Richard and his family swapped their caravan and tow car for a converted VW Transporter camper van and haven’t looked back. They use it for family holidays elsewhere in Europe as well as weekends in the UK. “The Bus” is also Richard’s daily vehicle. They’ve already explored the south of France and are eyeing up Norway – to see the northern lights – as one of their next dream destinations.
‘Happy Campers’ is a series of posts featuring camper vans and their owners. It’s designed to offer advice and inspiration to new and existing camper van owners – featuring members of the WildaboutScotland community. To take part, please send an e-mail to me answering the standard question format below together with a good photo or two.
1. Introducing myself and my camper van
I’m Richard Mackney and I own a converted T5 Transporter. We originally started with a touring caravan, exploring the UK and its amazing coastline at every opportunity with our two toddler children. The caravan with a separate washroom really suited our lifestyle but I secretly hampered for a campervan. So when the children grew I managed to persuade my wife that we’d get away much quicker at weekends if we didn’t have to ‘hitch up’ and tow. We’d already perfected the art of living together in a tiny space, so what could be so hard about going a little smaller?
I sold the touring caravan and the family tow car and purchased “The Bus” as a brand new conversion on a three year old Volkswagen panel van. One of the bonuses of this was only one set of road tax, insurance and only the storage space required for one vehicle. It took around 6 months of searching to find the best conversion I could for my budget.
2. How do I use my camper van ?
I use it every day for work and use it to transport my brewing equipment – sometimes it even takes rubbish to the tip! It takes the family and our four bikes out into Derbyshire (where we live) and it takes us to the coast at weekends. It also takes us under the channel and into France where we spend over two weeks exploring.
3. Best thing I love about my van ?
I just love driving it. I love the visibility, I’m sitting fairly high above other cars and because of having full side and rear tinted windows fitted I feel I get a pretty good 360 degree view. The massive pre-facelift Transporter wing mirrors also help a great deal.
4. Pet gripes ?
Putting the lower bed and bedding away in the morning and making it again at night. The double in the roof is fine, it just lifts up, but the rear seat bed needs to be put away every day even if you’re not planning on driving anywhere. In the caravan we often left the kids’ bunk beds made up during the day.
5. Favourite accessories ?
It’s got to be tech – USB power slots are a must. We don’t travel with a TV, but can get Freeview on an iPad and also stream films using the MiFi (mobile WiFi unit) and roof mounted 4G antennas. This keeps the kids happy for 20 minutes before bed with carefully selected content! It also keeps us happy that they are winding down for the night and getting sleepy.
6. Best tip for new owners ?
Research, research, research. I knew I needed my wife and daughter to sit up front with me due to travel sickness, so I made sure my bus was fitted with a bench seat that swivels round. It was also important that we could safely and legally transport 5 people (6 would be better). Find out about safety before you buy and make sure your new van ticks all of the boxes you require.
7. Best trip in my van ?
In 2013 we took a road trip from Derbyshire to the South Of France and covered 2,260 miles – it was epic! We visited so many amazing places and experienced scorching hot weather. On the return journey we stopped at Disneyland Paris – a road trip of a lifetime that I hope the kids will never forget.
8. Dream trip ?
We already lived the dream! (see above) but the next mega trip is going to have to be a search for the Northern Lights. A road trip to Norway is definitely on the cards.
9. Favourite campsite ?
This is a hard one, I used to blog and review every campsite we’ve visited, going right back to the mid-eighties! And we’ve been on some great sites over the years.
I’d love to say it’s the campsite at Malham Cove, where natural beauty is literally on your doorstep. But that was a time without children and surprisingly I would now have to say that our favourite site is Ruda at Croyde Bay. We can pitch up and forget about the van – walk to the beach, walk to the Thatch Pub and take the kids off to the onsite swimming pool. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but people with young kids will understand !
10. When I’m not camping I’m …
Making beer or websites!
You can read more about my campervan trips or beer making at http://richard.mackney.com