Our First Campervan Weekend in Hay-on-Wye
Updated: Oct 18
We bought our first VW van with a pop-top for camping just a week before the UK went into lockdown in March 2020 due to the global pandemic. So instead of embarking on weekend adventures, we were left dreaming of the trips we could make gazing out of the window, considering if a night in the van parked up on the road outside our house could be a good test with the baby...
When restrictions finally loosened and we were able to venture beyond our own four walls we decided to book our first #campervan weekend at a campsite we'd visited a few years earlier near Hay-on-Wye.
We visited the beautiful Walkers Cottage campsite, with its orchards, incredible views and compost loos. They have an onsite eco-chef, serving very special, locally sourced meals cooked completely "off-grid". You must book in advance, costing around £40 per head, but we highly recommend it as a special treat to your camping holiday - and a night off the burgers!
There was a lot of stress when it came to packing. I was thankful that we actually had a whole van worth of space to fit it all in. I felt like we took everything AND the kitchen sink, but for our first time away with her we didn't mind and each trip will help us realise what we need and don't need. Plus, as she grows I am hoping she'll need less stuff... right?
We have a pop-top on the van so this is an ideal space for the two of us, but not so good for a baby. We ummed and ahhed over the various options and ended up with the simplest solution to take the travel cot and have her sleep in the rear of the van whilst we were up top.
Hay-on-Wye is such an incredible place to visit. This small town is located at the northernmost point of the Brecon Beacons National Park and stands on the southern side of the River Wye. It is known for its many bookshops, over 20 in fact, and commonly known as "the town of books". So if you are a bit of a book nerd like me you will be in your element!
My partner took the opportunity to go for a long bike ride whilst I perused the bookshops and we met up to hit the river and enjoy a cheeky swim. I recommend going just by 'The Warren' that can be accessed on foot from Hay-on-Wye town centre and has an adjacent grassy field and a stony beach to relax on.
Whilst we had a really lovely trip, there were definite challenges and issues that we mulled over to figure out better solutions. One of which, meant buying a tent!!!
For the two of us, the van is perfect - dump kit/bikes in the back and pop the top wherever we fancy. With a baby, however, we can't have her in the pop-top for safety reasons (despite searching unsuccessfully for hours and hours for sleep pod solutions I felt comfortable with). Plus, I did not enjoy shimmying out of my warm, cosy sleeping bag in the middle of the night to feed/soothe her. The travel cot meant we needed to decant kit from the van to make the space for it as well as have enough room to access it. The height of the van meant we couldn't fully stand to hold her either. And I realised that whilst we were snug and cosy up in the pop-top, the temperature within the van was much colder, so dressing baby up with plenty of layers without overheating her was stressful. So it all just got quite frustrating.
We tried an awning tent, but just felt a bit useless other than to dump stuff and it didn't fit well against the van as its a long wheelbase and also didn't tie over the pop-top. An expensive, ill-fitting portable pantry basically.
So, we opted to invest a nice family tent that we can enjoy as a family for years to come, accommodating friends, family and I am sure many a sleepover.
Yes, I hear ya, we could just pack less crap. And we will, as we refine over time. The van will very much still occupy many of our adventures, especially as she grows older, so do watch this space!
How have your first family adventures gone? I'd love to hear them and any tips you may have on packing light with a baby/toddler.
Over and Out