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A large consideration when choosing your family car is not only how to transport you, your little people and their gear around on a daily basis for school runs, play dates, soccer practice etc but also holidays and adventures! The conversation at the school gate quickly moves on to focus on what is the best camping set-up for our family.

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Swags, tents, camper trailers, motorhomes, caravans, roof tents. There are so many options to choose from it is hard to know which will suit your family best and as everyone grows and changes what suits you may change too.

Our family loves the outdoors and are at our happiest when we are on the road heading off on a great camping or travel adventure. Ideally somewhere remote, no phone reception, plenty of nature, walking and swimming!

So hopefully the adventures we have with different vehicles and different types of camping will help you get a good picture of what options are available for your family. Inspired by the places we visit and most importantly the cars we choose to go in!

A start of the summer a Mums Group camping trip was suggested, and we got very excited! It was the perfect opportunity to try out another camping spot, another vehicle and another camping method!

For this trip, we chose the Isuzu D-Max dual-cab ute

…A fantastic campsite sear Woodford, South East Queensland, called Cedarvale Park

…And a Jayco Swan Outback camper trailer that we rented from Camplify. If you’ve never towed before, there’s a fair bit to get to grips with. But once you’ve done it a couple of times, you get used to it, and it's actually not as difficult as it looks. Especially if you choose a vehicle that can tow 3.5 tonnes (as the D-Max can) and the weight of your camper trailer is about two tonnes below that limit!

An early start in the morning to get the D-Max loaded up and go and pick up the Jayco at 8am! We load everything into the tray of the D-Max. I thought I had packed lightly, but in the end, we filled the space around the girls in the back seats with bedding and groceries, too! You can never pack light with two kids in tow!

One consideration, if you are looking at a ute for your family for everyday use and with camping in mind, is a cover. This D-Max has a retractable cover, which is great for everyday use to keep everything relatively water-tight and secure; however, when loading up everything but the kitchen sink for a camping trip, the housing for the retractable cover actually sits down quite low and eats into the tray space.

Finally, all were onboard, and the kids were happily in, too. We set off to pick up the Jayco.

The collection went without a hitch (badoom doom cha!), and we were soon on our way, negotiating the rush hour traffic to the nearby boat ramp to fill the water tanks. It was a wonderful experience, and the kids loved being part of the process. It really set the tone for our adventure.

Finally, out of the town and on the open roads, you get a feel for what it's like to tow and the difference it makes to the feel of the vehicle you are driving. For the little passengers onboard they are blissfully unaware of the extra concentration it requires and continue their continual stream of ‘why', ‘when will we get there?' and ‘how much further?' and ‘I'm hungry'!! So we break up the drive with a stop at Bucks Bakery in Landsborough in the Sunshine Coast hinterland for a sausage roll.

The long, wide, straight roads and plenty of parking make it a good first stop. We are the third set-up like ours parked along the street. It's obviously a favourite stop for travelling families!

Fed and watered, and back on the road, we settled in for the drive. The kids are comfy and quieter (thankfully!) in the back, with the rear aircon vents keeping them cool.

After a very early start to the morning, both of us grown-ups are happy with the Isuzu‘s dashboard cup holders carrying our takeaway caffeine fix for the drive!

We settle in to enjoy the scenery as we wind through the beautiful green drive. Having looked at Google Maps in the morning and seen the quickest route, my husband suggested we don't take that one as there is a section that may be too windy and tricky for people relatively inexperienced at towing. So we take his route instead. It was a beautiful drive, hours of zig-zagging backwards and forwards around the hairpin bends of a mountain, and was a crash course in towing on hills and bends anyone could get! It also led to a dead-end, and we had to turn around and drive all the way back and take my original route! We later found that Cedarvale warns against using Google Maps…

Arriving at Cedarvale Park campgrounds (a few hours later than expected) we were stunned by the beauty of the area. You drive in across a causeway/bridge that was completely dry on our visit but would be beautiful when the water is running. Towing the Jayco across the narrow bridge was a little nerve-racking!

