Family holidays and travel with toddlers can affect that way that you tour, but holidays in a motorhome can be exceptionally family-friendly.
When we discovered we were going to be parents for the first time, we accepted that life would chance. Visits to gourmet restaurants would be replaced with meals at more family-friendly establishments, lazy Sunday mornings in bed would be traded for rambles around parks and forests, and leisurely coffees would probably be a thing of the past.
However, there was one aspect of life that we were determined to retain, and that was travelling and seeing the world.
My childhood was full of family adventures, my favourites being our camping trips to various corners of the UK and France. Memories of long coastal walks, days at the beach, exploring old ports and impromptu picnics, all with an overriding feeling of happiness at being together.
These early family holidays instilled in me a life-long passion for seeing the world, immersing myself in different cultures and expanding my horizons.
It’s a passion my wife Kim and I wanted to share with our children, which goes a long way in explaining our desire to carry on travelling after our son Harrison and, subsequently, our daughter Dorothy were born.
We were well aware travel would be different with children, and it most certainly is, but that wasn’t going to stop us planning trips near and far – from weekend breaks in Milan and Paris to a road trip in Taiwan and a safari in Uganda.
But it was our maiden motorhome trip, a month-long jaunt around Spain when Harrison was just two, that really confirmed our decision to continue touring.
Our travels have taken us all over Europe and as far afield as North America, and given us many happy memories. It’s not always been easy, but it has most certainly been worth it. So here are our top 10 tips for terrific family touring.
It might sound obvious, but be prepared. The joy of a motorhome is that you have far more space than you would if going on a more traditional holiday, which means you can pack for all eventualities.
From toys, books and games to clothing for all occasions, bikes and fishing rods, there’s room for it all.
The key for us is having everything we need to ensure that the children are entertained, even on rainy days.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on your payload, though!
If you are travelling with babies and/or toddlers, you need to make sure you have suitable child car seats. Not all motorhomes come with Isofix attachments, so youy will need to ensure your car seats can be fitted, using seatbelts.
We use a Britax Römer for Harrison, who is now four-and-a-half, and a Maxi-Cosi Pebble Plus for Dorothy, 19 months old. Both seats attach next to each other, using seatbelts.
Some older ‘vans only have lap belts at the back, in which case you can make use of the passenger seat, but do remember to disengage the front airbags.
All parents quickly adapt to the fact that doing anything with children takes a lot longer, and that goes for travelling, too.
Don’t be in a rush and don’t try to fit in too much on each day of your trip. We have found we can drive for a maximum of around three hours a day when on a longer road trip, and we aim for one main activity every day.
Any more and the children get fed up with being in their seats, and we become stressed, thinking that we have to be on the move to our next activity or destination.
Keep it simple
We all spend loads of time thinking up activities and experiences to entertain our children, when in fact, it is often the simplest things that are the most rewarding – be that a breezy stroll along the beach, a bike ride on family trails, or hours spent crabbing off the local pier.
For our children, the fact that we are in the motorhome is an adventure in itself, and they love playing in the ‘van together.
I’m a firm believer that the success of any road trip is mostly in the planning, especially when travelling with children.
Before departure, we have a day-by-day plan that includes where we are staying, potential places to eat, activities, points of interest and details of any driving we need to do.
That’s not to say we are not flexible – some of the best moments on any trip are impromptu ones – but it helps to have an idea of what is happening. And even though we are on holiday, the children still like to have a routine.
Keep them involved
Children want to help and feel a part of things, which is why it is really good to give them some responsibilities of their own.
Harrison loves drying the dishes when we go to wash up, and little Dorothy likes to help put everything away – even if it takes us a little bit longer that way!
What adults might see as chores that just need doing can be fun activities for children, so go at their pace and enjoy the time together. We also like to include the kids in the planning phase, ensuring we do things that appeal to us all.
With so much space in a motorhome, there is always the temptation to chuck in everything and go, but time spent packing and organising properly before setting off makes life easier.
By having everything in designated lockers, it’s simple to get things as and when we need them – with two children, this is essential!
We use large plastic boxes that fit the cupboard to store all of our kitchen stuff, which saves things rattling and moving around.
Pick the right pitch
For us, finding the perfect pitch means selecting one away from the entrance to the campsite, but close to the amenities.
We often stay at Caravan and Motorhome Club sites, because nearly all of these are good parks for children, so we aim to tour as close to them as we possibly can.
Particularly for families with young children, pitching up near the washblock can be quite an important consideration, making everyone’s access to showers and toilets a lot easier.
Change your perspective
If travelling with children has taught us anything, it is to see the world through their eyes, which is a very different view to the one we have.
In doing so, we rediscover the magic that can be found in the simplest of things, we spark our curiosity for the world around us and begin to live in the moment a lot more.
Make the drive fun
Kim and I have always taken as much pleasure from the driving part of our trips as the daily activities. There’s a real joy to be found just pottering along, watching the world go by.
The same is not always true for the children, unless we make the journey fun. This means having a playlist of songs that we all love and can sing along to, having interesting facts about places we pass through, giving Harrison a map to find where we are going, and having little competitions with rewards – for example, the first person to spot 10 red cars gets an ice cream!
Preparing for your first motorhome trip as a family can feel quite daunting, but with the right planning and preparation, it will be one of the greatest adventures that you could go on.
If you enjoyed reading this, our top tips for off-grid touring might also be of interest. We’ve also put together a guide to motorhome security, and addressed some common touring mistakes and how to avoid them.
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We all spend loads of time thinking up activities and experiences to entertain our children, when in fact, it is often the simplest things that are the most rewarding