Our first ever caravanning adventure! Not sure who was more excited, the big kids in the front or the little kids in the back. A four day escape to East Gippsland, towing a 23 foot Jayco behind us. And, that wasn’t all we were towing! With a six-month-old baby, five year old and a Golden Retriever in tow, we hit the open road ready for our next adventure.
One of our favourite things to do as a family is a road trip. Call us crazy, but there is nothing better than spending time together as a family unit minus all the distractions of home and work life. With the tunes on, feet on the dashboard and the wind in your hair… all of a sudden regain the adventurous spirit and youthful energy that comes with switching off and reconnecting as a family on the road – feeling free and liberated from mundane, domestic duties and business pressures, and the exhilaration that comes from leaving routine behind!
We find we often have the best conversations when we are on the road as you have the time to invest in each other, share many a laugh and really be present.
Likewise, we have always loved camping (both pre-kids and post kids) and have usually set ourselves up with a tent or a canvas camper trailer. It was the simplicity of camping that had always appealed to us, the ‘back to basics’ mentality of showing the kids you don’t need all the mod-cons of home to have fun!
I was always against caravans as I felt they were ‘all show’ and went against the notion of what camping was all about. But, how wrong was I!
For those like us, who have never camped in a caravan before, this is not as daunting as it sounds. Being first timers, we hired a caravan through Eastern Caravans and chose the 23ft Starcraft – which is the perfect layout for a family of four, plus our beloved Henry, the Golden Retriever.
With plenty of space during the day and a large spacious double bed, shower and toilet/bathroom and state-of-the-art kitchen, this layout allowed us to pop the kids to bed (in triple bunks) and close the concertina shutter, so that we could enjoy a cheeky vino or a game of cards at the table together.
After picking up the van, we had a few practice runs with David (owner of Eastern Caravans), showing us the ropes and providing reverse mirrors for us to use and off we went…it was all relatively easy.
As first timers, here’s how our first ever caravan experienced played out…
First time in a caravan…
I’ve spent many a camping trip wondering what goes on behind closed doors of the Jayco pop tops, or the expanders, the teardrop trailer or stylish retro pods and those shiny contraptions with fancy names like Starcraft, Silverline, Eagle or Swan. I mean, really! It’s a whole other world and one I had always been in two minds about. I had always lived under the misconception that ‘if you own a caravan, you may as well just camp at home!’
“Pfft…that’s not real camping!”, I’d say to myself, as I smugly packed the tent and sleeping bag in the car and headed off on our next adventure. Fast forward to a few hours later setting up a tent on soggy ground and arguing over who last left the tent in such atrocity, covered in mud and smelling damp…
It was then and only then that I would succumb to the dreaded dreaming of the neighbour’s shiny clean and organised fort that was facing us…the clean annexe that is rolled out with a handle, those organised cupboards, the real toilet, the large spacious table that doesn’t wobble when you play cards each night, the full-sized fridge that doesn’t require regular bags of ice!
Whilst I loved the simplicity of my canvas tent and waking up to a nice sunrise, I have often found myself slightly envious when I would say goodnight to my friends and they would close the door of their warm caravan, make a hot chocolate with ease, hop into their warm bed with a double spring mattress and read in bed with their bed lights…all whilst I fumble around with my head torch on, trying to find the zipper on my sleeping bag whilst swearing as I realise the 1mm thick foam mattress is sitting on top of a large rock! Then there are the times when I have to pull on my beanie and Uggs and zip up the tent to sneak out during the night for a ‘bush pee’….who’s smug now?
Yet, up until now, I’ve never given in and have always stood by my mantra of ‘it’s not real camping!’.
