You’ve downsized, found your new ideal home and have the time and funds to embark on that long-anticipated Australian road trip. But before you head across our wide brown land for the first time, a detailed plan is essential. Here are our top tips, gleaned from those who know, to add to your checklist.
We know you’ve thoroughly researched the motorhome or caravan or camper trailer you’re planning to use for the Big Lap or your personal Great Escape, and now you can’t wait to get going. While no adventure is risk-free (it wouldn’t be an adventure if it was), you can make life on the road a lot easier with a smart plan.
Book in with your doctor or medical centre for a full health check and to update any vaccinations you might need. Make sure you have enough prescription medications to last for several months, or until you can see a doctor to renew them while you’re away (which can be difficult in small country towns). An eye test and dental check are also advisable, as is taking a first aid course. St John Ambulance courses are run in every state and the organisation also sells a range of first-aid kits.
Insurance: your health
Although Medicare covers you for most medical emergencies within Australia, it doesn’t cover ambulance transport for everyone in every state. If you already have private health insurance, check that ambulance cover is included; if you don’t, taking out comprehensive private health insurance for the first time if you’re over 55 is extremely expensive. Instead, consider ‘extras’ policies that cover ambulance, dental and optical costs.
Insurance: your vehicle
Your campervan or car and caravan will be your home for as long as you’re on the road and comprehensive vehicle insurance is absolutely essential. Look for a policy that will cover theft, flood and storm damage, accidents, towing, electrical engine burnout, contents and, in the worst-case scenario, replacement of the vehicle or caravan. Shop around and check what your current home and contents insurer can offer as a loyalty discount holding for multi policies. And make sure you have a full service on your vehicle before you go anywhere.
Budgeting for a lengthy trip is obviously very personal, depending on how long and how far you plan to travel and what sort of lifestyle you enjoy. However, nobody wants to run out of funds and cut the trip short, so spend some time preparing a budget that will also include ongoing home costs such as insurance, rates, maintenance and bills. Basic road-trip expenses include insurances (as discussed), fuel, food, drink, campsite fees, vehicle maintenance and entrance fees for attractions along the way. A great starting point for detailed information is the Grey Nomads website.
It’s a good idea to keep a trusted friend or family members (at home) across your plans, particularly when you’re heading into remote areas. Make sure they have your mobile phone number (and you have theirs) and consider buying or hiring a satellite phone because mobile phone coverage is unreliable or non-existent in many parts of the Australian Outback. For a detailed discussion about communication options, visit outbacktravelaustralia.com.au.
Popular campsites fill up quickly so it’s worth booking at least a few days or weeks in advance when planning your route. Useful apps that provide information about camping and caravan sites, prices, amenities, information centres and more include WikiCamps, CamperMate and Roadtrippers – for more app reviews, check out this website travelwithwadeanddani.com.
Here are a few of the essentials you’ll need to pack into your home on wheels for a long trip:
- Large quantities of water, in re-fillable containers
- Cooking, cleaning and camping equipment
- Fire extinguisher
- High-powered torches and spare batteries
- First aid kit and prescription medications
- Chargers for phones and other devices
- Current paper maps or a map book
- Vehicle spares such as radiator hoses, tyres and fuel containers
- Tool kit, including tow rope
Grey nomads are a sociable bunch so along the way you’ll meet many fellow travellers who are happy to share their best tips. See you in a few months – or maybe years?
Join the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia for inspiration, news and members’ forums, and check out downsizing.com.au for more great travel advice.