Top 5 Travel Toys For Preschoolers – Our Favourites!

top toys for caravanning camping preschooler

Do you have a preschooler who loves all their toys?

Are you stressing about what to take ?

Do you have next to no storage space in your caravan? Know you have to cull the ‘take’ pile, but worry you’ll leave a favourite behind?

We were in that position too. When we moved into our caravan for a week to prepare ourselves for our trip, our four year old, Elliot, had so many toys I seriously couldn’t breathe.

Over time this number has reduced drastically, and he is thrilled with the few toys that he has. The toys sit in a tub at the end of his bed and are the first thing he pulls out whenever we arrive anywhere.  Every single one gets loads of use.

top 5 toys preschooler caravanning camping

Here are the top 5 travel toys for preschoolers that we wouldn’t be without! Continue reading “Top 5 Travel Toys For Preschoolers – Our Favourites!”


You Want to Travel, BUT… an Interview with yTravel


So you want to take that trip, but worried about all the things that can go wrong?

Even if you are already travelling, are you still feeling held back from making some other big decisions or working towards bigger goals?

In this episode we’re joined by Caroline Makepeace of yTravel Blog (www.yTravelBlog.com), one of the world’s Top 10 travel blogs.

In this episode we cover a lot, including:

– Doing the lap

– Family life, work and travel overseas

– How home/worldschooling has benefitted their children

– Identifying the fears that may be holding you back from achieving your goals… and how to develop the mindset to overcome them

Even if you’re already travelling (like us), you’ll love this one!

Also available on StitcherRadio PublicCastboxOvercastPodBeanBreaker,and Pocket Casts

 

Click here for more episodes of The Family Travel Podcast


Preparing for Remote Family Travel – an Interview with Chaos in a Tin Can


Preparing for remote travel with family (or without)?

The Oodnadatta Track, the Tanami Desert, and the Gibb River Road… these are just three of the roads travelled by Aaron and Jacq, also known as Chaos in a Tin Can.

Hearing this prior to crossing the Savannah Way was an immense help for us.

In this episode we cover:

a) Specific preparations,
b) Adjusting expectations, and most importantly…
c) What to think about when hearing advice based on others’ experiences

This episode would help anyone prepping for remote travel, but the principles apply to anyone planning travel in general


 

Also available on SticherRadio PublicCastbox, Overcast, PodBean, Breaker,and Pocket Casts

 

This episode is proudly bought to you by Trail-A-Mate, setting the standard for caravan and trailer jacks. Their Trail-A-Mate hydraulic caravan and trailer jack converts in to a jack when you need it, you simply swap the wheel for a solid base plate.

Their product is so popular, they kept on getting feedback that people’s Trail-A-Mate kept on getting stolen, or people would come out to their caravan to find that theirs had been swapped out for an older one.

They’ve now introduced a brand new product, the Trail-A-Mate Anti-Theft Lock, so you can keep it under lock and key. It’s pretty similar to a lockable hitch pin for your towbar… it’s as simple as removing your existing wheel clamp handle, inserting the locking pin, and clipping the lock on the end of the locking pin

 

 

Click here for more episodes of The Family Travel Podcast


Our Top Tips For Travelling with a Baby

travelling with a baby

So, you have a tiny little human who is completely dependent on you, and you are wondering if travelling with a baby is a wise idea?

If you’re considering it, DO IT!

First of all… you may not normally have Daddy around all the time, but now… extra hands make it easier than being at home!

We find travelling with a baby such a special experience, and would do it again in a heartbeat (except that at three kids we’re now DONE)

You may be asking …Will they cope with the new surroundings? What if they get sick somewhere remote? Where will they sleep? IF they sleep? What if they DON’T sleep and annoy other travellers? SO MANY CONCERNS!!

We hear ya! We had those concerns too. When we left on our Big Lap, Eddie was only 16 weeks old. Many questioned our sanity travelling with a baby who was pretty much a newborn. But it wasn’t our first rodeo and we were confident that doing this with a baby wouldn’t be a big deal. As the parents of three kids who we have dragged around both Australia and overseas their whole lives, we actually find pre-crawling bubbas the easiest to travel with. They make the perfect little travel buddies.

travelling with a baby

We understand that every family and child is different, so this list may be different for different families. Here are our top tips for travelling with a baby-whether that be in Australia, or beyond!

