Free camping or caravan parks – either way, caravanning is the way to go!

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A family setting up a campfire in front of their caravan

Channel 7 recently reported that new data has discovered campers and caravanners are far healthier than Aussies holidaying in hotels. Sounds legit to us – and to the thousands of Australians who prefer to take caravanning holidays each year. And why wouldn’t you – with all the freedom of travelling our great country, and the convenience of towing along your home away from home, investing in a caravan is something you’ll never regret.

WA couple Sheree and Gary Chapman have been taking their three daughters on camping holidays since they were toddlers. From initially taking the girls around WA in a camper trailer, they upgraded to a caravan five years ago and have never looked back.

When asked what’s the best thing about caravanning, the answer was simple: The freedom.

“We’ve always been keen campers and loved the camper trailer, but having young children, it’s so much more convenient going out in the caravan,” Sheree said.

“For one thing, it’s cleaner – we can shut the door and there’s no dust and dirt getting in. It’s comfortable, we all have our own beds, plus the kitchen and bathroom facilities in the van. And because everything is there set up for us, we have more time to spend exploring and enjoying nature.”

“The girls can’t wait to get out in the water or out in the bush wherever we stop, so we don’t want to have to waste time setting up camp. With the caravan, we don’t have to,” Sheree said.

Caravanners have a choice of where to stay wherever they travel, from the convenience of a caravan park; to the simplicity of pulling off the side of the road for a one or two night rest.

The Chapman family are fans of free camping and prefer pulling off the road for the night in parking bays over a caravan park. Sheree said for their family, the peace and quiet of remote camping, and the freedom of being able to stop anywhere is why free camping is their preferred choice.

“When we are going away, we check apps and the Main Roads websites for free camping along the way and pull in there. We are self sufficient, so we can stay wherever we want.”

“I always take along a notebook so that on the way we can note down spots that could be good to pull off, and then we check them out on the way home,” she said.

Of course free camping may not be everyone’s first choice, and for some, the social aspect and convenience of a caravan park is more attractive.

Vicky McKay is also a keen caravanner. Aged in her 60s and mostly travelling solo, Vicky said she generally chooses caravan parks because she enjoys the other people she meets there.

Vicky belongs to a camping group and organises a lot of the group’s outings. She said in this instance, it’s also for practical reasons that they choose caravan parks rather than free camping, simply because there might not be enough room.

“When you book ahead for a caravan park, you know what you’re getting and that your spot is reserved. Otherwise you take chance on whether or not you’ll find a place to park.”

“When I go away, there’s usually a group of us all going together so there’s four, five, six caravans coming along. We need a big space and so a caravan park works for us.”

“I’ve been travelling all my life, and bought the caravan to be able to take my grandchildren along with me when they get a bit older. They’ll have their own beds, and they’ll be able to come on holidays with me and explore!” she said.

Both Sheree and Vicky have said caravanning is a learning experience, and they’ve each found a lot of “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to travelling – many of which have been discovered the hard way!

“One thing I advise is when you’re parking up, check for ants nests on the ground, and bee hives in trees nearby,” Vicky said.

“Always take a compressor with you, especially if you are parking off the road as it’s easy to damage a tyre; and don’t over pack or overload your caravan – keep it simple!” she said.

Sheree also has her own tips, saying they have discovered the hard way that when parking on grass, always look for reticulation that might come on during the night!

“Because we do a lot of free camping, one of the biggest “don’ts” is don’t ever park in truck bays. As tempting as it might be, truck bays are not for caravans!”

“I’m very organised and make sure the caravan is always stocked with food and supplies, including medicines and first aid items, that way we are always ready to take off.”

“And the best tip – invest in a Weber Q and an Engel fridge – they are worth their weight in gold!” Sheree said.

If caravanning is your dream, maybe it’s time to take the plunge and make it a reality. As they say, travel while you can – you can always make more money but you can’t buy more time!

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