Caravaning Tips

We are heading for the end of a caravaning holiday in North Yorkshire during this very wet summer. As we have been having a good time despite the weather I thought it might be helpful to share a few tips/thoughts.
What to camp in.
Over many years on our summer holidays we have used most types of camping (motorcaravan’s, folding caravans, large tents, small tents, boats & caravan). For a wet British summer a modern caravan is definitely our first choice.
Where to camp.
While kids are small a site with a suitable playground is great, now however, we much prefer a Certified Location (CL -  a site limited to 5 caravans at a time). We deliberately chose a caravan with a proper shower cubicle (full plastic lining) so all we need is a water supply and toilet emptying. But for longer than a weekend we find having electricity makes a big difference (electric hob means that the gas lasts much longer, no worries about running the battery flat, ability to charge phones, cameras etc, allows use of laptops).
Getting comfortable
We like being comfortable :-) Especially now we are so old. Little things can make a huge difference, especially when it is wet. For us that includes:

  • A washroom in the caravan big enough to change in with a proper shower cubicle. For us that means an end washroom, with a proper molded plastic shower cubicle (and heated hot water). We can manage 5 hot showers in a morning which is helpful when sharing a confined space. It is also good when coming in very wet from cycling in the rain.
  • Two rolling barrel style water containers – needed so you can swap from an empty to a full one when your partner is halfway though their shower.
  • Quick drying travel towels, the ones designed for back-packing. Otherwise you are going to be full of wet smelly towels all holiday.
  • An awning. We have a Fiamma caravanstor, it is much quicker to put up and down than a traditional cotton awning but we do have to take it down in high winds. Being PVC it is not a problem if it has to be taken down in the rain. We have one of these porous mats for the floor so don’t have to worry about killing the grass, but water will come up through it so you do need shoes /wellies if it is wet.
  • A couple of cheap groundsheets. One under all your bikes and the other on top. Pegged down they have kept our bikes nice and dry despite torrential rain.
  • A memory foam mattress topper – just for Mum and Dad :-) Makes double beds made up from settee cushions much more comfortable.
  • Hike tents for teenagers (even if the caravan has enough beds) makes life that much more spacious and allows for comfy lie-ins. Use the excuse that the single beds in caravans are generally tight for space for teenagers – say they will be more comfortable if they can stretch out. We have enough beds inside (and use them in winter and for quick overnight stops) but everyone is happier with their own accommodation.
  • Bike transport within the caravan. Ours has bunk beds and the lower bunk folds away to allow you to carry bikes inside. We brought 4 upright bikes and one recumbent trike inside the caravan (plus a tandem recumbent trike on the car roof).
  • A mother-in-law to lend you an LCD TV when the Olympics are on.
  • External gas BBQ point, we use it not much for a gas BBQ but for one of those multifunction folding (Cadac style) things. With a griddle it makes meals for 8 plus much easier.
  • Wellies for everyone. We economized and have 4 of us sharing one pair and as we have 3 inches of standing water between us and the car our youngest has to ferry the wellies back and forth.
  • Crocs, you may hate them (we don’t) but they are the best thing along with 3/4 length trousers for getting around a wet field.
  • 3G internet access dongle for laptops, but bring a USB extension cable and a pole to be sure of getting a signal (working lovely now even though we can’t get a good enough signal for a phone conversation).
  • The Olympics, best when staged on the other side of the world. Makes staying in the caravan on a wet morning a pleasure.
  • Bikes, the best way to explore the local area and allow you to eat lots of cream teas.
  • Caravan levelers, with a twin-axle you need two. I like my beds level and these work a treat. Place around a wheel and wind it up into the air. Managed to get wheels 8 inches into the air last Greenbelt for a nice level bed.

Alternatives
Motorcaravans

Very expensive, especially if there are more than 4 of you. Great for touring to a different site each night (or moving every other night). A real pain if you want to go out for the day in it (lots of packing away, height restrictions in many places). Good option if you need to tow a boat. Most popular for couples. We had a few years with a VW motorcaravan (T4 with lifting roof), excellent when there were 4 of us, very tight and intimate when there were 5. It did make an excellent tow car for our Laser 16 day boat (16 feet, day sailing boat).

Folding Caravan

We had a very old Dandy 6 folding camper, they are great to tow light and low wind resistance. The Dandy has solid sides and an insulated PVC roof – that means it can be folded away in the rain with no problems (and nothing inside gets wet). But you lose out on a washroom and certainly no possibility of a shower. We found that we struggled with luggage space as you can fit very little inside the camper when traveling (and anyway have no access to it without erecting the caravan). We would definitely consider another one in the future.

Large Tents

We had a second hand huge Khyam, not too bad to pitch (if you can find a big enough space) and very spacious when up. It did mean we needed a trailer as when packed it completely filled the boot of our Peugeot 406 estate. We did find that we wanted to use a campsite with nice toilets and showers. The biggest problem was when you want a multi-site holiday. If it is raining on the transfer day it makes it horrible. Can be comfortable as you have capacity with trailer to take nice camping chairs etc. Not for all year round use.

Small tents.

Only camping option if cycle touring or back packing. Not nice with prolonged rain if you can’t afford to eat out all the time. We spent nearly 2 weeks cycle touring a couple of years ago. Nearly one week riding to an organised cycling holiday and then back again after. We will do it again, but only if not traveling by car (as then much more comfortable options are available).

Caravan.

See above for good features. Disadvantages are that visiting anywhere in transit is difficult as few car parks have spaces for caravans. We find that multi-site touring works well but tend to prefer one or two sites per holiday (plus maybe overnight stops on the way). We find towing no problem but chose a twin axle caravan with a stabilizer hitch. See 42: Tow car thoughts. Once we no longer need such a big car (3 boys, one is over 6 feet and the 2nd is catching fast) we will be looking for either a much smaller caravan still with nice washroom or (more likely) a folding caravan so that we can have a really small car (not our really economical Citroen C1 though as that can’t have a tow bar). Another problem is where to store the caravan. We waited until we knew that there would be space alongside our manse before buying our caravan.

What else?
Any other tips? Or questions?

6 thoughts on “Caravaning Tips

  1. Auntie Doris

    My parents have a Dandy 6. They love it… and as an extended family we have 4 Dandys between us… we *are* the Channel Island Dandy Owners club!!
    We worked out that if it is pouring with rain we could put it up in 10 minutes flat… and have the kettle on by then :)

    Reply
  2. Dave Warnock

    Auntie Doris,
    Our Dandy 6 was one of the really old orange and brown ones, it was pretty worn out when we got it and after a few years of rough young kids a different bit would fall off each time we used it :-)
    Yes they are so much better than the folding campers that use canvas, very quick to erect rain or shine.
    Tim,
    Yep we have done lightweight camping when cycle touring. But for just over two weeks with only 2 dry days it would be pretty depressing. Also Jane and I both get stiff backs these days from lying on the ground and bending over to cook on small stoves on the ground.
    TBM,
    We are not that keen on hotels, not just for cost (I guess I also spent too much time in them in the past when traveling a lot for work). We prefer more freedom and control. Plus we used to get easily embarrassed by our loud kids. One of the nice things about a caravan is that it is your own home, you know it is clean etc.

    Reply
  3. Sally

    rotfl- makes our dome tent camping/ sailing holiday look very basic…no electricity- on site showers, carrying water etc… but then it was an all adult break- we have no under 19′s anymore!!!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>