Caravanning Conversations is the brand-new blog series from Caravanning Australia, where we get to know more about the people road tripping around our beautiful country!
We recently interviewed Britt from @roam_n_round on Instagram, who travels with her partner Shaun and their toddler Max (and their soon-to-be second baby!). Make sure to follow the family on Instagram for amazing travel pics, inspo, and all things caravanning!
Caravanning Australia (CA): Firstly, what drove you to get into caravanning?
Britt (B): Shaun and I have always been passionate about travel and have collectively been to 21 countries since we first met in 2010. Apart from weekend camping trips in the swag, our first taste of ‘van life’ was in 2016 when we bought an old Toyota HiAce and fitted it out with a bed. It was very basic, but had everything we needed. We took a few weeks off work and travelled from our home town of Newcastle, and planned on seeing how far up North Queensland we could go before needing a four-wheel drive. At the time, this was Cape Tribulation.
Since then, we have been passionate about exploring more of our beautiful country, but were waiting to have a baby first so we could travel while on maternity leave and make the most of my time off work.
A newer caravan was in our sights initially, but after going to the Sydney Caravan and Camping Show, we soon realised that:
a) New caravans are heavy.
b) New caravans are expensive.
c) The layout in caravans 18-feet and under weren’t what we were looking for.
We bought our 1980s Millard Caravan as a little passion project to test out caravanning and see what we really wanted before leaving on our Australia trip. We ended up falling in love with the old caravan and adding our own personal touches to it, and not buying a new van after all.
Our son Max was born in July 2021 and we left for our big lap in January 2022, so he was six months old when we left.
CA: What advice would you give to other families considering caravanning and exploring Australia together?
B: Just do it! Obviously you need to do a bit of planning, but don’t overthink it! Is there ever really a perfect time to travel? Probably not, so take the plunge.
Max was six months old when we left, and he has learnt so many valuable life skills in his short life. How I see it is that baby sleep is going to be hard anywhere, so you may as well rock your baby to sleep in a caravan with an ever-changing view rather than locked in a dark room.
CA: Can you describe your favourite caravanning destination/trip, and tell us why that is?
B: Broome holds a special place in our hearts. I think it was a combination between friends we met along our travels that were coincidentally there at the same time, and it being the first place we could swim in the ocean in months after driving through the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia! It’s actually the place we stayed the longest in our entire 1.5 years on the road – a month!
We went down to main beach every afternoon to have a picnic and watch the sunset as the camels walked past. It was definitely a highlight!
CA: What are the most challenging aspects you’ve found when caravanning in Australia, and how have you overcome them?
B: One of the less-talked about things when caravanning is chores. Unfortunately, they don’t magically go away when you leave your house behind.
Chores look a little different in the caravan; there’s finding a dump point every couple of days, refilling water, planning the next place you are going (how far away is it, if it is achievable in one day with a baby/ toddler, if there anything to do between places, ect.) and, of course, the usual washing, groceries, dusting, vacuuming, ect.
We usually tackled our chores by completing them all on the same day. A water point is usually near the dump point and when we pulled up at camp, I’d clean the van for a ‘fresh start’ at a new location.
As for planning our next location, we’d do this when our son Max was asleep so we were uninterrupted. You can ‘like’ places on wiki so it makes it easier to filter places you want to stay the night. That way, you have a couple of options if the first place doesn’t feel right or looks a bit dodgy.
CA: Are there any hidden gems or lesser-known destinations that you’ve uncovered on your travels?
B: Cape Leveque and the Dampier Peninsula is north of Broome and absolutely beautiful! It has some of the best free and low-cost camps in Australia. One of our favourite camps is called ‘Smithies’. It’s all off grid – with beautiful landscapes, four-wheel driving and great fishing. If you are up that way already and with a capable car and caravan, we highly recommend checking the area out!
CA: Could you share your most memorable encounter/interaction with fellow caravanners, locals, or unique wildlife over the course of your travels?
B: Bendeela, in Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales, is well-known for its abundance of wombats! This was one of the animals we were most excited to see in the wild, and they were everywhere! What we didn’t know was they are partially blind from mange, so in the middle of the night we woke up to the caravan rocking as the wombat was rubbing his back on the underside of the caravan. It was a really cool experience and one we aren’t forgetting anytime soon!
