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Camper van advice please

(11 Posts)
overwhelmedbyitall Sun 12-Mar-17 12:55:00

Hi, we are going to be in a position for all 4 of us (me, DH and DCs aged 5 and 7) to have the whole of August together.
I have always dreamed of a long road trip exploring the UK and Europe and think this could be a good opportunity to try it out.
I have been reading the alifeinourvan blog and I'm trying to persuade DH to hire a camper van for 3 or 4 weeks, thinking some Southern England then France but really no idea.
Any advice for total camper van virgins? Vans and features to look out for or avoid, places to go etc?

mummymeister Sun 12-Mar-17 13:57:38

I would say you need a van and a tent because its bloody miserable being stuck in a tiny space when the weather is bad. if you can find a van with a 2 burner cooker and a sink then this means you can cook inside rather than out. I would go for something as big as possible with a small side tent personally. a toilet is a good idea the showers I have found to be worse than useless so better to stay on a site with them.

personally, I would hire a camper van and tour west coast of Canada if I was in your position.

redjumper Wed 15-Mar-17 13:39:02

Great idea, you will have the best time! We own a campervan and it's just wonderful. Kids love camoing and its fab having a little house with everything you need. There's five of us but my kids are younger.
Yes you do need an awning or tent as others have said, for space and somewhere to sit in the rain.
Our van is a VW T5 with a pop top roof with a bed in and a double back seat which converts into a double bed. It's plenty spacious enough. It gets very hot in the sunshine in the roof so some silver insulation blinds would be handy (probably not an option in a hire van though)
My biggest tip is to take hardly any stuff with you because all you end up doing is moving stuff around. We take 3 days clothing each in a small box each and we find camp sites with washing facilities or local launderette. You'll need a travel washing line. Plus hardly any toys, its not necessary and you just end up picking them up all the time. Maybe an iPad for the long drive.
I also agree you want a site with good showers and toilets. We don't even have a portaloo in our van and it works well, the kids can pee anywhere and there's no way id pee in the van anyway. Definite no to campervan showers.

redjumper Wed 15-Mar-17 22:10:30

The other thing to honestly consider though is whether it would be enjoyable for you all. Even though you've never campervanned I guess you must have camped before. Do you think you'd enjoy camping for 3 solid weeks? I know I would and the kids love it but my DH always reaches his limit after 4-5 days - we have babies and toddlers and they don't sleep well with the heat and light, they get tired and testy in the day and it gets a bit stressful. We need to factor in brief hotel stays when we do a week or more just for him to recuperate a bit and for everyone to get a good comfy nights sleep.

Ledkr Wed 15-Mar-17 22:47:26

We have a camper van and go for 4 weeks every summer. I have two girls 15 and 6. There is plenty of storage space so I can pack everything away.
We have a wind out awning which I put out table and chairs under and we just sit inside if it rains or is cold.
I have a bathroom and a tv and it's very cosy indeed.
My ad I r would be to get over to France asap as if you head down at least to the vendee it will be Warner and better camping weather.
Have fun

wibblywobblyfish Wed 15-Mar-17 22:55:59

We have a motorhome which we tend to take abroad as it's a left hand drive. We use a mix of aires and campsites to stop over in. Aires are ok as a pit stop overnight but not a holiday in itself. We are going for 3 weeks this summer, hoping to book a Yelloh village campsite for a few nights and then just wing the rest. Recommend an awning or gazebo and plenty of books.

RTKangaMummy Thu 16-Mar-17 09:35:14

We have a motorhome with a rear lounge and a bathroom/shower, so lots of room during the day smilesmilesmilesmilesmilesmile

We took 7 year old DS around New Zealand in a motorhome - it took us 6 weeks and was amazing, we did NOT have an awning smilesmilesmilesmile

I think you and your family will have an amazing holiday going around southern England and France,

IMHO an awning will only be worth it if you are staying in one place for a week etc but if you are travelling around you will get tired of putting it up and taking it down again

There are so many awnings on sale 2nd hand after people got them then got tired of the up/down process. If you really really want one get a blow up one.

I think with a rear lounge and so therefore room to play and move around during the day you won't need an awning smilesmilesmilesmile

KdeBass Thu 16-Mar-17 12:19:21

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

chemenger Fri 17-Mar-17 15:21:38

I would recommend a short trial trip first to see if you like it. We hired a campervan last year in California and at the end of the trip we were unanimous that we would never consider it again. Other friends tried a weekend and came to the same conclusion. I don't even think it saved us much money over motels, certainly much more expensive than tent camping which we have done several times in the states and really enjoyed. Clearly other people love it, we didn't.

iismum Fri 17-Mar-17 15:26:02

Chemenger - would love to hear more about your experience. We're planning to do a trip to California this summer and I thought a motor home would be a great way to do it. Why did you not like it?

chemenger Fri 17-Mar-17 18:49:09

Things we didn't like (many of which were due to the actual RV we hired, admittedly, from Cruise America):
1. The RV we had was really uncomfortable unless you were sitting in the front. The seats at the table meant one person had to sit with their back to the direction of travel. Because those seats turned into a bed they were just not comfy to sit on. This was the worst aspect.
2. Visibility from the back was poor, there was only a good window on one side. Hence two of us saw very little of the Big Sur.
3. Everything rattles, the noise was unbelievable until we managed to jam things round the pans, crockery etc.
4. The plastic mattress cover on the double bed was as nasty as it sounds.
5. The design of the van's interior was a homage to all that was worst in the 1970's; if you wondered where all the beige wood-look Formica in the world went, it went to build RVs, along with the world's supplies of grey nylon upholstery fabric.
6. It was poorly maintained, there was a water leak, some of the electrics didn't work, the table collapsed from time to time, the door lock stuck. When we reported this the company rep just shrugged.
7. You could not hear the radio from the back of the van, our normal sing-a-longs were ruined.
8. Personally the fact that the van never stopped moving, even when parked it would sway, meant that I ended up with awful unrelenting motion sickness, I have only experienced this before after sleeping on small boats.
9. It was stressful finding places to stop overnight, this was summer so a busy time. Some RV parks are full of permanent residents so don't have a holiday atmosphere. Also difficult to park sometimes, in towns some car parks don't allow RVs.
In a nicer van, with all overnights prebooked (which makes the freedom of the road a bit meaningless) and where you were not driving too far and it could be vaguely enjoyable but I would rather take a tent and hire a car.

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