Which Vehicle? Who, How many and Where
So, the search is about to start for your campervan and your head is filled with dreams of vintage Volkswagens and childhood memories of breaking down on the A638, or travelling at a maximum of 50mph. But reality has hit home and you realise that if you are transporting your family around the country or further afield something like the van below, as romantic as it seems, is just not practical.
First up who is going with you on your adventures, we understand that this may change but it is important even this early to understand that even your dream campervan has limitations of how many people can be legally transported.
There are of course options that mean that the available seating with belts can be changed but as standard the following is a good rule of thumb:
Volkswagen Transporters & Renault Trafics: as these are nearly always converted form a panel van they come with 3 seats in the front with 3 belts, the standard sized rock and roll bed has further seating for 2 adults giving you room for 5 adults to be transported.
Although this is standard you can also have two single seats in the front (allowing easy access to the rear living area) or you can have a 3 seat wider bed in the rear giving up to 6 belted seats but these options are usually an upgrade and may alter the cost of your conversion.
Japanese Imports such as Toyota Alphards, Nissan Elgrand or Mazda Bongos come as standard with 2 front seats and as they are slightly narrower the bed has seating for two. There are differing conversion layouts available, but the most popular standard side conversion is set up like this.
The next thing to consider is who is sleeping where? Once you have arrived at your destination who can sleep where?
Most campervans these days come with a pop top roof, this is a roof that elevates on gas struts giving additional standing room and an extra bed when the camper is stationary. There are hardtop options available, but these are not so popular and nowhere near as readily available or easy popular for resale.
This roof bed means that in general 4 people can sleep in the van, 2 in the roof space and 2 on the rock and roll bed downstairs. The choice of van at this point is so important as the differing size of van gives more or less space in the roof beds. Any of the Japanese vans can realistically sleep 2 children or one adult in the roof, whereas the Renault Trafic, Volkswagen Transporter or any of the UK made vans generally have a large enough roof bed for 2 adults to sleep.
This is of course a very important consideration as you don't want to turn up on your first trip and be put outside the van to sleep (because it was your decision!). There are other options available and many people add a drive away awning to the side of the van when camping, either for more sleeping space or just to give them an additional room for daytime use and storage. These can be attached by use of rail or one of the many temporary fixings available.
What kind of trips are you looking to undertake?
This may sound strange because all that is important at this point is getting away from work, stopping the kids from sitting in front of the computer all weekend and getting everyone away together.
However, the distance and type of trip may have a huge bearing on what van you choose. If you are wild camping a lot and away to climb Munro's or at music festivals, then you are likely to spend more time in the van in the evenings and your travel distances will probably not be as far. If you are travelling across Europe or to far flung corners of the UK then your MPG may be more of a consideration or even how much "stuff" you can carry in the storage space. It may mean you want a trailer or roof box or some other external solution.
Although not the most important it is worth considering this as part of your search for your new holiday transport.