The grey nomad lifestyle: Caravan tips and tricks you need to know

Oct 26, 2019
Brian and his wife didn't want to spend their retirement watching television and hanging out at the local club. Source: Getty

Cruising around in a 4WD with a caravan attached to the back is the retirement dream for many over-60s after they have given up work for good, and more and more older Aussies are embracing the grey nomad lifestyle.

So-called grey nomads are setting off on tours across the country with their partner, a group of friends or even by themselves, as they explore the vast landscape of Australia. However if you are thinking of jumping on the bandwagon and becoming a grey nomad yourself, there are a few things you should consider before beginning your great adventure.

Make a packing checklist

How often do you get in the car to go to the airport and realise you have left something behind at home? With so many clothes and toiletries to pack it’s really no surprise that things get missed along the way.

But when you’re travelling in a caravan or camping the list of things to pack is much longer with everything from food to cutlery and those emergency pieces of equipment to remember. Making a checklist is essential when packing for a holiday, so be sure to jot everything down and mark it off once you’ve packed it.

Some essentials include a fire extinguisher, a caravan jack, towing mirrors, extra coolant and oil and insulation tape. While cutlery, plates, bowls and enough food to sustain you until you reach a town with a supermarket is also vital.

A clever packing tip is to put the heaviest items where there is the most support, so in the middle, above the wheels. The lighter things can be placed in the top cupboards and those in between items should go at either end of the caravan to even out the weight.

One way to limit weight and reduce risk of breakage is to carry seasonings in straws by sealing with a lighter, filling and sealing again. Meanwhile, you can use a cereal container and plastic bag as a spill-proof rubbish holder.

Don’t rush on the road

Although you’ve probably been stuck behind a caravan or camper in the past when cruising down a highway, you must resist the temptation to rush when behind the wheel – slow and steady really does win the race when it comes to towing a caravan.

Going too fast on the road will not only drain your fuel but put your life – and the lives of others – at serious risk. Windy conditions can sway your caravan from side to side, with the risk of the car veering off the road or into oncoming traffic.

If you find other road users are getting fed up with your slow speed, make sure to turn off at vehicle turnarounds to give them a chance to overtake. Meanwhile, to avoid running low on fuel or draining your funds at the petrol station, use the MotorMouth app or Compare the Market to find the cheapest petrol prices.

Work together

If you’re travelling with a partner then you really have to work as a team. This is particularly important when you arrive at a caravan park and need to set the caravan up in its dedicated spot.

You’ll need adequate communication skills to get the caravan where it needs to be, so hand signals, or perhaps a two-way radio, are good options. It could take some time to get it right, but be patient and you’ll get there.

Establish a routine

After hours on the road the last thing you need is to spend hours setting up camp. It may take a bit of trial and error but if you come up with a routine to follow once you arrive at your destination, it will cut down on time significantly and give you more opportunities to relax and take in the sights.

Caravans all differ, but generally you have to unhitch it from your car, put on the caravan’s hand break and move the vehicle away. Next you must make sure the caravan is level. A handy tip is to carry a few pieces of wood with you to place underneath if the ground is uneven.

Next, set up the gas and water systems and connect the power. If it looks like rain is on the way or the ground is a bit damp, you can keep power cord connections protected by passin them through an upside down bucket with two holes in the sides.

Give each other space

If you’re both new to retirement then the prospect of being together 24/7 can take some getting used to. Caravanning can put the relationship to the test and living in such close quarters may spark arguments.

You may chose to set aside some time each day to spend apart, whether it’s going for a walk or reading a book. Taking that down time alone or with others can help to clear the mind and reduce the risk of disagreement.

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