Taking a well-timed caravan trip to switch off and get away from it all can be incredibly rewarding. With the right planning and execution, caravanning with your kids can be even more rewarding. A caravan vacation involving the whole family is the sort of memory that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Even so, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to ensure the trip goes smoothly. From what to pack, where to go, how to keep the kids entertained, and other miscellaneous (but essential) tips and tricks, our guide to caravanning with kids should help to make your trip a massive success.
6 Packing essentials
While your destination, the age of your children, and your family’s interests will influence your exact packing list, here are six packing essentials for caravanning with kids.
- Insect repellent: It may seem obvious, but amidst the chaos of packing the car and getting the kids organised, it can be easy to forget. However, insect repellent is an absolute must for any caravan trip, particularly one involving kids. After all, nothing puts a halt to your best laid plans quite like itchy, irritated kids.
- Comfortable bedding: Again, this might seem like a no-brainer, but the difference between well-rested children and sleep deprived children is the difference between a perfect holiday and a holiday to forget. Make sure you pack plenty of comfortable pillows and bedding so that you and your little ones can get a good night’s rest.
- Cameras: Cameras are another indispensable item. Firstly, you’ll want to capture all of the precious memories you make throughout the trip. Additionally, you may want to give cameras to your children. Not only is this a great way to keep them occupied and entertained, but if this is your child’s first caravanning trip then there’s a good chance they’ll be seeing and experiencing some things for the first time. What better way for inquisitive minds to capture these new sights than with their very own camera?
- GPS and maps: If you’re travelling to an unfamiliar destination, then a GPS is your best friend. However, if you’re travelling somewhere slightly more remote and you’re not sure what kind of internet/satellite access you’ll get, it’s a good idea to bring some physical maps along just in case. Modern technology may have pushed physical maps out of fashion, but if you’re stuck in an unfamiliar area with screaming kids in the back seat and no internet access, you’ll thank your lucky stars you remembered them.
- Towels: Kids seem to have a habit of getting mysteriously drenched regardless of their surroundings. Whether you’re near a body of water or travelling to the middle of the desert, be sure to pack a few spare towels.
- Headphones/Entertainment systems: While we have dedicated an entire section to keeping the kids entertained, this one is so important that it’s worth emphasising. A good set of headphones and a portable entertainment system of your choosing (be it a laptop, portable DVD player, iPad etc.) can be a real lifesaver, particularly on long journeys.
Keeping the kids entertained
While the sights, sounds, and adventures of your caravanning journey might seem like sufficient entertainment, your kids may have other ideas. Packing a few extra items to keep your kids content and entertained is never a bad idea.
Road trip games
Long, dull stretches of open road can be like kryptonite for kids. To avoid restlessness and endless ‘are we there yets’, try planning a few road trip games in advance. Whether that means classic games like ‘I Spy’ and ‘20 Questions’ or brand new games of your own invention, having a few go-to games up your sleeve can certainly make the journey fly by. If you need any extra inspiration, check out our road trip games interactive.
In an unfamiliar environment, bringing along a few of your child’s favourite toys can really help to make the caravan feel like home, not to mention providing hours of comfort and entertainment for your bundle of joy. If your child regularly sleeps with a particular stuffed animal, or has a favourite toy that they just can’t live without, these should be at the top of your packing list.
In addition to keeping your kids entertained, bringing along a few pieces of sporting equipment is a great way to keep them healthy and active, as well as promoting some healthy competition between family members!
Whether it’s a family sing-along or your child’s favourite playlist jamming through a trusty pair of headphones, music is a great way to keep the kids entertained during caravanning trips.
One moment, you’re travelling along in a caravan, the next, you’ve been transported into the magical world of a good book. If you have a little bookworm on your hands, then bringing a few good books can really help to make the journey fly by.
A deck of cards
Some things never go out of style. Simple and effective without taking up too much precious packing space, a deck of cards is a must have. Whether it’s a classic game of Go Fish or an intense game of Snap, a deck of cards is a great ace to have up your sleeve to keep the kids entertained.
