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Six days with three kids and three adults crammed into a campervan might sound a bit like torture. I have to say I was a little apprehensive about the idea, despite being the one who suggested it. But the children’s sheer excitement was contagious and once we were on the open road and with a good weather forecast predicted, the stress levels waned.

Camper van.

William and the van

The goal was to spend time together, travel to amazing places and have fun. We definitely met our goal on this adventure.

Campsite - beachside.

Yes this is how close to the beach we camped – wild places!

I’d never travelled in a campervan, and it felt strange to be a tourist in my own country. And it had been a long time since I’d been to the West Coast. It always seemed too far away when my kids are the kind that says “are we there yet?” every ten minutes. Funnily enough, this time they didn’t – the kids were so thrilled with the van that the journey became more important than the destination. In fact it probably didn’t matter where we went, as long as we were in our van. Unfortunately all this happiness meant lots of singing – repeating the same songs over and over again. Yes it drove us crazy!

top bunk.

We slept the three children cross-wise in the top bunk – it meant the adults could stay up later reading in the rest of the camper.

Having the freedom to stop wherever we wanted was quite powerful. And the West Coast is perfect for this.  There are so many magical places just around the next bend in the road. But some good preparatory planning meant we could take full advantage of this freedom.

West Coast lake.

Many of the camp-sites were beside beautiful lakes like this one

Here are my top tips tried and proven true on this adventure:

1)    Making sure we had plenty of easy food and snacks on-board meant that if the kids were hungry, we could pull in anywhere and have a picnic.

2)    Pre-cooking a couple of meals before we left meant that we could have dinner on the table within 30 minutes even from our tiny kitchen. It’s amazing how hungry you get when you’ve been out in the fresh air all day!

Lake Kaniere.

Exploring the shores at sunset

3)    A bit of reading up beforehand on campground sites proved vital. It meant we could decide, depending on how far we had got, where we were going to pull up for the night. From Kumara Junction south we found amazing basic campsites, most beside gorgeous lakes – thanks to the DOC South Island campsites brochure.

Lake Kaniere

Lake Kaniere camp ground.

4)    Despite being self-contained I didn’t want to bring heaps of toys with us and besides, the holiday was about getting out and about. We kept it simple and it was just the right amount to keep them happy:

  • Some activity books and pens for keeping them occupied while cooking dinner or if the weather turned bad
  • A t-ball set and ball for at the campground when the weather was good
  • A book for each child to read as part of the bedtime settling down routine
  • One important cuddly toy for comfort.
Doing activity books.

Activity books kept them happy inside….

Playing catch.

… while ball games kept them occupied outside at camp!

5)    A good torch was essential for finding the toilet in the dark. It also was useful for a pre-bed game of spotlight tag! Sand-fly repellent was also a must for the Coast is renowned for these bity bugs. And of course a first-aid kit for emergencies.

6)    Jandals for everyone meant less dirt was traipsed into the van when we were camped up. A box near the front door for all the shoes also proved handy for keeping these all in one place.

Weka.

Cheeky weka at one campsite kept us entertained.

Word of warning – campervanning is not really the budget holiday that it’s sometimes marketed as. We got a good deal but then you add on insurance, gas and diesel. We had to call into the occasional commercial campsite to power up the van’s battery and recharge cameras and this did prove quite expensive. Most places charged per person so we ended up paying $60 – $70 per night – which when you add onto the hire charge for the van was about the same cost as hiring a motel room or entire bach!

Campsite.

Commercial camp-sites were usually a chance to catch up the laundry too.

But you can’t put a price on the experiences we gained on our adventure. And I know the children will always remember their week coasting in the campervan.

Franz Josef Glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier

Family.

From left to right Robyn, Josie, Taylor, Stu and William.

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