We had reserved an area called The Fig Tree for our group, and it was obvious why it got its name as we drove in and positioned ourselves in a beautiful spot underneath its canopy.

A friend had advised us to stop when we first arrived and walk around the grounds first to see where we'd want to park before driving the camper in, and to make it space; you can drive it straight out again, too! This is what we did, and the kids soon started enjoying the swing underneath the tree!

We decide on a spot and drive the camper in; luckily, we are the first ones there as we circle the tree a few times, getting the Jayco exactly where we want it! The D-Max has absolutely no trouble towing the Jayco over the uneven ground, too.

Sandwiched between enormous boulders of the dry river bed on one side of us and the rainforest and the open country and fig tree on the other, it made a beautiful and calming backdrop.

We set up the Jayco, which, again, is not as tricky as it looks when you've been shown how (which the owner who rented it to us via Camplify did very thoroughly).

The kids helped a little but mainly watched us do all the hard work!

The Jayco Swan we hired was fantastic for our family of four. It has a small kitchen and dining area and a double bed at each end. The table can be lowered, and the seating area turned into another bed, but we didn't need to use that. There is also a bed rail you can put up to stop the kids from falling out of bed.

We really liked how open the Jayco was to camp in; all the walls were open like windows with fly mesh, so you could see out all the time. This allows you to feel connected with the outdoors all the time and not like you are indoors, which I was worried about.

As friends began to arrive and fill in the flat tent spaces, the kids all climbed the giant Fig Tree and built fairy gardens around the base.

Cedarvale Park is a large property used mainly for horses, and you can book a horse ride during your stay. It is beautiful when they just wander through the campground.

The facilities are good, with a simple and clean shower and toilet block just for our group, which the local hens and cockerel like to investigate, too!

You are so far from any light pollution, so as night falls, the quiet and darkness make it so peaceful, and the stars are incredible!

With a good fire going, we toast marshmallows and enjoy the camping atmosphere.

The local cockerel had all the campers up at 5am! But he didn't walk as far down as we were camped, and being inside the Jayco, we got a sleep-in!

After a camp cook-up breakie…

… we head to explore the surrounding area and the nearest town of Woodford. We felt a remarkable sense of freedom driving the D-Max without the Jayco on the back, and I realised just how differently you have to drive when towing even a relatively small and lightweight camper trailer. Slowing down earlier and more gradually, taking turns wider and more gently and never pulling into somewhere you can't drive out of!

On the drive to Woodford, the surrounding countryside is very dry, and you can see how desperately everything needs rain!

The Isuzu D-Max, dual cab Ute, is a great vehicle for family adventures. The cab is nice and spacious, giving everyone good personal space. It is great at towing (though you really feel the engine working harder), and you feel very confident in its ability and, at the same time, can enjoy driving it on its own when the camper is unhitched.

Woodford is a charming little town with long parking spaces for big rigs and campers to easily park and drive straight out, which is worth bearing in mind for the future. Woodford has all the amenities if you need anything while camping, like supermarkets, bottle shops and hardware stores well-stocked with camping equipment, etc. We went to the Sticks & Stones Espresso Bar on the main drag for a light lunch. It had something for everyone and excellent coffee.

They are part of a fairy garden trail of shops and cafes, and the girls enjoyed exploring the little fairy garden.

After a walk around and everyone fed and watered, we hopped back in the D-Max and took a different route back to Cedarvale Campsite to see more of the countryside. (Also hoping our youngest would have a nap! If you are a family that watches Bluey then she was just like Muffin when she skips her midday nap!) I'm a big bird lover, and whilst driving along, a flash of red and black dashes in front of the windscreen, so we pull over, and take turns standing on the tailgate of the D-Max so we can see the red and black fairy wrens that are playing in the shrubbery. I am delighted as I have spent many years wishing I could see one, and finally, there is a family of them in front of us!

