13/12/2012
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Caravanning tips guide

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Over 100 tips to make your life of caravanning even more enjoyable! Scroll down or click a category...

General
Entertainment and communication
Navigation
Safety and security
Kitchen and cooking
Environment
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General

Gas safety
Never store a cylinder of gas on its side. There must be a gap between the LPG and the valve. If there isn’t and liquid escapes it immediately expands to about 200 times its volume, e.g. 1cc of liquid becomes 200cc of vapour.

Shake it up
Fire extinguishers in caravans are almost always powder type. Therefore give it a good shake each week to prevent the powder becoming solid. Bear in mind that they only give a few seconds discharge, so it’s wise to also have a fire blanket, too.

Listen to the experts
Not only do the older generation of caravanners have plenty of advice and help to give, they also have some incredible stories to tell as well.

Road to recovery
If you belong to a car recovery scheme check that they will recover your caravan if it breaks down (or loses a wheel, for example). Many will only recover a caravan as part of recovering a broken down car, and some may not recover a caravan at all. If you have any doubts, become a member of one of the two major clubs and join its dedicated recovery scheme.

Don't be afraid to ask for advice
Whether you ask other caravanners on-site, send us an email or post on our forums, other people's experience is invaluable to helping you on your way.

Pocket interpreter
When travelling abroad, if you aren’t confident speaking the native tongue, invest in an electronic language interpreter. You type in a word in English and the machine instantly works out a Spanish, French, German or whatever equivalent.

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Mirror manoeuvres
If you have to correct the outfit when reversing, look in your towing mirrors and turn the wheel towards the one in which you can see the side of the caravan. This will correct the situation.

Strike camp early
When using an awning, take it down the evening before you leave the site. Even on a summer’s morning there is a risk of early morning damp, which can damage the awning fabric if it is packed away before it is thoroughly dry.

Be a barrow boy (or girl)
Instead of lugging heavy objects around, take a small folding sack barrow and save your back.

Use your head
A head torch is useful if you need to change a wheel at night. The latest LED versions are cheap, incredibly bright and very efficient when it comes to batteries.

Make a list, check it twice
Always use a checklist before you go so that you don't forget anything, especially when travelling abroad.

Air con on the cheap
Your Truma blown air heating system is an effective way of cooling the caravan in hot weather. The fan alone will efficiently move air around the interior. Reverse the direction of the extractor fan and that will also ‘suck in’ cooler air.

Caravan first aid kit
Don’t leave home without WD40, Milton fluid, a reliable torch, spare fuses, adjustable spanner and two screwdrivers.

Customise your carpets
Don’t like the fixed carpet in your second hand caravan? Fitting a weave of your choice is easy and cheap using main carpet suppliers’ off cut rolls. Many are of a quality you’d find in a mansion.




Manage your risk
Insurance is good but over-insuring is money down the drain. Check certain aspects of caravan insurance aren’t already covered on home or other policies you have and don’t duplicate.

Break the mould
Before winter storage, flush the toilet and rinse the tank with Milton Fluid to stop black mould forming in the tank.

Black out the dawn chorus
Tubular pipe lagging (available from all DIY shops) attached to the bottom of blinds eliminates all light, stopping excited kids waking with the 4am summer sun.

Spare yourself
It’s expensive, but if you holiday abroad, carry what spares you can afford. A water pump and kitchen taps are favourites. Pricey it may be... Until one fails on your first day in the Dordogne.

Born slippy?
Swimming pool tape – a black non-slip grip tape – can be bought on the roll in most DIY stores. It’s ideal for giving plastic entrance steps, or bunk bed ladder steps, a grippy surface.

It’s a gas
If you are using butane gas and the air temperature drops below 1ºC (34ºF) the butane will not turn into a gas. To get it to do so, shake the cylinder. Better still, use propane all year round.
 

-- Find your perfect caravan for sale --


Smooth operator
If you intend using an awning, spray the awning channel with a polish containing silicone to make it easier to pull the awning through.

Brake away
If you have to push the outfit off a boggy pitch, push the car not the caravan. Pushing the caravan towards the car applies the caravan brakes. Doh!

On the level
Forgotten your spirit level again? The solution is simple if you’re travelling with kids. Simply steal one of their balls (football, tennis or whatever) and place it in the middle of your dining table. Note the direction of travel and adjust the chocks accordingly.

