The Big Family Trip

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 12:13
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My husband, two children (7yrs girl & 4yrs boy) and I have planned to pack up and travel around Australia for the next 12 months give or take. We have never owned a 4WD (until a few weeks ago) let alone towed anything (especially not a 25ft caravan, get it next week) however, we have made the decision to see it all, well as much as we can anyway.

One of our biggest problems, not including lack of experience and knowledge, is we have absolutely no idea of where to go. We are planning on leaving from Coffs Harbour, NSW, at the end of July. We would appreciate any advice and words of wisdom from those more experienced than ourselves as to which direction to go and the routes to take. We don't want to be tied down too much to timetables as we would love to have the freedom if we like somewhere to stay for a week or few and if we arrive at some place that we don't like just pack up and leave.

At the moment I have my head buried in the sand and taking the very Australian attitude of 'she'll be right mate'. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.



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Reply By: chisel - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 12:57

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 12:57
I'm sure if you do a search here you'll see many similar questions to yours.
I think the main thing if you are doing a 12 month trip is to do the top half in winter and the bottom half in summer. I'm sure you could do the bottom half in winter, even if it is cold, but a lot of the top half is off limits completely in summer (even if you could put up with the heat).
Leaving from Coffs in July is a bit difficult though ... July->October are the best months for Cape York and probably for most of the top end so it would be hard to lleave that until the end of your trip.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:15

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:15
Thanks chisel,

It is so hard to know what to do as we aren't sure how long we really need to dedicate to each area. I know that we are not going to be able to see every square inch of this awesome country but we would like to see the major things it has to offer and maybe a few well kept secrets.

Chell
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Reply By: nighttrain - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:17

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:17
Hi Clint & Chell, cant give you any advice because we are going to be doing the same, am excited but nervous at the same time as never done something like this before, hope to get a car & van soon and then head off from the Melbourne area early August, been busy planning for over 6 months, our plan is to go where we want and when we want, our first adventure will be to go up the middle to Darwin over to the west coast down to Perth back to Vic, then Tassie in summer and then last up the east coast to Cooktown and back in land, hopefully in about 12 months, Good luck to your familly, might see you around this great country one day. Safe trip
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:30

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:30
There is a heap of info here to give you a good idea of where to go. Have a look under the buttons in the blue bar at the top of the Forum page - Places, treks and Blogs are good places to start looking.

In terms of preparation, strongly suggest that you do some training both for 4W driving and for towing before you set out. Also, do a few short trips before you set out to identify any problems or shortcomings in your rig. Much better to find those things out before you leave home.

Have a great trip,

Val
J and V
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Follow Up By: Baz&Pud (Tassie) - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 14:12

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 14:12
Hi C&C
Totally agree with what's been said above if you haven't had any experience with a 4x4 and towing a van.
Once you have done that the bottom line is head off and go for it, you will never ever regret doing it.
Travel safely and enjoy, you will see some wonderful sights and meet some great people.
Cheers
Baz
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:21

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:21
Good luck with your trip nighttrain. I hope it all works out for you. Thanks John and Val & Baz&Pud for your advice also. We picked up our van last weekend and spent a few nights in it. We love it, that includes the kids. It travels very nicely which is good. Madly measuring everything up to try and make storage more effective in the van. We are planning on doing a few more little trips before we take off.
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Reply By: luckymum - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:57

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:57
Well Im sure we will be seeing you along the way!!

We are leaving from Syd on 22 July and going north. We are only going for 5 months though, Id like to do it for longer but hubby cant get anymore leave from work. So we are 2 adults and 3 kids aged 3,6 and 8. I am so nervous and so excited, we only have 7 weeks to go!!

We have a Jackaroo and a Windsor Rapid. We have only just bought it so did a trial run recently and there was ALOT to learn. The kids loved it and slept really well thankfully. Its not huge but sufficient for 5 months travel.

