A caravan might just be the perfect holiday accommodation. On a road trip, a caravan offers all the flexibility of camping and most of the comforts of staying in a hotel. A mobile caravan makes it possible to wake up every morning to a new scene, while never having to pack and unpack. Alternatively, it is possible to rent a static caravan at a park and experience the fun of roughing it while still being able to sleep in a proper bed at night. Yet not all caravans are equal. Some come complete with their own kitchen and some do not.
Packing for a caravan holiday is rarely simple, especially for people who have never gone on this particular sort of holiday before. Add the lack of a kitchen to the mix, and things start to seem complicated. After all, a lot of people have never had to cope without a kitchen before; what does one do? Fortunately, shopping for a holiday in a caravan without a kitchen is not that bad if the buyer can draw on the experience of others who have done it before.
The way to pack for a caravan without a kitchen depends on how the buyer actually intends to eat. Is the idea to rig a minimalist sort of kitchen by installing a small microwave? Does the buyer wish to use a portable camp stove or a campfire to cook? Or is the idea simply to not cook in camp at all and to depend on restaurants? Of course, these are not exclusive options; one can use both a microwave and a campfire and go out to eat frequently, but deciding how food preparation is going to work ahead of time makes planning much easier. Of course, a stove is not the only thing a caravan might be missing; doing without a kitchen also means doing without a refrigerator and a sink.
Some caravans without kitchens are large enough to accommodate a small microwave, electric kettle, toaster, or hot plate. There is not likely going to be room for all of these items, or at least it is unlikely that all can be set up and in use at the same time. Be very deliberate about which items to buy and install. For example, if buying a microwave, an electric kettle is not necessary because microwaves can boil water. Before buying a microwave, find out what size the caravan can accommodate. Make sure, also, that the shelf or table is strong enough to support the microwave's weight and that the caravan can provide enough electricity to run the microwave.
If going this route, then buying fire-safe cookware is not necessary, but obviously everything must be microwave-safe and all food must be either microwaveable or edible uncooked. For any caravan holiday, avoid ceramic or glass tableware, since they might shift and break while driving, and because the extra weight can add up and make the caravan harder to control.
An alternate route is to bring a camping stove or to rely on a fire. If doing the latter, be sure to plan an itinerary where fires are permitted at every stop. Remember that if fires are not permitted, the landowner generally has a good reason and the rule should be respected. Do not pack firewood, since there is no way to be sure the wood is not carrying pests or plant diseases. If using a camping stove, do not plan on cooking inside the caravan, since it may not be vented properly for open flame and deadly carbon monoxide gas could build up inside. Carbon monoxide has no odour and no colour, and initial symptoms of poisoning are difficult to detect. Cook outside and bring a fireproof surface to stand the stove on, just in case. Make sure that the stove uses a type of fuel sold along the route.
Cooking by camp stove and cooking by fire both require particular, and different, cooking styles. Beginners should practice before finalising the packing list. Camp stoves have only one or two burners and some models tip easily, so pack only two or three lightweight pots and a small cast-iron pan and plan on cooking single-pot meals. For cooking on a fire, bring pots that can stand up to the heat and soot, and bring a small grill for supporting them over the fire, in case the campground does not provide one. Also remember that reaching over the pot also means reaching over the fire, so cloth oven mitts may not provide adequate protection. Bring long-handled cooking spoons and pot-grabbers or a sturdy dowel for lifting the pot off the fire.
Even if planning to simply rely on restaurants, it is still a good idea to stock a day or two of food. This way there is no reason to fear visitors to the caravan or being unable to find a good restaurant. Fruit, baked goods, and trail mix are all good options. Make sure to check the travel route for any regulations against transporting fruit or other produce.
Hopefully, even if the caravan does not have a sink, the campground does, but if not there are ways to clean the dishes with a minimum of water. Either choose meals without sauce or gravy or use bread to wipe the plates clean. Then immediately rinse with perhaps 30 millilitres of water and wipe with a clean, dry tea towel. Pour the rinse water into a jar for proper disposal later. Every few days, wash all the dishes properly or boil them for safety.
Doing without a refrigerator means not just avoiding buying perishable foods, but also not keeping perishable leftovers. Careful meal planning is important here, and a cooler helps. Make the most of limited space with several collapsible cooler bags, since these can store flat when not in use.
Holiday packing is an art. The objective is to bring every necessary thing, but nothing unnecessary. Nobody wants to pack a week's worth of canned goods only to forget to bring a can opener. And nobody wants to be unable to relax because the caravan is filled to the brim with extra clutter.
