What constitutes the ‘perfect spot’? When it comes to caravan travel, there’s more than meets the eye in a good campsite.
Caravan parks and camping grounds have your basic needs covered and are a great alternative for those who prefer some element of comfort. Whether your chosen path of caravan travel is on or off the beaten track, here are six things to look for in a caravan site.
Club Sites - Glamping Sites - Certificated Sites - Social Camping - Self Catering
Finding a good Caravan Site
The right fit
Get to know the dimensions of your caravan like the back of your hand. You’ll want to know that a potential spot is long and wide enough for your rig, with ample space around the outside.
Survey the landscape and pay attention to sloping areas, rough surfaces, loose dirt and sandy patches, as these will affect your caravan’s stability. Even on level ground, corner steadies will prevent the caravan from tipping when you move around inside. If you’re setting up on uneven or sloping terrain, use landing legs to compensate and provide load-bearing support.
Privacy versus convenience
Caravan travel parks don’t usually offer the peace and quiet of a secluded billabong, but they have their perks, such as power and other amenities. Choosing a spot near the beach, water or amenities might seem ideal, but these areas often attract other campers, so you could be sacrificing privacy. If you’re looking to escape, choose a quiet corner spot away from the common area bustle. If you favour convenience, look for a site close to:
Clear and present danger
Shady spots and shelter are good, but do a thorough inspection of the surrounding trees. Droughts, storms and insects can weaken branches, which in turn can be hazardous for you and your vehicle.
Shelter and warmth
Campfires are great for preparing food and keeping warm, but because of our climate they can be illegal during certain times of the year. When off-road, set up camp near a water source or have a good store of water with you and check with local fire services for current conditions – they may require you to have a permit.
Some of us travel with our furry friends and while dogs (and even cats) can make wonderful on-road companions, they aren’t welcome at all sites. If you’re taking your pet along for the ride check for friendly camping grounds, parks and nature spots before setting out.
After a few weeks on the road, you’ll have a good idea of what constitutes the perfect parking spot for you. But possibly the best advice on good camping areas will come from your fellow campers, so don’t be afraid to ask and share experiences.
andy tips for your first caravanning adventure.
Handy tips for your first caravanning adventure
Make a checklist You’ll need a comprehensive array of items when holidaying with a caravan. Obviously, a towing aid is required, but you need to select one that is right for your vehicle. Other essential caravanning items include a fire extinguisher, wheel chocks, caravan jack, sway control device, towing mirrors, extra coolant and oil, a spare fan belt, and insulation tape. As with any hobby, some items are essential for newbies, while others can be purchased over time for extra comfort and convenience.
2. Ensure your van is safe and secure Once armed with the essentials, you’ll need to make sure your caravan (and vehicle) is safe to be on the open road. It’s best to write a checklist well before you depart and keep it within your caravan for easy referral. Among necessary checks are that the towing aid is fitted correctly, drawers and other loose items are secure, and windows and doors are locked. Also, remove wheel chocks and the jockey wheel (or secure it), and raise the caravan’s steps. It is also essential that the lights of both your vehicle and caravan are operational and all tires are inflated correctly.
3. Take it easy No doubt you’ve been stuck behind a slow-moving caravan. Now it’s your turn to irritate other motorists! Naturally, towing something the size of a bloated elephant takes getting used to – and you should take extra care anyway – yet there is another important consideration: fuel consumption. Travelling at high speed drains your vehicle’s fuel as it is, let alone when you are towing a caravan. And it’s even more pronounced when driving into the wind. If towing a caravan at a reduced speed, be mindful of traffic behind you, and use slow vehicle turnouts where possible. When on the road, other important tips for caravanners include avoiding the desire to swerve if wildlife strays onto the road and being aware of side winds caused by large vehicles.
4. Have an early start Following on from the tip above, it pays to rise early and hit the road before the crowds join the party. This is especially so when towing a caravan for the first time, as you’ll feel much more confident driving in light traffic.
5. Be prepared for confined spaces No matter the strength of your relationship, a caravanning trip can be a test for you and your partner. One of the top tips for caravanning is to be prepared for the fact that you will be travelling in confined surrounds. Give each other space, where allowable.
6. Work as a team When it comes to tips for using a caravan for the first time, one of the biggest of all is how to reverse the darn thing. Practice makes perfect: put in training runs before facing an audience at your BIG4 park. When at your site, choose the shortest path necessary for reversing (if you want to challenge yourself on holidays, bring along a Rubik’s cube). From here, parking a caravan requires you to work as a team. Ensure you and your partner’s communication is sound and you can hear each other loud and clear. However, consider using hand signals – or even two-way radios – as it might be difficult to hear instructions over a loud engine. Use your mirrors, be patient, and don’t panic.
7. Have a set-up routine If you’ve spent considerable time on the road, the last thing you’ll want to do is spend hours setting up your site. Once again, a practice run is worthwhile, as the process will become more efficient over time. As each caravan differs, so too does the setting-up process. However, here’s a brief rundown: start by unhitching the caravan, putting on its handbrake, and clearing your vehicle away. Once done, level the caravan, lower all four corner steadies until they are touching the ground, set up the gas and water systems, and connect the power. From here, head inside the caravan and check the power and water supplies: heating, taps, oven, fridge, etc.
8. Don’t take opinions as gospel Having a rig makes you a target to cop advice of fellow caravanners, and there’s every chance you’ll be hit with more opinions than a talkback radio host. In no time, you’ll be informed about the best bakery, the cheapest beer, and alternative routes that are ‘so much quicker’. We're not suggesting that some advice isn't useful, but if it gets too much, simply nod and smile.
9. Pack up properly For this trip, it’s best to refer to point number three: follow your checklist. However, there will be additional factors to consider, such as turning off the gas, disconnecting electrics, and removing water and wastewater supplies.
10. Take a course If you’re serious about caravanning, you should do it properly. While they might seem excessive, the various ‘caravanning for beginners’ courses on offer will provide great theoretical and practical advice and boost your confidence. Alternatively, arrange for a caravan specialist to check your rig before you set off. At the very least, have a trial run with your caravan before beginning an epic journey. It’s important to familiarise yourself with your new ‘home away from home’.
Camping etiquette: Never do this on a caravan park holiday
Tone down the noise at night
Don’t walk through other people’s campsites
Leave without a trace and don’t litter
Keep an eye on your kids
Be considerate of local wildlife
Keep your things on your side – be mindful of barriers
Be patient, be friendly, be considerate
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