A guest article by Andrew Chase
When most people hear the words 6 month old baby, camper van and holiday they normally say “not a chance!” or “that would be way too difficult”, but to be honest if you love camping and make sure you’re well organised it can be easier than you might think.
Me and the Mrs have just returned from a week long road trip travelling around Devon and Cornwall with our 6 month old daughter Izabella travelling in our trusty old VW T4 van, which I converted this year. It’s now got a kitchen, rock and roll bed and plenty of storage. I even fitted mains hook-up and a fridge for the long weeks away. It may not be a splitty or a bay window dub but it returns 40+ mpg with its 1.9td engine and is pretty maintenance free.
The main thing that made it easier was the fact it’s a long wheelbase, which means we can have our bed out and have room for a travel cot at the end. The travel cot was essential in making sure our little one was comfy at night and once she was in her little sleeping bag that was her for the night.
An electric bottle warmer was the next most essential piece of kit. Being able to warm bottles without having to heat a kettle was perfect. I also think an awning or some sort of Gazebo is essential for somewhere to sit once they are asleep. You certainly don’t want to be knocking around in the van when they’re trying to get to sleep. But she did sleep really well; it must have been all the sea air.
We had an off road buggy which helped in all sorts of ways from being a bed for the beach, carrying things from the shops and good on sandy beaches. I don’t think a normal pushchair would have stood the outdoor life as well. The single most difficult thing was being able to sterilise the bottles which we managed by using sterilising tablets and a washing up bowl. I even managed to set up a telly… ha ha that’s definitely glamping!
We both loved being able to get outdoors and do some surfing, walking and general mooching around all the cool beaches Devon and Cornwall have to offer and the van enabled us to do this on a budget. It was also comfortable enough for Izabella, which meant we could take our time going from campsite to campsite and seeing much more.
One thing we did notice with the first campsite we stayed at was that it was a bit too remote with a small baby. It did have electrical hookups but the showers were only a shipping container so we moved from there to find a few more conveniences in Cornwall.
We ended up at Harlyn Sands, a favourite surf spot of mine. They had a proper shower complex which made things easier. I took a large rubber bucket with us and used the warm shower water to fill it up for a bath for Izabella, which she loved. We even managed to cook up some awesome meals with the help of cooking tips from Martin Dorey the camper van cookbook dude. Moules Mariniere was a personal favourite.
Therefore I think with a little bit more organisation, the right kit and a taste for adventure having a little baby shouldn’t stop you camping all together. We had more mod cons compared to some of the early settlers in the USA on their wagon trains and if they can do it, so can we!
I hope this article has spurred a few people onto maybe giving it a go and getting out and about with your little ones too, and if you are here are our top tips to help…
- Make sure your prepared before you leave, including having plenty of milk and nappies to hand. Motorway Services don’t seem to cater for small babies and we found that many don’t even sell baby essentials. Not good!!
- Take plenty of breaks on your trip for nappy changes and to let your little one get out of their car seat. This seems to keep them a lot happier. Our last trip from Norfolk to Devon took 7 hours but with plenty of breaks Izabella was fine.
- Try and condense the amount of stuff you have with you to essentials as you’ll soon get tired of moving stuff around your van to make space.
- A good set of curtains is a must to make your van dark, especially if you don’t want to get woken up at dawn every day.
- We definitely need a fold up clothes dryer as we saw a couple with a baby who had one. This means you can take less clothes and wash them while you are on holiday.
- Mains bottle warmer. Heats the bottles super quick and only uses a tiny amount of water. Ours even keeps the bottles cool overnight.
- Travel cot.
- Baby sleeping bag, which stops them kicking blankets off in the night.
- Bumbo type seat.
- Off road pushchair, which is a must for fields and beaches.
- Baby Bjorn carrier if you need to keep your hands free but take your little one with you.
- 12v cool box fridge. We bought ours from Halfords as it was reduced to £35. It’s 14 litre and with a 12v to 240v converter I could run it from the mains when we had electrical hookup. This was by far the best thing we bought for our trip as it worked as well as a normal fridge.
- An oil filled radiator with a thermostat to keep your van lovely and warm.