Advice from families of 5+ please

Jaffacake

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Jan 26, 2018
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We are a family of two adults and three children aged from 5-11 years and two dogs, looking to purchase out first motorhome.
We have an idea in out heads of what layout we want, but we'd be really interested to hear from all you experienced motorhomers - what are the things you can't live without. What have you found to be essential.
Any thoughts on must haves, wished you had, or regretted having.........focussing mainly on the layout.

Thanks in advance........
 

Kirsten

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We have 3 grandchildren and take them off n out for day trips and 3 - 4 nights at a time - seatbelts are an absolute priority; we did toy with getting a newer van but none of the under 6.5 m ones had 5 belted seats. Some sales people said we could retro fit a seat belt or use side facing ones- you can’t... don’t fall in love with a van and compromise on safety . Our van has 6 seatbelts - table makes a bed and is easy to assemble. Try the van out for sitting / sleeping / dog transport in the showroom. We love our drop down bed , use it for storing awning en route now children bigger and need more space .Essentials apart from layout - wine- cheese- biscuits for kids and dogs . Let us know how you get on and enjoy!
 

Lenny HB

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With your size family you are going to need quite a large payload.
First question do you have a C1 licence so you can drive over a 3500kg van.
As you will probably need at least a 4250kg van.
With children often an over can bed is favored but does make the van more unstable in cross winds and cornering..
As said seat belts first priority and I would agree with hireing some different layouts to see what suits you could avoid an expensive mistake.

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Jul 5, 2013
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Agree with others. Start with safety and make sure you have 5 seat belts. Then payload - with you all and all of the gear (bikes toys etc) and extras you will need 500kg, maybe 750kg to be safe. So that means you will almost certainly be over 3.5t and that means you will need a C1 licence.

Only then can you start thinking about layout.
 

dabhand

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Get the van with the biggest toilet tank or carry a spare cassette apart from that don’t forget it’s an easy mod for many vans which have front drop down bed and rear twins to put a bunk in.(y) Good luck
 

suavecarve

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Sounds like a garage is required for the bikes as in a couple of years you wont be able to bung the 5 year olds bike on top of the 4 rack on the back. Weight as pointed out by others. Dogs into the garage. Seat belts. a bit of space on wet days so need more than a dinette as a rest area.
If you have 2 daughters then i would suggest a 2nd bathroom !

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OP
Jaffacake

Jaffacake

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Sounds like a garage is required for the bikes as in a couple of years you wont be able to bung the 5 year olds bike on top of the 4 rack on the back. Weight as pointed out by others. Dogs into the garage. Seat belts. a bit of space on wet days so need more than a dinette as a rest area.
If you have 2 daughters then i would suggest a 2nd bathroom !
m
 
OP
Jaffacake

Jaffacake

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Oops sorry for above, not quite got to grips with quotes Thing .

Good point about the bike and need for a garage,we were thinking of rear bunks with a garage, this way the kids (or at least two of them) have the option of hiding away reading etc. We have two boys lol, so no need for a second bathroom, probably the opposite problem
We have C1 on our licence
Thanks for your replies so far, much to consider, seat belts being a must, but proving hard to find
 

Lenny HB

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I think @peterc10 estimate of payload is a bit on the low side. From our experience I reckon for 2 people (and we are lightweights weighing in at 116kg for the pair of us) you need at least 600kg. I would think you need around 1000kg as your family will be growing and getting heavier each year. Plenty of vans around with big payloads once you get into the 4.25t + vans.

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Jul 5, 2013
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I think @peterc10 estimate of payload is a bit on the low side. From our experience I reckon for 2 people (and we are lightweights weighing in at 116kg for the pair of us) you need at least 600kg. I would think you need around 1000kg as your family will be growing and getting heavier each year. Plenty of vans around with big payloads once you get into the 4.25t + vans.
Could be the case, but depends how disciplined you are when packing! And it also depends upon the layout. 5 beds may well mean that you do not have enough room to pack everything you want anyway. And bunk beds are often used, in which case probably no garage as such. It is also going to depend upon the budget as to what you can get.
 
May 7, 2015
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What is your budget? If you can give some idea then folk may find suitable vehicles online which may suit you.
 

