We have caravanned very happily for many years, but with the passing of time, and increasing problems with mobility, there came a moment, in the first Covid lockdown, when we were faced with the question or caravan or motorhome? We decided to take the plunge and switch to a motorhome.

The dilemma of caravan or motorhome is probably faced by many older caravanners, so I’m sharing our experiences, which might be helpful if you find yourself in a similar situation, where you want to continue to enjoy the freedom of touring, but need to rethink ways and means of doing so.

On visits to our local caravan dealer, we were often tempted by the sleek lines of motorhomes. No more thinking about hitching up a caravan, and no more fetching and carrying water, waste-water and so on!

In the end, we took the plunge, sadly waving goodbye to our trusty three-berth Bailey caravan and buying a used Bailey Approach Autograph 625. Staying with the same caravan manufacturer meant we were already familiar with the layout and equipment (end lounge, side washroom and kitchen).

Bailey caravan
Colin switched from a Bailey caravan

On taking it out for a test drive, we soon realised it was never going to be as quiet as towing. Everything seemed to creak and rattle – and that was before adding all our own stuff! I’m sure that our caravan used to make just as much noise, but we were in the caravan tow car, so we never heard it.

I did, however, love the higher driving seat, which provided gorgeous views over the hedgerows and surrounding country.

Motorhome cab
The motorhome’s higher driving seat allowed Colin to enjoy more of the scenery on the road

Selling our van and kit

Paperwork completed, we were now the proud owners of our first motorhome. Making good use of eBay, we soon sold all of the accessories we’d viewed as caravan essentials, too – the Aquaroll, Wastemaster and awning went quickly.

With the lockdown in place, everyone seemed to want a caravan or motorhome, so they could enjoy some kind of holiday in relative safety. We also said farewell to our trusty tow car, buying a small family saloon to keep us mobile when at home.

Having read up about motorhome life, we bought rubber mats to reduce rattles with the cutlery, crockery and pots and pans, then set about finding space for everything that came out of the caravan.

First lesson learnt, we cut down on all non-essentials. We even replaced our old Cadac barbecue with a compact motorhome barbecue that would fit in the rear locker.

Bailey Approach Autograph 625 motorhome
Bailey Approach Autograph 625 motorhome

Eventually we were ready for our first tour as motorcaravanners. As we drove along, we were very conscious of all the rattles from everything, despite our best efforts at quietening it all down, but we became accustomed to the noise.

Out on the road in our new vehicle, we quickly discovered that motorhome drivers are a very friendly lot, when we encountered our first motorcaravanner giving us the famous ‘motorhome wave’.

We stopped on the way to enjoy a cuppa, making good use of the onboard facilities. Half an hour later, we arrived at our first destination, Brecon, and having checked in, setting up couldn’t have been easier.

I had already partly filled the water tank (the advice is to avoid travelling with a full tank when it is located on board), so all we had to do was reverse onto the pitch, plug in the electricity and we were good to go.

Motorhome parking

Once on site, we had to be more careful about planning where we would go for day trips, but online research gave us various websites that were very useful in finding parking spots for motorhomes.

We did notice that the washroom was a lot smaller than we had been used to in our caravan, but the pump produced an excellent shower pressure, even if getting changed afterwards was a bit of a squeeze.

Our first evening meal raised another problem, mainly for Elaine. At only 5’ 2’’ tall, she could not reach the high-level microwave without the small folding step that we had, luckily, brought with us.

This was something we had not checked out beforehand, and was due to the fact that the central floor, with the kitchen on one side and the washroom on the other, was a good 6’’ below the level of both the cabin and the rear lounge.

That wasn’t really a problem in the grand scheme of things – until we made up the double bed at night, whereupon we both needed the step to climb into bed.

The next morning, we put things away before disconnecting the electric cable (both ends!) and setting off to do a bit of shopping in the nearby town.

I had previously found a car park that accommodated motorhomes, close to the town centre and the canal basin, so we parked up and set off to explore.

On the following day, we ventured a bit further afield, driving north to a garden centre close to Hay-on-Wye.

We set off early, knowing how popular the area is, and when we arrived, managed to park over two spaces, on the edge of the car park so we would not obstruct anyone. In a free car park, this is not really an issue, but when we drove to Hay-on-Wye itself, the fee-paying car park meant that if we took up two spots, we’d need two tickets.

Parked motorhomes
It’s important to check on local parking before you drive into nearby towns

Having satisfactorily completed our first trip in the motorhome, we began planning another tour, further away this time.

