So the long drive is finally over, bags are all unpacked, laundry hanging on the racks, and we are all settled back on our own sofa with a cup of tea.
We are back after a week in a caravan and now I can access the world of Wi-Fi again, I’ve had a few messages asking for some tips for heading on a caravan trip with toddlers.
They may not be tips as such, but while it’s still fresh on my mind, here is how we survived:
Caravan benefit: you’re not worrying about other hotel guests if she wakes early/late
Caravan downside: it can be noisy on the campsite and you’ll find yourself creeping like a ninja around the caravan at night, just to go for a pee!
This was my biggest worry but turned out to be one of the simplest things for us in the end. Last year we took the travel cot but this year there would be no way in hell she’d sleep in it, so we pushed two of the beds together in one room, added the bed guard to the end of the bed, and turned the room into a kind of den.
I slept on the outside, and Lily next to the wall. It meant if Lily woke in the night, she knew I was there and would instantly settle again, so we both slept!!
There was no room to walk around the bed (nor get the cupboard open!) but it made it really cosy and despite deciding her usual daytime nap time was totally overrated (this better rectify at home!!), it meant she was cosy enough to sleep from 7pm-7am every night, and no trouble getting down at bedtime – a complete result!
We also used the Gro blackout blind, which has been our saviour since birth, as it can rubber sucker to nearly any window, and meant the daylight/streetlamps were no bother to her in the caravan. I also took her own duvet and pillow, as she recognised the smell and it seemed to work for us.
She had both Christmas pyjamas (yes its September!) and summer ones, which we alternated as in the sun it was really hot, but in the mornings/storms it got pretty chilly.
We also took some cheap LED touchlights that we use at home. They helped being able to ninja walk through the caravan to the toilet at night and around the caravan without waking anyone.
Caravan benefit: you’re not restricted to hotel meal times, can feed her in a space where you’re not worrying about other guests in a restaurant, and also are not restricted to a hotel menu
Caravan downside: the campsite store can be restricted and expensive, so prepare well in advance – especially if you have dietary needs.
If you’ve ever stayed in a caravan, you’ll know there’s NO space. We hired a highchair last year but never used it as there was no room and we found her booster seat to be far more useful as attaches to the normal chairs. We did the same this year (we use it at home too!) and she was happier sitting at the table with us than in a baby chair.
We use the Munchkin Travel Booster Seat and love it because it can adjust to pretty much any chair, has a space under it for storing wetwipes/bib/bowl, and a carry strap for taking anywhere.
We also found it handy to bring her own familiar snacks and foods because the campsite shop is quite restricted. It also meant she had her Organix Puffcorn handy when in the middle of a rainstorm, and that we didn’t need to go out searching for food after a long drive down – giving us time to settle her in.
Bringing her own bowls, cutlery and favourite dinosaur cup also helped with the familiarity.
Caravan parks are also usually designed for families so have family-friendly menus in the restaurants and are used to restless children! This one was aligned with the arcades and softplay so Lily didn’t need to sit and wait when they took ages to serve us.
Caravan benefit: you have your own space for rainy days and down-time
Caravan down-side: site entertainment/facilities can get busy, especially at weekends
You need to prepare for rain and shine when holidaying in the UK. It may have been ‘summer’ but we had severe storms, thunder showers and bright sunshine in the space of just hours!
We packed plenty to keep her entertained in the living room – Lego, her favourite stories, some toy cars, colouring stuff, bubble wand, and an iPad filled with her favourite tv shows (there’s no catch up tv remember!), so when it rained we weren’t bothered about going out, and she was also entertained in the evening when we wanted to relax or when she needed some quiet time.
Bring layers of clothes and prepare for all weathers. Caravans can be cold one minute and hot the next, and we found ourselves cosied in warm clothes and her favourite blankets before breakfast.
She lived in her wellies as the park became quite muddy, and we often changed her clothes (layers are good!) as the temperature could change quite quickly.
There was plenty entertainment on the site too, with free soft play and plenty of 2p machines to distract her from not napping! We didn’t need to pay money as she was just happy running around. It did become busy in the evenings/weekends and so did the indoor pool – that was rammed at weekends!
We were there in September when schools were back so it was mainly toddlers, but at the weekend there were older children in the play areas who were quite boisterous, so we took Lily away from the entertainment centre then as she tries to join in with older kids, which made me nervous when they weren’t so careful around her. I can see it being really busy in school holiday times though.
We were near to the seaside, so plenty of beach/boat distractions to keep her entertained, but we didn’t feel like we needed to venture far when it rained, and there were some lovely walks along the coast between storms and before bed.
The entertainment centre had evening/daytime activities for all ages, but I’m not sure I’m ready to handle organised activities for children yet 😂
Toddlers also have the tendency to tantrum if overwhelmed/overtired (please tell me it’s not just Lily!!) so we found that having our own space in the caravan gave us some quiet time, rather than being ‘on the go’ all the time.
One afternoon mid-week, we took Lily on a day trip and half way through she really started to struggle. I felt like a bad parent and nearly cried myself, but we took her to a quiet soft play in the cafe and she was happy as larry again. We realised we have to remember she is only 2 and toddlers still like familiarity/routine, so even more ‘new places’ can sometimes overwhelm them a little.
We had a really lovely holiday week in the caravan and realised how good having your own space is with young kids – the caravan parks are designed for families, while the caravan itself gives you your own space to be able to relax, so you as parents can enjoy your holiday, without having to worry about the toddlers. It even had a toddler-friendly Starbucks (with free wifi!), which was a definite win with us! This was our second year there and we will probably be back again next year too!
Along with the standard baby/toddler items (nappies, wetwipes etc), here are a few we found useful.
Your own towels
Christmas pyjamas (well, cosy ones!)
Teabags/coffee (for you!)
iPad with tv shows
Many warm clothes!
- Sink stool – we forgot to bring Lily’s, and she clearly missed having her own access to the sink as she loves washing her hands.
- Inflatable bath – we brought one last year but not this year. We put it in the shower cubicle to still give her the normal bath, which worked really well.
- Monitor – we didn’t bring one this year as I was sharing the room with her but could be useful if you are in separate rooms or for peace of mind when she has gone to bed.
- Calpol – I’d also recommend packing some Calpol as with the changeable weather, kids can easily catch a cold. We had problems with this last year but seemed to be better this year- though we still packed it just in case!
- LED touchlights (or a torch), to help you creep around like a ninja to the toilet at night!
- WD40 for the creaky doors!!
And of course, if necessary, the potty…