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Planning Your Trip: Caravan, Motorcycle, Holiday of Any Sort

Planning Your Trip: Caravan, Motorcycle, Holiday of Any Sort
A tour or any trip does not just happen; you need to spend some time planning your trip. When is the best time to travel; what will the weather be like; are you going during school holidays time; how are you going to find your way; do you need any permits etc?

By planning your trip before you leave you will be able to answer these questions to make sure your holiday is as stress free as possible. Do not necessarily get bogged down in all the finite details though; some decisions, such as where to go next and how long to stay in one place, are sometimes best left for the road. After all you may find a wonderful location that suits you and decide to stay there longer than planned.
1. When to Travel
Your first decision will be when to travel. This will be different for all people. Maybe you only have a week's leave or maybe you are taking 12 months to travel. The weather, the timing of school and public holidays and any local events in the area you intend to visit will all influence your decision. Some travellers also think about how they can visit family and friends or fit special occasions into their schedule.

2. Weather
Australia has extremes in climate and weather. At the same time: in one area of Australia there may be monsoonal rains and cyclones; while a different part of Australia will have balmy perfect weather and another part may even experience snow. Such extremes are not uncommon, but you can start planning your trip according to reasonably predictable weather patterns, making some allowances for occasional variations and anomalies.

The southern States of Australia have four clearly identifiable seasons. Summers are warm to hot, winters cool to cold. Spring and autumn have pleasant days with cold nights. Most rain falls in the winter months but other seasons can have the occasional shower or even heavy downfall. Snow falls on the Australian Alps and the Tasmanian Highlands in winter, early spring and sometimes in late autumn.

Northern Australia has a dry and a wet season. The dry season runs from April to November, give or take a few weeks. Little or no rain falls and countryside turns from lush green to a dusty brown. The wet season, with high temperatures and oppressive humidity, lasts from December to March. Tropical storms regularly dump large volumes of rain, and cyclones are not uncommon. The centre of Australia is arid or semi-arid. Rain can fall throughout the year or not at all. From May to September daytime temperatures are mild but can drop dramatically at night. Summer temperatures can be extremely high.

The best time to travel through Australia's northern and central regions is between April and November. Year-round travel is possible in the south, with spring and autumn offering mild and pleasant conditions. Southerners begin drifting northward in Early May and return south around September. (Just think, travel North in any month without an R in the spelling of it - May to August).

Detailed weather information can be found by contacting services offered by the Bureau of Meteorology.
3. School and Public Holidays
If you do not have children, it may be best to avoid travelling during school holiday - particularly Christmas/New Year and Easter. Most accommodation is very heavily booked at these times plus being the peak periods, the prices are also at their highest.

Australia's mainland States schools each have a four-term year. While the holiday periods from State to State do not necessarily align exactly, they do tend to overlap. The holiday periods generally are:

- Two weeks in April usually coinciding with Easter
- Two weeks in late June or early July
- Two weeks in late September or early October
- Six weeks from mid December until the end of January including Christmas and New Year.

Tasmania has a three-term year with holidays in June, September and from December through to the middle of February.
Long weekends are also a popular time to get away. Different states have different public holidays, check when public holidays fall in the different States to avoid crowds in holiday regions, particularly areas close to the capital cities and beach locations.

4. Local Events
Quite a lot of regional towns now have local cultural and sporting events during the year. Some are minor affairs that may be fun to stumble across. Others are large, well organised, well advertised, crowded but can be very enjoyable. Phone visitor information centres for event guides, and check out the internet for local information.

By planning your trip around holidays and events you can either avoid them or ensure you are there when they are on.

5. Finding Your Way
Once you have a good idea of where you are going, by planning your trip you can like all these places together. You will need some practical tools to do this. This may be as simple as just getting some maps and guides. If you are travelling long distances or for a long period of time, you may look at installing a Global Positioning System, or GPS, good for travelling off main roads.

6. Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS, a navigation system developed by the American military, is now widely used by professionals and recreational travellers - you will find most taxi drivers have them installed in their cabs and use them all the time.

A GPS receiver determines the user's position, accurate to within 10 metres, by collecting distance and time measurements from satellites. GPS can also be used to determine speed of travel, altitude, and distance (in a straight line) to a proposed destination and estimated time of arrival. Most GPS receivers have the capacity to remember at least several routes, thus enabling return trips to be plotted. The preloaded data may include information or road networks and major geographical features. GPS receivers and antennae range in price from several hundred dollars to a couple of thousand.

