When I sat down to write this I thought it was a good idea to compile some form of guide to my planning process. I decided to look around to see what road trip Australia planners were available, and found literally hundreds!
I am hoping that I can put a different spin on this topic in comparison to all the others out there, here’s hoping!
Road trip Australia Planner
The BIG Lap as it is commonly referred to, is driving around the outside of our island continent called Australia with free camping often being the key accommodation choice.
However, there is, in reality, a lot more to it than that. It may also take on many different incarnations because there is also a huge inland component which includes things like:
- Central Australia
- Cape York
- Chambers Pillar
- Tanami Track
- High Country
- Various deserts
and so much more.
Where should I start when planning such a large trip?
I thought the best idea was to look up all of these sites, get the tips and tricks and start the planning process, and it is a good idea to use these tools.
Unless you are me.
I played around with these tools and kept getting myself so distracted with all the wonderful places available that I had wasted about 5 hours and got no where.
So this is how I ended up doing the planning process.
Planning a trip like the BIG Lap
Planning a big trip is no mean feat, it takes months of preparation and many details need to be sorted so that there is sufficient flexibility in the plan to allow for the unknown.
The outline below is a revised version of the planning method I used to plan my recent trip to Perth. There are things that everyone must know and understand.
There is no fail-safe way to plan for everything, which is why I went wrong on the Perth trip. Here are three issues which will hopefully clarify this point:
- Bush fires
- We were travelling in the middle of winter to escape the heat and other related issues. However, we encountered extreme bush fires caused by “controlled burns” in the south-west of Western Australia. These fires caused a severe disruption to our trip, and more can be read in this post.
We took our 21 year old cat with us. Sounds silly to do so, but she was our pet. Two visits to the vet which is an expense that is necessary when you have a pet. Got to look after them, just can’t plan when. Yep public holidays and weekends …
- I did the best preparation on the vehicle I could manage. I then took it to a 4wd shop, they did mention that long distance driving would require new brake pads and a re-line of rear drum brake shoes. All done!
- However, no-one can prepare for a bad day at the office. I reversed into a bank, and cracked the exhaust pipe near the front (engine pipe) causing a severe blow out in fuel economy. This doubled the fuel bill for a week until I got to a city. That’s life!
Having covered all of that, I have some more dot points to outline how I plan for a big trip:
- Make a decision on the time frame for the trip you are planning.
- Determine where you would like to travel.
- Determine requirements of specific things you wish to do and see.
- ie incorporate a 4wd Tag-a-long tour.
- Find points of interest (I go for 4 main points) that are a must do and see.
- Re-route your trip if necessary
- Find at least 2 more points of interest.
- Re-route your trip if necessary.
- Repeat this process until you are satisfied – I did this three times to get it right for the Perth trip.
- Allocate a budget (to which you will comply).
Essentially, this is enough of a process to finally arrive at your basic outline for your BIG Lap trip.
We do have a trip in the planning stage and the basic outline of our next trip is available now.
By now your trip route will most likely have changed considerably, however your starting point, places of interest and finishing point will still be the same.
But wait there’s more …
OK, now that you have decided to travel by 4wd and incorporate a 4wd tag-a-long trip into your itinerary, what do you do next in the planning stage. Based on the premise that the planning is just that, it is quite feasible that your trip will be anywhere from 1 to 2 years away.
Accordingly, this is what I decided upon for a trip I wish to undertake starting in January 2020:
- Travelling from Sydney to Kalumburu, which is in the Kimberley, WA.
- Research the tag-a-long tour (www.justoverthehills.com) for their requirements and cost.
- Make a tentative date range based on (2018) this year – E.g. trip in these months May to August 2020.
- Work backwards to the date you intend to start the BIG Lap trip to make sure you have the time to do it.
This year the tag-a-long tour that I would like to do is held in July, assuming that this will be the same I now know that I need to be at the start of the tour at some time before the end of June 2020.
Factoring in to the equation that there are 6 locations in which I want to camp for a total period of 3 months and I can’t leave before Jan 2020. I need to determine if the time left is sufficient to travel from my hone base in Sydney to the starting point of the tag-a-long tour in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Is it possible to travel 5200 kms in 8 to 10 weeks, and keeping to our stated daily driving limit of 300 kilometres a day? Could it be too hard to achieve 520 kilometres a week over 10 weeks, seems like it would be easy.
Could it be that easy?
