Posts Tagged With: travelling around Oz

Led Lenser SEO7R LED Headlamp

Following in the theme of our “reviews” only being for truely stand out products, here is another essential bit of kit in our camping box.

Led Lenser SEO7R

Led Lenser SEO7R

So like everyone, we have all bought the $5 LED torch at the counter of BCF or the local hardware, right? (go on, admit it). Well, how long did it last? How long did the batteries last? Oh, and here’s a good question, did it actually put out ANY light??

Ok, so after swallowing your pride and realising a $5 torch is actually worth about -$50 (time to buy new batteries, time spent banging it on the side to make it work, time plastering your shin from that half wall you fell down because you couldn’t see jack whilst using it) you splash out and buy a $30 torch. Things are great, life is grand, and you can see on the “bright” side again, yeah for you……. So you put that torch back in the camp box only to pull it out again 6 months later on your next camp, only to realise the batteries are flat, they have leaked everywhere inside the torch, and you are now 7 hrs from the nearest store.

Enter, the SEO7R. Continue reading

Categories: Camping, Planning, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joolca HotTap. Hot water, anywhere, anytime

Here it is, our first review, the product that made us even consider doing reviews in the first place. No other product has made us so confident in being able to recommend it, I can guarantee you that if you were to go and buy one of these, you will be supremely happy with it.

So without further adieu, it is none other then our Joolca HotTap!

If you have been following for some time, you know that we simply cannot live with out our HotTap, yes, we are completely spoiled now, we have travelled first class and no sir, we will not go back to economy! Continue reading

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Waeco 80L 12V Fridge (CF80)

Another standout performer in our stable, the CF80 Waeco fridge. Being we don’t tend to take many photos of our fridge, this post will not be as photo heavy as usual.

The Waeco is easy to whip out for a lunch time stop

The Waeco is easy to whip out for a lunch time stop

During our trip round Oz, there were only 5 of us back then, and we had a 3 way fridge in Karen Camper, and a CF50 in the back of the car. This worked quite well once we began using the fridges correctly, i.e., we used the 3 way in the camper as a cupboard for storing tools and recovery gear, and anything we actually wanted cold, in the Waeco.

We did find that the 50L was a touch too small for us though, so when we bought Black Betty, and the rather tall CF50 would not fit in the trailer, it was time to upgrade the fridge.

The biggest complaint we had regarding the CF50 was the orientation of the storage, it was very tall, therefore requiring everything to packed on top of each other, and no matter how much time or effort went into packing the fridge with the next needed items on the top, guaranteed the next time we went to the fridge, the things we actually needed ended up being at the bottom. Other then the inconvenience factor, we were expelling a lot of energy unpacking the fridge overtime to get to things on the bottom, and then having to repack now rather warm items back into the fridge.

So when we looked at the CFX65  (65L fridge) we immediately ruled it out because of the tall layout again, and then we saw the CF80, short, wide and long. Sue this of course results in a greater foot print, but as it turned out we didn’t have a choice being the new Camper didn’t have a lot of height in the trailer area, but did have oodles of space otherwise.

So now, about 3 years on and this is the best fridge we could have possibly bought. It is so easy to pack, to find things, to clean,  it is a Tardis that just seems to absorb more and more food we through in it, it reliably holds temperature even when we pack it to the brim, it has the little “dairy” section above the compressor that doesn’t get anywhere near as cold, yet still cool, perfect for the lettuce so it doesn’t get chill burn in the main section, it has the dividers to keep the drinks away from the food, the wholly removable basket is great, the big sturdy latches (with reversible lid) are handy, its just a great great fridge.

It fits nicely in the kitchen and its often used as extra bench space

It fits nicely in the kitchen and its often used as extra bench space

As always, nothing is perfect, so here are the things we would change if we could:

  1. There is a little trap door on the floor, in there is a sponge, I assume it is the soak up condensation and beetroot juice. It would be great if this was bigger then a postage stamp, like, half the size of the floor would be great because the beetroot juice always gets everywhere
  2. Thats about it!

