Camper vans with families

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  • Camper vans with families
  • holmesy
    Member

    Does anyone have any experiences of using a camper van with kids? My girls are 4 and 2 and In the coming years I want to get out and about with them as much as possible, camping, weekends away, cycling, and whatever. I think spending night after night with kids in a van would be purgatory, but for the occasional night and even just to have somewhere you can sit inside and have a cup of tea during the day would be pretty good.

    Any experiences of whether the reality matches up to the ‘outdoor dad’ image i am clearly trying to create!?

    anotherstan
    Member

    had ours for about 18 months now. sleeps the 3 of us with no problems but i’d recommend getting an awning to store all the crap that you will drag along with you.

    my daughter was 6 when we first got it, she sleeps in a cab hammock/ bunk above the front seats and me and the wife on the 3/4 rock n roll bed in the back. it has a seperate ‘garage’ area at the back for 2 bikes (wheels off) plus an external bike carrier for when security isn’t as much of an issue.
    with 2 kids you may want to think about fitting an elevating roof to create more sleeping space??? or go for more of a motorhome style van which will usually have more sleeping options.

    we keep it stocked up to make it easy to shoot off somewhere after work friday if the forecast is good.
    daughter loves it, wife loves it, i love it! get one, you might find that you love it.

    holmesy
    Member

    Cheers mate, that’s exactly the sort of thing I envisage. Definitely tempted!

    carloz
    Member

    Can be tough going when their so little, but you’ll have some amazing adventures. We had a bongo which was great, but a little on the small side. If you get an awning go for a Khyam as theyre so quick to put up – essential when youre camping with little kids!

    globalti
    Member

    Waaaay back my Dad bought a knackered old Comma bus from Littlemore mental hospital and took out all the seats then fitted it with bunks, a cooker and a fridge. Gawd knows how but five of us used to sleep in that thing. It used to break down quite a lot but it carried us all around Ireland and down through France, into Spain and back, twice, before motorways had even been invented. Later on we bought a new BL version of it, which was so badly made we only kept it 6 months. I remember going to pick it up and finding the headlights hadn’t been wired up and the paint was flaking off. After tht we got a VW camper, which was also unreliable and broke down twice in France. We used to sleep in a tent while the parents slept in the VW. When our tent got slashed with a razor one night in Granada we began to lose interest in European camping trips.

    spooky_b329
    Member

    Size is the big decision…you need to decide whether you want a small van with a rising roof or a longer high top panel van conversion.

    I’ve got a VW T5 with a pop top, and two kids currently 5 and 7, we’ve done a few euro trips mainly over summer. We take bikes and surfboards which can get a bit tight, but with a carrier on the back and a tent/awning you get loads of space. Our tent/awning you can drive away from its a bit harder to put up but means you can offload stuff when you want to drive off. We started when they were babies and you just adapt to what you got and how you do things learning along the way. I’ve adapted my Van quite a bit as our needs change.

    Roter Stern
    Member

    My kids absolutely love camping. It’s much less stress than a hotel with little uns and there are usually a queue of other kids on the campsite waiting to pick our kids up to go and play every morning.

    iomnigel
    Member

    We have 4 kids (11, 10, 8, 6) and a Motorhome. Size is where it is at. Get at a least berth more than you need. Check your driving licence on the size you can drive. We have been all over the uk in ours and love it.

    Premier Icon andrewy
    Subscriber

    I’ve not had one as a parent (though I’d like to) but my parents had a vw from when I was about 8. It was faaaaantastic. I loved it. I’m sure I was hard work at times but the freedom to go pretty much where you want to was great. As others have said an awning is very useful. It also means you’ve still got your spot when you come back after a trip away from the site. If I had the money I’d get one.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    T4 pop top and two kids, 6 and 2.

    We got ours from a fellow STWer when elder child was 1. We “live” in the camper van in France for 1 month of the year, every year. The kids love it. We also use it as a day-today vehicle too and for long day trips to see in-laws etc it’s great as there’s space to go in back and deal with jr, feed, play with them. etc.

    Reasons for our success with it probably a combination of any of the following:
    Packing/travelling light. Dont load the van up with stuff that doesnt fit in storage spaces, otherwise you will spend your time moving it out of the way.
    Learn about Communal Aires in France (in Communes, not on the autoroutes). Basically free stop over places for campervans/motorhomes but not caravans. Some of them are wonderful, some just functional. All very handy for breaking up longer trips or just providing a one night destination if you want to visit somewhere briefly. Vicarious Books publish a great guide.
    Just because you can drive anywhere and stop anywhere doesnt mean you should 🙂 Travelling everyday/every other day tires kids. And is v boring for them.
    Local swimming baths are good for showers.
    Portable kahzis http://www.thebrowncorporation.com/
    Learn recipes for cooking meals in one pan on a gas hob

    Mrs S and I had our best trip together cycling across the continent for 3 months. Then Jr arrived and we were worried that big adventures would be beyond us. Getting the camper van was the best thing we ever did to enable all of us to go on adventures, continue to travel light and be flexible. For a change this year, we probably wont go to france but instead will do 2 weeks in Scotland and possibly two weeks in Ireland.

