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Planning the Big Trip

The Big Trip. For many people this is a dream adventure come true.

Whether you've reached your well-earned long-service leave, you're planning the first stage of retirement, or you want to take your primary-aged children out of school, planning for the Big Trip creates a high level of excitement for everyone.

You've got to work hard on those things that make you uncomfortable at first, so get cracking! There will be a number of unanswered questions when you take to the road, but if the tangibles have been taken care of it is the unexpected moments that will become the highlights of your trip.

Here are a few tips:

1 Be confident about your tow vehicle, caravan or camper. That means if either is new to you, you must have towed and lived in the rig for at least two trips. You must be at a stage of relaxed enjoyment about your rig before the Big One. All defects or modifications must be addressed before the trip. And it's important to remove all non-used items because you won't want unnecessary baggage. In most cases this is rectified on your first few short trips.

2 Your itinerary is important. However, avoid doing a spreadsheet planning all the days, distances and places because this prevents you from enjoying your progressive discoveries. You'll also end up compressing extra activities into the last weeks if you plan the entire itinerary. So plan the destinations that are generally regarded as busy in peak season only.

3 Give proper consideration to keeping your home base safe. Have your mail redirected and letterbox cleared of unaddressed mail such as catalogues. Ensure the general appearance of your property appears lived in. Leave an outline itinerary with relatives and/or a neighbour. They are always pleased to receive a phone call, so you can swap information on the house and the trip! Also check to see if a long absence will affect your insurance cover.

4 Swot up on the regions you intend to visit and become familiar with the distances, road conditions, fuel stops and any other specific needs that you require for an enjoyable trip. There are many publications on these topics and internet forums so make the most of these before you head off.

5 The outback. It is understandable that outback travel requires a great deal more planning and preparation than a Highway 1 excursion. If you have intentions of visiting remote regions such as the lower Simpson Desert you may find that your vehicle and caravan are not suitable for this terrain and environment. There are a number of publications on the market that offer professional advice for the adventure-bound traveller. Joining a local 4WD club will prepare you for a trip such as this.

6 Balancing the rig. It is essential you pack the vehicle and caravan across the entire rig and monitor the ball loading and weight capacity to ensure these maximum weight ratings are not exceeded on both the vehicle and caravan. Install an appropriate weight distribution device, if required, to level the rig.