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Planning Retirement Online

Travel & Holidays in later life

Camping and Caravanning

A holiday under canvas or in a mobile home makes self-catering holidays much more flexible and in many cases less expensive. Our Travel Editors, Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan take to the road.

Many years ago we were enthusiastic campers. When our children were young and money was tight we had magnificent holidays in an ancient and beat up old VW Campervan called Basil. Recently, when we were commissioned to contribute several books to a new series of walking guides, we decided that a mobile home was our best accommodation option. But first we needed to get one.

Obviously that’s the starting point and if you are keen to try it your first decision is what you want and how much you are prepared to pay. You can spend tens of thousands buying the all singing, all dancing, home from home completed with sections that slide out to double the width. Central heating, air-conditioning, satellite TV and every possible luxury or convenience you can think about.

Or you can go to the other extreme and pick up an old, second hand van. There are lots of in between options too and reading a few caravan magazines and talking to other enthusiasts will help you decide.

Travel Facts

 

We had already decided that a caravan would suit our needs better than a campervan but as we only envisaged using the van for one season for this specific job we did not want to spend a lot. We had bought our previous van through Ebay, from one careful owner from new. Turned out the ad was genuine and we got a great bargain for about £1500. When our need for the van diminished we gave it away to a friend who still has it.

But after a couple of weeks looking at Ads on ebay and in various classified sales magazines it dawned on me that with about 1500 Facebook friends perhaps one of them had a caravan surplus to requirements so I put up a request on my wall. Within minutes I was inundated with offers ranging from reasonably priced through to eight thousand. We whittled it down to a couple of contenders then another friend messaged me that we could have her van for £500. The decision was made.

It was an elderly van but had everything we needed. The large bed could be left made up. It has another two seats with a small table where we could eat and write. There was a toilet and shower, a gas hob and a microwave. The Oven had been removed and there was no heater. We would only be using it on sites with electric hook up so the greenhouse heater was pressganged. We spent another couple of hundred on a spare wheel, tyre and replacing the leisure battery, then a few hours on running repairs and modifications. Then we loaded up and headed south. We mostly lived in it for six months off and on before laying it up for the winter on a secure local site. With another three books to research and write this year it’s been dusted off, cleaned and is ready to hit the road again.

With hundreds of sites to choose from we are very careful where we go. We don’t want noisy. Late night party animals and loud music. As we’ ve been members of the Camping and Caravanning Club for years we tend to make our first choice their club sites. They are spotlessly clean, well run by enthusiasts, have wifi, showers, laundry and other facilities. When there is no Club site available we go on one of the smaller affiliated sites and while the facilities may be a bit more basic we have still had the same friendly reception and lots of advice and help from the resident wardens. The only real exception to that is the magnificent Glendaruel Site on the Cowal Peninsula in Scotland. It’s privately owned and family run and we have a long history of using it.

Having got your van and decided where you want to go you need to carefully consider getting there. It’s easy and safe if you observe a few basic rules.

Towing a caravan can be done by anyone who can drive and your licence will cover you if you passed your test before Jan 1st 1997. If it was after that there are restrictions. Check here for the details.

You will also need to ensure that the car and caravan combination that you will be using is safe. Click here for more information.

When towing you need to drive slower. We usually allocate an entire day just for getting to a site and if it’s a distance away a couple of days with an overnight stop.
Speed limits are lower. It’s 50mph on a single carriageway, 60mph on dual carriageways.

We’ve watched huge vans charging past us at lunatic speeds. The danger with this is if the van starts to snake. At a low speed just take you feet off all the pedals and keep the car straight. Do not try to use the steering to correct it. When the speed drops the snaking stops. But try this at eighty or ninety miles and hour and you are in trouble.
Be considerate of other road users and aware that while you are toddling along at a reasonable speed and enjoying the scenery there may be a wagon train building up behind you full of frustrated people who are able to go a lot faster. Pull into a layby and let them past. It won’t add a significant time to your journey but it will help prevent accidents.

Check that your rear lights and indicators are working before you set off, never travel with passengers in the caravan and make sure you can see what is happening behind you by fitting mirror extensions. But don’t forget to remove them when you are not towing or you will get in trouble from the Police.

We shall be writing reviews for the various sites we have used. Until the reviews are completed here is a comprehensive list of them linked to their own web pages. We will only list sites that we have personally tried and tested.


 

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