Guide to Planning Your First Touring Caravan Trip
Caravan holidays are a fantastic way to explore, whether you’re looking to discover more of the sights in the UK or you want to travel abroad. However, setting up a caravan and planning that first trip might be a little daunting. What are all the rules and regulations? How do you ensure your caravan is safe on the road? Where are you allowed to park up and camp? How should you go about planning a route?
In order to answer the questions above and make your first touring caravan trip a real adventure (for all the right reasons), we’ve put together this guide.
1. Ensure your towing outfit is well matched and in good condition
We’ve written guides on choosing your first caravan and on matching your car and caravan. Give these guides a read to make sure you know how to create a well-matched towing outfit and ensure that both your tow vehicle and your caravan are in good shape before you set out on any trips. This might involve booking in for a service or a check from a professional.
2. Make sure your caravan is equipped for your trip
You’ll need to think about things like keeping your caravan safe and secure, especially when you’re off exploring and it’s parked up somewhere. Make sure you’ve got an effective alarm system installed and consider a tracking system too. For more information on this, we’ve got a full article on the topic here: Guide to Caravan Security.
Ensure you’re confident with your caravan’s water, electrical and gas systems. If you’re planning a trip that goes a little further off the beaten track or want to reduce your reliance on hook-ups, consider investing in solar panels. If your caravan isn’t fitted with one already, you might also want to think about getting a motor mover installed. This could make life a lot easier when trying to manoeuvre your caravan into a pitch, especially for beginners.
3. Know the rules on where you can and can’t pitch up
If you’re new to caravanning, you might not be aware of where you can legally pitch up and how to identify a good spot that will be safe and secure overnight. Generally, the best thing to do is find a good campsite that has pitches for caravans.
Make sure you never park on private land without permission from the owner or on cultivated farmland. You also can’t park your caravan on land owned by the Forestry Commission or on a road or layby in a way that causes an obstruction.
A registered caravan park will help you feel safe and secure and should have a range of facilities that will make your stay much more enjoyable and comfortable.
4. How to choose a good caravan site that suits your trip and your caravan
How do you choose between the many caravan sites that are available? The first thing to think about is location. What are the main sights you want to visit? Once you’ve got to your caravan site, you don’t want to have to trek too far to go and do the things on your list. For example, if you’re planning to walk some of a coastal trail, try and pick a site where you can access this by foot or a short car journey.
You’ll also want to think about facilities. You’ll probably want to go for a site where you can hook your caravan up. You might also prefer to use the showers on site if the one in your caravan is a little cramped or you don’t have one at all. Some caravan sites are packed with facilities these days, with swimming pools, tennis courts and on-site shops. It all depends on the type of holiday you’re looking for.
You’ll also have to factor in the size of the pitches available. The larger the pitch, the more it will cost, however, you’ll have to factor in space for your awning if you’re bringing one and if you barbecue outside, you’ll need a little extra space.
5. How to plan your route
When you’re planning a route for a caravan trip, try and stick to main roads if possible. This will give you more space and will avoid any tricky, tight country lanes that might not be suitable for caravans or that new caravan drivers might find difficult.
Another advantage of sticking to the main roads is that you’ll pass plenty of service stations. When towing a caravan, you’ll get tired more quickly as you’ll find yourself using up more energy concentrating. You’ll need to stop more often to give yourself a break or to switch drivers if you’re sharing the job.
If you’re using a sat nav or something like Google Maps to plan your route, remember to allow extra time on the estimates they provide as you’ll be travelling slower than you would by car. You’ll also want to have a good look at the route before you head off so you have a good idea of the journey in your mind. Take particular care when looking at the last couple of miles as this is where most people tend to get lost on journeys. You don’t want to have to turn your caravan around in an awkward spot.
If your trip has several legs to it, make sure you plan each of these before you set off. It’ll make things much easier and straightforward and give you more time to enjoy yourself when you’re on your holiday.
6. What to remember to pack
Don’t ruin your trip by forgetting to take something crucial! As well as your clothes, toiletries and usual holiday bits and bobs, you’ll need to remember to bring a few extra things.
Ensure you’ve got everything you’ll need for the caravan. This includes enough gas and safety items such as fire blankets, extinguishers and a first aid kit. Make sure you’ve got everything you need for the bathroom, including a bath mat, towels and cleaning products. You’ll also need all the equipment for the kitchen if you’re planning on doing your own cooking. It’s best to leave the shopping until you get there to cut down on weight, but bring the essentials so you can make yourself a snack and a cup of tea when you arrive.
7. How to load your caravan
The way you load your caravan goes a long way to keeping your towing outfit safe and stable on the road. Putting heavy items in the wrong place in your caravan can have a significant impact on the handling of your outfit and can make you much less stable. You’ll need to make sure these heavy items are placed low down, as close to the axle as possible and secured in place. We’ve written a full guide on how to load your caravan to help you stay safe on the road.
8. Take your time and enjoy your trip
The final thing is to take your time and enjoy yourself. Don’t try to pack in too much and leave plenty of time for your journeys. Travel at times of the day when the roads are quieter and go at a comfortable pace, pulling over occasionally (when safe to do so) if traffic starts to pile up behind you. When you reach your campsites, you’ll quickly get into a setting up routine which gets more efficient every time. If you’ve done your planning in advance, you’ll be able to put your feet up, relax and enjoy the freedom that caravanning offers.