A massive part of heading off on a trip around Australia is choosing what vehicle to do it in.
My first 6 months or so of planning for the trip included listening to more country music so I’d fit in on the road, and looking at luxury caravans and motorhomes online that included spas, island kitchens and staff.
Needing a more practical approach I was pleased to discover the Cairns Caravan and Camping expo was coming to town so we headed down to check it out.
Our first instinct was that we were keen to get a caravan. I have so many fond memories of going to caravan parks as a family when we were kids that I was pretty happy with this decision so we set off to look what was available.
There were absolutely hundreds of vans at the show and we were spoiled for choice – so we spent a fun couple of hours climbing in and out of them, jumping on the beds, standing in the showers, opening and closing the cupboards and generally getting a feel for what it would be like living in one. I was really surprised at the amount of features in caravans these days – the ones we saw were like mobile hotel rooms! They could also all be personalised with special fixtures and fittings to suit, had gadgets galore and in-built sound systems. This won’t be roughing it all I thought!
(On a side note did you hear what happened to us as we left the caravan show?! Read our blog post here)
One of the other ways that we had been preparing (my genius husband’s idea) was to spend some time stalking the local caravan parks and speaking to travelling families. We got some great advice from them and lots of people let us into their homes to have a look around. The utmost thing we learned from speaking to people, and from the experts, is that travelling is a learning curve and you won’t fully know what you will need or prefer until you are on the road!
Our favourite caravan from the show had to be the Regency Weekender – the best feature being the kids cubby table that folded up into bunkbeds at night. Here’s my video of us looking around it
The price tag on this one was a cool $60,000.
This came as a shock to me. It’s not that the van wasn’t worth it I just had no idea what to expect! Upon further research we found that we would not have much chance of getting a quality second hand family van in good condition for less than $40k, so buying new seemed like a good option as we would get warranty, personal choices in design and guaranteed no faults or flaws. One of the things we were also warned against is that when you buy a second hand van in Tropical North Queensland you have to watch out for damp and mould. The humidity up here is not kind to vehicles, and caravans especially can age really quickly.
We looked at the finances and realised we would have to take out another large loan to buy the van we wanted, as we would also need to buy a new car with the pulling capability needed.
Being such a large financial decision we knew we wouldn’t be making it in a hurry, so we took the dealer’s details and headed home to do some more research. When we first started looking, our youngest was only 10 months old and we knew that we wanted to wait until he was at least 2 before we headed off on our travels – which gave us plenty of time to look.
Hubby has become a bit of an expert on Gumtree and has been on there daily since we started our search. It got to the point where someone would send us a vehicle they had seen online and after a few words he would know the location, size and specs of the vehicle before you could finish! After searching for a few months and finding nothing suitable or within a reasonable budget we decided we had 3 options:
- Stick with the idea of buying a new caravan and sell a few organs to do so
- Look further afield for a second hand van – maybe start our trip from NSW or Victoria where there were more caravans available
- Look at other types of vehicle
As we are both quite attached to our vital organs, and as we were not keen to start planning a move interstate before the trip – we were left with option 3.
We had been told that a caravan was definitely the best way to go – giving you the opportunity to detach and ‘set up’ when you’re at a site and still have the freedom to take off in the car to explore. After thinking on this for a while though we wondered how often we would want to take off in the car. With 2 small children we’ve found the less time in the car the better, and as they are just as happy playing at a local park than climbing the Harbour Bridge we knew we would probably have different priorities to a lot of people on this leg of the trip at least. Also travelling with a dog would mean that we wouldn’t be heading into National Parks or spending a lot of time at traditional tourist attractions. This trip was going to be quite unique, so we had to find a vehicle to match that.
And that’s when hubby stumbled across an advert on Gumtree that led us on a trip to Brisbane……
Watch this space for the next installment of our quest to find a home coming soon!