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Camper Vanning Australia and Travellers Auto Barn: a Review

So, we survived! Forty days, one and a half months in camper van cruising down the coast of Australia. It wasn’t always easy- particularly when we hit that solid month of rain in Queensland, but from the Great Barrier Reef to the Blue Mountains and down south of Sydney it was an interesting and varied experience.

There are a whole slew of different companies offering camper vans of various shapes and sizes. I’d first read about Travellers Auto Barn in the Lost Girl’s book, and they had such a good experience that I decided to contact them myself*. After a careful perusal of the website I decided on a Chubby van, the compact mini-van sized campers for two. I mainly picked a chubby because they are the cutest and I’ve very sensible like that.

The first and most important thing I can say about Travellers Auto Barn is that they have some really terrific customer service. When we picked up the van in Cairns we had a ton of questions- we actually left and returned to the office three times! The staff was so friendly, patient and helpful- it was a great note to start the trip off on. While we didn’t run into any difficulties on the road they have a help line and I was secure that they would do whatever they can to lend a hand.

As for the van itself: it was pretty basic. Most of the inside was taken up by the bed (which can also be converted into a table although we never bothered to do that). There is a little kitchenette in the back with a hot water heater, toaster and sink. Liz and I aren’t really cooks so it provided pretty much everything we needed. For a small extra fee the company can also provide essentials like sleeping bags, pillows and tea towels. It’s not the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in- but for sleeping in your car I think it’s pretty sweet.

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our living room/bedroom

If I were to do it again I would probably spring for one of the bigger van models. While the Chubby was cute, and probably the easiest to drive, it still felt pretty cramped for two people (Liz in particular is much taller than me and kept hitting her head and other body parts inside the van).

We quickly developed a day to day routine. We stayed at caravan parks mostly (easy to find in any reasonably sized town) but if you are sneakier than us you can camp on the street or in the wild. Our motivations were slightly biased though as we were mostly camping in the rain and we wanted the luxury of electricity. You can plug the van into a powered camp site and run lights, fans, even laptops off the battery. This made us feel less like we were camping and more like we lived in a very tiny, movable apartment.

There are some drawbacks to camper vanning- gas is expensive (and a vehicle that big needs a lot of it) and you’re very much at the mercy of the weather. Nonetheless, in a country as beautiful as Australia, there’s nothing quite like being able to see the stars out your window at night, or watching a beach sunset from your mobile living room.

sunset at caravan park, Windsor

 

So would I do it again? The fact is, if you want to really see a county as vast as Australia, there’s nothing quite like traveling by car. Flights between cities or 12 hour greyhound bus rides will only tell you part of the story- it’s so much better to have the freedom and flexibility of your own transportation.

*Full Disclosure: Travellers Auto Barn gave me a 50% discount on our camper van rental as well as free living equipment.

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17 Responses to Camper Vanning Australia and Travellers Auto Barn: a Review

  1. Peter January 2, 2011 at 5:38 PM #

    Hey Girls,
    Thank you for your kind words! Happy travels.

    Just a small word…if you are from EU then gas (petrol) is actually quite cheap in Australia…..but not when compared to the US or Canada..

    Cheers,
    Peter …..40 something

  2. Maggi January 2, 2011 at 6:20 PM #

    I am doing the same thing..tomorrow Brisbane and Murwillumbah

    Where are you now?
    Would love to meet on the way somewhere
    Maggi

    • Steph January 7, 2011 at 10:20 AM #

      Very neat! I’m actually in Thailand now but I hope you have a great time.

  3. Erin January 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

    Glad you had a fun trip (despite the rain). We had a great time campervanning from Darwin to Alice Springs a few years ago. It’s nice to have a break from unpacking your bag every few days, and we loved being able to stop and cook (or sleep) whenever we wanted.

    We went for a slightly bigger van that had a higher roof, so you could stand in the middle part. It had a proper stove & fridge too so we cooked all the time.

