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Talk to me about owning a caravan...

(47 Posts)

I'm moving house soon and will have a drive big enough to put a caravan on (current owners have a 16ft one parked on there). I've always fancied a little tourer, little being the operative word, as I've not got the biggest car in the world, so am restricted to about 3 or 4 models that it can tow.

I hate flying and I'm a bit skint, and we tend to do cheap and cheerful UK holidays, so I think a caravan would be perfect for us. I've never towed one, but I have towed a horse box, so assuming it's pretty much the same principal.

So, as a single mum with 2 dogs and an 8yo ds, would it be a good idea? Is it easy enough to set up a caravan and awning on my own when we reach destination? What do I need to know? smile


2kidsintow Sun 24-Aug-14 15:37:41

It's easy to set up a caravan once you get to a site. You plug in your electric, attach your water (or send the children with one of the rolling containers to do it - that was always my job as a child) and unpack the boot full of bits and pieces like food, clothes that you didn't keep in the caravan.

You can get lightweight awnings that are not designed for long term use, but that are easy enough to put up with the help of your DD. I did mine this week on my own and my 9 year old DD went around having great fun hammering in the pegs once I'd placed them where I want them.

Toooldtobearsed Sun 24-Aug-14 16:06:24

We got ours last year and it is brilliant!

Setting up is dead easy, no idea about awning because we have not been brave enough for that yet, and only stay for a couple of nights at each site, so not worth it really.

It really made me feel middle aged when we got it, but we have been to places we would never have gone to, gone to music festivals and been just travelling 20 miles up the road makes us feel like we have had a proper break[ smile]

I am the tower/ Parker upper, and I found in the early days, when booking, if I mentioned I was a nervousness beginner, the people on site were only too pleased to help me park up/ do it for me/give me a big space!

Do think about joining the caravan club, their sites and wardens are brilliant when you first start off.

We have quite literally travelled the world on various holidays, doing everything from 'middle aged backpacking' to luxury resorts and safaris.
Hand on heart, I would rate caravanning equally as brilliant - I love the freedom of it.

Try it - bet you don't regret it!

Toooldtobearsed Sun 24-Aug-14 16:07:36

Oh God, sorry..... Into my third glass of Sunday afternoon wine. Assume you can interpret!

CuttedUpPear Sun 24-Aug-14 16:46:09

You will need to know how to hitch and unhitch the caravan.

There is a list which goes :
Wind up caravan legs
Reverse car to caravan with tow ball in place
Wind up jockey wheel to lower hitch onto tow ball
CHECK that hitch is fully engaged
Fully raise jockey wheel and close clamp securely
Connect electric plug for lights
Attach safety cable

I've been doing this for years (single mum) and you can do it on your own, good if you can train the dcs to help!

I expect there are lots of videos on YouTube as well.

CuttedUpPear Sun 24-Aug-14 16:46:43

Oh and all that in reverse when you arrive at your destination grin

SlatternLovesLots Sun 24-Aug-14 16:54:58

We are just back from our holiday in France in the caravan. While we were away the motor mover on the van packed it in and we had to move the van manually. Be warned there were 2 adults, the van is not big and it was very difficult to move it. We had to make sure we could drive/reverse into each pitch to minimise the man handling.

Sites in England may be flatter than France and so man handling may be minimal. But I wouldn't want to have to move the thing on my own. If you can afford it a motor mover is ideal.

I love our caravan and love the time we spend as a family in it. I would recommend it to anyone, but it can be quite physical.

Toooldtobearsed Sun 24-Aug-14 17:11:30

Agreed! A motor mover would be fab. We will definitely have one on our next van, but until then, managing it anyway.
It is not thatdifficult. Worth investing a few quid for a caravan club/ equivalent, towing course. I have not done it- always intended to, but never got around to it. My 'instructor' was a lorry driving friend who helped enormously. Just take your time. If it takes you 20 minutes to park up, so what? 20 minutes out of your day is nothing!
On my second venture, I was parked at 45 degrees on the pitch. Bugger it, still room for car, who really cares?

