Here you’ll find the top caravanning tips that other travelling families wish they’d learned sooner.
We asked the question:
“What’s one tip about travelling in a caravan with a family you wish you knew before you hit the road?”
Let’s find out what they said:
1. Buy dark coloured sheets for your caravan’s beds
Like it or not:
When you’re a travelling family your caravan’s beds will end up being used as couch space.
And the kids’ feet will get on your light coloured sheets.
Rachel’s caravanning tip is that you should expect to be a bit grubby, and that’s okay…
…but at least if you buy dark sheets it’s not so obvious!
2. Make a checklist for when you leave the caravan park
If you sit around a caravan park around 10 am you’re likely to see a van take off with the antenna up.
Or the step down.
[We’d always forget to turn the gas off]
And it’s worse when you’ve got kids trying to chat to you while you’re packing-up!
So we made a simple checklist that we kept in our phone:
We’d run through it before we took off.
And even though we’ve stayed in over 50 places in the last 2 years… we’d still forget things.
The checklist would save us.
3. Get more freezer space (it gives you more freedom and pays for itself pretty quickly)
Amanda’s tip is: get more freezer space.
It’s the one thing the Lovells on Tour wish they’d had… especially when free camping or heading to more remote places.
Having a bigger freezer lets you:
- Stock up when things are cheap
- Have more meal options in your rotation
- Not need to buy as many meals ‘out’
- Spend more time free camping
We started without a car fridge:
So we ended up getting one that doubled as extra freezer space.
It cost us about $480 from eBay… and paid for itself after about 6 weeks of travelling
4. Stock up on wine before you go to the Northern Territory
If you’re from a part of the country where you’re used to decent $5-$10 cleanskins then be prepared for a shock:
Wine is VERY expensive in the NT.
And, if you’re caravanning, you’ve probably made the switch to cask wine.
(If you haven’t yet, you probably will… it’s not as bad these days)
But would you spend $30?
Now, we’re not recommending you start some prohibition-style bootlegging racket here…
…but floor pricing is a real thing.
5. Take a bucket with a screw-on lid for doing laundry
Have a mini washing machine in your caravan?
Plan on just using the caravan park’s laundromats?
Either way, you’ll more than likely end up doing some hand-washing.
A collapsible tub works well, but a bucket with a screw-on lid works better.
You can put your dirty clothes in there. Add some water and detergent.
Screw on the lid… and drive.
Once you reach your destination, the washing’ done.
6. Book early for the Spirit of Tasmania… but don’t forget to book your return trip too
The Spirit of Tasmania is booked out for months in advance.
So if you’re thinking of going:
But do some research first.
You need to know how long you want to stay when you book.
We know of more than one travelling family who got stuck in Tasmania for weeks longer than they’d planned…
If you try to book your return trip while you’re there it might be a 4-6 week wait.
7. Have a ‘Plan B’ in case you can’t cope with noisy sleepers
Natalie and her family over at Curious Campers started off with everyone in a hard floor camper…
…but quickly realised the kids were noisy little sleepers and they couldn’t all sleep in the same room.
They added a dome tent for the rest of their 7 month trip.
It worked well for them… and to be honest?
Knowing how noisy our caravan can get overnight with a little one, it sounds peaceful being outside!
Might be a good solution for adult snorers too…
8. Don’t book accomodation until you arrive at your destination
Making Trax with Max’s approach is to just wing it and go with the flow.
Their caravanning tip is don’t book accomodation:
They’ve pulled into places expecting to stay a week and have stayed a day.
(and vice versa).
We agree with this one big time…
…it usually works out A LOT cheaper doing it this way too.
9. Keep a spare key to the caravan in the car (and vice-versa)
This one should be pretty self-explanatory:
The worst place to keep a spare caravan key is in your caravan.
We didn’t even lose keys… but relied on this caravanning tip more than once.
If one of you goes out to get milk and the rest of the family are off on a walk when you get back?
Then this can be handy.
10. You can save a lot of money (and freezer space) by cooking and freezing meal-sized portions
Cooking is the last thing you want to do after a long day of travel.
Especially if you’ll be on the road again in the morning.
It makes it tempting to just buy dinner…
…but this can add up, and quickly become your largest travel expense.
Make the most of opportunities to do a cook-up, and put them in your freezer in meal-sized portions.
Then you have some cheap, easy (and often better-tasting) meals on hand.