Well, let’s get real then…it isn’t! With all the creature comforts you could ever wish for, it almost feels like ‘cheats camping’. Forget glamping, camping and all the other groovy new age terms…caravanning is quite simply a home on wheels! And it is AWESOME! With all the modern creature comforts you could wish for including TV, microwave, oven, shower, toilet, fridge, etc.…it means you can just turn up with a bottle of quality pinot, a duffle bag with some clothes and toiletries in and you are one happy camper! Not to mention it has bunks, which every kid loves!
Travelling in our first ever caravan with two kids was quite frankly, a breeze. There was no hard work, no fly infested dishes to wash, no sleeping bag zippers to wrestle with, no tranjia’s or mini gas stoves to light with a wet match, no deflated blow up matresses and no missing tent pegs!
However, what there was, was that same magical feeling you get when you go camping. The sunrises, the sunsets, the camp chair under the stars, the giggles coming from the kids in the morning as they wake up early full of excitement, the Kellogg’s variety pack of cereal that every kid pines for when they go camping, the friendly banter with new friends and fellow campers, the sense of freedom that comes with being away from work and home.. and, most importantly, the rush that comes with spending quality time with your little family unit.
You see, I learnt quite quickly that even with all the creature comforts of a caravan, you can still retain that fun camping feeling! It’s just a heck of a lot easier.
We spent every day doing what you do when you camp – outdoors with the kids, flying kites, swimming, running on the beach, drinking a cheeky wine before 5pm, playing cards, star-gazing and quite simply…relaxing.
The caravan life is simple and yet such a novelty. Whilst you have your creature comforts, you still have the ability to switch off and simply be. After trialing a caravan for the first time, I’ll be honest, it will be hard to look back!
So, now the question begs…’Jayco, Elite, Crusafer, Lotus, JB or an Airstream? Ha ha…you’ll have to wait and see! Head to the Melbourne Leisurefest on October 5-8th to view all the different options available. Better still, come and have a chat to us about our experience and ask us any questions about travelling in a van with a young family. Go on, we dare ya!
Melbourne Leisurefest is on at Sandown Racecourse – http://www.melbourneleisurefest.com.au
Instead of rushing out to buy your next caravan, why not trial one for a long weekend or a week? It worked for us! For Caravan Rentals visit David at Eastern Caravans – http://www.easterncaravans.com.au/
Eastern Beach Caravan Park
This was a fantastic location right beside Ninety Mile Beach, Lakes Entrance. Beautiful campgrounds, jumping pillow and playground for the kids and better still, you can bring your dog with you!
*A special thanks to CIA Victoria for providing us with all the tips and resources necessary to give caravanning a go! For up to date caravan and camping information, be sure to visit: https://melbourneleisurefest.com.au/Home
Road trippin’ Survival Tips for the little ones:
- After six weeks on the road together travelling through the US and Alaska, we have found that the less you give kids, the less they want. For example, if you load them up with DVDs, iPads, etc., then they will start expecting that on all their trips. Whereas, if you keep it simple and encourage them to sit back and enjoy the ride, you can really expand their thinking and watch them foster their curiosity about nature, different cultures and ways of life on your travels. They will start using their imagination and interact in ways you remember as a kid. It’s really quite beautiful to watch.
- We always get the kids involved and give Daisy her own snack box to mind in the backseat and she loves choosing when she eats and what she eats on the journey. Healthy snacks are the best as you don’t want them loaded up on sugar when they are stuck in a car!
- We draw our five-year-old (Daisy) a pretend map to help dad navigate and this gives her ‘buy in’ for the trip.
- Get them to keep a travel journal to draw the animals they see or write down words when they can’t spell a rural town.
- Nothing beats a good old-fashioned dot-to-dot book which allows for hours of quiet time.
- Get them to pack their own small bag for the car journey as it makes it more fun for them!
- Allow plenty of rest stops to let them play at a park and stretch their legs
- Let them choose one song every hour so the rest of the trip you can play your music.
- Pack headphones and an iPod for when they want to listen to their own nursery rhymes or songs.
Trust me, get in the car, hit the open road and try it – you won’t regret it!