Whether it's in a free camp or park, most RVers love a chat and to share their stories. It doesn't matter where you come from, what you do (or did) for a living or how much you earn, there is always room for a connection and the exchange of invaluable information that makes life on the road that much easier.
Here are some hot tips we gathered while on a half lap of Australia in our motorhome.
Don’t take too much along with you and remember the weight restrictions if you are towing a caravan.
Again, don’t take too much. Remember the 3:1 tops-to-bottoms ratio.
Pack hot and cold weather clothes separately. They can be stored away when not needed. It’s also helpful to pack clothes in green, reusable shopping bags — they fit perfectly into most RV cupboards and are easy to pull in and out.
IF YOU DON’T USE IT, LOSE IT
Place a coloured sticker on all those things you packed because you knew they would ‘come in handy’. As you use them, remove the sticker. If, after three months, the sticker is still there, leave this item home on your next trip.
‘TO DO’ LIST
Have a checklist for the necessary tasks before you take off. For example, close all the windows and skylights, put the antenna down, lock doors, drawers and the fridge, and detach from power and water — don’t laugh, I’ve seen people drive off while still hooked up!
ONLY TAKE THINGS WITH TWO USES
You’ll see lots of examples in these tips — microfibre cloths, buckets, paper towels, Chux wipes, sarongs, takeaway containers, cordial bottles, shopping bags, and doggy doo bags.
For washing clothes, grab a big bucket with a lid. Add water, wool wash and dirty clothes then put on the lid and drive. Agitation while driving washes clothes and, because you’ve used wool wash, you don’t need to rinse.
Takeaway containers fit perfectly in the tiny onboard fridges, and the lids help keep them in place when stacking.
OFF TO THE SHOW!
The showgrounds can often offer a cheap place to stay — sometimes with power.
TRASH AND TREASURE
Op shops are perfect for when you break or lose something while on your travels and need to replace it — think saucepans, casserole dishes, coffee cups, and even champagne glasses!
For those with onboard showers, stand in one of those big flexible buckets (available from stores such as Kmart and local hardware shops). Save the water in the bucket so you can wash your feet later. Or, add dirty clothes to stand on and stomp while washing yourself, killing two dirty birds with one wash.
Boil water once in the morning and store in a thermos for use during the day. This will saves gas and make morning tea and lunch stops even easier.
Two-litre cordial or milk containers full of ice make great blocks for the bottom of Eskys and also save on the amount of ice you need to buy.
REDUCE AND RE-USE
Insulated shopping bags make the best toiletries bags. They are waterproof, so they can stand on the ground, and are large enough to carry all your toiletries, clean underwear and a towel. They also make great beach bags.
Bathmats are a little bit of luxury and are so good to have when you get out of the shower and don’t want to try the balancing act on your thongs... Buy cheap and small ones from IKEA, $2 shops or op shops. Microfibre cloths can also double as great mats and are easy to wash.
FUEL FOR THOUGHT
Always have a jerry can of spare fuel.
Always top up wherever you can. Don’t wait until the tank is almost empty or you may get caught short in the middle of nowhere.
VACUUM SEAL MEAT
This will keep your meat/fish/vegies fresh for up to five times longer than when it’s not vacuum-sealed. You can buy your own machine for about $130 from places like Target. It’s really handy if you like (and catch) fish. Lots of local butchers will also vacuum seal meat for a small price if you ask them, plus they definitely appreciate your business.
SHED SOME LIGHT
Everyone has their own special torch. Some like a tiny torch attached to their keys, or perhaps one with a magnet. I like my head torch with rechargeable batteries. It’s on your head so you don’t have to hold it and, apart from looking a bit geeky, it comes in very handy for midnight walks to the loo or nights out fishing on the jetty.
Freeze a few dinners in takeaway containers and use them as ice when you set out on your trip. This can also be done at each caravan park stop — take advantage of the camp kitchens.
Learn to love it as it doesn’t need refrigeration until it’s opened. Perfect for long-haul adventures.
Plan your meals and shop accordingly, then buy a few cupboard staples such as baked beans or cans of soup for when you are caught short or just decide somewhere is so nice you want to stay longer.
Be aware of quarantine and food restrictions when crossing state borders to avoid having to throw out valuable food. Fresh fruit, veggies and honey will be confiscated.
