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Home > Tips and Hints > Trip planning and safety

Trip planning and safety

Trip planners
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Trip planners

Whether you are a planning a structured or unstructured trip, work out things you really donít want to miss and mark these with a pencil circle on a map.  You can then look at what is in between these high priorities and select places you would really like to see even with a bit of a deviation.  You can investigate the places you will pass through or close by for any other features that take your interest so you can visit them when in that area.  Even on a structured trip, allow flexibility to respond to additional features you learn about when in the vicinity, and to spend less time at a place that does not meet your expectations. 


For a basic trip planner to compare routes, you can use Google Maps.   These planners do not effectively allow you to choose between bitumen and dirt roads.  They do not have all the outback tracks as they are more for general travel planning.  Ultimately choose the route you want, regardless of whether the planner chooses it as the shortest or quickest.  For finding obscure places, Bonzle mapping has names of hills, mines and othe localities not found with Google or other mapping and as an example this Bonzle link will open on a search for a remote gold mine.  


For a trip planner with dirt road options (although not all routes are included) use the RACQ Trip Planner


See more about trip planning under Time Frames.

Travel time frames

See more with less driving and less cost. 


It is far better to see more with less travelling distance with Ďsmaller bitesí. If you have for example three months, it is far better to spend the three months enjoying one state or even region within a state than to race around the lap just to say you have done it, spend heaps on fuel, be stressed at every little delay, and come home exhausted, remembering only a portion of what you saw.   Even if you think you'll never get to see the rest, at least see what you do thoroughly, relax and enjoy it.  Every bit of travel can be treasured that way. 


If travelling with another couple, you will need to make allowances for things one wants to see and not the other.  This can be a cause of friction between friends, even when not on a tight schedule.  The teenagers will also want to do different things than the adults; allow for that too. 


Factor in time for washing and shopping, servicing repairs and waiting for parts should a breakdown occur.  These all take time.  Sometimes it is nice to stay a extra day in a place you really like just to relax and catch up on mail, photo back ups, diaries.  Also take the time to thoroughly research the next stage so you donít go past something worth seeing because you didnít know it was there.  If you have a tight schedule, any delays will cause you stress; not the way to have a relaxing and enjoyable holiday. 


If you have a limited time, pick a region, eg Kimberley, Central Australia, north Queensland or any other which holds the most attraction for your travel group, and have a wonderful time. 


What ever your time frame, be it four weeks or four months, tour in your preferred direction and take your time.  Be responsive to variations and learn about hidden gems to see from others along the way.  When you are around half way through your time frame, find an alternative way to tour your way home if you can.  There will inevitably be some doubling up.  If we cannot reasonably avoid travelling on the same road there and back, we stop at a few sights on the way there, and leave a few for the way back so it is not all long days of driving. 


Hereunder are a few examples of time frames from our travels, in which we often only stay one night in a location.  There is so much of Australia to see so we do tend to move fairly quickly, seeing a sample of the area.  All the same, our daily average travel overall on each of the three following trips was under 200 kilometres per day.   Towing a caravan is fairly intense driving and 300 Ė 400 kilometres in a day is enough. 


Our 2006 trip spanned three months, allowing for seven weeks booked in Tasmania to give us a fairly quick look around the different types of areas within the island state.  The whole trip covered 16,250 kilometres.  We allowed two weeks getting from the south west of Western Australia to Melbourne to go via Mt Gambier and the Great Ocean Road.  We had crossed the Nullarbor and Eyre Highway and done some touring in South Australia in each of the preceding two years so this was crossed quickly and directly.  Where others talk about all the places to see and that many days that can be spent along the Great Ocean Road region, we spent only two days - typical of our rate of travel as we had a boat to catch for our destination of Tasmania.  The return journey from Melbourne to Western Australia took four weeks, to allow us to go a little further north and see a few new places in Victoria and South Australia before getting back to the Eyre Highway and heading home more rapidly on familiar roads.  You donít travel far in a day when in Tasmania.  The daily average travelled was 175 kilometres.


In 2008 we spent almost four months away; main thrust of holiday was the Kimberley, with the hope of going to Uluru if there was time.  We did just that.  Most time spent in the Kimberley, then directly to Alice Springs via the Tanami to see some of the MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon, and Uluru-Kata Tjuta, before short cutting home via the Great Central Road. We travelled 15,383 kilometres.  The daily average travelled was only 121 kilometres.  We did stay for longer than usual in some places, in part due to maintenance issues. 


