Virtually all grey nomads will regularly use caravan parks to a greater or lesser extent as they travel the country.
While some may only call in on one once a week or once a month to catch up on laundry, recharge some batteries and take a hot shower, others prefer to take advantage of the perceived greater security and better facilities on offer every night they are on the road.
For many, the key consideration is budget. Spending $30 or more for accommodation per night for a trip which might last years is a serious financial commitment. Of course, there are ways to try to reduce the expense.
If you think you may be staying in a lot of van parks, it may be worth joining one of the caravan park membership schemes. The schemes provide members with discounts for stays at their parks, while the parks themselves must meet a certain set of standards in terms of facilities and cleanliness. BIG4 Holiday Parks, Top Tourist Parks, Discovery Holiday Parks and Family Parks of Australia are among the biggest van park groups.
For many southern-based grey nomads, of course, it is the lure of the warmer weather during the winter months which draws them north. A large proportion of these ‘seasonal nomads’ are more than content to stay in one van park for several months in hotspots such as Broome, Port Douglas or Darwin. Some parks offer special rates for long-term visitors. These are always worth enquiring about as they may not be advertised.
“The caravan park industry is very appreciative of the contribution that grey nomads make and we are also understanding of their lifestyle,” the President Caravan and Camping Industry Association (NSW), Theo Wilmont, told www.thegreynomads.com.au. “I would say that grey nomads should communicate with their van parks. Obviously if you turn up on Christmas day and want a spot a normal rate you might be pushing your luck but if you are staying for a two-month period over both and high and low seasons you should be able to come to some agreement.”
In planning a long-term trip, grey nomads should factor in that virtually all commercial caravan parks increase their rates significantly during peak season such a Easter and Christmas. As well as the financial hit, travellers should also be aware that they may well need to book a spot well in advance as families descend en masse.
There are many different sorts of caravan parks with varying facilities for travellers to choose from. For most grey nomads, particularly the more self-contained ones, the key facilities will be laundry, a good amenities block, a dump point and power.
Many of the newer parks have almost become mini resorts complete with tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, mini golf courses, games rooms, cafes and restaurants and even kids’ clubs.
Although the facilities in these parks may be top notch, the prices are generally high as well and they may not be in the budget of many long-term travellers. At the other end of the scale, the council-run caravan parks do not have all the extras but they are usually much cheaper and offer a basic place to stay with power and amenities.
Sadly, the number of caravan parks in Australia has been on the wane in recent years, particularly in prime beachfront locations. While not all grey nomads agree with some of the pricing structures in place, claiming that they don’t even want the services they are paying for, the fact remains that caravan parks remain a critical part of most travellers Big Lap experience.