11. Use Google Maps without having phone reception by using the ‘Offline Maps’ function
Google Maps and smartphones killed the GPS device industry.
But what happens if you’re travelling and you don’t have decent phone reception?
The good news is you can download offline maps pretty easily
(and the maps update automatically when your’e connected to Wi-Fi)
12. Save your $1 coins: you’ll need them for the laundromat
Now, you might have an awesome mini washing machine in your caravan, or a great hand-washing set up.
But whether you like it or not:
You’ll probably need to use the caravan park’s machines at some point.
Towels. Linen. Blankets.
Sometimes you just want to do a large load to catch up on a family-load of washing.
The $1 coin is the currency of caravan park washing machines.
13. Download the WikiCamps app
One of our biggest caravanning tips is to get WikiCamps:
It’s in our list of 20 Caravan Gadgets Under $20 [That Make Travelling Australia Easier]
- Find great camp spots that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about
- User-reviews help you work out which places are the best (or ones to steer clear of)
- See how much people are getting charged
- User photos help to see whether or not your van can get in
- The ‘filter’ helps you find things like water and dump spots
- Use it to track your trip
The first time we used it we saved more than $7.99 the app cost
[Like Google Maps you can download areas to use it offline too]
14. Pack dark coloured clothes and towels
After you’ve been travelling in a caravan for a while your kids will be down to two types of clothes:
- Dirty clothes, and
- Stained clothes
Tahlia from Oz Van Touring with the Oxenbridges recommends packing dark coloured clothing for the kids.
Her other tip is ‘Kimberly coloured towels’ for the unbreakable red dust!
15. Before you drive make sure everything in the fridge is down low and packed tight
Stubby holders are your friends. They help stop jars and bottles from smashing.
Tupperware containers with their lids off are perfect to sit things in to stop them sliding around.
[A final ‘fridge check’ might be worth putting on your pre-travel checklist]
16. Keep in mind how long things take to dry when you pack your clothes and towels
There’s nothing fun about taking wet clothes off the line…
…only to hang them up again when you reach your destination.
So it pays to pack clothes and towels that are quick drying.
- Fleece jumpers dry much quicker
- Dri FIT style t-shirts and shorts
- Tesalate Towels can be worth if you plan on going to the beach a lot
(check out our full review here)
If the cost of Tesalate Towels are hard to justify, then Turkish towels can be a great option:
They dry quicker than normal towels and take up less space… and make the list of Most Popular Caravan Accessories for Travelling Australia
17. You can never have too much clothesline space
The portable folding clotheslines are great…
…but if you’re a travelling family you’ll run out of space pretty quickly
Some of the best ways to get extra hanging space (without being too bulky) are:
- An octopus clothes hanger from Ikea
- Pegless Clotheslines from Caravanning with Kids
- Occy Straps from Bunnings, or
- Just some good old fashinoned rope
18. If you’re not sure whether or not you need it… don’t take it
This caravanning tip came up more than once from travelling families:
“Less is more”
“Take less than you think… then less than that”
“You need less than you think you do”
Kids get just as excited with a new playground or beach… or just exploring with the family.
You tend to wear the same things in rotation.
So if you’re unsure… don’t take it. It’ll just take up room and weight.
Rovin Adventures sum it up nicely:
“You don’t need to buy EVERYTHING you think you need before you hit the road. You can buy stuff on the road if and when you need it. We spent lots on ‘maybe we need’ stuff and have had to get rid of it on the road.”
19. Always carry a water filter for your caravan hose
You never know what water quality will be like at different caravan parks.
The worst thing?
You can’t see if there’s floaties until they’re coming out of your caravan’s tap
(And then it’s already too late).
Or worse – you may not be able to see them.
The easiest option is to get an inline water filter.
The ones that get recommended most are the BEST Inline Water Filters.
And they’re pretty cheap here on eBay.
20. Join caravan park memberships to save money (the first time you use them)
Becoming a Big 4, Discovery / Top Parks, and TAWK member can save you a lot of money.
And, quite often, they’ll pay for themselves the first time you use them.
So which one should you get?
Right now, none.
They’re worth getting as you need them (like when you’re in the car park).
Otherwise you might pay $50 for something you never use.
21. Wool wash (and leave in conditioner) can save a lot of water
When you’re caravanning it’s easy to get free energy from the sun…
…it’s usually water that limits how long you can free-camp.
If you hand wash your clothes in wool wash, you don’t need to rinse them.
