New generation of van fans hit the road

MELISSA and Matthew Simms aren’t surprised that caravanning is no longer the exclusive domain of “grey nomads”.

Illowa’s Melissa Simms, her husband Matthew (absent) and sons Jak, 14, and Casey, 13, are big fans of lengthy, affordable family holidays in their caravan. 140804LP44 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

Illowa’s Melissa Simms, her husband Matthew (absent) and sons Jak, 14, and Casey, 13, are big fans of lengthy, affordable family holidays in their caravan. 140804LP44 Picture: LEANNE PICKETT

The Illowa couple started caravanning about 12 years ago, when their two boys were under five, and have seen large swathes of Australia on their holidays.

Their two boys, Jak and Casey, now sleep outside in swags to be independent but are still keen to go on the family’s regular caravan journeys, many of them to the Murray River.

Ms Simms said caravanning had made their holidays, which have extended up to seven months, affordable and helped them meet lots of other young families and older travellers. 

Warrnambool RV and Caravan Centre owner Murray Swayn said an increasing number of his customers were people aged between 35 and 49.

His experience supported recent studies by Tourism Research Australia which found that age group, many with young families, comprised about half of all travellers in the caravan and camping sector. 

Mr Swayn said the demographics of caravan buyers had broadened even during the six years he had operated in Warrnambool.

“It’s not just the grey nomads,” Mr Swayn said.

He was also surprised at how winter was having less impact on his business.

“When we first started, we did not see so many coming through in June-August,” he said.

“Now we even have Queensland people coming through in winter.

“The landscape has changed. People are doing more adventures than holidays.”

Another trend Mr Swayn has seen emerge is “gramping”, where grandparents jointly buy a caravan with their children.

Commonly, the grandparents take the van away between school holidays, when their children and grandchildren take over.

“Three generations of a family will use the van,” Mr Swayn said.

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