Nick Judd

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Don't lose the fun of family holidays in a camper van or motorhome – we share our top tips to solve the practical challenges of touring with children

Touring with the family and seeing your children or grandchildren enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors can be extremely rewarding.

But anyone who has done it will know that it has its pitfalls.

From lack of space for themselves and everything that comes with them, to an array of buttons and wires in your ’van that can be pulled, yanked or displaced, camping can actually be quite stressful.

And while it goes without saying that motorhomes do vary widely in terms of space and practicality, there are plenty of products designed to help make touring more enjoyable for the whole family.

Running out of room?

First and foremost, whether your trip is a long weekend or an extended stay, you’re probably going to need additional space.

There are plenty of awnings, tents and gazebos to choose from, all varying in size, strength, durability and cost, ultimately factors that will come down to personal preference.

With space a premium in our T25 VW camper van, and with two boys under four, we wanted something that was big but also quick to erect.

Of course, inflatable awnings are increasingly popular, but Khyam’s latest Quick Erect Motordome 360 – which has all the benefits of its original Sleeper but offers 3m x 5m x 5m in space – also provides 360-degree panoramic windows.

This enables you to keep an eye on the kids, whether they’re inside or out – useful.

It has designated sleeping areas (which we used as a playroom), plus, crucially, a Rapidex pole system, which means the awning erects in seconds and pitches in 15 minutes – it fits T25s, T4s and T5s, too.

Contact Khyam before you buy and it’ll make sure that you get the correct connection system to attach it to your ’van. Ours used figure of eight strips and withstood some fairly hefty winds.

Space to sleep

With space assured, you’re going to need somewhere to sleep. With our children so young, they’re still sharing the ’van with us.

We recommend a bed guard, which you’ll probably have at home anyway, but which can be found at many stores and which slide underneath your top mattress.

A thermal wrap for the pop-top is a good idea – you can get one from CampervanCulture.com.

It will not only keep you warmer in winter and cooler in summer – meaning you can tour 365 days a year – it will also restrict the light and noise that can often keep you and your little ones awake at night.

Beds for older kids

Those with older children will know that the novelty of sleeping with mummy or daddy soon wears off, but there are plenty of options.

For the ’van, try adding a hammock to the front – Cabbunk’s single and double bunks fit any ’vans with swivel seats.

They can be fitted in 25 seconds using telescopic aluminium poles and hammock brackets, and can be applied to T5s and T6s, as well as Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit, Renault Master/Trafic, Nissan and Vauxhall Movano cabs, and motorhomes based on the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Boxer, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and VW Crafter.

Just Kampers does a child bunk for T5s, which simply hooks into the headrests of the cab seats and then places on the dashboard, and holds up to 50kg in weight.

CampervanCulture.com sells a foldaway bunk that can fit over the front seats.

Those wanting to keep the ’van to themselves should consider Kid-O-Bunk bunk beds for their awning or tent – based on a design used by the military, they’re sturdy and quick to erect.

The beds can go on top of each other or side by side, and can be used as a bench during the day – buy the Kid-O-Bunk bunk beds here on Amazon.

Pop-top problems?

With the sleeping arrangements sorted, our greatest challenge is keeping our children out of the front of the ’van, and letting them safely climb up into the pop-top area without clambering over things they shouldn’t.

Loose wires, buttons and knobs for the fridge, cooker and heater in particular seem to fascinate young children.

Campervantastic.com and nlavw.com sell mosquito nets that fit the sliding door space – and you can buy Fiamma Moskito mosquito nets here on Amazon.

This will act as a deterrent, keep the ’van cool in summer and give you all a bit of privacy, if required.

Try K9gates.co.uk, too. It stocks a range of adjustable homemade gates that can be tailored to fit your ’van – they’ll even fit them for you.

To make accessing the pop-top area safer, you could try a telescopic ladder – you can buy these here on Amazon.

They usually start at 2.6m, although Campervantastic.com has a 2m version that is ample for most T25s, and which can be shortened incrementally for other use and easy storage.

Previously, our eldest had found a way of climbing up via the top of the leisure battery, the front car seats and hob. Not ideal.

We found that our ladder came in handy when packing the top of the ’van, too (as opposed to using the foot stall on the front passenger side).

Safety first

One final suggestion: the OEX Windblocka is perfect when cooking around the barbecue – buy the OEX Windblocka here at Go Outdoors.

As well as keeping the wind at bay, it acts as a portable fireguard, and is an added layer of protection if it’s proving difficult to cook and look after small children at the same time.

So, what are you waiting for? Happy holidays!

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