Big Trip Decision Made. Now What?

Kylie and I have been talking about embarking on a trip around the country for a number of years now but the time has arrived to commit to it and get prepared. With that in mind, we have decided that we will be going for a minimum of 12 months and that we will be leaving by end of April 2018. This has now been communicated to all the other important people in our lives so they can now start to prepare for what it means to them. In many ways, our lives change from this point onwards.

Repairs to one of our fences. It was rotted to the point of collapse.
Making the actual decision and sticking to it is probably the first thing you need to do if you’re going to do this. Without a commitment, there’s no incentive to get prepared, and believe me, that is the single most important and complicated thing to do. This is the point reality starts to bight, and you realise just how much stuff, none of it terribly pleasant, that you just have to work through. To give you an idea, here’s what our thinking has lead us to consider:

1. What are we going to do with the house while we’re gone?
2. How much money are we going to need while we’re away?
3. What income can we rely upon and for how long will it last?
4. What contingencies will we have in place for dealing with emergencies?
5. Preparation of the rig (car and van).
6. Communications capabilities while were away.

Tackling the first question is probably the most significant as it potentially involves leaving us without somewhere to come home to. The options are:

1. Sell the house.
2. Rent out the house.
3. Get in a house sitter.

To make this decision, we have had to consider our actual overall financial position and to consider how we would cope with all the options on the predicted income we expect to have and how much of that will be left over with the ongoing financing of the trip. This is complicated by the need to pay out the lease on the Landcrusier and selling our other car, the Patrol, before we go. It turned out this wasn’t terribly difficult as our financial position is not all that complicated. We don’t have children to consider which makes it considerably easier. Getting a valuation on the house from several real estate agents has also provided us with a lot of guidance. At this stage we are reserving our final decision but the preparations for the house, regardless, are the same. Clean up, perform maintenance and get rid of everything we no longer need.

Now things start getting really scary and confronting, but, tackled with the right attitude, they end up being quite good experiences.

Modifications to the house have been limited to essential items only.

1. Change the carpet throughout the home and re-paint neglected areas.
2. De-clutter by removing old and unnecessary furniture.
3. Throw out anything that hasn’t been touched in years.
4. Sell any unwanted items of value.

Just a portion of the ridiculous amount of stuff we’ve accumulated.
Over the last couple of weekends, we’ve been ruthless with deciding what to throw out and have, thus far, removed 6 trailer loads of stuff and filled a 4 square metre skip with rubbish. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time…! We gave a lot of useful electrical items, books and other stuff to a local charity and much of our rubbish was recyclable, reducing the expense of tip fees.

We’ve started the maintenance on the house. All upstairs has been repainted and we’ve got a start on the exterior. A plasterer is coming to fix a few bits and we are replacing all the toilets. The bathrooms are getting a freshen up. The garden is being simplified and made presentable.

We still have a very long way to go but, for the first time since we decided to do this, it actually feels like it will now be a reality and we are actively working towards this goal. No more stuffing around.

Safe travels.

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Christmas Holiday To-Do List

It’s hard to believe that another year has gone by and we are fast approaching the holiday season. Like many others, we’ve planned to take the van away for a quick trip to the coast and our thoughts have turned to getting the van and car ready for the trip. It has reminded me that we have quite a few handy hints ant tips on this site that are extremely useful at this time of year. 

I thought it would be a good idea to put them all together in one post so that they can be used as a sort of To-Do list before you head off. 

We hope you find this useful. Safe travels.

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10 Reasons to Keep a Spare iPhone in Your Caravan

Have you got an old smartphone or two lying around and you’re wondering what to do with them? Well…if you’re like Kylie and I, and you love upgrading to the latest gadgets, you’ve probably got at least one sitting in a drawer in your home. I know I find it very difficult to just get rid of a device that once cost me a lot of money. So I started to think about what use could an old, unused smartphone be to the average caravanner? Well…as it turns out, there’s quite a lot of functions a spare smartphone can be used for especially for RV use and, when compared to purchasing individual hardware for each specific task, you could end up saving yourself a substantial amount of money.