Lenny HB

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Jaffacake may not be aware that payload does not include any factory or dealer fitted extras that can easily lose 200-300kg.
The figure they give does include a driver at 75kg, 20Lt water, 90% fuel & 1x 11kg aluminium gas bottle. That is standard for German vans most others are similar but you do need to check.

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Oct 29, 2008
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I think you are almost entirely stuck with one front layout which is s full dinette giving you 4 rear belts.
There are a few very niche extra options like globecar offer a model with an extra seat that folds out into the isle, but Ive only seen it on a German van.
Another option is changing the cab passenger seat for a double one, you can get a seat swivel for the doubles from Kiravans.
You would ideally need a van with a big payload as it soon adds up when theres 5 of you and dogs and bikes etc

2 Adults 150KG
3 Children 140KG
2 Dogs 50KG
Add on accesories (TV,Extra battery,Solar panel, Awning etc) 80KG
Clothes and misc for 5 people 100KG
Equipment 50KG
Food and drink 30kg
Bikes and outdoor equipment 100KG
Water 80KG
Gas 20KG
Diesel 70KG

Total 870KG

Converters usually allow 70KG for a driver, half a tank of fuel and some allowance for gas before they give the payload levels.
You would also need to watch individual axle weights.
 

suavecarve

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To clarify the weight issue, You have more chance of winning the pools than finding a van under 3500 kg which you will get 5 persons 2 dogs and some bikes on ......................................... Unless you are naturists on a budget
 
Jul 5, 2013
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To clarify the weight issue, You have more chance of winning the pools than finding a van under 3500 kg which you will get 5 persons 2 dogs and some bikes on ......................................... Unless you are naturists on a budget
Already confirmed that the OP has a C1 licence, so is not tied to under 3500kg

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magicsurfbus

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Payload, Payload and Payload are your first three priorities. Check the smallprint in the brochure very carefully regarding what's included in the maker's calculations and what isn't - they will try to get away with murder. Is anything being fitted beyond the basic factory specification?

Be aware that after people, liquids (fresh water, waste, fuel, boiler, toilet flush tank) will make a significant difference to available payload. Every litre is another kilo, so best not to drive around with both your fresh water tank and your waste tanks full.

A lot will depend on your intended usage - if you're going to be on campsites with an electric hook up your needs will be different to using it for more independent 'wild' camping or aires.

If I could change one thing about the first MH we bought (6 berth) I would have gone for swivelling front seats - a major space-saver.
 
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We were 5 when kids were growing up, we had everything from caravans 6 berth coach build's motorhoms to vw pop tops. Our pop tops had 5 proper seat belts and 4 beds but the older kids were always much happier to sleep in small tents outside the van. Five people living and sleeping together in a motorhome no matter what size is always going to be a bit of a struggle. A nice awning with a sleeping compartment would work....(y)
 

grumps147

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Seatbelts and Payload covered above.

You will find not all sleeping berths are full adult length, so as children get older sleeping comfort could become an issue. Some even early age teenagers are quite tall.

Some overcab beds can have quite a small headroom, and for the one nearest the front it can seem clostrophobic, make sure all try it out. Strange, given bunk style sleeping even though headroom is similar the problem does not seem as bad.

Advice is overcab beds should not be used under a certain age, I can’t remember what that is sorry.

Tents for older ones as suggested above is a good idea.

If it’s down to a difficult choice between two models, choose the one with the bigger fridge.

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D

deleted-member02

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We’re a family of four (without dogs) but we do extended tours (6 week) so have an idea of your needs.

As already stated, carrying weight and number of seatbelts will dictate your choices and limit you to a small number of vehicles.

You'll almost certainly be looking at an 8m van with gvw 4,000kg upwards.

A front dinette will be essential (for four rear belts).

Bunks are great but do limit garage space, which will be needed if carrying five bikes.
The other options are rear lounge, double or singles at the rear.

A double will give the most garage space but does mean kids have to share a bed.

Rear lounge or singles will work, the downside is smaller garage.

A couple of suggestions for you.

