Planning The Ultimate European Campervan Trip

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If you dream of freedom and unrestricted, freewheeling travel, then you’ll probably have considered a campervan or a motorhome holiday before. When there are so many incredible road trips to be taken in the world, it’s not hard to see the appeal of a break in multiple locations, exploring on your own terms. The campervan holiday is gaining more and more popularity, and Instagram feeds are filling with scenic shots of beautifully fitted retro camper vans, gleaming Airstream trailers and super modern plush motorhomes. Searches for videos by people who live part or full time in their vehicles – commonly referred to as ‘tiny homes’ –  are up. More and more of us are feeling the oppressive weight of consumerism and the push to earn more and more spurious status symbols, and rejecting that in favour of pursuing minimalism and life experiences instead. And even if it’s only for a few weeks, the motorhome holiday feeds into that. The idea of packing up a few belonging and driving off into the sunset is massively appealing. Touring Europe in a camper van is a brilliant place to start – you can experience so many locations and cultures in a relatively close together distance, which lends itself to this kind of experience. But actually taking the step to make that trip a reality can be daunting – if you haven’t experienced this type of break before and aren’t sure where to begin. Here’s what you really need to know to begin planning your dream motor break.

Getting Your Wheels Sorted 

Of course, the first logical step is to get your transport and your accommodation sorted in one fell swoop by organising your vehicle. You have a few choices here – there are plenty of companies who rent fully equipped vintage restored camper vans or all mod cons motor homes, and if you’ve never used one before, it’s a great place to start. You could also look at purchasing one, either new or secondhand – there are pros and cons to each option. If you do want to purchase, then consider whether you also need add-ons such as camper trailers.Renting is definitely advisable if it’s your first motorhome holiday – there’s no way to truly know whether you’ll enjoy it and want to use it frequently otherwise. But you have to do what feels right for you. If you’re planning a period of several months of travel, it could well be wiser to buy one.

Preparing To Hit The Road

Once your wheels are sorted, there are several things you need to do to get prepped for your European trip. First of all, never embark on a driving holiday abroad without comprehensive insurance – both for the road and for foregin travel. Of course, no one likes to think of the potential for bad things to happen, but sometimes life likes to throw us a curveball. Finding yourself in a foreign country with no access to healthcare if you get ill or have an accident or without breakdown recovery when you’re stranded in a remote location is not something you should let happen. Find travel insurance cover and shop around for the best price. Sometimes if you’re hiring a campervan, breakdown cover will be included, but if it’s your own then make sure you have your policy in place well before you set off. You may also require an International Driving Permit depending on what your destinations are, and you should apply for this well in advance. Making sure you are legally allowed to drive the motorhome in your country of choice is definitely the first step! Once that’s sorted, spend some time getting your travel documentation in order. You will need to take quite a few things with you – store them together in a plastic document wallet somewhere secure. Of course you’ll need to take a valid passport for everyone travelling – ideally with at least six months before expiry, any visas that you require, an in-date driving licence for each person who will be driving on the holiday (both parts), personal travel insurance documents, a European Health Insurance Card –  which guarantees you care while in Europe, if you are eligible – a pet passport and details of their vaccinations, travel details and bookings, details of campsites or hotels that you are planning to stay at, personal contents insurance in case of loss or theft, and a vaccination record for yourself. You will also need quite a lot of documentation relating to the vehicle, especially if it’s your own – the original copy of your Vehicle Logbook, vehicle insurance valid in the countries that you’re travelling to, an MOT certificate which is up to date, breakdown cover details, any tollpasses, and be aware that if you are driving in France, you’re legally required to carry a breathalyser kit as well. If you’re hiring your motorhome or camper van, then you will need proof from the hire company that you are allowed to cross international borders in it. It’s quite a lot to remember, so be sure to gather all your paperwork in good time before you need to set off.

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What You Need To Take

With the paperwork all sorted, what you need next is create a personal packing list. As travels in a motorhome typically tend to be longer than average breaks, and you are more likely to be visiting multiple countries with different weather, this can be harder than it seems. Holidays on the road should be all about freedom and spontaneity, so you want to take a minimal approach to packing. But equally, as you aren’t staying in somewhere with the amenities of a hotel, you also need to make sure that you have all the bases covered yourself. Try to pack lots of lightweight layers which you can combine in different ways to suit different weather conditions. Taking long sleeved, thin thermal tops, cotton tshirts, and ultralight down jackets which pack away to nothing but which are warm, is a really good move. You may need items such as a waterproof or swimming clothes, and you may choose to take a sports kit if you’re going to be exercising while you’re away, as well as hiking boots if you intend on serious walking or climbing. Other essentials to pack include a first aid kit and a small medicine chest with things like paracetamol, plasters, eyedrops and antihistamines as well as high factor sunscreen. Don’t forget chargers for all of the electronics you may be planning on taking – speakers, phones, cameras, laptops or tablets, a Wifi dongle and a torch with spare batteries. You also need to pack a box of kitchen essentials – condiments, salt and pepper, basic utensils and pans, sponges and washing up liquid, cutlery, plates and glasses. Being well prepared will help to ensure that your trip goes smoothly and that you don’t have any last minute panics on the horizon.

Last Minute Vehicle Checks Before You Go

Your vehicle is about to become both your home and your transport to get you around Europe, so it’s essential to know that it’s in tip-top condition and that you’re prepared in every way. Start by taking your van to the nearest weigh bridge –  most places you will need to phone in advance, and pay a variable fee on obtaining the weight. Keep the paperwork you get with you as proof which may be needed abroad. Then perform your vehicle maintenance checks – the tyre pressure, washer fluid, windscreen wipers, door locks and then all the vehicle systems – sat nav, heating, air con, solar panel, batteries etc.

Your Destinations

When you’ve decided on the best route for driving through Europe, which hits all the major locations you’re most interested in, then you’ll need to decide where to stay when you get there. It’s much easier to plan out your stay using dedicated campsites – these also tend to have a number of amenities such as shops and launderettes – but you can also do wild camping, where you stay in a place that isn’t a designated campsite for just one night, and move on the next morning. Within Europe, there are sites called Aires, which are approved overnight stopping places, or you can opt to go completely wild. Download a few motorhome parking apps before you go, so that you can search for a site on the go. Make sure that you are safe and legal and also that you are security conscious. Although on the whole travelling in a motorhome or camper van within Europe is fairly safe, you still need to take sensible precautions, and keep valuables in a location which is a little less obvious. Make sure that you research the legal requirements of driving in each country that you’re planning to go through –  for example, in a lot of European countries, side lights must be switched on at all times, there may be low emissions zones that you cannot enter, and in many countries any fines issued must be paid on the spot in cash. Do your homework beforehand and then all you’ll have left to worry about is making a great road trip playlist before you drive off into the sunset!

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