    Go for it!


    EDIT: As for size, Id suggest go for as small as you can live with – the ability to use town centre car parks, sneak under beach-side car park barriers, climb mountain passes through tiny medieval towns far outweighs having room to take tons of stuff with you. We use a large pop up to create a base camp (see photo up there ^) for more space when we need to.

    Yep I’m with stoner on size and packing, also “white” van is good, mine is black, not great in summer

    rogerthecat
    Member

    Got a T3 Westy and 2 boys. Got it 8 years ago and travelled all over in it.
    Small van with pop top roof + good quality awning live in the awning and cook/sleep in the van.
    Being the same footprint as a car it can go anywhere a car can go- narrow lanes, car parks etc.
    Also can be ‘sqeezed’ in when campsites are busy.
    Boys now 14 & 15 and we still go away together in it.
    My only regret is not getting it when they were born instead of a tent.

    Premier Icon boxelder
    Subscriber

    T5 pop top and three kids here ( 3,6 + 9).

    We take a smallish tent too if all going. Drove to Austria and back through Switzerland last summer – wife not convinced before, but is now. For me I use it as my car and can stuff the van with bikes and kit, drive to an event and pop the roof to sleep without unpacking anything. If in north of england/ scotland I can suggest van dealers and roof installer.
    Do it. If it’s not you sell it on with minimal loss.

    rogerthecat
    Member

    @Stoner – spot on.
    If you are heading for Ireland, prepare for rain, been lots and it’s not a lush green country for no reason. We did N Ireland three years ago – fantastic people, brilliant campsites but very, very wet.
    Also ferries are swingingly steep – the campsite owners were enraged at the profiteering by the ferry companies as it had halved their visitor numbers.
    Driving through Belfast was a bit surreal adn just a little daunting with 2 kids.

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    tinted rear windows are great idea for both sunshade and privacy.

    cheers rogercat. I’ll come back in here for more tips if we plan on going. it may be linked to the round Ireland rib challenge which I might be crewing on.

    mark90
    Member

    I have a MWB Iveco panel van conversion. Had since my daughter was born and she now almost 6. Has a ‘garage’ area that will take a couple of adult bikes, childs bike, scooter, inflatable canoe plus accessories, camping chairs, etc so don’t need to travel too light. Inside everything is stored in cupboards, with bedding on the bunk (above garage) during the day. Otherwise you end up living in clutter and it’s like those puzzles shuffling things around all the time.

    Daughter has grown up going on camping trip in the van and loves it. Enough space inside for the three of us when it’s wet/raining. Nice comfy sofa’s for sitting and reading/watching DVD’s/etc of an evening when daughter has gone to bed. She sleeps in much later when we’re in the van than she ever does at home, probably all that fresh air and outdoor living.

    As we tend to to move around and don’t often spend more than one or maybe two night in the same place we don’t have a tent style awning, just a wind out fiamma canopy to keep the sun, or more often rain off.

    Parking needs a little thought but never had any real trouble finding somewhere to park. If there a a bit of verge or something that the back end can overhang it will fit in a normal sized parking space.

    rogerthecat
    Member

    That’s a Khayam awning – they really do only take 10 mins to put up which is great in bad weather. And, they’re mahoosive.

    tang
    Member

    My dad has had a van always. Mainly vw combi (first was a split screen surf green one in the 70s), Msny adventures here and in europe. All I can add is I have the best memories that I treasure dearly.

    Premier Icon andrewy
    Subscriber

    I really want one now 🙁

    Premier Icon tomaso
    Subscriber

    Yeah its just like camping in a tent but in a van with some added comforts.

    Did a bit of wild camping at half term and woke up to a still Coniston water and a snow capped old man. Whats not to like about adventures and spending time with your family?


    Premier Icon sadexpunk
    Subscriber

    I really want one now 🙁

    +1 🙁

    Dales_rider
    Member

    No problem with kids and camper vans, did it with a Peugeot Camelot in the late 80’s the van eventualy went when I had a company car, it was too big for the missus to drive to and from work.
    A high van is OK if you are just a “Pretend” Camper going on sites with all the facilities, but bear in mind the height and size does have its costs.
    Loads of places you cant fit in for height. So for wild stuff and everyday driving a pop top VW is the best bet. Its not just the barriers that are springing up all oer place its trees etc.

    epicsteve
    Member

    We used this for many years while my kids were younger:

    Had lots of great holidays in – Western Isles of Scotland, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Germany etc.