A little tip when packing this fridge, do not pack it full of frozen things at the compressor end, I think the thermostat is at that end so what happens is the fridge thinks it is happily below temp so doesn’t switch on, mean while the things at the opposite end are now above temp. Try and spread the frozen things around through out the fridge when packing.

Oh, power consumption is actually really really good as well. This was probably my biggest concern going to such a big fridge, I don’t have official amps vs temp vs atmospheric pressure, I do not have pie and bar graphs, but I can tell you that, sitting in the back of our dark grey Prado, for 3 days, in January, being opened and closed every couple of hours, it only just tripped out on low voltage late on the third day, and that is drawing from a 105aH AllRounder battery that is not a true deep cycle because it is also used as a back up cranking battery, no solar, and no driving.

Categories: Camping, Planning, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Terrain Camper Trailer

So after our little trip round Oz (yes we were stopped half way), we ended up in Mareeba FNQ as farmers. Thats another story. But one of the first things we did was to sell poor karen Camper, our beloved Goldstream Camper. Karen was good, no Karen was great, and served as very very well, BUT, there were no doubt a few times on our trips that we would be making decisions about where we would go, or what route to take based on if we thought Karen could handle it……. often we took the easier way, and still managed to break Karen a few times.

We loved Karen Camper, she was just a bit soft...

We loved Karen Camper, she was just a bit soft…

 

So when we decided to sell Karen it was because we wanted a camper that would never hold us back ever again. After the usual 12 months of Matt researching and talking to, inspecting, as many camper as possible, he came up with 2 options, a “Cameron Camper” or and “All Terrain Camper”.

After witnessing the set up of every type of camper imaginable whilst on our trip, it was very clear to us, that if it was not easy, quick, and involve the least amount of poles/pegs/ropes possible, it would become one of those campers that gets parked beside the garage never to be used again.

Again, it also had to comfortably fit all of us, and you know, there are a lot of us.

It did not need bells and whistles, as we have always found bells tend to break and whistles tend to waste valuable beer time requiring constant fiddling and tweaking, only for them to eventually break, just like the bells.

Being both these options are made down south, we didn’t like our chances of finding a good second hand one up in FNQ, but as luck would have it, an All Terrain came up in Laura of all places, so after some wheeling and dealing, we bought “Black Betty”

Introducing Black Betty

Introducing Black Betty

Kitchen and Annex

Kitchen and Annex

Inside

Queen Bed for us, and oodles of room for the kids

At this point I’d like to just point out a couple of things about the All Terrains that make them different.

  1. 1 night set up (no annex) requires NO additional poles, pegs or ropes, nada, zilch, zip, zero!
  2. It is built for lifted and modified 4WD’s, in fact even with the aggressive lift kit on the Prado, it still sits a bit higher then the car.
  3. These 100% made in Australia, every last bit (except for the little plastic kitchen drawers I believe)
1 night set up take 10mins

1 night set up takes 10mins if that,

This thing is an absolute Tank, and there is no way it will stop us going anywhere. The whole thing is steel, there are no timber cupboards, no plastic fittings, no fancy pants add ons, just steel and canvas.

Black Betty will go anywhere Peter Prado will go!

Black Betty will go anywhere Peter Prado will go!

One of the cool things about the story behind the All Terrains is that it basically came about from a family who enjoyed camping, but were constantly being let down by inferior camper trailers that were difficult to set up and use, so, HE decides to build a bullet (mortar shell) proof trailer, while SHE designed and created a practical, simple tent.

So what resulted is a trailer made by man with a tent made by woman. Trust me, it works.

Trailer: 100% aussie steel, 100% seam welded, everything over engineered, huge thick automotive door seals, solid 50mm square axle, simple leaf/shackle suspension (independent suspension is not all it cracks up to be, believe me), 2tonne genuine Trigg Hitch (not a Chinese knock off), mechanical override disc brake (electric brakes were the bain of my existence on our big trip). The trailer area is seperated into 2 parts, I’d say about 70/30. whilst I have to admit, this can sometimes be annoying because I cannot fit very long things in the trailer area, I soon realise how great a design this is once we have been camping at the beach, in the rain, for a week. The ability to seperate all the wet dirty stuff from all the clean dry stuff is a godsend.