My fairy wren cup is full, and the kids will only give me so long (otherwise, I'd have stayed there all day!) We head back to camp in time for the campfire and night to fall. The kids all gather around to watch a movie on the projector, and we all have fun with friends around the campfire and another great night's sleep in the Jayco!

We are woken by a goose the next morning; it's very tame and obviously used to being fed by campers as it doesn't take no for an answer, and it is determined the girls will share their breakfast with it!

It's a proud day for us as our eldest daughter cooks pancakes for our family and friends on the camp stove!

We decided to cook all our food outside the Jayco as it feels more social with our friends, and one of our favourite parts of camping is outdoor cooking. It's a great topic for discussion that evening around the campfire and how they think they'd feel about cooking inside the camper, etc.

The Jayco gets named ‘The Club House' as the kids migrate to it a few times throughout the day to play board games and hang out.

It is a day of celebration as all the kids turn eight within a few weeks of each other, so there is lots of fun: rock painting, tree climbing, rock hopping, pinata hitting and cake eating!

The mums even got to enjoy a walk around the campsite and the Cedarvale Park ground and rock hopping along the river bed without kids!

The kids enjoy the simplicity of camping. The trees, the dirt and the outdoors. We enjoyed afternoon walks…

… and negotiated the long-legged friends in the toilets!

All in all, we had a great time and decided that Cedarvale Park, the D-Max, the Jayco camper trailer and good friends are a winning combination!

It's a wet day for pack-up, and although we try to do it in between showers, it's no use, and we end up taking everything home wet and muddy! The joy of the D-Max is we can put everything into the tray as it is and clean it when we get home.

Packing the Jayco Swan down is pretty simple, and we're all down in around an hour or two, stopping for a cuppa and a chat here and there!

I was a little nervous about remembering how to connect the D-Max and the Jayco Swan correctly, but actually, it was quite straightforward. I did double and triple-check!!

As we drove home (my route!), we laughed about how quick and straightforward it was compared to the ridiculous route we took on the way there! We discussed the Jayco and how much we'd enjoyed sleeping in it and hanging out in it. We discussed how, if we owned it, what each of us would change about it, how we'd store things differently and set it up exactly how we'd like it. The kids had ideas for their craft cupboard, and on a practical level, I like the idea of all the camping gear staying inside the camper trailer and never encroaching on house and garage space!

We also discussed the Isuzu D-Max dual-cab ute. The kids told us their likes; they weren't too close to each other so that one couldn't touch the other! But if they want to be together, they can sit next to each other. The very tall eight-year-old said she has plenty of legroom, and they could both see out of the windows easily, and there is plenty of room for their toys around them, and they can reach the cup holders between them too! The highlight for them was standing in the tray to see the fairy-wrens!

I am very grateful for the rubber floor mats that mean although the kids have been in and out of the cab with muddy, wet and grassy feet on and off over the weekend, they aren't too dirty, and we can just hose them down easily to clean them.

The girls fall asleep pretty quickly, and it's a much quieter drive home! I drive on long open country roads, a few twisty mountain roads (nowhere near the epic drive to get there!) as well as the highway and around town. I love driving, and I love road trips; I felt like I was just getting into my groove when it was time to drop the Jayco Swan back to its owners.

We unpack the ute and the kids and give the D-Max for a much-needed clean!

Although we are sad our family camping holiday has come to an end, it just reignited a spark in us all to camp at every opportunity this summer! So there are more family camping holidays to come!

Where to go next, with what vehicle, and what shall we sleep in? Stat tuned!

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Tace Clifford
About Tace Clifford
Tace Clifford founded BabyDrive in 2017 after discovering a huge information gap in mainstream car reviews that left new parents and expanding families in the dark when it came to one of the biggest purchasing decisions of their lives.

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