Mariel and Remco Waller, and their three kids: Tommy (11), Kim (10), and Jesse (7).
Over Christmas break, the Wallers spent three weeks in Western Australia. They rented a camper van and drove south of Perth, to Albany, Denmark, Pembleton, and the Margarets River area. Then, they looped back to Perth through Denham, Monkey Mia, and Kalbarri.
Australia turned out to be quite expensive. The Waller family flew to Perth Airport via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. Roundtrip airfare for a family of five cost RMB 40,000 in total. They stayed at a Holiday Inn hotel for one night in Perth, then rented a camper van with Britz for two and a half weeks. The camper van cost RMB 1,500 per day and the average campsite cost RMB 360 per night. Attractions cost around RMB 600 per day. The average meal for a family of five cost RMB 900, while cooking their own meals cost only RMB 300 to 350. Though Australia is expensive, produce is relatively cheap and wine is cheaper than in Beijing.
The Best Part
For the Wallers, the best part of the vacation was simply the freedom to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. They got to see many animals in the wild, including kangaroos, emus, stingrays, dugongs, dolphins, and lots of birds. They bought boogie boards and surfed on deserted beaches. Most campsites had excellent facilities, including a playground, clean bathrooms, a camp kitchen, electricity, and running water. The camper van itself was equipped with a four-burner stove, an oven, and a microwave; the Wallers ended up eating a lot of salad, barbeque, pasta, and rice dishes. The family particularly liked a Western Australia restaurant chain called Dome, which offers diverse breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
The Worst Part
Besides the high cost of traveling in Australia, some areas also had annoying insects like flies, mosquitoes, and a few large spiders. However, they generally don’t carry diseases and the Wallers didn’t have to take any special shots for the vacation.
When the Wallers arrived in Monkey Mia (a popular tourist resort and dolphin-feeding spot north of Perth), they were told that the dolphins had not showed up for the last five days. The family was quite disappointed, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the dolphins showed up on their second attempt the next day.
On another occasion, the Wallers arrived at a campsite in Pemberton and were told that the local pond was located right next door. The water seemed calm on the surface, but the sign told a different story; visitors were urged to be wary of strong currents, slippery areas, and venomous snakes.
Driving in a camper van in Australia is a very family-friendly experience. The entire family can enjoy the great outdoors and the kids can run around freely within campsites. In addition, Western Australia has many parks, playgrounds, beaches, and water parks. However, older kids tend to get bored during the long hours of driving.
- Because they went to Australia during peak season, Mariel and Remco were initially nervous about not booking any campsites in advance. But in the end, the family always got a spot by consulting the guide books given to them by the camper van rental company and calling one or two days in advance. No special driving license was needed for the camper van.
- A camper van trip can be done with younger children; the Wallers did a similar trip in eastern Australia when their kids were 1, 3, and 5. If anything, older kids tend to get bored more because they don’t fall asleep as easily anymore. The Wallers kept snacks in their grocery bags and played movies from the van’s DVD player. However, two of the kids get carsick, so they couldn’t read or play any electronic games.
- In general, the weather ranged from 20 to 42°C (68-107.6°F). It was very hot inland, but stayed at around 25 to 30°C (77-86°F) around the coast. Travelers should bring only summer clothes and perhaps some rain gear.
- The Wallers ended up buying their own boogie boards, but surfboards can be easily rented. Lessons are available at the more crowded beaches; some surfing instructors will even bring students to better locations.