  4. Lauren Fritsky January 3, 2011 at 9:58 PM #

    Glad you got see some of Oz this way.

  5. Kirsty January 4, 2011 at 3:30 AM #

    Sounds like a fun trip, This is something we both want to do when we get to Oz, I’ll definitely take your advice and get a bigger van!

    And I agree with comment from Peter – UK’s Petrol prices are sky high!

  6. Dee January 4, 2011 at 4:19 AM #

    This is one of the things we wanted to do during our RTW travels but for various reason had to cut it out. One day we will go to Oz and drive/camp across the great landscape! Definitely sounds like the best way to see Australia rather then flying from place to place!

    • Steph January 7, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

      YYeah it’s absolutely the best way to get around.

  7. Rebecca January 8, 2011 at 10:24 PM #

    Would love to see my own country this way – sounds like you guys had fun!

  8. Anna January 30, 2011 at 7:52 PM #

    Hey!

    Thank you very much for your honest feedback on our Chubby. If you’re interested, we published a blog story about your travel on our blog, just have a look at https://www.travellers-autobarn.com.au/blog/twenty-something-travelling-the-east-coast-in-a-chubby/ and tell us what you think about it.

    Even though you were a “bit” unlucky with the weather I hope it didn’t spoil the experience of traveling in this unique and amazing country too much

    Enjoy your travels!

    • Steph January 31, 2011 at 6:20 AM #

      Thanks for helping me with this awesome oppurtunity!

  9. Michael September 22, 2011 at 2:39 AM #

    hi

    how did you manage to get a 50% discount for your car rental 🙂
    thanks
    Michael

    • Steph September 22, 2011 at 9:52 AM #

      Hi Michael, it was a press discount in exchange for some media materials and for writing it about it on here.

  10. Jill February 4, 2012 at 3:11 AM #

    Very nice! I’m looking into trying to hook up with other travelers to campervan from Brisbane to Melbourne! I’m quite excited at the prospect of seeing this beautiful country a slow and steady way! Great article! Cheers!

  11. Beth Campbell August 1, 2012 at 10:13 PM #

    Awesome! I’ve just moved to oz. and plan on traveling around. glad you had fun… hope i don’t get caught up in the heavy rain. 🙂

  12. Leon June 14, 2013 at 4:21 AM #

    Maybe this review isn’t in the right place here, but I just post it.

    My Travellers AutoBarn experience, just some facts:

    I bought a 4wd (Toyota Prado) at TAB Sydney for $10.000. A lot of money, but I wanted to make sure I had a a reliable car which was checked properly.

    Driving my way around Australia I found the next problems:
    -spare tyre flat, had to buy a new one
    -1 out of 4 brackets of the fuel tank was broken
    -the timing belt had’nt been done for more than 200.000 km. It has to be done every 100.000 km. Quite dangerous when going into the outback!
    -electric mirrors not working
    -engine was filled with water instead of coolant
    -high beam light not working
    -central door locking opened itself every now and then
    -belts were worn (got new ones before going into outback, $100)
    -starter motor broke down (total costs incl. towing $500)
    -alternator broke down (total costs $750)
    The $300 warranty, bought with the car, didn’t reimburse anything.
    After 5,5 months I sold the car back to TAB in Darwin, and expected to get the promised $4000 back.
    Instead of this, ‘offered’ me $1250 for some reason.

    EDIT:

    Directly after posting the review (as above) on tripadvisor, I got an e-mail from TAB;
    ………,’I’m also deeply concerned as today we received your blog on the Trip Advisor website. I’m more then willing to investigate your issues and concerns but in order for me to do so I would really appreciate that you remove the negative review that you have posted.
    I’ll await your reply and hope that we can work together on this and come to an amicable solution.’,…….

    I decided to give it 14 days to come to a good solution together.
    After 23 days still no solution or explanation of what happened, so here’s my review again!

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