I havent planned the trip too much, I have only booked the first few nights and then once we get to Qld we are just going to wing it, thats half the fun I rekon! We are going to have accommodation booked for school holiday periods but thats about it.

We have friends who travel Australia non stop (they are retired) and they advised us to just chat to people along the way, they will let us know where to go and what to see. We have been thinking about this for more than a year so we roughly know what to see and where to go. We have a laptop and plan to research places more thoroughly as we get closer to them.

I guess my biggest fear is money, its hard to know how much we are going to need. Petrol prices are insane so thats going to use up most of our weekly budget. Hubby has paid leave plus we are renting out our house while we are away for added income.
AnswerID: 419646

Follow Up By: luckymum - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:58

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 13:58
Sorry forgot to add GOODLUCK......it will be an amazing experience.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:25

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:25
Hi Luckymum, good luck with your trip also. I agree with your statement about being nervious and excited. I also agree with the money concerns as well, we have been told that we need to budget for about $1000 a week which is a fair amount of money but as I have now heard it from a few sources I am assuming it is pretty accurate. Will you guys be online during your trip?
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Follow Up By: luckymum - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:24

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:24
Clint & Chell yes we will be online while we are away as we have a laptop. My email is lisagibson@mail.com if you want to email me or otherwise read our blog. We will have $1000 per week as a budget and anything else will go on our credit card (hopefully not too much!!). We are going to try really hard and stick with that amount.
I have just enrolled my two boys in the Sydney Distance Education Primary School. Its actually alot more involved than I thought it would be. Are you home schooling? Was your school supportive?
Great that you have picked up your van and have done a trial run, thats awesome. I bet you feel alot more comfortable now as we did when our first trip was over.
We leave 22nd July so the count down is well and truly on now!!
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Reply By: SDG - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 14:16

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 14:16
Leaving in July I would suggest going North, then heading west, then when the weather starts getting to warm for you, start heading South.
If you head west from Townsville, stop at Richmond for a couple of days. It is halfway between Townsville and Mt Isa. Try the butchers there. You will not be dissapointed with their snags. Being here you can have a wander/drive around what is called the Dinosaur Trail. You and the kids can even dig for your own fossils, and keep what you find.

Winton has claims to Banjo Patterson? with a musuem to suit, opals, fossilised remains of a Dinosaur stampede that was used for reference in the movie Jurassic Park

Longreach has has a few attractions that may interest you. School of the air, Qantas, Stockmans Museum, to name a few.

Free camping is available at Winton and Longreach, while a caravan park is need in Richmond.

I was at these places last year with the kids and they enjoyed themselves
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:29

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:29
Thanks heaps for your post SDG, I saw an article recently on the Dinosaur Trail, very much looking forward to seeing that in real life. It will be a good lesson for the kids, we can do some home education projects on dinosaurs on the way. Again thanks for the advice, will definately be used.
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Reply By: Member - Teege (NSW) - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:20

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:20
Clint & Chell
25' and you've never towed anything!!! Do yourselves and everybody else on the road a big favour. Pay the money and do a proper caravan towing training course. Please don't give it a miss because of the cost. Professional drivers have to spend thousands to obtain a semi trailer licence and what you are intending to do is just as daunting. Just because the government doesn't have the gumption to make these courses compulsory, or at least issue a separate licence for towing a caravan doesn't mean that you don't need them. Let me tell you, an emergency stop with 3 tonnes of caravan behind you is not a pleasant experience, especially when you've got the missus and kids in with you.
Apart from that good luck to you. Have a great holiday.

teege
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:31

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:31
Thanks for the well wishes Teege. Will look into the location of the closest towing training course thanks.
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Reply By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:39

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:39
Please don't kid yourselves that you can see Australia in a year.
My advise is to pick a few areas that really appeal and spend a few weeks or more exploring each of them and getting to know the people who live and work there. Only then will you 'understand' the place.
Which areas they are that you pick is not that important, but pick them according to the weather.
I reckon I would go south first, and plan on a couple of months in Tassi, then coastal to SW WA heading north in April or so.
Are you home schooling the 7yo?
It will change the kids lives. Yours too. Enjoy.