In 2009 we were away five months, and the latter part of the journey was taken a lot faster.  We travelled 21,896 kilometres.  This took us from the south west of Western Australia to Port Hedland, Marble Bar (no touring as we had been there before) then directly across to Alice Springs via the Gary Junction Road. From there we headed north to Darwin, stopping in at key national parks including Kakadu and Litchfield either on the way north or back south again.  We then went through the Barkly Tablelands to Queensland, deviating to visit splendid Lawn Hill.  After Mt Isa we toured the dinosaur and fossil region of Boulia, Winton and Hughenden.  We visited Carnarvon Gorge, and headed on south through inland east Queensland in a fairly direct route.  We then went south through New South Wales, before turning west throughSouth Australia to get home by our deadline.  The daily average travelled was 148 kilometres. 


You can travel a lot faster if you have to Ė but this is not really sightseeing and not at all relaxing.  Our fastest trip was when we purchased the caravan and we had a very tight time frame.  We left the south west of Western Australia taking direct routes and four days later reached our destination at Bundaberg.  It was fairly exhausting as we drove through one state each day.  We rose when it was still quite dark and left at first light so not to be travelling during the night to avoid the greatest danger of hitting animals. Driving in shifts, we would stop as soon as it got dark.  Lunch was prepared and eaten in the car without stopping for a break.  We averaged over 900 kilometres per day, with more than half of this towing the caravan.  Travel can be done rapidly, but it is costly and not much fun unless for a very short period to meet a need.  Very few photos were taken due to the continual travelling and there was no time at night for writing up a diary of the day's sights. 


Your home: Rent, sell or leave vacant? This article has been moved - please see next page
Relax and enjoy your holiday.  Watching the sun set over the ocean is a better view than the white lines down the middle of the road.
First Aid
Fire safety

Calculate how far between key towns and how long it should take you to drive the route.  What is the best time of year to travel in Australia?  What time frames do you need for your trip?  Should you sell or rent your home when travelling long term?

Weather safety
Road conditions and closures
Murphy's Law - what can go wrong?

Toll Roads and e-tags

Toll roads are found in and around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.  There is a move towards electronic payment sensors with the acceptance of cash being phased out. This means it is possible to use the toll road without physically paying for it on the spot (your car registration plate will be photographed as you go through the toll and itís your responsibility to make sure you have paid for it before or within a couple days of using it). 


For more about payment options and e-tags see Toll Roads in Australia


Melbourne see Citylink


Sydney see E-Toll


Brisbane see Govia


Toll roads and e-tags
Safe recovery
Sharing the road with trucks
Passes and Permits

Most roads and highways are public roads, but in a few cases in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, toll roads require payment. 


When getting into the outback, there are a number of areas of Australia where a permit or pass is required, and these will be shown on good maps.  Most permits in these areas are free, but some require payment.


National Park entry passes come at a cost, and as these are administered by the states, fees vary greatly.  In Victoria and the Northern Territory, the majority of park entrances are free.  In other states key parks charge entrance fees, while many minor parks are still free.  Camping fees apply in most cases. 


Many permits can be obtained using on line application forms, particularly most transit permits for travel through Aboriginal lands. 


The Toyota Land Cruiser Club of Australia has more information on passes and permits for all types of land and parks particularly four wheel drive tracks.  See Toyota Land Cruiser Club of Australia - track permits


For details about National Park passes and how to obtain these click here


For details about permits to travel through Aboriginal lands and how to obtain these click here


For details about other passes and how to obtain these click here

Passes and Permits
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Doctors and Medications

The northern areas of Australia can have cyclonic wind and rains during summer roughly November to April, and the climate is hot and humid even before the rains commence.  Flash flooding can cut and damage roads.  Some roads may be cut by water for the wet season, and need maintenance on them before they are opened eg Gibb River Road in the Kimberley in Western Australia and the road to the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.  This is not a popular time of the year to go touring and camping in the northern latitudes and it may well be impossible.  The inland areas can be extremely hot and not suitable for touring.  Touring these areas between May and October is much more pleasant.  Camp grounds and National Parks may also be closed off season. 


With the southern areas often experiencing cold and /or wet winters, travel plans can be made around spending the winter months touring the north of the country and the summer months in the south.  Even then some hot days can be expected in the southern summer. If you want to escape the northern summer when doing a full lap around the country, the Stuart Highway cuts through the centre fromDarwin on the north coast in the Northern Territory to Port Augusta in South Australia.  With plenty to see along this highway and other north-south routes in addition to the coastal highways, travellers can zig zag between north and south according to the seasons. 


Climate and weather information can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology website   


For those who are not confined to taking their holidays when their children are on holiday from school, it is better to plan to be away from popular family holiday destinations, particularly along the coast, during these times.  Caravan parks are often fully booked and crowded, and for some a lot of children racing around the park can be disruptive. Caravan and accommodation fees are often higher during peak periods in prime holiday locations.  Inland areas are usually not so crowded.  To plan around school holidays, refer to School Term Dates.  To check public holidays in each state see Public Holidays.      





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