CA: How do you typically go about planning your itineraries for long and short travels?
B: Wing it! We have a rough guide of the direction we are going in and maybe something we want to see along the way, but everything else is an added bonus.
Shaun and I use WikiCamps to find where to stay the night and try to free camp as much as possible. Usually, the free camps are quiet and spacious compared to caravan parks.
CA: Have you ever encountered any unexpected issues or emergencies in your journeys, and, if so, how did you tackle them?
B: When our son Max was around one, he came down with a cold. It was no big deal until it randomly turned into his first ever croup cough at 9 pm. Any other parents out there who have had experience with croup know how scary it is.
We were lucky in the sense that the previous few nights we were staying on 14 Mile Beach in Western Australia with no service and three hours from the nearest hospital. We actually headed back to Coral Bay (still around three hours from the hospital), but they had a nurse station which was in service after hours. We called their number and got seen to that night at 9:30 pm. She told us what to do and to come back the next morning for steroids. Thank goodness she was there, or it would have been a long drive to the hospital!
CA: Have you found any cultural or educational opportunities during your travels that you and your family found insightful?
B: In the Northern Territory, there is so much aboriginal heritage. We especially loved hiking to Ubirr Rock and Kakadu, and looking at some of the world’s most outstanding rock art.
CA: How do balance being spontaneous with being organised when on the road?
B: We always make sure our water is filled, toilet has been emptied and groceries are stocked before going off grid.
Shaun and I are both guilty of not booking camps in advance. We show up and if a camp is booked out, it’s not meant to be. We have actually only been turned down from three camps, and it was all during school holidays – in Noosa, Kakadu, and in Margaret River. In saying this, there is usually always another camp not too far away to stay at, so we don’t stress about it.
It’s actually more stressful for us to have places booked because we feel like we can’t really enjoy the place we are staying beforehand, as we have to leave early or we have too much time before the booking, and we are twiddling our fingers waiting.
I’d love to say that we exercise everyday, but we go through ebbs and flows! Sometimes, we are doing hikes everyday, and other days we don’t feel comfortable working out in front of other people at caravan parks, or there is a town with a beautiful scenic board walk to go for a run.
Being on the road, you are constantly moving your body anyway, so we just go with the flow and make the most of our motivated periods.
CA: What are your go-to dinners when cooking for the whole family?
B: We stick to meat and three veg a lot of the time and try to always have some frozen veggies on hand when off grid, since fresh veggies don’t last as long. Fish wraps are also our go-to when we are on the coast and Shaun can catch some fish.
CA: Are there any financial or budgeting tips you’ve found particularly useful while caravanning and being on the road in Australia?
B: The less you drive, the less you spend. One of the highest costs travelling Australia is fuel, so the longer to stay in the one spot the more you will save on fuel.
CA: With technology playing a huge role in travelling, could you share some of your favourite gadgets/tools you’ve used while on the road?
B: Yes! Shaun and I love our companion instant hot water system. Since we don’t have a shower in our caravan, we use the shower tent that’s attached to our car with the companion hot water system, and it works an absolute treat! We’ve had some of the most beautiful views from our shower all around Australia.
CA: How do you stay connected with family and friends while you’re on the road for extended periods of time?
B: Social media is not just about random followers looking for travel inspo, but it’s also a checkpoint for family and friends.
We upload to our stories daily where possible so they can see what we are up to and where we are, so they don’t need to call to check we are alive every two seconds!
It’s to hard to stay that you will call family or friends on a certain day each week because you are constantly going in and out of service – but when we do get in touch, we FaceTime where ever possible.
CA: What does the future of travelling look like for you?
B: We would love to add better suspension, bigger tyres and a bigger draw bar on our old van so we can explore areas like Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, some desert tracks and get back over to the west coast.
There are also a few overseas destinations we will probably sneak in there, too! Ultimately, it would be our dream to travel the world at our own pace in similar caravan set-ups to our own, but we will have to wait and see how that plays out in the years to come!