Ruth and her young family recently took one of our VW California Campers away for a weekend trip in March. Read more about how they got on with travelling with a baby in a campervan, from their own words.
Today we started the day full of excitement. Our 7 month-old baby was about to start her first holiday, a campervan adventure! Hiring a campervan has been something we have wanted to do for a long time. After doing some research to find the best offers and best campervans available, Southampton Campers had come out on top by a long way. Booking holidays can often be stressful but Southampton Campers seemed to have it down to a tee. The booking process was quick and easy. The website provided an abundance of information and any extra questions we had were answered in detail via email. The toughest part of the whole process was choosing which colour campervan we were going to have as they all looked amazing!
On collection, we were greeted by the lovely Xena who gave us a really thorough handover. She really knew her stuff and showed us all the great features and hidden gems the campervan had to offer. There were so many great aspects to the van that took us by surprise. The outdoor table and chairs 'hidden' within the sliding door and the boot, all cleverly designed to maximise your own luggage space. We were very relieved to see a safety net in the pop-top roof to prevent our little one from tumbling out. Easily detachable when not required by older adventurers though to not get in the way. We really liked the automatic sliding door. The ability to open and close it just by a click of a button on the keyfob was a godsend, especially when juggling a baby and all the stuff you have to carry for them!
After our handover with Xena, we felt confident in our new-found knowledge of the campervan and all that it had to offer. We happily exchanged keys with Xena (as our car was to be stored safely with Southampton Campers until our return) and packed all of our bits into the boot of the Campervan. The boot was huge with plenty of space to spare, which was a miracle as babies come with A LOT of baggage!
Can you put a baby seat in a Campervan?
This question was answered with a resounding yes! The campervan has ISOFIX points as well as a flat seat design to accommodate most baby seats. After strapping the baby seat into the back of the van using the ISOFIX points, we set off on our drive down to the beautiful Jurassic Coast. The journey was pleasant riding in the back with our little one and I made the most of stretching out and enjoying the kind of legroom you would never find in a car. My partner was our nominated driver and found that the campervan was easy to manoeuvre and a joy to drive.
Once we had arrived at our campsite we chose our pitch and began to set up the campervan; when I say began I mean we just set up the campervan as it really was that quick! We had booked a hard standing pitch on which we simply parked the van, opened the electric pop-top roof (with just the touch of a button), plugged in the electric hook up and extended the wind out awning. We were holiday ready! The wind out awning was a great provider of extra space outside of the van and the perfect spot to set up a sitting area in case of rain or the need for shade.
During a quick walk to suss out the local area we found a quaint, local pub where we ordered a takeaway dinner before settling in at the campervan’s slide-out table for the evening to enjoy it. The great thing about this table is you can actually sit four people around it using the rear seats and then rotating the driver and passenger seats 180 degrees around so that everyone can sit around the table.
How to keep baby warm while camping?
As our trip was booked for the winter I was concerned that our little one would be chilly, especially at night. I was nervous that the campervan would not be warm enough and asked many questions about it during the booking process. Despite reassurances that it would keep us all cosy, I was sceptical. As soon as we had set up the campervan and turned the heating on I was immediately reassured that we would be warm enough; even throughout the night. The van warmed up almost instantly and we actually only needed to use it on half the heat it offered to achieve a thoroughly warm van.
The campervan has a thoroughly modern design and they really have thought about the requirements of a modern-day camper. The USB sockets came in handy for charging our IPads and mobile phones and it's great to see dimmable LED lighting all around the vehicle. There was always a light conveniently nearby in case it was needed when dealing with our child and the ability to set the brightness created a lovely cosy atmosphere.
Where can baby sleep in a campervan?
The campervan had two options to allow our baby to sleep comfortably. The main bench seat easily converts into the lower bed or there is plenty of space in the pop-top roof, even with a Moses basket. Getting into the pop-top roof is simple and makes manoeuvring a cot into the roof nice and easy.
As well as being a comfortable bed, the pop-top roof has this awesome panoramic window at the front. It lets in a huge amount of light and gives you amazing views from an elevated position. The perfect place to enjoy watching the sunrise or sunset. We enjoyed have the pop-top open as much as possible as it gave us the ability to stand up inside the campervan and move about freely.
