1. Make a checklist
Let’s face it; lists make everything easier. First-time caravanners are always surprised at the amount of ‘stuff’ you need to buy and bring. Consider the following categories when creating your caravanning checklist:
- Food (basics)
- General Safety (fire extinguisher, spare tyre, wheel jack, brake-controller etc.)
- Medicinal (first-aid kit, medications, mosquito repellent etc.)
- Mechanical (coolant, oil, fan belt, duct tape, tools, tyre pressure etc.)
- Clothing (swimwear, formalwear, casualwear, nightwear etc.)
- Resources (gas bottles, batteries, water etc.)
- Cookware (cups, plates, pots, pans, kitchen, cutlery etc.)
- Entertainment (books, games, TV, frisbee etc.)
- Cleaning (air-freshener, garbage bags, dishwashing liquid etc.)
- Equipment (Esky, tables, chairs, surfboards, bikes, umbrella etc.)
- Toiletries (toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush)
There really isn’t any need to stress about packing all the ‘things’ you need for your trip. In the end, the most important thing is that your caravanning holiday is going to be SAFE. Never skip any corners when it comes to caravan safety.
2. Take it steady
We’ve all spent a decent chunk of our lives stuck behind a dawdling caravan. Now it’s your turn to dawdle. In reality, these slow-movers are doing exactly the right thing. As mentioned in tip #1, safety is paramount when caravanning — especially for the first time. And, while it’s important to take extra care when towing, there is also the benefit of consuming less fuel when driving slow and steady. If you are travelling well below the speed limit whilst towing, remember to be mindful of the number of frustrated motorists that are building up behind you. Keep left and, when necessary, pull over and let the impeding traffic pass on by. Another benefit of travelling at a steady speed is the increased likelihood of avoiding stray wildlife. If you see something wander onto the road ahead, you’ll have more time to honk the horn — or even stop in time.
3. Get on the road as early as you can
This tip follows on from tip #2. If you’re new to towing a caravan, do yourself a favour and hit the road early — there will be far less traffic to deal with and you can spend more time on the development of your skills. More space = more confidence. Plus, you’ll get to your destination earlier, too!
4. Give each other space
You truly don’t know someone until you’ve been caravanning with them. A trip in a van can put a strain on even the strongest of relationships. Depending on the size of the caravan and the number of travellers, you’ll need to prepare yourself for living in close-quarters. Is your partner a snorer? Be prepared with earplugs. Does your friend like to stay up late with the light on whilst reading a book? Be prepared with an eye-mask. Just remember that, when possible, to give each other as much space as you can.
5. Work as a team
Building on step #4, we have perhaps the most important tip for newbie caravanners; work as a team. Many hands make light work — and many brains make easier solutions. Teamwork is crucial in the beginning — especially when it comes to reversing your van! We’d recommend combining teamwork with the age-old wisdom of ‘practice makes perfect’. Before you embark on your maiden trip, have a few practice runs with your partner — it’ll give you both the chance to iron out any uncertainties so that, when you’re reversing in front of a judging group of grey nomads, you’ll be feeling confident that you can get the nod of approval rather than that dreaded giggle & headshake combination that suggests ‘what a rookie’.
6. Have a solid set-up / pack-down routine
You’re on a holiday, so why waste your valuable hours setting up and packing down? Once again, ‘practice makes perfect’, so make sure you set everything up and pack everything down at least once before you leave. This is a great opportunity to create another checklist. Write down your setup routine in steps and then, when it’s time to pack up, just do it in reverse! After a few runs, it’ll become autonomous. It’s also a great idea to keep a set-up/pack-down list because, if you decide to hire your caravan out to someone, you can give it to them as a guide! Having a routine will allow you more time to kick back and enjoy your surroundings.
7. Get advice
If you’re going on a big trip or just need that extra bit of confidence, why not just ask a professional? There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help. There are thousands of well-weathered caravanners out there that can provide just the right amount of theoretical and practical advice that you need. There are also a number of awesome caravan training courses available in most metropolitan areas — definitely check those out, too. A great way to learn more about caravanning is by connecting with a local caravan owner. As a peer-to-peer caravan sharing platform, Camplify has over a thousand expert RV owners that are more than happy to show you the ropes of their caravan. When you arrive at the owner’s place to pick up the van, get them to take you on a test drive. Heck, many of them will even drop off their caravan at your favourite spot and set everything up for you!
8. Find a good, safe place to store your caravan
Storage is another challenge that many new owners don’t think about after they’ve bought their freedom machine. Is it going to sit sad and lonely on your driveway out in the weather? Have you got a friend that will store it for you
9. Enjoy the whole experience
Yes, there is a lot to think about before embarking on your first caravanning holiday — especially if you’re planning to travel for an extended period. The reality? It’s impossible to prepare for everything. Caravanning is about enjoying the whole experience. Enjoy the drive, relish the challenge of reversing into a tight spot, laugh about forgetting to bring toilet paper, forgive your partner’s snoring the next morning, learn from your inevitible mistakes and please, please; don’t stress about the little things.
As mentioned a few times in this article, the only thing we think you should stress about is your safety. The best kind of holidays are safe holidays — remember that above all. Otherwise, this could be you: