Fairy Travels

A weekend in the Volkswagen California Camper

On a Friday at the end of August, just prior to the schools returning, I earned the best accolade!! Officially declared the best mammy ever! Why you might wonder…….

Well, I announced that we had been kindly offered the use of a Volkswagen California for a weekend. I am sure the squeals of excitement could be heard for miles! I mean what is not to love, the freedom of being able to hit the road and stay pretty much where we wanted. It didn’t take too long to formulate the plan of where to go. The kids wanted to show their cousins so it was decided pretty quickly we would head for quite possibly our favourite place….Donegal.

As luck we have it, we happened on possibly the only weekend where the weather was akin to a mini heatwave.  We packed up Friday after the oldest had finished soccer camp and we were off down the N3 with everything but the kitchen sink, and some very happy kids and adults.

The Volkswagen California 6.1

The model we had the use of was the California 6.1 – 2020 so brand-new version with the very eye-catching two-tone paint work.  That copper bronze is really fab! It has a 2-litre diesel engine with automatic transmission. I am informed that the annual road tax is a very reasonable €102.

Some initial thoughts on the spec

  • The way the space is designed is impressive, a very clever use of space. There is a decent size fridge (42l), 2 ring gas hob, sink, cutlery drawer and an abundance of storage. The front seats swivel around, and the table is pulled up to make it the perfect dining/ chill out space. I could ramble on about this for ever, it’s the little details.  The outdoor table is stored in the sliding door frame, the chairs literally in the boot door. No space is wasted. It’s so ergonomically designed and its ease of use I feel is a big selling point.
  • Its deceptively spacious, from just looking at the outside I didn’t expect to have so much space inside.
  • The kids went wild for the sleep set up. The roof rises (push button electric) and there is a decent size double up there and the two back seats lie flat to form the other double.  Plenty space for 2 adults and 2 kids. The base of the bed can also be pushed up into the roof to allow standing room too. Each window has blinds including very cleverly designed front windscreen blinds.

Onboard functionality

  • The cockpit is impressive – high resolution digital display, its intuitive and very spacious with plenty storage options, cup holders etc.  I loved the vision, great mirrors and high up making it a comfortable drive. 
  • In terms of on board tech there is a camper control panel overhead where you can access the working of the camper itself. For example, raise the roof for the bed, turn on the fridge. Also touch screen zoned lighting and air conditioning (and parking heating which we didn’t use but I can really see the benefit).  Again, like much of the rest of the design, it’s intuitive and easy to get to grips with.
  • You can also hook the camper up to the camp sites power source and there is a fresh water tank also.
  • My husband did the driving as I was a tad nervous driving the van, but he assures me I shouldn’t have been. In terms of size as campers go this is ideal, similar to a Volkswagen Transporter van, it’s not so big that you would be worried about height or narrow country roads.  The size too makes it easier to park and manoeuvre navigating towns. He reckons it felt like a very sold drive, visibility was excellent in part due to the large side mirrors. It also appears to be an economical drive also.
  • The front seats are very comfortable with arm rests and lumbar support and importantly if travelling with kids the two back seats come with Isofix. The kids maintain it was the comfiest drive ever! Some serious leg room in the back for them and unexpectedly (for me anyway) little road noise even when zipping down the M3.
  • Not at all related to functionality but this is a head turner!!! When we pulled up to our first stop in Donegal, we had so much interest from other campers!  The two-tone paint is quite eye catching.  I’m not sure many other camper vans could be conversation starters like this one is! I think the Volkswagen has a kind of cult following and the kids were  excited to meet some of the older models on our travels. Of course, they needed some pics!
  •  I could definitely see some looks of pure envy when we rolled out the awning and sat watching the sun set over the Atlantic while enjoying some cold beers courtesy of the on-board fridge.

Some drawbacks

  • No toilet (Grand California does have one). I was dreading the midnight trips to the site toilets with kids for the sheer novelty of it. I need not have. They were so content both slept right through the night.
  • Two seats in the back! If you have more than two kids this isn’t the model for you.
  • The driver’s seat is a little fiddly to get turned around, but id say you would get used to it after a while.
  • Its pricey – basic model comes in at around €81k

Mamma Fairy Verdict

I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did! The kids had an absolute ball, loved every minute and I can say hand on heart my kids made memories to last a lifetime.  The pure sense of adventure and freedom was contagious.  I will never forget waking that first morning looking out at most spectacular sunrise over the Atlantic. Pure magic.  I’ll save our adventure for a separate post but it was wow, we found the (not so) secret waterfall, watched the sunrise and set, we laughed, we chatted, we ate and drank and quite honestly fell in love with what had been on our doorstep all along.


I’m about to write words I didn’t expect to be writing………I cannot wait to do this again.  If I won the lotto, would I buy a motorhome?……that’s a massive yes however id part with more cash for the Grand if only for the onboard toilet!


Note: Thanks for Volkswagen for loaning us the California for the weekend. I retain full editorial control and all view are mine or the kids where appropriate.
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