Here we look at just 10 useful apps that we have found that you can install on a spare iPhone or similar device that will be useful for caravanning and camper travel.

maxresdefault1. GPS Tracking Device. Pretty much every iPhone and most other brands of smartphones, have a built in GPS function. Normally this is used for mapping and navigation but it is also used as a means to locate a lost or stolen iPhone using the Find my Phone application. This comes standard with iOS and basically allows you to view the location of any other iOS device you own using the internal GPS. Android phones have a similar app. The location is displayed on a map and, from what I have found, it is extremely accurate. By placing an old iPhone in your caravan or camper and having it connected to a constant 12v source, it can act as a GPS locator in the event your RV is stolen. Where ever the caravan goes, the phone will go. Obviously you will need to install a separate SIM card for the phone to work. I found that Vodafone offer a ‘pay as you go’ or prepaid account that has a validity period of 12 months for any credit you put on the card. This means you can put a minimum of $10 on the account and this will last you a year or until you run out of data credit. A dedicated GPS tracking device can cost anywhere between $300 and $1,000 dollars depending on functionality so the savings on this function alone justify keeping a spare phone in your van.
2. Video Surveillance Camera. If you have a look on the App Store, you will find a variety of video surveillance applications that turn a spare mobile phone equipped with a camera into an IP camera that can be accessed remotely from another smartphone. Some apps like Surveillance Pro allow 2 way video and audio communications. If you travel with dogs and, for whatever reason, you need to leave them in your van for a short period of time, you can monitor them and ensure they are OK and not barking. You could also place the phone in a window to keep an eye on your campsite. The uses for this are endless. Installing a similar dedicated IP camera could cost upwards of $150.
logo_big3. Caravan Levelling Device. Another unique feature of the iPhone is the inbuilt position and accelerometer sensors that are used to , among other things, detect the movement and orientation of the phone itself. It allows the screen to rotate between portrait and landscape modes automatically or for applications like the digital spirit level. Now some enterprising people have come up with an app that sends this positional data to another smartphone remotely allowing the spare phone in the van or camper to tell the driver when it is level. The app is called StayLevel. It’s a brilliant system that allows you to park your van in the most level position on a campsite before unhitching it from the tow vehicle. It should avoid one of the most common causes of arguments between couples and prevent you from rolling out of an uneven bed at night…! Again, there are devices that can be purchased for this very purpose that cost upwards of $350.
4. Remote Battery Monitor. Just about every modern caravan or camper has a 12v electrical system of some description and monitoring the health of your batteries is key to ensuring this system delivers constant power to all of your appliances. If, like me, you rely on your 12v power system to power a cpap machine overnight, knowing your batteries are fully charged before nightfall is essential to your health. Your van will likely have an inbuilt monitor of some type but imagine how good it would be if you could have that information at your side all the time? Well now you can with the availability of several devices that connect to a smartphone via Bluetooth and display all sorts of information about the health of your batteries and the rate at which you’re using power. They are not cheap, costing around $300 but the convenience they can offer can be very helpful. You can keep the phone with you outside of the van and at a glance see what state of charge your batteries are at. If they are not getting charged sufficiently, you can move the solar panels into better sunlight or consider other methods of charging. Some apps give you the ability to set alerts to prevent running your batteries too low and causing them damage.
 bmpro-battery-check-feature-image5. Juke Box. If your caravan or camper has an inbuilt stereo system that allows the connection of a smartphone or MP3 player, you can store your favourite music on your spare iPhone and leave it in the van permanently connected to the stereo so you will always have your music with you when you travel.
6. Movies on the go. Take the above one step further and, if you have sufficient memory capacity on your phone, you can also store a selection of your favourite movies that, with the addition of an AV cable, can be connected to your TV. This saves carrying around a heap of DVDs or a separate portable hard drive.
7. Walkie Talkie. How many of us love watching others trying to back their campers and vans into a tight spot and have a giggle at the antics and agreements that inventively ensue. Sadly we do and often we have offered these poor souls the use of our portable UHF radio. I’ve often wondered why people don’t have one of these useful tools for assisting with this task. Well, there is a great feature on all smartphones called push to talk and it allows phones to communicate with each other without using valuable data or phone credit turning your phones into walkie talkies. Just do a search on ‘push to talk’ apps on the Appstore. It could save you $50 or more on a dedicated portable radio.
8. Night Light/Alarm Clock. You can spend hours trolling through all the night light apps on the app store. There are literally hundreds. Some will have sound activation, others will have various functions like a night clock that is sound activated. There are probably more out there with features you may not have ever contemplated. Either way, making use of your spare iPhone as a night light and a bedside alarm clock can be very helpful.
screen568x5689. Children’s entertainment. We don’t have children but on occasion we may have people visit is when were in the caravan and they may bring their kids along. If it’s raining and there is not much for them to do , it may be handy to have a spare iPhone around loaded with a selection of games to keep them entertained without lending them your actual mobile phone. Kids have a habit of destroying things from time to time so if they do break your spare phone, it won’t be such a hardship.
10. Netflix Box. Netflix, if you haven’t heard about it, is an on-demand online TV streaming service that costs a fraction of traditional pay TV subscriptions. You can use the Netflix app on your smartphone to stream TV to a normal television using a device like the Google Chromecast. By installing the Netflix app on your spare phone you will always have a player handy in your RV and it will allow you to use your personal mobile phone for other applications. I wouldn’t recommend using a smartphone for Netflix unless you were at a caravan park with free WiFi access available.

