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Buying a caravan for the first time is such an exciting time in any traveller’s life. From dreaming about the perfect destination to stocking up on brand new camping supplies, there are a lot of things to consider before you hit the road for the first time.
Here are some top tips that first time caravanners should consider before they head out on the wide-open road.
1. Practice how to tow
Towing a van for the first time can be challenging. If you’re a first-time caravan owner, we advise hooking up your van and doing some practice drives so you can get familiar with the feeling of towing a vehicle. It will also help you to develop skills like reversing and driving in different conditions.
Even with a few practice runs up your sleeve, we recommend hitting the road early for your first trip. This means there will be less traffic to worry about, but you will be able to take your time and get to know the van and how it tows.
2. Make sure you have the right tow vehicle
One thing that caravanning newbies sometimes forget to check is that they have a vehicle that can tow a caravan. Each car has a maximum towing capacity that should not be exceeded. This capacity should be listed in your manual and will help you figure out if your vehicle can tow your van. Here is a great article to help you understand weights of your RV, which will help you figure out the total weight of your van to ensure you remain compliant.
Once you have the correct tow vehicle, it is also important to check your van is correctly coupled to your tow vehicle. This means the safety chain is fitted and brake lights, taillights and clearance lights are all working.
3. Create a travel check list
Collate a checklist of everything you might need to take on the trip. Obviously, each traveller will be different, so here are some of the categories we would start with when creating your list:
We would also make sure to add manuals for your van, car and any electrical appliances like fridges on your check list, so if anything goes wrong while you’re away you have everything you need to help you.
4. Plan, plan and plan
While we’re all about spontaneous road trips we recommend planning ahead for your first trip. This will avoid the awkward arrival at a campground only to find it is booked out, or operates on a first in basis so you should have arrived a few hours before you did.
Research your ideal destination before you head off and check things like peak times, weather and any events that might be happening, so you are well prepared in advance.
By planning, you can also make sure you have time to get your car and caravan serviced to avoid any issues while on the road.
Be sure to pack your van well in advance of your trip, using your travel checklist. This helps prevent leaving out any essentials.
5. Work on your set up/pack down routine
One of the most challenging things for first time caravanners is the set-up and pack down routine, particularly if you’re travelling with children. However, when you finally get it down pat it is incredibly satisfying.
While practice makes perfect, we recommend doing a full test run of your pack down and set up routine before you head off on your first trip, including your caravan, awning and any tents you will be taking. This will also help you identify anything that might need to be repaired including broken tent poles or holes in the awning.
6. Treat your van as an extension of your home
Your caravan really is your home on wheels, so you should treat it like one. This means making sure your van is well maintained and serviced, stored correctly and given a clean out after each trip to avoid any mould or insect damage occurring. We have a blog post with some tips to storing your vehicle, which includes things like taking out all food (particularly if you have a big gap between trips)
We also recommend checking your van over mechanically after each trip, taking careful notice of worn tyres, tyre pressure and your brakes. For more advice on caravan tyre maintenance, check out our blog post.