Planning for your trip of the Big Lap is no small feat. The thought alone may turn the less adventurous away, but for some it’s the trip, and the challenge, of a lifetime.
The Big Lap of course refers to travelling the entity of Australia by road, in one epic road trip. From the windy coastal roads of the east coast, to the dusty roads of the Red Centre and the blistering tarmac of the Northern Territory.
Deciding whether you’re going to undertake the journey is the first major decision in the Big Lap and once you decide yes, there’s a lot of preparation to do.
We’re here to break it down for you.
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There’s no set rule when it comes to which direction to undertake your lap but you need to pick one. Presuming your starting destination will be where you live currently, pick up a travellers map and start to question which direction will work best for you. It’s OK to not plan the entire trip, but having a rough idea of the route you’ll take will go a long way in preparation for other elements like vehicles and weather. Which brings us to the next point…
We think it’s fair to say that the majority of routes are planned around the seasons. Most travellers are keen to avoid the sweltering heat of the north in summer and aren’t too keen on experiencing the cooler seasons down south. Therefore, once you’ve decided your start date then it’ll be pretty straightforward to know which direction to go, north or south. Bearing in mind that you’re not going to hit every destination at that perfect time of year, as long as you are avoiding the extreme temperatures of that region, you’ll be good to go.
4WD or 2WD? Trailer or converted van? Deciding which vehicle to take on the Big Lap is a big one, it’s essentially going to be your home for the foreseeable future. Your interests and comfort levels are likely to sway your opinions. Adventure seekers looking for those off the beaten paths are going to go with the 4WD, whilst those planning to literally pack the kitchen sink would make do with a motorhome. However, the biggest factor for many is reliability. Australia is a ginormous place, with sections of roads taking days to cover with infrequent mobile service, the last thing you’d want is to be broken down on the side of the road with no help in sight. Choose safety and reliability.
Right, you’ve chosen your route, start date and vehicle now the next big question is…how much? Finances are a personal subject and every traveller’s situation is different but you need to have a pre-planned budget/ savings goal before hitting the road. The length of time you’ll be on the road, how many dependencies and the vehicle’s fuel costs are just some of the different factors that need to be considered. Set a realistic savings target and plan a weekly budget for expenses on the road. Expect expenses to include: groceries, fuel, camping permits, National Park passes, mobile data packages… you get the picture.
Without being too pessimistic, it’s wise to prepare for situations for when things don’t quite go to plan. Have a separate un-touchable account for emergency funds. This could cover expenses that one might not expect such as a major vehicle breakdown. Additionally, you may find that as much as you tried to stick to a budget, it just didn’t work. A great plan B for this situation would be to browse temporary jobs in the regions you plan to travel. A lot of travellers tend to stop and top up funds when needed in industries like farming.
If this is going to be your first rodeo then we highly recommend a practice run. Not camped much? Never travelled with your partner? The last thing you want to do is quit it all to realise a few days in that camping just isn’t your thing. Book a weekend away and pack as if you’re on the road. What better way to prepare for the trip than to have a little test run. Find out what set up works for you and what doesn’t. Talk to your partner/children about what to expect and what they’re expecting from the trip. Build up excitement and resolve any worries to allow yourselves to have the best experience possible.
The saying, ‘if in doubt, leave it out,’ doesn’t ring truer than when packing for the Big Lap. Space is limited so reflect on what you’re packing and ask yourself whether it’s essential and how often you’ll use it. This is where going on a trial trip is perfect because you’ll have a clear understanding of what was needed and what wasn’t.
Who better to ask for advice to prepare you for your Lap than those who are doing it! Join groups and online communities, follow travellers on social media and read blog posts. There’s a wealth of information out there, answering any question you may have. Generally, people love to help, and want to help. Learn from others’ mistakes and take their advice, because soon enough it’ll be you who people will turn to for advice!