A camping, caravan or campervan holiday may not have been on your radar before March 2020. But as the pandemic has called a halt to people’s travel and celebration plans, it may now be one of the few options left. Hotels may not be allowed to open and who will really want to travel in cramped trains and planes in the current climate?
Camping and caravanning might come to the rescue this summer to salvage some holidays. At present (beginning of June 2020), the government guidance is that hospitality sites won’t open until 4th July at the earliest. It is hopeful though that they will open after Professor Van Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, mentioned in one of the daily briefings, that he will look at the issue. He conceded that the virus does not spread quite so easily in the outdoors. The Caravan and Motorhome Club have lobbied the government on the issue, see here: https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/media-centre/press-releases/open-letter-to-cmo/
What kind of campervan should I hire?
So, if we are allowed to go camping from 4th July, then obviously we will be back open ready for business! We’re looking at ways that we can do a safe handover of the campervans and will keep you posted. Let’s get onto the fun part of planning a campervan holiday as if none of these issues existed. First up: what kind of campervan do you want to hire?
What vehicle you want will be guided by what you want to do on your break. So have a think about these questions. Do you want to travel round and explore with one or two night stops on the way? Or do you prefer finding a base where you camp for a week or two and use it as a means to explore the surrounding area? How many people are you taking on the trip? How much luxury do you want on your trip or are you to content to rough it a little bit? Do you need your own toilet?
If you are a larger group and/or you want a little bit more space and luxury, then a larger motorhome might be the answer. We hired one for a trip up to John O’Groats (before we bought our current van) to try it out. We loved the space it gave us when we stopped for the night. It had a big fridge and a cooker with an oven (great for small kids meals). The bedding could more or less remain in situ so there was less to do in the morning before setting off. There’s also plenty of room for storing all the stuff you might need on your trip.
Larger vans have their own toilet and shower facilities, although you will need to arrange to fill up the tank and heat the water as well as arrange to empty the toilet cassette (we always just used the campsite’s facilities to save the hassle). These are handy if you plan to wild camp (only permitted in Scotland – pre-lockdown and not permitted at present).
The downside of a big van is driving and parking it. More modern motorhomes might have better sound insulation but the one we hired was fairly old and very noisy when we were on the road. We couldn’t have a decent conversation in the cab when we were travelling. Most campsites are well set up for large motorhomes but it was tricky manoeuvring in car parks. Some car parks have height restrictions on them which ruled out being able to park in them. One of the things we couldn’t do on our trip with the big van was explore the single track roads so easily as we were worried about getting stuck with nowhere to turn round. So it’s definitely worth thinking about where you want to go and whether the van suits the terrain.
That leads nicely onto the advantages of a smaller camper van which is the freedom to roam into smaller spaces. It’s easier to park as it fits in a normal size space. At 2 metres high, they usually fit under most height restricted car parks (please check carefully though!). Had we had the smaller campervan on our John O’Groats trip, we might have been able to visit some more off the beaten track places.
Our campervans are easy to drive (if I say so myself!) as they are only slightly bigger than a car. The driving position is taller but I like being able to see further on the road and over the hedges.
The downside of smaller campervans is the lack of storage space. We have chosen our campervans on the basis that they are the best we have ever seen for storage space but there is no denying that they are smaller than a larger motorhome. You have to be more creative with your packing!
What else should I think about?
Check how many berths your campervan (or motorhome) has and how many seat belts before you travel. Our original campervan has 4 three point seat belts and a lap belt (really only ideal for strapping in dogs). Our new one has 5 three point seat belts. They both sleep 4. When you add an awning, this creates more space for dining/sitting and people can sleep out in it.
Think about where you are going to travel to with the camper van. Consider whether you want to hire somewhere near your home or near the tourist spot to which you are heading. There are lots of campervan hirers in the Lake District and Scotland so you may prefer to drive there in your own vehicle and then hire when you get there (especially if they have a limited mileage policy). The advantage of hiring near home is that the loading and unloading can be done with ease at home! The other advantage is that the miles on the clock will be on the hire vehicle and not yours. We offer unlimited mileage so you don’t have to worry about any of this but do check the mileage policy if you decide to hire elsewhere.
Final consideration is whether you need to hire an awning. There’s no doubt, they are really handy for providing extra space and a little bit of privacy. If you are staying in one place for up 3 days or more, I’d definitely take one with you. If you plan to travel round and stop only in a place one night at a time, then the time it takes to put it up might well outweigh the benefit. The weather also plays a part here. If it’s raining you will more likely to want the extra shelter!
I based this blog post on frequently asked questions about hiring! Let me know if there is anything I have missed or any other burning questions you have. Planning your campsites and route is a whole different blog post and much more fun so stay tuned for further advice!