A: You’ve booked your leave, mapped your itinerary and set your dreams in motion – now all you have to do is hitch your caravan and hit the open road. Sounds simple, but preparation is fundamental to a smooth roadtrip. Here are some important things to consider before setting off:
Learn the basics: Even if you plan to ride shotgun during your journey, it’s essential that all vanners learn how to tow. “If you can’t tow you could be stuck in a tight and dangerous situation,” warns Lyndel Gray, CEO of Caravan & Camping Industry Association NSW. “Going into a dead-end road is one issue you could face; also, sometimes the driver can become ill and the other person will need to drive and tow the van.” Gray suggests undertaking a towing course with Tow-Ed, who offer nationally recognised course for towing caravans and fifth wheelers.
Service your vehicles: Avoid the stress of breakdowns by booking your car and van for a service before your trip. Check tyres and brakes are in good nick, and that all lights are working – many accidents have been caused by faulty brake lights. One safety issue often overlooked is checking the weight of the van and its contents. “Many people forget to include the 'hidden' weights in the payload that can easily put you over the legal limit,” says Gray. “Remember to include tank water (fresh and greywater), gas, luggage, food and everything else packed in the van – including people. Exceeding your maximum ATM (Aggregated Tare Mass) will affect your warranty, insurance and safety.”
Make bookings in advance: With a newfound interest in domestic travel, there are more travellers on the road, so pre-booking campsites is important to avoid disappointment, especially during school holidays and weekends. Most national park campsites now require online bookings; tours also need to be booked well in advance. “Planning where to stay and booking ahead will mean you don’t miss out on the places you want,” says Gray. “And remember, it is illegal to stay overnight in truck stops and many rest areas.”
Pack carefully: Your travels may not take you via major supermarkets – so better to stock your van before you leave home. Apart from safety essentials such as spare tyre, fire extinguisher and blanket, first aid kit, extra water and blankets, it’s also prudent to stock cupboards with emergency food in case of a power outage or breakdown. Gray also suggests packing good quality, comfortable camp chairs for watching sunsets, board games to keep you entertained, non-slip mats to ensure items stay in place inside cupboards, and moveable sticky hooks for hanging lights and tea towels. And a surprising hack? “Dental floss – not just for teeth but for emergency mending and fixing items such as awnings, annexes, screens and even a camp chair.”