Travelling in small campervan with a baby can totally be done but requires a bit of practicalities as well as a slight change in travelling style. This post gives some tips and tricks on how to make it work.
First thing is to plan an itinerary which is doable. On previous trips without a baby we used to travel far, so driving quite a lot and mostly using France Passion. With a baby, the number of hours driving per day is quite limited. We were told a guideline for the baby sitting in a baby chair without any breaks was 1 hour per year old. Furthermore, driving during baby’s nap times makes it more smooth (less crying). Trust me, it is no fun being far from the destination with a screaming baby! So what we did on our last big trip (with a 6 months old) was me driving down to Italy while baby and her mother took the plane to Rome.
For campsites we found that a combination of regular camping sites and France Passion worked really well. France Passion was fine for a night or two but then we combined it with staying at a regular campsite for some days. Not only for doing the laundry – which the baby generates of lot of – but also in order to reduce the practical work involved in moving every day (packing, driving, unpacking, etc.).
Furthermore staying several days at one site gave some continuity and a chance to relax a bit more. However, in general camping with a baby, you should probably prepare for less relaxation… At least that was definitely our experience in particular apparent when staying at a regular campsite; while everyone else was sitting enjoying a nice cold drink in the sun, we were often busy with some kind of practicality (preparing baby food, getting baby to sleep or eat or doing laundry).
Being use to travel off-the-beaten track using France Passion or wild-camping, it did require a bit of research finding nice (read small, simple and with a good atmosphere) camping sites. However both in France and Italy we found quite a few great places. Kokopelli Campsite in Abruzzo was one of these.
Another thing to be aware of camping with a baby is the changing sleeping patterns depending on temperatures! We found that during a very hot June in South France, the camper was warm doing the evening and for that reason the baby’s sleeping time got quite late. In return, she woke up early… as the van quickly got very warm in the morning (reaching almost 30 degrees before 9 am). So sleeping can be a bit tough (or even tougher) when travelling with a baby during the summer season in Europe.
Below list summaries some of the baby gear we found useful:
- Bathtub is kind of a necessity especially when not camping at regular camping sites only. An inflatable one with low water capacity is perfect when travelling in a small van.
- Sun screen with high UV protection as well as a UV protective cover or umbrella. We travelled with a ½ year old baby and even though we tried our best it was really difficult to provide sufficient shade during the day.
- If your van doesn’t have build-in aircondition consider getting one if you can fit it in. We found it really useful travelling with a baby. We bought a quite neat portable one with low power consumption (so for limited periods it could also be run on the leisure battery! However during the very warm period as described above it had to be plugged into external main electricity)
- An obvious thing is the baby seat. The reason why I mention it anyway is finding a good one that fits into an old car using the two-point seat belt turned out not to be that easy!
- A good 12v fan you can attach to the baby seat so driving doesn’t get too hot. We found that these seats are not ventilating that well so with a baby tucked down into it, it quickly becomes very warm.
- A campervan side tent is really useful for days with rain! This is critical with a baby needing the space to crawl around etc.
- A few other things we found useful were mosquito net, a bug spray for babies and a good big water repellent blanket for outside.
Now, I don’t hope the above sounded like it was only hard work travelling with a baby. We had a wonderful time with lots of good memories. It was just in a slightly different pace.