Does the idea of a family road trip as a holiday enthrall you? Or, does it leave you with a nervous twitch? That journey of 10 000 kilometres into the wilderness with just your family. In a campervan. Kinda just for the sake of it. It’s certainly epic, but is it worth it?
It took Lyn and her family around two years to commit to their big northern adventure in Western Australia. She travelled to The Kimberley Autumn 2019 with her husband and two children aged 11 and 9. Lyn admits she was scared to take the trip. As well as the usual holiday anxiety, she worried about where they could stop for fuel, the isolation and her family’s safety.
The most vital element of planning for your family road trip is often overlooked. It’s crucial your caravan/car/vehicle is fit for the journey ahead so make space in the budget for it.
Lyn’s car was serviced and had new tyres put on. The family reviewed their insurances and opted for
Naturally, travelling with children, being prepared for any mishaps or illness is high on your list of concerns. The family packed a First Aid kit. It was only opened once, for a plaster. Lyn was later reassured to find numerous visitor centres along the way for advice and guidance.
The family used the following sources to help plan their route.
They travelled north to Broome, Lake Argyle and Kununurra. Their journey took them to Karijini, Bungle Bungles, Monkey Mia and Coral Bay to name just a few places. Averaging around 450km driving per day, the Bohnen’s stuck to their route. There were a few mammoth days of driving too where they clocked up 800km.
With various forms of wildlife all around, any driving had to be finished by dusk. The family learned to gauge animal movements by checking the temperature. If it was cooler than 40c, the animals were more likely to be on the move and they had to be prepared for that. Travelling through different time zones also meant the sunsets changed. This in turn had an effect on the temperature and the wildlife on the roads.
As the children missed three weeks of school, mum and dad were able to use this as a great bargaining tool. The girls agreed to write in their journals every evening. Yes, there were digital devices, but only to be used in the car. It wasn’t a battle. The girls fed dolphins, swam in lakes, cooked in the camper and spent a night under the stars in the Bungle Bungles.
Even although the kids were excited about the trip from the outset, Lyn says they didn’t really appreciate the distance. Who can though, even as a grown up? Just looking at a map of WA can’t prepare you for the scale of their journey. The perspective a trip like that can give anyone, let alone children, is profound. Place names on maps actually begin to mean something as you piece your part of the world together.
Home for five weeks was the Newlands Tourister four sleeper with bunks. It was ‘pretty lux inside’ says Lyn, ‘a mini hotel on wheels’. They found absolutely no need to break up the campervan nights with alternative accommodation.
Although, one night in the Bungles they did snuggle up under the stars in their swags due to accessibility. A wonderful example of a moment a smart phone won’t ever do justice. Spontaneous and magical. Instead, close your eyes and take a snapshot of it in your mind, then file under precious moments.
One of Lynn’s biggest concerns was what they were going to eat on holiday. She agonised over the fact it might be fried nuggets night after night. However, shopping and packing enough food for five weeks for a family of four is not practical. In fact, the idea of that may be enough to make you run for the hills. Instead, they prepared by taking enough provisions for the first seven days. Their staple foods throughout the road-trip were wraps, tuna and baked beans.
And actually, Lynn was pleasantly surprised because all her food expectations were surpassed.
“We found better fresh produce in the Pilbara than Perth Metro area”
And if your kids are fussy eaters it won’t turn into a big issue on holiday. Every road stop has something for kids.
The adults shared the driving and set a 200km limit per person at any one stretch. While driving through the Pilbara did take great concentration, they found the roads generally very well maintained.
And despite Lyn’s worries, they never felt isolated. She says there were always so many families around. They felt safe the whole trip, although Halls Creek presented them with a culture that was definitely unfamiliar. Coming from suburbia it proved to be a valuable experience for the family.
The family listened to podcasts in the car. From True Crime Australia to TED Talks they enjoyed stories and science together as they clocked up the kilometres.
Another misconception, Lyn recognises, is that you have to plan all your road side stops. This is not necessary as there are 100s of stops and they’re not all shown on google maps or Main Roads.
However, one thing to look out for when you’re staying overnight is to choose a place that
doesn’t allow road trains.
“They run generators and it was so noisy. Look on Wiki camps or Main Roads for stops that don’t allow road trains.”
“In a heartbeat” says Lyn. From being initially fearful of the ‘inaccessible north’ she feels it’s given her a massive personal confidence boost. Who would ever count on a holiday to do that for you? Is a road trip the new ‘family therapy’?
Planning for road-trip number two is underway. Even although they had worked out a budget beforehand the family did over spend. This meant there were trips and things they didn’t get to do. The takeaway here is that it’s given the family another great incentive to return to the North.
With its deep gorges and majestic mountains, El Questro turned out to be a real favourite. The family have resolved to return and spend longer next time. They also have the great Gibb River Road in their sights too. Time and accessibility prevented them from enjoying the 660km experience this time around. The family recognises the Gibb River Road trip will take a different type of planning given the terrain. They have clearly been inspired to take on new challenges together.
While this trip was a huge journey in terms of the geography, it also represented uncharted territory in terms of family relationships. Lyn and her husband learned new things about their children. They got to know them, to rediscover them and to appreciate things like their sense of humour and the sibling relationship etc. It’s those things that you miss on a daily basis, because, well, life gets in the way.
“Months later when I listen to the children reminisce about the road trip we realise how much they have seen and learnt. They experienced so much. From their perspective, how they were impacted is amazing”
Lyn and her husband stayed married too, which is always a bonus!