Our first campervan trip and what we learned

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When I wrote my unique staycation locations post in the summer of 2020 amidst the first pandemic lockdown, I had put down going on a campervan trip as one of the unique ways to enjoy a break away.

Whilst camping in a tent has never ever appealed to me, the thought of hitting the road and enjoying some luxury of a campervan has. So, in October 2021, we finally took our first campervan trip!

A nighttime view of the campervan overlooking the coast
Nighttime view (Wales in the background!)

Camping and glamping saw a massive boost in 2021, and whilst it was still impacted by the pandemic, temporary changes to planning rules meant that people were able to ”pitch” in to the trend and set up temporary campsites which helped deal with the massive demand. Campsites had seen an increase in bookings of around 500% in 2021.

Of course, we could also see the appeal. Whilst I’ve always been a big fan of staycationing in the UK, we’ve always opted to stay at holiday cottages. A campervan trip provided us with the opportunity of self catering accommodation, freedom, nature and confidence with international travel still in doubt at the time.

Campervan Hire

We opted to hire a VW campervan for our trip from Campervan Hire Co. Based in Burnham on Sea they were ideally located for either continuing further on down into the South West or doing a small detour back up and heading in to Wales.

The VW T5 LWB we hired from Mel and Ian was fully equipped and a fine example of a campervan conversion. Everything is so thoughtfully designed with these with small space and storage in mind.

VW T5 LWB from the Campervan Hire Co
The T5 LWB looks and drives great! Perfect vanlife partner!

The beauty of this particular van from them, was it had heating! For our early Autumn campervan trip this was very appealing!

Helpfully, the insurance was all handled by Mel too meaning that you don’t have to worry about anything! We turned up, Mel showed us the van, how to put up the pop-top roof and we loaded our luggage and set off.

The VW T5 was incredibly easy to drive, much like a van or large car, it didn’t feel massive on small country lanes and I didn’t feel like I was driving a massive vehicle. This was hugely appealing to me, and as a diesel it still had a bit of grunt for getting up hills or cruising on the motorway.

I did feel slightly paranoid that the pop-top roof might fly open and stopped once on the way home to double check we had put it down correctly, but with driving and using it more you’d definitely get used to this!

Picking a location to park up!

After booking the van hire, there was a bit of research required to find the perfect place for us to take it! I knew I wanted coastal views and as it was our first trip, we definitely wanted to be well located to local amenities and for there to be facilities at the site. The T5 has solar power meaning we didn’t require electric hook-up, but did book a pitch with hook-up.

We were looking during the second week of October, which for many was toward the end of the season. This feeds in to my earlier comment about some campsites seeing their books filled, we avoided half-term so that we’d experience the campsite during a quieter time. The time of year we were looking did of course limit our choices but there was still plenty of options.

Damage Barton

We finally settled on continuing down to Devon or Cornwall and booked Damage Barton near Woollacombe. I did lots of stalking of people’s stays at various sites using tags on Instagram so that I could get an idea of what it might be like and what to expect from the venue etc.

Damage Barton offered everything we had been looking for from a site. There’s an onsite shop (although not as well stocked toward the end of the season) and on site showering and toilet facilities. It had the most amazing panoramic coastal views that looked out towards Wales. It was located within a short walk to the South West Coastpath which offered plenty of options in terms of routes and views!

The pitch sites were very generously sized on hardstanding. The large pitch size made the T5 seem tiny but gave us plenty of room to put up an awning (if we had one) or to put out the chairs and sit outside.

The pitch size also meant we didn’t feel crowded when our row was full.

Panoramic views from Damage Barton campsite, Devon
Hard standing, hook-up and panoramic views at Damage Barton, Devon

Damage Barton is dog friendly and what had finally sold it to me, cat friendly too! The van was also dog friendly (not sure about cat friendly I’d have to ask!). However, we opted not to take the animals with us. Had Kira been younger and more energetic she definitely would’ve joined us.

When it comes to picking where to park up there are plenty of sites where you can search. Dedicated campsites or like us, book direct.

Wild camping

Be mindful about “wild camping” whilst it sounds idyllic, it’s not always allowed everywhere. You must obtain permission and thoroughly research the location before parking up for the night. Remember, leave behind nothing and take all your litter home with you.

What to pack

We definitely overpacked! As Mel said, many often do the first time they go camping. With space being limited you do need to pack cleverly but also thoughtfully. With the van being so well-equipped including things such as pots and pans, crockery and camp chairs we didn’t need to pack these things, but I still managed to bring far too much!

We may have overpacked for our camping trip
It might not seem a lot, but when space is a premium, it’s important to pack cleverly!

So, what do you need?

  • Toiletries – solid shampoo, soap, sunscreen
  • Clothes – obviously! But pack for all weathers as you don’t know what you may face. Also, you may not have the ability to dry stuff if it gets wet, so bear this in mind.
  • Decent footware – again obvious but if you plan on walking lots take comfy boots!
  • Cleaning products – the van we hired did have some cleaning products but you will need washing liquid and perhaps some dettol wipes. Don’t forget the bin liners!
  • Bedding and blankets – blankets are perfect for cosying up outside of an evening.
  • Fun stuff – books, games (although the van did have some) we took the iPad and took advantage of the site wifi.
  • Food – we stopped at the supermarket on our way down to stock up for the weekend.

