Caravanning is cool again

Caravanning is breaking the age barrier to become the holiday of choice for not only the young at heart.
Cotton Tree Holiday Park on the Sunshine Coast.

Once upon a time, I vowed never to join the ranks of the grey nomads.

Holidaying in caravan parks was something we did as parents of young kids. Once they flew the nest, it would be five stars all the way, thanks very much.

So, when I was signing the paperwork on the purchase of a Jayco Lark camper trailer at the ripe old age of 45, I found myself wondering, “how did I get here?”.

It turns out I was in good company. According to Caravan Industry Association of Australia figures for 2021, the market for people aged 30-54 years has exploded with 48 percent taking caravan trips annually.

For my family, the reasons for buying a camper trailer came down to cost and COVID-19.

Once our youngest son turned 14, in accommodation terms he was a child no more. Gone were the days we could take advantage of “kids stay and eat for free” packages.

For that reason alone, we began flirting with the idea of upgrading the tent to strike a balance between the costeffectiveness of camping with the comfort that comes with a caravan.

Family having fun on caravanning holiday.

What pushed us across the line was COVID-19 and its impact on travel.

Interestingly, when we went to inspect the Lark we were among other families – many much younger than ours – who had come to the same decision.

Burleigh Beach Tourist Park managers Scott and Lara Berryman have seen a dramatic change to the demographic of their park’s visitors during the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a huge shift in our trade because it was predominantly grey nomads and the odd young family – now we’re getting a lot of young families with kids under the age of 10 in camper trailers,” Mr Berryman said.

“People aren’t travelling overseas, so they’ve got a bit more money and they’ve bought campers and caravans.”

It’s important to understand there’s more to caravanning than hitching the rig and setting off on holiday.

Powered sies at a Big 4 Caravan Park.

At least that’s what my husband told me after his two-hour handover at our local Jayco dealership.

Aside from a few hiccups at the start, our maiden voyage was a success. Sure, we only travelled an hour from home, but as our confidence grows so will the distance travelled.

Mr Berryman said he expected to continue seeing young families enjoying caravan holidays after travel restrictions were eased.

“There is always the group of people that are used to hotel travelling and want a resort pool and room service and don’t like having communal facilities,” he said.

“But that’s just a very small percentage. I think the large percentage will return and want to enjoy the freedom of having your own mini house on wheels and being able to enjoy the outdoors a bit more than you can when stuck in a resort.”

You’re preaching to the converted here, Scott.

We’ve already booked road trips well into 2022 and consider the Lark to be a part of the family.

Camp Kitchen at a Big 4 Caravan Park.

Caravan safety tips

No matter how skilled a driver you are, there’s a right way and a wrong way to hitch a caravan.

It’s not as hard as it looks, but it’s a two-person job. To avoid miscommunication, agree on what (polite) hand signals will be used between the driver and assistant, then:

  • Warm up the towing vehicle’s engine and transmission by taking it for a short drive.
  • Apply the van brake and raise the van’s corner stabilisers.
  • Using the jockey wheel, ensure the front of the van is raised high enough to allow the tow ball to pass under the coupling.
  • Make sure the assistant stands clear of the car’s reversing path.
  • Once the tow ball is in place under the coupling, lower the jockey wheel to mate the parts, then connect the safety chain, electricals, load-levelling hitch and brakes (as applicable) and remove or stow the jockey wheel.
  • Release the trailer’s handbrake.

Before hitting the road, it’s a good idea to do a final check to ensure everything is where it should be (including the kids).

Check list

  • The corner stabilisers are up and jockey wheel is stowed.
  • Coupling lock mechanism is firmly fixed.
  • Safety chains are attached.
  • Brake coupling/wiring is connected.
  • Light wiring has been connected to the car and the lights are working.
  • Tyre pressures of car and van are correct.
  • Wheel chocks are removed.
  • Windows and hatches are closed and locked.
  • Van step is retracted.
  • Electricity lead, water and sullage hoses are disconnected and stowed.
  • Inside the van, cupboard doors are closed and movable objects are packed to prevent sliding.
  • Gas is off and fridge is turned over to 12v supply if fitted (note: gas pilot lights must be turned off when refuelling the towing vehicle).
  • The TV antenna is removed or retracted.
  • The caravan door is locked and safely latched.

Learn about RACQ Caravan Insurance

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Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.