When buying a caravan, we all have our wish lists. That piece of paper that continues to get added to each time you see something cool online or at a caravan show. The list seems to get longer and longer, then shorter and shorter as you realise what you think you really need doesn’t match what you kinda want. You can go around in circles. We are spoilt with so much choice – how lucky are we! (Four years ago we wrote this popular article about “Choosing the right Family Van for you!”)
Australian caravan manufacturing is kicking major goals and producing so many amazing rigs for all types of travellers. Over the years we have been in and out of hundreds of vans, tested them, reviewed them and through our work within the caravan industry, we have made life long friends with many manufacturers – all of whom make exceptional caravans. So, the question we often get asked is:
WHY did you choose Vacationer Caravans?
If you have followed along for a while, you will know that we jump in and out of as many family vans as we can when we exhibit at caravan & camping shows and often post about what we like & LOVE. Back in 2017 we noticed a small stand with only two or three vans from a brand that we had not seen before – this always excites us as we LOVE seeing businesses have a good crack! Vacationer Caravans had a family van there and we met Matty. This pocket rocket was full of so much information about his vans, he was passionate and honest and cut through so much bulls#&t. It was refreshing and appreciated. His vans looked great, right up our alley, clean, neat & practical in design. The Vacationer at this show had a full door between the kids bunks & lounge plus it had a corner kitchen – this was the first time we had seen this. We really didn’t fancy the curtain in our current van or the concertina flimsy doors we had seen in other vans. We posted about the ‘door’ on our Facebook page and it went viral – lots of other families loved this idea too.
Over the years, we became friends with Matty and always checked out his vans when we caught up at shows and each year they ticked more and more boxes – we liked the fittings and workmanship, we saw a kitchen on the door side for the first time in a Vacationer Caravan and loved this, simple & practical design (for us simple folk), high quality workmanship, aluminium frame, amazing attention to detail, weights would work with our Ranger, ripper customer service – tick tick tick tick – so when it came time for us to seriously look at upgrading our rig, we knew we would get honest opinions & advice.
(…our decision took us a while as we have many friends who all make wonderful caravans – in the end we had to put friendships aside and go with the manufacturer that ticked most of our boxes… We showed Vacationer Caravans our wish list and they laughed – nearly all of it was standard – awesome beginning)
As our wish list grew – we upgraded our car’s GCM with Lovell’s Springs. This took our total GCM from 6 tonne to 7 tonne, and a GVM from 3200kg to 3500kg. Giving us a bit more room to play with!
We didn’t really want to use the upgrade weights if we could help it. We wanted to keep them “up our sleeve” but could use them if we needed.
We knew there were three major things we wanted – Aluminium frame (we won’t go back to a timber frame after water damage in our previous van) – Honeycomb Floors (this ripper material is lightweight, tough and impervious to water!) – Fibreglass Walls & Roof (better insulation and rot proof!!) Vacationer were experts in all three…
Our caravan is a Vacationer Caravan – Rough Rider 226C
We chose an aluminium frame for stability and not having to worry about water leaks (so many stories out there about water damage and rotted timber) also, it would save us around 50-100kg over a timber frame – “it’s all about the weight” – The flooring is a honeycomb flooring which also saved us around 30kg in weight over a standard floor & better quality – “if we’re going to build a van that’s going to last, let’s do it right!”. Yes these products cost a bit more, but it was the end result of weight that we wanted. The van’s ATM came in at 2883 allowing us to be under when we are fully loaded.
This is our Aluminium frame being assembled:
G&S Chassis is the base of what our mobile home is built on. We added the AL-KO Enduro X suspension which allows our van to be a semi off road van and also added their ESC (electric stability control). We have always been fan’s of AL-KO and always catch up with them at the caravan shows to pick their brains, we always knew we wanted AL-KO suspension. Decisions about using trusted brands certainly gives us piece of mind.
Choosing colours & décor was pretty important to us. I absolutely loathed the colours in our old van, super dark tinted windows, navy & tan timber. I wanted light & bright but neutral enough to suit any additional décor and not too ‘out there’ for if/when we downsize and sell once we get rid of the kids -oops – I mean, once the kids get older! Matty from Vacationer Caravans was so helpful and so patient with us. Wayne and I didn’t agree on some things, my colour choices didn’t really ‘GO’ and it was confusing. If it wasn’t for Matty and his gentle suggestions, it could have ended in divorce. We went with beautiful white ceilings and walls but softened with greys throughout the interior.
The kitchen had to go on the door side this time – lucky for us, this is a preferred design by Vacationer Caravans. Why? Doing dishes or preparing dinner while watching the kids outside is so much nicer than looking at nothing, or the van next door. Another reason is security – when in the kitchen, my back is not to the door so I can always see who is coming our way – also when I am on the couch. This design feature was a must for us.
Oven or NO oven – this debate has been running for years. We had an oven in our old van and we NEVER used it for cooking – it stored all our chips, biscuits and wraps. I didn’t think we would get one in this van but a few things changed our minds. The oven in our old van was crap and the one time we used it, it took an hour to warm a pizza. When we move it onto a new owner down the track, having an oven would be good. So, decision was made to have an oven and our great mates from Thetford were top of the list – their oven, grill combo is awesome. We have been lucky enough to use their units in other vans and can not fault it. First trip in our new van and we cooked garlic bread and danish – it was PERFECT!! And, when not in use, it will continue to store all our food.
The NCE Microwave is a convection oven style, so no plate to worry about and this is where we store our eggs and cereal – winning!
