While many of us have suffered through another record breaking wet Perth winter, hundreds of retirees have been lathering up in sunscreen after heading up north for the annual ‘grey nomad’ migration; a ritual with retirees that has exploded in popularity in recent years.
While the notion of packing up the caravan to escape the cold sounds like a dream, it requires a lot of planning.
Finding the right van and vehicle
Brian Dearle, Secretary of the WA Association of Caravan Clubs explains, "The most important thing is to write down what you want the van for.”
Consider the following points…
- Is it for short trips like a weekend or a month, or long trips like six months up north escaping the winter cold, or 12 months or more travelling around Australia?
- Are you travelling off road or will you mainly stay on the bitumen?
- Are you going to free camp (National Parks) or will you be staying at caravan parks?
- The most important thing is that the car is suited to the size of the van that it is towing. This is a major safety issue as the wrong sized vehicle can make towing a larger van difficult and dangerous.
For Perth retirees Anne and Bruce McKenzie this last point was the determining factor when purchasing their caravan.
“We spent a lot of time researching and looking for a strong off-road type van,” said Bruce.
“We had a Toyota Landcruiser which was capable of towing a three-tonne caravan and the van we bought was only two-tonne, so it wasn’t a problem.
Planning your trip – Brian’s tips
- Think about the length of time you plan to be away.
- Think about the route you plan to take.
- Think about any events at home that you will miss (birthdays, weddings, births, etc) and what you will do about them, such as pre-buy presents and leave them with someone, arrange to fly back home if a long way away.
- Check out the locations you are travelling through on your trip.
- Is there a major event on at a location you plan to stay at? This can make accommodation difficult or the roads may be blocked for the event.
- Is there an event in town that you might be interested in attending, such as a local festival?
Tips before you go
- Let your neighbours know that you're going away, and give them a copy of your emergency contact details.
- Lock your windows and doors securely, including roller doors and gates.
- Arrange for your mail to be collected, cancelled or redirected, including any newspaper subscriptions.
- Ask your neighbours to bring in your rubbish and recycling bins.
- Leave spare keys with a trusted friend or neighbour, rather than concealed on your property.
- Put away any garden tools or ladders that could make it easier for someone to access your property.
- Discuss with your insurance company how long you'll be away. If you're planning to be away for more than three months, consider a house sitter or a friend or family member who can stay to keep your insurance current.
- Turn the ringer down on your home phone if applicable.
- Turn off your dishwasher and washing machine taps, and turn off all appliances.
- Consider asking your neighbours to park a second car in your driveway.
Tips for being on the road
Anne and Bruce systematically go through their checklist before leaving the driveway.
“I do a complete check of the interior and exterior of the caravan including wheel bearings, suspension in the tyres, gas bottles and all the interior and exterior lights,” said Bruce.
“I also have a volt-meter to test all the electric circuits.”
Brian’s top tip is to take your time.
“Take the time to stop and have a break in some of the lovely pull-off areas or smaller towns along the way,” he said. “This breaks up the driving and reduces fatigue.”
There’s lots of fantastic resources and websites available to help travellers with everything they need to plan their trips, stay safe and enjoy the experience.
Grey nomads website
Caravan Industry Association of WA