Our Top Tips for Caravanning with Kids

With half term just around the corner and the summer holidays looming on the horizon, there's no better time to book a last minute family getaway! It doesn't have to be somewhere expensive, exotic or even very far from home, which is something we quickly learnt when we bought our first caravan.

We picked up the keys to our little holiday home on wheels two years ago. It was a very spontaneous decision but not completely out of the blue as my other half has worked in the caravan industry for years - he's an expert at fixing other peoples' caravans but we'd never really considered owning one ourselves until the boys came along.

Of course they absolutely love it - having the freedom to explore outside, going on a different adventure every day and still being surrounded by home comforts has made them both big fans of caravan holidays.

But where do you start if you've never done it before? It took us a while to really get the hang of caravanning with kids so let me save you some stress by sharing what we've learnt...

Try before you buy
Hire a caravan first to find out if it's right for you. One of the most important things to consider (whether you're hiring or buying) is the layout as not all of them are suited to family life. You'll need to make sure it has enough beds for everyone, easy access to the toilet and plenty of storage space. Ours has fixed bunk beds at the back so the boys have their own little bedroom which can be closed off with a sliding door. 

Stay local
Start off by travelling shorter distances - it'll give you the chance to practice getting everything set up at your own pace, rather than rushing around after a long drive. We really enjoy staying at local sites because they open up the possibility of long weekends away (and to be honest, the boys are just happy to be on holiday no matter where we are!)

young boy wearing sunglasses and riding a red balance bike across a caravan site

Pick the right site
Do plenty of research in advance to find out how child-friendly your chosen site is. Think about which facilities are important to you and what will suit the age of your kids - some have arcades, soft play areas, swimming pools and evening entertainment but that can bump up the price of your stay (which is a bit pointless if you're not going to use them!) The boys are starting to need a wider range of activities to keep them entertained as they get older but, up until recently, they've been content with anywhere that has a good play area and plenty of space to run around.

Choose your pitch carefully
If you're able to choose your pitch then it's worth asking for one that's as safe as possible - think about how much shade it has, its proximity to roads, whether there are any surrounding hedges and how far it is from the play area. Of course it's all about personal preference but, given the choice, I'd rather be pitched slightly further away from other vans so I don't feel too guilty if the boys are being noisy!

father and young son winding down the legs of a caravan together

Little helpers
If your little ones are old enough to help with setting up then let them! It will probably make the whole process take a lot longer but it'll keep them occupied and they'll be learning along the way. Finley's favourite job is winding the caravan's legs down and Jacob loves to help with filling up the water!

Safety first
Childproof your caravan in the same way that you would your home. Obviously each child (and caravan!) is different so I can't cover every single safety aspect but a good starting point would be to fit bed guards to your children's beds, socket covers over any plug sockets within their reach and safety catches on the cupboards and drawers in the kitchen area. Check that your caravan has a fire blanket, a fire extinguisher, a working smoke alarm, etc. and keep a well stocked first aid kit to hand (don't forget to top it up with lots of plasters and a big bottle of Calpol before you set off!) 

Don't let the weather get you down
The idea of a wholesome, outdoorsy holiday is all well and good in theory but the reality is that it will probably rain at some point (sorry!) As well as packing books, games and iPads, it's also handy to have a small TV/ DVD player to keep everyone entertained while you're sheltering in the caravan. You probably won't want to spend the whole day inside though, so take wellies and raincoats for everyone too. If you've got some room to spare, I'd also recommend packing onesies for the kids so that they can play in the awning on chilly mornings or go for an evening bike ride around the site.

two young boys wearing onesies and eating pastries in a blue caravan awning

Invest in an awning - the bigger, the better! 
This is a must if you're caravanning with kids! Being in a confined space can be full on for even the closest of families, so adding an awning to your setup will give you all a bit of breathing space. It also creates extra storage space and makes for a nice place to eat meals together (you can find some great ideas for what to cook on a self-catering holiday here) or chill out with a drink once the kids are in bed. The added bonus of an awning is that you can turn it into a safe little play area, too. Ours usually ends up full of train tracks but we've seen other people with ride on toys, a folding tunnel and even a small slide in theirs!

Pack and prepare
You're bound to forget something when you're trying to pack at the same time as chasing around after little ones, but that's exactly why I've made myself a packing spreadsheet (sad, I know!) You don't have to go to that extent, but it's worth making a list of essentials that you can refer back to each time you go away. As well as all the obvious things, I'd recommend packing a travel high chair for smaller children, a baby bath or flexi-bucket for washing kids down after beach days (some sites have family bathrooms but if not then this is the next best thing!) and a large laundry bag to bundle all your washing into the boot at the end of your holiday.

Make a toy box for your caravan
Consider making up a small box of toys, games and DVDs that lives in the caravan. Not only will it make them seem like a novelty, but it'll give you one less thing to pack when the time comes (just don't include anything with lots of little pieces or you'll end up spending half your holiday tidying them up!) 

two young boys wearing colourful pyjamas, cuddling and smiling together on a caravan bed

Embrace the chaos!
Caravanning with kids can be messy, noisy and occasionally a little bit stressful, but I promise it's all worth it! The boys are only 5 and 2 but they've already had so many great holidays in our little caravan and it's all because we've learnt to go with the flow when we're away. There's no magic formula to making it work but if you're prepared to be flexible with routine (especially at bedtime when the evenings are lighter and it's noisy outside) and take each day as it comes then you'll have a van full of very happy campers! 

Have you taken your kids on a caravan holiday before? How did you get on? If you've got any tips to add to the list then let us know!