Perhaps this is a bit of a niche topic and for that I can only apologise. We have just got back from a trip to Brighton (we went with the kids and took the caravan so it’s all relevant) so I thought it might be apt to share what I learnt about caravanning with kids. It’s not rocket science – you are in one room with your kids so for the majority of people it’s a space smaller than your home but bigger than a tent. But there are a few tricks of the trade that you can do to ensure that your trip goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Make sure everything is ready on the day you are set to leave
This is critical. Don’t know what a motor mover is? Me neither. Well, I do now after 2 hours searching for it and then realising it had run out of batteries and then having to manually turn the caravan round. Yep, you heard – we had to spin the caravan round BY HAND like the SUV vehicles that we definitely are not. The moral of the story is have your exit planned in advance so you don’t have a rabble of grumpy children asking ‘are we nearly there yet?’ before they’ve even got in the car. Have your bags packed and in the car, the caravan on standby and everything you will need (which is literally everything you own) ready to go. Which is greatly aided by my next point..
2. Have a list of things you will need
Just list everything you have ever touched. You can be lulled into a false sense of security when you have a caravan that everything is going to be ‘easy peasy lemon squeezey’ but let me tell you if you don’t have the right equipment then everything is seriously ‘difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.’ You will need everything you have in a kitchen at home – first time round we forgot a bin, a washing up bowl, washing up liquid, oven gloves, milk, a sieve and two out of three of our children. Having a list helps substantially as does jotting down things when you think about them.
3. Let your parenting standards dramatically slip
I know that the kids are normally in bed at 7pm and that you only eat a diet of organic grass but you have to let some of those rigid routines slip when on your caravan holiday (mind you, you might be lucky and be surrounded by grass, in which case bon appetit). It’s easier to resign yourself to the fact that the kids will be so excited that they won’t go to bed until you do (although we did manage a cheeky beer by torchlight in Brighton) but yet they will still wake the entire campsite up at the arsecrack of dawn the next day. Foodwise eat whatever is easiest – the last thing you want is to be spending hours buying and cooking complicated things whilst everyone else is merrily arguing about UNO outside. In Brighton we only really ate fish and chips as per the law but there are plenty of great websites with one pot caravan friendly recipes that it might be worth having a look over before you go.
4. Bring home comforts
‘She won’t worry about having her cuddly toy in the caravan’. Oh she did worry, she worried a LOT. She worried the people in the caravan next to us about not having her favourite cuddly toy and then her cries of worry started to worry the neighbouring borough. Bring everything they normally sleep with and anyone you normally sleep with. Bring snacks and favourite books for them and bring your own home comforts (Southern Comfort?) too.
5. Go to a place with good facilities
I really can’t emphasise this enough. Clean showers and toilets are VITAL when you are away in the caravan. Yes you could shower and go to the toilet in the caravan but everything that goes in to the waste bucket must come out and it is for this reason that we had an ’emergency wee’s in the caravan only’ rule. Basically we took all our dumps in the facilities and they were immaculate (before we arrived anyway). The last thing you want when you are washing three kids who seem to have been rolling in mud, then sand then some unknown orange substance (possibly fruit shoot residue) is to take them into a dirty communal shower – it makes my toes curl just thinking about it. Find somewhere which prides itself on clean communal areas and you won’t have to resort to a cold shower over the toilet in the caravan whilst being watched by 3 kids on bunkbeds. We usually find somewhere through the Caravan and Motorhome Club because they always have high standards for their caravan parks and we are also members. Because we’re cool like that.
Finally – enjoy yourselves! And if you don’t then at least the kids will. Lots of people have mentioned to me in passing that some of their fondest childhood memories were of going on family caravan trips so at the very least you’re making memories (even if they are of a treasure hunt for the motor mover).