Every day, Park helps Aussies to find the right kind of RV for the type of travel they want to do and, as an avid caravanner himself, he’s well placed to offer expert advice. Here are his best tips for planning an unforgettable adventure.
WHY PLANNING WORKS
When it comes to travel, there are too many variables to successfully wing it.
“I think preparation is everything,” he tells Caravan World. “Jumping in your car and just driving in the hope that you’re going to find somewhere decent to stay and enjoy yourself won’t always work out — and you’re probably going to miss half of the best sites to see and things to do along the way.”
Everyone will plan differently according to their vehicle, whether they’re a family on a short adventure, grey nomads on a longer haul, or weekend warriors. And planning doesn’t mean you need to book a site for every single night while you are away, pay for expensive tourist attractions in advance or account for every minute in a military-spreadsheet style (unless that’s your jam, of course). It’s about taking the time to really think about the time you have and how you want to spend it.
There are plenty of factors that can affect your forecasts too — and in some cases Plan A may become Plan B or C, but that’s part of the fun too, says Park.
“It can be really an exciting time because you start to do your research and look at places that you could go and visit,” he says. “It could be off the track, it could be on mainstream highways, coastal destinations or the mountains.”
The first step is to block out time in your calendar and stick to it — the last thing you want is for your RV to become what Park calls a “very expensive driveway ornament”.
“The best advice I could give around it is to really pre-plan, up to 12 months out, where you want to go,” he says. “Work with the holidays that you’re going to book from your work, school holidays then pick the weekends you’ll head off as well, and choose the destinations.”
Another consideration is both high and low travel seasons, and carving out time by putting it in your calendar means you won’t let other events get in the way of your trips.
That’s not to say you can’t be spontaneous with your adventures — although you can always keep a destination in your back pocket.
“You might choose, over the course of the year, to do four trips,” Park says. “And then you can slot in the destinations into each one and do some research to make sure you don’t miss anything.”
Australian caravan parks have seen an uptick in visitor numbers
ALL IN THE TIMING
There are peak travel periods in Australia where prices will be higher and caravan parks and tourist attractions will be busier. School holidays, which vary across each state and territory, are main examples, as are Christmas, Easter, and various long weekends.
“Clearly if you are going to travel during school holidays, things will cost more,” Park says. “And with the very popular caravan parks, sometimes you almost have to wait for somebody not to show up on a particular year for a site to become available.”
Other parts of Australia have peak seasons — vanners tend to head south for summer and north for winter. The far north has a heavy wet season and some roads are impassable at certain times of the year.
“You would probably think hard if you wanted to go out into the middle of Australia, right in the middle of summer versus potentially doing it at a time of the year when the weather may not be as inclement,” he says.
“So timing where you want to go is critical in ensuring that you have the best holiday you can, based on the weather conditions.”
BEAT THE CROWDS
The onset of the pandemic was a tragedy for international travel operators, but a boon for the domestic market. The caravan and camping sector has seen a massive uptick in demand, sending sales of new and secondhand RVs soaring and caravan parks flooded with Australians swapping cheap trips to Bali for caravan park life.
While holiday parks are hugely popular in peak periods, bookings at non-premium times are becoming tighter, and Park says booking in advance — at least for part of your trip — is a sensible idea.
“Parks are filling up faster, so even if it is just tentatively booking sites before you actually head off, at least you know you’ve got certainty of having somewhere you can stay,” he says.
The same applies to sites in national parks that require bookings. Park says another idea is to consider smaller parks as well as the larger resort-style setups.
“You’ve got all these other parks that may not be right next door to the main beach or attractions but certainly do offer some fantastic accommodation choices with great facilities,” he says. “And these could be in towns that would really benefit from the tourist dollar.”
Another factor to consider is events. If you’re travelling to a region for a particular festival or sporting event, you’ll want to book ahead to make sure you can be in the thick of the action. But also consider events that may draw a crowd (who’ll snap up all the sites) at a time you want to visit.
