I remember the day we bought our van at Tomakin – man, I felt like I’d made it.
I had a four-beddy in suburbia and now I had a cosy little 1950s van with annex so close to the ocean I could fall asleep to the sound of the waves. We’d landed a caravan park with direct beach access, a resort-style pool and its own cafe, providing the chips for hot chip sangers. Bliss.
But two years on, I spend a chunk of spare time thinking about selling our van. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword to be honest, and if you’re thinking about buying a van, I need you to know the pros and the cons.
Pro: You don’t have to check out at 10am.
With your own place, you can literally stay all day. In fact, we often stay till 8pm on a Sunday night and drive up the Clyde Mountain late to avoid long weekend traffic. Checking out at 10am – especially when you’re hungover – is the stuff of nightmares for me, as is drying and dressing the kids out of the back of the car after a beach swim because you’ve had to pack up and check out early.
Con: You can’t afford to holiday anywhere else.
I spend a lot of time thinking ‘Jeez, we could have gone to Fiji for the money we’ve spent this year’. Our fees are around $7000 annually – gasp – or around $140 a week. It’s a lot. The van itself cost us $7500 and we’ve filled it with around $1000 worth of new furniture. Spending that much money on fees means we don’t have the money to go anywhere else – domestically or internationally.
Pro: The community.
On our very first Friday night in the van, we drove to Tomakin after work and arrived in the pitch black. We had no idea how to switch the power on for lights. Our neighbours Chris and Heidi came to the rescue – lighting the way with a torch. We’ve been close friends since – both at the coast, and at home in Canberra. Their kids are best friends with our kids. Our two teenagers absolutely adore #vanparklife – it has other teens their age, scooters, street cricket, swims at the pool and beach. It’s probably the biggest reason we keep our van and continue paying the fees.
Con: You have another house to clean.
You know how you can just walk out of a hotel or an apartment after holidaying and head home? That ain’t so with a caravan. Owning another – much smaller – house means you need to clean it inside and out when you could be relaxing. Let’s just say I spent the best part of the Australia Day long weekend cleaning up a mice infestation in our coastal haven.
Pro: You can decide at 4pm on a Friday you’re going away for the weekend.
No need to book, no need to make sure there’s money on the credit card. But, if you have kids who play weekend sport, the reality is you’ll only use the van in school holidays. That’s $7,000 a year for a place you’re only using about 12 weeks of the year. Worth it?
The verdict: If you’re the kind of person who likes holidaying in the exact same place every single holiday and weekend, and you’re a natural cleaner, go for it. If not, save your money for an annual overseas trip.