We have always enjoyed camping. Lets face it, it is an affordable option when you have a growing family…. and the kids just love it. There are some wonderful places to visit in the UK and beyond, and we love the fresh air, family time, and the chance to visit the local attractions – whatever the weather. We spent many months looking into the best family campervan. We also considered a motorhome with kids as we know a motorhome or RV would grow with our family. We knew that we would need to also use our camp as our main vehicle, so we needed to buy the best small campervan that we could afford. We eventually settled on a T5 camper. We all love our converted VW campervan. We all enjoy the novelty of camping holidays but with the added benefit of having all of our essential items with us at all times. There is nothing better than road trip or campervan holiday with kids.
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Campervan with kids
We have had our T5 camper for just over three years now. It is a real family campervan and gives us the opportunity to jump in our family campervan, take a road trip, or pitch up for a week or two and enjoy a campervan holiday. One thing is for sure. Make sure you have your campervan insurance for a converted van and adequate roadside assistance. We had trouble driving back from our campsite in Spain, and I have to say it was really stressful. Road side assistance is definitely peace of mind- (make sure it covers you for all of your travels).
Converting a VW T5 campervan
My husband purchased a panel van, and came home with hopes and dreams of making it into a camper van perfect for kids. I have fond memories of our first campervan trip with our then toddler. We headed to my favourite place – Abersoch. Our ‘campervan’ bed was a mattress on the floor. We had makeshift curtains and a large plastic storage box with a few basics in. Five years on after a lot of saving, we slowly converted the van to our beloved campervan for a family.
There are still a couple of things left to do, a wardrobe being one of them.. but we have learned a lot along the way, learning to adapt our packing and choosing our trips wisely – depending on the stage of our camper conversion.
You may find our camper tips and tricks post for storage ideas helpful
Road trips in a camper
It sounds idyllic doesn’t it? The travelling.. ‘wandering’ and adventures that van life brings. In reality we have also experienced long journeys stuck on the motorway, tired kids, dodgy campsites, and wet belongings whilst unpacking the van to prepare the beds in torrential rain 🙂 We have experienced the good and the bad, and therefore I wanted to share with you our campervan tips and tricks that we have picked up along the way to make for a stress free and happy family van holiday that you would happily experience again.
Campervan holidays with kids
Okay this is really hard to write for someone that has taken 8 pairs of different flip-flops on a holiday. But when you have a campervan, limited storage and three kids – you have to really plan your packing. And packing for a lengthy van holiday can be hard. So what are the essential items for van life with kids? Pack rain coats or all weather clothing, wellies or walking boots for the kids, warm jumpers, shorts that you can wear if it is warm, and wear leggings or tights underneath if its cool … dungarees that can be turned up if its warm – I think you have got the jist of it now. Do you really need those five pairs of shoes? I always take some washing tablets, and a mini washing line, safe in the knowledge that I can pack half of what I think I might need – and can throw a wash on if you run out of clothes.
Clever packing is also required, particularly if you are a campervan family. If you are camping with a baby or toddlers you need to bring more gear. Packing pods really help to organise all of the clothes, and I love the hooks that we place on the front seats, to keep items off the floor.
Research before you travel
Research your sites to ensure that they have good facilities for kids. We have enjoyed some great camper van holidays and choosing the right campsites really help. We often look for camping sites, with local shops or a shop onsite, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, play parks, indoor games rooms and family bathrooms again all on site. It really does make for a pleasant stay if you have good amenities and the sites are safe and well equipped for families.
Van life – Find a site that has local attractions on foot
There is nothing worse than finally setting up camp, strategically hanging the bunting flags on the awning (yes those flags are what I consider an essential item!) Carefully placing the vintage tea lights around the van, and then finding you have to pack up and move the campervan every day for trips, days out at the beach, a visit to the shops, or a visit to the local town for a coffee. We quickly learned to research our campsites beforehand to make sure that we had a few nearby options where we didn’t have to pack everything up and move the campervan on a daily basis. We found some great sites with good facilities and activities on site for our Brittany road trip.
If you are looking for great holidays with young kids, you may find some useful posts in otis and us vanlife section
Pack a pop up tent
I am sure you are wondering why we possibly need a pop up tent when we have a campervan….? We have always taken one and stored items that are bulky and that we don’t need to use everyday. On the trips that we choose not to take the drive away awning, we use a pop up tent that is quick to put up and put down, to keep things out of the way and store items such as the children’s car seats, pushchairs, and the outdoor toys like scooters, bats and balls and outdoor chairs..
Pack a large foldable bag
We never go camping without the trusty blue bag and the large plastic storage bucket. The blue bag is really useful for taking laundry to the laundrette, or storing muddy wellies and wet clothes separately.
Pack a small activity box to keep kids entertained on the road
We try to pack a shared activity box with a few essential items in. Travel games, colouring books and activity books, crayons, reading books and baby rattles. It is always good to have a few things for those mornings when it is raining outside, or those cold evenings when the kiddies are feeling a little tired and lazy. We have found the activity box is great to occupy the children during those long journeys. We are lucky enough to have a DVD player in the back. You may find our post about tips for a happy road trip helpful..
campervan with children? Limit Journey Times
It is easy to get swept away with the idea to keep moving… to travel…after all the campervan is a house on wheels. From past experience we try to have the ‘3 hour rule’ – no more than three hours travel on the road in one go. If the road trip is expected to last longer than three hours we stop for a few hours or even better – for the night. It makes for a stress free road trip and the little ones appreciate the shorter journey times.
Camping with toddlers?
So what are our trips and tricks for trips in the campervan with toddlers? We have found that our large storage bucket is great for carrying essential items to the beach, storing all the outdoor toys, and it doubles up as a baby or toddler bath – perfect!
On our past campervan holidays with a toddler, we packed a highchair – we found a great foldable camping highchair that has a useful tray – great for baby led weaning, and it has a really compact fold.
If you have a campervan with a baby, using packing pods to organise all of the baby items, nappies, wipes, and a plentiful supply of toddler clothes is definitely a win win. Packing pods have definitely helped me stay sane with all the things you need to pack.
We also have a great travel stroller with a compact fold, although we favour the carrier for longer trips as we find it takes less room!
We always pack a first aid kit and we keep this out of reach in the glove compartment where it is easy to find and access. This also includes a thermometer, plasters, antiseptic, and liquid paracetamol – as you never know when you may need it.
We have come to realise that camping with kids involves leaving any established routine back at home. It doesn’t mean that you can’t find a new morning and bedtime routine during your trip. Last year we took a wonderful road trip to Scotland which involved many a late night stop off on a secluded shore or beach and the kids loved it.
It didn’t mean that we didn’t develop a different bed time routine of last-minute trips to the shower block to save those night-time toilet visits, and reading our usual bedtime story by lantern cuddled up in our campervan. Be flexible and relax and embrace the newfound freedom that ban holidays with kids bring. Binning the usual routines for a week or so isn’t the end of the world, and the late night evenings watching the children run around without a care in the world makes for some very special memories!
Read here for our best road trip quotes to inspire life on the road!
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What are your essential tips for enjoying a family camping trip?
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