No matter what vehicle you drive, there’s no getting around the fact that Australia is a big place. When I say big, I’m not referring to just a bit big. Its massive, and to travel from one town to another can take a very long time.
Before having our son Oliver, we would do 1200 – 1400km in a day, without an issue in the world. They were long, tiring and boring days, but done carefully and in a manner that was safe. These days, we try and limit our travel days to a maximum of 800km, with at least a few hours of break in between and stopping for more than one night at each spot.
The secret, which we use on almost every trip for the first day, is to leave really early in the morning. Our ideal departure time is somewhere between 3 and 3:30AM.
Now, before I go further, I should point out that I am normally awake at about 4:30AM anyway, getting ready for work, so its only an hour and a half earlier, which is made up for by going to bed earlier.
We pack everything into the car and camper trailer, except a few valuables, and get it all hooked up. Come wake up time, we skull a coffee, move Oliver as gently as possible from his bed into the car chair, and get going.
Why is a 3AM departure so good?
Kids can sleep
So far, every time we've left at this time Oliver transfers into the car, sits awake for half an hour or so and then dozes off. Sleeping kids are the best kids to have when driving long distances, so this is a major win for many people. It's less time you need to keep them occupied, which means less toys and electronics.
If you are leaving from a big city, your departure time makes a massive difference. It can easily take an hour to get out of Perth if you pick the wrong time to leave, and I hate traffic. At 3AM, you’d be lucky to see more than a handful of people for the first few hours. It saves you time, frustrations and makes life easy.
For me, travelling into the late afternoon is when I am most tired. I want to be done and dusted by then, and I am more awake (after a coffee!) in the morning, even at 3AM. Driving when you are fatigued is a bad idea, for your sake and those around you on the roads.
Arrive well before sunset
I hate arriving at camp just before, or after dark. There’s nothing worse than struggling to set up everything in the dark, cold and when you have a tired and cranky toddler. We try and arrive at camp anywhere from 2 – 4PM, allowing plenty of time to set up and relax while there’s light.
Come breakfast time you’ve done 400km
Probably the most valued point here is that by the time the sun comes up, you are feeling hungry and ready to have a pee, you’ve done around 350 – 400km. That makes the rest of the day seem like a peace of cake; you’ve conquered the mental challenge of long distance driving before breakfast!
We will usually pull over and have a bowl of cereal, or if we are feeling very lazy call into a bakery for some nice food and an iced coffee.
Now, you know yourself, your situation and how things travel. This might be a very bad idea for your family, and I am not going to recommend it for everyone. However, it works well for us, and we will keep doing it for the foreseeable future.
We don’t do this during trips, but normally only for the first day. It’s too hard to pack up at 3AM, and too difficult, with annoying the neighbours a real possibility.
We prefer to drive longer distances and stop for longer, than doing less km each day and only stopping for a night.
What's your tips for travelling this gigantic country of ours?!