We have been travelling the world with our kids since they were born and last year decided that it was time to explore Australia, so we bought Vanya and spent 12 months converting her to sit and sleep all of us!
Our original plan was to set off at Easter, but then COVID happened and we put our trip on hold until July, when we hit the road, first exploring our home state of NSW (namely Outback NSW).
How much time was spent planning the road trip? What type of technology or maps did you use to plan out your stops and overnight stays?I have been planning this trip since we bought Vanya in April 2019 – it is one of my favourite things to do! We are up to about version #75 now (mostly thanks to COVID!) but something that I have learnt over my years of travel is that you need to be flexible and adapt to whatever comes your way.
We have our general route planned a week or two in advance, and then as we travel, I research the best places for us to stay. I mostly use Instagram to find the best places to visit, the WikiCamps app to find the best campgrounds, and Google maps is my absolute best friend!
We also bought an old school road atlas so our 6 year old can follow along from the back seat!
How was travelling during school holidays? Did the kids mingle with other kids in caravan/ holiday parks and is that your preferred way to travel?I love to travel during the school holidays because there are always other families around! My kids really miss other kids when we are on the road, so they love to have others to play with. My oldest was really shy, but travelling has taught him how to be brave and make new friends, and now he is the first to run up and introduce himself!
And although we do enjoy chatting to the grey nomads, it’s so nice to talk with other parents and find out about their recommendations for the best things to do and see!
Helpful hints on what to pack and prepare when road travelling with kids?
We are lucky that our boys are so small and are used to travelling, so they are generally pretty happy to sit back and enjoy the drive. We usually drive only an hour and a half or so at a time to break up long drives, and most towns have a kids’ playground for us to stretch our legs.
We also use lollies as distraction on those long-drive days! We don’t let them eat in their seats (as the campervan is also where we sleep!) but lollies are another story! When they start getting fed up in their seats, I get out the snakes or chupa chups, and that keeps them going for a little while longer!
We don’t have iPads or other devices yet, although my 6 year old has started playing games on my phone, so we have that as a last resort! They are generally pretty happy with activity books, toy cars and playing spotto and I-spy!
Playgrounds to stop over during the drive, great spots for kids to stretch the legs?
The best playgrounds that we have found have been Patton Park in Broken Hill (across the road from Bells Milk Bar) and Drummond Park in Cobar (a short walk from the Copper City Motel).
They both have great play equipment, clean toilets, nice picnic tables and shade. Kids really need to burn off a lot of energy, especially on long travel days, and these were both awesome places for that!
What were the top 5 highlights of the trip and what did the kids love most?
1. Staying in the Underground Motel in White Cliffs! I don’t think that we will ever forget sleeping in a cave underground! The boys loved exploring the underground tunnels, and climbing up to the surface for sunset.
2. Silverton – we loved Silverton (24km from Broken Hill) so much that we went twice! It is like being on a movie set, hot and dusty with tumbleweeds blowing around deserted buildings! The kids really enjoyed the Mad Max museum (despite never having seen the movies!) and the Silverton Hotel was a great spot for lunch (and donkey spotting!).
3. Mungo National Park – we drove from Sydney to Broken Hill via Mungo National Park and it was amazingly beautiful, like nothing we’ve seen before! We all loved the Great Walls of China tour, which took us up onto the lunettes and sand dunes – the biggest sandpit the boys have ever seen!
4. Campfires – the four of us all love to sit by the fire each evening and watch the stars come out. Being from the city, seeing the Milky Way is so exciting, as is toasting marshmallows! Many caravan parks have communal campfires, so it’s a great way to meet other travellers and share stories. Our favourite was at Warrawong on the Darling, where the park manager brought us all cheese and crackers as we sat by the fire (which was in an old tractor wheel)! The beautiful campfire at the Broken Hill Outback Resort also rates highly!
5. While we were staying at the Broken Hill Outback Resort, we watched a massive thunderstorm roll in over the nearby hills. We had never seen anything like it! Huge black clouds, but with the sunset shining through hitting the rain drops as they fell, along with lightning strikes every few seconds – it was spectacular!
How do you fit all your luggage into the car?
Our van isn’t huge – it’s an old minivan, so we have had to really limit what we bring. I find that when we are camping, we tend to wear the same things over and over anyway! We designed the cupboards inside the van to fit packing cubes, so that’s how we store our clothes, and other items are in drawers under the bed. If you are interested in seeing a tour of our van, it is saved under my story highlights on our instagram page.
We have roof racks for extra storage, for the things we don’t need to use all the time, but really we have just become very good at travelling light! You really don’t need as much stuff as you think you do!
How do parents cope travelling with kids – lots of wine?
The most important thing that I have learnt since travelling with kids is patience. Everything takes way longer than you think it will and we can’t do as much each day as we would have in our younger travel days!
We take it easy in the mornings, as I find that mornings really set the tone for the day. At most places check out time is 10am, and we will pretty much always stay until then! We have a coffee or two (it’s an added bonus if the caravan park has a cafe!) and take our time getting ready. I’ve found that if we stress out and rush the boys, the whole day ends up being chaotic and stressful.
And also wine! I love when we have set up camp and can just sit back and relax with a drink, while the boys run about and play! We have a travel tradition that we watch the sunset with a drink every night, its the best time of day – especially if there is a campfire too!
In the time of COVID what did you need to prepare and be aware of? How did this change your usual type of travel?
COVID has dramatically changed our travel plans this year. We hoped to do a big lap of Australia, but with the borders closing we are not sure if this is going to be possible.
There is a lot more admin now as we travel around – most places we stay need to know our whereabouts for the previous 14 days to make sure we haven’t been in a hotspot.
We have all become expert hand-washers and we always carry soap and hand sanitizer with us. Most places that we have stayed are taking the extra hygiene practices very seriously, and we always keep our distance from other people – this is pretty easy to do in Outback NSW!
I think that this is the perfect time for people from NSW to travel around their home state (as long as regulations permit it, of course!). With international travel off the cards, I hope that families set out to explore all that Outback NSW has to offer!