Family holidays should be fun for everyone concerned. Here we share our top tips on touring with kids to make the experience enjoyable for all the family.
We all know how great and how much fun motorcaravanning can be for children. The mix of home-from-home comforts inside the motorhome with the freedom to explore and entertain themselves in the biggest of playgrounds, perhaps with a new friend or two, is a recipe for a happy child.
But, of course, your family holidays should be relaxing and enjoyable experiences for everyone. Travelling with toddlers and tots is all about give and take. So with a little organisation, preparation and patience, we think the whole family can enjoy the break. We’ve compiled some top tips from those in the know, so that once you have the ideal family ‘van, you can have that perfect holiday filled with discovery, fun and quality family time – tantrums not included!
- Have toys, books and games that stay in the ’van. Then those toys will stay special and feel new again each time you go away on holiday.
- Download a Geocaching app on your smartphone. This high-tech hobby is easy to take part in, no matter where you are in the world, and it makes for brilliant exercise, too.
- Always choose a campsite with a playground and ask for a pitch close to it. Then children don’t have far to wander and you can keep a close eye on them.
- Pack a scrapbook and selection of stickers, glue and scissors, etc. Each day you can write about what the children have seen and done. Paste in postcards, guides, flowers and so on and leave spaces for photographs. This activity fills time between tea and bedtime, and when your kids go back to school they can show their efforts to their teachers.
- Take a big playpen when children are little to keep them entertained while setting up. A ball and frisbee go a long way, and lots of walks and bike rides leave kids worn out by evening.
- Let children help set up the awning, get the water, do the washing up and take the rubbish to the bins to earn pocket money. Then visit a charity shop during your time away and let them spend their pennies on books and toys.
- Remember to take scooters and bikes, plus a few sweets.
- Buy a ‘bug hunt’ kit and a field guide to identify them. This keeps kids occupied for hours and helps them learn about the environment.
- If you need to leave the habitation door open, pull the flyscreen across to prevent toddlers falling out of the motorhome. For peace of mind, you could use domestic-style socket protectors for 240V sockets. Cupboard toddler locks are also useful.
- For a weekend break or low-key holiday, small sites, including CLs and CS-types, make a good choice.
- Under 6s should not be in an upper bunk unsupervised. Use small, folding travel cots for very little children. For older ones, fit a standard bed guard, if possible.
- Put throws over the seats at mealtimes – tomato ketchup is a real pain on cream upholstery!
- A Bumbo floor seat is a really good idea for babies who can’t yet sit up unaided. You can put the seat anywhere and baby can sit and watch you without you having to worry about them rolling off or wriggling away. It is useful for taking to the beach and restaurants as well.
- A flexi tub is a great idea. Throw in all your children’s favourite toys and store the tub in the awning. When they’re very little, empty out all the toys at bedtime, fill it with warm water and use it to bath them. It’s also really handy for rinsing out wetsuits.
- Try to stick to some kind of routine, giving you time to relax on holiday, too. Regular mealtimes, bathtimes and bedtimes with stories prevent children from becoming overtired and irritable, and allow you some relaxing time, too.
- Pack a well-stocked first-aid kit as well as some basic medication, including the versatile Calpol.
- Special ‘cinema evenings’ using a portable DVD player and a few films are great when trying to get a child to relax in the evening – or even in the heat of the day, when you want them to sit still for an hour!
- Keep a diary. Writing a couple of lines and drawing a picture for a day will be a great keepsake and point of reference for future trips.
- Use black-out blinds. With these in place and the peace of the countryside, children may actually sleep better than they do at home.
- Don’t underestimate a child’s capabilities when walking. Make walks interesting and embrace fun ways of learning about your surroundings by pointing things out and allowing them to touch and interact. If you want to walk long distances, then a child carrier pack is an invaluable piece of kit, together with a balance bike and scooter. A pram is also a useful.
- Pack appropriate clothes, remembering sun hats, cold-weather wear, waterproofs, wellies and flip-flops. Do not be precious about ‘camping clothes’: being outside for longer periods means they’re bound to get dirty. Take a laundry bag so that it’s easy to keep on top of the washing, and easier still to throw a load in the washing machine on your return.
- If touring abroad, remember to take out travel insurance for your children and get any necessary injections.
- For smaller children, don’t forget pack a potty in the ’van.
- When setting up camp, factor in a shaded area for children to relax in during playtime on a sunny day.
- Be prepared for rainy-day play, with sticker books, colouring books, fuzzy felt, cards and board games.
- Keep kids occupied while travelling in the motorhome. Take some toys and portable colouring kits, snacks and a DVD player, or play ‘I Spy’ and look out for Eddie Stobart trucks, or diggers, or buses or whatever your child likes best at the moment!
- If kids are small they’ll probably be cranky when you arrive. If possible, one adult should get the ’van set up while the other looks after the kids, or takes them for a walk or a play.
- Consider investing in a stand-alone awning (‘driveaway awning’) – it’s the perfect playroom on wet days, and is the best place to eat with young children when the weather’s warm. They’re also great for storing bikes, toys, garden chairs and so on. You might also think about buying a table for use in the awning: ideal for colouring/games etc.
- Get sorted for mealtimes. If you’re weaning your baby onto solid food, make sure you’ve got everything you need in the ’van. A potato masher or fork will do the job of a blender. Take frozen single-meal portions. Think about how you’re going to sterilise bottles, etc. You may find it easier to stay on campsites with an electric hook-up, so you can boil an electric kettle to make up bottled milk, if you’ve got a baby in the family. Find a campsite with our sister website, Caravan Sitefinder. Many sites are particularly child-friendly family holiday parks.
- Keep them safe. From an early age, teach your children to stay away from the gas fire, alarm panel, heating/hot water controls and cooker. Make sure they don’t wander behind the motorhome when the driver is trying to pitch, and teach them about road safety as soon as possible.
- Keep a packing list on your computer. Print it out each time and then you won’t forget anything. This is especially important for remembering kids’ essentials, such as favourite cuddly toys, mobile phone and games chargers – you name it!
- Pack spare pyjamas, underwear and clothes if you’re toilet training, and keep a potty in the motorhome for emergency stops.
- It’s worth keeping a spare sleeping bag in the ’van, too, and some washing liquid in case you need to do a bit of cleaning up. A bucket is also useful to have on hand in the event of night-time sickness.
- If you’re potty training or having a longer holiday, you might find it easier to stay at a larger site with a launderette, shop and toilet block. It’s best to research online and try to find sites with dedicated family washrooms.
- Pitch away from the main road around the site – on a cul-de-sac of pitches if you can. And try to pitch as near to the toilet block as possible.
- Let children choose their own sleeping bags – then they’ll be keen to get into them at bedtime.
- Check out your children’s favourite websites, such as CBeebies, for printable colouring sheets featuring favourite characters to download before you go.
We hope you have lots of wonderful family holidays in your motorhome. Happy touring!
Keep kids occupied while travelling in the motorhome