Remember a time when, if you had mentioned to friends or family that you were going on a camping holiday that they’d have looked at you as if you had three heads? Even if you explained that you were going in a caravan or campervan, as opposed to pegging out a tent in a cowstrewn ﬁeld, the thought bubbles rising from their heads would have been saying ‘No way’ even if their spoken words were positively encouraging.
By Maxine Emmett
Welcome to the 21st century, where both attitudes, and advancements in technology mean that camping is no longer about lying beside a muddy puddle in a wafer-thin sleeping bag. Yes, camping is now a viable holiday option for disabled people, with all the fun of the outdoors and breathing in fresh air is ready to be enjoyed.
You may already have come across the term, ‘Glamping’. Quite literally meaning ‘glamorous camping’, it’s out with the leaking tent and deﬂated blow-up bed, and in with teepees, yurts, safari tents and cabins, all including that basic requirement of disabled people: space. With beds higher up off the ground making sleeping away from home a possibility as well keeping you a distance from the bugs, fridges for storing those essential medical supplies, heat ‘on tap’ if required and en-suite toilet facilities meaning you don’t need to struggle to get to the campsite toilet block, camping has become far more simpliﬁed and civilised. What may be luxurious extras for some campers, are often just necessities for disabled campers. But these sorts of facilities make a holiday under the stars achievable and enjoyable. With ‘glamping’ sites the world over, an internet search will bring up a multitude of destinations, but it’s always worth contacting the sites directly to discuss your individual requirements before proceeding with a booking.
Of course, the lure of camping isn’t necessarily all about the ﬁve star experience, and whilst the traditional tent may be thought of as far from a realistic option, caravanning is often more manageable.
If you choose to purchase a static caravan, space is unlikely to be a problem, with the one-level layout suiting many disabled users. Owning your own holiday caravan means that you can usually adapt your own access to suit your needs and with water and utilities often directly pumped in, you avoid the need for heavy gas canisters and reﬁlling water containers. But for wheelchair users in particular, problems can occur with door sizes, meaning that getting into the bedroom or using the bathroom are not always straight-forward. Whilst for shorter breaks it may be tempting to say that you will ‘ﬁnd a way’, forego a good night’s sleep and simply wash not shower, the knockon effect of a bad night’s sleep when you’re back at home, tired and with a skin infection or similar, due to not washing thoroughly enough, means that attention to detail is crucial.
Treat your holiday home as you would your own. You’ll have already adapted your home environment so look at what works for you there and see if you can replicate it in your static caravan. So, if you have a kettle-tipper at home, get one for the caravan and be quite meticulous – this is your well-deserved holiday so it pays to be pedantic.
Away from the size of the static, towing is still a viable option for many disabled people who love their caravan holidays. Of course, you can choose to permanently pitch your van on a site, so removing the need for transporting it, but there is no need to permanently exclude the option of touring if you spend time ensuring that your needs are catered for.
For those who choose to tow their caravan, when you get to a site, manoeuvring your caravan onto its pitch can be a veritable breeze by investing in an electric motor mover. This grown-up version of the remote-controlled cars of our childhood allows you to simply slot your van into its space using just a remote control. Also, a lot of sites have designated disabled spaces which are wider and closer to facilities so always check when researching sites. Whilst sites are likely to advertise their disabled facilities on their website or promotional literature, this is unlikely to give you the full and comprehensive information that you may require for your speciﬁc disability. Questions like “Is the ground even?”, “Do you have the facility to dispose of sharps” and “Do all shops and buildings have ramped access?” may not be adequately answered. Ring the site and ask all the questions you need answers to and check out review sites for real opinions
The inside of your caravan needs careful consideration. Bathroom size, the height of kitchen surfaces and whether furniture is ﬁxed or not can make all the difference.
Many caravan manufacturers or independents will be able to adapt your current layout to suit; great news for those whose needs change over time – and lots of camping accessory shops stock universally designed equipment.
Motorhomes Motorhomes are a popular choice for disabled people as they can give you the option to transfer from driving position to the living area without the need for ramps or hoists. Fancy splashing out on your own bespoke design of motorhome or caravan? Companies like renowned adapted motorhome specialist, Coachbuilt GB work with disabled people to create their own layout and bring it to life, ensuring they truly realise the holiday home of their dreams.
Fancy the easy life? If you like to get away in a caravan but without the hassle of owning the vast majority of well-known camping sites have accommodation that has been adapted for disabled guests.
Of course you’ll already realise what you own needs are, meaning that even an ‘adapted van’ might not automatically tick every box for you. Compromise is rarely an option, so always ensure your accommodation is perfectly suited so you can enjoy the fun and freedom of a camping and caravanning holiday.
The Camping and Caravanning Club
Caravan and Motorhome Club