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Are you planning a lap of Australia with your family? It’s a big move to pack everything up and leave ‘normal’ life behind whilst you take your family around Australia on the Big Lap.
Despite this, it’s becoming increasingly common for families to do exactly this over 3 months, 6 months, a year or much, much longer in some cases.
This guide is going to help you know where to start with planning trip around Australia with kids from a family that are doing exactly that right now!
The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Lap Of Australia With Kids
In today’s post, we’re talking all about planning a lap of Australia with your family and diving into everything you’d need to think about before packing up and driving off into the sunset.
While we haven’t done this ourselves (yet) here at Four Around The World, we are lucky enough to have a special guest to share his experience of travelling Australia full-time with kids.
Introduction – Aaron From 4WDing Australia
I’m Aaron, and my wife is Sarah, and together we’ve been on the road for just over a year now with our two boys, 5 and 7.
Our plans to travel this big, beautiful country began a long time prior to that though, and we’ve been making incremental moves for the better part of a decade, to make it all happen as smoothly as possible.
We’re travelling in a 2016 Isuzu Dmax 4WD, and a Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hybrid Caravan (or Hypercamper, as the manufacturer calls them), and there’s been a lot of thought gone into getting this setup and modifying it to suit the way we like to travel.
So, what do you need to know about Planning a Lap of Australia with your family?
How are you going to travel?
One of the first things that you’ll have to plan is how you are going to travel around Australia.
Some people do it in Caravans, others do it in Motorhomes, and then you get other people doing it in just a 4WD, or we’ve even seen it being done in a Tesla, in a mix of camping and hotels or motels.
Every method of travel has its own pros and cons.
Whilst you could probably load some gear into your current family vehicle and drive off, hopping from motel to motel, or caravan park chalet to chalet we’d seriously recommend you look at a mobile accommodation option, like a caravan, motorhome, hybrid camper or bus.
The ability to have your home on wheels is priceless and allows a freedom and level of experience well beyond what you’ll ever get hopping from one accommodation to another all the way around the country.
Our personal recommendation is something 4WD, that allows you to get to the places you can’t take a conventional 2WD, as these places are quieter, often more beautiful, and cheaper too.
Whether you couple that with a camper trailer, box trailer, caravan or hybrid is entirely up to you.
Our final tip here is to make sure that it’s legal and reliable. There’s a lot of overweight vehicles travelling around Australia, and the ramifications are not something you want to get involved with.
Reliability is pretty obvious, but when you’re hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town (that might only be a few houses and a general store), it really hits home.
Do Some Small Trips To Start Off With
If you plan on doing this for a substantial period, doing several shorter trips beforehand is critical.
This does a myriad of things including preparing you mentally, identifying any bugs or shortcomings in your setup, teaching you how to travel and what to do (and not to do), and will give you a pretty clear indication early on if it’s the lifestyle for you, or not.
This can be quite the learning curve, and it’s much better to do it before you head off. Even simple things like finding easy camping meals that the family loves can take time, and these short trips prior to the Big Lap are imperative.
Where Is The Money Coming From?
Travelling around Australia can be really expensive, and whilst there is a heap of different variables, there are lots of ways that you can reduce the costs.
Either way, you need a plan for how you’re going to afford the setup you are travelling in, the fuel to keep it moving, accommodation or camping fees, tours, normal bills and food.
In general, the slower you travel the cheaper it is, and having a setup that can allow you to live off grid comfortably means you can avoid expensive caravan parks when you want to (and that’s hugely appreciated).
For many years, the statement of $1 per kilometre was quite accurate.
If you did 30,000km in a year, your total cost to travel in that period would be $30,000km. Whilst you could argue this is still possible, a lot of families are spending between $1000 and $2000 a week to live on the road full time.
What Happens To Your House, Furniture & Possessions?
There’s a huge number of things that you can’t take with you when you travel Australia (nor would you want to!).
Inevitably, you’ll have to make choices about the furniture you own, white goods, sports gear, anything in your garage and kitchen and the list goes on and on.
Many people choose to sell and gift anything they aren’t going to miss (and it’s an amazing opportunity to do a major cleanup), and then put the rest of their possessions in storage, or sell it all.
You can get storage lockers, buy a sea container and put it on a friend’s block, or you might have family with a spare bedroom that you can ‘borrow’ for the duration of your trip.
In terms of your house itself, this is another difficult, but important decision to make.
If you’re renting, you can just hand the keys back at the end of your term and move your gear out.
If you own a home, you either rent it out, or sell it, and that’s a pretty difficult decision to make. Think long and hard about different scenarios, and your risk level, and do what you are as comfortable as possible with.
Taking A Break From Work
There’s not too many industries or jobs that you can disappear for a year at a time, so finding a way to deal with your employment is critical too. You have the obvious options of long service leave, half pay, leave without pay or resignation, but there are more options.
You’d be surprised at the number of people working remotely while travelling Australia, and with things like Starlink, it’s entirely possible.
Perhaps your work will allow you to continue (even at a reduced capacity), while you’re travelling?
I met some teachers a while back who said they had arranged to be paid 80% of their pay, and then they get every 5th year off, in which they use to travel Australia and the rest of the world.
Finding The Right Travel Setup For You
Once you’ve worked out how you’re going to travel, it’s time to actually get something.
That can happen quickly, or take a very long time, depending on what you are after, and how good of a deal you’re looking for.
I’d always advise getting an independent inspection done before making any purchase, avoiding first-generation vehicles, sticking with something that has workshops around the country and a solid reputation, and of course getting a deal that makes good financial sense.