Something familiar
Get to know your dearler – they'll be more than happy to chat and you'll get a better idea about how they can help you with any caravanning need that you come up with.

Look on your doorstep
Holidays in the UK are easy to enjoy, as there's so much to see and do that you may not realise. Find some of the best that the UK has to offer, here.

Get it taped
When you fit the numberplate to the van, use double-sided number plate tape down each edge but not along the top and the bottom. It helps prevent the build-up of dirt and grime behind the number plate.

Slope off
If you are pitching on a sloping pitch, always park with the van facing down the slope. It makes it easier to pull off the pitch at the end of your stay.

Alternative awning
The new generation of lightweight awnings are easy to erect and offer good value for money, but if you’re only an occasional caravanner, why not just take your garden gazebo? These can be pitched next to the caravanvan in a matter of minutes and if you don’t have one already – they can be picked up for as little as £15.

 

-- Read our ultimate awnings guide --

 


Switch your supplier
Consider switching to composite BP Gas Light gas cylinders. There’s a marginal increase in cost, but they could bring your noseweight into line and save your back.

Solar flair
As well as illuminating your pitch during the evening, solar lights can double up as night lights to gently illuminate a caravan washroom, or children’s sleeping quarters without drawing on the electrical supply.

Hammer it home
If you’re towing down to southern Europe for summer, don’t rely on a lightweight mallet to drive in awning pegs – you’ll need something more substantial to get through the hard-baked ground.

Get tooled up
Shops like Machine Mart, Argos, etc will sell you a handy household tool set containing all the tools you’ll ever need for under £20. Stash one in your caravan and you’ll be Mr Popular on-site. It’ll make blagging beer and burgers much easier later on, too...

Be prepared
Carry a set of battery leads and a strong towrope. Then, if your car battery goes flat or you need a tow, you have all the equipment necessary to enable someone else to help you. And of course, you can also be a good samaritan to anyone else in trouble.

Rope trick
A word of warning about towropes. The ones you buy from motorists’ shops are intended for towing vehicles on Tarmac surfaces such as roads. They are not intended to pull cars and caravans off boggy ground. So, if you do have to use a towrope in these conditions, make sure everyone stands well clear because if the rope does break, it could cause a serious injury. The flat braided-type have the highest strength rating.

Like long showers?
Splash out on a second water carrier and double what’s immediately available. It's you’re on holiday, so take your time…

 

-- Get advice from handy caravan reviews --

 


Don't get baffled by insurance
Find out how to get the best deals with these secrets of caravan insurance or read some of the most unusual insurance claims we've heard.

Copy your documents
If you’re going away on holiday – especially if you are travelling on the continent – hide photocopies of your debit and credit cards, passports, and full driving licence, etc in the van.  Then if the worst happens you can use the photocopies to help obtain replacements.

Glow in the dark
Avoid grovelling around in the gloom when downing steadies in the evening twilight. Just paint the steady winder nuts with fluorescent paint.

Down steadies
Buy a cheap cordless drill especially for caravanning. Apart from the obvious drilling and screwdriving functions, it can also be used to wind down corner steadies. At a push, you can also use it with a long masonry bit to drill holes in the hard ground ready for windbreak poles. Make sure it’s charged before you leave home.

Stow it in the car
Remember, taking a boxful of kit out of the caravan has double the positive offset weight by adding weight to the towcar. You’ll have a better drive too.

 

-- Check your weights with the Towmatch tool --

 

Spruce up
If you’ve got your clothes oily changing a wheel, or doing some other maintenance, you can clean them with margarine and washing up liquid. Rub the margarine well into the grease spots on clothes first, then rub the washing up liquid in. Then rinse your treated clothes as normal.

Dirty or oily hands?
No problem, just wash your hands in washing up liquid and sugar. Don’t wet it and the abrasive action of the paste will get the dirt out of the grooves in your skin. Once clean, simply rinse the mixture off (the sugar will dissolve).

Reverse to the right
Always try to reverse your caravan to the right. This way you’ll be able to see what the unit is doing through the driver’s window without having to rely on mirrors, or your long-suffering partner. If you need help though, be sure to ask for it!

Watch your back
Most common caravan damage? Rear corners. Remember the back of the van will kick out during sharp turning manoeuvres. If you’re unsure, get someone to watch your back.

Do your research
Get the best deal by searching as many sources as possible. Check out our caravan accessories section for some great gear, too.

