I’ve seen many posts and messages on the social pages recently where people are using their time in self-isolation to plan they’re next camp and travel trip (escape) once the threat of the Zombie Flu (COVID-19) has run its course.
Many have even reached out asking for travel tips and resources to help them.
So, I’ve gone through my collection of web links and apps, and done some web searches and research that I’d like to share with you.
For starters, I’ve broken these resources into broad headings. Now, these headings may not suit you and perhaps I may rename or resort them as time goes on. As this is the case, I am more that open to suggestions for headings and resources, and I ask you to bear with me as this develops.
Secondly, I haven’t provided you with a ready made swag of web links. This is because I don’t want you running off and chasing a colony of ‘rabbits’ down their respective warrens. Besides, links change – and part of the fun is in the journey.
Have a read of the suggestions I offer here and let me know how you go. If you want to share tips or queries send me a message via visitor posts on @dayvcampandtravel.
Never forget that there’s still plenty of paper maps out there. These range from the maps you can buy at the petrol station; any dedicated brick and mortar map shops (that are still open); at online shops such as HEMA; maybe the automobile clubs (although some of them are printing less and less); the ones that you’ve got shoved away in your glove box and forgotten about; and those you can grab when you next visit the local council’s Visitor Information Centre (including a great range by Cartoscope – you may have to ask at the counter).
I personally have about six maps of various states and nationally on my hallway walls. Each with routes taken highlighted and future trips marked with sticky notes.
With reference to the Visitor Information Centres, various state governments have websites that show the local governments or councils in their state. Additionally, some councils have banded together to market a region – eg Outback Queensland, and Brisbane. You can use these as a way to search for information.
Remember too, that maps can even include those sketches shared on beer coaster, drawn on the ground by a local farmer or even a long winded verbal exchange about left and right turns at various intersections, shops or gates.
Then there’s electronic maps that you can download from places like HEMA, Avenza Maps and websites such as Cartoscope or the Queensland Government ‘QTopo’ page.
You could even look to access the “AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia” which attempts to represent all the language, tribal or nation groups of Australia’s First Nation people. This is a great resource and should be shared with our children to help them appreciate their sense of place and the lands’ traditional owners.
Perhaps finally, there’s GPS software and devices that include Google Maps, Whereis, HEMA Navigator and Explorer, Newtracs, What3Words (refer https://campandtravel.com.au/1098-2-directions-when-travelling/), Live Traffic, Map Plus, Mapstr, CamperMate, Roadtrippers, CarryMap, various state government websites that show traffic and road conditions (including flood closures etc) and Navman / Garmin type dedicated GPSs (see Camping Hack #3 refer https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-tips-hacks/.
Just like the maps, there’s still plenty of books out there (if not already on your shelves) and in the shops (or online). Ranging from atlases and specific interests, I’ll let you do your own research – but I do have a few favourites of my own.
Don’t be afraid to join a group or find a safe place where you can ask silly questions – perhaps @dayvcampandtravel.
The beauty of social groups is that you can still learn and gain confidence as you grow and become more aware. If you follow a group long enough, you’re sure to get some great tips on places to go and things to see. After a while, you’ll also make new mates and friends in these groups.
For me, I’m in several groups and take something a little different from each – as well as giving back (I hope).
I use the term ‘accommodation’ in its broadest sense as we all travel differently. Sometimes you may use a caravan park; and sometimes a showground, bush camp, out the back of a pub or even a guest house or bed and breakfast.
Commercially, there’s the Big4 group of holiday parks, G’day Rewards (which includes Discovery Parks and Top Parks), bodies like Reflections Holiday Parks (which oversees and manages holiday parks and and recreation areas on NSW crown land). That about covers a big part of the commercial stake in this sector.
On a smaller scale are the independent caravan and camping areas as well as the various local government / council owned and operated sites. These are perhaps found by accessing apps and websites like Aircamp, Youcamp, WikiCamps, Camp Australia, Full Range Camping and Australia Free.