1. A good stroller.

We wanted one that was lightweight, fully reclined, had a large sun hood, was easy to fold and easy to steer and had semi-off road wheels. We found it in the Valco Snap 4, which we also purchased second hand for a bargain price on a local buy swap sell page. Some families opt not to take the pram, but at the moment Eddie only has day sleeps while moving so we wouldn’t be without it.

travelling with a baby

2. A comfortable Baby Carrier.

We love baby wearing and have worn all three of our kids. We have trialled so many different carriers over the years. Our favourites are the Chekoh wrap carrier for when they’re tiny (under 8kgs) and then either a Tula or Lillebaby All Seasons soft structured carrier when they are 4+ months. Both of these carriers do have an option for newborns, but OUR preference at that age is the wrap.

travelling with a baby

When Chloe and Elliot were toddlers/preschoolers we upgraded our Tula to the toddler size, and this comfortably carried them on hikes until they were 3 years (and refused to be carried anymore).

travelling with a baby

3. Sleeping arrangements – a portacot or not?

We purchased the top of the line fancy Baby Bjorn portacot (second hand) for Eddie. It’s amazing and I highly recommend them if you can pick one up for a decent price. You would not believe how easy it is to assemble ! The RRP of $400 is a bit bonkers but if you use it all the time then it would be worth the price. In our pre-lap planning we had Eddie sleeping like a little angel in this every night. HAHA. He sleeps with us and the cot will most likely be sold or sent home. Check out the Phil & Ted’s travel cot, it has a zip on one side that may make life easier.

 

travelling with a baby

4. A Rocker for pre-sitters.

We purchased a Fisher Price Rock n Play second hand prior to Eddie being born and tried to give it away before our lap. For some reason no one wanted it so we brought it with us. BEST DECISION EVER. It was a place for us to put him down either outside or inside the van and know he was safe out of boisterous brothers or other harms way. In the early days he napped in it, and it folded down flat for easy transportation. If your baby isn’t yet sitting up, definitely consider taking a rocker of some sort.

travelling with a baby

Bottle fed babies.

Eddie is bottle fed and this has been easier in some ways than it was traveling with his breastfed brother and sister, and harder in others. Easier, because Michael has no excuse not to do the 3am bottle and harder as we have to consider sterilisation when free camping and formula when in remote areas. Here are some things to consider with bottle fed babies.

A formula dispenser.

Our Pigeon one makes life so much easier for easy dispensing in middle of the night and also when travelling.

Easy to obtain formula.

Eddie was on an expensive, hard to obtain formula. It was difficult to get in a major city at times, so we transitioned him to one that was easier to obtain =, and we’re so glad we did! There has only been once occasion on the East Coast of Tassie that we couldn’t find it. Lucky we had a tin backup. ALWAYS HAVE A TIN OR TWO BACKUP!

Extra bottles

Because you lose them, and if your baby likes a particular type of teat and bottle you can guarantee that the town you’re in won’t have them.

Room temperature.

Get your baby used to not having warm milk. You’ll be thankful for that in the middle of the night when free camping! But, if they refuse or you’re in a colder climate, a thermos from somewhere like Kmart is a good purchase.

6. What works for you now may not work for you next week and that’s OK.

We have donated stuff that we thought would be indispensable. And bought other stuff that we never thought we’d need off Facebook marketplace. Then donated that again shortly after again! Don’t get caught up with keeping something and sticking it out if it’s not working. In such a small space with small kids it’s not worth the stress.

Hey guys, please understand that we haven’t just slipped into it like crazy super travelling parent ninjas with baby whispering super powers. We haven’t had a full nights sleep in perhaps years (like you would expect at home), and there are nights when we don’t get any sleep. We have had neighbouring van’s comment on the crying through the night, there is lots that we either have to rule out doing completely or one of us misses out on to care for the baby and working around naps can be tough! But, if you accept that some days may be totally crappy will make the transition from home to caravan life a lot easier and if will be worth while for everyone. Our biggest tip for travelling with young kids is

ROLL WITH IT.

Eddie MUST nap after breakfast, which he flat out won’t do in a cot. So we either cuddle him for his sleep (my favourite, but not always possible or productive), travel (if we’ re organised enough), get the other kids to push him in the pram (if packing up to move) or W A L K with him. We love the walking option, as its the perfect way to explore new areas. People worry about sleep at night as well, and if the whole caravan will wake when he does. I don’t know if Chloe and Elliot are really heavy sleepers, or they are used to the crying and block it out, but they seem to sleep through it all. Eddie’s favourite thing to do recently though is wake at 5:45am and yell across the caravan towards his siblings bed’s to get them up. That works for him!  Y A W N.

