Planning your first caravan holiday? This simple checklist will help you make sure you’re ready to go.
Do you love the idea of travelling wherever and whenever the whim takes you? If so, you may have considered buying a touring caravan.
It allows you the flexibility that you’d get from camping, but with much more comfort. And if you like going away regularly, owning a caravan or motorhome can work out very cost effective.
Whether you’re travelling solo in a 2 berth caravan, taking the whole family along in a spacious 6 berth caravan or heading off in a motorhome, there are some things you’ll need to do before you set off on your first caravan trip.
So here are a few simple steps for planning the first of many happy caravan holidays.
Choose a Caravan or Motorhome
If you haven’t already bought your caravan, then the first thing is to choose a caravan or motorhome that meets your requirements.
If you’re planning to travel solo or with one other person, then a two berth caravan will be the perfect size. This may have a fixed bed or have sofa seats that transform into beds.
On the other hand, if you are going to be travelling with a large family or a group of friends, you will want to buy a larger caravan with up to 6 berths.
Modern caravans and motorhomes come fully equipped with everything from a fitted bathroom to a kitchen with fridge and freezer. And if you decide that you need more living space than your caravan provides, you can always add an awning.
Once you’ve got your caravan, it’s time to move on to the next step.
Plan your route
So now it’s time to pick where you’re going to go on your first caravan holiday and plan your route.
You might want to do some reading online or buy guidebooks to help plan your itinerary. Popular books for caravan owners include Take the Slow Road and the AA Camping and Caravan Guide.
It’s also worth considering joining the Caravan and Motorhome Club at this point. You’ll be able to save money on pitch fees as well as entrance to local attractions.
They have a network of over 2700 sites, which may help you decide where to head for your first trip.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club can also help with things like caravan insurance, technical advice and even training courses. Membership costs from just £52 per year, so it’s a good investment.
Driving Tips for Caravan Owners
When you’re planning your route, remember to take into account the type of roads that you’ll be driving on.
For instance, you might not want to drive down winding single track roads in rural areas for your first journey.
Be aware of traffic building up behind you, and if necessary pull over into a lay-by to let traffic pass. This is especially relevant if you are towing a caravan for the first time and may be feeling a little nervous about it.
And don’t forget to check your insurance and breakdown cover before you head off on your first caravan holiday.
Driving Restrictions for Caravans on UK roads
It’s also important to remember that there are different speed limits for caravans on some UK roads.
On a road with a 30MPH speed limit, the same speed limit applies for cars towing a caravan. But on single carriageways, the National Speed Limit for cars towing caravans is 50MPH.
If you’re towing a caravan on a dual carriage way or a motorway, the National Speed Limit is 60MPH. You are not allowed to tow a caravan in the right hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes open.
Book your Pitch
Now that you have decided on your route, it’s time to book your pitch. Of course, if you’re planning a road trip or tour, you may need to book several pitches.
Whether you are super organised or prefer leaving it til the last minute, booking your pitch before you go means that you can be sure of spending the night where you want to.
There are different types of pitches for touring caravans. The price you pay for your pitch will vary depending upon the facilities available on-site.
The cheapest pitches will not include electricity, while other sites may include electricity, drinking water, grey water and sewage disposal facilities and even WiFi. If you want to put an awning on your caravan, be sure to check if the pitch you are booking allows it.
Of course, if flexibility is what first drew you to the idea of caravanning, you may prefer to book your pitches as you turn up. But this carries the risk that you could struggle to find a pitch, especially in the high season.
Carry out Safety Checks
Don’t forget to carry out some basic safety checks before you depart on your first caravan trip.
It’s worth just checking a few basics before you go away with your caravan.
Make sure that your caravan has a fire blanket and/or fire extinguisher, and that the extinguisher is in date. Also check that your first aid box is well stocked and that any contents are within expiry dates.
Check the requirements in relation to your car’s tow ball, including weights, heights and breakaway couplings. You will probably need to inform your car insurer if you want to tow a caravan.
You’ll need to display your car’s registration number at the rear of your caravan, and it must be illuminated at night. So make sure that your rear light panel is working before you leave, including the indicators.
Also be sure to check that your car mirrors comply with the legal requirements. You need to be able to see clearly down the sides of your caravan, and 4 metres either side of the caravan at a distance 20 metres behind it. If you’re not sure that your car’s mirrors give you this range of vision, it’s best to fit towing mirror extensions to avoid committing an offence. Just remember to remove them after your trip!
Make sure you check out the legal requirements for towing a caravan. And if you’re planning on taking your caravan overseas, be sure to check the requirements of the country that you’re heading to. They may vary from the requirements in the UK.
And of course, it goes without saying that you should also make sure that your car is ready for a road trip. Your pre-trip checks should include the tyres, oil, coolant and lights.
Go for a Practice Run
If you haven’t driven a car while towing a caravan before, a practice run can help you feel at ease.
It’s understandable to feel a bit nervous the first time you take your caravan out on the road. Remember how nervous you were the first time you drove a car?
So before you head off on a long trip with your caravan, it’s a good idea to take it out locally. A short trip on familiar roads will help to set your mind at ease.
Remember to give yourself extra time for braking, and that accelerating will take longer than usual. You’ll need to take corners more widely to make sure that your caravan doesn’t clip the kerb.
And if possible, practice reversing so that you feel confident when you have to do it on your trip.
Kit out your Caravan
Part of the fun of owning a caravan is shopping for the essentials that make it a home from home.
As well as packing your clothes, toiletries and camera for your holiday, you’ll also need to pack up whatever you need to make your caravan feel comfortable.
Modern caravans have clever storage solutions so you can fit a lot into even a two berth caravan. Remember to make sure that everything is securely stashed away before you set off, so that things don’t get damaged during the journey.
Some things to consider include:
Food and drink
Be sure to take the essentials with you, like tea bags, coffee, sugar and milk. Supplies for the first evening and breakfast the next morning will save you having to go shopping as soon as you arrive.
Basics like cooking oil, salt and pepper and basic spices are also vital for your caravan kitchen.
Of course you can leave the food processor and air fryer at home. But it’s worth making sure that your caravan is kitted out with the essentials. At the very least you’ll need cutlery and crockery, a couple of pans, a good chef’s knife, and a tin opener.
Grill equipment like tongs and skewers are vital if you plan to barbecue while you’re away on holiday.
And don’t forget to kit your caravan out with things like tea towels and washing up liquid.
You may have plenty of days out planned for your caravan holiday. But it’s still worth making sure that you have some entertainment in the caravan for when it rains.
A Kindle loaded with e-books, an iPod full of tunes and a bluetooth speaker, or even something like an Amazon Fire TV will all help if the weather turns inclement.
Obviously you’ll be packing your own toiletries as you would for any holiday. But remember that you’ll also need things like towels, loo roll and a hairdryer while you’re away in your caravan.
And don’t forget to pack soap, shampoo and shower gel, especially if you’re more used to these being provided in hotels on holidays!