Many people wonder whether the limited space inside a 4WD camper constitutes a problem when traveling with children. Our answer to that question is ‘no’. It is not necessarily a problem per se, but when on a 4×4 holiday with (especially small) children, it will be certainly different from traveling by normal 2WD campervan with the whole family! But different is good…. please read on. The below information is mainly based on our own experiences as well as our customers’ who have traveled extensively with their young families. Most 4WD campers are designed and built with two people in mind. Only a limited number of them are suitable for more than two.
The most important thing when you consider taking your family on a 4WD holiday: book (very) early! Not only do the few 4WD campers that are suitable for four or five people get booked out very early on, they also increase in price every week due to the ‘Flex pricing’ mechanism. The fewer vehicles are available, the higher the rate will become of the remaining ones. A vehicle that is booked closer to the travel date could be double or triple the price for that same vehicle if booked well in advance (months or longer).
We would love to share our experiences with you, please feel free to contact us should you have any questions about, or doubts regarding taking your children on a 4WD trip around Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Namibia, or Canada. We’d love to inform you in an honest and very down to earth manner.
Traveling in a 4WD with your children could be an experience of a liftime for all of you. But first things first: Safety. The use of Child seats for children between 0 and 3 years of age is compulsory. A booster seat is compulsory for children between 4 and 6. Check with us whether or not you can hire a childseat from the vehicle supplier (rental company) as in most cases your are not allowed you to bring your own, due to discrepancies in regulations and specifications between countries.
Age: We are not a big fan of going on a serious 4WD holiday with children of under 1 year of age. The often bumpy roads and tracks are simply not much fun for any small child on the backseat, who won’t share the joy that driving on unsealed roads through beautiful scenery offers an adult. Especially the adult behind the wheel…!
Sometimes it pays off to wait a few more years with undertaking such a trip. Also, a 4WD ‘family’camper is usually a normal 4WD vehicle with added roof tent or a built-on camper unit on the rear and these are only accessible during camping. Inside 4WD campers, there is hardly any room to play for kids. Compare this with 2WD campers, especially motorhomes, where there is plenty of room to sit, play games or just play. But, when you choose for a 2WD camper (see our other website: www.totallycampers.com.au ), your itinerary and route must be changed accordingly of course.
Families with more than one child: Only a few 4WD campers can be fitted with one or two child seats. The number of those vehicles is limited since most 4WD campers are suitable for only 2 people, so check with us first. Unfortunately, there are no options for families of 6 people. We would suggest traveling with 2 vehicles or change plans and choose a 6 berth 2WD motorhome instead, which we also offer through our other website www.totallycampers.com.au
Secure a vehicle as early as possible: we have already mentioned it before: the number of available family-friendly 4×4 vehicles is limited so they get booked full very early too. Plus the weekly flex rate increases cause the total rental fee to double or sometimes even triple in price when booked closer to the travel date (providing it is still available by then). Please book early to avoid disappointment. We advise to book your vehicle at least 9 months prior to traveling in peak season. Remember: there are more available flights than there are available 4WD campers! So it would be better to secure a vehicle first and find a flight later.
Are you traveling to Australia and considering a trip from Perth, Broome or Darwin? We can offer you the ultimate family-friendly option: a 4WD Landcruiser with 4×4 camper trailer. It sleeps 5 comfortably, offers luxury in the outback as well as all advantages that any other 4WD vehicle offers. Form other locations in Australia, we also offer a similar 4×4 campertrailer but then towed by a LandRover.
Ask us for details!
Most 4×4 campers have one or two rooftents. Children usually love these exciting ‘cubby houses’ and we would definitely recommend you to allow them the experience of a couple of nights’ sleep on the roof, providing they are old enough and you deem your kids to be physically able to get on there and down again safely. You as their parents will be the best judge of that. Some people sleep with their children in the rooftent for peace of mind which is a good idea too and you can alternate that way.
Some vehicles have a sleeping arrangement inside the cabin however, these are mainly 2 berth vehicles. A common 4WD camper is the one where a rooftent for the parents is combined with an ‘annexe-tent’ below it, attached to it so the family effectively still sleeps in the same room. Some people don’t fancy the idea of their children sleeping in a ground tent. However, this is perfectly safe, since these tents are properly closed off with mosquito screens and zips, as well as an attached ground sheet so nothing can crawl in. Creepy crawlies of the nasty kind can be seen in many tv documentaries but the film makers are very skilled at sourcing their subjects. In reality you will find that you have to look really hard to find any at all, which is great!
The answer: not all that many. As a rule of thumb: only about 150 to 200 kilometres per day. This does not sound like a lot, but the reason being: dirt and gravel roads are not as smooth as bitumen roads and the safe speed on these roads is max 60 kph. This is also the max speed that insurance companies advise. These roads are usually bumpy and children do not enjoy bumpy roads as much as their driving parents do! Luckily there are plenty of opportunities to stop and revive and spend some time with the kids outside of the car. This however, dramatically reduces the distance you can drive in a day. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you incorporate it in your planning. The word ‘Planning’ is actually one of our least favorite words when it comes to 4WD travel: In our opinion it is better to follow a vaguely outlined plan and route, and then just go with the flow. You will find the trip much more relaxing and enjoyable that way, and relaxed parents on holidays usually have relaxed and happy kids. Happy kids are a joy to be around and that way the parents enjoy the holiday to the fullest. So it works both ways!
For parents a 4WD holiday can be a great adventure. To achieve this for children, it usually requires a bit of a helping hand from you. Think about the route, choice of places to stop, the type of camping (true bush-camps vs. the less adventurous camping on commercial campgrounds), finding spots where you, together with your kids can build and light a campfire and cook a simple meal on it, with marshmallows on a stick as dessert! But also searching for certain animals, wild ones and not so wild ones together adds to the fun. Try and visit a local farm (most farmers are very happy to show people around if you ask politely).
Even a basic hike through an area that differs from what is on offer back home usually leaves a lasting impression on children.
Of course, being able to play regularly is very important for them. When your route takes you through small or large towns, you will find plenty of playgrounds, usually along the main thoroughfare. Kids usually love these since they are all similar in setup and therefore recogniseable, yet all of them still slightly different. Visiting a ZOO is also a guaranteed success. Especially, because the kids will discover completely different animals than on display at the Zoo at home. The good thing is that heaps of them can be touched and petted as well: What an experience it is to pet a Koala in an Australian zoo! Another, but entirely different experience for them would be to watch the big 5 as well as giraffes from the safety of a vehicle in Kruger NP in South Africa.
Most of your questions regarding your trip can be answered by our travel consultants. They truly enjoy helping you and want to ensure that you go on your way well-informed. With your most precious property: your little ones!
Just contact our friendly Totally4WDCampers staff through the contact form on our website.
You can also call us on: (+61) 3 90174810 (our admin office in Australia).
Should we be closed when you call due to the time difference, or we are on other calls, then just leave your name and number and we will call you back soon after!