We decided on the Cotswolds, staying at Moreton-in-Marsh. Knowing the area well from our previous caravan visits, we spent a day driving around, starting in Bourton-on-the-Water.

The busy car park there has a reserved area for motorhomes. The attendant waved us through and even helped us to reverse into a vacant bay.

Our next stop was Stow-on-the-Wold, which is always busy, but after driving off the main road, we found our way to the Maugersbury Road Car Park, managing once again to find a motorhome bay. From there, it is quite a walk to the town centre, but we were relieved to find a spot to park.

Back at the site, we made use of our fully serviced pitch to fill up with fresh water and drain the waste-water tank. At last we were getting the hang of things!

At home again after another successful trip, we started thinking about a longer journey. Our daughter Sarah was planning her 40th birthday celebrations and wanted to revisit the delightful cottage in Cornwall, where she had stayed once before with her family. This was to prove the ideal longer test-run for our motorhome.

The cottage was in Trevornick Holiday Park, close to Holywell Bay. This large site caters mainly for touring caravans and motorhomes, but also has statics, which was where our other daughter, Catherine, could stay with her family.

We all enjoyed a splendid long weekend in glorious weather, spending quality time together, but also having our own space to enjoy a good night’s sleep. It was great to be able to cadge a lift from family when we visited the nearby beach.

Pausing at Paignton

Elaine and I are retired, so we had the time to break the long journey from Wales down to Cornwall, with a few nights at Beverley Park, in Paignton, south Devon. Then on the way back, we stopped at the CAMC campsite in Hillhead, near Brixham.

We made further trips later in the year, including a tour in Mid-Wales, where we stayed at Red Kite Touring Park, near the small market town of Llanidloes, a site that features in our best caravan park in Wales guide.

It was here that we began to have some reservations about whether a motorhome was really for us. The site was less than a mile outside town, but it was a steep uphill walk to get back from Llanidloes, and there was limited parking in the town itself.

We decided instead to venture out in the motorhome to the seaside town of Aberystwyth and again, having carefully checked beforehand, we managed to park on the outskirts of town and then take the 15-minute stroll into the centre.

We picked up some shopping on the way back, but after having spent the day walking around town and along the prom, we were relieved to sit in the motorhome with a cup of tea, before setting off on the journey back to our site once more.

This time, we had planned an overnight stop on the way home and we decided to make up the two single beds, rather than the double we normally use.

Motorhome awning
Going out and about does mean having to pack up and disconnect your motorhome

This flagged up another problem, for me at least. The two single beds were not the same length, and while the shorter one was fine for Elaine, I found the bigger one not quite long enough for my needs.

On our travels, I have discovered that many motorcaravanners make extensive use of bus passes to get out and about. We caught the bus now and again (our Welsh passes are not valid in England), but on one occasion, in Sidmouth, East Devon, we waited over two hours for a bus. That was when we began seriously considering reverting to a caravan.

We gave the motorhome a good try and our adventures took us from Wales to the Cotswolds, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall, but having clocked up hundreds of miles and tried different types of sites, in the end, we felt it was simply not for us.

Apart from the problems I have already mentioned, we mainly missed the freedom of setting off from the site in a car, then coming back to our pitch without having to reconnect water and electricity every time, and without the worry of where we were going to park after negotiating the often narrow streets.

Many motorcaravanners tow a small car to overcome this problem, but we decided that, because we had bought a compact vehicle to make driving easier, we did not want to start towing again – we might as well be towing a caravan!

We also missed the more spacious interior of a caravan, especially in the washroom. To replicate the space you get in a caravan, we’d have to go for a much bigger motorhome, which we didn’t want to be driving, and at our time of life, we simply could not afford.

Switching back to a caravan

Fortunately for us, selling the motorhome proved extremely easy and we hardly lost any money, as demand was so high.

Caravan and tow car
Colin and Elaine switched back to a new, compact Coachman caravan

We part-exchanged our motorhome for a new, smaller caravan, a Coachman, and then we had to buy another tow car and all the kit we would need once more.

The verdict on a caravan or a motorhome

The moral of our story is that if you can, you should try before you buy – perhaps hire a motorhome, to see if you like the lifestyle before making the switch.

With hindsight, we should have done this, but in the lockdowns, when everyone was desperate to get away, hiring a vehicle would have proved pretty difficult and of course, rather expensive.

We are now happy caravanners again, although these days, we make more use of the motor mover and tend to use fully serviced pitches, avoiding the heavy lifting of fresh- and waste-water containers.

Of course, the choice of whether to tour in a caravan or a motorhome is very much a personal decision. Having tried both, we have gone back to caravanning; but luckily there is plenty of room for us all.

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