Since COVID made everyone “holiday here this year,” travel-deprived Aussie families are taking their first domestic voyage in droves. Affordable and adventurous, the great Australian road trip is the ultimate way to see our big beautiful country with the kids in tow.
But to explore Down Under without breaking the bank, you need to free camp wherever possible along the way. By forgoing pricey caravan park fees, you can set aside mountains of cash to keep the little ones amused—think crocodile shows, steam train stints, and dinosaur fossil digs.
Nervous about camping off grid with the kids? We’ve got your back with these ten nifty tips.
1. Choose Your Rig Wisely
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full-time road-tripping family, you need to think long and hard about your rig. Families need stacks of space to quash temperature tantrums and defuse niggling domestic disputes. Cram the whole fam into a tiny campervan, and you’re going to have a bad time.
We might be a wee bit biased, but we reckon the caravan is the best option for the itinerant Aussie family. Spacious and luxurious, these rolling homes have everything you need to keep the occupants calm and content. Check out our range of off-road and touring caravans we’ve custom-built for families like you.
2. Do Your Safety Briefing
Children have an innate ability to find new and creative ways to injure themselves. And while free camping isn’t exactly fraught with danger, it’s worth educating your little ones about campsite safety.
Teach your kids to act cautiously around wildlife, especially critters with sharp claws or stinging tails. Ensure they’re well versed on road safety, too, as you’ll certainly be spending plenty of time around the tarmac. Stranger danger applies at the campsite as much as anywhere else, and it’s crucial they keep a lookout for reversing RVs. Finally, ensure they’ve got shoes on around the fireplace—dancing on hot coals is only kosher if you’re a south Bulgarian Anastenaria.
3. Cover Campsite Etiquette
Kids will be kids. No matter how well-disciplined, they’ll inevitably irritate other campers at times. But most folks expect children to have extra energy and won’t pass judgment when they run amok to burn off some steam.
Nonetheless, enforcing proper etiquette is crucial for a happy and harmonious campsite. Train your children to give fellow campers a wide berth and tone down the yelling when others are within earshot.
4. Bring Bikes
Bikes are a brilliant way to suss out the sites as a family and a constant source of entertainment for the kids back at the campsite. Chances are the other children will be rocking their own spokes, and you sure don’t want your little ones to feel left out.
If you’ve set up at a free camp near town, you can jump on your bike to explore or run errands instead of relying on your car. All Kokoda caravans come with space to stow up to four bicycles on the back, so nobody has to share.
5. Chat To Other Families
If you spot a fellow family at the free camp, pop over and say, “G’day.”
You’ve already got a whole bunch in common, and the tribulations of family travel are an easy ice-breaker. Not only will you get a fresh face to sink beers with come happy hour, but the kids will get to meet new friends too—it’s a win-win.
Befriending other families is also a great way to learn about kid-friendly free camps and discover exciting new attractions to visit on your trip.
6. Give Your Children Chores
Just as you would at home, it’s wise to delegate your children some chores at the campsite, whether winding out the awning or washing the dishes after lunch. Nobody likes a spoilt princess; chores can instill a strong work ethic and sense of responsibility from a young age.
Plus, if you can swindle the kids into doing the hard yards on your behalf, that gives you more time to kick back and relax—a double whammy!
7. Rock Up Early
Free camps get crazily crowded during school holidays, which is the prime time for family travel in Australia. And as they can’t be reserved in advance, you’ll need to roll in early to snag yourself a spot.
How early depends on the popularity of the campsite in question and when you’re travelling—Christmas and Easter are insane. In a caravan, you can always get there early in the morning to set up, then spend the afternoon in your car exploring the sites.
8. Pack Plenty Of Entertainment
Children become bored quickly, especially in stock-standard free camps where stimulating sights are few and far between. For the sake of their sanity (and yours), do everything possible to keep them entertained.
Every child has different interests, and each family a unique parenting style. Think of the most effective tools you could use—games, movies, bikes, books, drawing, etc.—to keep your children amused.
And remember: many free camps are outside of 4G range, which could render that grace-saving iPad entirely useless for a while. Plan accordingly.
9. Make Frequent Stops
Long car trips are torturous for toddlers and unpleasant for kids of all ages. To avoid hearing the ubiquitous “are we there yet?” for the umpteenth time, ensure you make plenty of pit stops.
Breaking up the journey helps ward off boredom for the kids and gives the parents a chance to recuperate from the drive. Aim to stop at family-friendly attractions where possible—the Big Banana, Mango, Boysenberry, etc., were built with car trip-weary children in mind.
10. Do A Test Run
If you’re planning on pulling your kids out of school and gallivanting around Australia for a term or two, it’s worth doing a weekend test run first. Pack your camper with all the requisite goodies and go live off-grid in a free camp for a while.
That way, you can work out precisely what you’re missing and what you don’t use, then make any necessary adjustments before embarking on the big trip. It’s much less hassle to iron out the kinks at home than at some far-flung outback town.
When done properly, free camping with the kids can be a joyous affair. Keep these ten tips in mind to make the most of your next budget family holiday. And if you’re in the market for a new rig, be sure to check out our family-sized off-road and touring caravans.