At 22ft6 we packed everything into this van and more compared to our old 24ft beast. It has plenty of cupboard space, for our family of four. We added a few extras & new things to us but were standard when you build with Vacationer Caravans which was amazing.
We made a few minor alterations to a few things – these tweaks had come from touring & reviewing many fans with our kids.
- We dropped the height of both the bunks: Every caravan we’ve been in we’ve noticed that our eldest has very little head room. They are growing up so fast and we wanted them to be as comfortable as possible (so they camp with us longer?) By making the draws under the bunks a little lower (pretty much for shoes only) this allowed the girls to get an extra 90mm each for their room. WOW. Just this little amount made a massive difference and both girls were over the moon and able to sit up.
- We added a little nook at the end of their bed so they can put their books, Travel Journal, watch, lip cream etc and also charge their iPad – next to that we asked Vacationer Caravans to build shelf for their drink bottles. Originally we were going to put doors on these, but changed our mind – these nooks are the girls favourite part of their bunk area.
- We also removed part of a drawer from under their bed to be able to put in as an outside hatch. Being on the blind side of the van, we keep hoses and accessories, electrical cords, wheel chocks etc in there. Very handy being at the end of the van when your plugging into a caravan park.
- We added a partition between the cupboards the girls use, reducing mess and cross over – they now have one side each! (…it’s the little things)
- We got rid of the pantry slide out and replaced this with drawers. Only because our slide out in our other van was useless, it kept falling apart and I found it impractical for the kitchen things that we take. The long deep drawers are perfect for all my kitchen things.
- We had Vacationer Caravans install a Diesel Heater from Award RV during the build. We had never had one before, but so many people recommended it – the first night we took the van away we used it and I was able to finally admit – “Good Idea Wayne”
- Sirocco Fans – one in each of the bunks & one above our bed – once again, so many reviews from our online community and we LOVE them.
- 2 Separate Speaker Systems – one for inside and one for outside – Why? Sometimes the girls will watch a movie at night or want to chill out with some music. Wayne & I will stay outside all night. Wayne doesn’t like listening to One Direction. End of story. These allow us to listen to what we want, and they can also watch Netflix or a movie of their choice inside.
- We added yellow outside lights in case the bugs are around we can stay out for hours just chatting. The kids bunks are on the blind side of the van, so after they go to bed we know we can chat without keeping them awake.
- New Age Upholstery also made some amazing cushions and worked magic with some extra pockets – including one massive one to store our laptops and work.
- Full ensuite with separate toilet – we went with a Thetford loo with a swivel seat – Wayne is 6ft 4 and this now gave him plenty of room for number 2’s. Super easy to use and clean. Vacationer Caravans added a full length cupboard up high that has so much space and two large towel racks. (Have you ever noticed that many family vans only have one towel rack installed? Weird)
- Black Knight Global Tracking System: Although our van lives in a lockable shed out of the elements, it was still pretty important to us that we knew where it was at all times. That’s why we got a Black Knight Global Tracking System put on it. Once we got it home, we made a perimeter of 100 m out of home, so if the van is stolen we will get a notification from the phone app. Peace of mind – protecting our investment.
- Front loader 4lt washing machine, water filter, outside shower, 2 x 9kg gas bottles, front tool box…
We had also spent a lot of time at shows with the crew from VANTEC – we know & trust their product and it was a no-brainer for us to get the caravan fully protected – inside and out! Highly recommend and worth adding it on.
We also couldn’t go past RedVision by Redarc – we had been eyeing this system off for a while, we did our homework, we LOVE & trust the Australian made brand and Wayne does like his gadgets. Remon at Escape RVs is a RedVison expert and gave us a wonderful handover explaining this Battery Management System, he believes it is the best on the market. This system will tell you everything you need to know about what your batteries are doing. Not only on the screen in the van, but also via a groovy App. (You can imagine how much fun Wayne had sitting outside on the App freaking the girls out by turning the lights on and off – from the App! hahaha) We put 560 watts of solar on the roof. The BMS shows you what is coming in from the sun, what is being used in the van and what is left over and going into the batterie’s. It breaks it right down for the simple people like us who have no real clue! Even when we are not taking the van out it has a storage mode on it, so it actually turns everything off. Ask about Redarc RedVision – you won’t be disappointed.
By adding a front box to the A-Frame, we were able to add in a Camec BBQ on one side and the generator on the other. 2 Jerry Can holders on the rear allows us to go off track even further. The huge full-length tunnel boot holds a power of things, from the fishing rods, through to the camping chairs.
Gosh – I feel like I could chat about this van for hours. The build experience was a first for our family and we were super impressed and surprised at how much FUN and smooth it all went (even with COVID!) All due to Matty and his extremely helpful crew at Vacationer Caravans.
Once the tough decision of ‘which’ manufacturer we were going with was made – the rest was a breeze. We were confident with our decision and watching our ‘baby’ come to life was a dream come true. We always say – “buying a caravan is not an expense – it’s an investment into your family”. It was time for us to invest and time to get out and see more of Australia and continue to spend quality time with our kids.
If you’re looking into family vans – please add Vacationer Caravans to your list – we are sure you will be just as impressed as us.
Don’t hesitate to drop us a line if you have any questions – we love hearing from you – we hope to add more photos & videos here soon – being stuck in Vic has kinda sucked!
Have you checked out our NEW SHOP? Adventure Awaits – you will find something for EVERYONE – including all your Caravanning with Kids favourites.