What to expect when buying a new caravan and our first month on the road.
If you are anything like us you have never bought a caravan before. You might have had a tent set up or a Jayco camper like we did but caravans were always on another level, and an outlay we didn’t have or need.
So what has it been like 1 month on?
Our plan was to have our van in our happy little hands a month before we hit the road to test everything out and see what fit where but between caravan shows, a trip to NZ and a delay with solar and batteries we literally had two days.
Two days to chuck our life in a van and hit the road a week before Xmas, having just settled our house. Hectic was an understatement.
We had crap everywhere, it was not comfortable and we were climbing all over each other, and having just come from 6 acres, looking back now we did great not to kill each other.
Within a week we had culled twice and left a big pile of stuff at the in-laws slowly making it more liveable and enjoyable. There was still more culling to come. You know yourself you wont need everything you pack but you honestly don’t know what you will need until you are out there living it.
So within the first week a number of things had broken which was quite disheartening especially seeing as we had driven on main highways straight from Queensland to Victoria, the prospect of driving off-road seeming a bit daunting.
We had cupboard latches falling out or not latching at all resulting in cupboard contents falling out while on the road, an internal mechanism in one of our leg stabilizers snapped clean in half, our pullout cupboard fell out breaking the rail it slides on and we discovered holes had been left in the floor under our fridge when our fridge was swapped for a 2way compressor which resulted in a big draft and dust tunnel straight into our van. To be honest we were thinking to ourselves, what have we done.
We could have lost it and kicked up a big shit storm but we took the mindset of if we were building a house initially there is going to be some stuff that needs fixing or changing, in our experience. We also reflected on the fact that when choosing our van we choose to buy from Cruise Oz because of their family run business and after service reviews.
When we first started looking at vans the one thing I remember a lot of people saying is that after sales service is vital, because 9 times out of 10 stuff will go wrong. You want to know someone has your back.
Firstly we looked at the small stuff, surely it is easier to fix stuff ourselves than wait to book in somewhere to get it fixed. A lot of it was cosmetic and just crappy cabinetry, things that could have been quick and easy to just do right the first time.
We contacted Roz from Cruize Oz to go through everything with her and although she was on holidays herself she got back to us and started the process of finding someone to help us in the area we were heading, reassuring us that she wanted to make sure everything was fixed and in working order. We had already fixed a few small things and changed to bigger screws in cupboard latches to make sure they were securely in place, but felt better about getting the big things fixed so we could make sure our home was in working order. Having a pull out cupboard that no longer pulled out was beginning to be inconvenient.
So skip forward and we have been in touch with Avan Adelaide thanks to Roz and have already had the van in for assessment, waiting on parts to come in, in the meantime checking out Mt Gambier and the Barossa Valley.
Our first month on the road has been eventful and we have seen and done heaps! It has definitely been a learning curve, figuring out how the van works, how to do homeschooling and not end up drinking, how living on the road goes and navigating our way across three states.
If you are thinking about buying a van and hitting the road here are our top tips:
- Plan so you have at least a month with your van before you leave, living in it would be even better so you can work out where everything goes and how everything works. Plus if anything breaks you can get it sorted before you hit the road.
- Look at reviews for Caravan Dealers. Buy from one that has great reviews and amazing after sales service. Go and meet them and get a feel for who you are dealing with. You don’t want to just be another number or statistic.
- Pack and then half what you have packed. Don’t worry you will still have to cull more. If you find you need something along the way there is always a Kmart or Bunnings not too far away. Plus you will become obsessed with vehicle weights and feel like a champ when you get rid of more stuff.
- Wikicamps is your best friend but we also bought the Camps Australia Wide 10 book which has been amazing! I do a bit of planning with the book and check out the reviews on Wikicamps. Sometimes it’s easier to look at a map spread out in front of you instead of an app.
- Each time we pack down or set up we are finding our groove, finding a space for everything and getting our own jobs which contribute to making it a smoother process – it will get easier!
Other top tips for travelling so far:
- Ipads and especially headphones for in the car are awesome! Don’t let anyone else tell you different.
- Snacks and more snacks will make your trip 100 times better, nothing worse than hangry family members. Better still pack lunches for long drives so everything is ready to go and stops get reduced.
- Making sure you have “alone time” and kids having time apart from each other is also vital to keeping your sanity, where possible.
- Emptying the toilet is literally the shittiest job.
- Cooking outside is hands down much better than cooking in the van, so is doing the dishes.
- Having containers to put stuff in will save you having to restack and put stuff back where you had it, this includes your bathroom cupboards, kitchen and laundry areas. Kmart has heaps of options.
- Information Centres in each town are a great resource for water and dump point locations and for what’s on in the area.
- You will quickly get used to shopping for half a week instead of two weeks like I used to do, space is limited but don’t worry your kids eat twice as much.
- Being on the road means you have to be flexible and open to change, very big lesson for us, things change or you might get to a camp and it’s just not what you want, need to go with the flow as much as possible.
At the end of the day it’s a huge learning curve but the best decision we have ever made! If you are thinking about hitting the road, just figure out how it will work for you and do it!