After spending a few days in Sydney, Charles and I flew to his hometown in Mackay, Queensland where we were planning to start our North Queensland road trip. It was my first time in Australia and I had not seen much of it yet, not even a single kangaroo, so my excitement was building up as our planned departure grew nearer. After celebrating Charles’ birthday with his family, we got down to business and started planning our first road trip together.
Our Road Trip Checklist
Book a car rental– Before we even left Manila, we scoured the net for the cheapest camper van we could rent. Australia is huge and motorhomes (campervans and caravans) are great way to get around, especially for us who had 6 weeks to spare for this trip.
We had been eyeing Wicked Campers, which is very popular among backpackers and costs around 45 bucks per day. It’s just like a pimped L300 van with a convertible bed and dining area inside and an improvised cooking area at the back. It’s very basic, and the campers are a bit old and rusty (and perhaps not guaranteed to last the distance!), but they’re still luxury compared to camping.
Fortunately we didn’t have to put the reliability of the Wicked Campers to the test, as Charles’ parents agreed to lend us their outfitted VW camper van a few days before our planned departure. Although still a small van, it was in great condition and very comfortably outfitted – I could live in this van for a year!
Book accommodation – With a free campervan, we finally had a mobile home for the rest of our trip. Using a campervan allowed us to save a lot of money that would have otherwise gone towards accommodation (the cheapest backpacker’s hostel costs 20 bucks per head). There are camping grounds everywhere even in the Outback and some of them are free. The van also had a stove and fridge, allowing us to cook our own meals and save on food, especially when staying at camping grounds without cooking facilities.
Plan itinerary and driving route – We have no fixed itinerary just a map
Check weather – The weather is perfect. It is wintertime in Queensland, which is dry season as well. Roads to some remote areas are often flooded during summer, which is their wet season. Winter here is pleasantly warm like most tropical countries. It’s the peak of the camper vanning season, when hordes of retirees and backpackers migrate to northern Queensland to escape the cold winter in the south of Australia.
Camper van tutorial – It took us almost a whole day to learn the nitty-gritty details of operating the campervan – from setting up the van for camping overnight, to filling up the water tank, setting up the bed and table, raising the roof and the awning, operating the fridge and the stove, getting familiar with all the storage areas and even changing tires (which would prove to come in handy later!). It’s a lot of work in the beginning but it was fun learning from the experts. Charles’ parents had lived in their camper van for years when they were touring around Australia.
Things to pack - Holiday essentials like maps, insurance, emergency numbers, cash, music, electronic equipment and extra batteries, emergency numbers, first-aid kit, clothes and food supplies for a few days. We were able to bring lots of gear and gadgets because this time we didn’t have to lug them around in our backpacks.
And now that everything is set, I’m off to my first Australian road trip .