What to cook on your campervan trip

The campervan we hired was equipped with a gas stove only. We had to think tactfully about the food we would be eating during our break.

There was a mini fridge with plenty of room and we were lucky it was frosty overnight too. We made use of natures fridge!

I’d strongly advise thinking ahead of what you can cook so that you don’t buy food unnecessarily. We enjoyed a delicious fry up, spaghetti bolognese and we ordered a takeaway pizza from the Damage Barton shop.

Obviously you’re not going to be cooking a roast dinner but you can be very clever with what you cook. I’d even go as far as saying you could make homemade pasta! Yes, I would be that adventurous!

What to do on your campervan trip

What you get up to on your campervan trip is entirely up to you! We wanted to relax as well as enjoy walking the local area.

Whether you’re keen hikers, surf’s up, or enjoy sitting around the BBQ with your family a campervan trip offers you that flexibility.

Kim reading in the van
Enjoying a quiet moment to read one morning

We had originally planned to do one night at one campsite, then travel further down to another and do a second night there. However, ended up sticking with the one site which offered us everything we had wanted.

One of the walks we went on along the south west coast path
We enjoyed exploring a portion of the south west coastpath which was just a short walk from Damage Barton campsite.

If you want to plan an itinerary or play it by ear that’s entirely up to you! Of course, the time of year that you go on your trip will dictate what might or might not be open in terms of attractions or restaurants.

Is a campervan trip a cheap option?

Hiring the van, including all insurance, was £110 per night. This varies depending where you hire from or what you hire.

You do of course need to factor in fuel cost. Like hiring a car, the van was supplied with a full tank of fuel which we had to fill back up upon return. We spent an additional £55 on fuel and had used about half a tank of diesel for our trip.

Campsites vary in cost, we paid £45 for the two nights including electric hook-up. There are of course much cheaper options or more expensive. Campsite charges also differ, some will charge a flat-rate per pitch per night or some might charge pitch plus no of people. Temporary campsites might be a lot cheaper but you won’t have the facilities. This is all stuff you would need to research and consider.

You need to add on food costs whether you plan on eating in the entire time or going out to dinner.

Any other sundries such as attraction entry fees or activities you undertake. Or, if like me you bought a new duvet special!

What we learned

Going on a campervan trip was the best decision we made. We thoroughly enjoyed our short break away in the T5 and would most definitely do it again. We’ve even gone as far as looking at VW campers for sale with the possibility of buying one to fully embrace Vanlife!

South west coast path
We enjoyed beautiful coastal views on one of our walks from the campsite.

Duration

Should we hire again we would definitely book the van an extra day. With the two nights we did book, we only got one full day to explore the area. We had to be checked out by 10am from the campsite and the van needed to be returned at the same time we collected it (1pm). So we had to be on the road quite early on our 2nd day. I’d love to book the additional day to get two full days to explore more.

Pack less crap!

I’d definitely pack less! I took way more than I actually needed and knowing now what was included with the van, I know what I’d need for next time.

Additional costs

Fuel costs in particular! I underestimated how much extra we’d need to spend on fuel. This can’t be helped and if you plan on doing more travelling about than we had, obviously factor in your fuel costs. Especially with the cost of fuel these days!

Whatever the weather

We were exceptionally lucky with the weather. We were spoiled with beautiful sunshine, whilst the evenings did get cold and frosty, we loved cosying up in the evenings. Had it rained and been miserable, I doubt we’d have had as nice a time as we had.

I’d definitely take this into consideration when we book again. But of course, we all know you can’t predict the British weather! I guess this is what is great about having your own. You don’t need to hire or book you can just check the weather that weekend, pack up and bugger off!

Wrapping up warm for the sunset
Layers and chocolate! Oh and that all important cuppa whilst watching the sunset.

Be brave

I’d like to be more adventurous the next time. We chickened out booking a site with facilities and in a high tourist spot. Next time I’d like to go off the beaten track a bit more.

For example I’d love to do the North Coast 500 which I reckon would be amazing!

Conclusion

We would absolutely go on a campervan trip again. We had the most wonderful time even though we didn’t really do much. Going on a campervan trip offers so much flexibility, they are incredibly cleverly designed and a blast to drive.

I would most definitely embrace vanlife and at any time of year. Perhaps one day, I might even campervan abroad!

Peace out!

Jangles x

What we learned on a our first campervan vacation
What we learned on a our first campervan vacation. Pin me for later!



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2 thoughts on “Our first campervan trip and what we learned

  1. Rich Mander says:

    Nice blog! Time to invest in your own van. I think we were at DB at the same time as you. Our Hymer is 26 years old this year and still going strong. Off on our next trip to Dorset next week!

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