We’ll be glad to wave goodbye to 2020 and begin planning our travels for the new season. From top destinations to tech tips, here’s our advice on making the most of your van in 2021, whether you’re a newbie or an old-hand
Caravanning has always meant different things to different people. For some, it’s a chance to meet up with a circle of close friends. For others, it’s a way to enjoy favourite places in their home from home.
Whatever your reasons for touring, there’s always more to explore – not just new places, but different ways to experience your travels and fully appreciate this wonderful way to holiday. Here are just a few ways you can get more from your caravanning in 2021.
For many caravanners, towing is a necessary evil at either end of the fun part of a holiday. But with some expert guidance, it can become a satisfying aspect of the whole touring experience.
Trailer training is now big business, as drivers who passed their test since the start of April 1997 look to upgrade to a B+E licence, allowing them to tow heavier car and caravan combinations.
But driver training isn’t just for those with a test
to pass. It can also help to improve your ability and confidence, even if you already have a B+E licence.
There are plenty of independent schools offering instruction in the dark arts of trailer towing, and both major caravanning clubs have manoeuvring courses.
For example, a Confidence Builder Course from
The Camping and Caravanning Club costs £155 for members, and £180 for non-members.
Just try not to look too smug while you’re executing that perfect reverse onto your next pitch!
Maintain your tourer
You can take your caravan to a dealer to have a service carried out, safe in the knowledge that you are in the hands of professionals. But there’s something really satisfying about taking care of your own van, or making upgrades to your tourer.
Thumb through back issues of Practical Caravan or take a look at our website to discover advice on subjects such as preparing your van for the season, fitting an interior mount for a spare wheel, or installing a solar panel.
Do be careful not to go beyond your capabilities with safety-critical items, such as gas and electricity – some things are best left to the experts!
Make your van your own
Upgrades such as a solar panel for off-grid camping are great, but it’s not just about adding more practical features. Why not make 2021 the year you personalise the inside of your caravan?
This doesn’t necessarily mean reupholstering the entire interior. A few new scatter cushions, or perhaps a change of curtains, can make a van that’s looking a bit tired feel just like new again.
The satisfaction you’ll get from breathing new life into an ageing tourer will be doubled if you make the soft furnishings yourself.
Go somewhere new
Last year was enormously frustrating for caravanners, campsite owners and… well, everyone, really.
Now it looks as though the travel restrictions will at last be easing, the immediate temptation is to head straight back to a favourite haunt and make your first tour of the 2021 season a banker, to somewhere you already know and love.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but if 2020’s cabin fever has taught us anything, it’s that we must make the most of the time we have while it’s ours to enjoy.
So don’t just stick with the places you know, try somewhere new! Be adventurous. Visit that far-off destination you’ve always had on your bucket list. Let 2021 be the year you make it happen.
Join a club
Chances are, you’re already a member of The Camping and Caravanning Club or the Caravan and Motorhome Club – perhaps both. If not, the discounts and member benefits make it well worth joining.
But we’re also thinking of the many owners’ clubs, and specialists such as the Historic Caravan Club (you don’t need an old tourer to join) or the Amateur Radio Caravan & Camping Club. These and others offer a chance for like-minded people to get together.
Stay at a farm
It’s great to stay at a big site with pristine facilities, a slap-up restaurant and a lively bar. But sometimes it’s good to get away from it all. If you’ve never stayed at a small farm campsite, give it a try.
Fall asleep to the sound of an owl hooting in the trees, then wake up to a silent field as the morning mist begins to clear.
Switch off the phone
Modern means of communication have been a godsend in 2020, helping us all stay in touch. But it’s easy to become addicted to phones and gadgets, and Wi-Fi enabled campsites feed that addiction. Turn off the phones for a while, and tuck them away in a drawer. You’ll discover that what’s outside the window is far more interesting than what’s on the screen.
Some vans have fittings on the rear wall for a bike rack, or you can carry bikes on the A-frame (being mindful of the noseweight) or on the tow car. Many sites offer bike hire. Use the Sustrans National Cycle Network (sustrans.org.uk) to find a route near you.
Sea kayaking is a great way to get a new view of our coast. Try Liquid Logistics (liquidlogistics.co.uk) or Sea Kayak Devon (seakayakdevon.co.uk). Beginners might prefer a more gentle introduction with The Canal River Trust (canalrivertrust.org.uk).
Walking is one of the principal activities of caravanners keen to explore new surroundings and breathe in some fresh air. Just make sure you are suitably dressed and equipped! Find out more at Walks around Britain (www.walksaroundbritain.co.uk).
Getting closer to nature is one of the many joys of caravanning, within reach of nature reserves, rivers, national parks (nationalparks.uk) or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (landscapes forlife.org.uk). Find places to spot wildlife, with help from Visit Britain (visitbritain.com), the Wildlife Trusts (wildlife trusts.org), the National Trust (nationaltrust.org.uk) and the RSPB (rspb.org.uk).
If being on the water is your preference, you’ll be pitching near a beach, lake or river and you probably already own a wetsuit. Into The Blue (intotheblue.co.uk) lists a huge variety of activities, including white water rafting, scuba diving and windsurfing, and venues, with prices, kit and training information.
“Bodyboarding is easy to learn, hard to master,” according to the Newquay Activity Centre (newquay activitycentre.co.uk). If you don’t know how, get lessons, because it can be a lot of fun. The centre offers tuition from beginners to highly advanced. You will need a wetsuit and a board, both of which should fit easily into your ‘van in transit.
Using a motor mover
If possible, practise before you need to use the mover for the first time on site, and familiarise yourself with the remote control. Always ensure the handbrake is only released after you’ve engaged the mover, and apply it before you disengage it. Even the most experienced tower will use the mover rather than reverse at times, especially where space is restricted. That’s what it’s there for! Try to hold the remote control in the same orientation the van is in.
Changing a cassette
To remove a toilet cassette, ensure the internal blade is closed, then open the external hatch. Below the handle facing you is a clip, which is lifted to allow the cassette to slide out.
To empty, take the cap off the spout and press the valve on top of the cassette. This allows air in, reducing splashes. When rinsing, don’t shake the cassette too hard – you might damage the float or reed switches. Note that you should only ever empty your cassette into a dedicated facility.
Putting up an awning
First attach the draught skirt and wheel-arch cover, if you have one. Pull the awning onto your caravan rail, making sure it fits exactly over the area it is supposed to (particularly important for porch awnings). If you have an air awning, start inflating. With a pole awning, put the central ceiling pole and its immediate support poles together first, pulling the awning away from the caravan to form a ‘T’ shape. Secure and peg the corners nearest the caravan, then the outer corners, then the front, and finally the sides.
If 2020’s cabin fever has taught us anything, it’s that we must make the most of the time we have while it’s ours to enjoy