Buying out first touring caravan a 1994 Swift Challenger

Beginners guide to caravanning

We bought our first caravan a couple of years ago, and we were complete and utter novices.

Neither I nor my husband had towed or even holidayed in a touring caravan, so everything about it was a massive learning curve.

As a twosome, we’d always travelled independently, but the arrival of our kids brought a big lifestyle shift and holidays became more family focused.

Our eyes had been opened (or nearly popped out of our heads) when we booked our first holiday as a family of four. Admittedly, it was an all-inclusive at a lovely hotel for my Brother’s wedding, but the cost was roughly three times what we paid for our first caravan. Ouch.

Our holiday budget wouldn’t stretch to trips like that every year, and being limited to one or two family holidays would leave us with itchy feet.

Buying our first touring caravan

Getting a bit of nomad back into our lives felt appealing.

So a few years on, what have we learned and what stands out when I think about our caravan journey? Here are a few things we have realised…

1. Forget the stereotypes

Two of our neighbours have a caravan, as do my husband’s parents, and yes they’re all retired.

So when we chatted about getting a van there were a few ‘over my dead body’ comments. We could both see the positives though… and to our surprise, we realised there’s a growing army of younger caravan and camper van lovers out there, who are off exploring every other weekend.

Fate then dealt us a helping hand. A family we know listed their immaculate 1994 Swift Challenger 410 for sale, complete with awning and accessories. It was old, reasonably priced and buying from people we knew, surely it wouldn’t fall apart as we drove down the road or have floor to ceiling damp that as novices we’d failed to spot? All was well, apart from husbands ego, apparently, a 20-year-old caravan parked up outside is slightly cringeworthy. But we had bought our first van!

2. The first trip will be an adventure

Our kids were aged three and one when we bought van #1 and we all loved our first trip.

We played it safe. We booked a campsite close to home and arranged to meet the grandparents so we had some guidance when we got there. Turns out we needed it. Read on…


3. The practical stuff is a challenge

Hooking up to the car, how to use a jockey wheel, figuring out the electrics, emptying the TOILET (who knew all this stuff existed). We’d never done any of it and it’s fair to say we needed a bit of help.

So we took to the internet and gleaned help from campers close by. It turns out fellow caravanners are really helpful folk.

Oh and I’ve not mentioned the Isabella awning that came with the van. Fabulous awning, but we did a lot of head scratching the first few times we tried to put it up.

But we did it and we were pretty chuffed.


4. Packing the caravan is a learning curve

The things you need are pretty obvious, but remembering everything can be tricky.

When we’re loading up our van, if Hubby asks ‘Have you put xxx in?’ it’s a sure fire way for me to forget what I was just about to pack. I’m sure I do exactly the same to him. I’ve since written a caravan checklist and life is a lot easier.


5. Mishaps can happen

We only had our little van a few months before we had our first incident, and it was a big one.

On our way to Devon, we had a blow-out on the M1 and it was terrifying. Pitch black, the electrics on the van were shot, and lorry after lorry roared past. We limped off the motorway to discover the rear half of the van had been ripped apart by a shredded tire. We were gutted but knew straight away we wanted another van.


6. Upgrading our van

Investing in a bigger and newer van meant the buying process would be much more involved. Considering the make, layout, weight, single or double axle, private sale or dealer? There’s a lot to think about.

We spent time researching and looking around showroom after showroom to get a feel for the right set up for us. Our children were pretty young at the time and one of them refused to sleep in a bunk, all major considerations. Our car, and what we could safely tow was another.

The right caravan is individual to every family. From the kitchen area and worktop space, the bed arrangements, to the shape and layout of the living areas. It’s important to go and have a look at plenty of options. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling that will decide the best fit for your family’s needs.

After much research, we decided on a Sprite Quattro EW and lucky for us there was one sat waiting for us at our local dealer, Robinsons Caravans. Fate. We were sold on the cosy feel of the L shaped living area, it’s lovely.

Next, we needed to buy the awning. Another big grey area. So back to the showrooms, lots of research, and finally a Kampa Rally Air Pro 390 Plus was the one for us. It’s turned out to be brilliant, easy and quick to put up, lots of space.


7. Life’s better with a caravan

There is no doubt about it.

We’re enjoying more family holidays and we’re seeing a lot more of our beautiful UK.

Caravanning is being hailed as officially cool again – we certainly think it is – and the rise in UK caravan sales seems to suggest we’re not alone in our thinking.

So, it’s become our mission to shine a spotlight on the joys of owning a caravan. We urge you to ditch the stereotypes and get out there and explore in a cosy caravan.


What do you love about caravanning? Let us know.



NB: Everything about this post was organised and paid for ourselves, and all views expressed are entirely those of Curious Campers.


Curious Campers is for families that love their caravan, just like us.

We hope to champion caravanning and shine a spotlight on beautiful and unusual places that we and our kids find fascinating and fun, sharing tips we’ve discovered along the way.

So when we go somewhere a bit special or find something we like, we write about it, because we want to share that joy with other people, just like you.

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