Rules for the ultimate Aussie road trip
Nostalgia nomads are on the move, retracing the cherished holiday routes of their youth. With state and international border restrictions still in force, parents are actively heading back to the future, introducing kids to the joys of going old-school.
NRMA Parks and Resorts CEO Paul Davies says part of this movement has more parents, kids and grandparents travelling together.
"There's a real trend towards the simpler, happy holidays reminiscent of our childhoods, where families can relax in a safe, open air environment and the kids can ride bikes, go skateboarding or surfing, and the whole family can get together at a local restaurant or around the barbecue in the evenings," he says.
"With 34 parks in some great locations across the eastern states and South Australia, including on the NSW coast, along the Great Ocean Road or in the Victorian highlands and along Queensland's sunny beaches, there's a chance for the whole family to enjoy a nostalgic holiday that's both relaxing and rewarding for everyone."
Travel Associates' Ann-Catherine Jones says the rush on nostalgia travel reaches beyond a parent's lived childhood by allowing them to experience any unfulfilled travel dreams of youth, such as a working farm stay. "The real station experience is booming at the moment," she says. "We've got people who are wanting to take their kids out of the city and doing the rural experience. Corynnia Station (in the Riverina region of NSW), Goonoo Goonoo Station (near Tamworth) … this is the sort of thing that people are doing."
Social researcher Mark McCrindle says surveys of Australian families during COVID reveals nostalgia is driving a range of activities, including travel.
"Nostalgia and the simpler life has been well received, (including) more traditional holidays like travelling within my own state, roadside motels, camping and that sort of thing," McCrindle says.
He notes parents of every generation tend to believe their own childhood was the ideal one, that they were shaped in simpler, healthier, less dangerous times - but he says those currently raising children have extra reason for this conviction, thanks to the dreaded screens.
"They do see the mental health challenges, the anxiety, the business, the comparison culture, the 'always on' social media challenge and they do worry for their children," McCrindle says.
"Their upbringing was not these overseas trips or these resort holidays, but staying at the caravan park, doing a bit of camping and the road trip … from the small little cinema in the local town, to roller skating, visiting the Big Things and a simple hike."
If the pandemic has Australian parents feeling wistful for those formative years, it is also bestowing a renewed sense of their value. With cancelled trips to see family in Sweden and Switzerland, mother-of-two Marieke Lee says recent camping trips with her kids make her grateful she was exposed to nature from a young age.
"I just love watching them love it, without the TVs and screens. They will go off for the day and just use their imagination … exploring and making up games with their friends," she says.
"We've just started really enjoying cards together, which is so fun. Proper card games, which (make) me definitely reminisce about my childhood, playing cards with the family around the campsite. Simple things where everyone has time to be involved."
HOW TO PLAN A ROAD TRIP
There are countless ways to raise the nostalgia factor - the main ingredient is whatever makes it authentic for you.
Make it multi-gen
Pack Nan and Pops in the car too, and regale the kids with tales of your carefree youth - especially about the time you did something naughty.
Before kids had passports, prime holiday fare was milkshakes, soggy hamburgers, fish and chips, Mr Whippy and a vanilla slice from the local bakery. These deadset classics have all stood the test of time.
Dropping a line and dangling your legs over a jetty; bracing against a nor'-easter watching fishing boats come in; skimming stones; searching for hermit crabs in rockpools; yabbying at last light and the perfectly judged shore-break plunge: these free pursuits are timeless.
It's all about the soundtrack once you hit the highway. A playlist of AC/DC, Mondo Rock, Australian Crawl, INXS, Cold Chisel, Hunters & Collectors and more will take you straight back to the halcyon days.
Originally published as Rules for the ultimate Aussie road trip