Think before you buy
Like your new caravan, sir? You’ll need an awning to go with it. Not necessarily true. A modern, quick pop-up porch awning for muddy boots may suffice.

Try something new
Caravanning lends itself to more than just relaxation and exploration. Try photography to take brilliant snaps of your time away, for example. Or even naturism!

Milton cleans
Hate chemical smells? Milton fluid disinfects, bleaches and protects without the horrible honk.

Keep taking the tablets
If you are on permanent medication, ask your doctor or chemist to provide you with a list of the medicines. Should the Customs decide to search the caravan and find the medication you can prove that you are legally entitled to have them. Also, if you need to obtain further supplies when abroad, the local chemist will be able to identify the medicine.

Top

Entertainment and communicationApple Mac iPhone FaceTime

Always take a laptop
Not only does it allow you to stay in touch via email at wi-fi hotspots, but you can download pictures from a digital camera, watch DVDs and even check availability and book your next site online.

Don't worry, be appy
Got a smartphone? Keep up to date with friends, family and Caravan mag on Facebook and Twitter.

Register with an internet telephone service
Stay in touch with friends and family with free Voice Over Internet (VOIP) calls – much cheaper than using the mobile and especially handy if you’re travelling in Europe. Search for Skype or use Apple's FaceTime. Plenty of other options are available too.

Stay on sites with wireless broadband
More and more sites are setting up wi-fi hotspots – either in their bars or cafes – or increasingly across the entire site both here and abroad. Buy a wireless access card and you can surf away in the privacy of your caravan for just a couple of quid a day.

Get to events
Shows and events are the best place to meet likeminded caravanners and top industry figures. You shouldn't miss out.

Email alerts
Get free alerts from your internet provider (BT) sent to your phone/PDA to tell you whether important emails (i.e. from friends and family) have arrived. If it’s anything really important then find an internet cafe (or use your wi-fi enabled laptop) and surf for 10 minutes to get all the gossip.

Read Caravan on the move
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Two for the price of one
Buy a 12V socket dual adaptor for under £10 from Halfords or your local caravan specialist. Charge your phone and your sat-nav at the same time from one 12V socket in your car or caravan.

Walk the talk
If you’re thinking of taking the kids to a big commercial site covering several acres, consider investing in a pair of compact two-way ‘walky-talky’ radios. Cheaper than using mobile phone messages, they also offer peace of mind if the children are playing out of sight. Radios with a two-mile working range start at less than £20. Be warned, though, they also work for stray husbands who get ‘unavoidably detained’ by fishing, golf or the local…

Digital radio
Modern DAB radios self-tune and give a crystal-clear hiss-free sound. They also display the station that’s playing. Perfect information for a perfect listening experience.

Find a wireless hotspot
If your laptop has wi-fi capability, check on the web to find the hotspots in the area you will be staying in before leaving home. Log onto myhotspots.co.uk

Ditch the discs
If you’re going on a long holiday, you like your music and you’ve somehow allowed the digital music players to pass you by, take a look at what it could do for you. For little cash you can put your entire CD collection in a box barely bigger than a cigarette lighter.
 

-- More tips and tricks, every month --


Put yourself in the picture
Tiny, and available on the cheap from PC World or similar, a webcam with a built-in microphone is ideal for keeping in touch with family and friends when you’re on the move.

Speaker’s corner
Portable speakers for your iPod are a great investment. That way you’ve got your favourite music whether you’re in your caravan or out walking the dog. You can spend as little or as much as you like for varying levels of sound quality.

Don’t forget your USB lead
Whether it's for music, downloading pics and vids or charging your devices, you'll kick yourself if you leave it at home.

Get flattened
Flatscreen TVs can be run on both 12V and 240V and save both weight and space. Buy one with a built-in Freeview box and you’ll save even more room, as well as saving payload.

Stay entertained
Can't get out on-site? Keep yourself amused with our Caravan TV channel in the meantime.

Do take a screen break
While technology is incredible, make sure you don't stay glued to a screen for the whole holiday. Get outside or if the weather is terrible (or if you just can't get the kids off their devices), find another way of beating the smartphone blues.

Top

Navigation

Plan your route properly
Make the most of technology and save yourself a pain in the backside. Not only can you use a traditional map before you leave, but look online at Google Earth or similar and you can use Street View to see exactly what the entrance to the site looks like, for example. This will save you shooting straight past it, arguing with your partner and then having to find somewhere to awkwardly turn around as you've got no idea where the next roundabout it. Easy solution!

