Hooray! Caravan parks up and down the country will soon be reopening, after another few weeks when none of us could stay anywhere other than home. So the camping season is not entirely lost.
But wait a second, the kind of environment you will encounter when you get to your chosen site will be considerably different from what you have been used to.
For example, you will probably find there are restrictions on how many people can enter the toilet block at any one time, so queues to get in will be likely.
Other facilities, such as the site café, could remain closed, or else will reopen under such stringent conditions that they cease to be much of a pleasure to visit.
Then there is all of the social distancing everyone has to abide by, which could mean keeping ourselves to ourselves a great deal more.
In such circumstances, you’re perhaps thinking that you need to trade in your van for something a bit more in tune with the new normal. But which one? Allow us to help with a few pointers about what you might need to look for.
Eight feet wide
It stands to reason that if you are going to be cooped up for longer than you are used to in your caravan, you are going to need all the space you can get.
Fortunately, fashion is on your side in this, because the past few years have seen something of an explosion in the number of 8ft-wide models being launched by British manufacturers.
They do, of course, require a fairly large tow car, so if you need to trade up, this might not be an option for you. But the caravan itself need not be that expensive – 8ft-wide models are by no means limited to the more exclusive end of the market.
If your taste is for something Continental, you are in even more luck, because European firms have been churning out 8ft-wide models all the time. They are much more common over the Channel.
Whatever your choice, when you step inside, you’ll instantly notice the additional width. The extra sense of space is amazing, and you’ll soon forget about any restrictions outside.
Coachman Laser 850
The Xcel 850 is one of two new 8ft-wide Laser models introduced by Coachman this season. Both tourers come with a self-levelling system, so you don’t even have to get down and dirty. In addition, this caravan is provided with a more or less partitioned-off rear bedroom, for extra seclusion.
Bailey Pegasus Grande Brindisi
Bailey showed that 8ft-wide models could be introduced into the mid-market – and with just a single axle, too. With a 1499kg MTPLM, the Brindisi is one of the lightest eight-footers available.
Sprite Super Quattro EB
This eight-footer is positioned at the more budget end of the market. It only has four berths, so there is even more room inside. It impressed our judges so much, they chose it as this year’s Tourer of the Year.
Onboard water tank
A water tank is a bit of a rarity in caravans, because of the need to reduce weight. That means we have to rely on regularly filling up our Aquarolls.
If you are worried that doing this increases the health risk while you are on site, it’s worth knowing that there are caravans with onboard water tanks out there. They just tend to be larger, more expensive models.
They are also best suited for long-term and seasonal stays, because to reduce the load you have to tow, you would almost certainly have to empty them out each time you move on.
All Buccaneer models come with a 40-litre onboard water tank, which has an automatic changeover facility that will switch to another source if the tank were to run dry. The Barracuda, with an L-shaped front lounge and space for a huge TV, is our personal favourite in this range.
Adria Alpina 623UL Colorado
All of the Alpinas come with a 50-litre onboard water tank and a waste-water tank. This one, with its rear washroom behind fixed single beds, is ideal for a seasonal pitch.
Swift Elegance Grande 850
Elegance and Elegance Grande models have a 30-litre onboard water tank, fitted with a level indicator that connects to the Swift Command system, so you know how much you have left. This spacious layout has an L-shaped front lounge and an inline island bed.
If your budget won’t stretch to the larger car needed to tow an eight-footer, or you’re not keen on towing one, you can still make the most of the space inside your caravan by going for a model that has two lounges.
Caravans with one lounge at the front and another at the rear used to be the mainstay of any manufacturer’s ranges, before the current trend for fixed beds kicked in.
There are still a few of these around today, but the market has matured. You now also get layouts – generally on longer caravans – with a second dinette in the middle, or more recently, a special rear lounge designed for children, usually including at least one pair of bunk beds, and possibly another you fold away during the day.
Do bear in mind that if you go for a caravan with no fixed beds in order to increase potential sleeping space, it will still need to have a good amount of storage space, where you can stow away those duvets during the day.
