1994 Swift Challenger at Callow Top Caravan Park
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Buying our first touring caravan – caravanning for beginners

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 shift in lifestyle, 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 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 we knew being limited to one or two family holidays would leave us with itchy feet. 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 yeah yeah they’re all retired.

So when we chatted about getting a van there were a few ‘over my dead body’ comments. However, we could both see the positives. And to our surprise, we realised there is 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, the list goes on, levelling the van, water, gas, 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 around us. It turns out fellow caravanners are really helpful.

Oh and I’ve not mentioned the Isabella awning that came with the van; canvas and poles everywhere and a lot of head scratching the first few attempts to put it up.

But we did it and we were pretty chuffed.

4. Packing up is a learning curve

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

If hubby asks ‘Have you put xxx in?’ it’s a sure fire way for me to forget what I was 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 major incident.

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 roaring 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. 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. 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, sometimes it’s a gut feeling that will decide the best fit for your family’s needs.

After a lot of research, we decided on a Sprite Quattro EW and 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 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.

It’s become our mission to shine a spotlight on the joys of owning a caravan. So look past the stereotypes and get out there and explore.

 

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

#weloveourcaravan

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.

We are a family of four, travelling around the UK in our caravan. Seeking hidden gems and special places. Learning to be more eco-conscious along the way.

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