Many people will immediately refer you to apps like WikiCamps, but, in my experience, you can’t (or perhaps shouldn’t) rely on just one source. Do your own research on many levels and keep chosen future (and past) stays somewhere – I use Google Maps and record them in my Favourites.
The one thing I ask, when looking at ‘free’ camping on council land, country-town commons or even in a bush camp, is that you be mindful that there is no such thing as a FREE camp. Someone pays for your stay… even if you leave a token donation of fill up your tank with fuel at the nearest town. The people of that area pay for the public toilets you may use, the rubbish you may place in the bin, the waste you dump at the dump point or the water you fill your tanks with. Check out my blog at https://campandtravel.com.au/free-camping-in-australia/ for more information on this. If you are looking to ‘dip your toe’ into ‘free’ camping, you may also like to look at another of my blogs at youtube
There are a couple of Facebook social groups I’ll mention here that are well worth following and signing up to. They are Country Pub Camping (refer Camping Hack #6 see https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-tips-hacks/) and Showgrounds Sport and Rec Grounds Camping. There’s an overlap of members and even moderators and these are great sources of camping information if you love a good feed, some food and hospitality. Again, the big thing to remember here is that, if you stay at a pub – pop in, say g’day and buy a drink one / or a feed. They will love you for it. Just be careful with the pub camping, as some pubs only have toilet and shower facilities open during pub hours – and may even require you to be fully self-contained.
While a map and a highlighter pen is a good start, there are more structured trip planning tools like Roadtrippers, Google Maps and WikiCamps that allow you to plot destinations, calculate travelling distances and times, and even share these with your travel buddies or those you’re leaving behind.
Roadtrippers allows you to record five destinations on the free app, but a relatively small annual fee allows you to have unlimited stops and destinations.
CamperMate, on the other hand, allows you to plot a trip and then identify filtered places of interest along the way – or on either side of your route.
In addition to finding campsites and places of interest, WikiCamps also lets you plan your route, share it with others and keep a record of where you actually went. As Robyn discussed in her interview with me (‘Ladies Travelling Solo’ refer https://campandtravel.com.au/ladies-travelling-australia-alone-travel-around-australia/), “use apps such as WikiCamps to plan and record your travels and identify the things you want to do and the places you want to see in the next few days – anything beyond that may be limiting you with what you can do in the here and now”;
Speaking of ‘here and now’, you may like to check another of my blogs where I discuss travel times and distances (refer https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-times-and-being-on-time/).
Also important in the planning phases of any trip is getting your gear in order and (obviously) buying new stuff.
For the car, this is where the online information from the major retailers such as 4WD Supercentre, Ironman, Supercheap and Autobarn come in – plus lots more. Naturally, you can buy on-line, get it delivered, pickup in store or even shop in store.
For the camper, caravan or motorhome, check out businesses such as BCF, Road Tech Marine, CAMEC, Whitworths (mostly for boating but still a great place to shop and get ideas) and Jaycar (mostly for electronic geeky nerds but also good for all those 12v projects you’ve been planning – and with great advice).
When it comes to camping gear, it can even pay to think outside the box and give some of the smaller independent operators such as Outdoor Connection, Tentworld – or even Desert Dwellers, Alice Springs (love that place). Plus, there’s so many more…
Well… let’s face it, if you don’t eat; you don’t shit; and if you don’t shit; you die! We all need a toilet break.
Download the Federal Government’s ‘National Toilet Map’ app. You’ll thank me one day.
Finally, there’s always someone who refuses to have a social media account (eg Facebook).
I have often found that keeping people informed of where you’re heading, where you’re going, when you expect to be there and what plans have changed can prove to be invaluable.
In the old days, we sent postcards. While these took a couple of days, but they always gave police a good starting point in case of any emergency.
