Family adventures with Rosy the caravan

By: Lisa Jansen

Lisa Jansen meets up with a family of five who is exploring New Zealand in a Jayco Caravan called Rosy

The Bronson family and their Jayco caravan, Rosy

As amazing as the RV community is, you can’t deny the fact that it is dominated by retirees (and young international tourists). Outside of the holiday parks, it’s surprisingly rare to run into families. As I write this, I’ve just returned from a trip across the North Island stopping at the NZMCA parks in Ardmore, Otorohanga and Plimmerton and I didn’t see one family – even though it was a summer weekend.

So when I heard about a family of five who hit the road in their caravan almost every weekend, I couldn’t wait to meet them and share their story in the hope that it might inspire more families to discover the joys of RVing.

Mum and dad Chelsea and Bronson, two-and-a-half-year-old Harvey and six-month-old twins Ruby and Piper live in Taupō but go on family adventures in their Jayco caravan almost every weekend. "Having kids has slowed us down a bit, especially now that we have three. But it’s a great way to travel as a family."

You could say that RVing is in the couple’s blood. Bronson’s family moved into a house truck when he was 10 and Chelsea spent much of her teens travelling around on the weekends for horse riding competitions. Not surprisingly, RV trips have been a part of their relationship from day one.

After a snowboarding trip in the South Island and a trip to Cape Reinga in the North Island in rented motorhomes, they decided to invest in their own mobile home. They bought a small bus about three years ago and started exploring the country.

However, once Harvey came along, the bus got a bit too small, and they upgraded to a larger motorhome. "In the bus, the bed was also the lounge, so we had to rearrange it every night and morning. That was fine when it was just us, but once we had Harvey, it just was a bit too much hassle." They chose a motorhome with a bed above the cabin, thinking that would be the long-term solution. "We were planning to have one more child, so we bought a motorhome that would suit the four of us."

But then the twins came along. Since there was no room for three car seats in the motorhome, the family had to look for yet another mobile home.

The double bed at the front

They went to Auckland for the Covi SuperShow to find out what options there are. "We wanted three bunk beds for the kids and needed three front-facing seats for the kids’ car seats. After looking around for a while, we realised that finding a motorhome that offers all that would be hard. At the same time, we saw a couple of caravans that would be perfect for us. That was probably the first time we considered a caravan."

The family ended up choosing a 5.78m Jayco Journey with three bunk beds at the back, a double bed at the front and kitchen and dining area in the middle.

They added an extra freshwater tank so can now carry up to 184 litres of fresh and 82 litres of grey water which lasts them about three to four days. The new caravan also offers some new luxury features that the motorhome didn’t have, like an oven and a separate shower, both things the family values. "There isn’t much we don’t like about our caravan. Probably the only thing we would do differently if we had a chance for a do-over is not to get the built-in washing machine. We’ve only used it once, and it used up the whole freshwater tank. It’s just not worth it for us."

Three bunks means plenty of room for all three kids

While the family has now had three different mobile homes in just over three years, one thing hasn’t changed. The name of all three is Rosy. "It kind of just stuck. No matter what mobile home we had, we just kept calling it Rosy."

Chelsea and Bronson have started to think about longer trips and maybe even going full-time for a while once the twins are a bit older. "We would love to go down to the South Island for a few months next summer. We’ve never been south of Christchurch, so there is still so much to discover." For now, they are happy making weekend trips from their base in Taupō. They are regular visitors in Raglan and Napier and, of course, Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty are each also only a few hours’ drive away.

Like so many people, they had a hard time determining their favourite spots. Both enjoyed a trip around the East Cape, and Chelsea particularly liked Anaura Bay. Russell and Pahia in the Bay of Islands are also favourites as is the Tapotupotu DOC site in the Far North, just before Cape Reinga. Bronson says he also loved the West Coast of the South Island when they there snowboarding. "The glaciers were stunning, and the whole area was beautiful, even though it rained."

Parked Up at Beachside Holiday Park, Mt Maunganui

As far as campgrounds go, the family likes to stay at NZMCA parks. "They are a safe but cheap option, and most allow dogs which is important to us since we have two. We would love to see more families at the parks, it would be great for Harvey to have other kids to play with."

The NZMCA park in Napier is one of their favourite overnight spots because of its size and the way it has been planted makes it feel spacious, even when it’s busy. Other favourite campgrounds are the Holiday Park right at the bottom of Mount Manganui and the Top Ten Holiday Park in Waihi Beach. "While we like the NZMCA parks, sometimes it’s nice to stay at a holiday park where there are more families and often a playground for Harvey."

Sunrise at Anaura Bay DOC Campground on the East Cape

Chelsea and Bronson say having kids has changed things for them. Longer drives are hard with the twins, so they usually keep it to two hours maximum. Living so close together in a small space can also be an issue. "It can be a bit of a challenge sometimes to get the twins to sleep at night when Harvey is still playing just a few feet away. That’s easier in a house when you can close doors." But, overall, the family loves their adventures together. "It was essential to us to spend as much time together as a family while the kids are still young. And ac caravan is a perfect way to do just that."

East Cape NZ Harvey Chelsea at the Light House

Of course, I couldn’t leave without asking about the pros and cons of having a caravan vs a motorhome. "We miss the motorhome sometimes, especially when we need to back into small spaces." But overall, both feel the caravan is the better option at this stage.

"Having a separate car comes in handy. When we had the motorhome, we would often move somewhere else every night because we had to pack up anyway to go exploring or even just to go into town to do some laundry or shopping. Now we often stay in the same spot for three or four nights and use the car to get around."

Chelsea and Bronson’s first Bus parked up at Port Jackson Coromandal

The other benefit of the caravan is that they can split up. One parent stays behind with some of the kids, and the others go exploring. That was never possible with the motorhome.

The five of them have a few more weekend trips planned for the months ahead and, with a diesel heater installed, winter won’t stop their adventures either. And who knows? Maybe by next summer, they will join the full-time crew.

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