The bumper sticker says it all: “Adventure before dementia.” The grey nomads are leading a resurgence in caravanning.
Now, many are bringing their grandchildren as well
Over the past two years, there has been a bigger increase in caravan registrations than any other vehicle type, according to the Caravan Industry Association of Australia.
The number of registered RVs – including caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes – has jumped 5 per cent, year on year, to almost 530,000 in 2013.
“Gramping is a phenomenon we’re seeing a lot of recently,” association chairman Mark Lindsay says.
Kay Wright, a grandparent from Bossley Park, is one happy gramper.
“It’s so hard to keep kids amused these days, but gramping really gave us the chance to be active together and connect one on one with our grandchildren,” she says.
“We hope to continue this family tradition with our grandchildren for years to come.”
During an RV trip with Elite Special Event Tours through the US, we met some delightfully eccentric characters.
“Me and Marty have got little Bob and Missy with us on the school break, while their mum and dad work,” Chelsea Montgomery explains, as she expertly hooks up her nine-metre RV at a park near Idaho’s Potato Museum. “Ain’t nothin’ better than the great outdoors!” she enthuses.
Then I spot the number plate: “Powered by Smith ‘n’ Wesson”. Yep, only in America.
Back in Australia, the RV parks are finally becoming as user-friendly as they are in the US.
“Tiny seats and airline food can’t compare to stretching out on the wide open road and stopping wherever and whenever you want,” Apollo Motorhome Holidays chief executive Luke Trouchet says.
“Most guests now average between 10 to 18 days of travel and many of them are repeat travellers,” he says.
Apollo has partnered with Big4 Holiday Parks, Top Tourist Parks and Family Parks to offer discounted rates.
But what if you’ve been spooked by caravanning ghosts of the past?
I have not-so-fond (more like death-defying) memories of careening at 100km/h down a mountain after dad lost the brakes while towing our ’70s “bubble” van.
“Oh, and don’t drive it on a windy day,” inveterate traveller, John Hopkins, from Sydney, suggests.
“It’s like driving a 40-foot fish by holding onto its fins!”
Then there’s the ubiquitous wee bucket which, when my sister and I came of age, we had the privilege of emptying.
It took 20 years to get me into an RV again. It turned out to be the best family trip we ever had. (Just make sure you ban the words, “Are we there yet?”. On threat of death.)
It’s cheap, comfortable, and flexible. The new motorhomes have Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, so you don’t have to worry about scratchy radio signals in remote areas.
See apollocamper.com/travel_routes for itineraries, including a foodies’ tour of Tasmania and an east coast adventure in tropical Queensland.
And another good side to gramping?
You can blow the kids’ inheritance before they do.