The art of packing begins with knowing the difference between necessities and luxuries. Buying replacements for things left behind by mistake is both irritating and not always possible, so no one wants to leave necessities behind, but space is limited in a caravan. That does not mean only the necessities should come along, since this is a holiday, not a forced march. But packing goes smoother when actual necessities go on the list first and then luxuries are added later as space and finances permit. Making this distinction clear also helps avoid taking luxuries for granted.
This principle applies to packing generally, of course. With food-related gear specifically, it may mean bringing only a single bowl and cup per person, not a complete place setting. It also means packing food efficiently; do not bring six months worth of salt on a one-week trip, for example.
Packing is difficult enough without worrying about forgetting anything. Make a list of equipment to buy and check each item off when it comes in. Then make another list and check each item off as it is packed. No item is too small to list; if it is important to bring something, put it on the list. This list summarises the suggestions for items to pack for a caravan without a kitchen, but does not include most items that should be packed whether a caravan has a kitchen or not.
Remember to get the measurements of the space the microwave has to fit into before going shopping. Make sure weight and electricity requirements are workable as well. There is no point in buying something only to find out afterwards that it does not fit.
If cooking with a microwave, bowls work for both cooking and eating. In a caravan, space is at a premium, so tableware should be simple, durable, and easy to store. Utensils and cups are important, too, but again not too many. A good multi-tool with a knife, corkscrew, and can opener makes an all-purpose cooking implement, but be sure to clean it properly.
If using a camping stove, bring extra fuel and any necessary cleaning and repair implements. Inspect the fuel lines for damage regularly; a good trick is to coat the lines and all associated valves with soapy water, turn on the fuel, and watch for bubbles. Mice like to chew fuel lines, along with being the source of other potential hazards.
The point here is to be able to lift a pot lid or move the pot without injury when cooking over a campfire. Depending on the cook's style, the best way to do this could vary a lot. Find out what works first before finishing packing.
For cooking over a fire, the main consideration is that the pot not have plastic handles. Remember, also, it is going to get very dirty. Cast iron works well, but is not necessary.
An oven rack works well for this. The rack from inside a barbecue also works. Make sure it is large enough to span the fire ring or bring a couple of bricks as supports.
Cleaning dishes without a sink requires clean, dry towels. Running out of towels unexpectedly can become a hygiene problem. Either bring enough to last between laundry days or prepare to hand wash and line dry them.
As with a microwave, make sure not to buy a cooler that is too big. Waterproof containers for storing food inside the cooler are also a good idea. If the food is kept waterproof, then fill the cooler with a mix of ice and water and submerge the food; water conducts heat much more efficiently than air, and cannot raise more than a few degrees above freezing until all the ice floating in it has melted.
Water storage is obviously important for drinking, but also for washing. If there is no sink on hand for doing dishes, fill one jug with water and use a very small about to clean each dish. If the dishes are cleaned immediately and the food was not greasy than soap should not be necessary. Poor the used water into the other jar for proper disposal later.
As a general rule, plan to buy food along the way, especially for longer trips. Food takes up a lot of space otherwise. The exceptions are any hard-to-find components of a specialised diet and a small stash of non-perishables in case of unexpected company or difficulty in finding good restaurants. Crackers, hard sausage, cheese, and canned fruits make a good emergency ration, for example.
Most of the supplies necessary for a caravan holiday can be found on eBay. This includes some non-perishable food items. Moreover, the buying process on eBay is fairly simple.
To find anything on eBay, just enter a descriptive phrase, like ' mixed nuts', into the search box. Then use the menu options to narrow the results. Alternatively, use the Advanced Search option to focus in on something very specific quickly.
Negotiating the buying process well begins with communicating with the seller. Use the contact link on the seller's profile page to ask any questions, such as the size, shape, and weight of a microwave, if these are not listed, or anything else that may be unclear. The profile page also lists the seller's return policy and feedback score are also on his or her profile.
A holiday caravan is one of the best tools for fun and adventure around, but poor packing can make the trip more of an adventure than anyone bargained for. Packing for a caravan that has no kitchen is even more of a challenge, since most people are not used to getting by without a kitchen. How to pack then depends on how food preparation is going to work. Cooking by microwave requires very different preparation from cooking over a fire or organising the trip around visiting every great restaurant along the way.
In some cases there is no one right way to do things, so the best way to prepare is simply to try things, but a few words of experience can still be a big help. For example, someone new to cooking over a campfire might not initially realise that plastic handles on a cooking pot might melt. Suggested packing lists are therefore a starting point, a way for a person to get a head start on deciding what equipment is going to work best for his or her situation.