Every year, Joburger Candy and her family choose to celebrate the holidays in their coveted Scout Sprite caravan.

Candy Cope is the last school friend I’d have thought would be an avid caravanner when we grew up. But she and her husband Justin are now the biggest advocates around!

Glowing with pride she says, “I open the door of our caravan and that smell triggers my best childhood memories camping with my grandad. I have a picture of my parents bathing me in a bucket,” and that’s just what they used to do with their youngest daughter India-Rose. And, of all the things her eldest daughter Georgia wanted for her 13th birthday – a disco, a pamper party… Candy gave her the options – a weekend caravanning with family friends was her first choice. “That says a lot!”

How did this Sandton girl end up owning a caravan? “Friends took us camping at Sterkfontein Dam and our tent blew away. We slept in their caravan and we were blown away! Caravanning takes you places you’d never ordinarily go – or dream of going – because there’s just nowhere else to stay.”

Consider the humble caravan – a place where you're the only one who's used the duvet and you can check-in and -out whenever it suits you!

Choosing your ‘van’

“What’s most important is your van mustn’t swing and pull while being towed. It took us years to find our Scout Sprite, which they sadly don’t make anymore.

“It comfortably sleeps four yet is tiny and fits in a single garage. The roof pops up and the side opens into a double bed so it has two double beds. This is ideal for weekends, but for a three-week trip we add on a room – a tent – for our girls, another on the front as a patio/dining room, and gazebo as a veranda.

“Over time, our friend Paul’s caravan has cost him more than half a million rand – it’s fully imported, with air-conditioning, a stove, full-size fridge and freezer, queen bed, TV, bathroom, shower, toilet, basin... Ours is very basic but I’ve enjoyed making it our home from home.”

A place by the sea

Every December for the last seven years, the Copes have had a standing three-week booking on the same site at Yellow Sands, 10 kilometres from Cintsa. “You’re literally on the beach, protected by trees but you can hear the waves, and we string up hammocks. It’s very grounding! It’s serviced daily and we take minimal clothing. We connect with the same friends, some from Joburg, Cape Town and others from Gonubie – only 10k’s down the road!

"We cook a full Christmas meal and our tables conveniently interlock into one long table. Father Christmas pitches up, there’s a religious service and youth camp activities. We have themed evenings with bonfires, treasure hunts, a golf day nearby, a cycle race, and movie nights under the stars – It’s brilliant!

“For a family of four, you’re looking at R250 per site, R200 per adult, R50 per child per day. So, R750 per day x 21 days… R15 750. By comparison, you’d stare down well over R100 000 for two weeks in a 5-star hotel nearby. And hiring a caravan adds up so you might as well buy your own.”

Freedom and fun

People who caravan tend to be very down-to-earth so upgrading what you have is more of a hobby than materially competitive. “We nose around to see what others have done and the old vans are often done up and quite beautiful. Our interior décor theme’s blue and white, with bunting and, for Christmas, fairy lights – well, that is competitive – Yellow Sands can be seen from outer space!”

“There’s no Wi-Fi, no TV, it’s back to nature, and to find the kids you look for the pile of bikes!

“Most sites we’ve been to have electricity, but ‘Sterkies’ has no power or water. We’ll never forget staying at the foot of the Golden Gate in the snow – our humble caravan was incredibly cosy! Jumping off the cliffs into Sterkfontein Dam is also a highlight!

“Indy sometimes says, ‘Mom, I’ve never been on an aeroplane’… She’ll have to wait for that but agrees that all the adventures we’ve had in our caravan go a long way to make up for it!”

Readers looking to buy a caravan can expect to spend from about R300 000 (entry level) to R370 000 for a top-end van. Certain companies specialise in caravan finance, to make investing in your caravan easier.