Now, we have real time and current photos etc – so, there’s no real reason why you should be in trouble for long.
Also, if the ‘custard hits the fan’, you know you have some good mates and family who you can turn to. Who knows… one of those friends may be staying at the same camp site or just up the road.
And never forget to stop and say G’day – refer Camping Hack #5 see https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-tips-hacks/.
Safe Travels – and always know where the next bakery, butcher and pub is.
On some of the travels you’ll do, or planning to do, fuel can easily become an issue. It is often all too easy to drive through a town (no matter what size), not fill your tank and find yourself a long way from the next town and low on fuel. That’s why its important to plan your fuel stops just as much as you would plan your night’s stay.
To do this, you also need to understand your car’s fuel economy under various conditions. Here, I’m not talking about what the manufacturer recommends you’ll achieve – but, what you actually achieve. Monitor your fuel usage on various trips – loaded, unloaded, towing, not towing, stuff on the roof, nothing on the roof, sealed roads, dirt roads, sand, flat or hills.
The trip computer in your car, or a relatively cheap Engine Management System (EMS) will give you an average fuel consumption in litres per 100 kilometres. Knowing this, the distances you want to travel can be considered.
For example, I know that my average trip distance under good conditions can be as good as 13 litres per 100 kms. However, when towing, that jumps to about 17.5 litres per 100 kms.
Personally, if I’m going a little off track, I’ll try to carry at least one jerry of fuel. That’ll allow me to take a small diversion if I see something along the way or have to take a detour – especially if I’m loaded to the gunwales or towing.
So, what’s out there to help – besides an EMS. FuelMap lets you see what fuel is available near you, or anywhere in Australia, and it is updated by users with details on prices. It’ll tell you what types of fuel is available, what facilities are there (showers and toilets), ATM availability, hours and even if they sell LPG gas or not.
On top of this, Fuel Map lets you keep a logbook of your petrol buys (including kilometres travelled and litres bought) and gives you a running record of your fuel economy. I often create a new record (new car) for each major trip I do. In that way, I can keep a record of the different vehicle configurations as well as the road types.
In regard to LPG gas, there is also an app that’ll give you access to nearby providers and their prices – refer ‘Gas Finder/ by WikiCamps.
Know your roadside assistance providers phone number and keep it on your phone.
Down load the ‘Emergency’ app and save it to the home screen on your mobile phone (refer Camping Hack #10 refer https://campandtravel.com.au/camping-tips-hacks/.
Another app that became very popular recently was the ‘Fires Near Me’ app and other individual state based advices. My blog on “How to Survive a Bushfire When Out&About” may also provide you with some useful information (refer https://campandtravel.com.au/how-to-survive-a-bushfire-when-outabout/)
Buy a Telstra phone card if travelling remote. There will come a point in your travels where your mobile becomes just a great camera and the public phones stop taking coins. You’ll need to hunt high and low for one of these Telstra phone cards because Telstra Shops won’t have heard of them and only a few Post Offices sell or stock them. They come pre-loaded with $5 and you I don’t believe you can top them up.
If you don’t own one already, consider buying a CB radio. Handheld are better than nothing and you can carry them with you on the trails – but, they don’t give you the range that a mounted one in the car will. Also, know and understand the channels and what they’re for – Channel 18 can be used by travellers, channels 5 and 35 should only be used in an emergency and truckers don’t like idle chit-chat on road safety channels (29 and 40). At the same time, don’t be afraid of truckers.
On the CB, channels 9, 12-17, 19-21, 24-28, 30, 39, 49-60, 64-70, 79 and 80 can be used for conversations (source: AL-KO).
Also, take a look at your ambulance cover for travelling interstate. I posted a blog on this a little while ago after an situation where my wife needed to take an ambulance in Victoria. Check out my blog at https://campandtravel.com.au/travelling-think-ambulance-cover/, but please make your own checks before you leave – just in case the details have changed.
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