Will an "Expanda type" van suit us or full van the way to go?

Submitted: Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 12:03
ThreadID: 95264 Views:6329 Replies:8 FollowUps:12
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Hi, we are a family of 4 (girl 8, boy 5) that are looking to do "the big lap" in 18 months time. We have just spent 3 days at the Syd Caravan & camping Show and thought we knew what we wanted. Now, I'm not so sure!!

Before going to the show I was really keen on the Jayco Expanda's. It seemed that a lot of families doing this trip are using them. I liked the idea of not travelling too big but having space inside the van for the extended period we will be living in it. When we had a look however, the fold out queen bed was too short for both of us to sleep in. My husband is 6'2" and I am 6'! I was really disappointed as I had this as "the one"!!

So we had pretty much decided that we would go with a 21'6" (internal) Retreat Daydream. Liked the look, layout and structural soundness. Then I got back on the forums and found a lot of people saying how restrictive a big van can be. That was what I was afraid of. We want to be able to go offroad as much as is possible and free camp as much as we can too.

We will be getting a cruiser to tow with, but still concerned about a big, heavy van. A forum post I found mentioned the Windsor Rapid 592. We didn't look at any other expanda-types at the show as we thought they would all be the same as the Jayco.

Does anyone have that kind of van with beds that would suit our height, or is an island bed the only way to go? We want toilet, shower and washing machine. Any advice or thoughts are valued.


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Reply By: achjimmy - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 12:39

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 12:39
Hi Dianne

yes the expandas beds have been shorter since they went to hardlids in 2008. iam 6ft and only manage because of the extra length if you sleep on the inside. the outer sleeper is limited in length and you ideally dont want to be streching out against the canvas if its wet. i do not know if the Rapids beds are longer but they are good vans by all accounts. The only thing i have noticed with a couple of Rapids touring around is beds that have bowed presumably from Kids jumping on them?
AnswerID: 484623

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 21:11

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 21:11
Thanks achjimmy for reply! As I thought with the jayco! Sounds like something to keep an eye on with the rapids although I thought I had seen somewhere that they are rated to hold 300kg.
FollowupID: 759922

Reply By: The Landy - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 13:33

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 13:33

Travel will always be a compromise, so I’ll offer up a question, rather than an answer.

How important is it to have toilet, shower, and washing machine, and how will your trip be affected without them (could be positive & negative). They sound like great additions, but to get them you will need to go into a van of reasonable size. Adds to cost, might be limiting in some cases, and less flexible...

There are plenty of camper trailers that provide a lot of configuration options that allow quick overnight stays, to more elaborate set-ups for extended stays. Is it an option to go this way, which potentially makes travel easier in terms of access to off-road? This type of travel can be combined with overnight, or multiple days in cabin style accommodation, enabling re-stocking, washing, and a break for being in the caravan, or camper trailer. Something you might find welcoming when out on the road for extended periods.

Good luck with it, and enjoy the trip when you head-off!

AnswerID: 484627

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 21:44

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 21:44
Hi Landy,
Valid points offered above. I do know that we don't want to do camper trailer (a little bit too hard core for me). Compromise is an expander style. We've been told and read that a washing machine will pay for itself in no time, especially as we are looking to travel for 12 - 24 months. I am also now starting to evaluate whether we can do without a bathroom, but not convinced.
Not looking to do full offroad with van as we will go off in car and camp but don't want to be limited to where we can go because of size and weight.

It all gets so confusing!
:-) Di
FollowupID: 759930

Reply By: shanegu6 - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 14:12

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 14:12
We returned in December 2011 from 16 months travel around oz. We have a 6 and 3 year old. We started the trip with a 17"6 coromal corvair pioneer dual axle, reasonable offroad van. Double bunks, no shower or toilet.

After 10 months we traded it for a 23" royal flair family flair van with triple bunks, separate shower and toilet, no washing machine.

We did a lot of free camping as well as van parks. We got tired of not having the shower and toilet in the free camping spots. We do a lot of off road travel as well, so we leave the van in places and the patrol is fully set up for remote works. We had 4 swags with us ( tucked inside the tinny on the roof).

