You, Your Caravan And The Road: A Trip Planning Guide
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Congratulations, you’ve made the leap and bought your own “hotel on wheels.” Whether it’s a brand spanking new off the lot, or a fixer-upper from some dude on Craigslist, it’s yours now and so too is the freedom that comes with it.
The ability to take off whenever you want and sleep (pretty much) wherever you want and not have to pay for a hotel room. The ability to cook on the road and not have to pay for terrible take-out food or even spend lavishly on good meals. You can make your own in your self-contained unit. You also have the ability to not rely on ice packs and bags and bags of ice and can now (probably) refrigerate your own food, too.
There are so many advantages to buying a Mazda 4x4 caravan that it’s a miracle more people aren’t doing it, and no surprise that some are even choosing to live full-time in their caravan. Here’s how to plan your own magnum opus of a journey in your caravan, whether you’re travelling across states, continents or countries.
Go for a test drive
You can’t start if you don’t know where you’re going. Therefore, the most important thing to do is to pick a destination. It might be worth starting off small first, just to get used to your new rig. Take a few smaller overnight trips — test what to pack and what to leave, what works and what doesn’t, what systems might need upgrades or maintenance before you hit the road for the long haul. After you’ve done a few of these overnight trips, stretch it out to a week, before you finally set off on your long-haul journey. Don’t be afraid to make changes.
Get it inspected and insured
You could do this first, but it might be worth holding off until you have some short trips under your belt — however, before you leave for any long-haul trip, you must get your caravan inspected (this is particularly wise if it is a used purchase) and insured before you hit the road. Depending on where you’re going, you might need to buy a comprehensive insurance plan to cover you no matter where you go.
Get your brakes checked
While this may be covered under your maintenance inspection, it’s critically important that your brakes get checked, particularly if they’re electric brakes (more common on newer caravan models), as any electrical failure can be slightly more difficult to diagnose and repair than mechanical brake failures. But your brakes will be the thing that may save your life, or save your caravan from certain death, so get them checked before you head out.
Pack well and bear weight in mind
Every caravan towed behind a vehicle has a maximum weight limit. It is critically important that you know what this limit is and if your caravan falls below it. Legally, for everyone’s safety on the road (including yours and your family’s), your caravan cannot exceed this limit. That’s why it’s important to establish a lightweight packing list that’s reusable and small so as not to overburden your caravan’s frame and cause issues.
Prepare for emergencies
Nobody likes to think about it, but it’s important to ensure that your emergency preparedness is up-to-date. You’ll want to ensure that you have an emergency checklist of things that are in your caravan and that you know where they are.
A designated ‘emergency’ cupboard could be a good idea — this should contain a fully stocked first aid kit, flares, emergency tire patch kit (in case you get a flat), a radio and spare batteries, some extra food and water, a tire iron, a pump and a fire extinguisher.
You hope you’ll never have to use any of the above, but the difference between life or death in an emergency situation often comes down to how prepared you are to handle whatever you’re faced with.
Curate an incredible road trip playlist
This is not essential, but no road trip is ever complete without a playlist. Pool your family resources and have each member make their Spotify selection of songs to play while on the road. This way, nobody feels excluded and sibling rivalry over musical choice doesn’t detract from a great family experience.
Be sure to pack the tech
If you’ve got young-adult kids, chances are they’re well-versed in technology. Kids often complain about being bored on road trips, one of the ways to avoid this — unless you want to go with the whole ‘embrace nature’ stance (fair play to you) is to make sure that you’ve packed their essential technology. The iPad or Laptop should definitely be coming with if only to steer away boredom once you’ve found a place to park if they’re not interested in going for a hike.
Create a budget and stick to it
Creating a budget with a caravan is fairly simple. You likely have simple cooking capabilities - stove-top cooking only, with a mini-fridge and possibly some counter space for meal prep and small cupboards for storage. You can’t pack every food item imaginable.
Freeze-dried meals or dry food like noodles are a great alternative. Perhaps some chicken breasts that can be fried up, even fruits and vegetables (these can be steamed — though make sure the windows are open for adequate ventilation) are easy to pack and store. Water and other drinks that can be refrigerated easily enough are certain favourites.
Pack simple food that’s quick and easy to make. You don’t have the space or the amenities to be complicated and fancy. Travelling by caravan is certainly fun and exciting and can even be life-changing. Pick your destination, make sure your caravan is road-safe and is well-packed, and that you’re prepared for any eventuality. Hit the road and enjoy the ride.