. So it’s a good idea to hire one and plan a trip for a couple of weeks to make sure you understand what that lifestyle will be like.

Of course, you don’t have to be a camper or caravanner. Most caravan parks have cabins, and are great value for money, with facilities like swimming pools so you’ll almost feel like you’re staying at a resort.

There are a few online forums that you could sign up for, on which grey nomads share their advice, answer queries, give hints on where to go and where to stay, events to check out and much more. You can post questions, or look at their previous posts, which might answer many of your questions.

Two sites worth looking at are www.greynomadsaustralia.com.au and www.thegreynomads.com.au.

campervan

If you’re planning to travel solo, make sure that you check in with a friend or family member every day so if anything does go awry, they’ll know where you are. And remember that with no-one to share the driving, you might get lonely and/or bored, and that can be dangerous if you nod off at the wheel. Plan your days to include plenty of rest breaks, and take some good music to provide a soundtrack for your drive (remember that in some remote areas you won’t even get radio reception).

Don’t leave home without auto club (NRMA, RACV, RACQ, etc) road service membership. Also check out their websites, as they have plenty of good information about road tripping. Oh, and if you do decide on the long trip – in some form or other – and are heading into areas that won’t have mobile phone coverage, do also invest in a satellite phone in case of emergency.

Road tripping is a terrific way to explore this vast land we live in, and will give you a much better understanding of it. If you decide to take off in your car, camper or motor home, you’ll meet some great people and see some amazing landscapes!

Do you have a travel question for Lee? If so, email your Travel SOS to [email protected]

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Written by Lee Mylne

11 Comments

Total Comments: 11
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    We have travelled over most of Australia using a combination of the family car, coaches and trains. When we looked at the cost of caravans or campervans we decided that for the amount outlaid on the purchase, we could stay in motels or cabins and still come out in front.

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      Agree. we did the same when living in France. We drove round France, Spain and Portugal in just our car. Though admittedly it is not as huge as Australia and over there campervans are much cheaper than here. We decided to stay in airbnb type accommodations and have a tad more comfort, a comfy economic ride and pretty much the same costs as camp site fees. Only issues I guess was booking ahead (especially as we had our dog with us) but we did a rough itinerary and it all worked fine. And I suppose if you want to free camp and just stop wherever you like you will need your own home on the back.
      We have driven across Australia several times and done it solely in car plus motels, though once I took the truck as we had four horses with us! On that trip we had cb radio whcih was very handy to talk to the truck drivers across the Nullabour.
      If we did the same here we’d do it in car only, and stay in homes/motels/cabins etc. Maybe try it that way first before you go to the expense of buying a camping vehicle.

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    My wife was apprehensive about it..After our second 3 months trip .She is totally hooked..

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    I tried caravan parks but I don’t like staying in them as I have found them too crowded and too noisy.
    On my travels around Australia, I camp out in many of our wonderful National Parks and reserves and occasionally mix it up with stays in AirBNBs. For me, there’s nothing better than getting away from it all in a remote area around the campfire stargazing at a multi-billion light show. As an added bonus, most campsites are free!
    I can’t wait for domestic travel restrictions to be eased.

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    We like staying in motels, some times 3 days at a time if we like the surroundings. Looking at $125 a day for accommodation. Most of the time it is a bit cheaper but then you might hit a place where you need slightly more. Talked to people in vans, the fully equipped ones cost a fortune but folks tell me they can stay out in the open without paying park fees where in the simple vans you need access to power and shower/toilet ablution blocks involving site fees, no longer that cheap either.

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    Spent 10 years doing that for work, so getting paid to travel around and sight see. Stayed in motels and the odd hotel in cities, absolutely loved it. Over 750 different establishments, many of them numerous times, just need to be prepared for the constant unpacking/packing each day or maybe every few days.

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    One advantage of using a caravan or motorhome to travel around OZ is that they generally hold their value reasonably well and you should get a fair bit of your investment back when you decide that you have seen enough of the country. Staying on a site in a caravan park or at a free campsite is much cheaper than a motel room or cabin and the standard of the rooms in terms of comfort, cleanliness, cooking utensils supplied, etc. can vary greatly.

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    Might end up being too crowded on the roads if they open up domestic travel before getting people back to work. But will be great for the economy, if demand for bookings are high they might jack up the price of accommodation because people cannot travel overseas.

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    Don’t forget to download a few essential travel apps to your mobile phone, iPad, or tablet before you head off. The first one is “Emergency Plus” which is published by the Australian emergency services – it’s a must have as it provides your Latitude and longitude and your location address which you’ll need if you have to phone the ambulance or police while you’re travelling and don’t know your exact address to give the phone operator. The next one if driving is Fuel Map Australia which tells you where to find petrol stations and the current price of fuel. So that you don’t spend your money at expensive places on the highway but can go to a back street and get it cheaper. My third recommendation is the NRMA app if you’re a member so that you can get your 5 cents a litre discount in NSW. Other states have other apps but I don’t know their names. The fourth app I use is WikiCamps which highlights places to stay and sights to see along the way. If you’re camping and need to buy bottle gas or to get your gas bottle refilled then GasFinder is also helpful. TripAdvisor is great for looking up things to see in the area or day trips you can take while on the road. My last recommendation is Maps.me but don’t forget to download the Australian maps over wifi before you head off. As the maps are on your phone you don’t have to use mobile data all the time and it will be available between towns when you may not have mobile reception.

    These are just a few of the essential apps that I don’t leave home without. You may find others better than these but this is a good place to start and can also help you plan your trip before you go and also along the way.

    Also, if you do have an emergency along the way and don’t have phone reception for calling 000 try 112 which is the international emergency number. It goes to the same call centre but can sometimes work when 000 doesn’t, or so I’ve been told. I’ve never had to use it.


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