Travel Stories / What vehicle should you choose for your family road trip?
We have been traveling full time with our 2 kids for 3 months now. As we travel and meet many other traveling families one subject keeps coming back into conversations: what is the best setup for traveling with kids?
Of course, the answer to this question is undeniably dependent on many factors. However, I attempt here to give you our point of view on the advantages and disadvantages of different set ups for traveling families.
Driving a car and enjoying comfortable hotel nights
- Enjoy the comfort of a hotel room with all the necessities available (which means you don’t have to pack them and can travel light)
- Appreciate the service that usually comes with hotel stays (cleaning is done for you, restaurants and cafes are mostly easily accessible, hotel staff often share valuable recommendations)
- Benefit from easy driving as cars are easy to maneuver, lightweight and easy to park
- You need to plan ahead your itinerary (booking ahead is advised to make sure you get a spot in hotels of your liking)
- Staying in hotels often means you have to stay closer to towns and closer to the crowds
- You’ll have to pack and unpack all your stuff every time you move.
- Hotels are often more expensive than other options and can require a high budget.
For us this option is the ultimate luxury getaway. When we have a short escape where we want to splurge this is our go to. We know we won’t have to cook as we will mostly go out for meals and enjoy a yummy brunch and maybe a fancy dinner. We know we won’t have to bother with any cleaning as it will be taken care of for us.
We choose the car and hotel nights option when we know we have a limited amount of time for our escape and don’t want to struggle too much on the road. We want an easy to maneuver car that will get us from point A to point B quick and easy.
This option however is not so sustainable for longer trips as it quickly gets over our budget. Also, we particularly love to be in remote areas, surrounded by nature, with less crowds and this is not the best option to get us to those places unless we have a big budget that allows for stays in remote luxurious lodges.
Camping in a tent
- Love the flexibility camping offers! You can pretty much pitch a tent anywhere and find beautiful secluded spots, away from the crowds and close to nature. You’re more likely to spot wild animals too!
- It is the cheapest option and your travel wallet will thank you for it! Splurge on activities while you save on accommodation 😉
- Benefit from a lighter set up, a lighter car and consequently a faster drive as opposed for example to towing a caravan where your speed is limited by its weight..
- You have the option to pack a classic ground tent or to get a vehicle with a rooftop tent which can be a good option if sleeping on the ground, close to the wildlife, is not really your thing…
- Be prepared to be affected by any weather that comes your way (rain, cold, heat…)
- You definitely feel more vulnerable as it is more challenging to secure your belongings and sleeping outdoors can be stressful for some.
- Setting up usually takes more time when camping with tents, unless you’re a regular!
We love, love, love camping! It is probably the most flexible option. You can just pack up all your camping gear, hit the road and find a stunning spot far away from the crowds in the middle of nature. As we favour free camping, these escapes allow us to disconnect from everything else and simply enjoy the present moment. It is also so cheap and we feel so free.
However, we can’t deny that after a while we miss comfort… After a few nights, access to flowing water and stable electricity becomes a craving. If you get unlucky with weather this paradise escape can rapidly turn into your worst nightmare, so you have to time it right! Choosing caravan parks instead of free camping can give you access to a lot more comfort but then you probably won’t get this lost in nature feel as you are often really close to your neighbours…
In short, we love camping for shorter escapes (a week or less) and a good option is to alternate between free camps and caravan parks to access more comfort between two wild adventures.
Living the vanlife
- Love the freedom van life gives you. You may choose to plan your itinerary as you go if you are flexible on the type of camp you stay at.
- Enjoy having everything you may need, with you, at all times. It feels like your tiny house follows you everywhere you go!
- Appreciate the perfect balance of having everything you need with you at all times in a rather small size vehicle (when you compare to motorhomes or caravans). There is great comfort in having a vehicle you can easily park and maneuver.
- Your vehicle also being your home, means you have to bring everything with you all the time even for a quick grocery run. This can be frustrating when you have to pack up all the cooking gear, breakable items, etc.
- There are not that many different types of vans. For example, it will be really difficult to find an off-road van as most have a pretty low clearance. It is also rare to find a van that can seat and sleep more than 4 people.
- Vans usually require you regularly hook up to power to recharge its battery needed for all your electrical equipment. It can be frustrating if you plan to camp outside of caravan parks.
- Even if some models allow you to stand up and have all cooking equipment inside, you will mostly live outside the vehicle as the space inside can be limited.
The van is our go to for holidays where we know we will not be going off-road. We have all the necessities and simple comfort whilst not being too bulky and being able to park easily everywhere.