I just remember what happened on our Perth trip when things went wrong through no cause of our own, and suddenly I am hoping that once I work out the “nitty gritty” details of the trip there will be enough time.
Perhaps there is more to the planning stage
Actually there is a lot more.
We have covered the important points including:
- Vehicle maintenance, including the camper trailer
- Places of interest
- Basic route
All of this is good so far, yet the key component for the people on the trip is:
- Food and water
- Clothing and camping gear
- a reliable vehicle
Food and water
When travelling in remote parts of Australia these are very important items to consider, yet they are just as important when nearer to civilisation, for a different reason.
Our approach to the food issue encompasses three key components:
- Two fridges
- Pantry in camper trailer
- Vacuum sealed food for the fridges
The fridges we run are 12 volt and are wired into two deep cycle batteries in the vehicle (ie not the camper trailer) and these are charged by the car’s alternator.
In addition to this we have an inverter which will provide 240 volt power for charging laptops, battery operated tools, camera equipment and phones (if needed). We also use this to boil a kettle for roadside rest stops.
One fridge is purely for frozen food, which is vacuum sealed and stacked according to our meal plan. The second fridge carries all daily food items, including the day’s frozen food from the other fridge.
We try to open the freezer fridge only once a day.
It is a bit harder to open the other fridge once a day but we do minimise the open time as much as possible.
I might add there is also a cooler fridge in the front for our daily drinks.
Any other food that we require is stored in a pantry in our camper trailer along with eating utensils and other kitchen gear.
Water is carried in two tanks under the camper trailer for showers, cooking but not the kettle. Drinking water is carried in separate 10 litre containers in the camper trailer. In fact, we carry 6 of these and use them only for drinking, including boiled water.
Clothing and camping gear
Our camper trailer has a component for storing a fridge, which we do not use. We store camping gear in this compartment.
All of our clothing is stored in a 55 litre tub with a lid in the back of the car, 1 for each of us (ie 2 tubs).
Our vehicle carries sufficient fuel for most situations and provides us with a range of 600 kilometres. In addition, we carry a 25 litre jerry can and a 10 litre plastic container with fuel. If we use these then our range is around 750 kilometres.
We do have an issue with fuel, in that our vehicle is usually the only petrol powered vehicle in the groups with which we regularly travel.
However, when we are travelling solo, we tend to include in our plans the ability to carry another jerry can.
A reliable vehicle
There is more to consider than the reliable vehicle aspect, and I say this because a lot of newer vehicles are very reliable yet we have seen near new vehicles stranded by the roadside simply because they did not undertake regular maintenance.
This is something which many people seem to over look.
Many people consider the Toyota 79 series dual cab utes to be the most reliable and dependable 4wd vehicles ever produced. I cannot argue against this belief, because the vehicle has the runs on the board. It is used by mining companies all over Australia, many farmers have them and as such if they did happen to break down, parts availability is not too bad.
My vehicle of choice is also a Toyota however it is far older and is getting to the stage where parts are becoming much harder to obtain. For this reason I carry specific parts which frequently cause problems and are very hard to get.
Any other vehicle than these two is also ok to drive on such a trip, but the more unique the vehicle is the harder it will be to get parts. My vehicle does fall into this category and I need to consider a change in the very near future.
However, this is moving away from the basics which are required for every vehicle, no matter how good it is, these things need to be checked daily when in remote areas:
- fan belts
- fluid levels
- nuts and bolts on vehicle and trailer
- fuel tanks, including jerry cans
- water, fridges, food
That is a pretty long list to check each day, but it does not take long and is a good preventative measure.
Have you ever seen a trailer beside the road with a flat tyre or with no wheel? Maintenance is the key.
The conclusion to Planning a trip like the BIG Lap
There are many things to consider when planning a trip of the magnitude of the BIG Lap, hopefully we have given you some useful information about planning for the BIG Lap.
There are a lot of fantastic resources available for everyone to use, I have listed some of them below:
- A map of toilets for you
- Qld travel planning
- Google Maps
- Your local four wheel drive club
- Wikipedia Australia
- Camps Australia
Please note, I do not have any form of relationship with any of the “tools” listed above.
When planning your BIG Lap or other extended driving trip please remember that we all want you to enjoy your trip and return safely.
Please feel free to leave any comments that you may have below, especially suggestions that can be added to this post or any other comment that may be of assistance.