Going for a big road trip or looking at some vanlife experience? Whether you need to keep working while you’re away or just have to get through a whole range of organised or booked activities, you’ll need to do a little planning about how you’re going to manage your time.
Time management on long road trips is exactly what it sounds like, and while time management may be something you think is NOT for holidays, more and more commonly you may not even be taking a holiday to do it! And if you are on holiday, there are still several factors that will come into play while you're away - so how do you make the most of that of time you have?
Don’t go during school holidays or peak dates if you can avoid it. Many places will have longer queues, they’ll cost more and there will be less availability at tourist spots to park or take part. This saves quite a bit of time right out of the gate.
If you're continuing to work while you're away, what are your work hours? Are they flexible? Can you work in the evenings rather than in good sight-seeing daytime? Are there any deadlines coming up that you may not want to be remote for? Do you have big meetings booked that cannot go wrong? What can’t you change and what can you wrangle to work for you?
Book things early if you can. This confirms your plans, but also allows you to get planning and making the most of the time around the hours of the event too.
Take Stock of Your Available Time
Following on from the last point, now the road tripping part has to be considered. What are you going to do with the time that’s left?
It’s a road trip, so you’ll first need to subtract any travel time that you can’t be working. Now what’s left? You’re going to be in different places quite often, so you’ll be wanting to spend time exploring outside of booked activities, which we'll hit back on a few times below.
The next consideration is your down-time. Holiday activities and work can be exhausting, so you need to recharge regularly. What do you do that already takes up a lot of your off-work time? Your normal routine at home can be a guide, so do you want to continue that, or are you looking for a reset or to shake it up?
How you integrate your workspace and downtime activities into the new places you’re living in as you go is really important, and forms a big part of creating a brilliant, memory filled travel experience.
Internet and Communication
These services are location-dependent even today, so depending on your planned route, you’ll definitely want to ensure you have what you need regarding phone and internet reception.
If you’re not already with Telstra, you may want to make a small investment in a Telstra Pre-Paid sim, because, as a rule Telstra works in a lot more places than Optus. But there are some spots, strangely enough, where it’s the other way around, v so, if you’ve found that even if your Telstra coverage is bad, just check back on your Optus sim - you might be in luck.
Mobile coverage can be really sketchy in certain spots throughout the country. Therefore, make sure you have at least one internet-based calling app, like Whatsapp or Telegram because sometimes, and in some unlikely places, they have a limited Wi-Fi set up, which you can connect onto to call somebody. Make sure the person or people you want to call also have that app.
You could also use Google Voice to make and receive calls over the internet. Though it’s quite data-heavy, with this option the other person doesn’t need to do anything or have any special app. You will need to set this up beforehand, and there is a very small charge for the calls.
You can do this on the road for very, very cheapsies – ie a bucket, water, laundry soap and a washboard and line, especially good for smaller items or just spot cleaning. But if you want to use paid laundry services or a laundromat, say, for sheets or a lot of washing, most caravan parks will have facilities for this. Have some change ready to go, as they’re often coin-fed. Wherever you’re going, just check that this is something they have available.
For best time efficiency, you can clean as you move when you’re doing it yourself, but if using a laundry you’ll need to hang around one place while the wash is on and when it’s all drying. When you’re on the road for a long time, laundry costs actually start to add up, so at least packing an option for DIY can be a money and time saver.
Looking After Yourself
This is the main crux of the article as there really is no reason not to look after yourself just because you’re on a long road trip or living the nomadic vanlife for a while. Here are a few things you can do to stay out of the rut that sometimes develops when people are confined to tighter living conditions for longer periods, aptly called ‘vanlife syndrome’.
Take your runners. Whether walking or running, get out and get in touch with your new environment with dedicated physical movement at a level of intensity that will actually work you. Bringing along those stretchy bands for some resistance loading is also a very lightweight and effective exercise. So are yoga mats and accessories – these are perfect for low impact, body-challenging exercise or maintenance and can be done just about anywhere.
Places like Jetts or Fitness First have gyms all over the country, including in many smaller cities. If you’re a member you can go to any of their gyms wherever you are, which is very handy.
Taking a bicycle can also be one of the most fun, connective and convenient ways to get around a new location. Park the car and get exploring on your bike – save a heap on fuel, see your new neighbourhood and get exercise at the same time.