We especially like this option when we travel through busier towns and beaches where parking can become a nightmare. We usually alternate between free camps and caravan parks on those holidays to make sure we get some secluded days, closer to nature and other days with more comfort and amenities (playgrounds, electricity hook up, bathrooms, etc).
Cruising in a motorhome
- Relish in the freedom that a holiday with a motorhome gives you. As your vehicle and your home are one, you may roam the roads as you wish and stop where you please.
- You bring your home with you all your stuff, cooking gear, etc.
- Love the space and enjoy the luxuries of a well-equipped kitchen, a comfortable bed and generally a good bathroom. You can do everything inside the vehicle (cooking, washing…) which is welcome when it’s cold or rainy.
- A motorhome is bulky! It can get difficult to park and isn’t easy to maneuver.
- There is no option to un-hitch your vehicle from your home which means you have to bring both with you everywhere and at all times.
- You need to be plugged to electricity regularly to recharge your battery for all your electrical equipment.
The motorhome is basically meant for people who want a van with more space. Like the van you will enjoy having all your belongings and a good level of comfort with you at all times. However, the motorhome is generally much bigger and gives you much more space to enjoy. That is particularly welcome on rainy and cold days.
You may generally enjoy the luxury of a bathroom onboard, however note that it is not your classic bathroom. You will need to empty out your toilet in allocated dump points on the way and water is not free-flowing unless you are permanently hooked on a water tap!
Now the motorhome is bulky and difficult to maneuver. Your vehicle and your home are one and you have to take the whole thing with you at all times!
Towing a caravan
- Enjoy a proper home away from home with the welcome possibility of un-hitching it from your car to move about freely, without your caravan, once you are set up.
- Appreciate the option to leave the caravan behind and go off-road for a small trip with your 4WD and tents if you wish to access more remote places.
- Take pleasure in finding the right option for you as caravans exist in all shapes and sizes.
- Caravans are often heavy and slow you down on the road.
- You will need patience as you learn all about caravans and experience to connect the caravan to the car.
- Unless you have a really good supply of energy, caravans need to be plugged to electricity regularly to recharge their batteries.
In my opinion the caravan is the best option for long term traveling. It provides you a proper home away from home. Sure, there are disadvantages such as the weight of a caravan slowing you down on the road or the fact that it needs regular battery charging but all these are basically worth the pain if you are traveling on the road long term.
A caravan gives you comfort, security, space (relatively) and even a homey feel if you like decorating. The cherry on the cake is that you may leave your caravan behind for a few days and go camping or splurge in a few hotel nights as you can simply un-hitch from your car and leave it in a rather cheap and secure caravan storage (they are everywhere!).
Note that the bathroom in a caravan, just like in a motorhome, is not your classic bathroom. It requires more work such as emptying your toilet in allocated dump points.
Is a 4WD a must?
This is a tough question that we get asked a lot! My personal opinion: absolutely!
I love four wheel driving because it gives you access to remote areas with a lot less crowds. Most 4WD tracks are stunning and there is something so adventurous and exotic about driving off-road. There are many unbelievably beautiful spots in Australia that you can only access with a good off-road vehicle.
However, you really need to think through all the disadvantages before you make a decision, especially when you are hiring a vehicle. Many 4WD on hire are only available as manual transmission, they are usually really expensive and unfortunately not available from every destination. Note particularly that many hire companies don’t allow you to drive on certain tracks. So make sure the places you want to visit with a 4WD vehicle are allowed by the hirer’s insurance.
Also note that there are often day tours available in the national parks that can only be accessed via a 4WD. Sometimes it works out cheaper to plan day trips rather than hiring a 4WD for the whole journey.
The best vehicle for a family road trip
It can be intense to choose the right vehicle for your adventures as the options are plentiful. However, the good news is there is an option to suit all types of travellers. We personally have experienced most options in this article and have enjoyed them for different reasons and in different types of adventures. Our latest trip is a long-term lap of Australia. Originally we left with our 4WD and 2 swags because we didn’t have the budget for a more comfortable option and loved the idea of being as close to nature and basics as possible.
However, after a few weeks the humidity and the cold affected us, and especially our children, more than expected. We managed to take the big leap and finance our caravan through the sale of our house in Sydney. No regrets, we love our home on wheels and all the comfort and security it provides us on our big adventure across our beautiful country!
Contact us to get the valuable support of our experienced knowledge on vehicle rental. We can generally book your vehicles for cheaper than what you will find online.
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Founder & Managing Director
I believe that travel is one of the best forms of education and I am currently living with my family in a 4WD and a caravan on the roads of Australia. We are embracing the nomadic life and reconnecting with nature.
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