After dinner, we pulled out the bed in the main part of the van, settled our daughter for the night and sat upfront of the van for a few drinks and a card game before joining her. The lower bed was easy to pull out by using a lever under the seats and simply extending the mattress. The campervan has a wardrobe, cupboards and an overhead locker, so it was nice to be able to pack our stuff away neatly but still have access to everything inside the vehicle rather than hop out to the boot.
We had a wonderful night's sleep in the campervan. Not sure if that was due to the cosy heating system, soft mattress or window blinds which seemed to block out more light than our curtains at home! We woke up refreshed and excited for a full day with plans to visit a beautiful location in our beautiful campervan. But first, a fry up! My partner is the cook within our family and couldn't wait to get started.
We found that the fridge, cupboards, hobs and workspace were more than enough when it came to storing, preparing and cooking - with the added bonus that the fridge was not only big enough to fit all of the essentials but also the local ciders we had bought from the nearby farm shop. The campervan also has a great little sink with running water for any washing up, kettle filling or drink-making needs. I assume the water storage within the van must be fairly large too as we didn't need to even think about refilling the water and used plenty!
After our fry up we did our washing and drying up and packed everything back away before prepping the campervan to leave the site. We unplugged the electric hook up, put down the pop-top roof and closed the wind out awning. All taking only minutes before heading on our way towards Durdle Door.
We had a lovely time at Durdle door, walking down to the beach and exploring before heading back up to the campervan; but the best part of it all was that after a cold and windy walk we were able to get into a warm van, pop the kettle on and recover. Believe me, after a long walk down and up a hill with a baby in a baby carrier, it was much needed! We even warmed up our little one’s lunch and fed her before setting off again.
We took a slow drive back to our campsite with a pit stop to buy some BBQ food for dinner. After seeing a car towing a caravan circling the car park at the supermarket, I quickly realised that another perk to a campervan over a caravan or motorhome is that ability to park anywhere you would normally park when shopping e.g. not needing an extra-large space.
Southampton Campers supply all their campervans with an outside gas BBQ so after arriving back at the campsite we thought we would definitely take advantage. But, due to the classic British weather, we soon had to change our plans. Yet again the kitchen and table/seating area in the campervan stood strong and the dinner was a success.
One thing to note throughout our time in the campervan is both the floor and seating space. We are both tall and found ourselves with plenty of space to sit and stand comfortably. Due to the chilly conditions, we didn't spend a lot of time outside like you would in the summer but also found there was plenty of floor space in the van for our little one to play with her toys and sit in her baby seat for her meals too.
Feeding your baby in a campervan
Our second evening came around all too quickly and before we knew it it was time to settle down for the evening with a local cider, or bottle of milk, in hand. I have to admit that before our trip, I was nervous about having to make baby bottles or warm baby food using the kettle and hob. We tend to cheat at home and use a milk machine or microwave, but it was quick and easy and our little one had no complaints when it came to waiting that extra couple of minutes for her tummy to be filled. Our second night consisted of a much needed early night and after a quick bed setup we all settled down together to enjoy our last sleep in the campervan.
On the final morning of our trip, we enjoyed a slow start to the day as we did not have to return the campervan to Southampton Campers until lunchtime, so we treated ourselves to a coffee in bed. Those engineers at VW really have thought about the layout of the California. We could reach everything we needed for a nice mug of morning coffee without collapsing a bed. Something I know other campervans can’t do as the bed blocks access to the fridge, but not in the California! Well done VW! We packed up our bits and cleaned the inside of the campervan before setting off.
Luckily the campervan was quick and easy to clean due to how immaculate it was in general and the fact that cleaning spray, wipes, and a dustpan and brush was provided. After another smooth drive, we arrived back at the Southampton Campers base for a handover with Darryl (the owner of the campervans). Darryl was friendly and keen to hear about our trip, where we had been and how we had found the van and we, of course, had nothing but good feedback for him after a lovely weekend away.
As you can see our little one is officially a campervan convert; so lucky for her we feel the same and will without a doubt be hiring a van from Southampton Campers again in the near future for many reasons but mainly the following:
The service provided by Southampton Campers from start to finish was spot on; with an easy to navigate website, an efficient booking system and a thorough handover on collection of the van.
The van itself was beautiful. It was immaculate, modern, full of surprising perks and amenities, and provided everything we needed as a family.
We are dying to use the van in warmer months so we can make use of the outside table/chairs, the pop-top roof with its panoramic window and of course have an outdoor bbq!
Buying a VW California campervan is out of our budget but hiring one with Southampton Campers is more than affordable.
Until next time,
Ruth & Family