New Travellers - Single Parent

Submitted: Sunday, Jan 01, 2012 at 22:01
ThreadID: 90943 Views:2333 Replies:11 FollowUps:14
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Hello and Happy New Year!

My son (10) and I (32) are heading off for a 6 month trip in the next couple of weeks. I've spent days researching and reading up about which vehicle and van we'll be needing and where we want to go. We've decided on a 2005 Jayco Swan camper trailer, which I've purchased already, and a Nissan X-Trail, which I still need to find (anyone with a 2001-2005 model they're selling?), with the idea of keeping both after the trip, for future shorter trips, with the car being a suitable every day vehicle also. Thank you kindly forum contributors for all the valuable information I have read!

I'd really like to hear from anyone who is doing, or have done this as a single parent, I'm pretty adventurous, but I must say, I'm a little apprehensive about doing it on my own. I have a childhood history of camping, fishing, hiking etc and I've taken my son camping a few times and he loves it, so I don't imagine we'll have any problems there, and I'm not overly reliant on other adults company, although I enjoy a chat, I'm just as happy on my own. I'll be enrolling Jake in the Distance Ed school and working with him as well throughout, and I really think he will benefit from seeing Oz and being involved.

What are others experiences? even if you aren't a single parent, I'd be interested to hear any feedback you have about potential areas of concern for consideration before we set out. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you all and meeting some of you in person over the next 6 months!

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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:35

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 07:35
Hi Angela, there is a lot to consider, the type of places and roads you will be travelling on, the capabilities of your intended vehicle and Jayco. Alsofree camping makes your trip cheaper but your security needs to be considered. Caravan parks are more secure and will cost around $250 a week but there are plenty of free camp spots around but it would be safer if other families are staying there overnight. Food and fuel costs are generally more expensive away from major towns and camping can be unpleasant in the heat of summer without the home comfort of air con. Vehicle and van servicing may need doing in that six months period. Leave yourself plenty of time in the afternoon when setting up at a new camp site. Getting in by about 4pm will give you a stress free setup and give you time to cook before dark.. Enjoy you trip... Michael
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AnswerID: 473832

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:45

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:45
Hi Michael, thanks for your reply. Yes I've given some thought to the Free Camping and we had considered a motor home which would have made this a bit more possible, but now with the decision to go with a van and car we'll need to be staying in van parks, though we've also looked at a couple of Farm Stay setups whereby we can camp with others and share in the farm life for a short time. These sort of options seem a tad cheaper and from what I can see, some van parks will be less and some will be more so we've factored that in to our costs. Thanks for the other tips too, I'm particularly ensuring that the vehicle and van are up to scratch before leaving. Thanks again.
FollowupID: 748691

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 08:51

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 08:51
Hi Angela,

A 6 month trip with your son sounds like a wonderful adventure. One thing that you might consider is, once you have your tow vehicle, doing a couple of short shakedown trips before you get on the road fulltime. That should allow you to sort out any of the inevitable teething problems while you are still in familiar territory. With both a new (to you anyway) camper and car there are very likely to be things that need sorting out.

Have a great trip.


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AnswerID: 473834

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:47

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:47
Hi Val,

Thanks for the tip, I've purchased the van from a dealer so I know it's as well prepared as possible, they will ensure all the certification and checks are done before hand over, and I'm heading straight to my fathers place in Port Macquarie for first stop for that reason also!
FollowupID: 748692

Reply By: Member - Royce- Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:23

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:23
I headed off 'around the block' for three months in 1994. Just myself and my two kids. Daughter 10 and son 11. It was the best thing I'd ever done. My wife flew up to meet us in Derby WA... we are based in Gippsland Vic.

We free camped most of the time, and in those days had a campfire every night... even in caravan parks! There were also lots more pull off spots beside the outback highways. We travelled in a Lancruiser Troopie with a rooftop tent.

I've travelled ever since. Basically it's all Australia... full of Aussies. Even outback towns have supermarkets and everything you need. I took way too much with me on that first trip.

I think the biggest thing to remember is to carry enough water and food to last a week at all times. Make sure someone knows where you are and where you are going. That way if you don't contact them to say things are okay, they can sound the alarm.

Enjoy the one of the best experiences you will ever have and the pleasure of having a shared experience with your son.

Cheers Royce
AnswerID: 473837

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:51

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 09:51
Thank you kindly for your encouragement Royce and the valuable advice about food and water and making sure someone is tracking us, these are things I hadn't thought too deeply about as yet. It's great to hear that you have done it on your own with children and enjoyed it, I'm sure our trip will pass way too fast but will provide us both a lifetime of memories as yours has!
FollowupID: 748693

Follow Up By: Member - Royce- Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 11:53

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 11:53
And as a follow up.... the year before last my little girl.... by then a mature 26 year old decided that she would like to do her last practical round as a pre-service teacher in Arnhem Land.

