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Taking the chance to travel with your little one might feel daunting at first. Thinking of all the stuff you need to bring (hello nappy bag!), managing sleep schedules, feeding windows and more, might have you thinking about packing it all in, but don't! Campervan travel with a baby can be easy, and New Zealand provides a hospitable, friendly and beautiful place to give it a try! It might be less spontaneous than your pre-baby holidays, but with a campervan, you'll have the freedom to go where you want when you want and take as long as you need to get there, stopping along the way as often as you like. Plus, with everything you need right there in your campervan, attending to your baby's needs while you're on the road is fuss-free.
Here's a wrap-up of everything you need to know, from how to choose a child-friendly motorhome, what to pack and where to stay while campervanning with the kids.
1. Prioritise sleeping with a baby or toddler in a campervan
Your campervan is a convenient and mobile way to stick to nap times while you travel, and bedtime in a new spot each night can be novel for little adventurers.
Campervans are ideal when sticking to a sleep schedule, given the flexibility they offer. Bring along a Moses basket or similar safe sleeping certified pod or bassinet, or choose to co-sleep in the large bed - whatever works for your family and is familiar to your little one. We recommend children sleep in the lower beds as our vehicles are not fitted with child safety barriers for top bunk / overhead beds.
As your little one gets used to life on the road, a blanket and some toys from home can be a handy way to adjust to a new sleep spot and offer a sense of routine and familiarity.
Night lights or white noise machines can easily be used in your campervan. If these require power, you'll need to be hooked up to an external power source. You'll find spotlights in some campervans that can be used as night lights without the need for power.
While the kids go through their sleep routine, you can relax outside in some cosy camper chairs. Bring your own, or add them to your hire.
Travelling with older kids?
Opt for campers with large twin beds such as the Frontier, Explorer or Discovery. Other options might be suitable for a family of three with a youngster on board.
2. Travel safe with an appropriate car seat
Whether you bring your own capsule or car seat or you hire from us, your little one must have a safe and appropriate car seat for their journey. New Zealand law requires all children under 7 to use an approved child restraint. You can add a child seat (for kids 0-4 years old) or a booster seat (for kids 4+) to your hire from $36. You are welcome to bring your own carseat, but this must comply with the NZ safety standards.
3. Choose a campervan where baby can travel up-front
When travelling with a baby, you want them within arms reach and upfront with you as you travel.
Some campervans have extra seats down the back of the vehicle, which may be handy when travelling with teens who want a bit of independence, but keep bubs up close by ensuring their capsule or car seat fits securely in the seats close to the front of the campervan.
We recommend opting for one of the popular Britz campervan models when travelling with babies and toddlers:
While these models vary in features, they all have seats positioned just behind the driver’s cab to keep your kids close. Choose a campervan that suits your unique family needs by comparing online.
4. Feeding the family - kitchen amenities
While there might be a few things you need to bring with you on your trip (more on that below), one of the things you don't need to worry about is packing up the kitchen sink, cause your campervan comes with one!
With a campervan, family mealtimes are fuss-free. It's easy and quick to heat a bottle of milk for baby and prepare simple meals for yourselves too. With a fridge and plenty of cupboard space, you can keep your camper stocked with healthy snacks and manage your food budget in a way that suits you. Check out these easy recipes for camping.
You'll be able to eat al-fresco and take in the sights and sounds of New Zealand, plus enjoy a little bit less cleanup time, and many family-friendly campsites will offer BBQ hire or larger kitchen spaces for more complex meal prep.
If you're looking forward to nights off cooking, you'll find plenty of restaurants that offer high chairs, or you can bring along a booster seat if that suits your little one better.
Every camper offers comfy and private seating, so you have options when it comes to feeding.
5. Choose a self-contained campervan
All Britz campers are self-contained - meaning they come equipped with a toilet on board. If you're at the stage where your little one is toilet training, or even if your wee one is a confident toilet user, this makes on-the-road bathroom breaks that much safer and more comfortable. If your little one is still in nappies, you'll find plenty of suitable spaces in your campervan for nappy changes. Just bring along your own change mat.
Many of our campers also come with an onboard shower - while these are handy for fixing sandy feet, or sticky hands, faces and everything else that can come with mealtimes, you might find showering little ones in the campervan tricky.
