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How To Choose A Caravan And Layout


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When looking for a replacement for our caravan we must have 'shortlisted' about 14 possible alternatives from the makes available from dealers within a 40 mile radius. I used to work as a highway design engineer and also spent time checking the designs of others. The point being that I never believed that there was one solution. I used to tell those that I trained that when they had solved a design problem always look at alternatives - even some which were counter intuitive and you will often come up with a superb solution that you would not have initially have dreamed of.

 

We initially considered a fixed bed. This despite a previous feeling that the use of space was a luxury in a caravan at around 5. 5m internal length. All the ones we looked at had drawbacks for us that we did not want. Some compromised on washroom layout, some had the corner of a bed too close to my oven and work area, some had poor access. We decided that we could just as easily utilise two custom single mattresses with our end diner. What ever we chose had to have full length front seats.

 

We then looked at fixed twins. Many had beds that were needlessly too narrow. We liked the Lunar version as the beds were a better width but there was insufficient space we felt between the door and the front window with regard to a porch awning. Even if an awning could be fitted in this narrow gap the positioning of steps would have compromised usage of the awning.

 

We then looked at vans with full length front seats and side diner layouts. Initially OH felt that the front seats might be too narrow to use as single bunks. So we slept for 3 nights on the front seating of our Charisma. OH found it OK. The vans we looked at then had to be wider seating and sprung for comfort. We found several that fitted this bill. Some of them proved too tight on the dinette seating arrangement. Another failing for us was that many used the dinette seat cushions to form a bunk above. These we felt were not comfortable. The one we chose had sprung cushions to the dinette and separate pads for the bunk (which we don't need to use). If you need to use the bunk then storage of these pads would be an inconvenience. I then timed how long to make up the front beds. Walking slowly to the washroom carrying the 8 pieces of back and side seating cushions and 6 other scatter cushions and storing them in the shower, Turning the main seat bases, placing sleeping bags and pillows (mime only :) ) and smoothing out. Everything fitted easily in the shower and the operation was less than 3 minutes. An important consideration for us was that OH could make her side up if I had fallen asleep on the front seat opposite. Also as I sleep less I could sit at the dinette and do a crossword or whatever.

 

OK a rather overlong 'blog'. But what I would say is 'take your time. consider all layouts as the ones I dismiss may suit you to a T.' Every van we looked at (most we needed the key) we went inside, locked the door, took our shoes off and really tried the various seating options. Including sleeping, making up beds, various lounging positions, kitchen work space (I am the cook) etc. Basically we played 'house' in each van for a good 20 minutes or more. More in our final choice. The one we chose we traveled 35 miles each way to the dealer of choice to have a second look and check the working again. For me as a cook the side dinette was excellent for prep area and also liked the fact OH could easily pass me whilst working there, Yes we tried that too! Overall a feeling of space which, as OH suffers with mild claustrophobia is very important.

 

We chose the dealer because although about 10 miles further than two others they were over£2500 cheaper in exchange cost. Also one of the other dealers did not have the right feel, one had no feel and the one we chose felt right and had a good rep. Whether the choice was good only time will tell. So far I am impressed in that they return calls and inform when they have parts to carry out remedials. So far minor. Also when I took the van in for some minor remedial work I said 'I will have to set alarm and put on wheel lock so that I am covered, I know that you are unlikely to do the same but that leaves me the option of coming back to you for any damage. The response was 'Here you are sir a signed letter confirming that we and our insurer are responsible for your caravan with regard to any damage and essential contents such as battery - not belongings.'

 

To reiterate - take your time and play house. Whether parting with £14,000 or £21,000 or more you may want to live with your choice for a number of years. We expect (god willing) 5 years before we next change - 70 weeks away or more.

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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We did exactly the same as you, we had an end dinette which we used as a fixed bed, wanted a fixed bed, then thought a twin bed would suit better and decided after a considerable amount of "trying out" that the side dinette layout suited us best.

 

With our Madrid, the bed bases pull out sideways so we have the advantage that all we need to do is pull the base and cushion out until the back cushion falls down the back, which saves having to store them somewhere else overnight, likewise the beds are 6'3" long so we don't even need to take the end cushion out either. The bedding (memory foam overlays, sleeping bags and pillows fit neatly under each bunk and as you say can be made up without disturbing each other. The side dinette is nice and wide and we leave the top bunk cushions at home unless we've got the grandchildren with us.

