On the surface, caravanning in winter may not seem ideal: it’s cold and slippery, with snow and ice blanketing the countryside. But dig below the surface, and you may begin to see the attraction: scenic views of frosted valleys and hills, plus cheap, empty campsites, could make this Christmas the most glorious, and peaceful, yet.
Picture waking up on Christmas morning – stockings are filled, there’s an excited buzz gripping the campsite, and all around Jack Frost has surrounded the caravan and campsite in a glorious white carpet.
It’s a day of wonder, and what could be more majestic than opening presents in the middle of the great outdoors, with the morning sun glistening all around, through trees and over rolling hills?
Getting over the cold
The cold is likely to be the main deterrent for most travellers, so here’s some advice for staying cosy and comfortable in your Christmas caravan:
- First of all, use common sense. Bring along lots of extra warm layers and duvets for the chilly evenings (plus hand warmers and hot water bottles for those especially susceptible to the cold).
- Ensure you leave the heating on at times. This is to make sure you stay nice and toasty at all times, but is also to prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Snuggle up like penguins.
- Insulate external water carriers with bubble wrap or old blankets. This is to ensure you aren’t chipping away at ice blocks simply for the sake of a morning brew!
If it’s going to be an especially chilly winter, you will need to change your gas supply from butane to propane cylinders. Propane operates at a higher pressure and can still be used when temperatures plummet as low – 40 degrees centigrade. (But be aware that you will also need to change the regulator, as it won’t be interchangeable between the two cylinders).
Choosing the right campsite
This winter is set to be particularly harsh, and so you’ll want to choose your campsite carefully. Aim for one that is not too exposed, perhaps protected by a tree windbreak. You also don’t want to pitch in a low-lying valley bottom if you want to avoid getting flooded.
Also make sure you know which campsites are actually open over Christmas (you can see a comprehensive list of UK campsites here).
Towing in the snow
Caravan trips in winter should not be taken lightly, as it’s much easier to lose control of the car and when towing a caravan on ice. Here are some ways to minimize the danger of towing in frosty climes:
- Ensure tyre pressure is set to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Arrange luggage evenly throughout the caravan, with the biggest Christmas presents locked down low and close to the middle of the trailer.
- In order to avoid the caravan’s breaking system interfering with the car’s ABS, you should adjust the brakes on the caravan, so they don’t react as powerfully (this should only be done on especially ice roads).
It is of course advised to drive slower, in a low gear and at a consistent speed in order to stay safe on the roads: and remember, pump – don’t slam – the breaks!
You can do away with the open hearth and static walls, but Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without the feast. Therefore, it’s important to make sure it’s done properly. With limited space to work with, it may be worth cooking the centrepiece before you leave, leaving more oven space for the roasties and trimmings.
Alternatively, you could book a table at a local country pub and relieve you and your family of a whole lot of stress. But be sure to book extra early, as there are likely to be many others with the same idea!
Those who have boldly gone before
Michelle and Andrew Maddox, regularly take the dogs Christmas caravanning to a site near Betws-y-Coed in Snowdonia. They are passionate about exploring the great outdoors, no matter the time of year.
“Our touring caravan is like home from home for us”, she said. “We have central heating, double-glazed windows, a shower, a toilet and a fixed bed. We love the freedom of being able to step outside into the countryside. What more could you want?”
The beauty of modern touring caravans is that they are so warm and comfortable, they can be used all the year round. If only more families were as adventurous as Michelle and Andrew!
Jill is a caravanner from Lancashire who loves to caravan at Christmas. She says everyone should try a bit of winter caravanning as they “won’t know until they try it. We’ve enjoyed several trips away at Christmas and New Year. Many of the vans on site have decorations in the van and around the pitch. The one in the photo above is one of them.
More about Luke
Luke Rees is a travel writer and Christmas enthusiast from London who writes on behalf of Cosford Caravans, a West Midlands caravan dealership. He has travelled to every continent on earth (except Antarctica) but likes nothing more than hiking and camping holidays in Snowdonia with his mates.