Steel box up front, seperate box behind it, and then the big trailer area accessed from the back

Steel box up front, seperate box behind it, and then the big trailer area accessed from the back

Tent: No peg/pole/rope 1 night set up and the annex remains zipped on at all times, it just folds back over the tent and fastens to the other side with little velcro tabs (essentially means you have 2 roofs). For the annex set up, only 8 pole/rope/pegs are needed for the full annex, thats right, 8 poles is the FULL set up. All windows are true midge screen, and they all have a clear plastic layer on the outside so that you can actually still have light (i.e. all the windows open) during a storm/rain because the clear plastic layer is water proof. All windows can then be “shut” from the inside by zipping up a canvas layer inside, no need to go outside to drop a rolled up window down, PLUS, each window has a full sized canvas layer as the final outside layer as well that doubles as a little awning from each window if you like. There are big stitched pockets everywhere inside the tent (happens to be exactly 4, one each for the kids) for storage of books, iPad, headphones, teddy bears etc, along with a little table, full access to the front box, ventilation screens at the bottom, windows everywhere, and the pièce de résistance, a “moon roof”. Yeah, the entire roof above the queensize bed opens up so you can still experience sleeping under the stars, while knowing you have midge screen and zippered doors for the boogy man.

Windows and ventilation everywhere, and that moon roof!

Windows and ventilation everywhere, and that moon roof!

Window flaps can all be set up as annex

Window flaps can all be set up as annex, with a few more poles of course.

The Kitchen is a beautiful, full stainless steel jobby, with meters of bench space, sink, 4 burner, great storage, cutlery drawers….everything in its right place, even with a sunroof!

Kitchen

Kitchen

 

She’s not perfect, we have made many changes to Black Betty to really make her our own, and to also address a couple of design flaws, which, the new owners of the business have actually addressed in the new models, but the basics still remain, that this is an unbreakable, simple, very comfortable Camper that we can highly recommend.

 

Gone are the rather flimsy "scissor" legs

Gone are the rather flimsy “scissor” legs

Now Black Betty has long, strong, sexy wind down legs

Now Black Betty has long, strong, sexy wind down legs

Original poles on the right, the bent spigot was supposed to line up through a hole in the canvas to a hole in the steel frame for putting up the Annex. It never lined up.

Original poles on the right, the bent spigot was supposed to line up through a hole in the canvas to a hole in the steel frame for putting up the Annex. It never lined up.

So I used eye bolts and these nylon pole ends and now the annex take half the time to set up.

So I used eye bolts and these nylon pole ends and now the annex take half the time to set up.

And it is a bit more stable

And it is a bit more stable

Heavy gauge Anderson cabling for battery charging

Heavy gauge Anderson cabling for battery charging

Led strip lights in both compartments in the trailer

Led strip lights in both compartments in the trailer

Dual USB, ciggy plug and volt meter 3 way box at the end of the bed

Dual USB, ciggy plug and volt meter 3 way box at the end of the bed

Fuse box

Fuse box

New power outlets

New power outlets

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The only way into camp sites like this, is with a camper that will not hold you back.

The only way into camp sites like this, is with a camper that will not hold you back.

 

 

Categories: Camping, Modifications, Planning, Reviews, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Post – Sarah & Malte

Today’s post is the first ever ‘Guest Post’ to feature on the Are We There Yet? blog.  I asked Sarah & Malte if they wouldn’t mind sharing with us the adventure of their time travelling around Oz.

Sarah and Malte were the first ever backpackers to work with us on the farm at Blue Sky Produce for three months last year.  They set the bar pretty high for all our other workers going forward. They were two of the most hardworking and lovely people we have ever met!  Added to that they enjoyed teaching us ‘Wizard’ – a really fun German card game and then whipping our butts at it!! Lucky they taught us a few German swear words too!!  Malte and Sarah are just about to head back home to Germany and we are sad to see them go – they spoilt the kids while they were here at Blue Sky and we loved getting to know them and learn a little about their lives in Germany.