Leave in condition can be, well, left in.
Doesn’t sound like much… but saving 20-30 litres can mean an extra day staying in some amazing places.
22. Don’t stock up too much on things you can buy on the go
When you’re in a caravan, space is at a premium.
It’s tempting to buy the 64 pack of toilet rolls to save $0.70c… but you’ll quickly realise that the space they take up is worth way more than that.
There are some things that it’s just easier to buy on the go… and they won’t cost that much extra.
Nappies, wipes, toiletries, and even some types of food.
Unless you’re travelling remote, there’s plenty of supermarkets out there.
23. Have a snack box in the car (BONUS: food that’s small and hard to eat)
Kids like to eat. Kids like to be kept busy.
Keeping a snack box in the car comes in VERY handy.
- You won’t have to stop because one didn’t eat enough breakfast
- You’ll save money by not stopping at a bakery
- Kids will be kept busy and will stop asking “are we there yet?”
Our favourites are things like dried fruit and popcorn:
Small, fiddly, and a bit harder to eat… keeping them occupied for longer
24. A collapsible tub works great for kids’ baths (and uses way less water than a shower
This caravanning tip is one we agree with big time:
We travelled for over 6-months before we used the bath that’s in the bottom of our caravan’s shower.
Easier to bend down and reach.
No water on the caravan floor.
25. If you spend some money on solar you can save a fortune (and have more options)
You can save a fortune if you’re self-sufficient:
You won’t have to rely on powered sites at caravan parks.
But more importantly:
You’ll have more choice about where you can stay.
Free camping, station stays, and national parks can be an amazing experience.
Sometimes there just isn’t any powered sites left at your park of choice
26. Don’t forget a TV and DVD player (you won’t want to be outside all the time)
You might have grand ideas about spend all your time outside… but the reality?
It’s not going to be 23 degrees and sunny every day.
There’ll be days where it’s too cold, too hot, too rainy, too windy.
Or you just couldn’t be bothered (and that’s okay)
A good 12V TV and DVD player can be gold for those occasions.
(A portable DVD player can be great for the kids on long trips too… 4 days straight of “eye spy” can get a bit much)
27. Travel journals are a great way for kids to capture their memories (and they’re undercover home-schooling)
Part of our daily routine was for Miss 7 to do an entry in her travel journal:
Where we went. What she learned. Her favourite thing for the day. One thing she was grateful for.
We started off with photocopied pieces of paper… and it was a shambles:
Pieces of paper ended up all over the caravan.
We’ve hear that the Lonely Planet Kids Travel Journal is good… but we went with this one from Caravanning with Kids.
And we love it.
28. Try to make sure that everything in your caravan has more than one purpose
This caravanning tip can save you space, weight, and money.
A few examples include:
- Collapsible collanders double as a steamer and fruit bowl
- Milk crates for storage, seating, and step-ladder
- A Trail-a-Mate doubles as your jockey wheel and jack
29. Don’t book too far in advance (or get locked into an itinerary)
It’s tempting to book everything in advance so you’re certain you can get into your caravan park of choice.
But the reality is:
Outside of school holidays (or the Spirit of Tasmania) you’ll get in nearly everywhere without booking ahead.
Rochelle and her daughter travelled all around Australia (you can see more about their travels here)
Their caravanning tip is: don’t be locked into an itinerary.
If you book too far in advance?
You might end up having to leave somewhere you love earlier than you’d like
(or get stuck somewhere that’s no good)
30. Caravanning can be exhausting… so schedule “down days”
Driving long distances when you’re towing a caravan is hard work:
As the driver you always need to be paying 100% attention.
As a passenger the days can be very long.
Even just sightseeing day-after-day can get to you.
So avoid the temptation to schedule in something for every single day.
31. Plan your travels based on what YOU want to see… even if others may have given it bad reviews
You know what determines whether or not you enjoy a travel destination, tourist attraction, or caravan park?
It’s not just about the place… it’s about your mood, the weather, and who you’re with.
This is a great tip for travelling families from the Linkz family (Miss n’ Linkz):
“Check out places that appeal to you even if you’ve read or heard negative reviews, not everyone’s idea of paradise is the same”
So just because other people didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t… there are always going to be ups & downs.
32. Accept that some travel destinations won’t live up to your expectations (and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by others)
One of our favourite destinations in Australia has been Gregory, QLD.
We surprisingly had an AMAZING time there… but that doesn’t mean you will.
