51 motorhome & caravan tips for better holidays

Check out these 51 hints and tips for making your motorhome or caravan holiday in New Zealand even better…

Motorhome _tips

Whether we are camping or glamping, there are ways to save water, weight, money and time. If we’re going to the river, sea or a campground in one of the many beautiful destinations we are blessed with in New Zealand, there are always tips to pick up along the way.

Have you ever been asked "Do you usually travel with your TV Aerial up?" Or have you arrived at your destination and opened the caravan door to find all your plates and cups lying all over the place? We certainly have.

We had a mental checklist of sorts where we would ask each other if they had done this or that. That was until I read a book called The Checklist Manifesto – How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande, which I highly recommend. After reading the book we changed how we treat our checklists.

We have three: a Pre-Take Off list (the most important one), an Essentials to Take list (which is redundant while we travel full time) and a Bike Ride list (when we take the bikes to ride a trail).

How do you know what to put on your checklist? There will be some basics we all share; the rest will be from the not-so-pleasurable experience of what we forget to do.

We agreed the co-pilot is responsible for the checklist, and the pilot is not allowed to take off until the checking of the list is completed. I feel like a cabin attendant on a plane as I start from the back of the bus and walk forward, touching every drawer and cupboard button as I go.

Before I go any further, I just want to say thanks to girlfriends Rhonda, Femmy and Barbara for helping with a bit of brainstorming.


No matter how big your water tank is, it needs to be refilled. But what if the place you are staying in doesn’t have water and you want to stay longer? Here are some tips on water savings:

1. If you have a larger sink, use a basin sitting in the sink to do the dishes.

2. Do the dishes once a day.

3. Running the hot water tap, she catches the cold water that comes out first, into her kettle to boil, or in a bucket for washing.

4. Have a water filter. Ours is as the water goes in; while it can restrict the flow, it does protect your water tanks from nasties.

5. Boil drinking water for three minutes (that’s about the time a whistling kettle takes to whistle loudly).

6. When boiling the kettle, tip the remainder of the water into stainless steel water bottles, so there is always fresh drinking water on hand.

7. When having a shower, turn the shower on briefly, just enough to wet the bod, lather up and then turn the shower on to rinse off.

8. Shower with a friend.

9. Ensure the shower rose has a reduction valve to reduce the water used, but still maintain good pressure.

10. Turn the water off while cleaning your teeth.

11. Use eco-friendly wool wash to wash your clothes. It doesn’t need to be rinsed.

12. When you are driving to your next destination, empty the grey and black water at a dump station before starting out

13. Top up the fresh water when you arrive.

14. Have large water containers to refill when you go anywhere with access to water.

15. Have two toilet cassettes, so one can be emptied at a dump station.

16. Have a container to empty grey water that is stored in tanks.

17. Femmy liked the ‘big nails’ we used to pin down our artificial grass mat to the ground at our door, so it didn’t take off in the wind. The "nails" are actually used to hold polystyrene substrate onto buildings before they are plastered. They can be purchased from building supply shops. The mat at the door reduces the dirt and detritus brought inside (after all, who wants to spend their holiday cleaning?)

18. When they freedom camp Femmy says they always park the motorhome facing the exit, so that it is easy to leave if they have any problems.


Even the largest motorhome can be restricted by weight, so most of us are looking for ways to keep weight down.

19. Know your tare weight (how much can go into your motorhome or caravan). Assess the weight of what is added.

20. Each time you come back from a holiday or road trip, take note of what you didn’t use/need and remove it from the motorhome and your check list.

21. Look for dual use with what you pack. For example, a glass bowl can be used for salad, trifle, punch or baking.

22. Are cups, plates, chairs needed for every man and his dog? Just have enough on board for your needs.

23. Paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery could be an alternative. If friends or family are joining you, get them to bring their own.

24. Instead of a matching set, have different cups and glasses so that everyone can have their own for the day, instead of getting a clean one each time.

25. Balance the load in your caravan, so it weighs light on the tow bar and at the rear.

26. Use sway bars in older caravans.

27. If you are on a road trip, have a small rubbish bin and get rid of your rubbish each day. You can put small amounts into roadside bins.

28. Only buy fresh food and produce for the next couple of days.

29. Use an e-reader or tablet to hold your books, or use second-hand book stores to swap them as you travel.


Make your getaway quick and easy by doing the following:

30. Have the caravan/motorhome beds made, and clothing and towels ready to go at a moment’s notice.

31. Keep the pantry stocked with the family’s favourite, non-perishable items.

32. Turn the fridge on the night before you leave, then all you have to do is add fresh meat, fruit and vegies and you’re off.

33. If you are on a road trip, before leaving where you’ve been staying, put your washing into a bucket (dark colours at the bottom, light colours at the top) and store in the bathroom. As you travel along the action will take some of the work out of doing the washing.

34. Keep a set of cosmetics, shampoo, liquid laundry products (or laundry balls) and cleaning materials on board.

35. On our last day, I allow time to wipe everything down and give the floor a wash while I have the hot water on hand. When I arrive home, its one less job to do.


Camping can be the cheapest holiday you can take your family on. It can also be the most fun, as children play with others building huts, damning rivers, swimming or fishing.

36. Buy produce from roadside stalls.

37. Take produce from your garden to start your holiday with.

38. Go to farmers markets.

39. Freedom camp wherever possible. Sometimes there is a charge, usually $5 to $12 a night, depending on what facilities are offered.

40. Go fishing and gather clams or muscles from safe sources (check council websites for warnings).

41. Unless you have a continuous hot water system, heat up the hot water to do the dishes and shower at the same time, then turn it off again. We went through a 9kg gas bottle in a week, before we started doing this.

42. We often shower in the afternoon so we don’t need a heater on with the chilly morning air.


When you’re on holiday, unless you are a passionate cook, meals need to be quick and easy for everyone. Here are some ideas to save time and money, or use left overs. I haven’t included quantities because they differ, depending on how many you are cooking for.

43. Make a bacon and egg pie, meatloaf or similar to go with a salad and your first meal is taken care of with minimum fuss.

44. Enjoy takeaways every now and then. Remember, the 80/20 rule, it’s what you do most of the time that counts. The occasional takeaway isn’t a bad choice, if 80 percent of the time you eat healthy.

45. In winter, use a quarter acre pot or similar. Prepare your meal in the morning and let it cook while you enjoy your day or travel to the next place. I reheat the pot and thicken the gravy before dishing the meal up.

46. Cook meat on a BBQ outside to avoid smells inside.

47. Chip spuds and pre-cook for five minutes, drain and leave the lid half off to release the steam. This can be done at any time of the day. Halve zucchini lengthwise, rub with garlic and oil, halve tomatoes and top with pesto. All can be cooked on the BBQ with the meat – another no-fuss meal.

48. Make a loaf of beer bread to be cooked on the BBQ. I put together the dry ingredients at home and seal in a plastic bag, ready to tip into a bowl and just add the beer.

49. Have patties mixed and ready to go before you leave.

50. Any vegetable can go on top of pizza, including left overs. For a quick and easy one, use a wrap. Layout on a dinner plate, lightly spread with pizza sauce and add your toppings, making a light sprinkle of cheese the last one. Put into the base of a large fry pan and heat through for about five minutes, depending on how hot your gas is. Pop under the grill.

51. Finally, the most important motorhome and caravan tip: live in the moment, relax and enjoy your holiday.

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