H2O ON THE GO
Always have plenty of spare water. We take four 10L plastic containers and replace or refill them as we use them.
Worth their weight (and more) in gold — especially if you’re heading to the outback. The further inland you go, the more expensive they get. Not only do they keep the pesky flies at bay, the nets also act as a sunshade for your face.
Zip locks have so many uses — they save space in fridges and cupboards for leftovers or half-used open packets of biscuits (that never happens with me!). They act as a waterproof container when carrying bits and pieces — even mobile phones — in backpacks next to water bottles. They can also be washed out and re-used again. They may also be used for smelly bait or fishing rigs, weights etc if you don’t want to carry a tackle box with you.
Another best friend on the road are paper towels. Save water and use them to wipe your dinner plates instead of using valuable water to rinse them, or to wipe off most dirt before a wash. They can be used to dry dishes as well or wipe up spills, then use them as a fire starter.
Some people don’t like using paper and choose Chux wipes instead. They do the same trick as paper towels, but you can wash and reuse them.
Heard of a ‘Pommy bath’? Wet wipes are brilliant when you have no, or limited water. Start with your face and work your way down! Don’t throw them into the toilet — even if they say they're flushable, they're not.
Specs, batteries, screws, nuts, and hose fittings (for when you leave yours attached to the caravan park taps).
Start collecting (and hiding them) for use in caravan park washing machines.
Pack a selection of glues, tapes, cable ties, ropes, sharp knife, lighter/matches and a Leatherman or multi-tool.
FIRST AID KIT
Don’t leave home without this. Basics such as Band-Aids, pain killers and antihistamines can make life comfortable and bandages and knowledge can save lives — and do a first aid course before you leave home.
Great to fix leaks, cracks, broken bits and pieces and can trip-proof many a hazard like cords running across the ground.
Bulk buy and take it everywhere.
Take books, books and more books (maybe on a Kindle to save room), puzzles, playing cards as well as crosswords, plus pen and paper for keeping score.
Reduce tripping hazards at night by placing some of these cheap lights around tent ropes and awning struts. Pool noodles cut in half and wrapped around ropes also stop many a hazard.
These great inventions have saved many a partnership on the road. Telling the driver to go left or right and back up just a smidge more is much nicer than yelling at them and hoping they hear you. They can also help keep track of the kids.
Buy an over-the-door hook to take to the shower block — there are never enough hooks or shelves.
Hardware stores sell screw packs that make great snack packs. You’ll find that you eat more healthy options on the road, and save cash as well.
Spread talcum powder around any structure that touches the ground (like tyres or awning struts) to stop ants climbing up inside your van.
So many tips on how to prevent and then how to deal with midge bites:
- Take Vitamin B Tablets to prevent being bitten.
- Antihistamines can help stop itching.
- Tea tree oil dabbed on open sores helps heal them and ease itching.
- Dipping a teaspoon in boiling water then dabbing bite mark gently and quickly until you can hold it down for longer helps ease pain.
- Some people swear by squeezing the bite and releasing the toxins.
Have one of these packed and ready to use with all the essentials — water, sunblock, fly nets, insect spray, Band-Aids and hats.
Sarongs work in so many ways. Handy to wear to the beach or to the shower, extra shade hanging from awnings, handy curtain and can double as a temporary sheet.
If you have to use them, they also come in handy as fire starters.
DOGGY POO BAGS
You can buy whole rolls of these biodegradable bags and, apart from their obvious use, they make great rubbish bags.
SUPPORT THE LOCALS
This can come in various forms. Buying petrol is a necessity, but maybe also hit the local bakery for morning tea essentials, buy meat from the local butcher (who may even vacuum seal it for you), or eat out one night at the local pub or cafe.
Never leave your vehicle unlocked — even if you’re just ducking to the loo. Don’t tempt thieves by leaving valuables in sight. And don’t leave anything of value near the door — it’s very easy and quick for them to reach in and steal your keys, handbag or your camera.
TALK TO PEOPLE
It’s the best way to learn the ropes and pick up new tips on places to go, things to see and more handy hints for on the road.
If you’re like me, you’ll need a journal or two to record all the fabulous times you are having.
Every day as if it’s your last!