Your experiences will be shaped by the weather, insects, dust, lack of solar, too many kids, not enough kids… the list goes on.
Some places are a hot favourite for many, while others find them underwhelming.
Some prime examples:
- Paronella Park
- Byron Bay, and
So sure, create an itinerary to tick off your bucket list. But don’t be disappointed if they don’t live up to your expectations
(It could be completely different if you went another time of the year)
33. Instead of trying to change your family, change how you travel
You get to know your family’s routines and preferences VERY well after you’ve been in a caravan for awhile.
But when you get started?
Charlie Rose from Four Hands in a Tin wishes she’d “known a lot more about their idiosyncrasies!”
Working full-time and being at school everyday… to being together all the time… can be a big jump.
It can be hard to adjust.
So try to plan your travels around your family’s natural flow. Depending on your family, you might need to:
- Be somewhere there’s reception when the footy is on
- Make sure there’s a gym available
- Plan your travels around baby’s nap time
34. Get a good internet connection (especially if you’re homeschooling or working from your caravan)
Emily from websitesfromavan.com makes a great point:
If you need to work and travel you’re not on a holiday, you’re changing your lifestyle.
You’ll probably end up working weird hours to juggle the kids and travel. That can be exhausting…
…so do whatever you can to make your caravanning lifestyle easier.
Emily‘s tip is to get an internet booster for your caravan, especially if you need a good connection for schooling or work.
35. Make a plan for how you’re going to declutter while you’re travelling (if you want to get your things back later)
Even if you don’t pack too much there’s a big difference with extended travel:
Your needs will change based on seasons and locations.
Broadies Following the Sun have been living in their bus for almost 18 months and have removed about 50% of what they originally packed.
Their rule of thumb is:
“If something hasn’t been used or worn for over 3 months get rid of it”
[A lighter load equals better fuel economy and more space to breathe]
So if you think this’ll be you, their tip is to plan ahead.
We off-loaded our surfboard at my Dad’s house on the Mid-North Coast. We knew it’d be a dead-weight in the Top End. We also posted things “home”.
We wanted to declutter, but not lose these things altogether.
36. Plan ahead to make the most of the changing seasons
Nearly all the travelling families we’ve chatted with have said much the same thing:
There’s way less lounging around reading books on a beach towel than you’d think…
…because there’s so much of Australia that’s worth seeing. And weather makes a big difference.
Sure, you can plan on travelling slower and save a bit more money… but Rolling Memories – Caravan Kids’ tip is:
“You have to keep moving on to keep up with the changing seasons to enjoy each place at its best. It really is a fast paced lifestyle with so much to fit in”
So it pays to plan ahead. At least a little.
You might not choose specific destinations… but it’s worth thinking about Winter in the southern states vs. Wet Season in the Top End.
37. Try living in your caravan with your family before you start travelling
Our caravan didn’t fit in our driveway… so when we hit the road it was a new experience.
With a lot of adjustments.
As I Do Adventures’ tip for travelling families is to try living in your caravan before you leave.
They did this for 6 weeks before they left. It helped them to not only save for long term travel, but to iron out any issues they came across.
Their adjustment period when they hit the road was then pretty much non-existent because they were all used to the ‘van life’ by then.
38. Don’t go all out and buy a new “camping wardrobe”
Hitting the road for more than a few months?
It’s tempting to go out and buy some new clothes for your new lifestyle.
Natalie’s tip is:
Don’t go out and buy a whole pile of new clothes… thinking your style will change just because you’re caravanning.
39. Make homeschooling easier by removing distractions from your caravan
Kids learn A LOT just travelling around Australia… but at some point there’s some formal schooling that needs to be done.
The family over at Corporate to Caravan sound a lot like us:
A school aged child. A couple of younger children who need a lot of attention… which always seems to increase right when you’re trying to do the home schooling activities.
That can be tough to manage in a small space.
If you try to distract the younger ones by putting on a movie then the older one is distracted as well.
“We often get one of us to take the twins to the playground to give our son some space and that seems to work”
Instead of trying to work through it, Suzy’s tip is to remove distractions to create a learning environment.
This can prevent meltdowns. And it gets done quicker too.
40. Use the ‘red-dot trick’ to find out what you don’t use or need
This one comes up a lot when it comes to space-saving:
Put a red-dot sticker on everything… and if you haven’t used it in 3-months, get rid of it.
Unless you’re changing climates and they’re clothes you’ll need soon.
