Whether you are a frequent roadie or are doing the lap of Oz, choosing the right van is important and exciting. There is a lot to consider and take in. Head to your nearest Essential Caravan retailer to have them show you around and have all your questions answered. It makes the process a lot easier and so much more fun because who doesn’t love van shopping!!!!
We are a family of five with three young children. In May 2019 we started our journey, we sold everything we owned, rented our house out and now travel and live full time from our van on the road. Read below as we go through the van we chose and how it suits our family of five.
Corporate To Caravan
After 9 months of looking at every van under the sun, we walked into George Day Caravans in Maddington Perth and were greeted by Lance the van specialist. We had previously been here before but hadn’t found anything we really fell in love with. This day was different. We came in and asked if there were any vans within our price range that was new in stock. Lance excitedly took us over to an Essential West Coast Cruiser. Let’s just say it was love at first sight.
The lighting, the colours, the extras, the layout was all in our favour. That was the day we found the soon to be home of our dreams. We chose a West Coast Cruiser 22.1 foot, triple bunk, semi off-road Caravan. That feeling of finally finding the van that met all of our wants and needs was a bloody good feeling.
If you are building your very own custom van like we did. You have the choice to choose your interior colours for just about every aspect of inside the van. We already loved the colours that were in the display van so we didn’t change a thing.
Considering we were living from our van full time we knew we wanted a separate shower and toilet. We also wanted 3 bunks, with these all up one end of the van. Inside our van this is all shut-off with a Constantine door. It is the BEST!!! Our children also have enough floor space to play cars, lego and build with their Mobilo.
Our eating area we opted to change the L-Shape couch to the Cafe style, this fits all five of us around the table nicely with lots of room to move. We eat lots of food and play lots of board games here. The kitchen is equipped with a microwave, 3-way fridge (large enough for our family 5) and holds enough food for seven days of shopping. The freezer we struggled with as we always shop for 7 nights of dinners but if you are good at Tetrus then you will be good at freezer packing. We also have an electric and gas stove. Plus one kicker of a gas oven, this oven makes the meanest crackling on a pork roast. Preparing dinner is easy when you get the hang of cooking from the van.
Our bedroom is also the family communal ‘jumping’ area. Not by intention but it is the first thing the kids see when coming through the front door so they automatically jump on it. It’s safe to say we have a sandpit in our bed most days. Set-up mats at the front door and in the entry of your van!
Our bed is the place where we all watch movies, read books and chill during the day. Nothing beats those chill-out nights with the fresh air blowing through the roof vent with us all watching a family DVD with some popcorn. Snuggled up in the bed!!
Before moving into the van we were afraid we were not going to have enough storage and we were really conscious of the items we were putting aside to take with us. When we started to pack the van, we realised how much storage we actually had. HEAPS!! Even after packing our van and living from it full time, we still have 3 empty cupboards and under the bed storage we had only half-filled. There is storage everywhere!
Tips for smart storage/convenience
1/ At the end of the beds for the children we have a box for their special belongings and all their toys go in here. We started with a large rectangle box but have since downgraded to a smaller box.
2/ Inside the shower we went to Bunnings and purchased a 3-way liquid dispenser and filled it with soap, shampoo and conditioner. These can be attached to the shower wall, we have left ours on the floor.
3/ In the children’s cupboards, each child has a container with all their clothes in and at the back of each child’s shelf is where their beach towel and jackets are stored. This then fills the shelf right to the top.
4/ Small storage containers will be your best friend. This stops stuff from moving inside cupboards and keeps everything organised and in place. Like the herbs and spices!
5/ Plastic adhesive hooks another great invention. We didn’t want to make screw holes in our van so we brought a tonne of these. To hang the hats up, our keys are above the door all with coloured tags to label each set. A total time saver and very convenient.
The great thing about the van we chose and most of the Essential range that it is drive away ready to go. Our van came with 2 x 90watt solar panels which runs all the 12volt appliances inside the van. Which includes our lights, 12 volt charging (ie phones, portable radio etc) and TV. This is all connected to a battery inside the van and is set up. This power has never run out for us. So when we are free camping we can pull up no problems and never in the dark.
We rely on gas a lot, we love to free camp along the coast and to pull up anywhere that allows camping. This works for us as we have a 3-way fridge, in the times where we don’t have access to the 240vault electricity we simply turn the fridge to gas and wal-ah our food stays cold and the ice stays frozen. Perfect for when a nice cold bevvie is on the menu. The gas is also there to heat our water for nice hot showers. Australia does have fire bans in place for half of the year so when needed we do use the gas stove to cook up our favourite burritos or use the gas bottle to fire the portable BBQ. Our van came standard with 2 x 9kg gas bottles and we couldn’t live without them.
Water- the liquid gold of travelling. Every Aussie needs it and on a daily basis. Our van came stock standard with two large 95-litre tanks. We can live off these tanks for up to 5 days. This includes ONLY 1 shower for each of us over those 5 days, unlimited daily drinking water (usually about 10 litres per day and water for the dishes. Plus some extra water to flush the toilet and to have a real basic wipe down on the non-shower days. To help us out we also carry an extra 50 litres in the car. We haven’t needed to invest in any larger tanks and this is doing us fine.
Our Front Wheels
We currently have a Toyota Landcruiser 100 series. This runs on Unleaded and tows the van very well. We haven’t needed to make any adjustments to the car and we have kept all stock standard for now. Our towing capacity is 3.5 tonne and we are currently towing 2.7 tonne. So we still have some leg room to add more weight if we needed to. The unleaded gets us $1 per 1km at a rough estimate- this will change when you can get cheaper fuel. Petrol hasn’t been cheap up North and we have been paying anywhere between $1.50-$1.80. OUCH!
In the back we carry our water and our generator. As we do not have fitted an inverter we use the generator as our back up for when we are free camping. This can be used to power our fridge, power up the washing machine, microwave and charge the laptop.
We also have a floor mat to go under the awning as it does stop a lot of sand entering the van, especially when camped on the beach.
We had installed a washing machine inside the van. This we have not regretted and it is an absolute gun! It goes better than the top loader we had at home. We can do all our own washing when we like and know that our washing machine is clean. We had this installed through the build.
When we purchased the van we had ESC (Electronic Stable Control) Brakes fitted before picking up the van. We feel this is definitely worth investing in. This has stopped the sway of the van in high winds and has assisted in emergency stopping.
If you are looking for a van, find one that fits in with your travel and living needs. Don’t be scared to ask for additions and make changes to suit you. We all love our van and it feels like home every day. The memories that have been created so far have been priceless.
Safe and Happy Travels
Kylie and Dan