We’ve already mentioned it above, but this one is so important that it’s worth repeating. An entertainment system loaded with your kid’s favourite movies/TV shows can be an absolute godsend. While caravanning is all about spending quality time together outdoors and bonding over awesome activities, sometimes, there’s nothing better than curling up to a good movie as a family.
Selecting the right caravan park for your family
To ensure your chosen caravan park is child friendly, there are a few key things to be aware of. First things first, it doesn’t hurt to ask. Most caravan park websites will have a ‘Contact’ or ‘Booking Inquiries’ section. A quick email or phone call to ask whether the caravan park is child friendly could save a lot of stress down the line. On this note, Google is your friend. Searching for child friendly caravan parks in your area will usually turn up a few results. Reading the reviews to see what other families had to say and get a feel for the caravan park is also a good idea.
There are a few other things to be aware of when searching for an appropriate caravan park for your family. Of course, you’ll want to research what activities are on offer nearby. If your children have their hearts set on being able to go to the beach, or want to go bushwalking, or perhaps they’re keen birdwatchers, then these factors will need to be weighed up when selecting the ideal caravan park.
You should also check what kind of noise restrictions are in place. If your children haven’t yet perfected their ‘inside voices’ this could be a deal breaker. Alternatively, if other people are likely to be making noise that could keep your kids up at night, you might want to look elsewhere.
Finally, you should check what facilities the caravan park has. Is there a children’s play area? Are there parks for your children to run around and stretch their legs in? What about somewhere to swim? Are there showers, or a baby changing area? Is there a communal BBQ, or do you need to bring your own cooking equipment? All of these factors will influence your final decision.
To get the most out of caravanning with your kids, keep these handy tips in mind.
Preparation is key
While ‘rigorous planning’ and ‘relaxing family vacation’ may seem like polar opposites, planning ahead really is the key to successfully caravanning with kids. While obviously you want to leave some room for spontaneity, no item is too small to plan in advance. Whether that means booking your trip months in advance, double-checking everyone’s packing list, or making daily itineraries of activities to do at your destination, it’ll be well and truly worth the planning when the trip itself comes around.
Stay sun smart
Umbrellas, sunscreen, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses should all feature somewhere near the top of your packing list. Whether you’re travelling to a scorching hot destination or somewhere a little cooler, having basic sun safety essentials on hand is never a bad idea.
Remember the weather
No matter how much you try to, you can’t plan for the weather. An unexpected rainstorm or a sweltering heat wave can throw all of your best laid plans out the window. Should the weather ruin your plans and trap you indoors, make sure you have a contingency plan to keep the kids from getting restless.
Involve the kids
Whether it’s helping to select the caravan park you go to, having a say in what you do while you’re there, helping to pack (if they’re old enough), or just helping out with the day to day chores, involving the kids in the decision making process is crucial. Not only does this give them a voice and help them feel like their opinions are being heard, but you might even get some excellent suggestions that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
Less is more
This is true in more ways than one. First of all, don’t fall into the ‘I might need it, so I’d better pack it’ trap. Obviously you should bring everything you think you’ll need, but ask yourself, will three jackets really be necessary in a warm climate? The extra space you’ll save by packing smarter will definitely come in handy. Less can also be more when it comes to what you plan to get up to. While it may be tempting to pack your day full of fun activities from dusk till dawn, you need to be careful not to exhaust yourself, and, more importantly, your kids.
Make a checklist
Make a list and check it twice. We’ve done our best to cover all of the major things you need to keep in mind when caravanning with children, but at the end of the day, no one knows your family’s needs better than you. When you begin planning your trip, make a checklist of all the essentials that you and your family will need and stick to it! Be sure to ask your kids if there’s anything they couldn’t live without and add it to the list.
While it can feel like there’s a ridiculous amount of planning and preparation to do, ultimately, the trip is all about having fun as a family. It’s important to keep this in mind, and check that everyone’s having a good time!
This post was brought to you by Budget Direct Car Insurance