Just go, and enjoy!

CuttedUpPear Sun 24-Aug-14 18:47:45

Ooh I forgot a vital item to the list:

Put caravan handbrake into the down and off position before driving away

not that I have ever forgotten to do this, oh no not me

Thank you everyone smile

Never heard of a motor mover but have been googling and looks like a fab idea, especially for getting it on and off my drive, as it's a bit tight!

I definitely want an awning, more for the dogs sake than anything else, as I will only be getting a small van and there won't be much floor space inside for them.

What do I need to look out for when buying second hand? Won't have a massive budget peanuts more like! so will be looking at an older van. Obviously, damp patches are a no no, but what else?

We're also thinking of getting a caravan. Good to hear how much fun people have with them. Just jumping on the thread to make sure I get all your tips! I think we're going for a caravan with an end washroom and a big awning we can sleep in. Seems to be the best of both worlds.

I'm not too bothered about a shower, as can distinctly remember trying to shower in my aunts caravan as a kid and it being a traumatic experience! So planning on using site facilities for that, but will need a chemical toilet and somewhere to put that, as not happy about running over to site facilities in the middle of the night, as I'll be the only adult so would mean either abandoning ds for a few minutes, or waking him up, neither of which are ideal!

I can't help with what to look out for. We just looked for something water tight ( we viewed the one we have in the pouring rain after weeks of rain)
I will say it's the best thing we have ever bought. This is our first summer with it. The interior of ours is a bit of a fixer upper decoratively even though in good condition just needs freshened up.
We have been all over Scotland in it this summer and the kids feel like they have had a fun filled packed summer holiday.
Tbh though if it was just me and one dc with the dogs I'd be tempted more into a campervan with a drive away awning. We only got the caravan because there is 5 of us and a dog.
Dp and I have even used it on our own for a night of escape just 25 miles away much cheaper than a hotel and more relaxing as you feel in your own space.

You will love it and people are friendly and helpful on sites. We do have a small wet room but don't use it for showering just the toilet for nighttime weeing. Always used site facilities.

2kidsintow Sun 24-Aug-14 20:52:56

Have a think about sleeping arrangements as there are lots of different choices these days.

My parents love a fixed bed for their caravan, no more lugging around heavy bed cushions to make and unmake the bed daily.

I have 2 DDs and they find the small bed at the end of the caravan confining now and it's causing arguments. I wish we'd got fixed bunks. Where would your dogs sleep?

I would absolutely love a campervan, but it's another vehicle to tax, MOT and insure, unless I ditched the car and used it as the only vehicle, which I wouldn't want to do tbh.

Not really thought about where the dogs will sleep! Erm... They're not very big, so will probably just curl up on a blanket on the floor somewhere. Or I could pop a crate in the awning and leave the door open.

Sleeping wise, I would ideally love a 3 berth, with a double at one end and a single at the other, as the double could be left made up for me and ds, and the single left as a table and chairs combo to sit at during the day, but it's not a massive problem to make beds up as we go along.

SlatternLovesLots Sun 24-Aug-14 21:26:49

Just to clarify - you can put a motor mover on a van that doesn't already have one. My DH is freakishly strong and we struggled to get the van over a hump on the ground so there is no way I could have done it on my own. Motor mover is definitely worth it.

There are different types of awnings. The frame type are very good as a separate living/sleeping area, but I would have thought quite difficult to construct on your own. The lightweight ones with the flexible poles would be easier. Also at 8 your DS would be able to help.

I agree about the shower in the van, never been used. Much easier to use campsite facilities.

I don't mind making up the bed every night and remaking every morning but when the DCs are fractious it can be a bit fraught. Mornings are fine as they are usually in good form and happy to mess about in pjs. The evening can be a bit trickier.