They have seen so much during their time in Australia – more then most of us Aussies will ever see!! Thank you Sarah & Malte for sharing your travels here and best of luck for your futures ahead – I hope we get to see you again sometime!

Sarah & Malte after a hard day of mulching - not the most fun job!

Sarah & Malte after a hard day of mulching at Blue Sky – not the most fun job!

Continue reading

Categories: Camping, Travel | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

Why Are We Doing This?

When we tell people that we are heading off around Australia, travelling with 3 kids aged 7 and under, with a camper trailer to live in which is probably smaller than the size of your average bedroom, for the next 6 or 7 months – many people think we are totally bonkers!!

I know that perhaps it does seem crazy to jam a family together in such a confined environment for over 6 months, and maybe financially irresponsible to put the mortgage on hold, a step backwards to sell many of the possessions we have spent so many years accumulating, and perhaps even detrimental to the kids schooling ……… the list goes on.

We are very lucky that our family and friends have been very supportive, positive and genuinely excited for us. However, we do still get a few – ‘you’re nuts!’ or ‘I’d rather chew my own arm off” comments and these make us think – eeeeeek – are we doing the right thing??? Are we crazy????

The answer for us is always YES, we are NUTS, but we feel 100% this trip is the best thing we can do with our lives right now and here’s why;

1. To Celebrate our Success
In my younger days I was a swimmer and at one point, our little country swimming club ended up with a very loud, diet-coke drinking, American swimming coach called Dave. I learnt a lot about working hard, goal setting and dreaming big during his time with us. Something else he tried to impress on us (big shout out to any Malanda Aquatic Dragons reading this!) was the importance of celebrating your success. He believed that if you won a race or swam a PB (personal best, for the non-swimmers out there) then you must celebrate – with a big fist pump or huge yell or even just a big grin & jump. Now – for a pretty shy, small town ‘aussie’ farm girl – this sort of behaviour didn’t come naturally. It seemed very ‘American’, very boastful and loud. It didn’t feel right and unfortunately I never went on to be an Olympic swimmer. However, I now believe that Dave was right. It is important and OK to ‘celebrate your sucess’. You’ve got to do something to make your self feel good, amazing even, after all the hard work …… otherwise, why on earth go back for more/to do it all again????

So, this trip for us is a big ‘fist pump’. It is a chance to celebrate the hard work Matt has done to get to the point of 10 years long service leave, to shout out ‘we survived!’ the sleep deprived baby years of raising three kids, to ‘jump & grin’ about the home we have managed to create and the life we have built that is pretty darn good so far! This trip is the reward and the motivation to start out on the next chapter of our lives – and it feels great!!

2. Time to ‘Smell the Roses’
We believe that sometimes it is important to stop, slow down, and ‘smell the roses’ a little. We feel like the last decade for us has passed mostly in a blur of shift work for Matt, buying and shfting houses, part-time work for me with a ‘hi/bye’ at 2pm as we swapped over work/house manager roles, sooooo many nappies and school pick ups and drop offs. We want to use this trip to spend time together as a family – cementing our bond, sealing in our family values, instilling a love of this beautiful land we live in and generally ‘loving’ each other!

3. Simplifying Life
Our current life has been too busy, we have accumulated too many ‘things’ and our kids have no idea that you can actually wash dishes without a dishwasher! We want to change all that on this trip. We want to make life simple and re-programme some better habits for our life. On the trip we will only have 4 sets of clothes each and the kids will only be bringing some Lego and colouring books with them. There will be no TV. Our aim will be to eat healthy, fresh, yummy, basic meals (coke and chocolate addiction be gone!), exercise every day, read lots, sleep lots, see lots, sing lots, draw lots, write lots, talk lots, laugh, and probably, fight and cry lots. Idealistic maybe, but it’s worth a shot!

4. Time out to Plan the next step in our Lives.
I’m an eldest child. I’m a Virgo. I am an accountant. And Matt & my sister’s will tell you – I’m a bit ok, a lot Bossy.

It is well known that I like to Plan, Set Goals and Make Lists – end of story. (yes, yes, family – I know it can be very annoying, but stuff gets done ok – so quit the ‘eye rolling’!!).

