10 things to consider for Campervan newbies
Are you new to campervan travel? Perhaps, like me, it’s way up on your bucket list of must-dos and must-have travel experiences. And you know you’ll get there one day. Whether it’s for a weekend camper break, a week’s campervan hire, a summer-long road-trip adventure, or a ‘quitting your job and travelling the world in a campervan once in a lifetime thing’.
And yet where to start? I won a campervan mini-break two years ago and now I’m hooked. I long to own my own camper one day. For now I’m happy to read, research, review and recce as much as I can about campervan hire, campervan holidays, camping adventures, glamping experiences, and real-life campervan stories.
Here’s my list of 10 things to consider if you’re a campervan newbie and don’t know where to start.
#1 Try before you buy. Hire a camper for a long weekend
You won’t know if campervanning is for you unless you try. There are lots of campervan hire companies around now and you can hire for a couple of nights from £60 a day. Hunt for one that’s either local to you or that offers a good hire deal within your budget. I’m bias and would always go to www.camperconnect.com. I know them personally and they offer a great selection of campers to hire from classic VW campers to luxury motorhomes and with pick-ups up available up and down the country.
#2 What type of campervan is ‘you’? How many is it for?
I’m a retro VW type 2 campervan girl, nothing more, nothing less. I love their fun, colourful, retro look, their free-spirited association with the 60’s, their home-from-home interiors, and their ‘life on the road’ appeal. They sleep two comfortably, some have an extra-bed in the pop-up roof, and most have awnings. The larger T4 and T5 campervans come fully-equipped for long-distance family and adventure travel, sleep 4-6, and include standard features such as air conditioning, static heating, side awnings, fridge, stove, sink, cooking and dining equipment, storage compartments, bike racks, and more. The VW T5 California is arguably the best-looking camper of this range. Or are you a luxury motorhome lover? These plush luxury cruises take campervanning to the next level with accommodation for up to six and all mod-cons on board including separate bathroom compartment.
#3 Do you really like the outdoors?
Holidaying on the open-road is not for everyone. There’ll be days when four people cooped up in a camper with rain pelting down frays everyone’s tempers. And it may be that you just can’t survive without carpet underfoot, space to call your own, and all your home comforts at the flick of a switch (although a luxury motor cruiser pretty well fits the bill here). On the other hand, just think of all that freedom and fresh air. Hop in, set off, and choose exactly where you want to go. Stop when you want, park up when you want, camp where you want, watch as many magical sunsets as you want. Get your outdoor adventure head on and the possibilities are endless.
#4 Do you like driving?
An obvious question. And yet an important one. Will you be sharing the driving? Or will you be the sole driver? Don’t underestimate distances but remember that it’s easy in a camper to pull-over, make a brew and re-charge the batteries. And, if you’re a first-time camper driver, you can always choose a destination reasonably close-by.. Campers can be fun to drive, especially the retro VW campers, they all have their own quirks and driving style. You’ll be sitting up high, behind a big ‘bus’ wheel, and a big bay window. And, at a top speed of 50-55mph, you’ll definitely be enjoying the view. Don’t forget the extra height of a camper. You can sometimes be affected by strong crosswinds. And they’re longer than cars too.
#5 Is exploring in your blood?
I love exploring. I love nothing more than to head off on the open road knowing that there’s a whole country to explore, with many unknown adventures ahead. A campervan fulfils this desire a hundred-fold. There are 48 beautiful and varied counties to explore in the UK, not to mention Wales, Scotland and Ireland. And a host of European destinations just a hop across the channel. The beauty of a campervan trip is that you can take that small track down to the beach, or travel the mountain along the mountain pass, or get lost amongst the villages of your favourite county. And you don’t have to think big to explore. Pick a region in the UK and you’re spoilt for choice for amazing things to see and do.
#6 It’s good to be organised
I was thrilled when I won my free campervan break away and couldn’t wait to hop on board. The interior was so well fitted and cleverly designed and we got used to organising the space according to our needs. It takes a while to get the camper ready for night-time, especially if there are four on board – normally it involves folding down the seat back and rolling out the mattress topper, and then the upper bed can be lowered into place. Camper kitchens are fully equipped and, once mastered, using the space and cooking is a simple and unhurried pleasure. Small spaces are challenging and I would definitely advise being organised in terms of what you take on board, how you pack it, securing everything safely once you’re on the road again, and getting used to your camper’s interior as quickly as you can. Find out where the light switches are, how the water works for the sink, and how to change the gas bottle.
#7 Research some campervan sites
The number of people booking camping holidays, both in the UK and overseas, has risen steadily over the years and gone are the days when it was difficult to find a half-decent camp site in the UK. Coolcamping.com lists excellent sites up and down the country (as well as Europe) and is dedicated to finding those extra special places to stay. From secluded spots, to beach-side sites, walkers’ paradises to family-oriented spaces, characterful farm locations to city campsites, you’ll find just what you’re looking for here. There are sections dedicated to Campervan Hire, Dog-Friendly Camping, Glamping, and Campsites with Campfires, plus lots of first hand reviews. Pitchup.com is another great site for all things camping, glamping, and campervanning.
#8 Be ready to embrace the open road and the unknown
If there’s one thing I really noticed when we hit the road for our free campervan break was that our pace of life slowed dramatically. We started to relish our journeys rather than them being a race between two destinations. We looked up and out of the camper windows and made a point of detouring down smaller B roads if time allowed. We had researched the two sites for both night-time stays and were delighted with our choices, one was a tiny field at the back of a pub, and one was a bigger site with amazing onsite facilities. Campervan travel allows you to explore the unknown in a fun, comfortable and adventurous way.
#9 Visit a Campervan Festival and talk to those in the know
Meet and talk to other campervan enthusiasts at one of the many Campervan Festivals up and down the country. There’s a huge campervan following today. Both in vintage campervans (production of these iconic VW campers has come to an end they are soaring in value and popularity) and in newer T4, T5 and T6 campervans whose owners look to customise and convert their ‘adventure on wheels’ for all kinds of reasons. http://www.classicvolks.com is a UK campervan portal with a section dedicated to events and shows. There are more and more campervan events happening each year and there’s bound to one near you.
#10 Everyday is an adventure
Campervanning is adventure on wheels. It’s home from home. It’s affordable holidaying. It’s family fun. It’s camping with a roof. It’s eating al fresco. For me it combines the big outdoors with a home-from-home on wheels that opens up a world of free-spirited travel and exploration that can be planned how you want, when you want, where you want, and in whatever time you want. Each day will never be the same in a camper. Each day a new road will take you to a new place, a new view, and a new destination.