    It had bunk-beds at the back while worked out well.

    spooky_b329
    Member

    Mark90, same van 🙂 Clicky for plenty more…

    liquid1000
    Member

    I have a VW T28 hi top camper our 3& 5 year old sleep in the roof bed. We use the van for weekends away with a kyham awning to dump all the stuff like car seats etc in. Where the van has really been great has been for days out, getting dry and warm and have lunch or dinner on longer days. Any more than a day or so overnighting with bad weather sat in the van and you and the kids will be nuts! Think of it as posh camping :0) We got our van from leisuredrive they are a great set up check their website. The van is really great when you manage to offload the kids and sneak away with you partner or mates biking :0)

    holmesy
    Member

    Wow, thanks for all the responses, some great sounding stuff there and you have definitely whetted my appetite. We did 6 weeks in a van in N Z years ago so some idea of what it like but kids will change a lt!

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    Kids only change how noisy your shagging is 🙂

    Over the years we’ve added baby rucksacks (to hike with littlest one), the trailer which we now no longer need as we now swap that for a child seat. Choosing your child car seats carefully to find one easiest to remove and stow in the front drivers’s seat but meet legal requirements etc. Children’s bedding/safety nets (ours now sleep in the roof).

    A little planning makes travelling with kids no harder than travelling with a herd of feral cats. I think that’s right…

    mark90
    Member

    Clicky for plenty more…

    Like your new layout.

    Premier Icon sadexpunk
    Subscriber

    Like your new layout.

    aye thats cracking that is 🙂 really wish i could afford a van like that 🙁

    Another happy T4 pop top owner here. Bought it the year before our little un came along and he’s grown up with it. He sleeps in the pop up roof. We’re downstairs. Like others we’ve got a big driveaway awning but only really use that for when we’re sticking in one place for more than a couple of nights.

    Did consider a bigger van for more comfort but it serves as my daily driver too so is ideal really.

    spooky_b329
    Member

    Sadex, probably cheaper than you think. I don’t have a car, and Iveco’s are at the cheaper end if the scale, probably get one like mine (unconverted) for £3k? The difficult part is finding one that hadn’t been bashed to bits.
    Unfortunately mine has decided it wants a new clutch today 🙁

    Premier Icon sadexpunk
    Subscriber

    how much did it cost you to convert? and is it cost effective? could you sell yours for the same as youve spent on it?

    cheers

    holmesy
    Member

    some great pictures and stories. There is a place that does conversions (called jerba iirc) where I live, might have to pop in to see them now…..

    Premier Icon pictonroad
    Subscriber

    We’re 1100km into a trip round the North West and North Wales at the moment, had a few vans, all VWs and now have an 18m old. One thing to bear in mind is that kids don’t like driving more than an hour and half when they’re awake. As a couple we had no probs spending hours enjoying scenery, now we tend to move less and travel after 6pm. This is a bit of a shame as the moving on and evenings with the BBQ & beer are the best bits of camper vanning.

    A bigger van really helps or it’s a constant game of Tetris and this does grate after a while, I can also now see the appeal of caravans. The idea that you can leave everything set up and use the car to get about really simplifies you day. Caravans are cheap too, just not quite ready accepting that look yet.

    Coincidentally you can check out our bus in this months VWT magazine in WHSmiths!

    Also fuel, it’s expensive, REALLY expensive…

    Premier Icon Stoner
    Subscriber

    We can get 40mpg out of the T4 (2.5 TDI, 88bhp, not chipped) when cruising at c.60mph on autoroutes under cruise control, dropping to 35mpg otherwise. That’s between 15p and 20p a mile and it’s 700 odd miles to cross France, 800 odd miles to cross UK the long way.
    So there and back would be a budget of £250-300. Expensive for two, cheaper than trains or planes for a family of four though.

    spooky_b329
    Member

    Sadex, my conversion cost around £5k over a year or so, but you can do it much cheaper.

    Mine has an underslung lpg tank, gas heater, water heater, oven, double glazed windows and roof lights with blinds, spray foam insulation, compressor fridge which all cost a lot.

    If you go for bottled gas, no heater, a whistley kettle instead of a water heater, hob w/o oven, factory style bonded windows, camping matt insulation and a 3 way gas fridge you will save a big lump of cash.

    Resale value, if you bodge it no one will go near it, but if its finished nicely and looks professional, you can sometimes sell to cover your costs.

    Premier Icon sadexpunk
    Subscriber

    nah, id be wanting it done properly, something just like yours. funds dont allow it tho which is a shame. have to stick with the tent for the next few years 🙂

    thanks

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Campervans are always cramped, even big ones. Caravans give you way way more room if you are worried about sharing a small space.

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