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The Nevilles are living the dream on the road – all seven of them!

What’s life like with four kids under 11 living full-time in a caravan? For the Neville family, it can be a little chaotic at times, but for the most part, they’re living the dream.

Dave and Amy bought a Network RV quad bunk caravan two years ago when they were priced out of the housing market after selling their home in Perth. They struggled to find a new home so decided to take the chance on “van life” instead.

Celebrating their new Network RV van are the Nevilles – parents Amy and Dave with kids Austin, Fletcher, Alexa, Blake and Spencer. PHOTO: Making Lemonade

“This was the world’s way of forcing us to do what we wanted and buy a van; it was more of a risk to stay in the rental we were in,” Amy said.

“We’d tried for so long on what we thought was the right path but as soon as we got off that and took the highway to the left and decided to buy a van, everything fell into place, and we knew we were on the right track.” 

Spending time together fishing as a family. PHOTO: Making Lemonade

Amy said the kids had grown up watching their grandparents explore the country in a caravan and had always wanted to do that, but the day that they took them to pick up their new van was a day they’d remember forever.

“They’d been begging for a van and were desperate for it to happen and they were so surprised and happy when we took them to see the van and told them it was theirs and they could take it home,” she said.

“People think living in a van with four kids is nuts, but our kids are pretty quiet and chill.”

Not only is there 11-year-old Blake, nine-year-old Spencer, and six-year-old twins Fletcher and Alexa, but their older brother Austin, 16, who is working as an apprentice boilermaker back in Perth, also comes to visit about three times a year.

“It’s great that Austin can come and visit us, and we get quality time with him doing things like snorkelling or adventuring or spending time on the family farm,” Amy said.

In their two years on the road, the Nevilles joke it’s easier to list where they haven’t been – Darwin and the South Australian coast.

“When we left, we did the Nullarbor, Uluru and Kings Canyon and then went across to Cairns in Far North Queensland and did the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef, Ingham, then Central Queensland at Winton with the dinosaurs, the Gemfields, the Whitsundays then down into New South Wales, the family farm at Orange, Canberra, the Victorian coast, the Murray River and now we’re on the Limestone Coast in South Australia,” Amy said.

The Neville family visited Uluru. PHOTO: Making Lemonade
The Nevilles stop by the Big Gallah. PHOTO: Making Lemonade

“Our travel life is 100 percent spontaneous with zero planning ability on my behalf. I cannot commit to schedules or booking places ahead of time. We absolutely wing it.

“As we are completely set up for off grid living and majority of caravan parks can charge up to $15 per child per night extra on top of site fees, so we choose to stay at free camps, donation camps, showgrounds, RV parks, with family and friends and as a last or only resort caravan parks.”

Sometimes they just travel, and sometimes they stop and Dave works for a while.

Dave, whose background as a “farm kid” has come in handy picking up seasonal work including driving a truck in Mareeba, is working on a grape harvest.

It’s a bit of a change to his former career stationed on submarines off the Western Australian coast.

“The bunks are bigger in the caravan,” he joked.

Being such a big family in such a little space, the Nevilles make sure everyone gets time to themselves and quality time with each other.

“The kids all have privacy curtains on their bunks, their bunk is their bedroom, and they go in there when they want to be alone. We make sure to spend time with the children one on one as well, even if it’s just going for a walk down the beach or taking one of them to Woolies. Things that we’d be doing at home even if we weren’t in the van,” Amy said.

Blake, Spencer, Fletcher and Alexa have fun at the beach. PHOTO: Making Lemonade
The kids are all tucked into their bunks for the night. PHOTO: Making Lemonade

Amy also spends time crafting when she can and writing the family’s blog Making Lemonade Neville Style.

She said the name reflected their caravan journey – when life gives you lemons you make lemonade. She said it started out as a platform to keep their friends and family updated on their adventures and grew into a like-minded community to share their tips and tricks for life on the road.

Amy shared a few tips with us about how to handle life on the road with a big family:

  • Have a stack of spew bags by your bed. Nothing worse than the sound of a sick child on the top bunk about to splatter down to the ground! Spew bags at the ready, always!
  • Waterproof draw sheets that are easy to change out (they go over the top of the fitted sheet) makes wet beds easier to manage.
  • LEGO, all the LEGO. Kids never tire of playing and creating with it.
  • Rechargeable sensor light in the bathroom for the middle of the night toilet trips.
  • Ear plugs for when the sensory overload of six people living in a van gets a bit much.
  • TAWK membership. All parks affiliated with Travel Australia With Kids offer two nights free for all kids in your family. This is a game changer for larger families!
  • Privacy curtains for the kids bunks, means older ones can stay up later to read with their light on without disturbing the others, or when they need their alone time it’s the perfect hideout
  • Chill out! You cannot physically, financially, emotionally do everything in every town. Pick your favourites and don’t burn yourselves out. We always plan a chill day after an outing/adventure day.
  • Fruit stalls or Woolies free fruit for kids is a great cheap fruit hack for feeding a bunch of kids
  • Chewing gum! Another way to curb the boredom eating on travel days, we let the kids have chewing gum. You’d be surprised how much this helps.
  • Give each child a job to do for setting up/packing up.
  • Boredom leads to creativity. Kids come up with most of their best, creative ideas, games when they are bored.

Lego always keeps the kids occupied. PHOTO: Making Lemonade