No, Eddie won’t remember this trip. But we will. Watching the bond that he is developing with his brother and sister warms our hearts. Eddie is also the first of our kids to have his Daddy around all the time. He is also our happiest baby, totally chilled and happy with his life. We’re sure that even though all he visually will have to remember is lots and lots and lots and lots of photos, the important developmental connections have been formed which will have lifelong benefits.

So, if you’re on the fence wondering if travelling with a baby is a good idea, we urge you to take the leap and just try. We did and have no regrets.


Getting Started Part 2: What You DON’T Need to Buy


“What is one thing that you wished you’d never packed?” A regular question in every Facebook travelling group… and every person’s answer is different.  Annex. Thermomix. Scooters. Portable washing machine. Whether or not to take these seems to be more polarising than peoples’ views on Donald Trump.

 

The best bit of advice we had was to make a shopping list in categories:

1. Need

2. Want

3. Maybe

 

We took this one step further: need before we start travelling (e.g. a fold-up table for the Baby Q), and need after we start (e.g. jerry cans to carry drinking water for once we started free camping). The good thing about this was that we only used the proceeds from clearing the clutter to fund our shopping list.

 

We still made mistakes though. Once we started our travelling stress prevention week (Week 1: Further Isn’t Better), each day we’d be getting rid of something we previously thought we couldn’t live without. Even now we’re still getting rid of things that we realise are just taking up space, and are constantly reorganising our shelving to suit.

Unless you’re heading across the Nullarbor on Day 1, our advice to make travelling more affordable is simple. If there’s any doubt, don’t buy it. There’s plenty of Bunnings and BCFs on the way, and ordering online is still doable when you plan ahead.


Cheaper Than Living at Home?


Ticking boxes on your bucket list is cheaper than staying at home in front of the TV?

 

Well, we didn’t see that coming. Months on the road, and yes, that’s what we (and many others) are finding.

Do we have a home to come back to? Sort of! If we were renting, we would have gone at the end of the lease and officially been of-no-fixed-address. But… also of no rent bills, electricity, gas, etc. When the trip would eventually end we’d need to stay locally and find a new place to live. Happy with that.

 

Well, we’re not renting. Same situation applies (pretty much). When we were in research mode we realised that we could rent our house out and pretty much cover our mortgage repayments… and eliminate our utilities expenses. This does mean that, unless all the planets are in neat alignment, when we come back it’s highly likely it’ll be smack-bang in the middle of our tenants’ lease. So be it. We can either work around the dates or find somewhere else to rent short-term.

 

Awesome…. but if you’re going to spend money, you need to make money too, right? At first, the plan was to develop all these side-hustles to try to scrape by. The good news is we didn’t need to pursue our zany facepainting, iPhone repairing, and coffee mug screen printing business ideas (those skills have come in handy though). Instead, we found quite a few things out there to help both sides of the equation:

 

– Specific skills and qualifications (hairdressers, nurses, RSA, HR, forklift license, etc) seem to have no problems finding short-term gigs

 

– If you’re willing, there are plenty of jobs that don’t require qualifications (van park reception, housekeeping, cook, gardener, retail, fruit picking)

 

– There’s a long list of job-finding sites on the Families On The Road-Travelling Australia Facebook Group (General Job Sites, Rural/Outback Job Sites/Agencies, Facebook Pages, Cattle Stations, Grain Industry, Wine Jobs, and Fruit Picking), and

 

– Annual and long service leave goes a LOT further than when you’re at home

 

To make your money go further:

There’s an app for that! Actually, a few that you need…

 

– There are some memberships that cost you more if you don’t have them!

 

– Call caravan parks rather than booking online. You’ll find that nearly all of them have a discount program that isn’t on their website

 

– Sign up to the Discovery and Big4 mailing lists. You’ll hear about some pretty awesome deals

 

– Groups like House Sitting Australia Wide (can actually be paid too, maybe should have been in the list above?!)

 

– Visiting attractions? Many charge “excursion rates” if you let them know you’re home schooling, and the outing is part of your child’s education

 

– Food preparation (we all know it’s something we should be doing… now we have the time to do it)

 

– Cask wine (aka goon!) is surprisingly not too bad these days. The only reason we drink it… because square boxes don’t roll, right? (hey, don’t judge!)

 

– Some of the most beautiful places in Australia are actually free camping (we averaged $20.45/night for a month in Tasmania)

 

By following this advice we haven’t touched our savings (so far). We hope that we don’t need to but hey… the memories we’re creating are priceless


No, You Don’t Need to Spend a Fortune to Get Going


To travel for an extended period what’s needed? A caravan with an ensuite, a caravan without an ensuite, a camper trailer… or a tent?! These are the options we needed to consider.

