Touring with Toddlers

Where to begin? Our next adventure. We love cycling, the kids love cycling. We love camping, the kids love camping. We want an adventure, the kids think they do….

Is it possible to take a one year old and a three year old camping and cycling for several days? Let’s find out.

Our Rules

  • It had to be an A to B route – I have an irrational hatred of retracing my steps!
  • Carry our own gear – We like to be self sufficient
  • Off road / Quiet roads – Safety is paramount
  • Slow and steady – Short distances each day and lots of planned child friendly stops
  • Pre-booked campsites – With kids we need to know where we’re staying the night

The Route

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We chose the Devon coast to coast. 99miles Ilfracombe to Plymouth. It ticked a lot of boxes; beautiful scenery, disused railway lines converted to bike paths, lots of campsites to chose from. The downside? The hills. But how bad could it be? Slow and steady right? We’d be fine.

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We planned to cover the distance in five days, c.20miles a day. Three nights under canvas. One night in a camping pod. Cycling when Matty was due a nap.

The Setup

Matty will generally go with the flow (#second child). We opted for a bike seat on David’s bike when awake, two seated trailer when asleep. (The trailer really deserves it’s own post but suffice to say it’s a Croozer Kid Plus for 2 and we love it!)

We quickly realised that Emmy was unlikely to sit still and be a passive passenger for several hours a day. It was time to break out the Follow-Me Tandem and get her cycling too. When she got tired she could either go in the bike seat or into the trailer.  The unanswered question was how long would she be able to cope on her bike each day.

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This left the back of the trailer, two panniers and the remaining seat (either on the bike or in the trailer) to carry the tent, sleeping bags, camping mats and clothes. Time for some minimalism!

The Gear

For those interested, I’ll post our full packing list on a separate blog shortly with lessons learnt. For those looking for the highlights… A tent with two broken poles somewhat hinders your ability to sleep. If you all smell, your nose stops noticing. Convincing your three year old to take their smallest teddy remains one of the biggest challenges of the holiday. Snacks are mission critical.

Getting to the start

One of the challenges of a linear route is where to leave the car. We opted for an AirBnB in Exeter where we could park the car for the week and get the train the following morning. We were a bit nervous about getting all of our gear on the train (there are only 2 spaces which you can’t reserve in advance) so we deliberately opted for one after 9am and it was remarkably empty. There ended up being about 4 bikes on in the end but the guard didn’t seem to mind.

The train goes as far as Barnstaple, 12miles south of Ilfracombe, but this was solved when we found a brilliant cycling shop in Barnstaple – Carb Cycles –  who were willing to give us a lift. Mike met us at Barnstaple Station and through sheer wizardry managed to get us and all of our gear in the back of his van. Top bloke.

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This all had a big advantage of giving us a full day in Ilfracombe before beginning the tour. The kids loved Tunnels Beaches, a network of tunnels leading to a lovely sheltered beach and Victorian bathing pool. They paddled, went rock pooling and Emmy even had a go at body boarding. The perfect start to our holiday. We went to bed nervous but excited about what the first day of our adventure would bring.

If you have any questions about how we planned for the trip I’m more than happy to share more detail of gear / logistics / route / etc. Watch this space for a round up of our daily escapades!

 

One thought on “Touring with Toddlers

  1. What a great sounding adventure – looking forward to reading the next instalment

    Liked by 1 person

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