Of course, free camping is another ballgame entirely, as these sites are not booked. But there’s plenty of planning to be done here, too. You should research the types of facilities available at each one, any restrictions, and reviews of the area and site conditions at a minimum.
There are a number of things that need to be considered before you leave home, says Park.
“You can obviously wing it a little bit more with free camping in terms of bookings because you’re prepared to be actually staying a little bit off grid,” he says.
“But do you need to be a little bit more planned if you’re going to be doing more free camping? One hundred per cent, you do. As far as everything from what food you take, to what external power you’re going to be running and your water capabilities.”
Also, don’t forget there is a larger number of caravanners on the road and travelling, so a lot of these sites are filing up well before sunset.
School holidays are always more crowded
ASK THE EXPERTS
When researching your next destination, peruse tourism websites, magazines with destination features such as Caravan World and our sister publication Camper, download travel apps such as Hema, but also go straight to the source by asking those who have been there.
Social media groups can be great fountains of information, as are dedicated RV clubs and associations, or asking fellow travellers you meet on the road for advice to keep in store for your next trip.
“Caravanners are really happy to chat about their experiences and are able to share the good, the bad, and the ugly of their experiences with other caravanners,” Park says.
“There is a lot of information out there from people who have done this before you, and who can help you to go exploring with a better understanding of what you could expect. They may talk you out of going to Far North Queensland during the wet season, for example.”
Of course, take all advice with a grain of salt, as not everyone has the perfect experience with every destination.
SAME SAME, OR DIFFERENT?
Should you journey to the same destinations or caravan parks each time, or try something different with each trip? This all comes down to personal preference, says Park, but plays a big role in setting out your travel plan.
“There are people who use caravan and camping as their regular family holidays and have their favourite destinations because they all have fun as a family,” he says. “And there are others who prefer to go somewhere new each time, particularly a lot of the new people coming into the lifestyle and discovering that we have so much to see in this massive great country of ours.”
Also consider if you want to stay in one place for the duration of your trip, or have multiple stays. This will depend on the time you have to spare on the journey as a whole, but also the effort required to keep moving.
“It does depend on your setup time,” he says. “For us with our family caravan, it took us an hour and 20 minutes to set it up from start to finish (with a break or two). Someone with a camper trailer will probably take a lot longer to set up than a self-contained off-grid caravan or motorhome.”
Travelling to a destination not too far from home is a good option. At the time of writing, there were still very strict border conditions between all states and territories thanks to COVID-19, so interstate travel is not possible for everyone. Residents of New South Wales and Victoria will only just be emerging from extended lockdowns towards Christmas, so local destinations could be the only options.
The time you have available to travel is also a major factor, says Park. If you can’t get a lot of time off work or you have other commitments, then travelling long distances probably doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“If you just don’t have the time to get away for an extended period, burning a whole day travelling in one direction and another to get home again means you’ve just lost two days’ worth of potential camping and fun times where you could have gone somewhere half an hour down the road,” he says.
“The whole point when you are caravanning is to be separated from your normal, everyday life. It’s not about how far you’ve travelled, it’s all about getting the caravan out, setting it up and just enjoying the feeling of being somewhere else.”
Planning a caravanning adventure — whether to the mountains, the beach or your own local area — is a core part of the fun. But it will also mean less stress and fewer FOMO moments if you find out later there was a simply unbelievable attraction or experience that you missed along the way.
Interested in climbing aboard the RV bandwagon? Credit One is Australia’s best-rated caravan finance broker and has access to a large number of financiers that can tailor a loan to suit your individual needs. That being either borrowing the entire amount or topping up with a partial loan to get the unit you really want. Having flexibility inside the loan to make extra repayments or to pay out the loan early is fast becoming the preferred option for many borrowers while keeping costs down. The Credit One Caravan team has a 22-year history of getting more people into this great lifestyle with a tailored loan as they deal with industry professionals day in and day out.
For more information about financing your dream or to obtain a pre-approval prior to negotiating with a dealer or private seller, make the smart choice and call the Credit One Caravan team on 1300 273 348, 07 3420 7030 or visit creditone.com.au. ¦