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The Rise of Caravanning

By: Chris Nickson - Updated: 28 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Caravan Caravan Site Airstream Tin Can

These days caravanning is an important segment of the holiday business. It’s grown into a huge industry, with well-equipped caravan parks and new, more sophisticated models of caravans entering the market each year.

Caravanning has come a long way in a relatively short time. It was only in 1880 that the very first recreational caravan was built, a one-off for a doctor, and drawn by horses.

Early Caravans

It was the Roma people, known as the Gypsies, who first made people aware of caravans. They lived and travelled in their highly-decorated carts; they were really houses on wheels. Over the centuries they made their way all across Europe.

The development of the carriage, which had been in use since the Middle Ages in a very primitive form, made travel easier, especially given the terrible state of roads. Once the spring was introduced, making journeys more comfortable, taking carriages over longer distances became feasible and heralded the coaching age.

The horse-drawn recreational caravan was the next step. But things began to move on with the first car-drawn caravan.

The Modern Caravan

The first really recognisable modern caravan arrived in American in the 1920s. It was a country where the car was more common and distances so much greater. People took to the road, sleeping in these new creations, which were now made of metal, earning them the nickname of tin-can tourists.

The Depression of the 1930s set the fledgling industry back, and it didn’t really take off again until after World War Two. By the 1950s the car was ubiquitous in America, and new caravan designs, like the futuristic Airstream, brought people to the lifestyle.

In the UK the caravan really arrived a little later, in the 1960s, although the Caravan Club had been founded in 1907. Until cars became more widespread the industry couldn’t really expand. Of course, there were those who owned caravans, and caravan parks existed, but it was something for the minority. The caravan itself had come a long way, however, and now really could offer a home away from home, albeit a very cramped one.

The Increase In Caravanning

The increase in caravanning in the UK arrived with the 1970s and the rise in car ownership. Eager to take to the roads and see new places, caravans offered a cheap holiday option and one that gave a great deal of freedom.

It was ideal for families, since caravans could sleep adults and kids, and the designs were continuing to evolve, allowing for showers in the caravan and all mod cons, leaving them entirely self contained. The spread of caravan sites, many of them with plush facilities, made caravanning as luxurious as any hotel holiday, and a great deal cheaper.

Travelling

The great joy of caravanning is the chance to travel that it brings. With caravan sites all across Europe, these days the possibilities for caravan holidays have greatly broadened. Satellite television, microwave ovens and all the other technological advances have made caravanning even more appealing, to the extent that it’s common to see long queues of caravans on the roads almost every weekend.

Caravanning allows for spontaneity. If you don’t like a site or an area you can simply drive on and find somewhere else. If the weather’s bad there’s somewhere to stay out of the rain-or you can simply turn around and go home. Caravanning has changed the way we view holidays. It’s become an industry worth £1 billion each year, which says a great deal about its importance, and its growth.

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