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Long-term Motorhoming with Children PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

Long-term Motorhoming with Children

Margaret & Barry Williamson
April 2012

Introduction

We have no personal experience of long-term travel with children, since the opportunity to travel came with early retirement. Indeed most long-term motorhomers are retired.

However,General_7.JPG we have met a very few families motorhoming with young children. Some years ago we befriended a couple with 2 pre-school boys, travelling in a Four Winds motorhome identical to ours at that time (photo on the left). They had rented their house out and spent a year touring Europe, returning to the UK in time for their older son to start school. Home schooling is the first obvious problem for the traveller with children.

Much of the following information emerged in a discussion with Graham on our present campsite, Camping Finikes in the southern Greek Peloponnese. Graham and Jacky and their 2 children, a girl aged 10 and a boy aged 13, have taken a year out to explore Europe along with a dog rescued in Sicily. We thank them for their help.

Schooling Use books and teaching material bought in advance from (for example) WH Smith. Also, a lot of information and material is available on the internet. It's essential to take one or two laptops and look for campsites with WiFi on a regular basis. Buying school books on the move via mail order (for example through Amazon) can be very expensive. Friends in the UK could obtain them but postage will be expensive and delivery sometimes uncertain!

Some parents may want to take the Key Stage books and other teaching aids, particularly if the children are being prepared for school exams on their return or moving up from primary to secondary levels.

Socialising Your children's loss of friends and interaction with their peer group at home should be taken seriously. It will be rare to meet other children to play with, except on campsites in school holidays, and they may not speak English. Older children can use email, text and Facebook to keep in touch with their friends. On returning to England, children may feel out of touch, not only with their friends but with current trends and fashions in music, games, TV programmes, sports and youth clubs, out-of-school classes and groups, etc.

Restricted movement Your walks or cycle rides will obviously be limited by the ability of the youngest child. You will also find it more difficult to go out in the evening, unless you give the children a late night. Campsites don't usually have any babysitting services and if there is a bar or restaurant, it will only be open in the main season.

Free Camping This is often possible, sometimes necessary, always a good money saver and quite enjoyable in the right location. However, with children there are more restrictions on their movement and yours, a greater emphasis on security and a greater need for water, electricity and dumping. On a campsite, there are large areas for children to play safely, perhaps to meet other children, take hot showers, use plenty of water, all with space to get out the chairs, table, bicycles, etc. Often a campsite has a children's playground, swimming pool or sports facilities

Illness Make sure you have an EHIC card for each child, as well as yourselves, and carry the usual range of remedies and a good first aid kit for childhood ailments. Don't forget junior travel sickness remedies, for the road and for ferries. Familiar brands may not be on sale abroad and you may not understand the dosage instructions. It would be a good idea to explore the cost and range of private health and travel insurance for the whole family.

Internet A laptop allowing access to the internet could be regarded as essential. WiFi is now widely available throughout Europe, in many campsites and cafes etc (including McDonalds); free or for a small charge. It's also relatively easy and inexpensive to buy a local SIM card to access the internet via a local mobile phone signal. A one-off monthly contract for the purchase of a fixed number of gigabytes is the way to go.

The internet obviously gives access to email, Skype, Voipwise, music, news, etc, as well as information to support the children's education. Use Google links to relevant travel information: other people's travel logs, maps, campsite lists, free camping places, etc.

The laptop also provides the means to keep a record of the journey (in text and images), a spreadsheet to track income and expenditure, and databases of personal and travel information. Most long-term travellers keep some kind of 'Blog' or website for friends and family to follow.

Bad weather Wherever you spend the winter, there will be periods of rain and wind. This year in Greece it was unusually wet throughout February. During bad weather, your world shrinks alarmingly and it's important to have plenty of material for learning and playing indoors. Favourite toys, Lego, jigsaws, drawing materials, board and card games are all important.

Remember, material in English will be difficult if not impossible to buy abroad. Books are a problem as they are heavy and take up space. Reading matter for adults is sometimes found on campsite swap-shelves, but rarely for children. Carry a few old favourites, a few new ones, and above all a Kindle (or similar e-book) which could be pre-loaded with some books before leaving the UK, perhaps from your library; others can be downloaded online.

Motorhome layout This is very important, and largest does not mean best! For example, our generously sized American motorhome is designed for a couple and would not be at all suitable for a family. The good old-fashioned C-class motorhome, with a bed in the overcab (Luton), would be best for a family.

You need a layout with a separate room at the rear, which will be the bedroom/ schoolroom/ playroom for your children. Don't choose one with bunk beds, as these are useless in the daytime. Nor do you want a model with a rear garage and a raised bed above it, leaving little headroom. If you carry bicycles (which you should), put these on a rear rack outside. The best arrangement is to have a settee down each side at the back (or a wrap-around U-shaped settee), with a table set down the middle. This arrangement can be converted to 2 single beds at night. This rear area will close off with a door or curtain to give mutual privacy.

The central area of the motorhome should contain the bathroom, wardrobe and kitchen. Towards the front is the dinette where you can eat or work without having to clear the rear table. Usually the cab seats swivel inwards so that they can also face the table. If the central and/or rear table is removable, it could also stand alone outside. We can't emphasise enough the need for a number of horizontal surfaces.

That leaves the bed in the overcab for Mum and Dad! Of course, the sleeping areas can be flexible. If one child or adult is ill, you can change round as required. Sometimes the dinette arrangement can also make another bed, if needed.

Make sure there are appropriate seatbelts for all the passengers: some motorhomes have fewer seatbelts than beds; some supply only lap belts for sideways-sitting passengers!

Payload With the extra weight of the children and all their accessories, do pay attention to the available payload of your motorhome. This can be remarkably little and the vehicle, as built, can already be near its Maximum Authorised Mass. Two adults, two children, the four liquid tanks full, clothes, books, toys, outdoor chairs, awning . . . it's a lot and perhaps too much. Even if you are within your legal mass, you will still be driving a vehicle carrying its maximum load all the time. Take it slowly downhill!

This is one of several reasons why we chose an American motorhome with its payload of two tons!

Conclusion

Having highlighted here the problems you may face, we don't want to sound too negative! Obviously we love this way of life, its constant stimulation and variety, and couldn't imagine a better way of living and travelling. We wish any family undertaking long-term travel the best of luck in the search for the right motorhome and the preparations for what will be a great adventure.

If you have experience of motorhoming with school-age children, please add to this article by Contacting Us