This is our 100th blog post. We thought it appropriate and right that we should mark this emotionally-charged blogging moment by passing on some vitally useful and little-known-outside-the-world-of-long-term-campervanners information.
Here are our TOP 10 PRACTICAL TIPS for travelling with many related people in a campervan.
1. Label all plugs
It may sound a teeny weeny bit anal to put this first on the list, but these little white nuggets become very, very valuable. Label them. Guard them. Make sure you have plenty, hide some spares, and either agree to guard your own, or have a central bag/box where they always go. If a communal area is used, make sure that there is a very serious and very painful penalty for not putting them there.
By plugs we’re including mains adapters for different countries, iPad/other adapters, and all connecting cables. Also earphones.
2. Take/buy a beanbag lap tray
When lots of people are trying to do maths or French, or plan routes or study or write lesson plans or design outfits, or even just eat or have a cup of tea – it’s a huge bonus having an extra flat space. If that space is moveable and can be used in the passenger seat, outside etc all the better.
3. LED lighting
(Note our posh neighbours). We were a little late in the day working this out – or at least doing anything about it – but LED lighting makes a MASSIVE difference to power consumption. And if you are off grid that becomes important unless you want to eat your dinner in the dark. It was cozy and romantic the first 5 times using candles.
En route we ordered LED light strips from eBay – 5 metres worth with fixings and connectors – for 30€, which was enough for the whole van.
4. Fit an inverter (if you don’t already have one fitted)
We fitted an inverter before we left on our travels. That’s the magic box that converts 12v power into 240v so you can plug in/charge appliances/computers etc. Essential. The box itself makes for a tiny bit boring a picture, so I have posted a picture of elephants. Also, fit no bigger than a 500W inverter – a waste because your 12v batteries can’t generate that amount of power without going flat quickly.
5. Everyone has their own cupboard
We did this right at the beginning. Our year “together” began by dividing out territory. We told the kids they could fill it with what they liked, so long as it wasn’t living. The 47 stick insects failed that test and had to stay at home.
It has turned out to be a wise move to have a cupboard each. Everyone is a bit precious about their cupboard. But it has maintained sanity in an environment where you can continue a conversation when you pee, and you can pivot and reach for anything, anywhere, without even committing a basketball foul.
I was thinking about planting flowers and fitting mood lighting in mine, were it a little bigger. And I might for any future trip fill mine with enough hair dye to last the entire journey. It’s not easy finding the right colour sometimes….
One day I will grow grey gracefully, but not for a while yet. It’s ironic that I cried because of my red hair when I was young, and I am now artificially maintaining it, sometimes going to extreme lengths to barter for and explain in ridiculous gestures and hand signs that the world would be a happier place if only I could have something to colour my roots. One day I may move into course book writing for learners of English as a second language – and THAT will be on page 1.
We also all know that anything new going into our cupboard basically means something out. Katie has had the biggest problem with this because on a fairly regular basis she converts rubbish ie cardboard boxes and toilet roll tubes into Barbie showers, wardrobes etc, and she collects an unusually large number of stones/shells for a small person.
6. Go somewhere warm with children
It’s not necessary of course, but you will have an enormous extra outdoor space if you do. And packing (for us, 5) thick coats and boots (10, and huge teenage ones at that) takes up a LOT of space, which you don’t have. Our trip suddenly turned from heading North to heading South into Morocco in January because, partly, we were frozen in T-shirts.
We have actually got space for the odd jumper, and work clothes, but 4 seasons worth of outfits would have meant jettisoning a child. That’s perhaps an option in some cases you might not want to dismiss too lightly.
I was secretly relieved that I had the best excuse I’ve ever had to have terrible dress sense.
7. Go to the Loo when you Can!
Again this may sound a bit anal – 😉 – but just do the maths for a second. Five loo trips, a couple of times a day. It’s the difference between spending your whole trip finding loo-emptying stations, and not. And you will be amazed how you come to marvel at the occasional sparkly clean cafe toilet with foamy soap and a hot air dryer. It can form the basis of a lengthy family discussion of an evening.
8. Take duvets and not sleeping bags, and don’t scrimp on pillows
Again it’s ok for a few nights not being able to lift your knee up to sleep in the recovery position, but for a whole year? The duvets are cozy too for cold nights in the desert. Being comfy and cozy at night makes a big difference to humour, or lack of, during the day. We took an extra duvet cover for each duvet, an extra pillow slip for each pillow and an extra sheet for each bed – plenty for a changeover, and not too much extra to carry.
On the laundry front, we also all have a microfibre towel which dries super fast and doesn’t take up much space, with a few extras as spares. And Katie and I have the best thing ever for long hair – 99p from the 99p shop in the UK – a mini microfibre wrappy thing for your head with a button fastening at the back.
9. Tips 9 and 10 will be published along with the 200th blog post.
A big thank you for following our journey so far with us, and for patiently persevering, and returning, for tips about pillow slips, remote parking areas, and how to make fire from donkey poo. xxx
“Little things make big things happen” [not sure who said that]
Post Script Apology
Sorry, Neil, for replacing a picture of your inverter with an elephant. Inverters are not boring.