Knaus Sport Silver Selection 400 LK
One of the few models still displaying a traditional layout – one lounge at the front and another at the back. With the kitchen in between, there’s plenty of room for adults and kids to have their own space.
Yet you still have an MTPLM of just 1300kg, so you should be able to tow this caravan without needing a large car.
Elddis Avanté 586
This conventional-width van (so with a single axle and an MTPLM of only 1460kg), manages to include a second dinette in the middle, along with a rear corner bed.
Bailey Phoenix 650
This van has a mini-dinette towards the rear, which can convert into a second set of bunks at night. The kids even have immediate access to the rear washroom. Yet it’s still a single-axle, with an MTPLM of just 1394kg. And it costs less than £20,000 new.
A large kitchen
A huge kitchen is obviously going to be a plus point when it comes to social distancing.
If you can make all of your meals in the caravan, you won’t need to eat out at the campsite café or a local pub. And if you have enough space for storing food in your van, you won’t need to keep visiting the supermarket so often while on your travels.
You have an advantage here as a caravanner, because generally speaking, caravan kitchens are larger than those you’d find in a motorhome. They are never exactly palatial, however.
If you really want to max out, it’s best to go for a two-berth, and one without a fixed bed. That doesn’t have to mean a poky caravan: the best option is a slightly extended two-berth, with the kitchen either across the rear (although these are rather rare these days) or down the rear offside in front of an end washroom spread across the back. With an arrangement like this, you also tend to get a sideboard unit on the nearside, which you can use for food prep.
It may be a budget caravan, but this little model includes a useful L-shaped kitchen at the rear that is very well lit, thanks to large windows. A sideboard on the other side of the door helps you spread out.
Bailey Unicorn Black Edition Merida
This two-berth layout was retired by Bailey, but brought back by popular demand. It has a washroom across the back, but the side kitchen is equally roomy.
Coachman Acadia 675
The washroom in this island-bed four-berth is pushed to the back, so the kitchen here is light and very spacious.
A huge washroom
Having enough space inside your caravan for a proper wash could mean you never have to visit the caravan park’s toilet blocks.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tourers on the market with large washrooms.
The biggest washrooms tend to straddle the whole width of the caravan. They are often sited at the rear, where they can feel a bit cut off from those sleeping in the front, especially if they have to navigate past a transverse island bed in the dark.
Look out too for more recently developed layouts, where the washroom spreads across the middle, with the shower on one side and the toilet and handbasin on the other (usually the offside, to keep toilet cassette access well away from any awning).
With two partition doors to seal off the section in the middle, you can often create your own dressing room, too.
The main snag with this layout is that the shower tray is more likely to be encumbered by the wheel arch, particularly on twin-axles. Central washrooms can make the kitchen feel cramped.
Bailey Alicanto Grande Faro
The latest addition to Bailey’s upmarket range is a new take on the central washroom. All wet operations (including, it has to be said, the toilet) have been moved to the nearside, to provide enough room for a large dressing area just outside the washroom door.
Sprite Super Quattro EB
Our current Tourer of the Year won the title partly because of its fabulous central washroom, which is spacious and light, and includes a large wardrobe that all of the family can use.
Coachman Acadia 630
This caravan won the Large Families category at this year’s Tourer of the Year Awards. Vans for bigger families often have to compromise on the washroom, but the one in the rear here is super-spacious.
And finally… the awning!
One good way to ensure you can isolate comfortably on a campsite and remain socially distanced from other parties is to match your chosen caravan to a suitable awning. We’re not making any recommendations, here, though, because no particular caravan is better suited to having an awning than any other.
But do bear in mind that you will need somewhere to store the awning, on the way to the caravan park and on the way back (when it could possibly be wet). If you can’t fit it into you car boot, you’ll need space inside the van, preferably close to the axle – awnings are heavy.
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Perhaps you are thinking you need to trade in your caravan for something a bit more in line with the new normal