 

Although we wanted a van with an ensuite, when combined with the rest of the features we were after (things like a place to sleep for everyone!) it looked like a van like this was out of our budget. Our older model X-Trail couldn’t pull the skin off a custard, so we’d need a new car too. Debt seemed imminent. That’s okay! Who doesn’t get into a bit of debt to travel all around Australia?

 

As it turns out, we didn’t need to spend $90,000 on a new van and $100K+ on a V8 Landcruiser. We came across a second-hand Jayco Expanda with all the features we were after for $30,000 and an older Mitsubishi Pajero that was in good nick for $7,000 (less than we sold the X-Trail for). By the time we cashed in by decluttering, we were out of pocket around $25K for our entire set-up.

Can’t or don’t won’t to come up with a figure like this? Neither did these inspirational families whose set-up costs were way less… showing that anyone can get started if they really want to do it:

 

Check out MILSY Pezwardo! This family of 5 left the Central Coast NSW in July 2017 in their Landcruiser Troopy and Windsor off road caravan which was just over $10K:

 

Caravan of Crazy  bought their van for  $300 and spent 3 years and less than $10K doing it up for full time free camping… letting them travel for 2 years full time with 4 kids. That doesn’t sound crazy to me!

 

A Different Life chose the soft floor camper as it has a lot of space for the family, its very affordable, they’re are able to get where a lot of others can’t go and as it wasn’t a big investment… $10,800

 

While Lost In A Tent are just setting off on their lap after spending $8,000 on their set-up, Our Crazy Campfire Clan are a family of 6, doing their lap in a $1500 camper trailer. Although this post is about set-up costs… it’s hard to not acknowledge that for the last month they spent a total of $8 per day on accommodation! 

 

Yes, you can spend more on a tent set-up than a camper trailer (or caravan for that matter). Personal preference comes into it almost as much as budget. If it’s something you want to do, there’s a way.

 

These are just a few of the examples of the many families that are travelling around Australia. In the future we plan to showcase some examples of these families and how they inspired us.


The Hardest Thing Was Deciding to Do It


Travelling around Australia full-time is only for rich people or grey nomads living off a big superannuation, right? Well, that’s what we thought too!

 

Caravanning full-time with kids wasn’t something we’d even thought about. We already had a 30 year old shoe-box sized caravan, and our plan was to use it on school holidays and the occasional weekend at local caravan parks. Then one day some of our friends set off with their kids for a year-long lap of Australia. What the? Who does that?

 

The seed was planted.

 

Then we stumbled across Trip In A Van. Several YouTube videos later, we decided to do it (yes, that same day!)

 

We realised that not only was it possible for us, but now is the best time to do a lap of Australia. The longer the wait, the more disruptive it’d be to our kids’ schooling… so it was either now, or in 20 years’ time.

Our plans revolved around the worst case scenario. We thought we’d have to sell our house, get rid of all of our possessions, drain our life savings, and end up with nothing at the end of it except for a pile of awesome memories and life experiences. Totally worth it.

 

We quickly realised that it wasn’t going to be that “bad”. It’s actually cheaper and easier than we thought (in fact, it’s actually cheaper than living at home). So, within a couple of months of discovering that caravanning with kids is a thing, and that it really is within the reach of pretty much any family who wants to do it, we were off.

 

The hardest part about travelling Australia with kids is deciding to do it. We can honestly say that after you’ve made the decision, everything else falls into place.

 

 


Funding Your Travels… By Working on the Road


Worried about how you’ll fund your trip? Thinking that you’d like to work on the road, but are worried that you won’t find work in your current field… or at all? 

This interview with the Wandering Jocks will surely alleviate any concerns. Travelling Australia for 6 years with 3 children, they manage a Facebook group, Jobs for Families Travelling Australia. 

We cover working in a job you’ve never done before, how most of the work is not advertised, how they’ve found the work, as well as the occupations, skills, and qualifications most commonly sought after. 

This interview also gives insight into how you can save money while you’re on the road to upgrade your set-up, the pros and cons of soft vs. hard floor camper trailers, as well as having a baby while you’re on the road. 

We also answer a listener question to help convince their partner that (even though they have some transferable skills) it’s the right can-do attitude that employers are willing to give a go!

Head over to @thewanderingjocks on Facebook to follow Jay and Lil’s adventures, and join their group, Jobs for Families Travelling Australia

 

Also available on SticherRadio PublicCastbox, Overcast, PodBean, Breaker,and Pocket Casts

 

Click here for more episodes of The Family Travel Podcast


Towing Capacity and Weights Explained


👇👇👇 Not a Podcast Listener? Read the article below… 👇👇👇

Why are caravan and towing weights so confusing? 🤔 Or maybe it was just me?

