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Which is best? Caravan vs camper van

Which is best? Caravan vs camper van

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If you are new to touring holidays and are considering your options you may be wondering what’s better: a caravan or camper van? It’s a question we get asked a lot and having had both we feel we’re in a good position to answer the caravan vs camper van quandary.

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The thoughts of experienced caravanners on the caravan vs camper van debate and why we looked at all the options after selling our Tin Box #travel #campervan #camper #caravan #camping #travelblog #TinBoxTraveller #best #touring

Our journey: caravan or camper van

We decided to sell our caravan back in the summer of 2018, after two fantastic weeks of caravan holidays in Devon. It’s something that made us feel sad at the time and it still does.

Tin Box family and caravan - caravanning with a baby

We owned a caravan for six years. In fact Mr Tin Box and I bought a caravan together long before we got a mortgage! But despite still loving touring holidays, the caravan had to go.

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So why did we sell our caravan?

The reality was that Mr Tin Box’s job had been taking him away from home much more and I don’t have the right driving license to tow a large caravan. I’d also get stressed trying to setting it up on my own.

Tin Box at Crealy - Caravan vs Camper Van

This all hit home during the final week of our two week summer caravan holiday. This was the only time we’d used Tin Box in 2018, which was a real waste of a good van and all the money it took to insure it, store it and keep it road worthy.

We could either continue down that road of storing the van and not using it, or sell it and put the money to other use.

East Devon campsite - Manor Farm Caravan & Camping Site, Seaton Devon - Baby in awning

So, in the final days of our summer trip we decided it was time for Tin Box to go.

Thanks for the memories Tin Box

We have so many happy memories from our short breaks and caravan holidays. We’ve owned two caravans over the years: Tin Box 1, a Bailey Senator Arizona, and Tin Box 2, a VanMaster Applause.

Tin Box 1 took Tot out for her first caravan holiday when she was six weeks old. And Baby was just 13 days old when we bundled her up for her first weekend in Tin Box 2.

In our six years of caravan ownership we’d towed from Hampshire to Ayrshire and Devon to Norfolk. We’ve stayed at five star holiday parks, at a family festival, and in fields where the only facilities were a tap and waste point.

Each time hitching up felt exciting and pitching up marked the start of a few days or weeks of adventure. Even when the wind howled and the rain thundered down on our roof top we enjoyed the truly wonderful experience of being toasty warm in our home away from home.

Unlike our bricks and mortar home, the caravan was alway somewhere where life was simpler.

DIY jobs were few, there was always new adventures to be had close by and the evenings were often whiled away with a glass (or five of) something refreshing.

My only regret is that we didn’t get to do our European road trip that I’ve been lusting after. But that’s not to say it won’t happen in the future.

Caravan vs camper van?

So, what happened next? We knew we wanted to continue our touring holidays but with a more practical outfit for our situation.

Mr Tin Box and I have both said we will return to caravanning in the future because we love it. But was there something we could do in the meantime to scratch our touring itch?

Maybe a camper van?

OLPRO awning and VW T5 van on campsite pitch

If you’re wondering what actually classifies as a camper van then think of a converted van with a pop top bedroom. It’s not a motorhome or and RV, which are generally larger and taller vehicles.

I’m sure there’s a more technical explanation but you get the idea.

When it come to camper vans, I quite fancied something like these:


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In the end we opted for a VW T5 long wheel base day van and we are loving it!

Girl jumping out of the side of a stationary VW T5 van

The risk is that we may enjoy a camper van so much that the idea of getting another caravan goes out the window!

This got me thinking: what are the advantages and disadvantages of a caravan vs camper van? 

The thoughts of experienced caravanners on the caravan vs camper van debate and why we looked at all the options after selling our Tin Box #travel #campervan #camper #caravan #camping #travelblog #TinBoxTraveller #best #touring

Why we love touring holidays

Right off the bat both caravan and camper van holidays come with lots of  advantages:

  • The freedom of to stay in a variety of unique and special places
  • Being able to take a piece of home with you with plenty of familiar comforts
  • Open spaces and family friendly campsites where we can let the kids be kids
  • Low cost nightly accommodation fees (once you’ve made that all important capital investment).

