We may well be creeping into winter, but for the caravan and motorhome owners out there, preparation for that summer holiday is everything. When hitting the open road for on your holiday there’s an all manner of things to remember, not just for all the fun you and your family will have, but for your safety as well. Here are some things to remember to make your holiday run smoothly.
• Never store a cylinder of gas on its side. There must be a gap between the LPG and the valve. If there isn’t and liquid escapes it immediately expands to about 200 times its volume, e.g. 1cc of liquid becomes 200cc of vapour.
• Fire extinguishers in caravans are almost always powder type. Therefore give it a good shake each week to prevent the powder becoming solid. Bear in mind that they only give a few seconds discharge, so it’s wise to also have a fire blanket, too.
• When using an awning, take it down the evening before you leave the site. Even on a summer’s morning there is a risk of early morning damp, which can damage the awning fabric if it is packed away before it is thoroughly dry.
• Manage your risk. Insurance is good but over-insuring is money down the drain. Check certain aspects of caravan insurance aren’t already covered on home or other policies you have and don’t duplicate.
• Always take a laptop. Not only does it allow you to stay in touch via email at Wi-Fi hotspots, but you can download pictures from a digital camera, watch DVDs and even check availability and book your next site online.
• Stay in touch with friends and family with free voice over Internet (VOIP) calls – much cheaper than using the mobile and especially handy if you’re travelling in Europe. Search for Skype or use Apple's FaceTime. Plenty of other options are available too.
• Get free alerts from your internet provider sent to your phone/PDA to tell you whether important emails (i.e. from friends and family) have arrived. If it’s anything really important then find an internet cafe (or use your Wi-Fi enabled laptop) and surf for 10 minutes to get all the gossip.
• Plan your route. Make the most of technology and save yourself a pain in the backside. Not only can you use a traditional map before you leave, but look online at Google Earth or similar and you can use Street View to see exactly what the entrance to the site looks like, for example.
• Sat-Nav isn’t infallible and some units can lead you, quite literally, down a blind alley. It really is worthwhile holding onto your old road map just in case.
• Face it, caravans are unpopular with some fellow road-users. Don’t compound the situation with poor driving. Check your lights before every journey and avoid dawdling along while you admire the scenery on country roads where it’s difficult to overtake. If a queue builds up behind you on a single lane road, when it’s safe to do so, pull over and let faster vehicles pass.
Safety and Security.
• When fully laden, your caravan and its payload should never weigh more than your tow car and, ideally, shouldn’t exceed 85% of your car’s kerb weight – particularly if you’re new to towing.
• If the caravan is fitted with an alarm, don’t put any of the manufacturer’s identifying labels anywhere a thief can see them. The less known about your caravan’s security systems, the more difficult it will be to overcome them.
• Know what your caravan is legally able to carry (user payload) and don’t exceed it. It’s also important to load the caravan evenly, placing heavy items as low down and near to the caravan axle as possible.
• When stopped on the roadside, use a BriteAngle LED warning triangle to illuminate your whereabouts to other road users. It’s a legal requirement in most of Europe to carry one and the unique bracket and suction cup means you can stick the triangle high up onto the back of your caravan. This year we were shortlisted for the Practical Caravan Best Accessory Award, so don’t just take our word for it. Using a BriteAngle will help prevent any further accidents happening should you need to stop on the side of the road.
While this advice may only scratch the surface of the measures needed to ensure a safe caravan holiday, it will definitely put you in the right direction. There is plenty of help online so a bit of googling combined with these tips and you’ll be ready to hit the open road.