WE ALL KNOW HOW great caravanning is for kids. 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 all of the family.
Travelling with toddlers and tots is all about give and take. So with a little organisation, preparation and patience you can all enjoy the break.
Follow these tips, shared by those in the know, to achieve a holiday filled with discovery, fun and quality family time. Tantrums not included!
1. Have toys, books and games which stay in the caravan, then they are new again each time you go away.
2. Download a Geocaching App on your smartphone. Well worth it, no matter where you are in the world. Brilliant exercise for kids and challenging.
3. Always choose a site with a playground and ask for a pitch close to it. Then they’ve not got far to wander and you can keep a close eye on them.
4. 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.
5. 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 leave them worn out by evening.
Kids love to feel part of the team so let them help with fun chores!
6. Let them help set up the awning, get the water, do the washing up and take the rubbish to the bins to earn pocket money. Then visit a charity shop during your time away and let them spend their pennies on books and toys.
7. Scooters and bikes plus plenty of sweets.
8. 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.
9. Keep the bottom half of a two-piece door shut to prevent toddlers’ falling out of the van. Also use domestic-style socket protectors for the 240V sockets. Cupboard door protectors are also useful.
10. For a weekend break or low-key holiday, small sites, including CL’s and CS’s make a good choice.
11. Under-sixes should not be in an upper bunk. Use small, folding travel cots for very small ones. For older ones fit a standard bed guard if possible.
Keep little ones on a lower bunk or in a travel cot.
12. Put throws over the seats when having dinner as tomato ketchup is a real pain on cream upholstery.
13. A Bumbo Floor Seat (www.bumbo.com) 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. Useful for taking to the beach and restaurants as well.
Bumbo seats are lightweight and portable. Ideal for babies on tour!
14. Flexi 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.
15. 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.
16. A well stocked first aid kit together with basic medication to include the versatile Calpol.
17. 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!
18. Keep a diary – writing a couple of lines and a picture for a day – a great keepsake and point of reference for future trips!
19. Use black out blinds, what with these and the peace and quiet they may actually slept better than they do at home!
The Lights Out pop-up blackout blind is ideal for using in the ‘van.
20. 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 pack 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!
21. Pack appropriate clothes, remembering sun hats, warm clothes, waterproofs, wellies, flip flops – do not be precious with ‘camping clothes’: being outside for longer periods means they will get dirty. Take a laundry bag so that its easy to keep on top of the washing or equally to throw a load in the washing machine on your return!
22. If going aboard remember travel insurance for your child too and any necessary injections.
23. With smaller children don’t forget pack a potty in the car.
24. When setting up camp factor in a shaded area for children to relax in during day play time.
25. Be prepared for rainy day play too – sticker books, colouring in, fuzzy felt, card and board games.
Colouring pencils and books starve off boredom on rainy days.
26. Keep them occupied in the car – toys, portable colouring kits, snacks, DVD player when older, play I-spy, look out for Eddie Stobart trucks etc.
27. 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?
28. 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.
29. Get sorted for mealtimes – if you’re weaning, make sure you’ve got everything you need in the van. A potato masher or fork will do the job your blender does at home, and you can maybe take some frozen meals bagged up into single-meal portions. Think about how you’re going to sterilise bottles etc – you might find it easier to stay on sites with hook-up if you’ve got a baby in the family.
30. Keeping them safe – from an early age, teach them to stay away from the gas fire, alarm panel, heating/hot water controls, cooker etc. Make sure they don’t wander behind the van when the driver is trying to pitch, and teach road safety as early as possible.
Teach little ones the importance of safety in and around the ‘van.
31. Keep a packing list on the computer – print it out each time and then you won’t forget anything. Especially important for remembering kids’ essential like favourite cuddly toys, phone/games chargers etc!
32. Pack spare PJs, underwear and clothes if you’re toilet training, and keep a potty in the car potty in the car for emergency stops.
33. Worth keeping a spare sleeping bag in the van too, if you have one, and some hand-washing liquid in case you need to do a bit of washing. A bucket is also useful to have handy for night-time sickness!
34. If you’re potty training or having a longer holiday, you might find it easier at a large site with a launderette, shop and loo block. Also research sites with dedicated toddler washrooms.
35. Pitch up away from the main road round the site – perhaps on a cul-de-sac of pitches – and as near to the toilet block as possible.
35. Let them choose their own sleeping bags, then they’ll be keen to get into them at bedtime.
Sleep time can be fun if they’ve chosen own sleeping bags.
36. Check out your children’s favourite websites, such as CBeebies, for printable colouring sheets.
Useful touring products
37. Flexi Bath
Price £29.95 www.whitestep.co.uk
The Flexi Bath is really useful If the site doesn’t have a dedicated family room with bath. Suited for kiddies aged 0-4, it weighs very little and folds flat when not in use. It features a drain plug and comes in six colours. Plus it doubles up as a toy box or laundry basket.
Price £9.99 www.totsbots.com
Save on money and space with these fantastic reusable swim nappies. Available in two designs, Beach Bums for the boys and Knickerbocker for the girls, and two sizes they feature elasticated legs and waist for a snug, leak-proof fit.
Price £24.99 www.totseat.com
Taking a full size highchair away in the van is not very practical, so this Totseat is a perfect solution for toddlers. The simple design makes it easy to convert almost any chair into a secure highchair and it comes in a variety of designs.
40 Pacific Baby
Price £17.50 each www.pourty.com or www.amazon.co.uk
The Pacific Baby is ideal for long car journeys or speedy nighttime feeds in a van without a microwave. The stainless steel thermal bottle can keep liquids warm or cold for up to ten hours, and transforms from a feeding bottle to sip cup and then a drinking bottle.
41. Sun Essentials UV Travel Centre
Price from £60 www.amazon.co.uk
A pop up travel cot is a safe and easy sleeping solution for babies in the van. This travel centre also offers UV protection so perfect for using as an outdoor playpen and taking to the beach.