How to keep the kids from going crazy on long campervan trips!


We’ve covered 1929kms over the last 9 days of our trip- that’s a lot of hours on the road! For our kids, that’s a lot of hours raised to the power of 10! So how have we kept them from going crazy?

  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel on board and take brief refuelling stops – fuel for their stomachs that is! We have clearly brought a couple of hobbits along with us. Although we feed them hearty breakfast and lunch, they seem to need second breakfast, elevenses, morning tea and afternoon tea!
  • For trips of 3-4 hours+, plan a stop or two for them to break up the journey and run off some energy. A decent playground, a beach, a picnic spot.
  • Have decent music playing. It’s harder for them to moan when they’re singing along to their favourite tracks.
  • If it keeps them sane, it keeps you sane. On previous trips we’ve taken a DVD player so that the kids can watch movies on the long journeys. This time it’s iPads. It’s the only time that they have unlimited access to their iPads, but it works.
  • We weren’t expecting this, but since I’ve been blogging about our trip, the boys have decided that they should too. Who’d have thought they’d have wanted to write during their trip?! We’d tried encouraging the boys to keep journals on previous trips but their interest soon evaporated. Although a blog is similar to a diary/journal writing, – blogging potentially has an audience and therefore a more tangible purpose. This purpose, it seems, has unlocked their enthusiasm to write, edit and publish!
  • Finally, if all of these tips are starting to wear thin, draw the curtain between the front cab and them and turn the music up loud.  See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil!

Akaroa TOP10

Ok. We admit it. After declaring our abandonment of commercial camps and a commitment to freedom camping only 7 days ago, last night we relented and stayed at Akaroa’s TOP10 campsite. After a week of camping at park over places (one winery and one pub!), a city car park and one generous person’s private paddock, we decided that it would be good to:

  • Wash our clothes and stinky damp towels
  • Take a luxuriously long, hot shower
  • Recharge our laptop
  • Cook a full meal in a spacious kitchen
  • Stay close to the town and its amenities

We had the added bonus of an on site play area and swimming pool to keep the kids entertained and the most stunning, unobstructed, elevated views of Akaroa harbour from our site.

The charming town was only a ten-minute walk downhill where we sank a couple of beers at Harbar’s waterfront bar… and a half hour stagger back uphill!

The pathway down to the town
“Harbar” waterfront bar


Imbibing at Harbar

The downside was the camp was busy. Like really busy! And our site was on a slope- even with our wheel chocks we were unavoidably cuddling (squished) quite closely by the time we woke in the morning!

img_0904 At $66 it was $46 more expensive than our last 6 nights altogether- but worth it we thought for the perks and the view but maybe not if you’re unlucky enough to get a view of your neighbours camper.

So now we’re off again, heading south. Our familiar family aroma that was growing in intensity is thankfully much sweeter again! Our fridge and pantry are replenished. Our bulging laundry bag emptied and our cupboard filled with clean, dry clothes and towels. Bring on another week of 2-minute noodles and 10-second showers, not-quite dry towels and speed-typing at 5% battery charge!

Top tips:

  • book ahead during the holiday period as this site fills up,
  • request a site with a view of the sea and if possible a flat concrete site, otherwise…
  • don’t forget your chocks!
  • Mix up 6 or 7 nights of freedom camping with 1 night commercial camping to recharge electronic and human batteries!
  • Choose your commercial camp carefully in advance so that you are not disappointed with the facilities or your financial outlay.

Blue Lake TOP 10 Holiday Park

If you love camping grounds with full facilities this may be for you but at $91 for 2 x adults and 2 x children it’s not for us.  We chose it because it is directly across from the beautiful Blue Lake (Lake Tikitapu) in Rotorua so thought it would be an idyllic spot.  It’s certainly handy for accessing the lake and the walking/mountain biking trails, it has not 1 but 2 children’s play areas both with spring-free trampolines plus a jumping pillow, the kitchen area is spacious and spotless and the bathrooms are also spotlessly clean.  There is a cafe on site and the reception people are friendly and informative.  However, the fact that apart from price, it was otherwise faultless, helped us to realise that commercial camping was not for us… freedom camping here we come!!

Stress-free morning dressing!

Having become quickly frustrated with the morning madness of getting dressed in the camper I devised some simple tricks to making waking up with a family less stressful!

  • Have changes of undies, socks and PJs easily accessible for the kids so that they can can manage this themselves without wailing “Muuuum, where are my undies?” “Muuum I’ve worn these PJs for 3 (OK sometimes more like 7!)  nights now I need clean ones!!”
  • Organise the kids clothes into 1 x shorts/2 x t-shirts and roll them up together.  This means that 1) if you’re like me, you’ll be pleased that they co-ordinate!, 2) they are easy to access and 3) rolling them up both eliminates creasing and maximises use of storage.
  • If your camper hasn’t got them already, consider putting 2 x clothes pegs (his n’ hers) within arm-reach of your own bed.  Get your “wake-up” clothes ready the night before so that you’re not fumbling around first-thing trying to find something to wear.

Okurukuru Winery, New Plymouth

We were recommended this place and were so glad we we took the advice.  For self-contained vehicles it is completely free to park overnight providing you dine here and wine-tasting is optional… don’t mind if we do!!  The meal was sensational- if you’re spoilt for choice (as I was) I recommend the “Coastal Prime Beef Cheek, Free Range Pork Belly and Te Popo Lamb Rump served with Kaitake Vegetables, Oven Baked Potatoes and Jus” – in other words, trying it all!  The wine tasting of  Okurukuru Pinotage and Rosé (on-site crafted) plus  a selection of wines crafted at the winery’s other property situated in Marlborough are generously poured for $10 for 4 tastings.

The restaurant has stunning wide ocean views.  The outside area is perfect for sitting outside on a sunny day and even better for children to run around and enjoy the the play area.  Even better, you get to continue appreciating the views from the comfort of your camper and there’s even a cute picnic table and benches to use.  We’ll definitely be back!

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