The Uni agreed and she packed whatever she though was hand in to her little RAV 4 and headed off. She drove by herself to Manyalaluk and taught for 6 weeks. No worries about doing the trip and not really any special preps. other than vehicle service and packing clothes, cooking gear, food and water, tent and her pushbike!

Both my kids are independent successful people who don't baulk at a challenge and I reckon it stems back to that [and other] trips.

I'm a teacher and for the three months I didn't worry overl about education. I did however negotiate with the kids that they may have to repeat a year of school if they had fallen behind. They hadn't at all though.

FollowupID: 748699

Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:06

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:06
You should have a wonderful time! Distance Ed is also a great experience for you both if you don't get too uptight about it. School work takes a lot less time when it is one on one and if you stay relaxed (you don't want conflict about it!) and organise a simple routine for it you will enjoy the school part of the trip. There will be lots of opportunities to integrate your travel experiences with school. A great idea is for your son to keep a scrapbook/diary of the trip to treasure in the future and help him with his reading and writing and map reading etc. Also send post cards back to stay in touch with school friends for when he returns.
Stop fairly early on travelling days so you have plenty of time to suss out a good spot with like minded people there.
Before you go take a few shakedown trips to caravan parks with family toilet cubicles if possible to make sure your son can handle the shared amenities scene properly. As a 10 year old he may not be able to go into the Ladies with you. Perhaps you should carry a porta potti for emergencies and night time so he doesn't have to go alone to an amenities block you are not happy with.
Carry plenty of water and some food for a few days in case of problems but you won't have trouble buying what you need in most places.
We find we spend about the same on living when travelling as we do at home. If you cook your own meals you save a heap, just as at home!
Keep a budget aside so you can afford the occasional "treat of a lifetime" like the Katherine Gorge" boat trip but avoid obvious tourist rip offs! Enjoy! Lynne
AnswerID: 473840

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:46

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:46
Thank you Lynne, great tips... I will consider a Porta Potti, we did a 9 day camp down the coast over Xmas which he enjoyed, I wasn't too worried about him using amenities on his own at night at first, but then one night he was gone a bit longer and I started to have worrying thoughts so went to find him, of course he was fine, but still... Great idea for sending post cards back, he will love that, and a scrapbook that he can show to his friends, plus we'll keep a blog so the family can be involved in the trip. Thanks for your response.
FollowupID: 748705

Follow Up By: Member - John Baas (WA) - Tuesday, Jan 03, 2012 at 21:46

Tuesday, Jan 03, 2012 at 21:46
The porta potti concept for safety reasons is a good idea, but a really cheap alternative is an old 2l cordial bottle which you/he just empty down the toot in the morning. I've used this option for far more years than I can remember. Even when I'm tenting in trackless wastes, I still use the old bottle trick rather than get the wind between the legs on a cold night.

Sometimes, basic is just the best, and he's probably only going to need to do #1's. :-)

And... it's fantastic what your planning. Best wishes and great travels...

FollowupID: 748813

Reply By: Member - Alastair D (NSW) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:39

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 10:39
I am sure you will have a great trip with your son. Others have given you some good advice, the one thing I would add is to avoid filling up your vehcile and van with lots of gear and stuff that you think you might need. Start with the real basics and add others things as you find a real NEED. Travelling light puts less stress on the vehicle and yourself as packing and unpacking is much easier. It is amazing how little you need if you keep things simple.

Have a happy time.
AnswerID: 473845

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:48

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 12:48
Thanks Alastair, I have made a list, so I will do some further considering and culling before leaving. Just for camping our car was packed, so I'm going to need to be a bit more wise about what to take, plus allowing room for any additions on the way if need be. Hopefully the Xtrail will hold more than the Accord did :)
FollowupID: 748706

Reply By: Member-George (WA) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 13:51

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 13:51
Hi Angela,
All I can say, in addition to what is already said, JUST DO IT. I consider Australia still to be the best and safest country for camping. Providing you are sensible about your stopping places you will have a wonderfull time.
If you are considering travel in some of the more isolated places I would strongly recommend you install a HF radio. I will give you peace of mind and you will always be able to contact someone when in trouble, mechanical, personal etc.
Join a National radio organisation, I do have a vested interest here, like VKS-737, Australia National 4WD Radio Network. I can send you more details regarding this if you wish. Good luck and safe travelling. Cheers
AnswerID: 473860

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 14:40

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 14:40
Thanks George, this trip we probably won't be doing anything very remote, but we are considering traveling from lower SA back up through Alice and up the top of QLD before heading back down the coast as we're just not sure yet whether we'll be able to do the whole perimeter in 6 months, but will let you know as we get closer if needed. Thanks again.
FollowupID: 748712

Reply By: Marny - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 13:52

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 13:52
G'day and good luck with your trip. I am just a little concerned about you towing a swan with an xtrail. I have a swan and they are rather heavy (push 1.5t fully loaded) Is there any way you can hire / borrow an xtrail for a weekend to see if it is up to the task? Would hate to see you buy a car and then find out you have to wring its neck to bust 80. Cheers Marn
AnswerID: 473861

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 14:35

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 14:35
Hi Marn,

From what I have read it should be fine and we won't be carrying excessive additional weight, given we'll be staying predominately in van parks. But having said that, it would be good to know where this stands with the specs, if you could help me out with the calculation please? It looks ok to me, but I'm a total newbie to caravanning.