Laika Kreos 3002, very popular with large Italian families.
(Review for older model, newer is almost identical)https://www.practicalmotorhome.com/reviews/motorhome/30271-laika-kreos-3002

http://www.southdownsmotorcaravans.co.uk/stock/2495/used-laika-kreos-3002-motorhome-u2495_007.html

Burstner Argos
https://www.practicalmotorhome.com/reviews/motorhome/30081-burstner-argos-747-2-g

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classi...=at_motorhomes&postcode=bs35ru&berth=8&page=1

https://www.autotrader.co.uk/classi...orhomes&keywords=argos&postcode=bs35ru&page=1
 
Feb 5, 2014
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We are a family of two adults and three children aged from 5-11 years and two dogs, looking to purchase out first motorhome.
....

REBEL THOUGHTS: Have you considered a caravan?

You probably have a largish car just for day-to-day transport so why buy another large vehicle to stand unused for long periods of time?

Issues of payload, seatbelts etc become irrelevant.

The caravan can be used to transport awnings, tents, bikes etc without impinging on your space whilst travelling.

Failing that, how about a trailer to haul your belongings?

Gordon
 
Jul 5, 2013
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REBEL THOUGHTS: Have you considered a caravan?

You probably have a largish car just for day-to-day transport so why buy another large vehicle to stand unused for long periods of time?

Issues of payload, seatbelts etc become irrelevant.

The caravan can be used to transport awnings, tents, bikes etc without impinging on your space whilst travelling.

Failing that, how about a trailer to haul your belongings?

Gordon
Caravans generally have smaller payloads than motorhomes ........

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Feb 5, 2014
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Caravans generally have smaller payloads than motorhomes ........

AGREED (y).

BUT the passengers, driver and fuel can all be ignored. Most tuggers don't carry tanks full of fresh water, nor waste water because they don't use their vehicles in the same manner as "us" :whistle:.

Additionally, many MHers move on every day or so: tuggers tend to stay still and, I would suggest, this may be more in keeping with the desires of young, and not so young, children ;).

We all make decisions about the life-style which we adopt but, in my opinion, it is worth considering all of the options BEFORE making the decision :).

Gordon

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OP
Jaffacake

Jaffacake

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Thank you for all your comments. To answer a few questions - we are looking at second hand, budget 20-25k.
Most of the time it will just be me and my very small dog (4.5kg), so wanting to keep it as small as possible, but giving the option for the odd family weekend.
We have considered the C1 and Hymer Classic, but not sure if there's enough payload or if they can be uprated. We are not known for traveling light!

We tried a caravan last season, but I just hated towing, so that is out of the equation. A friend had a caravan come off when driving, and I've seen two overturn on the motorway before, which has put me off!!
 

cruiser

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We have a Elddis 400 A 1990 vintage. It has a 900k payload. We have gone away with 4 kids and two dogs. And if you change the back single seat into bunk beds . You can sleep all 6 inside. But I have fitted a caravan awning rail to the side of the van. So the kids can sleep outside as well. It works for my lot.
 

BreweryDave

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You mention ‘as small as possible’ but with your requirements and budget I’d have thought an American RV would be the best suited for what you want.

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Oct 29, 2008
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Thank you for all your comments. To answer a few questions - we are looking at second hand, budget 20-25k.
Most of the time it will just be me and my very small dog (4.5kg), so wanting to keep it as small as possible, but giving the option for the odd family weekend.
We have considered the C1 and Hymer Classic, but not sure if there's enough payload or if they can be uprated. We are not known for traveling light!

We tried a caravan last season, but I just hated towing, so that is out of the equation. A friend had a caravan come off when driving, and I've seen two overturn on the motorway before, which has put me off!!
My PVC will sleep 5 at a push, its designed for it. How about self building? You would need a Fiat Maxi chassis for the payload but could plate up to 4500kg. You could belt 5 people if you have a front double passenger seat.
 

Feltwell

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We are a family of 5 - Mum, Dad, and kids age 8, 12 and 13 - and we've got a van which suits us very well, I admit more by luck than anything else!

First of all, forget the number of berths a van says - ours is a 7 berth which is just right for 5. It only has 6 travel seats in any event. You'll need a 6 or 7 berth for 5 people to be comfortable, but watch the seating on most 6 berths, as I'll describe below.