The reasons why we love caravan and camping holidays are plenty!

Tin Box girls paddling in puddle at Scotts Haven - A caravan holiday in England - our family road trip itinerary

But what sets caravans and camper vans apart?

Here’s my thoughts on the pros and cons of caravans and camper vans, but I’d love to hear your thoughts too:

Caravan pros

  • Lots of living space 
  • Plenty of places to store your things
  • Modern heating for all seasons
  • Your own bathroom.

Caravan cons

  • To tow most modern caravans you need a *B1+E* drivers license if you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997
  • Caravan storage can be expensive if you can’t keep your caravan on your driveway
  • You need caravan insurance and to cover the costs of servicing
  • If you decide to catch a ferry to Europe the caravan will cost extra.

If you’re new to caravanning and are wondering what equipment you might need check out my caravan equipment checklist.

Camper van pros

  • Anyone who has passed their basic driving license can drive one
  • It counts as a single vehicle on ferry crossings
  • You can customise your camper van with the layout and equipment you need
  • You can use it as a everyday family vehicle
  • It could tow a caravan too.

Camper van cons

  • Unless you fit a toilet or get a toilet tent and portable loo, you can only stay on campsites with toilet blocks. And then there’s those unceremonious dashes across the field at night!
  • You have to pack up every time you want to drive out for a day or rely on local bus services
  • There’s less space for your holiday clobber, so a camper van awning is essential.

So far we are loving camper van life. Here’s some of the posts we’ve written since buying our day van that might help if you are thinking of getting a camper van too:

Where do you stand in the caravan vs camper van debate?

If you’d like to read more of our posts about caravan life and camping tips take a look at these:

Pin this post if you’re also in a campervan vs caravan quandary!

The thoughts of experienced caravanners on the caravan vs camper van debate and why we are looking at all the options after selling our Tin Box #caravan #caravanlife #campervan #familytravel #familytravelblog #holidays #UKholidays #travel

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Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays

Wednesday 12th of December 2018

First of all I’m gobsmacked that caravans have heating .... not in the 70s they didn’t! It would be the having to pack up every time you wanted an outing and the midnight pee that would push me toward a caravan but I will be interested to see how your camper van flirtation goes.


Friday 30th of November 2018

Goodness - wasn’t the news I was expecting!

I would be quite nervous driving a caravan I think! Though my dream is to rv round the us #fearlessfamtrav

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Monday 3rd of December 2018

LOL! My best attempt at clickbait :) The US RV trip is a dream for us too.

Jenny - TraveLynn Family

Thursday 8th of November 2018

I can only imagine the heartache you must have felt to say goodbye, even though it makes perfect sense. We've been looking into getting a camper for forever, and yet to bite the bullet. Love how some families are converting big buses and taking them around the world. One day... Thanks for linking up to #fearlessfamtrav

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Friday 9th of November 2018

Wouldn't that we the ultimate trip?! Maybe our next one will be a bus :)

Graham Bell

Tuesday 6th of November 2018

We spend our summer holiday in the South of France in our caravan and it's a great way to holiday, just taking our time getting there and coming back. We did have a motorhome for a year, the size was an issue so a camper van would be better. The main drawback for us was the obvious costs you get with a car. You have to tax, insure and MOT a camper van. You dont get these costs with a caravan. Worst of all - I couldn't do with getting up in the night to use the loo. The amount of time we've been woken up by camper vans sliding door slamming when occupants need a midnight wee, it's a problem. Stick with a caravan, that's my advice :-)

Claire Hall - Tin Box Traveller

Wednesday 7th of November 2018

Ha! Yes, those midnight wees are a problem! If only I could have towed our caravan Graham :) Plus, if we get a camper van it will become our every day car so the costs are neutral. One day we will go back to caravanning though. I'm sure of that. This is a 'needs must' move for now! :)

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