While some of us like to relax away from hustle and bustle of daily life while in our caravans, others prefer to have all their mod cons and entertainment gadgets with them. And why not – getting away from it all doesn’t have to literally mean leaving all traces of your everyday life behind. If TV, radio and internet are part of your must-have list, take them on holiday with you.
Of course, the nature of many caravan sites makes it difficult to gain access to certain aspects of modern entertainment but it is still possible to get a great signal -
- On a laptop or tablet computer
- With a freeview box
- Or, by satellite
Unsurprisingly there are pros and cons to each but with a little preparation but, once you have bought the kit you need, you’ll be all set for future holidays too. Don’t worry about being forced to watch your favourite programmes in less-than-ideal quality either – with the right equipment, you can have as good a set-up as you have at home.
Given that the digital switchover in the UK was completed almost two years ago, it’s fairly safe to assume that you have a reasonably new TV, which will make it even easier to set up your caravan entertainment system.
When it comes to actually fitting the equipment in your caravan, you can choose to employ a specialist caravan or motorhome engineer to install the system or buy one which you can do yourself. The best option will depend on how confident you feel about being able to do the job to a high standard without professional help. Whether you fit the dish yourself or not, remember that you are likely to have to alter it slightly each holiday to pick up the best signal in your current pitch.
TV viewing systems for caravans
- External satellite dish or freeview box which streams live TV into your caravan
- Pre-recorded programmes on your laptop, which you can connect to your TV using an appropriate cable
- Netflix, Lovefilm or other streaming service (where the Wi-Fi connection on-site is strong enough to use these services)
- DVD player
Laptop or computer
Many programs can be downloaded prior to your holiday and then watched at your convenience. This is ideal for catching up on series you might have missed and means you can use the generally faster broadband connection at home before leaving. Be aware though that most channels only allow you to download programs for a set period of time.
You will need to have a strong Wi-Fi signal and a reasonably good data allowance to enable watching many programs on a laptop or tablet computer. Whilst many camping sites now offer Wi-Fi, they are not always free to use and can cost upward of £9.00 a day to connect to which can obviously become very expensive, very quickly. The Wi-Fi signal will also need to be consistent to stop programs freezing.
Another option for watching television on your laptop or tablet computer may be to purchase a USB TV tuner. Simply plug the tuner in to a spare USB port on your computer and install the software, but it is important to check that your computer does have the correct operating system / system requirements before purchasing. Please note that this is not an option for the iPad one, as it does not have USB ports, also several of the models on the market are not supported by Apple software. As the aerial inside the USB stick is very small, it may be necessary to purchase an additional external aerial to boost the signal received.
Freeview boxes are another alternative if your television doesn’t have it already built in. The boxes are a reasonably inexpensive way to upgrade your current television and you should then be able to receive most of the channels that you receive at home.
However there are parts of the country, despite the digital switchover, that have problems receiving a strong freeview signal and if you are staying in a valley, or a particularly hilly area, or if the weather is bad then you may experience difficulties. Unfortunately the aerials that come pre-fitted to your caravan or motorhome tend not to be that powerful, partly due to their size and with aerials, size (and height) are everything. Alleviating some signaling issues can be achieved by purchasing an additional aerial for your caravan or motorhome. These can be bought from around £15.00 to nearly £300.00, depending on the type that you buy and can either be fixed to your caravan or motorhome, or attached to a tripod for a freestanding more flexible version.
The size of satellite dish you need will depend on where you intend to travel. For holidays within the UK, 40cm-65cm dishes will be more than enough, as it won’t be difficult to find satellite coverage. If you plan to travel to Europe in your caravan, you are likely to need a bigger dish (bear in mind that this includes travelling to Ireland, not just mainland Europe).
Generally, an 85cm dish is recommended for travelling around Spain and Portugal, for example. This is the biggest size of satellite dish that is considering safe for use in a caravan; both due to the amount of space it will take up while being stored and transported and the increased difficulty of mounting larger dishes.
Aside from the size of the dish itself, there are several other factors you should consider while shopping for a satellite dish:
- Preferred brand
- Automatic or manual signal searching
Just remember that the further you get away from the UK, the larger the dish you will need in order to pick up channels like the BBC and ITV.
- Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to subscribe to a paid service to benefit from having a satellite dish in your caravan. There are plenty of free channels available, which only require a dish and a receiver
- Your TV license covers the main terrestrial channels, as well as the BBC and ITV digital channels and BBC radio through your satellite dish – but only if no one at home is ‘using’ the TV licence at the same time. We’ve covered this in more detail in this article here.
- Sky4Caravans is a great place to start when looking for a caravan entertainment system. Satellite for Caravans is another fantastic resource.
- At the end of the day, your choice will be down to personal preference. If you just want to watch the television occasionally, then the freeview box or laptop options will probably be satisfactory. If, on the other hand you want to keep children amused, or be virtually certain of receiving a signal, or are going to be away from home for longer periods of time, then a satellite system will be the way forward.
- It is also recommended that you try any new equipment at home prior to going away so that you can fully test it out not too far away from assistance should you need it.
- One of the best pieces of advice for watching any kind of television in a caravan or motorhome is to park away from any obstructions, such as buildings or trees, that may obscure the signal to the aerial or satellite hence why there are often issues in valleys, hilly or built up areas. The clearer the line of sight, the better the signal.
If you found this article useful or have any suggestions or questions, please leave a comment below.