We did it our way … the Big Lap with no van!

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Big Lap without a van
Who needs a caravan or motorhome? Annette and Ray Crofts love life on the road!

While for most grey nomads, the big rig dilemma is whether to get a caravan, a motorhome or a fifth wheeler for the Big Lap, there are a few who  are prepared to think  completely outside the box.

As retired accountants Annette and Ray Crofts sat down to plan their long-term adventure, they quickly concluded that the traditional grey nomad modes of transport just didn’t add up. So, when they set off in January this year for an odyssey expected to last 9 -12 months, they were very much doing it ‘their way’.

Having initially looked at buying a 24’ van with all the home comforts, the couple had something of an epiphany.

“We looked at the numbers and reviewed the pros and cons of the costs and took into account the stress involved in towing something this large around,” said Ray. “Then we looked at the cost of purchasing the van and then the tow vehicle and added the running costs … and then we started to look for alternatives.”

After a lot of research, the former bean counters decided that staying in motels, apartments, cottages and cabins would be more suited to their travel requirements.

“While this at first looks an expensive way of travelling, it is in fact very economical when fuel and maintenance costs are factored in,” said Ray. “The proviso is that you self-cater most of the time … it’s absolutely amazing what you can do with just a microwave!”

The couple carries some food and utensils and say that some motels even have a kitchenette, while apartments and cabins, which generally cost $10-$20 a night more, tend to have a full kitchen.

Travelling in a VW Passat station wagon with a 2-litre Turbo diesel engine, the couple has travelled over 20,000 kilometres so far.

“This has proven to be extremely comfortable and very fuel efficient, averaging 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres,” said Ray. “Despite not having the end of the day meeting point you get with caravanning, we have enjoyed many good times and conversations with people we have met on the road, and we have met all sorts of interesting people.”

Having been across the Nullarbor, through parts of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, the grey nomads with a difference, are currently in Queensland and are planning to reach Darwin by mid-July.

“We have had a couple of not so good experiences with caravan park cabins, and the accommodation offered on the Nullarbor is a joke,” said Ray. “We have found that we need to book a few days ahead in most places to ensure we get the standard of accommodation we like.”

However, travelling without a caravan or large motorhome doesn’t mean Ray and Annette don’t run into some of the same issues as traditional grey nomads.

“We have the usual tussles with me as driver not listening to my navigator, although I am getting better the further we travel,” admits Ray. “And we have learnt to be flexible with where we are going and not be afraid to suddenly change direction to get better weather or to see something different of interest.”

  • Does the ‘rigless’ Big Lap appeal to you? Comment below.

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13 Responses to We did it our way … the Big Lap with no van!

  1. Want to try it one day.

  2. Most definately. I always travel this way. Fid my maths and to buy a decent van and tow car was going to take 20 yrs of cabin travelking. Tge cabins have ckearky won. Plus onky 1 kot if insurance repairs and everything ekse.

  3. Totally different experience in my opinion, when you travel with your home you can stay almost anywhere that you so desire & you sleep in your own bed every night. We love staying in NPs., State Forests, Bush camps, River side camps, Beachside camps & love sitting around a camp fire guess its each to their own but any extra dollars it costs would be money well spent IMO.

  4. We are setting off next week and had exactly the same thoughts. Where do you start with looking accommodation – is the average night for 3 +- $120? Would love some advice

  5. We have Casper, a MB Sprinter,ex ambulance, fitted with porta potti, stove, sink, wayco, and q bed. although it is small we have more options to freecamp or book in if need power. Suits us as we occasionally stay with friends or motels. Even use it to park at beach 1 min down road for the day when hot, watch sunrise or set, or as a snug when cold. Cook up a meal or coffee, read a book, park near free wifi to check emails and enjoy the freedom. Wouldn’t be without our Casper.

    • How good…We have a similar setup called “Snoopy”! Use it in the same way 🙂

  6. We also travel this way – we did the maths several years ago. We have done 2 big laps as well as numerous other trips and we are more than happy with our choice.

  7. Definitely not the same experience. Did a trip once using cabins, motels etc. The standard of cleanliness left a lot to be desired & the mattresses in many cabins were terrible, A/C’s not working etc. Motorhome only for me – my own nice clean space & comfy bed, free camp & wake up with the sounds of the birds or the ocean.

  8. Great way to go for some, there are those not confident in towing too! I still think you would miss a lot of amazing things, the biggest is the great people & travel stories you hear along the way-not everywhere has accommodation! We don’t like having to book ahead in peak times so we free-camp a lot.

  9. Have spent the last 6 mths in my Hyundai I30, covered 10.300 kms stayed in cheap hotel/motel/cabins/backpackers in-between house-sits (10n accommodation I had to pay for) …. Great way to travel around

  10. Having owned a caravan for 25 of the last 30 years, I couldn’t imagine not having one. we owned a motel for 5 1/2 years and couldn’t wait to sell out and buy another van. we belong to a caravan club and when home we are off every second weekend to rally’s and weekends with friends. I am not knocking people who use other accommodation as I said we owned a motel but I will be very sad when I can’t tow a van

  11. It would cost $43,800 for one year’s accomodation if you paid $120 per night. And that money’s gone for good. At least you’ve still got a caravan or motorhome to sell if you choose to go down the other road. I’m not an accountant but we’ve tried both ways and we’re streets ahead since we bought the caravan, and we can go wherever we want with all the comforts of our travelling home.

  12. I have no doubt a case for a financial advantage can be made for the none caravan/motorhome option. However, caravaning is more about the lifestyle and cannot be valued.
    As long as Annette & Ray continue to enjoy their trip, does it really matter how they do it.

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