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Choosing a family caravan

Choosing a Family Touring Caravan

Looking for a family touring caravan by yourself is like finding a needle in a haystack. There's a virtual smorgasbord of models and configurations out there. But a bit of research and a few of our professional tips will go a long way. Here's how to take the fuss out of finding the perfect touring caravans for children and adults.

The Advantages of Owning a Family Touring Caravan
Being able to spend quality time with the children away from home, in complete comfort, and in familiar surroundings is a luxury in itself. Family tourers tick all those boxes. They can provide growing families the privacy, the quiet, and the safety they need on holiday.

Forget baby-proofing hotel rooms, sterilising every nook and cranny, and minding every little step and corner to avoid an accident. No need to look for nursing rooms, baby changing rooms, or child friendly restrooms several times a day. No need to worry about meal timing or the children's behaviour at the restaurant.

Rather than walking on eggshells to minimise noise, parents can opt to spend their holidays in family tourers. But it's not just parents who stand to gain from buying family tourers. Ultimately, people of all ages can enjoy their holiday in comfort with a family touring caravan. Practical, chic, and contemporary designs will impress teenagers and grandparents alike.

Choosing Touring Caravans for Children: The Basics
Now that we've established that you absolutely need a family touring caravan, here comes the hard part. How do you find the family touring caravan that's just right for your family? It's a matter of putting your requirements on paper and weighing your options.

Legal Requirements for Family Touring Caravans
As with all other caravans, there are certain legal requirements to consider before you start scouting for family tourers.

To begin with, the caravan to car weight ratio is crucial. The caravan should weigh less than 85% of your car's kerb weight.

Next ask yourself how spacious your car is. Will the entire family fit, along with all the things that a caravan with limited payload can't hold? Remember: no passengers are allowed in a moving caravan.

Finally, do you have the right driving licence for your caravan? The maximum authorised mass (MAM) will depend on when you passed your driving test, as explained here. Here's what you need to know:

  • If you passed your B test before January 1, 1997, your MAM for the entire outfit (car + caravan) can be up to 8,250kg.

  • If you passed your B test after January 1, 1997, you can transport up to 8 people and your MAM is 3,500kg. Anything above 3,500kg MAM would require a C licence for medium-sized vehicles.

  • If you have a category BE driving licence from January 19, 2013 or after, the 3,500kg limit applies to you as well.

  • If your 'valid from' date on the BE section is before January 19, 2013, there's no weight limit.

Living Area
Touring caravans for children tend to be spacious and well-proportioned. But having a designated children's area with table and seating is ideal, especially in colder weather. In terms of privacy, doors and privacy curtains are important for older kids, as well as for parents.

Whenever possible, you should opt for easy-to-clean flooring and stain resistant upholstery. Of course, if the colourway is too light and you want to protect the carpets and the sofas, you can always use a large awning as a living area.

Then there's also the small matter of safety. If children can reach the water heater switches and the 24V sockets, and the cupboard catches are flimsy, then it's probably best to baby-proof them. Secure doors with locks, roller catches, magnetic catches, retainers, door stops, etc.

Berths and Washrooms
Caravan layouts are usually longer if the configuration includes bunkbeds. But wider berths come with double beds and sometimes extendable sofas as well. Deciding between these configurations is usually a matter of budget.

But it's also worth asking yourself how much time you're willing to spend making the beds every day. Also, check if your travel cots and inflatable beds fit in the sleeping area or the lounges, or budget for new portable beds and awnings. Teenagers may be more comfortable sleeping in an enclosed awning than squeezing into a bunk bed.

Washrooms need to be accessible without disturbing anybody else. They should also be large enough for the whole family to feel comfortable in, unless you plan to stay mostly at campsites and use their on-site facilities.

Cooking and Dining
When it comes to dining, ovens are a must if you don't plan to eat out often. Built-in microwaves come in handy, especially for heating up baby bottles. But depending on your dietary needs, they may not be much more useful to you than a kettle. Also, you can't rely on them for three-course meals for the whole family.

The dinette should be large enough to prepare food, dine together, and possibly even play a board game in the evening. Having enough space for cooking is a matter of safety rather than luxury, so try to picture yourself using the area before you commit to buying the family caravan.

Space is at a premium in a caravan, so if your budget won't allow for storage space, consider buying an awning for pushchairs, bikes, hiking equipment, etc.

Dinette cupboards and pantries should be spacious enough for food, nappies, and essentials. If you're lucky enough to have full-length cupboards and wardrobes in the berth area, then take care to store bulkier and heavier things at the bottom. If storage is limited, consider buying free standing storage tents and larders before you set off.