Cheers,
Peter
OKA196 Motorhome.
AnswerID: 419667

Follow Up By: Peter_n_Margaret - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:43

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:43
ps.............."She'll be right" is fine. It will be. The last thing you need is a detailed "plan". You must be flexable to take advantage of the things that 'just come up'.
Keep away from the cities and the tourist traps. You can see them any time.

Cheers,
Peter,
OKA196 Motorhome.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:34

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:34
Hi Peter_n_Margaret. Thanks for the advice and yes I will be homeschooling both of the children, I thought I would start the 4 year old on homeschooling when we leave so that he is occupied and in the routine of it but obviously not expect too much from him. Why do you ask?
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Reply By: Brian Purdue - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:46

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 17:46
I am barging in here a bit so please excuse me for this suggestion.
Try the secondhand book shops and see if you can find a copy of "Explore Australia" published by Penguin Australia and give it a good read before you move too far.
As commneted elswhere I suggest that you spend a couple of weekends practicing driving with that loooonnng caravan behind you. It takes a bit of starting off and you need to be careful when trying to stop. If you "jack-knife" you may be tempted to call it quits and run.
So practice all you can maybe shopping centre car parks on Sundays but better is the suggestion that you pay your money and get expert tuition.
Have fun.
Brian
AnswerID: 419670

Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:38

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 18:38
Thanks Brian we will have a look for the book. We picked up the caravan from the Gold Coast last weekend and towed it back to Coffs Harbour thankfully with no issues. Have since towed it to a few other areas and will continue to practice before the big trip. As previously stated we will look into training courses. Hubby had been getting weekend lessons from our brother in law who is a truck driver and also has many years experince towing huge horse floats etc.
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Follow Up By: Brian Purdue - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 20:01

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 20:01
If you have no luck with the book, let me know and I will see if I have an old one in the remnants of my collection.
I stopped camping three years ago due to old age and senile decay and have given almost everything away but I think that I still have a copy somewhere.
Regards
Brian.
You can email me at ---- historiwa@hotmail.com.
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Reply By: landed eagle - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:01

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:01
My family did Hobart to Port Douglas last year. If you're looking for good kid friendly (mine were 12 and 14), caravan parks on the coast North of Coffs Harbour right up to Port D, have look at my blog.

www.cooneystour.blogspot.com

Our two kids were well entertained everywhere we stopped.
We basically made it up as we went for the 9 weeks we were away. Only booked ahead in the Cairns area during school holidays.
Most of the places we stayed had good sites for larger vans with the exception of Mission Beach South C/P. A 25 footer would be a tight squeeze there!
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Follow Up By: landed eagle - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:02

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:02
Postings in Sept Oct last year.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:13

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:13
Thanks landed eagle will have a look. Thanks for the heads up about Mission Beach too.
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Reply By: luckymum - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:57

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 18:57
Totally agree with those who suggest a course.

25 foot is massive so you really need to be confident before you head off to explore. We have done a 4WD course which was great and luckily our friends taught my husband how to tow it. He had towed a boat before but thats easier than a van. Honestly there is so much to learn, I was overwhelmed and I never get overwhelmed! I thought we wouldnt learn it all in time before we had to tow it 5 hours home.