You will never be able to have everything. In saying that the next time we go we'll get a Kimberley camper trailer with boat loader to save the back tracking to get the van. The Kimberley has a shower room attachment on the side.

Happy journey.
AnswerID: 484632

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:34

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:34

Did you notice a difference between the two vans with getting into places or caravan parks? Were you restricted with the bigger van? We have got a tent to go more remote with too.

Any other advise on what you found to be essential?

many thanks,

FollowupID: 759941

Reply By: Roughasguts - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 14:38

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 14:38
I have a Rapid! fold out both ends, and the dinning area at the front so when the cushions are down we can sleep long ways which is around 7"8 of sleeping space.

I sleep there with Kids 12, 9, and 3, so they watch T.V all good fun for them.

Bowed bed ends interesting... mine haven't and I have yet to see one bent!
But I think it's possible if you try to fold the bed ends up with out un locking the fold down bracket from inside the van. Operator error I would expect.

AnswerID: 484635

Follow Up By: achjimmy - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:13

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:13
interesting i just presumed abuse as the build quailty on the Rapids i always thought pretty good. the two vans i saw were at Kahncobin and Batemans bay, think i even got a photos somewhere. the Khancobin one was definetly feral kids they were carrying on a treat, cant say about the other.
FollowupID: 759935

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:44

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:44
What are the beds like if you are to sleep along them? Same as Jayco, do you know? How do you find the canvas ends, do they get really cold or hot?

What size rapid do you have?

Sorry for all the questions, but am regretting not looking at other models at the show now.
FollowupID: 759943

Follow Up By: Grumblebum and the Dragon - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 08:20

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 08:20
I personally would not like an expanda type - more better the full hard top family van. Much better insulation, you have to view how any prospective purchase would be like under all weather conditions. Plus I think with kids a combined shower toilet and adequate water tanks are the way to go - especially if free camping

It is better that you were disapointed now rather than after you had paid out $$$$ to buy.

One way out of the short bed problem (common to many vans) is to have a full width section of foam made up, the same thinkness as the existing mattress and just as long as the required extra length.

During the day is resides hidden under the pillows at the head of the bed. At night just slide the mattress down a little and drop the foam filler into the gap created and push the mattress back. I have used this for 7 years and I am 6' 5."
FollowupID: 759962

Follow Up By: Roughasguts - Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 17:27

Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at 17:27
Well the matresses are just that! if they were inner spring they be comfortable but as these foam cushions are there just adequate.

No no problem with the canvas ends there seems to be enough over hang to keep them dry no problem with cold or hot either.

But with caravans there are other issues with condensation on the bed ends above where you sleep in the right conditions you can get drips, then a soggy damp matress in the morning which eventually turns to mould. I have one window that leaks when it's really pouring down! thought I had fixed it but nup.

There are really exy mats you can buy to put under the matress to circulate the air but geeez you would think the manufacturer would clear these common issues up for us buyers.

All good fun though and part of the experiance.....anyway the kids love the caravan so it's all good.

Think mine is 4.32m folded, 6 and a bit metres when extended.

FollowupID: 760082

Reply By: mick - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 15:30

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 15:30
Hi Dianne,

I would recommend the Expanda 18-57.6. The best of both worlds. It's a full van with the kiddies having bunk beds and the main bed is fold out. Toilet/shower which is MUST and larger fridge.


AnswerID: 484642

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:49

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 22:49
Hi Mick,

We were looking at the 18-57.9 originally but my husband just felt too long for the mattress, hence we started looking more at the full vans. I like the Jayco's for that very reason - best of both worlds. They had heaps of storage too which I loved.
FollowupID: 759945

Reply By: nowimnumberone - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 18:23

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 18:23
Ji Shane and Diane
We recently bought a 16ft expanda and love it best of both worlds
Im just over 6fft and have no problems getting comfy in bed.
If i stretch right out my toes just hang over the matress.
Thers only my wife 11 yo daughter and myself so we went the 16 footer with shower toilet because we dont need bunks.
As said above the 18 ft expanda has all you need.
AnswerID: 484655

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 23:10

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 23:10
Maybe it's worth another look. It's hard to get an idea when there are no pillows to give a guide as to where your head is and therefore your toes! What's your take on the canvas ends, re hot and cold weather? Does your bedding go against the canvas at all? Thinking of the wet here.