 

The kitchen is a decent size with the added avantage of having the dinette table as additional work space/serving space - and it works as an office when OH has her computer and genealogical stuff strewn all over the place. We also use the the big roomy bathroom as a dressing room as well.

 

All in all it works perfectly for us.

2018 S-Max Titanium 2. 0 Tdci (177. 54bhp,180ps,132kw) Powershift + 2015 Unicorn III Cadz, Ventura Marlin porch awning

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Side dinette for us too (albeit a bit older than yours above) for all the above reasons. We leave the single beds made up all the time. I do like the idea of pulling the base out to make the beds a bit wider as in the Madrid. Maybe in a few years. ....... :)

2007 Bailey Series 5 Senator Arizona (4 berth, rear bathroom, side dinette) towed by a 57 Kia Sorento XS Auto with Kumho KL17 tyres, Reich Mover, Kampa Rally 390, Caravan Tyres : GT Radial Maxmiler CX 185/80 R14 102R.

 

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On the previous Charisma we made the end diner up as a double and during summer touring it was left up on site. At Christmas when more time was spent in the van it was put away each morning. That end was also used for the meals over Christmas using the larger main table. With Christmas spread just big enough for two. This year we will have the main meals at the front of the van as although we use the side dinette a lot we need more space for Christmas dinner etc.

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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You dont really now what your needs are until you spend some camping time

 

We thought we had the perfect layout with a side dinette, however we were using the front area to make a double bed, I just got fed up with making and unmaking the bed, I know it's no major big deal, but nothing worse than being outside in the evening and forgetting to make the bed or even worse making the bed forgetting to get the quilts out. We have throws over the benches in case the dog jumps up, which makes it difficult to get the bench cushions out so have to venture underneath.

 

I also didn't like the climb out, I know you get a bit of that with fixed beds but not as bad

 

So now after our first year we are going fixed bed in a couple of weeks

2012 Nissan Navara Tekna 2. 5 U2 Barcelona

Camping nearly destroyed my marriage, but caravanning saved it

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We're also ditching the fixed bed for a side dinette. Hopefully will get our new Coachman around Christmas time. We'd already ordered it before we went to the show but, out of curiosity, we decided to look again at other manufacturers' versions of this layout and we noticed that on all the stands it was the side dinette models that had the most people in them! They're a very popular choice.

 

When do you get the new Lunar (or have you got it already)?

Edited by Glen and Les

2019 Ford Kuga 2. 0 (150 bhp) AWD Manual and 2017 Coachman Pastiche 565.

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Hope you get it right this time then Lloyd1. xfingers.png

 

We didn't make the end double up most of the time as it was made up on site and left till we moved off. but I agree they are a faff if gone daily.

 

Picked up the Lunar in April

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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So now after our first year we are going fixed bed in a couple of weeks

 

Really hope you enjoy your new van - we've enjoyed our fixed bed layout for nearly 2 years, but we had the corner washroom layout which meant that space wasn't compromised in the van, but obviously it was in the bathroom. Our priorities have changed in that we now want a rear bathroom without compromising on space in the van so, hopefully, we may get it with the side dinette. I will miss the convenience of having the bed ready made up, but that's the compromise we've made - I hope it's the right one!

 

Picked up the Lunar in April

 

Thanks for your post then, that's made me feel better, as you've been using the new layout this season and still singing it's praises!

Edited by Glen and Les

2019 Ford Kuga 2. 0 (150 bhp) AWD Manual and 2017 Coachman Pastiche 565.

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Thanks both, It's all about compromise and finding the right fit for you and your partners needs.

 

One excellent use we had with the bunks was to put the top bunk up, properly protect the bottom bunk with waterproof covers and throws and allowed the dogs to sleep there out of the way.

 

We also used the top bunk without cushions as a prep/ store area.

 

Our compromise is a bigger van, more weight etc

 

Thinks the bunk ladders are still In the original packaging

2012 Nissan Navara Tekna 2. 5 U2 Barcelona

Camping nearly destroyed my marriage, but caravanning saved it

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Well G and S we often use no facility sites so the washroom was also important. We keep only the pillow and sleepimg bag undr each front which minimises the faff. As I said earlier under 3 minutes to do both of the beds without rushing.

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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It is difficult to make the right decision isn't it.