As long as I don’t pack too much I should be okay, right? ATM, GVM, GCM. I don’t need to worry about that stuff, do I?

Well, you might be the best driver in the world. But… what happens when you are involved in an accident that you didn’t cause?  What if someone pulls out in front of you and you have to try to stop suddenly? What if you have to swerve to miss an unexpected obstacle and get the wobbles, or are just plain unlucky and get called in over a weighbridge?

If you couldn’t be bothered learning about this stuff, you may as well not bother with paying for your insurance premiums either then.

Having a basic understanding of vehicle and towing weight definitions is a must for safety, reduced wear and tear, and for your hip pocket.

It can become overwhelming, so for simplicity sake we’ll use some rounded numbers.

The first definition to understand is a caravan’s starting point:

💡 TARE. When talking caravans, this is the weight when not carrying any load, ready for service, and with all standard equipment and any options fitted. Note well the last part of the definition, “and any options fitted”. This means the tare mass that is listed on your mass produced compliance plate may not reflect your true ‘base weight’. Even straight out of the showroom, you may find a variation between what you think your van weighs and what it shows on the local weighbridge.

For our example we’ll use our caravan, a Jayco Expanda, which is pretty much 2,000kg

The next key definition to understand is the caravan’s maximum weight:

💡AGGREGATE TRAILER MASS (ATM) is the total mass of the trailer when carrying the maximum load recommended by the manufacturer. This is the weight most people think about when talking towing capacity. The A Big Peachey Adenture mobile has an ATM of about 2,500kg.

So pretty much, the load capacity (or payload) you can carry is:

Load Capacity = ATM – Tare

This would give 2,500kg – 2,000kg = 500kg load capacity.

Right?

Well, that annex, gas, food, clothes, the water in the tanks (grey and potable) all start to add up pretty quickly.

Really, the only way you know whether or not you’re compliant is to take yourself over a weighbridge.

So, as long as you have a vehicle that’s rated for 2,500kg towing capacity and you don’t overfill the caravan you’re right now, yes?

Maybe.

Still need to consider the tow vehicle:

💡TARE. Similar to the caravan definition, this is the mass of a vehicle, unoccupied and unladen, with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity except for fuel, which shall be 10 litres only, and with all standard equipment and any options fitted. In this example we’ll use a car that conveniently has a Tare of 2,000kg.

Now we have the base weight of the vehicle, I’m sure you can guess where this is heading?

💡GROSS VEHICLE MASS (GVM). This is the maximum laden mass of a motor vehicle as specified by the ‘Manufacturer’.

This is pretty similar to Aggregate Trailer Mass, just on the tow vehicle side of things. Same way of working out the vehicles’ load capacity:

Load Capacity = GVM – Tare

If our fictional car had a max GVM of 3,000kg and a Tare of 2,000kg, that would leave us 1,000kg of load capacity… The loads that need to be taken into consideration here though include people, the rest of the fuel, things like roofracks and bumper bars, luggage, etc.

But wait, there’s more. The big one:

💡💡💡GROSS COMBINED MASS (GCM). This is the value specified for the vehicle by the ‘Manufacturer’ as being the maximum of the sum of the ‘Gross Vehicle Mass’ of the drawing vehicle plus the sum of the ‘Axle Loads’ of any vehicle capable of being drawn as a trailer (i.e. the max weight of both vehicle and manufacturer.

So, we might have a caravan with an Aggregrate Trailer Mass of 2,500kg, and a vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass of 3,000kg. We have a total of 5,500kg between the two.

Sounds good, as both the car and van aren’t overweight, right?

Well, the Gross Combined Mass may be less than this (e.g. 5,350k). So although neither of the elements are overweight, the combination may be.

A final point to make is on TOWBALL DOWNLOAD. Normally 10% of the trailer is transferred onto the tow vehicle.  In this scenario, that’s 250kg extra that needs to be added up with the rest of the gear. If you were already maxed out with people and stuff, putting a trailer on may make the tow vehicle overweight. It’s a bonus for the trailer though, as weight comes off the tally (and hopefully ensures you’re below the Aggregate Trailer Mass). So when the trailer is couple to the towing vehicle, it’s given up the weight off the jockey wheel and instead the car is carrying it, this is known as GROSS TRAILER MASS.

The references for these definitions are all from legislation and the ADRs. But hey, even though I used the textbook definitions, it’s my fault if I haven’t explained anything clearly so there’s still some confusion. If that’s the case, please leave a comment, and I’ll go back to the drawing board.