Facilities provided at campsites are often a bit more comfortable for full showers. Some Holiday Parks even have larger, dedicated family bathrooms complete with a bathtub!
6. Keep your camper at a comfortable temperature
Campervans offer a much more comfortable solution than tents when it comes to getting warm or keeping cool in the New Zealand weather; plus, you'll always be able to stay dry, even if the weather turns to rain while you're away.
During cooler months, you'll find extra blankets and bedding in your campervans. For your wee ones we recommend bringing along your own sleep sacks or kids sleeping bags to keep everyone snug as a bug and bedroom areas tidy. If you're prone to cold feet, bringing along a hot water bottle with a cozy cover might help keep your toes toasty.
Our larger campervans are fitted with a diesel heater for extra warmth and we offer a small, portable fan heater for hire with our smaller campers. You will need to plugged into mains power to operate that one.
If you're travelling during the summer months, you'll benefit from windows with fly screens that allow a breeze without letting in the bugs.
7. Plan a family-friendly itinerary
If you're a seasoned traveller, you might expect that you'll be able to cram lots of sights and driving into your holiday. We recommend taking a slower-paced approach with your little one - often parents commit to fewer than five hours on the road in any one day. Shorter driving days allow everyone to have a relaxing time and allows you to build in some flexibility alongside some little-one friendly activities like beach visits, park runs and playground stops.
While you're planning your adventure, consider calculating driving times between stops and planning in opportunities for little ones (and big ones alike) to stretch their legs. New Zealand boasts lots of green space for little adventurers to explore. You might find your littlest traveller adapts well to life on the road, but create an itinerary that can be adjusted as you go. Stuck for ideas? Check out our most popular itineraries and traveller stories for inspiration.
If you've got a baby who is comfortable sleeping while on the move, make the most of combining nap-time and drive time. The thl Roadtrip App, a good GPS map on your phone or tablet and a plan are the most important things you'll need while you're driving.
8. Packing list for family van travel
One of the benefits of campervan life is just how little stuff you need to bring along. Think of what you might take away for a weekend away from home, and that will probably be the same for your campervan adventure.
One thing that works well for parents and non-parents alike are packing cells or pods. They'll help you keep your stuff in order and ensure nothing gets left behind.
While you'll want to make sure your child carrier or baby stroller makes the packing list, everything else is dependent on your plans and your little one. In addition to your clothes, toiletries, and any medications that your family needs, we recommend bringing along:
- A sleep-sack or kids sleeping bag - we provide bedding, but kiddos might enjoy something more familiar
- Any special kids cutlery
- Beach gear like a bucket, spade, inflatables
- Kids camping chairs
- Backpack Carrier for long walks
- Some additional entertainment for lazy days
Oh, and we always recommend some snacks, no matter how old you are. It is a holiday after all!
9. Stay at family-friendly camping spots
With a self-contained campervan, you've got options about where you stay! From freedom camping off the grid to chilling out at powered campsites closer to towns and amenities, you might try a bit of a mixture of both.
Choosing to travel during off-peak seasons will offer you more flexibility if you'd like to select your campsite on the fly and might offer you a bit more space to spread out on (and make some noise!) once you've parked up for the night. Spots with a bit of grass for your wee one to crawl, toddle or run about on will likely be a winner for the whole family.
If you've got a really little one, spending some time at campsites with power and other facilities like microwaves and laundry access might offer you some of the comforts of home that make life a little easier (because you never know when a three-whole-outfit-changes day might hit!). You might find that family-friendly camping spots closer to towns and main centres provide more peace of mind and allow you to access facilities like pharmacies and supermarkets with more ease.
10. Get on the road and make your memories
Taking a holiday as a family, especially with a little one, should be a rewarding and fun adventure and will provide you with lots of opportunities for fun snaps for the family photo album.
Travelling with a baby by campervan offers a flexible and fun way to see a massive variety of what New Zealand has to offer while meeting your little one's needs.
With a little bit of extra packing and some plans, you'll be able to make memories and have a blast. Don't forget to be present and enjoy yourself - it'll go by quicker than you think, and you'll already want to start planning your next adventure.
Book your holiday with Britz
There is no better time to start planning baby's first campervan trip around New Zealand! Start a new booking with Britz!