You are so lucky to have 12 months, I wish we had that much time.
AnswerID: 419678

Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:17

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:17
Hi Luckymum, yep we are definately blessed to have the freedom to travel, never thought we would do it till the kids had left home and we were in the grey nomad class. Hubby had had a few training lessons with our truck driving borther in law before we pick the van up last weekend from the Gold Coast and drove it home via a few caravan parks along the way to catch up with various friends, thankfully everything went really well and the beauty of caravan parks and the people who frequent them is that if you are ever having any trouble or need advice there is always someone eager to help out.
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Reply By: fugwurgin - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 19:34

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 19:34
hi clint & Chell

my partner and i and our 2 year old left Coffs Harbour mid march. doing exactly what you are about to do except we have a camper trailer.
it is the best experience, we are having a ball. we had no exact plans just a direction of travel. we went to albury first via dubbo zoo, then bendigo, echuca, mildura, lake mungo, broken hill, port augusta, coober pedy and are currently at Uluru. only planned to stay here for 4 nights but have been here 2 weeks already and am not due to leave till early july, heading towards darwin. my partner got offered some work out of the blue so we took the opportunity to stay for a bit and earn some money that will come in handy down the track. once we leave darwin we are heading to WA doing the complete west coast to perth then back home to coffs via great ocean road and east coast.
We wont even scratch the surface of seeing this great country, so we already have plans to do more next year, lol.
we have met some great people on our trip so far doing the same thing.
we chose to this route to chase the sun so when we are up north it wouldnt be the extreme heat.
hopefully we might see each other in our travels and have a yarn about good ol' coffs!
happy travels.
ps thats a huge van!- and by the way my partner saw your post and was wondering if your son went to a childcare centre @ boambee as she thinks she may know you.
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Follow Up By: peterll - Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 23:58

Saturday, Jun 05, 2010 at 23:58
Good luck on your grand adventure because it is really going to be a life changing experience. "IF" you ever decide to return home the kids will have so many stories that will last for years to come.

Like so many others are recommending..do a course in towing..once completed that..practice and practice..hooking up, hill starts, pick a day when the wind is howling and go for a drive with the 4wd and van fully loaded.

It will help if you, as well as your husband, know a little basic mechanics, where bits are and what to do if something stops working. Tyre changing...now there is an exercise all of its own. You wont need to carry a complete workshop but do think about the little things that you can fix on the run..fan-belts, radiator leaks in an emergency.

None of this is meant to frighten..just simple things that you could do without spending too much money.

Books..loads of books, dvd's and talk to the childrens school teachers about learning on the road.

As for where to go ?.. A huge country out there..you are booking the first few days and school holiday times...had to smile when you mentioned the word ..days..you will be gone for 52 weeks and so days will wont be part of your thinking once you are out there.

Once you are out on the road so many things will change to your itinery..so...dont have one..those first few days will teach you so much...how to get in and out of caravan parks, over coming your neighbours..tolerance comes to mind. North in winter..south in summer..travel west to east in windy periods ..effects fuel economy.

Other than my thoughts and the thoughts of all the other experienced travellers..just ...Do It and laugh a lot at life.

One other thing.....road trains...125 tonne at 100kph..takes about 1 kilometre to stop...so please don't pull out of the side road without looking for them..especially in the Territory and northern W.A.

So much to do..so many places to see..good luck and bon voyage

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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:02

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:02
Hi Fugwurgin yep my big baby did go your partners child care centre have been meaning to email her to find out how it is all going but have been trying to get through my assignments and exams at uni, will try and send her one soon. So obviously things are going well which is awesome to hear. It would be fantastic to catch up along the road, who knows it might even be during your trip next year. LOL. Will grab out the map and track where you guys have been to give us an idea of timeframe as well. Take care.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:07

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:07
Hi Peter II. Thanks for the well wishes and the useful advice. We have been very blessed by my daughters school as they are going to support us in educating our children and have provided me with all the books to work through with them and also will provide phone and email support which is fantastic. Funny you should mention 'IF' we come back, we have been saying the same thing. Thanks again.
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Reply By: cycadcenter - Sunday, Jun 06, 2010 at 02:37

Sunday, Jun 06, 2010 at 02:37
First thing I would suggest you do is pull your head out of the sand, the "she'll be right mate" attitude is a poor excuse for lack of planning and consideration for other road users.

First thing I would check is the weight legality of your 4WD and 25' caravan.

