Last summer we headed off to France for a couple of weeks towing the caravan. Dylan was 7 years old and Matilda 16 months. We have always camped and we had long weekends away with the caravan but France was the longest time we had been away with the caravan.
I thought it would be worth sharing some of the things I have learnt from taking the children away on a caravan holiday. I am sure plenty of people have other tips too so please let me know. We all know how great caravanning is for children the mix of home from home comforts inside the van with the freedom to explore and entertain themselves in the biggest of playgrounds, with a new friend or two, is a recipe for a happy child. But a holiday should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for everyone.
So here are a few tips for helping you enjoy your caravan holiday…
1. Have toys, books and games which stay in the caravan, then they are new again each time you go away.
2. Pack a scrap book and selection of stickers, glue, scissors etc. Each day you can write about what they have seen and done. Paste in postcards, tour guides, flowers etc and leave spaces for photos. It fills time between tea and bedtime and when they go back to school they can show their teacher.
3. Take a big playpen when they are very little to keep them entertained while setting up. A ball and frisby go a long way, plus lots of walks and bike rides.
4. Let them help set up the awning, get the water, do the washing up and take the rubbish to the bins.
5. Scooters and bikes can be ridden whilst you are setting up but make sure children are confident with the area, you do not need lost children.
6. Buy a ‘bug hunt’ kit and a book to look them up in. Keeps kids occupied for hours and helps them learn about the environment.
7. Keep the bottom half of a two-piece door shut to prevent toddlers’ falling out of the van.
8. Put throws over the seats when having dinner as tomato ketchup is a real pain on cream upholstery.
9. A Bumbo Floor Seat is a really good idea for babies; you can put the seat anywhere and baby can sit and watch you without you having to worry about them rolling off or wriggling away.
10. Plastic tubs are a great idea. Bung all their favourite toys in and store it in the awning. When they’re very little, empty all the toys out at bedtime, fill it with warm water and use it to bath them. It’s also really handy for rinsing out wetsuits.
11. Try and stick to some kind of routine thereby giving you time to relax on holiday too. Regular meal, bath times, bedtime with stories prevent them from becoming overtired and irritable; allowing you some downtime too.
12. A well stocked first aid kit together with basic medication to include the versatile Calpol.
13. Special ‘cinema evenings’ using a portable DVD player and a few films is great when trying to get a child to relax in the evening or even in the heat of the day when you want them to sit still for an hour!
14. Don’t underestimate a child’s capabilities when walking. Make it interesting, embrace fun ways of learning about surroundings – point things out and allow them to touch and interact.
If you want to go further distances a child carrier like the rose and rebellion is an invaluable piece of kit together with a balance bike and scooter. The pram is also a useful place to nap and carry luggage, we have the yippieyo which I’m sure will become a massive help this summer.
15. Keep them occupied in the car – toys, portable colouring kits, snacks, DVD player when older, play I-spy, and of course ipads.
16. Be organised for when you arrive on site. If the kids are small they’ll probably be tired and ratty when you arrive. Can one of you get the van pitched fairly single-handedly while the other looks after the kids/takes them for a walk or a play?
17. Get a full-size awning – it’s the perfect playroom on wet days, and the best place to eat with young children when the weather is warm enough. Also great for storing bikes, Swingball, toys, fishing nets, buckets and spades, dinghy, garden chairs etc. Consider buying another table for use in the awning – perfect for colouring/games etc as well as eating.
I hope all these tips help, please try and relax and enjoy, it may take some time to set up but when it’s all done it is so very worth it.