Paul and Pam's Website - Queensland Australia
Trip planning is as important as the trip itself...is something I often tell myself...in reality most of our trip plans will change very soon after leaving home!. Regardless, I do think it is necessary to have some sort of idea where we will go...not to do so will likely mean we will miss out on seeing many of items of interest along the way. Many, many times we have deviated from a set route only to be thankful that we did when something of great interest is encountered.
Knowledge of those points of great interest will often come from chatting with other travellers….amazing how a campfire with a beer, or wine will get the '..have you been to...? stories going.
So, some initial planning is needed...apart from seeking the points of interest it could be that our trip will include remote country...will we need extra fuel, food, water etc.
Our planning will involve pouring through travel pamphlet information, this might be obtained online or from visitor information centres (VIC's). VIC's are great places to visit, they usually have heaps of free literature and maps for the area, they are likely staffed by locals, in many cases, volunteers who may have lived in the area for along time.
There is no limit to that amount of information available online....one of our favourite spots for this is Youtube....there are countless numbers of people who earn a living from Youtube...they post trip notes and videos and supply a lot of great stuff.
But before any of that we do decide on the approximate direction we will go...that might be as simple as north, south or west, as we are near the east coast an easterly direction is usually not on. :)
Out trip initially will involve using a 'trip planner'....one we seems to use a lot is available on caravancaravan.com.....a free caravanners website...an example of a previous trip can be seen by clicking the link to the left...obviously many details, camp costs etc will no longer be current.
Sadly, caravancaravan.com has lost a major feature with the withdrawing of Google Mapping, I understand some costing issue has caused this, now users are forced to use Google Maps outside of Caravancaravan.com, no big deal but it does make it a little less useful, regardless, the caravancaravan Trip Planner is better than any I have found thus far.
Wikicamps has changed the way we plan our trip...we use Wikicamps constantly...I would find it difficult to plan any trip without using Wikicamps.
Wikicamps is unique in that users can add site reviews which are instantly available to others, this feature means that site data available is always up to date and this is unlike such items as the Camps printed books.
This is not to say Camps is no good, it can be very useful in areas where the mobile network might not be good.
Users of printed campsite books need to be aware that these books require regular updating, some are only updated every two years, they are, in effect, out of date the day they are printed, they are also very expensive and cumbersome...we find it is better to take a folding Hema map, of the latest version for the route being followed.
But there are some draw-backs we have found on Wikicamps. All reviews should be taken with a grain of salt...take a look at a section of the review page I copied from the Wikicamps website click here ...I copied this from the Harbor Lights Tourist Park, Bowen, Queensland Wikicamps page...sadly, it is quite common to see totally contradictory reviews appearing close together, on some occasions I suspect some of these comments are inserted by someone with an ulterior motive!
Wikicamps also has a Trip Planner but I have had difficulties using this feature...again, it relates to mapping.....my problem is with the zooming of Google Maps....
Another major factor when trip planning is the weather.....with the excellent forecasts available online from the BOM site it is now possible to view the weather for locations along our route.
Here we do have a couple of caveats;
BOM three day forecasts are very accurate, any longer time is not so accurate.
The areas being covered on BOM predictions needs to be 'drilled down'....they are not very localized, and example might be if we were to check the weather for Chinchilla in Queensland the forecast might say; 'Rain expected on the Granite Belt' yet Chinchilla is over 300 km from the Granite Belt!...users need to drill down.
And on weather...wind is something we keep a watch on...Willi Weather has an excellent way of displaying future wind strengths and direction.
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Google Maps and Google Earth are indispensable tools for trip planning....but for much more than just seeing maps. We use either of both of these tools to get as much info as we can about our intended route and our intended camps. Examples images of how Google Mapping can be so useful are below.
To the left is a default Google Map view of Lake Dyer caravan park, in Queensland's Lockyer Valley.
The image to the right is a 'satellite' image from Google Maps, we can now see the road into Lake Dyer caravan park.
And this mage is 'streetview' in Google Maps...here we can see the entrance to Lake Dyer caravan park...this is what we will be looking for when we arrive at this spot. Right clicking on Google Maps at this point will show the GPS co-ordinates also.
There is one aspect that Google Map users need to be aware of however....the images might not be recent, they could be two or more years old, the imagery date will be displayed.