I have a 2 berth at present and although the benches are about 6ft 2in I still find them uncomfortable. I hate making the bed up at night so decided on a fixed bed. Maybe it's because it's an older van it is so much hassle to make up, are the newer vans easier? Because we don't want to be climbing over each other I then looked at twin beds but can't find one I really like.

 

I haven't really considered a side dinette because I can eat at the front and can't see the point of them.

Maybe if I can find a van with 6ft 4in front benches I should just go for a 2 berth.

At present looking at the Swift with fixed bed but it is a compromise.

Edited by Alyvin
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It's always a compromise Alyvin. I find our front benches easy to make up as two singles using sleeping bags. Bedding would be a faff. They are 27 inches wide and I think 6'1'' long. As we are about 5'6'' they are fine. We tried it in the previous van to see if it was practicable. That was OK. Bed was 6'3'' and 25'' wide.

 

We find the side dinette very good as no faffing putting a table up. Easy to dish up food and more prep area for me. The side table and the low cupboard unit give a feeling of space as well.

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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We have a double dinnette caravan, (1998 Swift Blakemere), and find it quite versatile.

 

If one of us, (me), wants to go to bed early I can just go and bunk at the back of the van. We always have the above bunk made up just to store our bags and clothes etc.

 

The wardrobe and shower/WC amidships does split the van into two definite areas, whereas the side dinette version does feels more light, airy and open. I can see what Easy T means about the claustrophobic element.

 

Our present van is dry and it works, so we can't see any driving reason to change. A side dinette/large rear washroom could work for us, but a six berth, with side dinette, and two bunks across the rear would probably be our preference. The latter layout would only have a small shower/WC, but this is not high on our list of priorities.

 

Everyone has their own list of must haves, and these change over time as well: hence the number of SH vans for sale.

 

Jim.

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We didn't feel a definite need to change. Just got the feeling we ain't getting any younger and there are no pockets in shrouds. :D

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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We didn't feel a definite need to change. Just got the feeling we ain't getting any younger and there are no pockets in shrouds. :D

 

My feelings exactly. My kids are all up for us joining the SKI club.

 

SWMBO is still working full time, so we don't get out as much as we would both like, but afterwards: we'll be off like a shot, in a van with a different layout.

 

Jim.

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I can't wait until we get to 'go it alone' without dragging 4 kids with us. I will be going fixed bed massive bathroom :D until then it's triple bunks, making up front beds (except when we are abroad, then we leave the bed made up) and large side diner.

Landcruiser LC3 or Mercedes Vito - hauling Elddis Crusader Tempest

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I had a side dinette, decided the dinette was pointless so went for a 2 berth with end bathroom. That served us well for 3 years but we are so fed up of making the bed. Lazy? Sure, why not? So I'm going the other way, getting a fixed bed. (Valencia.) Stll has the end bathrom which we like, front bunks not long enough to sleep on but long enough to put feet up, and it has a nice feeling of space. Hope we got it right but you never know till you use it.

Isuzu D Max pulling Bailey Unicorn 2 Valencia

Bailey Autograph 740 MH: Isuzu for sale LOL

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The actual side dinette, for us, is extremely useful as it means we can leave the front benches made up as beds and still have somewhere to eat without having to put the awning up or eat in the 'bedroom' as we used to in our 2 berth. It's Ideal - for us ! :)

2007 Bailey Series 5 Senator Arizona (4 berth, rear bathroom, side dinette) towed by a 57 Kia Sorento XS Auto with Kumho KL17 tyres, Reich Mover, Kampa Rally 390, Caravan Tyres : GT Radial Maxmiler CX 185/80 R14 102R.

 

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We had two Abbey side dinette vans (Oxford GT and Vogue GTS) in the late 90's/early 00's but fancied a change so we went to the end dinette route with a new Bailey Ranger 500/5. We liked the layout, but not the wetroom, so upgraded to a S5 Provence with a separate shower and loved it, and subsequently changed to an S7 Provence. It is the splitting of the van which we like with 2 distinct areas, and if we have a rubbish view out the front, then the back is normally okay with the large picture window on the rear panel.

 

We have been looking recently at changing again, but are now limited to Elddis with a similar width van, and Lunar with a narrower van, both having the same layout. We have also got used to the extra width upto 7' 6", so are reluctant to go for a much narrower van again.

 

One question I have is, what is the obsession with fixed bunks? I do not want them or deisre them, but the manufacturers apart from Elddis and Lunar have deserted me so no one gets the cash that is waiting to be spent, as I will not swap an almost perfect layout and size for an inferior in our eyes compromise.

