I came across this great article (thanks to the Telegraph.co.uk) that gives you the lowdown on a campervan/motor home family holiday. This is a great way to see Europe over their summer months and is a very cost effective option if you are travelling with kids. For anyone travelling on a South African passport this also means you only need to apply for the Schengen Visa unless you do want to travel through the UK, in which case you will also need to apply for your UK visa.
Before I start – might I just say…..if you are contemplating going to mainland Europe ….then do it! Don’t be put off by alarmist horror stories you may have heard. But do some serious planning first so as to give yourself the best chance of a really enjoyable and interesting trip. Without doubt the Internet has changed the availability of Information…so USE IT! There are hundreds of web sites with information about sites and maps and general travel, traffic and climate information. Its not a bad idea to start by registering with some of the motor home forums – bothof these are free to join: www.motorcaravanning.co.uk, www.motorhomeandaway.co.uk
Fortunately, there’s a growing number of companies renting motorhomes of all shapes and sizes. Whether you fancy a classic VW or a Meet the Fockers-style behemoth, and whether it’s just for few days or several weeks at home or abroad, there’s plenty of choice. So, should you decide to take a holiday on four (or even six) wheels this is what you’ll need to know before you go.
What to hire & what to pay? Size matters. The bigger the RV, the bigger the bill. A two-berth camper, based on an MPV such as a Toyota Previa or the amusingly-named Mazda Bongo can be had for as little as around £30 per day. Classic VWs and modern Danbury conversions, which can sleep four, cost from about £300 for a festival weekend and a modern six-berth motorhome with a shower and loo starts at around £70 per day. TRy these as a starting point: www.nomadliving.co.uk, www.winnebagohire.co.uk, www.extremebongo.co.uk, www.danburymotorcaravans.com
What to pack? Don’t worry if you haven’t even got a sleeping bag, most of the rental companies will provide the basics (some at extra cost). Also provided will be water and gas, so all you’ll need are just your clothes, your food and a plan.
Do I have to go to a campsite? Ah, the freedom of the open road. Almost. In the UK and much of Europe free overnight parking is permitted in more places than you might expect (such as certain Tesco car parks, although quite why you’d want to is another matter). Make sure that you check the signs or ask permission.
If you do “free camp” then bear in mind that you won’t have the luxury of mains electricity, showers and other facilities of a modern campsite. It might also be a condition of the rental that you stay in designated campsites, so read the small print. The website wildcamping.co.uk has lots of good advice on free camping.
There are a profusion of maps, guides, dictionaries and phrase books available so spend some time browsing your local book shop or try www.amazon.co.uk
Some tips from an avid campervan holidaymaker:
For Campsites – the books from The Caravan Club can be useful for sites especially outside of France and they have lots of good road, traffic, camping and legal information including TIC addresses and those of embassies etc
For French campsites I am convinced that the best book to buy is “ Le Guide Officiel (year) Camping Caravaning” by the Federation Francaise de Camping et de Caravaning and printed by Les Guides Motor Presse. Yes …horror!! it is in French. BUT there is a key explaining all the symbols and site layout in English and it is not rocket science to understand it. It can be bought, about April each year, through the Caravan Club but you can also find it on Amazon.
For phrase books try books by BBC, Penguin, Hugo, Collins and Berlitz. Phrase books, combined with the Traffic/Road Info in the Caravan Club sites book, and any other source you may know about, allow one to print out on small piece of card the most important written road signs for the various countries visited. If nothing else it gives the “Navigator” something to do
You can also check out: www.campingdefrance.com , www.french-at-a-touch.com , www.tourisme.fr . For Italy try www.camping.it/english . Le Guide Officiel(year)Aires de Services Camping-Car by Camping Car Magazine printed by Les Guides Motor Presse also caontains a map of the French aires and details of some stellplatz & solstas etc in Germany Italy & Switzerland. For Germany I believe there are around 2000 stellplatz so lots of choice and most are very reasonable. The book to use for stellplatz is Bord Atlas (year) by Reisemobile International.
So – now you’ve got the maps, the guides and books, sorted out approximately where you are going and can say, in the appropriate language, good morning when ordering your baguettes. What next?
Insurance…..both travel insurance for all the bodies travelling and for the campingcar. The Camping and Caravanning Club can arrange single trip or multi trip insurance for you and you can always ask your local travel agent for help here as well. The camping cars should be insured by the hiring company – make sure you check milage and excess rules though ans ALWAYS check that your vehicle is insured for mainland Europe if you are hiring from the UK (comprehensively and NOT just basic minimum cover)