A site for sore eyes
Find the perfect pitch with Campsite Finder.

Save on sat-nav
If you’ve got a Smartphone or PDA (personal digital assistant), don’t splash out on a costly sat-nav system. You can buy GPS options for most devices, allowing you to turn yours into a hand-held sat-nav system.

Don’t ditch the roadmap
Sat-nav isn’t infallible and some units can lead you, quite literally, down a blind alley. There have even been news stories in recent years of people getting into real trouble because of blindly following an electronic device. So for these occasions, it really is worthwhile holding onto your old roadmap just in case.

Be considerate
Face it – caravans are unpopular with some fellow road-users. Don’t compound the situation with poor roadcraft on the highway. Check your lights before every journey and avoid dawdling along while you admire the scenery on country roads where it’s difficult to overtake. If a queue builds up behind you on a single lane road, when it’s safe to do so, pull over and let faster vehicles pass. Unless it’s vital, avoid travelling during the morning or evening rush hours.

Top

Safety and security

Don’t overload your towcar
When fully laden, your caravan and its payload should never weigh more than your towcar and, ideally, shouldn’t exceed 85% of your car’s kerbweight – particularly if you’re new to towing. Put bluntly, if you currently drive a Ford Fiesta, don’t attempt to tow a large twin-axle tourer with it. For more details on safely matching your towcar to your caravan, take a look at Towmatch.

Alarming stuff
If the caravan is fitted with an alarm, don’t put any of the manufacturer’s identifying labels anywhere the thief can see them. The less he knows about the caravan’s security systems, the more difficult it will be for him to overcome them.

Light the fuse
Spotting blown blade-type fuses in a 12V fusebox can be tedious process involving removing each one individually and holding it up to the light. Replace your fuses with the ‘glow-when-blown’ variety and it will be easy to spot the offender – the blown fuse will be lit.

Foil the thieves
If you store your van on your driveway, cover up the wheel clamp so that any would-be thief can’t identify it. Also consider removing the jockey wheel and road wheels.

Pay attention to payload
Know what your caravan is legally able to carry (user payload) and don’t exceed it. It’s also important to load the caravan evenly, placing heavy items as low down and near to the caravan axle as possible.
 

-- Five essential security accessories --



Floor the thieves
Cut out a section of chipboard that matches your caravan’s veneer and slot it behind the lip in one of your caravan’s oddments shelves to form a false floor. This then forms a handy ‘safe’ for thin valuables such as credit cards or currency, which can be slid between the two. Thieves are unlikely to find them easily.

Fit a tracking device
They have an almost 100% recovery record and they are getting cheaper all the time. If you have a twin-axle caravan, you may struggle to insure it without fitting such a device and you should significantly reduce your annual insurance premiums.

Take a towing course
If you’re new to towing, it’s worth taking one of the main clubs' towing courses. These will improve your all-round towing knowledge and technique, increase your confidence on the road and on-site. It'll make for an altogether more relaxed touring experience. If you passed your driving test after 1997, you should also consider a B+E test.

Check your tyres
Caravan tyres do a relatively low mileage and should last a few years. However, the rubber still degrades over time and it’s advisable to check your tyres at the start of each new season for signs of deterioration. Equally, make sure the pressures are correct.

Top

Kitchen and cooking

Become a BBQ maestro
Used properly, barbecues are capable of cooking much more than steaks and sausages. Use them to steam or smoke, bake or cook as a conventional oven rather than sticking with the traditional flame-grilled approach.

Steaming ahead
People spend a fortune on different pots and pans, but when camping alone it’s worth taking a metal steamer. It doubles as a saucepan, and you can healthily cook fish, meat and vegetables in double quick time without using more than one hob. And it saves on the washing up!

Roast without an oven
Fancy roast chicken but your van has no oven? Buy a fresh chicken, cut out the backbone, flatten it and skewer it, and you can then barbeque the whole thing wrapped in foil. A large chicken ‘spatchcocked’ like this will cook in just 45 minutes.

Develop a dedicated caravan catering kit
Instead of packing all your pans, crockery, cutlery and other cooking and catering equipment each time you go away, buy the basics from an accessory store and keep it packaged up in big plastic boxes. Then it’s simply a case of loading the boxes up and off you go!