 

Had a good look at a Peg 2 Milan and a Uni2 Madrid over the weekend, but still unsure of returning to a side dinette, and the other half hates the u shaped dinette in lieu of the side double bed for models such as the Elddis Avante 564 and Swift CS 544.

 

We have been spoiled really with the 2009 S7, so will probably keep it for another 12 months as it has been faultless for the just about 4 years of ownership and is completely dry, unlike some of the tales of woe elsewhere on the forum.

2010/60 Honda CRV ES-T i-DTEC (Deep Sapphire Blue) and a 2009 S7 Bailey Provence.

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Award1 said 'Had a good look at a Peg 2 Milan and a Uni2 Madrid over the weekend, but still unsure of returning to a side dinette, and the other half hates the u shaped dinette in lieu of the side double bed for models such as the Elddis Avante 564 and Swift CS 544.'

 

I tried similar layouts out as well. Th ones I tried were uncomfortable and impractical.

Edited by Easy T

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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Award1 said 'Had a good look at a Peg 2 Milan and a Uni2 Madrid over the weekend, but still unsure of returning to a side dinette, and the other half hates the u shaped dinette in lieu of the side double bed for models such as the Elddis Avante 564 and Swift CS 544.'

 

I tried similar layouts out as well. Th ones I tried were uncomfortable and impractical.

 

I've been looking around or just such a layout, I currently have a fixed bed model which is fine (I'm a single caravanner nowadays)

My parents are still caravanners and well into their 80s, but the time will, unfortunately, soon come when my father can no longer safely drive, and anyway, even now he baulks at the thought of longer journeys on unfamiliar roads.

A couple of times this year, and in fact again in about a month, they've come away with me and stayed in my 'van.

When you're all in bed it's fine, but during the day there's barely enough seating/circulation space.

With that in mind, I was considering the two layouts your OH doesn't seem to like, because I can leave the rear dinette made up as a fixed double, as I'm used to, when I'm by myself, but have the option to switch it back to seating when I need the extra space.

As you so rightly point out it's all about compromise, but for me, those layouts have the potential to bring the best of both worlds dependant on the use required.

Ssangyong Korando Sports SX / Adria Altea 472DS Eden

 

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The grass is always greener in the other vans till you get one.

 

We have a fixed bed. I love it in the night but hate it in the day. I always wished I had gone for a dinette layout. Then the other week I was talking to a couple who have a dinette layout and hate is as they would rather have a fixed bed. We both thought a twin bed would be better. Till we met a couple who have one and the beds are too thin and very narrow in the middle.

 

A couple came into the site with a side dinette and bunk beds at the back. They each had a bunk which were wider than normal and the under the bottom bunk the dogs slept. He slept in the bottom bunk, the wife was in the middle bunk and the top bunk was used for extra storage.

 

Never seen the layout before but it was something I would look at on my next ban.

2011 Nissan Navara Tekna Auto 2. 5 with a 2011 Elddis Super Sirocco behind it

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4 years ago i was selling my Coachman Pastiche side dinette van. The dealer warned me it would be hard to sell as that layout had fallen out of fashion!1 Now it seems to be very popular again.

 

We've been round a lot of dealers recently and the vans that seem to be attracting most attention were fixed bed and twin bed models. Happily also saw a lot of young families looking at caravans: their main priority seemed to be light enough weight for towing with family cars. Incidentally, the dealers all seemed busy which is nice.

Isuzu D Max pulling Bailey Unicorn 2 Valencia

Bailey Autograph 740 MH: Isuzu for sale LOL

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Our side dinette had to have two long front bunks though. Didn't want to faff making a double.

Alan

 

2005 Nissan X-trail 4WD diesel and Swift Charisma 540 2012 Lunar Clubman ES  2018 Lunar Clubman ES

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We had a Lunar side dinette 'van and loved it. Thought we'd have a new one but hankered after a little more. Then we found our perfect 'van. Large side dinette, but she still has full length saloon single berths. End kitchen with fridge, freezer and microwave stack - but - with large end washroom behind it. Alde wet central heating, Alko ATC. Surround speakers in saloon, kitchen and washroom! Solar panel on top as standard and wired for dual station Satellite TV. LED spotlights and kitchen lights. Shame they don't make them any more! NOT for sale!

 

See our gallery for photos.

Fleetwood Heritage 640 EB towed by ML270 @ 77%

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