Payload - is important. When I bought my van it was plated at 3500kg, which was daft as it weighed 3300kg with just me in it. I've had it replated to 4000kg as I've got the licence, to be honest we struggle to keep under that. Don't think bigger van = more payload, it doesn't always work that way, bigger vans weigh more unladen so some have no advantage over smaller ones - you have to check.

Layout. Bunk beds at the back are great, but watch the size of them - if they go straight across the back of the van "side to side" then that's probably fine, but if they are in the back corner and run front to back then check them as many of that style are stupidly small, once a kid reaches teenage years they won't fit in them comfortably. Our bunks are over 7' long which gives some space below the kid's feet for stuff - ours have clothes in a sports bag there.

Some 6 berth vans especially are laid out such that 2 of the kids would have to share a double bed, which if yours are like ours would not be a good idea!

So we've got 2 bunks at the back, the bottom one of which can be folded up to give more garage space. Moving forward we've got the kitchen on one side, bathroom and wardrobe on the other - and forward again we've got a 4 seat dinette and a 2 seat dinette at the front of the van, and a huge bed over the cab - all in a 7.5m coachbuilt van (McLouis Tandy 640 Plus if you want to Google) - like this, although this is newer than our van:-

http://eng.auto24.ee/used/439855

The 2 eldest kids use the bunks at the back, it's important for the older ones especially to have a bit of private space to disappear off to. At night we turn the 2 seat dinette into a bed for our 8 year old - it's a short bed at about 5'4" but of course no problem for him, yet! When it becomes one I suspect our eldest won't be with us on holiday any more, but if she is we could use the 4 seat dinette as a bed for the youngest, that bed is longer as well as wider.

I put a curtain rail up that wraps around the youngest's bed so we can screen it off. Crucially, that leaves the 4 seat dinette for us adults to sit at once the kids are in bed - don't forget about that, I've seen parents freezing outside as all the seats have been turned into beds for the kids! Myself and Mrs F use the big luton bed over the cab. Also make sure that the ladder to the overcab bed is still useable once you have the kids beds all set up, I've seen some vans where it isn't, which is just daft......

What else? You don't need the latest greatest van, mine was 9 years old when I bought it and it suits us just fine, and you're not so paranoid about it getting marked (although I have to say apart from the odd spilled drink ours survives the kids amazingly well!) You will spend more on bits and pieces and modifying it after you've bought it than you plan to. The kids will love it. Adding lots of USB charge sockets to keep the dreaded phones topped up is a must have for the older ones. A bike rack is an essential but watch that pesky payload - we have the 3 kids bikes on a rack on the back, and us adults have 2 folding bikes which are in the garage and we fit everything in there with the bottom bunk folded down, just! A big (by motorhome standards) fridge freezer is a must have, as is an oven I'd say. The only real downside to us of the layout in our van is the dinette seats aren't the most comfortable in the world, and the cab seats don't swivel which does seem a bit of a waste of space - once the kids are in bed it would be nice to have had a layout where we could have sat in the swivelled round cab seats for a bit more comfort. It's a minor gripe though, layouts with swivelling seats have other problems, you have to compromise somewhere. The passenger seat also acts as storage for our youngest's child seat once we're on site.

An awning and extra space out there is tempting but really limits your options - either you have a roll out roof and fix sides to it - a "safari room" - but then you can't move the van. Or, you have a drive away awning, but still a pain to put up and take down if you're only stopping for a night on the journey. We all sleep in the van, it's much easier, and the kids are quite happy with that.

We have ended up at times with Mum being sat in the back with the kids to keep the peace and one of the kids with me in the cab on long journeys, if they start to get bored and wind each other up, as siblings love to do...... Having 3 of them just gives each of them 2 to annoy......

The van is great for days out with the kids, always having a loo with you and always being able to stop and make up some lunch or snacks spontaneously is a huge bonus (as is always having ice cream on hand! For the kids only, naturally....:rolleyes:) The only time we've taken the car as well has been down in Devon in the summer - those tiny narrow lanes at the busiest time of year really aren't the place for a large van. Elsewhere in the UK and abroad we've never had a problem.

Hope that helps! We love ours, just that dreaded 25 days annual leave limit that stops us using it a lot more. Any further questions let me know.

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