One other point, when we are away in the van we don't even try to separate bedtimes, it's way too difficult. We all go to bed at the same time. Late night for them, early night for us.

SlatternLovesLots Sun 24-Aug-14 21:29:44

Oh, the dogs. My dog when I caravanned with my parents was never comfortable on the floor and didn't settle. Too many drafts. But once she found her spot up on parents bed, at my mums feet (she is short), we never had a problem again with her sleeping.

TinklyLittleLaugh Sun 24-Aug-14 21:34:48

Awnings can be a real pig to put up on your own though, also helps if you are quite tall. Personally, I would go for the tiniest caravan you can find, and check and double check that your car can tow it.

Dogsmom Sun 24-Aug-14 22:08:00

We've had 3 caravans and the middle one only lasted us one week as it had no worktop space, sounds silly but it was so inconvenient when you're trying to cook, wash up, put saucepans and plates down when you cook a meal. The newer vans seem to put silly tiny round sinks with no cover or drainer, I always look for one with the glass lid which is used as extra worktop when not in use.
We also use the shower, I've seen too many grim showerblocks with random hairs or been standing in the cubicle when next doors suds start coming through, then there's the ones with no space to put your clothes so they end up soaking wet. You do need to make sure you've filled your aquaroll and you can't really stand there lettng it run, I wet myself all over then turn it off, wash then back on to rinse. Its also nice to be able to just put your dressing gown on and sit down (with wine) and not have to dress and then walk back to the van.

We find one aquaroll does 2 showers plus a few washing up bowls, good idea to have two so when one runs out just move the pump over and no need to go back to the tap.

Fixed beds are lovely, ideal for a quick afternoon nap, storage underneath and no bed making but unless you go for a twin axle you'll sacrifice your kitchen and bathroom space, we've just gone from a fixed bed to a make up bed van as it suits our needs better, ours has a side dinette where we sleep the baby but have us a massive worktop which is a godsend for all the stuff she has and a big washroom where we can shower her and have enough room to get her dry and dressed.

If you have a local dealer go and view some, even if they're out of your price range it will give you a good idea about the various layouts, have a think about what will be important to your way of holidaying, some have L.shaped front seating which gives you a lot more floor space for the dogs but not as easy to seat visitors whereas others have parallel seats which are practical for sitting opposite each other but you'll be forever stepping over the dogs, we've had both and personally preferred the L shape.
We have 3 dogs, two sleep on the bed with us and the GSD sleeps underneath it, when you pull the slats out it makes a lovely little den underneath.
A good website is UKCampsite, they have a forum where you can ask any question and get loads of advice.

Size wise, I can tow 750kg laden weight on my car, so there's a few of the Freedom models, plus a couple of others, which come in below this. I know I've got to bear in mind the weight of an awning and luggage etc though. Luckily I live a short distance from a weigh bridge so can check the weights.

That's a good point about the space under the bed; I think my dogs would curl up under there quite happily smile

I've got a few weeks until I move so I'm going to go and have a look at a few dealers. So exciting! grin

kippersmum Sun 24-Aug-14 22:54:49

My biggest regret about caravanning, selling my 3 berth proper 70's Rapido pop up top when DD2 was coming sad Juliet, that is a very low weight you can tow, having a car than can tow the same I'd be interested to see what you find

BBQSteak Sun 24-Aug-14 22:55:26

oh I really want one

TinklyLittleLaugh Sun 24-Aug-14 22:57:45

Juliet do you know that the main thing to consider is the weight of your car, not just it's towing power? Apologies if you've already done all your research.

TinklyLittleLaugh I find it all very confusing tbh! I asked the Ford dealer what I could tow, and they gave me the 750kg laden (braked???) weight figure. A few of the Freedom caravans are 680kg unladen weight, so assumed that would be ok? How do I find out a definitive answer on this? I've been googling, but I'm even more confused now as there's talk of 85% kerb weight, which I have no idea what it means!

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