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Camper van versus Airbnb & rental car

Hello all!
We’re planning a trip to wales this June, and hoping to stay for a little over a week. As the title says, I’m trying to decide between renting a camper van (we found one in Manchester that is rentable with car seats for the littles) and travelling around, and renting an Airbnb (I found one I like in barmouth) and getting a rental car. We’ve got a three year old and an infant (9 months during our trip,) for reference. We’re focused on northwest wales, and I love beaches and hiking and anything that gets me outdoors, and my partner is happy to come along with me, so long as there’s eventually good beer.

We’re used to camping, so my main concerns are as follows:
-Would we be able to manoeuvre the van through some of the smaller streets, and is there generally parking available?
-How difficult would it be to find spots for the night?
-Are there facilities for emptying tanks? I’m forseeing a need to do so with a week long trip and little ones…
-with June weather, will a toddler and crawling baby be going bonkers with a camper van? I’m used to going outside in all weather, but crawling is an odd time.

We visited Cornwall last time we were in the UK, and my partner was not in love with the driving - there was one time we observed a local bus (mini bus sized) trying to manoeuvre around Mousehole, and were very thankful we were in a small car. Am I overthinking this?

Posted by
6636 posts

I can’t address all your questions, but the size of the camper would make a difference as well as where you planned on visiting. Some of the rural roads are extremely narrow and I wouldn’t want to maneuver even a full size van on them. You should be able to find camping locations by searching on caravan camping in Wales. I know there are some, but whether they’re in places you’re going to visit is another story. That alone should help you make your decision. Any dedicated caravan site should have waste disposal facilities.

Posted by
32976 posts

last year the camping plots were filled to overflowing with much higher prices because we all had to stay home and travelling overseas was so difficult the term staycation was on everybody's lips.

This year it appears that overseas travel may be easier (although with Easyjet and BA cancelling hundreds of flights because of staff shortages (we have the highest covid case number since the beginning) folks may have second thoughts.

If you have located a good Airbnb and like where it is, I'd have a look at the various campsites and see if they are booked up for the time you want.

Parking in a layby isn't the great idea it once was...

Posted by
6113 posts

In the U.K., camper vans don’t have any bathroom facilities, so you would need to book into a site with facilities. Motor homes are larger and have their own bathrooms. Wild camping is illegal in Wales - you can park your van on private land, but you need the land owners permission.

Many car parks, including those in popular tourist spots and some supermarkets have height barriers to prevent motor homes entering. The roads are generally not as narrow as Cornwall, but some would be a challenge for larger vehicles if you aren’t used to driving in the U.K.

Campsites the last 2 years have been booked up well in advance due to people not travelling internationally. We are planning to take our caravan to France in June, but our Plan B is England and we booked the sites in December. Even then, we had to be flexible as sites were often full at the weekend but had capacity during the week. Site prices have rocketed since Covid. The Covid restrictions last year in Wales lasted longer than in England, so bathrooms in Wales were closed, so you had to use your own facilities (no price reduction either).

With a toddler and an unknown Covid situation, I would hire a small car and rent a cottage.

Posted by
107 posts

The size of the vehicle is irrelevant. Petrol tankers, fire engines, delivery trucks all use those narrow lanes. It’s not the size it’s what you do with it.

Posted by
32976 posts

Petrol tankers, fire engines, delivery trucks all use those narrow lanes

and the drivers are trained and often local

Posted by
1920 posts

Even then, they can come to grief. I can remember a refuse van stuck in Fowey trying to turn a tight bend. He was stuck there for quite as time bringing traffic to a standstill.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for the replies, especially Jennifer for the well thought out and first hand experience.

We ended up going with the Airbnb. Part of the appeal of the camper van was not being nailed down to any one spot, and being able to be open to serendipity and planning on the fly. But it sounds like that’s not possible with the numbers at campgrounds atm.

Stress-free (or at least less stressful) beach rental it is.

Thanks again!