The caravan: Once a staple of every family's annual summer holiday.
But over the past few decades, caravans have fallen out of favour for cheap flights and all-inclusive deals. With COVID grounding planes and putting a stop to our two weeks in the sun, are you tempted to try something different?
Even as the world starts to reopen there are many people who would feel more comfortable holidaying in their own country, and the humble caravan is just the ticket. It's a travelling hotel on wheels – only with slightly smaller proportions and fewer amenities. You'll still have to do the washing and the cooking, but depending on the site and current social distancing guidelines you may be able to access restaurants, laundries and the like to make your trip all the more enjoyable.
Is Caravanning With Kids Fun?
This depends entirely on your attitude to caravanning, so go with an open mind! Caravanning with kids comes with its own set of unique challenges – namely the lack of space. So, you'll need to embrace the close living style for the bonding experience that it is.
If you're in a touring caravan it's possible to factor in everyone's wishes for the trip, if you're willing to drive around. You can spend days (and nights) by the sea, 48 hours in the midst of the forest, plus time spent parked up within easy reach of the local city. Plus, any 'I need a wee' cries can be easily solved by pulling into a rest stop and using your own facilities. (Although, please note that at no point can anyone be in the caravan while it is moving!).
It can be hard to carve out space for each family member so it might be you need to agree that kids can bring their devices and earphones for when they need some time out (remember to pack all the chargers!). There's only one way to know if you can hack two weeks in a caravan with kids and that's to do it. Start small and book a local two-night stay to dip your toe in the water.
What Should I Pack To Make It An Enjoyable Holiday?
An Awning: There's no two ways about it, a caravan holiday with kids can be a tight squeeze. So, you'll be grateful of any extra space. An awning is a great dining spot so you don't have to dismantle beds. It's also a great place to leave muddy boots and soggy coats to keep the caravan clean inside.
A Cinema Projector: You can't expect a widescreen, 50" TV in your caravan, but you can still arrange some top-notch family entertainment. All you need is a handy projector and a white sheet. (Top Tip: Depending on sleeping arrangements you could also project films on to the ceiling!).
A Bed Guard: Caravan beds can be somewhat slim, and if young children are used to a well-proportioned bed you might be woken by the gentle thud of someone falling out. Take a bed guard with you – or if you're staying on a holiday site you may be able to hire one.
Extra Towels: If you're lucky you might have a tiny patch of outside space that you can string your travel washing line up in (what do you mean you didn't pack one?). If not, you'll find yourself towelling off after every shower with a damp towel. Pack extra (bathmats too) so you can avoid this.
Laundry Powder: We know you don't want to spend your holiday doing the washing. But, neither do you want to spend it in a steel box with a bag of soiled clothes following any accidents. Take it with you so you have it for emergency clothes washing, and hopefully you won't need it!
Stairgate: Unsurprisingly caravans get hot – actually, make that roasting. The windows may also not be the safest option to leave open if kids can climb up to them. But with your baby gate, you can open up the door to let the air in. The stair gate will also seal off what all toddlers can spot a mile off – an escape route.
Bikes/scooters: Because no one wants to be trying to coax a weary 3-year-old to walk back to the caravan after a trip to the holiday park's disco.
© Caravan and Motorhome Club
Kidadl's Top Hacks For Caravanning With Kids
Upgrade: If upgrading your rented caravan is an option then we strongly recommend you do. You'll usually find more space and better quality fixtures and fittings which will make all the difference to the enjoyment of the holiday. If it's a matter of budget think about ditching the option of linen and taking your own bedding instead.
Packing: Let the kids do some of the packing themselves. Hand them a small bag to fill with their favourite toys and books so they have a say. Don't forget to pack a few emergency extras though - no one wants to be the parent who arrives to find their child has opted to bring their entire collection of stones and nothing else!
Organising: As soon as you arrive, work out where you'll keep certain items - toys, shoes, coats etc. The success of your caravan holiday lies largely in your ability to make the most of the space you have. The more you can tidy away, the more space you feel like you have. Always pack extra bags just to stash things away in.
What To Ask Before You Buy A Caravan
If you're planning on making caravanning a new way of life and plan to do multiple trips a year you could consider making an investment. But, owning your own caravan and renting a caravan are two different ball games. With the former, you can fit it out how you like and leave all those essentials in place. When you're ready to go you just need to hitch it up and you're off.
Is Your Car Capable Of Towing It?
You'll need to know the caravan's maximum laden weight and your car's approximate kerb weight to check they're compatible. As a rough guide, inexperienced towers should aim for a caravan's maximum laden weight, which is no more than 85 per cent of the car's kerb weight. Even seasoned caravanners should never tow a caravan that weighs more than their car.
Do You Have Somewhere Secure To Store It?
If you have the space at home then it makes sense to store your caravan at home – but do make sure it's covered by insurance, and that you're happy to have it in your front or back garden. Do also consider you'll need to be able to hitch it up to a car to move it, so you'll need to ensure appropriate access. For those of us not blessed with space there are lots of secure storage sites across the UK. Things to look for include perimeter protection, CCTV and lighting. Your storage pitch should include public liability and occupier's liability – also check your own insurance that it's covered if in storage away from the home.
Finding The Best Layout For Your Family
While there's an obvious appeal to a caravan with a fixed double bed, you might find that it actually gives you less space. If you have more than one child you may be better off for space with everyone sleeping in bunk beds. The beauty of these is they don't need to be packed away each morning. Before handing over your cash think hard about the layout of the caravan you're looking out and how it will work practically.
Where Can We Go?
Look for family-friendly campsites if you want to keep the kids amused. Many are now reopening up from the beginning of July though not all services and facilities may be operating. Our favourites include:
Tin Can Camping, Norwich
Kids will go wild for this slice of '50s Americana. They can stay in an Airstream Bubble trailer in a small Norfolk orchard. For summer 2020 you'll be given a timed slot to access the shared facilities to ensure social distancing.
Black Bull Caravan Park, North Yorkshire
While the games room remains closed, you can still access the playing field, crazy golf and playground (with some restrictions). You'll be situated at the gateway to the North York Moors too.
The Old School Campsite, Shropshire
Hire the glamping caravan with shower room and toilet, or bring your own caravan – the site is now carefully opening back up with Covid-19 safe measures in place. Challenge the family to walk to the top of Corndon Hill for impressive views!
Wild Duck Holiday Park, Great Yarmouth
The pools may be out of bounds currently, but there's forest trails and secret wooded clearings to discover. And the beach is close by.
Lady Mile's Holiday Park, Dawlish, South Devon
Kids will love the bike pump track, adventure playground, arcade and multi-sports court. Parents will appreciate the Marquee bar and the super-clean facilities.
At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.
We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.
Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.
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