Ten things no one tells you about travelling with kids in a campervan


Since we can’t fly anywhere, a lot of families will be taking the pandemic as an opportunity to explore their own backyard and maybe even tour New Zealand in a campervan.

It’s a genius idea, taking advantage of being stuck in the most beautiful country on Earth, by touring it under our own terms, stopping to take in the views and enjoy Aotearoa’s best spots.

But while #vanlife is a pretty inspirational hashtag to follow on Instagram, when it comes to hitting the road with little ones, things get slightly more complex.

There is plenty of advice online about what to do and what not to do as well as the best spots to include in your trip – but here are some things I’ve learnt recently that I thought were worth sharing before you get the kids to the big rented house on wheels.

1. However big a camper van you think you need, hire a bigger one.

For small people, kids have an awful amount of stuff – and that stuff piled up inside a small vehicle with limited storage options looks even bigger.

2. Get some good road trip games going.

In many camper vans, especially the bigger ones, the seats are quite far from each other, which isn’t very conducive to conversation. Kids will often need to entertain themselves to pass the time on the road so make sure you pack some road-friendly games so you don’t end up losing your voice because you spent two hours shouting “I spy”.

Touring the country with the kids this year? Read this first. Photo / 123rf
Touring the country with the kids this year? Read this first. Photo / 123rf

3. Check all the buttons and switches, all the time

Regularly check that your child hasn’t turned off the campervan fridge, especially if you’re looking forward to that cold beer at the end of your day’s journey. We learnt the hard way that those switches, in some vans, are toddler-height.

4. Pack some fairy lights

It makes the campervan look all whimsical and cute and Instagrammy when you’re sitting there drinking lukewarm wine from a plastic cup, wondering why you signed up for this in the first place.

5. Remember rubbish bags

However many you think you need to pack, pack double. No, make that triple.

6. Hire a child’s seat

Instead of transferring your child’s car seat from your car to the hired van, pay extra to hire a seat from them. You’ll have plenty of hassle as it is, so trust me on this one.

7.Wipes! You don’t have enough wipes!

Seriously, pack some more wipes.

8. Be prepared not to drive very far some days

Remember it’s not about the journey … sometimes it’s very much about getting the journey over and done with as soon as you can.

9. Small snacks go a long way

Meals mean doing loads of dishes and, of all the wonderful things that can be said for campervans, no one has actually uttered the words “wow, I love doing dishes in this tiny sink in this tiny kitchen with this extremely limited supply of water”. You deserve better. Pack a ton of snacks – just remember they don’t all have to be junk, or you’ll pay the price for keeping your kids on a constant sugar high.

10. No shame in the motel game

If all else fails and you decide you just can’t bear the thought of putting everything away so you can construct the beds at the end of the day, remember there is no shame in parking the campervan outside a nice motel room, especially one with a comfortable bed, a full bathroom, and a fridge that hasn’t been turned off in a while.

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