Two Canberra families have embarked on two very different, but epic, holidays. Each with two kids in tow, one family is travelling around Australia for a year in a caravan. The other spent six weeks at Disney World Florida.
Dream holidays, or a nightmare?
There's one thing they have in common: the trips were planned to spend more time together.
Jean family holiday
Trip: Around Australia for a year in caravan
With their young children in tow, the Jeans are spending a year travelling around Australia in a caravan.
The day before they left for a year on the road, Dave was buying a bucket to wash the family’s clothes in.
The caravan was almost packed. The kitchen (a mini Weber, thermo pot and refrigerated sourdough starter) was ready to rumble.
Dave and Laura were ready to live in a van - minimalist style.
The family, with children Maggie, 5, and Frankie, 2, left Canberra on January 16. One month and two days later the car broke down.
But they knew they’d have challenges they’d need to overcome, and that hasn’t been the only one. They’re in Tasmania, and despite being stuck on the road for a few hours before being towed, and then another few days waiting for the car to be fixed, they’re not too concerned. The scenery is stunningly beautiful, and there is plenty of Tassie cheese and wine to be devoured.
The idea to pack up their home and live life on the road came to Dave on New Year’s Day 2018. You could call it a New Year’s resolution, but they only really decided to bite the bullet about four months ago.
“It got to later in the year and our rental house was up for sale and rather than get another 12 month lease and locking ourselves in, we decided on this,” Dave said.
“It was a big decision in that it’s a big move, to take 12 months off work,” Dave said.
“But at the same time, I think it was a pretty easy decision. We felt like it would be a really good thing to do as a family, and in the scheme of things it would be a lot more valuable.”
Dave was working as an ACT government media manager and took unpaid leave for the trip. Laura is a dietician. He said the decision was chiefly about spending more time together as a family.
“Living under each other’s skin 24/7 for a year in a caravan will have its challenges, but in saying that, we’ll actually be outside all the time so we’ve probably got a larger space in some ways.”
While Maggie was due to start kindergarten this year, they’re expecting her to be able to go straight into year one next year, on their return.
“We’ve told her we’re going to be her teachers - I’m generally the assistant teacher,” Dave said.
He said the family doesn’t have “a hell of a lot of money” and planned to travel on a shoestring.
But that wouldn’t stop them from eating well.
“Laura is a really, really good cook and she’s really passionate about food and sustainable food,” Dave said.
They're planning to forage, make their own bread from the sourdough starter and enjoy what each region had to offer.
Laura said the family was used to living simply; making food from scratch, eating seasonally, shopping markets.
She was looking forward to “eating and drinking my way around Australia”, but mainly spending time together.
“We get sucked into the everyday rat race rut.
“I’m lucky enough to be home with the girls, I get a lot of quality time with them, but Dave misses out on that. I don’t have much in terms of expectations, just hanging out with family.”
Moloney family holiday
Trip: Six weeks at Disney World
How long is enough for a trip to Disney World? Three days? Six days? Try six weeks for the Moloneys, and even then they didn't see everything.
Pat and Sarah Moloney, and their two children Lauren, 14, and Connor 13, love stepping into the “Disney bubble”. Their most recent trip was the third time they’d been to Disney World, and their longest stay yet.
But don’t misunderstand them, what they love about it is a far cry from the world of princesses and fairy tales.
They’re more interested in the Star Wars exhibits, meeting Baymax from Big Hero 6, and being immersed in the land of Pandora from Avatar, or Andy’s backyard from Toy Story.
“You step into this insane world of fun that is removed from the outside world,” Pat said.
“Everything is beautifully decorated and everyone is happy and friendly.”
“We’ve done Europe, we’ve done Asia and all those places. This is the one we keep going back to.”
The trip, from November 19 to January 1, encompassed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. There were four fireworks displays every night, and Pat said it was “like Skyfire times 10”.
But it isn’t just about the movies. It’s also about the fancy resorts, the world-class restaurants, and most importantly, the time spent together.
Pat said the family is very close and love spending quality time together. Disney World is the place for that, he said, because you never have to be somewhere at a certain time, you don’t have to carry food, drinks or even money with you (there is a "magic" wrist band that acts as your money, room key and tracking device if anyone gets lost).
The kids love the experience, and if they do decide to explore on their own, it’s a safe and secure environment.
“People comment saying, 'why don’t you do something different', but we’re in the mindset that our kids are teenagers and we want to spend quality time with them. We think this is a good place to spend quality time with them. We’re not sightseeing, when you’re sightseeing I see it as different time with your family. Our kids are getting older very quickly and we want to spend as much family time as we can with them. They’ve experienced other stuff and they enjoy other things but they’re definitely Disney kids," Pat said.
“For us, we love going to a resort and then getting up and deciding what we’re going to do that day. There are no time constraints on packing to move to another city or anything, but every day is different. We can relax as much as we want, or go full throttle as much as we want.”
Pat runs an electronics company and travels a lot for work. His wife Sarah is a public servant.
It’s as much about the planning as it is about the trip for the Moloneys. They started a year out, booking flights, organising accommodation - which they paid half the price for through a system that rents out vacant timeshare rooms - and making sure they have fast-pass tickets to access the rides quicker than the general crowds. Every Saturday night they watched a Disney movie in anticipation of the big trip.
The family stayed in nine of the 30 resorts, including one where a giraffe poked its head over their balcony to say g'day.
“We wouldn’t do longer, it is expensive. We are planning our next trip to Disney World which will be in a couple of years.”
The hardest part is leaving, said Pat.
“It is a bit depressing, you kind of come back to reality with a thump. There’s a mourning period when you leave, that’s why on every trip we’ve been on we start planning for the next one on the plane home.”
But there has been a huge trend towards parents packing up their homes and children and setting off to travel Australia.
"There is certainly a big swing towards families packing up and going for "the lap" – that is of course, an extended trip around Australia. Families often even sell the family home to purchase their accommodation of choice – so caravans or a campervan (can be very expensive – hundreds of thousands) down to the traditional Kombi van – even camping trailers," Barbara said.
She said these types of holidays were becoming more popular because genuine family time was now a rarity for many in everyday life.
"I can only give my opinion of course, but I think that the lap gives parents the opportunity to leave their high-pressure lifestyles and be with their loved ones – in a world where work demands long hours, and after school curriculum and/or child care mean we are basically high fiving family members as they go past on their way to somewhere else."
"Others are doing the lap before their kids reach school age, aware that they will then not be able to go away for long periods once the kids are in school."
"I guess it’s the desire to be free from all except our nearest and dearest, on an adventure together!"