A laptop computer, loaded with interactive mapping software downloaded from a CD_ROM and connected to a GPS receiver, offers a hi-tech visual navigational aid.

Hand-help GPS receivers usually operate on replaceable batteries; as the battery life is very short, however, it is necessary to carry a supply of replacement batteries. An alternative is to purchase a power pack, which will allow the receiver to be plugged into your vehicle's power supply.

7. Maps and Guides
If you are travelling in remote areas, particularly off the beaten track, you will need more detailed maps - a selection of these will be available at better map shops, visitor information centres or your local motoring organisation.

If you are just travelling on the main highways or major roads, you will get by with a good road atlas. If you are travelling with children, get them there own road map. Then when they say "where are we"; "how long til we get there"? they will be able to look it up for themselves. A good road map will have not only the major roads, but broad coverage region by region and details maps of cities and towns. Maps can last a long time, but it may be best to replace them ever five years or so.

Visitor information centres are a good source of local maps, generally reproduced in free brochures or leaflets. These maps tend to be quite detailed and useful in exploring the local area. Specialised books and guides covering localities and holiday activities fill the shelves of bookshops including map shops, national park shops and specialist environmental stores. Good all-round publications include Explore Australia and, for the outback adventurer, Explore Australia by Four-wheel Drive.
8. Visitor Information Centres
Many Australian towns have a visitor information centre. They not only have maps and guides, but the staff offer information on local accommodation, caravan parks, businesses and tourist attractions. They will also often have a booking service for your accommodation or local tours/attractions available in the region


There are many areas of Australia where access is prohibited, restricted or subject to particular requirements.

1. Aboriginal Land
Aboriginal communities own large tracts of land in areas such as Central Australia, the Kimberley's and Cape York. Travellers wishing to visit areas of Aboriginal-owned land must first apply to the relevant authority for a permit. Always ring first, as some areas of Aboriginal land may be completely out of bounds for tourists and permits therefore are not an option.

The permit-processing period can be quite long and by planning your trip you should apply well before you leave home. Visitor information centres in the area that you are heading off to will offer advice on which lands are covered by what traffic - permits can be purchased or obtained on the spot, although this tends to be the exception rather than the rule.

Permits are not usually required for travel along the public roads in Australia that traverse Aboriginal land, though notable exceptions include the Great Central Road that links Yulara in the Northern Territory with Warburton in Western Australia. Respect should be of utmost importance when travelling through Aboriginal lands, whether a permit is required or not.

2. National Parks
Australia's 500 or so national parks protect the continent's unique flora, fauna, famous landscapes and natural icons. Each State and Territory administers its own parks. The federal body, Parks Australia, oversees the management of a small number of parks, including Kakadu and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, and Booderee at Jervis Bay.

In some States, permits are required to visit national parks. These can be purchased in advance by contacting the central authority, or on the day within the park. If you intend to camp in National Parks, it is best to obtain a permit and book a site before hand. Most National Parks only have basic camping facilities and you should contact the relevant authority to make sure camping is permitted and, what facilities are available and book a site. In some parks, sites are heavily booked well in advance, particularly during peak periods.

To make sure you know what you are getting, phone ahead and ask the following questions:

-. Are the camping grounds likely to be open?
- Are the sites suitable for vans?
- What are the facilities like?
- Are there fire restrictions?
- Is there a ranger station in the area?
- Is it necessary to pre-book a site?


Most park organisations have a location in the relevant capital city where travellers can purchase passes and collect brochures, maps and other information. Many of the larger and more popular parks have information centres on site.

1. Private Land
There are tracts of private land, particularly in the remote northern half of Australia, where owners allow travellers to camp and sometimes fish. Most of these places are rural stations located off the beaten track and are generally known about by word-of-mouth. Always get permission to camp on private land. The nearest visitor information centre can, in some instances, provide you with details of the land-holder, or try local directories or businesses. Failing that, it may be a matter of stopping in at the homestead once you are on the road. If you do travel through Private Land make sure you leave it as you find it and if you have to open a gate to go through it.

This is the eigth page of 23 with related information about making the most of your caravan holiday. Check our website at for the other articles.***

by Ian Molloy
Ian Molloy is the owner of Crikey Adventure Tours. Visit his website for more information about this article and other related topics. His site is full of very helpful travel information including tips on motorcycle travel, driving cross-country, travelling with a caravan and other camping and travel information.
For more information visit:

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