The Yateses are expecting a baby next month, and asked their wedding guests to contribute money towards the caravan. With James’s work as a freelance cameraman for sporting events, they are often able to make a virtue of his filming on location. The Lake District, near to their Preston home, remains a favourite spot.
Those who went on caravan holidays as a child might recall lukewarm water, cramped living conditions and drab interiors. But a new generation of customers has led to a demand for luxury. This year, the US company Airstream launched its iconic Silver Bullet caravan in the UK. With a typical price tag of over £100,000, the motor home comes with central heating, LED lighting and the option of leather upholstery. Meanwhile, British manufacturer Coachman launched the Lusso, with fully equipped kitchen and sound system, for 2021.
While these models would put most millennials out of pocket, the market for traditional, and pre-owned, caravans is also booming. Just over of them were bought during the first three months of 2021; earlier this year, Derbyshire-based Robinsons Caravans, which sells both new and used models, said that waiting times for a new caravan had doubled from eight weeks to 16, sometimes stretching to 24 weeks.
One company driving the millennial market is Barefoot Caravans, which creates design-led fibreglass models. The Cotswolds-based company is the brainchild of Cathy Chamberlain and Ben Matthews, who came up with the idea after a trip to Glastonbury festival 10 years ago.
“I heard from people who thought they were too old for a tent, and who wanted a bit more luxury. I saw a gap in the market for something that was fun to take to a festival, but also aerodynamic and easy to tow,” says Chamberlain. “Our customers are definitely getting younger. Millennials are the ‘experience generation’, and [a caravan] is a great way to facilitate that.”
Chamberlain and Matthews are working flat out to keep up with demand, and the company is now taking orders for February 2022.
Nick Lomas, the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s director general, says the sudden popularity is down to one thing: “people want control over their holidays, and the best way to get that is to take your home with you… The rules on overseas travel can change at any point, so people are rediscovering Britain. A lot of millennials want to go off the beaten track, and explore places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get to.”
Even before the pandemic, the trend for “van life” was thriving: on Instagram, the hashtag has 10.2 million posts showing dreamy pictures of life on the road.
Kirsty Cheen, 24, and her partner Lewis Pamphilon, 25, paid £8,200 for a Renault Master van in July last year, and converted it into a camper-van. Keen mountain bikers, the couple have taken it for a six-week tour around France, and on a trip to Scotland to see Cheen’s family. They document all their excursions on YouTube and are currently planning a trip to Wales.