So if you follow me on Instagram then you would already know that my family and I just got back from the most incredible, invigorating road trip to outback Australia. Almost 2 weeks of exploring the Red Centre, the Outback and the spiritual heart of Australia with the kids!! When I got back to work I heard people say “I would have no idea where to start planning a road trip like that!” or “how on earth did you manage the outback?”. So I have decided to put together a post for anyone else who would like to plan a family outback road trip in Australia to the Red Centre.
There are plenty of ways to plan for a family adventure and there is certainly no correct way but here are our suggestions for helping other families feel confident to travel further with their families.
This post is not about our itinerary – that will be coming up next, but instead a post about how we planned our trip to the Red Centre.
So here are some tips for planning an outback family road trip in Australia
Now that sounds slightly hippy doesn’t it but I believe the first step in planning a road trip holiday – or any holiday – is to visualise the kind of holiday that you are after. Are you destination specific? Are there certain activities you need to do or ticking off your bucket list? Do you need to relax and recharge? Are you feeling energetic and ‘up for it”. Do you prefer the water or inland? Do you like familiar or something different?
In our household we don’t have a huge budget for holidays so I know there are plenty of people reading in the same boat. Hubby and I have totally different ideas about what makes an awesome holiday so we need to make sure that we are both getting some of the boxes ticked. Negotiation and compromise folks.If we are spending the time and energy then we need to feel like it was worthwhile.
Once you have a clear idea in mind then you can start the researching.
So a road trip to the Red Centre in Australia is no Club Med Vacation but I am assuming you weren’t visualising sunbeds and cocktails – or otherwise you have a slightly confused view of outback Australia. A road trip holiday in Australia should include research and MUST include research when you are heading to the outback. This is because Research links to safety. Without the right information you can’t make safe choices. Not interested in safety? Then travelling into the Outback with your kids is not the holiday for you. Stop reading.
For everyone else you need to research because while the Outback is incredible, amazing, breathtaking a ‘must visit’ destination and all other wonderful adjectives it is also remote and deadly without exaggeration.
So here are your research points
1.How much time do you have?
Sounds commonsense but think about how many days and nights you have. Factor in preparation time and a day when you get back home to unload the gear, wash EVERYTHING and let the kids relax before school resumes.
2. How far will you have to go?
This depends of course on your starting point but we travelled through two states and a territory in 10 days.
3. How many days driving do you want to do?
Some people are happy to drive every day. Others prefer to break up the days driving. This is a personal preference but will make a big difference in how long or how far you get.
4. How well do you cope driving long distances?
This is an important consideration point. Do you tire easily? Are you experienced with driving long distances daily? Do you have an injury which can be aggravated by sitting in the one spot for hours at a time. My hubby loves to drive long distances and copes well. I tire easily when driving highways. We are all different.
5. The roads you will need to travel – get detailed maps
This sounds obvious but you will need to look carefully at how you plan to get there. Don’t laugh the number of people who we have crossed paths with that say “I didn’t realise it was a 4WD only track” seemingly oblivious to the well posted signs. Work out which roads will suit your vehicle. Also find out if the roads you are travelling will need a special permit – we had to get permits for the roads we took on our trip in the NT. Find out the cost and where you can purchase these from.
6. What the weather will be like?
In some destinations in Australia the weather changes are mild. In the outback this is not the case and the season that you choose to travel in will determine how easily accessible, if at all, locations are. Only a week before our trip tracks were closed where one week later we travelled without issue. We also met travellers unprepared for 0 degree overnight temps saying “it’s Australia and the desert we thought it would be hot!!”.
7. What accommodation options there are?
Hotels, resorts, motels, camping, free bush camping – we chose a mix of accommodation in our 10 day trip. Research all your options. There will usually be something in your budget if you are preferred to
Without a doubt the biggest factor to consider when travelling is safety. I want everyone to be a safe, informed traveller and always do my best to be the same. After all I have my whole world and everything that is dearest to me in that car when we are on a road trip. There will be a post coming up soon on the blog about how to drive and travel safely in the Outback.
But after considering safety is acting on safety measures. I have met travellers who said “Oh yeah I heard about that” or “I didn’t think I had to worry about it” or “yeah we meant to be but we ran out of time” or “that would have cost us a fortune”. Piece of mind and ability to survive when unscheduled events occur is priceless. The safety recommendations in the Outback are not optional. They are essential and I will be providing more posts on this coming up soon.
Make a Plan
So after visualising, researching and considering safety factors this is how we planned our outback road trip family adventure.
Firstly we considered how much time we had and how far we had to go. We looked at the total distance and then roughly worked out how many kilometres that would leave us to drive a day. We already owned a specialist map for the areas we needed to drive but I would highly recommend purchasing good maps for road trips. Not all days could be balanced out equally so we needed to have longer transport days with shorter days.
We couldn’t see everything so we had to maximise our time and prioritise those things which were the most important to us. We researched the top things to do in the areas we planned to visit along with park opening and closing time. We looked at how much fuel we could carry and where we could reliably fill up along the way. At one pit stop we were the very last car to get fuel with no more diesel arriving till 3pm that day and a long queue of vehicle held up waiting. Flexibility in the outback is key.
We then looked at the safety precautions required for our trip. We looked at sleeping arrangements, fuel capacity, water carrying capacity, recovery gear, our first aid kit and our car tyres. We determined the cost of purchasing new or upgrading these things on top of the cost of accommodation and other expenses. Travel with out these things was not safe so we reflected on the budget and where we could save some money.
We researched our accommodation options and saw where there were plenty of options (Oodnadatta track) and where they were limited (Yulara) and discussed the pace. We mixed hotel/motel stays with days of long driving and shorter days with recommended camps sites or bush camping.
At this point we decided that our family outback road trip was a goer and we put the wheels in motion. Our total planning time before heading off was about a fortnight of research and carrying out preparation jobs in the lead up to hitting the road.
So there you have it folks the steps we took to plan our road trip to Outback Australia. See I told you anyone could do it. I hope you found the planning process useful. Next up on the blog our School Holiday Outback Road trip Itinerary showcasing what you can see of our amazing country in less than a fortnight if you want too.
If you have done a big road trip or have other suggestions for the planning process I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments below!