Whatever happened to those summer road trips in the back of Mum and Dad’s van? Meg relives the nostalgia of old-fashion trooping and thinks you should give it a go too.

The Summer Road Trips of Yesteryear

‘Siri, are we there yet?’

When travelling in a ‘73 Kombi off the grid this is how we roll. Two baffled young faces in the backseat who cannot work out why Siri isn’t responding.

Remember the days when travel was slow and simple? 

Nothing screams summer quite like a good ol’ fashioned Aussie road trip. I owe much of my childhood adventures to that classic rite of passage.

All six of my siblings squashed in like sardines in an old beige coloured troopy, affectionately named ‘the kidney rattler’, in the sticky heat of summer.

Read more: The Truth About Growing up as an Adventure Baby

The distinct smell of sweaty skin mixed with sunscreen, the familiar feeling of hot, balmy air whipping my hair against my cheeks and the loud repetitive hum of the highway against the muffled tunes of U2, Eagles or Eurythmics coming from upfront.

Read more: 5 Ridiculous In-Car Games for Road Trips

All windows down, kids laughing and shouting to be heard over the engine, large paper maps poking awkwardly out of the centre console, icy pole sticks, and frosty fruit wrappers lining the back seat.

Dad at the wheel decked out in his favourite worn hat and enough sunscreen on to last a year, Mum upfront with her aqua polo top and tanned skin looking noticeably relaxed as she fiddles with a pencil and a tape cassette to rewind their favourite song.

Us in the backseat with pillows on our lap, squashed together on the bench seat with our sweaty limbs colliding as we happily play I spy, car cricket, and the number plate game…on repeat.

Read more: These Adventure Parents Are Re-Writing The Rule Book

Recreating Old Memories

Fast forward years later and here I was on a recent road trip with my own kids in a 1973 kombi van, wanting to recreate similar memories for my own clan. The days of perpetual sunshine and carefree road trip vibes.



Summer has a way of bringing back the nostalgia of those trips that shaped us in some way.

Road trips for me are never about the destination, rather the simple, slow-paced travel life. Being present, having a laugh, no rush to be anywhere and no mobiles, WiFi, devices, calendars, or planners to be seen.

Pulling over on the side of a road and making a simple sandwich for the troops. Loo stops a plenty, swatting flies on the side of a hot tar road as we all clamber out to stretch our legs, pulling up to a waterhole to go for a quick dip to break up the journey.

Pure freedom and escapism. 

Cruising along in a rattly loud car with my husband and my own kids brings all these beautiful memories back. Whether we travel in our ancient Leyland Brother style 4WD or our 1973 kombi van, we always prefer to go without all the mod con trimmings – Sat Nav, Bluetooth, WiFi, TVs on the back seats – and keep it all simple and slow.

This results in less backseat bickering from the kids as they, quite simply, have nothing to fight over! No arguments over what movie to watch, which song to play, or who wants more cold air. 

The simple slow life can indeed be recreated, that is, until you get to the packing. I think the amount of crap we travelled with as kids has followed me into adulthood as somehow every road trip involves being surrounded by bags, fishing rods, and nursing pillows. Oh and why is my view always obstructed by a giant boogie board?

Ahhh the sweet old days. 

Read more: 25 Tips For Road Tripping With Kids

No Muss, No Fuss Camping, Right?

And then there’s the bush camping that follows. How far camping has come!

The simple A-frame tents of yesteryear have been replaced with giant, oversized, big-wheeled shiny 4WDs towing monstrous sized caravans and loaded up with bikes, scooters, TVs, generators and sometimes even motorbikes and boats.

‘Show us ya rig’, I chuckled to myself as one by one I saw the new wave of fancy pants campers arrive.

There was no right or wrong, no judgement from either camp…just a friendly nod, a wave, and a quick exchange of glances as we each pondered the contradiction in what was considered ‘bush camping’.

No doubt these other campers would set up with ease in five minutes flat, by simply unhitching their latest model, glossy white fibreglass caravans from their big honking 4WDs, all whilst eliminating the usual argument over missing pegs and wonky tent poles. 



Why spend 45 minutes piss-farting around with metal eyelets, a hammer, and rope to set up some shade, when you can simply press a button and a neat electric awning on steroids provides shade and enough room for an army?

Heck, why worry about blowing up mattresses either when you can sleep on a plush feathertop high loft bed complete with reading lights and a purpose-built bedside cupboard? 

And why wouldn’t you choose a 1000 thread count sheet instead of the age-old wrestle with a giant synthetic down sleeping bag as you try to squash it back into its teeny tiny, seemingly shrunken polyester cover? 

Don’t forget about the electric full-size fridge complete with its very own freezer compartment, which surely beats the 100L esky full of melted ice, soggy cheese, and suspicious looking lettuce floating in water?

Why surround yourself with the sounds of birdlife and nature when you can drown it out with the loud hum of a 2100-watt generator? 

Like everything in life, both ways of travelling and camping come with their pros and cons, their perks and their downsides. 

The rattle and hum of an ol’ kombi or a leather clad shiny monster truck with heated seats and air con? The portable UE boom, mixed tapes, and crappy sound system or the latest amplified subwoofer?

I know with certainty that I would much rather cook fresh fish on a BBQ or in a makeshift camp kitchen, than be washing dishes or dining inside a caravan feeling as though I never left home.

I also know that I’d prefer to lay back in my camp chair under a blanket of stars playing cards on a wonky camp table under a dimly lit battery-operated lantern, than be snuggled under a doona watching Netflix in a van. Of that I can be certain.

But the late-night unzipping of the canvas to do a bush pee over a fully-fledged toilet in a motorhome? Or the hard to fold, annoyingly large paper map versus the dulcet tones of the GPS voiceover? The jury is still out on that one.