FollowupID: 759950

Follow Up By: nowimnumberone - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 07:47

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 07:47
Hi Di
My wife sleeps on the canvas end of the bed.
We havnt had many really wet days yet.Afew over Crissy and last week end.
No trouble with wet she just got a little cold pulled some more doona over her way and was sweet.
Thers plenty of diverent weather screens around.Plastic ones seem popular help keep it a little warm and dry.
Have a look over at expandasdownunder.com plenty of info there.
FollowupID: 759961

Reply By: landed eagle - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 18:39

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 18:39
Why not a Work 'n'play Jayco. Shower and toilet and fold out bed at front with single beds in the back or take them out and install your own bed.Plenty of room to store the 'stuff' that goes with small kids.

I was talking to an elderly gent in Tassie who was travelling here from the mainland and he had one of these vans and he had a full on loungeroom in the back. Very comfy.
AnswerID: 484656

Follow Up By: Shane & Dianne D - Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 23:21

Monday, Apr 30, 2012 at 23:21
We saw these a couple of months ago when we had a look around Jayco. They do look pretty cool. Definitely plenty of room to take the push bikes!!

At the end of the day, have to make sure hubby and I fit on the fold down bed and are comfortable. Lots to think about.

Thank you :-)
FollowupID: 759951

Follow Up By: landed eagle - Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 06:47

Tuesday, May 01, 2012 at 06:47
I have a 16-49-3 Outback Expanda. Did a 9 week trip in 2009 with my two kids who at the time were 11 + 13. I'm 6'1 and we got around the bed width/length problem by top and tailing in the beds. Me and the young bloke at the back and the mrs and daughter in the front .That way I was always on the inside of the bed with plenty of footroom. Kids being smaller meant a bigger area to sleep on and when we got to Nth Qld the extra space to sleep was good for a cooler night .
It was only 9 weeks but we could have continued for as long as we wanted. No grumbles at all.
We did a similar trip for 5 weeks in 2010 with same arrangement and all was good. Only took half the stuff from the first trip though! 'Tis surprising how much stuff you don't need.
I'd take the bunks out of the work n play and put in my own bed from home.Let the kids share the front bed.
FollowupID: 759960

Reply By: ao767brad - Saturday, May 05, 2012 at 06:13

Saturday, May 05, 2012 at 06:13
Hi, I have commented in the past on this topic after having done 3 months with 2 kids in 2011 in our Windsor rapid and being 6'3" with a wife who is 6'2". The expanda/rapid/transforma depending on manufacturer name does a good job for a family touring, all the benefits stated by the manufacturers do exist, but as a previous reply stated you must take a pillow with you when you test the bed length as that few inches in from the side makes the difference when you are going to do it night after night. It is all well and good for a week here and there but on a really long trip can be a pain if you can't stretch out. We started out sleeping east west across the van but within 6-7 days we resorted to sleeping the other way along the length of the van with the couch extending the bed to over 7 foot long. The different models all use different bed end folding techniques, again no trouble for infrequent users but any extra 5 minutes to setup night after night had us chose the rapid over the jayco/coromal/other brands, as it was 2 handles unlocked and each bed was done. The condensation inside the bed ends is a nothing, we camped in below zero temps a number of times with no condensation with 4 occupants. The irony is we had the offroad model and with a full size van we would not have seen half the places we went, yet we came home and sold the rapid to buy a full height 20ft long van with combined shower/toilet due to amount of free camping we did which will probably not see too many really remote areas. Unless money is abundant you will end up with a compromise no matter what you buy. Brad
AnswerID: 485008

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