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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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A great way to get your children excited about reading is to make them the star of their own story. It’s also a great way to record all the many adventures you have together!  These days anyone who has access to a digital camera can make a book; either online or at your local photo shop or chemist that has one of those photo printing booths.  You can either rewrite the familiar classics with your own unique twist as I have done here , or choose to tell your own unique story.

We’re going on a tramping trip
(with William and Josie)
Concept stolen from ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen


Josie and the red door.

Josie and the red door (2010)

We’re going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

William @ Craigieburn Forest Park.

William @ Craigieburn Forest Park (2008)

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve.

William @ Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve (2011)

Oh no!

We’ve reached the green and shady forest
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it,
we’ll have walk through it

Trip trot trip trot trip trot hop

Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve.

Josie @ Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve 2011.

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Ngatuhoa Stream.

William and Dad crossing Ngatuhoa Stream (2007)

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Temple valley.

William and Mum @ Temple valley (2007).

Oh no!

Here’s a rushing braided river
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it, we’ll have wade through it

Link arms and wade wade wade wade

St James CA.

William and Josie St James CA (2011)

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Hanmer Forest Park.

Hanmer Forest Park (2011).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

St James.

St James CA 2011).

Oh no!

We have reached the wavy tussock grasslands
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go around it, we’ll have to go through it

Swish, swish, swish, swish

Ben Ohau.

Ben Ohau (2007).

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Ben Ohau (2007).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Otukaikino.

William @ Otukaikino with friends (2012).

Oh no!

Here’s an oozy, peaty wetland
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it,
we can’t go through it, we’ll have to go around it

Squelch squelch squelch squelch

Swing bridge

Swing bridge Aoraki/MT Cook (2009)

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Family at Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Family at Aoraki/Mt Cook (2009).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Aoraki/Mt Cook.

Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park (2009)

Oh no!

Here’s a big snowy mountain
We can’t go under it, we can’t go around it,
we can’t go through it, we’ll have to climb over it

Climb climb climb climb

Arthur's Pass (2011).

Were going on a tramping trip
It’s going to be a long one
We’re looking for a taniwha
I’m not scared

Kura Tawhiti.

Josie & Ben Kura Tawhiti (2012).

I’ve got my tramping boots on
I’ve got my back pack on
I’ve got my sun hat on
What a beautiful day

Kura Tawhiti.

William @ Kura Tawhiti 2012

Oh oh

We’ve found a scary limestone cave
We can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, we can’t go around it, we’ll have to go through it

Tip toe tip toe tip toe

Cave Stream.

William and Dad @ Cave Stream (2008).

What’s that sound?

Roar!

It’s the taniwha!

Taniwha at Te Puna Quarry.

William, Josie and cousin Taylor on the Taniwha at Te Puna Quarry (2010).

Quick, run home

Over the big snowy mountain—climb climb climb
Around the oozy peaty wetland—squelch squelch squelch
Through the wavy tussock grasslands—swish swish swish
Through the rushing river—wade wade wade
Through the drippy rainforest—trip trot trip trot hop
Back home, in our front door, up the stairs and into bed.

Phew.

Josie reading her book.

Josie reading "going on a tramping trip" (2012)

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