Some caravan and camper builds are still 18-month lead times, and there’s a lot that can change in that period.
Finding Places To Camp & Booking Sites
Information is available in so many ways today, and if you’re travelling around Australia you’ll be able to tap into amazing resources to find great campsites, good deals and information on whether booking is required or not.
Wikicamps is probably the most well-known app for travelling Australia, with its user-generated information on thousands of camp sites all over the country (not to mention dump points, water fill points, attractions, caravan parks and so much more).
There’s a heap of blogs that cover the best camping options all over the country, and then you’ve got YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.
In terms of bookings, there are some regions that can be incredibly busy, and need bookings.
Esperance, the Ningaloo region, Broome, Darwin, Litchfield and many of the caravan parks on the East Coast typically need advanced bookings, with some of them extremely competitive.
To get a good site on the Ningaloo Reef for example, we were up at midnight 180 days prior trying to secure a site, and they’d all be gone within seconds.
No, I’m not joking. That’s how competitive it is in peak season.
Which Way Should You Travel?
Australia is a massive country, and if you head to the wrong area in the wrong season it can be unpleasant at best, and dangerous at worst.
The northern part of Australia experiences the wet and dry seasons, and a huge amount of it is closed off once the rain really starts to hit.
However, from late March to May through to late September, the weather is generally warm, sunny and amazing, and there’s a huge migration every year of those in the southern states escaping a cold, wet and unpleasant winter by heading north to the sunshine.
Ideally, you want to be in the northern parts of Australia (the Kimberley, Darwin and Cape York) between May and October, and then you want to be on the southern coast in summer, or between November and March.
Of course, the in-between regions can be more flexible, but if you’re in Cape York in January it’s going to be hot, humid and pouring with rain (and that’s less than ideal for travelling the country!).
Saving Money When You Are Travelling Australia
We’re passionate about helping people travel Australia, and one of the best ways to do this is to highlight ways in which you can save money.
We avoid as many caravan parks as we can (unless they’re reasonably priced).
When you are paying $50 – $90 a night for a family to stay in a caravan park, that’s a massive difference to the $22 a night in the more expensive national parks of Australia, or much less (and even free) in many other campsites.
We shop in bulk as much as possible and have a dedicated 82L freezer for meat and frozen meals. We do only the most important tours and paid attractions and leave plenty that would simply make travelling Australia too expensive.
A long-range tank goes a huge way to helping save money on fuel, allowing you to fill up at the major towns for much less than the more remote areas (and you’re more likely to get good fuel).
Life On The Road Can Be Amazing, At Times
Social media in general gives a skewed perspective of life, and travelling around Australia is certainly not excluded from this.
The humble lap of Australia is often made to look like the best thing in the world, and whilst I won’t underestimate how good it can be, it can also be trying beyond anything else.
Jamming a family into a metal box 24/7, with limited time away from each other is guaranteed to bring out emotions and challenges that you’ve probably avoided much of in a normal home, where adults might work, and children go to school.
Add in homeschooling, breakdowns, and routines that are not always the same, and life on the road is never boring.
I could literally write a book on the amazing places Australia has to offer, but I’m going to briefly mention areas that are absolute must dos on your way around Australia, in our opinion.
We haven’t been everywhere, so please remember that too!
Esperance, and the southern coast of WA into the South West is breathtaking.
The Pilbara is such an under-rated region, with amazing views, a heap of free camping and great fishing.
The Ningaloo Coastline is very well known, and for good reason. This needs booking way in advance and is worth every effort to see.
The Kimberley, including the Dampier Peninsula, Gibb River Road and Kununurra is another world, worthy of months of exploration.
Litchfield and Kakadu are unreal and well worth visiting.
Cape York and the waterfall region of Queensland are amazing and totally worth a look.
The Victorian High Country is a majestic, massive and incredible part of the world, with the Grampians and Flinders Ranges also well worth a look.
The Eyre and Yorke Peninsula in South Australia are beautiful if you get good weather
Then, likely so much more (especially in NSW and TAS, where we haven’t been yet!).
I’m going to finish by leaving you with some more of our story and offering to answer any questions you might have about our travels, life on the road, or general travel advice for 4WDing and camping around Australia in the comments below.
I mentioned above that Sarah and I worked hard for many years to be able to afford to take time away with our kids and to travel Australia.
I resigned from a managerial role in a big business, and we left in our 4WD and camper that we’d had for several years (tweaking it all the way along).
We rented our home out to family and got rid of most of our possessions, with the rest of them in one of the bedrooms that isn’t being used, for our return.
We love exploring 4WD tracks and finding camp sites that are a notch above the rest.
National parks, station stays, free camps and remote wilderness are the areas we love most, and we’ve got a setup that allows us to get out of dodge for weeks at a time.
Life on the road is amazing at times, and not much fun at others, but we feel like it’s the best thing we could be doing for our family, and we’re all growing and learning as time goes on.
We’re a year in and will travel for another two years as long as everyone is happy, and we can afford it. If anything changes, we’ll head home, happy with everything we’ve achieved.
Australia has taken our breath away on so many occasions, with incredible diversity, stunning views, world-class camp sites and 4WD tracks, friendly people and a freedom like no other.
If you’ve considered planning a lap of Australia with your family, you’ll return home with a memory bank full, a new appreciation for the amazing country we call home and a family that has grown and developed together in every way.
Got any questions or comments? Let us know below, and we’ll get back to you!