Protect your pots and pans
A paper plate placed in non-stick frying pans during transit prevents abrasion from other pots and pans placed on top.

Put it in a sock
No – we didn’t get the heading wrong. If the fridge is full and you want to cool a can quickly, soak a thick sock in water, insert the can and hang it out in the breeze. The latent heat of evaporation will cool the can in just a few minutes.
 

-- Try these six great Rivron recipes --

 

Don’t get in a pickle
Store condiments, sauces and pickles in their own sealed plastic containers while on the road. A ketchup bottle escaping from an overhead cabinet and exploding in transit can create a real mess and is the last thing you want to deal with after a long trip to your holiday destination.

Kettle and vinegar?
The best thing for cleaning limescale off a kettle is to boil some vinegar in it. Any vinegar will do (the clear variety works best) but be warned that you will need to boil several rounds of water to clear the acidic fumes. Use your home hob or leave all your vans windows open.

Boiling point
Take a low-wattage electric kettle – it’s more efficient than boiling water on the gas hob.

Fresher fridge
Keep a tub of baking soda in your fridge (with holes pierced in the lid) when it’s not it use to keep it smelling fresh.

Keep cool
Caravan fridges are getting bigger, but there’s still never enough space a lot of the time to store food and drink for a family of four. Portable fridges are becoming cheaper and more readily available. We’d recommend buying one just for drinks (for beers and wine in particular), leaving the caravan fridge free for food.

Top

Environment

Two wheels good
Take your bikes to get around once you’ve pitched up. You’ll save fuel, see more wildlife and do your bit to combat global warming. If possible, carry the bikes on the car to avoid overloading the caravan. Roof or rear mounted cycles destroy aerodynamics and increase fuel usage. For a map of cycle routes near your holiday destination, log onto sustrans.org.uk

Stick to the speed limit
Observing the speed limit and avoiding harsh acceleration will maximize your fuel consumption (and keep you the right side of the law), with or without the caravan attached. Remember, the towing limit on motorways and dual carriageways is 60mph and 50mph on single carriageway roads unless otherwise stated.

Best of British
There are a few companies and associations that look after our country and ensure that everything incredible is protected and preserved. Here are a few examples of the best that Britain has to offer.

Dress down
When packing clothes for the holiday, lie them out on the bed then try to reduce the amount by half. How many times have you returned home having worn only a fraction of the outfits in your suitcase? Don’t worry, you’ll cope; the caravan will be lighter and you’ll have less washing and unpacking to do when you get home.

Walk this way
Look for sites where all the essential amenities are within walking distance of your pitch. The less you use your car while on holiday, the more relaxing the whole experience will be. It’ll also reduce your carbon footprint and keep you fit. The latest research suggests that just 30 minutes of moderately paced walking a day will keep you in shape – walk to the local shop for the papers and morning groceries, do the recycling, and you’re there. If you're really against the health benefits then walk to the pub. Cheers!

Reduce, re-use, recycle
Instead of provisioning up like a cruise ship about to set off around the world, buy only what you need, locally, while on holiday and you’re already halfway there. Fresh produce bought from local suppliers is less likely to feature excessive packaging, so there’s less to discard. Many sites now have recycling facilities on-site and in rural areas, the local pub or village shop will often have a recycling centre attached.

Look ahead
Try to anticipate slowing traffic. Keeping a heavy outfit moving instead of heavy breaking and acceleration greatly reduces fuel consumption.

Blinding!
Holidaying abroad? Keep the blinds shut and windows open during the day to keep the caravan as cool as possible. Caravan insulation is now so good it can take ages to cool a very hot interior down.

Heat electric
Do you really need to use gas for heating? In spring and autumn, the mains electricity setting on your heater should provide sufficient output.

De-clutter your caravan
If you don’t use it – junk it. Never used the side pullman bunk in two years? Then take it out. It’ll up the potential payload, increase mpg and is easily put back when you sell. Even consider burning the bed chest.

Shop locally
Instead of stocking up the caravan with supermarket staples before setting off, just buy the basics and then sample some local produce once you arrive. This will save petrol en route and give the local economy a boost.

Lighting up
Firms like Maplins will sell you a motion-detecting sensor that can easily be hard-wired into your 12V system. Walk into your caravan at night and your lights will automatically switch on. It will also save energy by only using power when it’s needed.

 

 


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