Here are the weights;

X-trail weight: 1440kg
Maximum towing Braked: 2000kg
Maximum ball weight: 150kg

Empty Van: 1040kg
Tow Ball Weight: 90kg

My son and I weight 120kg together and I imagine we'll be carrying a couple hundred kg's of gear in the x-trail and same in the van, plus fuel. Gas bottles will be full, water tank? grey water?

This is all new to me, thanks in advance!

FollowupID: 748711

Follow Up By: Bazooka - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 20:03

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 20:03
Hope you both have a great time and the weather's kind. Just a reminder not to tow in overdrive to protect your gearbox.
FollowupID: 748743

Follow Up By: Marny - Tuesday, Jan 03, 2012 at 09:39

Tuesday, Jan 03, 2012 at 09:39
While it will still be within the manufacturers specs, i know from experience that towing that size van can become a task when hills or head winds are brought into the equation. If you can afford go the diesel model it would be more suited to towing duties. Cheers marn
FollowupID: 748762

Reply By: Member - Roy E (QLD) - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 15:11

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 15:11
Hi Angela,

Depending on your route and if you are planning any remote sections have you considered a spot tracker which allows you to check in with your farther (via satellite) or whoever and also gives you some peace of mind if you get really stuck and need help from search and rescue etc? My wife and I used one recently to keep a friend of ours in Bris updated on progress and also to let friends back in the U.K. follow us on Google as we toured remote parts of NT.

Also the comment about shakedown trips before leaving is very important, not only from the point of view of checking that everything works but also that you take with you whats needed and leave at home what isn't. Its amazing what you find isn't packed in the right place, you don't have, or something you have you wish you had paid a little more or little less, after 100's of K's remote travel we have it sussed more or less but were still learning :)

The spot is available on this site as well as many other places and is great peace of mind, it will also allow you to record your journey with photos against the trip which is awesome when you get back and want to know exactly where you have been.

Have a great time!

AnswerID: 473870

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:20

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:20
Hi Roy, I was looking at that satellite tracking thing on here last night, very interesting... we'll certainly get that hooked up before we leave. It will be good to be able to see where we've been plus have family keeping an eye on us. we're up with all the modern technology too, what with online video chat, iphone/ipad etc so no fears about losing contact with anyone!

Thanks for reaffirming the shakedown trip, I'll head up the coast for a weekend before we leave fully and take my brother with me to iron out any problems. Hopefully not too many..
FollowupID: 748722

Reply By: Member - Old Girl - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:04

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:04
Hi Angela, when we had the Jayco like yours i struggled with the fridge. A great way to overcome this is a car fridge. If the model on your van fridge dosnt have a T (tropical) on it you will have troubles up north.we had the same trouble up yeppoon in the caravan. another handy tip, we use one of those bulk tubs with a sealed lid that had washing powder in for the water that comes out of the sink instead of a sullage hose. As others have mentioned a potable pottie, use nappy san home brand instead of the chemicals in the bottom tank and a sharp spade. A little washing up liquid in the top water tank is the go. We had no troubles with spillage, just kept it wrapped in a cheap tarp for piece of mind when on the move.
Best of luck, keep a blog on Eo so we can follow your adventure.
AnswerID: 473876

Follow Up By: AngelaANDJake - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:24

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:24
Thanks for the heads up on the fridge, I'll check it out when I go down tomorrow. Do you think it will still struggle about the April - June time up north? we could always purchase a little waeco for that month or so if need be, though I'd prefer not to...I was reading somewhere about having the fridge modified for more air circulation, better seals etc, I'll ask the caravan place if this is possible also. Why don't you use a sullage hose? (sorry if that's a silly question... lots to learn!)
FollowupID: 748723

Reply By: Member - Old Girl - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:45

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:45
Not a silly question at all. Easier to empty the bucket for those quick over night stops than rolling up a wet hose. I found a lot of little tricks when travelling solo as you will too.
AnswerID: 473881

Reply By: Member - Old Girl - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:45

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 16:45
Not a silly question at all. Easier to empty the bucket for those quick over night stops than rolling up a wet hose. I found a lot of little tricks when travelling solo as you will too.
AnswerID: 473882

Follow Up By: Member - Old Girl - Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 22:40

Monday, Jan 02, 2012 at 22:40
Oops sorry doubled up.
FollowupID: 748756

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