41. Think of longer caravan trips as a lifestyle rather than a holiday
A lot of travelling families wish they’d known this one sooner… including us.
When you drive off for the first time it’s pretty exciting. And you want to make the most of it.
If you’re going away for a week or two, that’s a legitimate holiday. Make the most of the:
- Happy hours
- Pies and iced coffees
- Eating out
- Trying all the breweries
- Little to no exercise
But if you’re travelling longer?
At some point you might recognise that it’s not great for your health or wealth.
So a tip for travelling families is to try recognise earlier that it’s less like an endless holiday, and more like your new lifestyle.
Everything in moderation. Even moderation.
42. Give your family members the space to recharge (and in their own way)
Travelling in a caravan with your family can be both exciting and relaxing. It can be slow paced and then hectic.
That’s what makes it fun… but it can also make it exhausting.
Emma from My Rig Adventures has been travelling around Australia with her family for over year. Her caravanning tip is to give people the space they need:
“We all need to recharge in our own ways… some like to veg out in front of the TV, another needs to read a book by themselves, while others need to escape to their online gaming world”
So if someone needs some time out, don’t take it personally. It’s not you.
43. Making time for yourself needs to be part of your routine if you’re doing long-term travel
It can get overwhelming when everyone is together all day, every day.
So if you’re planning on travelling for more than a few weeks, the Todoingfamily have a great piece of advice:
“Make sure you make time for yourself and each other. A trap is falling into a year long kids holiday program, always doing things they want to do. Always looking to entertain them”
[We know EXACTLY what they’re talking about here!]
“You can overlook yourself and each other. You need to take time to go for a walk, a fish or even a trip to the coffee shop or hardware store, on your own. Also make sure you have the odd date night too. It’s a whole family adventure and trip, make sure you look after everyone”
Ryan from Ride With Our Tribe gives the same tip. A great point he makes is:
“By making sure you have your own time, this’ll help you enjoy your time together more.”
44. Caravans are small… so be prepared to handle the smells!
The Galways Go Round know a lot about family travel… they’ve been doing it for years.
The one thing about caravanning that Sharon wish she’d known earlier?
That she’d learn things about the family that she didn’t care to know… such as their own distinct smells!
So yeah, you might want to buy some air freshener.
And set some rules early on around what’s considered “acceptable use” if you’ve got an ensuite toilet and there’s a toilet block handy.
45. Focus on what you’ve been lucky enough to see… and accept you can’t see everything
Even if you travel around Australia for a year you won’t see everything.
You’ll miss out on things.
You’ll need to balance having the time to enjoy each place with seeing more places.
[Some families have been travelling for years and still have lots on their to-do list]
If you’re travelling around Australia in a caravan… you’re doing pretty well in life. So take the time to enjoy the places you have been to.
Because many haven’t.
46. Be realistic about how far you can go if you’re on a time limit
Australia is massive.
Ally’s tip for traveling families is to be realistic about the amount of country you can cover. Especially if you’re on a time limit.
“You may have to move quicker if you want to see more but if you are happy to take your time and see less; that’s completely fine also”
Check out Shotgun Odyssey – Travel Oz’s Facebook Page. One of the most creative ways of choosing an itinerary you’ll ever see…
“We thought we would have traveled further by now (currently on the road for almost 9 months)… but we have no regrets whatsoever and wouldn’t change anything”
47. You’ll never be completely ready… so pick a leave date and stick to it
If you’re thinking of doing a lap, travelling indefinitely, or even just getting the family into a caravan for a few weeks… pick a date.
When we were putting our house on the rental market, the real estate agent said something that really stuck with me:
“I wish we’d done what you’re doing when we were younger, but the time never seemed right. Now our health won’t let us”
Nearly every travelling family we’ve met caravanning around Australia has said they wish they’d done it earlier.
48. The only thing you’ll regret about travelling with your family is not doing it sooner
Wondering if you can travel Australia with a family of 4 in a Coaster?
Broadies Following the Sun are doing it just fine!
The thing they wish they’d known sooner is just how much they’d love living in their tiny house on wheels.
“I love everything about being on the road”
You have to admit, ‘Bessy’ looks pretty awesome:
Their tip for families who are thinking of hitting the road?
“If you’re thinking should or shouldn’t I, I suggest just do it you won’t regret it”
If you’ve already hit the road in a caravan with your family, comment below.
What’s your caravanning tip?