Load it up and put it over a weigh bridge and you may be rudely surprised.

As others have suggested do an extensive 4WD and towing course. Next do a short weekend trip just to try it out. The pacific Highway with a 25' caravan is not a suitable place to learn how to tow.

Most sensible people take at least a year in planning such a trip. The ones who don't plan often end up in trouble and are bitterly disapointed when disaster happens.

Bruce
AnswerID: 419716

Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Sunday, Jun 06, 2010 at 16:56

Sunday, Jun 06, 2010 at 16:56
Clint and Chell

I recently read a book called "Adventrures in Caravanstan" by Greg Bearup, a Faifax Journalist who did the same thing a couple of years ago with his wife and young children.
It is published by Random House, you should have no problems getting a copy at Dymocks, Angus & Robertson. It is a good, easy read and in between the various stories there will be a few hints for you.
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:11

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:11
Hi Mark at what I am guessing would be really cold Tamworth. We actually have already got a copy of that book plus a tonne of others we have bought so many books and magazines and spoken to so many people and read so many blogs and forums, that our heads are just spinning. But thanks for the suggestion anyway.
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Follow Up By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Sunday, Jun 20, 2010 at 11:16

Sunday, Jun 20, 2010 at 11:16
Your reply "that book plus a tonne of others"

Just remember that books are heavy and we found not to keep the ones we had read but just change them.

I also note you are measuring up for extra storage in the van.

There is a limit to what you can carry and its hard to keep down to the legal limit without being careful

Could I ask what the ATM on the vans plate is and what you are towing it with.

We have found that we had to empty stuff out to stay legal and there is only two of us.

Just a word to the wise.


Hopefully you also bought a WDH and some good rear vision mirrors with the van.


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Reply By: Mark Howlett - Monday, Jun 07, 2010 at 17:47

Monday, Jun 07, 2010 at 17:47
Hi guys,

We did 6 months in 2008 and have almost finished our website which we've recently put up. The link is below. The preparation page will be finished when I get all of these school reports written!

http://www.howlettsonholiday.com/

Cheers,

Mark.
AnswerID: 419948

Follow Up By: luckymum - Tuesday, Jun 08, 2010 at 18:44

Tuesday, Jun 08, 2010 at 18:44
Mark your website is amazing! I loved reading it all. It is so thorough

We are about to head off for 5 months, I know it wont be long enough but its the best we can do at this stage. Our kids are 3, 6 and 8 and I just know they will love it.

Thanks for sharing.
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Follow Up By: luckymum - Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010 at 18:07

Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010 at 18:07
I have read every word on your website and emailed you a couple of questions, hope you dont mind....
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Follow Up By: Clint & Chell - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:19

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:19
Hi Mark, I will check out your website now.
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Reply By: Member - Graham H (QLD) - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:50

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:50
I am in Coffs at present for a few months and have just completed a 50,000k trip with a 25ft van on the back

If you want to get in touch I may be able to give you some help with itinerey and towing pointers. Check my profile for contact details
AnswerID: 421454

Reply By: harrisinoz - Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:58

Saturday, Jun 19, 2010 at 19:58
Hi Clint and Chell

We are doing the same thing, we are selling our house buying a van and we're off......1 to 2 years or longer, who knows.....or maybe 2 weeks depending how many arguments we have!!!!......

We are leaving the gold coast but depending on when the house sells will tell us which way we are to go. Hubby will be working on the way round and we are looking for a town we can call home.

We haven't planned much, not sure why it takes 2 years to plan all you need is a van, money and off you go (I know I'm going to get some cop for that!) we travelled extensively when we were in our 20's and took each day as it came!

I have two boys 10 and 4 so will be home schooling, this is the only thing that is doing my head in at the moment!!

If you want to chat my email is karen1972@hotmail.com.au, the above is no longer working as someone hacked into it!!

It's very exciting.....

Karen
AnswerID: 421457

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