So – Matt and I have been married 10 years this year, it is time to set the new 10 year plan. We have been fortunate that the last one was pretty straightforward.

Establish careers – tick

Buy a house – tick

Travel lots – tick – just missed the living/working overseas thing due to the step below arriving a little ahead of schedule!

Have lots of kids – getting there – tick.

Be Happy/Live life to the full – mostly, tick.

This next 10 year plan though, is much harder ………..

We’re not sure where we now want to live and raise our family, we’re not sure our careers are really the ones we want, we want to do more with our lives, to make a mark on the world – something GOOD, useful, fulfilling and challenging that will carry us far into our futures, but we have no idea how or what that should be!

We’re hoping this trip will give us the time out to clear the mind and allow room for the mud map for the next 10 years to come to life ………….. we’re open to suggestions!?!?

5. Making the Most of Our Life
Pretty self explanatory – we want to live life to the full and to show our kids that they can do that too!! We want to get to the end of our life journey and know we filled it in to the brim with love, family, adventure, and that we gave everything we wanted to do, and even some that we didn’t, a ‘red hot go’. Travelling around Australia with our 3 young kids in a camper van is definitely one of those ‘must do’ things for us.

So, in the words of Mary Oliver ………….

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems

Categories: About Us, Camping, Planning | Tags: , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Decision No. 2 – The House on Wheels

Wow, you are strapping yourself in for another of Matt’s monster retrospective posts? Crazy!

So, yes, like the decision of which car to get, there were plenty of lessons learned in choosing a camper.

If you have stumbled upon this blog searching for camper recommendations for a ’round Oz trip’, then let me save you some time, I came to the same decision as so many others. It went something like this…

Tent …are you kidding me? No way…if we wanted to come home with the same number of family members as we left with, we were not tent-ing it.

Softfloor camper…. Love the space, but the set up and pack down time, along with not being off the ground, wet canvas, and having to set up virtually the whole campsite every time, no thanks. We decided early on (and after some good advice from others who have done this/similar trips in the past) if it is not easy, you will avoid doing it, it will effect your decisions along the way, and you will end up skipping over/missing things because of the dread of the set up/pack down.

Caravan…. easy tiger…. The kids might keep reminding me when they see ‘pre-kids’ photos of me of how much more hair I had, but we are still a good 30 years away from caravans thank you very much.

So it was easy, it was going to have to be a wind-up camper-van. But which one? Jayco? Coromal? GoldStream?

Again let me save you some time, we came to the same decision as you will find 100’s of others have done throughout the interwebs…

Jayco: Love the presentation, love the price, love the colour schemes etc. Don’t love that the cabinetry is held together with staples not much bigger then what is in my office drawer. Don’t love the live single axle (ever followed one and watched it over bumps, dirt road, potholes?)

Coromal: Loved everything about the Coromals, except the price. Very well built, many with independent suspension, but I think because there are just so very few of them around, they hold their value really well. Had I found the right Coromal for the right price I would have bought it.

GoldStream: Just do a google search and have a read of all the Goldstream owners reviews and comparisons to the companies above. The Goldstreams are a very well built piece of kit. Cabinets are stapled, bracketed and glued. Independent suspension, rock solid camper.

So it came down to Coromal and Goldstream, after over 12months of watching the camper market, it became clear that immediately after major holidays/school holiday is the time to buy. I guess anyone with a camper they are wishing to sell figure they will get one more camp out of it before they sell.

So watching for 12months I knew the market and values very well, so I knew when we saw a 2003 Goldstream GoldStar, with independent suspension, 120ltrs of water storage (and 2 x jerry holders on the rear bar) 120W solar, Gas Hot Water, external shower, external pull out BBQ, Fiamma, dual gas bottles, Generator box, full oven and Microwave and a TV to boot, in our price range (well…. within ‘upsell’ range I reckoned I could get past the accountant) I knew that as long as it actually had wheels then it was a go-er.

So off we went and had a look. Turns out the owner had just completed their family ’round Oz’ trip in it and needed to off load it. Lovely people they were, and a great source of info regarding the trip as well. So after a little negotiations (and upselling to my accountant – who may or may not have been in New Zealand at the time!) we purchased Karen Camper.

