Congratulations if you’ve recently bought a new tent, caravan, campervan or motorhome. Or perhaps you’re still thinking about taking up the nation’s favourite hobby.
Either way, we hope you have many enjoyable breaks exploring our wonderful countryside, towns and coastline ahead of you. But ensuring that your travels are safe and enjoyable isn’t just a case of reading the manual, fitting a tow-bar to the car and checking out a few magazines and websites.
In fact, there’s a lot to get right and it can seem quite daunting at first. So we’ve put together some hands-on tips for beginners with the help of Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park, where beginners are very welcome.
Try before you buy
Whether you’re interested in touring in a caravan, motorhome or campervan, or camping in a tent, getting set up can be a big expense. So before you take the plunge, here are some ways to give it a try:
- Glamping will give you the experience of staying at a campsite and being in the great outdoors without having to bring your own accommodation. See our guide to glamping at Tranquil Parks.
- Motorhome and campervan hire has become a popular holiday choice in recent years, and it’s easy to see why – you don’t have to worry about purchasing, maintaining or keeping a vehicle. Hire campervans and motorhomes usually come with basic insurance, roadside assistance and, of course, all the mod cons.
- Caravan hire is a great way to get a taste of caravanning. Some hire companies will even deliver the caravan to the campsite of your choice, so all you have to do is turn up.
Start with the right touring setup
Buying a caravan, vehicle or tent takes careful preparation. It’s wise to get independent advice, or an inspection on pre-loved units, before making a major purchase of a caravan or motorhome.
Caravans and trailer tents need to be coupled correctly with the right vehicle and you’ll need to check whether you have the right driving licence categories for the vehicle you wish to drive or tow. The Caravan and Motorhome Club website has a great Advice for beginners section on buying caravans and motorhomes.
Have a practice run before a big trip
Before you embark on a grand tour with a new caravan, vehicle or tent, have at least one practice run close to home, preferably at a full facility park. This will not only will give you a chance to practice driving and towing, but also setting up and packing up, and it won’t be a disaster if you forget something vital.
Look for pitching services
Your first ‘public’ pitch with a caravan or trailer tent can be a nerve wracking prospect. The thought of weaving your way through a park to reverse onto a pitch while onlookers sip their ‘sundowners’ is enough to give anyone sleepless nights.
Such worries are now a thing of the past thanks to caravan movers – electronic motorised devices that are fitted to the chassis and allow you to direct the movement by remote control.
But you’ll still need everything nice and level for your shower and sinks to drain perfectly. Bath Chew Valley Caravan Park offers a unique valet parking service for caravans while you check in, so your caravan is already levelled on the pitch ready for you to unpack. And when it’s time to leave, the park staff will bring your caravan over to the car park and hitch it up so you’re ready for the road again.
Take a course in driving and towing
If you’re serious about touring, we recommend taking a course. Courses will not only build up your confidence, they’ll give you correct information (tips from friends and family are not always reliable).
The Caravan and Motorhome Club Training Courses are held around the country in Practical Caravanning, Caravan Manoeuvring and Motorhome Manoeuvring. The Camping and Caravanning Club courses cover building confidence, pitching up, and driving motorhomes.
Some of the larger shows also provide opportunities to try towing a caravan or tent under professional supervision.
Join a caravan, camping or motorhome club
The clubs mentioned above provide regular and essential information on the practical, technical and legal aspects of owning and using your new caravan or vehicle. They also provide access to competitive insurance and breakdown packages tailored to touring requirements.
Organise your camping gear
The first time you go camping or touring, you may be surprised, or even dismayed, by the amount of stuff you need to take. Don’t get disheartened, you’ll find it gets easier each time you go.
It only takes a couple of trips to develop a system that works for you, for packing, unpacking and storing gear. And once that’s established, you’ll be able to set off at short notice and have it all packed away in no time when your return.
Checklists are always useful to make sure you’ve remembered everything and that you’re really ready to set off:
- Essential items to take – such as bedding, torches and clothes for all weathers. If you’re going to be cooking, don’t forget the fire extinguisher.
- Setting off – there can be a lot to remember, particularly with a caravan, and reminders are always useful: steadies up, hatches closed, gas off, water off, fridge on 12v, EHC cable, TV cable, caravan steps, hitch check, the right number of dogs and people. (Misplaced partners have been found waiting for their departed caravan to return!)
Know the size of your vehicle and caravan or trailer
When you have a new caravan, campervan, motorhome or trailer, you’ll need to get accustomed to its width, length and height. It’s a good idea to write out the dimensions and keep them handy in the glove compartment.
Check what your tent or awning involves
Putting up the tent can be the most testing part of a camping holiday. And caravan awnings, which significantly increase the living space of caravans, can be just as complicated, with a multiplicity of different diameter tubes and brackets, and cryptic instructions.
Our tip is to make sure you have a good look at the tent or awning you are thinking of purchasing erected as well as packed away.
We also recommend buying storm straps with the awning, otherwise you won’t be able to get hold of them quickly enough when you need them. For all-weather hardstanding pitches, rock pegs are recommended for securing the front, sides and skirts of your awning.
Find a peaceful park
Well, we would say that, wouldn’t we? But when it comes to making the most of camping, touring and being in nature, we believe that peace and quiet really matters.
Tranquil Parks are special child-free spaces for you to relax, unwind and make the most of your break. Use our Park Finder to see where Tranquil Parks’ exclusive touring parks and camping sites can take you.