So there you have it. Ten very practical uses for a spare smartphone that you can keep in your caravan or camper that can make life on the road just that little bit easier.

Safe Travels

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Aussie Traveller Rafter DIY Installation.

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Aussie Traveller Rafters add much needed support to the awning, preventing flapping and ensuring water doesn’t pool when it rains.

Today I had a bit of spare time to install a set of Aussie Traveller Awning Rafters. Yes….I did it myself.

I’m reasonably handy with most DIY projects however the prospect of drilling holes into our near new caravan was not a task I was looking forward to. One stuffed up measurement and I could have ended up with a hole or two where they shouldn’t be.

There’s a golden rule in any DIY project; measure twice, drill once. It’s a good mantra to have especially with this install.

img_5560Step 1: Measure out the rafter positions. Depending on the number of rafters you need to install, you need to measure out where they will go. I was installing 2 rafters so I needed two equal distant spaces. I measured from the edge of the awning material itself as this correlates back to the roller perfectly ensuring both ends line up.

img_5559Step 2: Screw in the bracket. The instructions say that you need to ensure the bracket is about 2.5cm lower than the awning itself. I found that this was not so critical and I just screwed my brackets into the metal strip that secures the awning itself. I figured the panel behind it had already been drilled into so it was a safe bet that I could drill in line with the rivets without hitting any wires. If you’re not sure, drill your holes very slowly so as to control the drill when it reaches the inside edge of the panel. The kit came with wood screws but given I was screwing into metal, I used my own self drilling sheet metal screws. I drilled pilot holes first just to be sure.

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Make sure the drill bit is just big enough for the rafter to fit into. You want a snug fit as any movement will expand the hole and risk it rattling in the wind.

Step 3: Drill the holes in the roller. Before drilling the holes, install the rafter at the van wall end and check to see the place you’ve market for the hole in the roller lines up. Again, the instructions show the holes being drilled above the grove where the shade slips in. This was not going to work for us so I just ensured the awning was completely unrolled and drilled the hole in the same approximate position.

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I could have probably mounted the bracket a bit higher but this is fine. There’s plenty of metal in there for the screws to get a good bite and a secure fitting.
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The roller end of the awning.

That’s it. Job done. It really is a simple install anyone can do. We’re expecting some rain and wind tonight so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. So far it feels very solid and with the assistance of ratchet strap tie downs, I expect it will survive pretty severe conditions.

Safe travels

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