Here she is about 3 mins after we got home with her!

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And here is the kids first impressions (press ‘play’ for the video):

You might have heard me say “we’ve got some learning to do” Well, well, well…. we certainly have done some learning.

It should be noted at this point that I had only ever towed anything a couple of times before in my life – namely the neighbours trailer (thanks Luke & Dunc) to the dump and back – so I was as ‘green’ to this towing/trailer stuff as it comes! (Please keep this in mind and be kind when you hear what I have to say next!)

For example, here is a trap for young players, maybe I was just being blonde, but the way I read what I read about brake controllers, electric brakes etc was that any trailer over 750kg needs to have electric brakes…check (it has electric brakes) but brake controllers were just for more efficient braking (ie proportional braking, brake hard in the car, camper brakes go on hard, brake soft in the car, camper brakes softly) So while I thought we would definitely get a brake controller for the trip, I had NO IDEA that without a brake controller…….the camper has NO BRAKES.

I towed it all the way home, and that weekend to Flanagans Reserve with no brakes!

Like I said……we had some learning to do, and you know what, geez life would be boring if we didn’t learn something new everyday! Anyone else game to fess up their ‘rookie errors’? Oh – and we do now have a brake controller!

A few photos of Karen Camper to finish off.

Karen Camper

Karen Camper

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen

indoor Kitchen

Indoor Kitchen

First Supper (yes - it is comfy Lexi can attest to that!)

First Supper (yes – it is comfy Lexi can attest to that!)

Categories: Planning | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Getting the Kids Involved with the Trip

A big thank you to everybody for their lovely comments on our first blog post!  I’m a bit nervous about blogging and hope that you will find our posts not too boring!

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few things that we have been doing to get the kids involved and excited about our trip.

The first thing we did was buy a big map of Australia from RACQ (about $9.95 from memory) and pin it up on the wall beside our dining room table.  The kids quickly became good at picking out the capital cities, Uluru, and working out North, East, South and West.  Matt and I have often referred to this map as well when trying to work out a basic plan of our route, sometimes it is easier when you can see the ‘big picture’ all in one go rather than the more detailed state by state maps.

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A friend (thanks Stella!) then leant us a copy of her children’s book ‘Are We There Yet’ written by Alison Lester.

are we there yet

It is a great story about a family who travel around Australia with a camper van very similar to ours!  The kids love this book and I am pretty sure Matt and I can just about recite it from heart as we have read it many, many times over!

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We have now purchased our own copy and will definitely take it with us on the road as I think the kids will enjoy re-reading it when we find ourselves at some of the destinations which feature in the book.

We have also been lucky enough to score a big box of ‘4wd Action’ Magazines and DVD’s from the Engo’s (thanks Craig and Michelle!) and the whole family has gotten heaps of enjoyment and advice from these!  On our last camping trip we were flooded in at Sandy Creek for 4 days and we spent lots of hours together as a family watching ‘Roothy and Milo’ having lots of fun on the 4wd DVD’s (although I am hoping not to do such extreme four wheel driving on our trip!) and flicking through the magazines!

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Other than that the kids have just been doing lots of ‘our big long trip around Australia’ play.  They have made numerous lego four wheel drives and camper prototypes!DSCF1685

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Camper set up at Uluru

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And even set up camp down the back yard pretending to be ‘camping out in Western Australia’.

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Camping in WA ‘backyard style’

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Our next step now is to start printing off from the internet some pictures of places that are must see’s for us and sticking them up on the wall around our map of Australia.  Then I think we will transfer them all into a scrapbook before we go.

These things have been great for getting the kids involved and excited about the trip as well as giving them a bit of an understanding about where we are going to go – the only problem is that Lexi has asked every time that we have gone camping for the last 18 months – “are we off on our big trip round Australia now?’  Poor little thing – it has been a long wait for her!!!!  If only it where that easy to just pack up and go!

Does anybody have any other ideas on getting the kids involved with the planning and organising for the trip???

Categories: Planning | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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