Many people leave their pets at home when they go away, but if your routes and destinations are pet friendly, you might consider bringing them along. If you have a pet, particularly a dog, you have some out-of-the-vehicle chores forced on you. With a dog, you’ll likely be walking it and hopefully getting in even more sites than you would have otherwise. Sometimes you’ll meet other pet owners and have a chat, gaining some great intelligence on things to do and see as well. They are also excellent for your security and state of mind.
Hobbies on the Road
Keeping alive any hobbies you have is also paramount. Many people unfortunately need to stop these due to being away from home, but that doesn’t stop you from creating a new one or developing a new skill. Some very easy ones to sink your teeth into on a road trip could be photography or blogging.
Whether taking photos with a top-notch camera or even with your phone if it’s one of the newer models, you can have great fun, satisfaction and you'll get good practice as you capture your journey.
Creating a blog is another hobby that we’ve seen people start up quite often specifically for a big road trip they're doing. These can be free with Wordpress and can help people follow your trip while you showcase your photography skills!
There are free courses to learn heaps of new skills all over Youtube, or you can check out Udemy as well for very organised courses (for a small fee).
Some Thoughts on What Gear to Take
Campervans and caravans are pretty well perfect for the nomadic lifestyle, but they’re expensive to attain and expensive to run. A van or wagon 4wd set-up is much cheaper upfront but needs some extra kit to make it comfortable long term. Below we’ve listed a few items that provide a lot more comfort to nomadic road trippers in these smaller vehicles.
A Large Tent
Even though you may be able to sleep inside your car, a large tent is a roomy alternative to always sleeping in a vehicle and gives you your own space in the evenings or during the day. When staying in a caravan park or similar, the security that a vehicle provides for your expensive gear isn’t needed quite as much, so having gear out in the tent can be a nice way to spread out for a little while.
We often see people with small tents set up next to their vehicles, but to us, that’s really roughing it and doesn’t allow much more personal freedom than their car! A larger tent will easily allow a decent mattress and other accoutrements without everything being all cramped in. We highly recommend glamping bell tents as they have high headroom, huge diameter space, are made mostly of canvas rather than nylon, are remarkably easy and quick to put up, and are very classy looking!
If you’re working from a computer while you’re on the road, a fold away laptop table is very convenient and much more comfortable than using a laptop resting on your lap. We can definitely say from experience, that these help avoid headaches or back and neck pain from spending hours on your computer while on your road trip. We have nice, environmentally friendly bamboo ones like the one in the image you can see here.
Something to step on getting into and out of a vehicle, campervan or tent is a comfort that you wonder how you ever did without. Keeping sand or dirt out of a tent or your van is really important. You can also use a mat to cover dry shoes or thongs when left outside the tent while you sleep to stop them from getting dewy and soaked.
The mat should be waterproof, hard-wearing, easy to clean and UV stable. Many people would just quickly buy a plastic or polyester mat as that is unfortunately the go-to in the shops, but we strongly urge you try out a recycled plastic mat, as they have all of the requisite qualities but also have environmentally friendly credentials. Better to alleviate an environmental problem than add to it, which is why we made certain to sell these in our store. You can check some out here.
Over the course of your long nomad journey, you’ll likely be staying in the same spots for a few days at a time. It’s a good idea to have some lights that don’t rely on your car to recharge.
We don’t like disposable batteries as solar is obviously way better, environmentally and you don't need to keep buying new ones all the time with solid use. A a good headlamp and perhaps some lantern-type light which can rest on the ground, a table or hang from the top of a tent, is a good place to start, but these generally leave one spot lit with everything else dark. This is not particularly inviting and many people find it inadequate when living from a vehicle or campsite for longer periods of time.
We've found solar fairy string lights are an incredibly useful option as they can be put around the inside of your vehicle or tent and left there all the time without you having to do anything to ensure they light up the next day. Plus they look really nice and light up a lot of space!
Naturally, if you’re working, you’ll need a source of electricity to keep the laptop going, so if you have an option for a second battery, you could get that installed. With or without a second battery set-up, a pure sine wave inverter is a great option if you’re going to be driving a lot without a heap of time to stop and recharge it for a while somewhere. This way, you can keep charging the laptop's 240 volt system with your 12 volt vehicle as you drive.
Properly organising your time on long road trips is really about management of the separate parts of your life and lifestyle that you want to stimulate or need to maintain. It’s easy to just do whatever comes up, and often that’s fun, but with a trip over a couple of months or even just weeks, ignoring balance can take a toll on your physical and mental health. Once you’ve organised what the trip is all about along with your most fundamental priorities, there does need to be some thoughtful consideration about how to spend that 'other' time. Hopefully this little article has given you a few little helpful tips about some of that.