The first time my husband suggested that we rent a campervan and travel around Europe, I’m pretty sure I laughed at him. You see, I’m normally not a camping kind of girl, but lucky for him I do see potential disaster as an adventure so after a little gentle persuasion, I agreed. The next thing I knew he was texting me from Germany with a photo of a campervan captioned “our home for the next 15 days.”
Finding your Campervan
- Finding the right rental company and campervan for your needs can take quite a bit of research. You first need to decide what type of campervan you want and then start emailing for quotes. Some things to take into consideration:Budget – very important! Keep in mind the cost of fuel and campsite fees as well.
- Size – think about who you’ll be traveling with. Will you need car seats, strollers and other gear for babies and children? Do you plan to take along bicycles or other sport equipment? It’s a good idea to make sure you have a campervan with room to store these things.
- Maneuverability – Europe has some particularly narrow and bendy roads and if you’re going to be taking the campervan into the mountains or on a ferry, you want to make sure that you pick one that you can fit into tight spaces.
You’ll also want to ask about cleaning fees, what’s included such as kitchen items, outdoor seating, bedding, tools, which countries the vehicle is allowed to be taken, and specific details of insurance.
Starting in Germany is the cheapest (and probably the easiest) option from Luxembourg. Some rental companies to look into include:
- McRent (this company has over 50 rental depots across Europe, so you don’t have to start and end your trip in the same city.)
- Motorhomes Worldwide
We chose a campervan that was quite a bit bigger than we originally envisioned, but we were glad we did as there was plenty of storage space and we were comfortable for the 15 days that we were in it. To avoid being stuck on a too narrow road or going through a town with too low bridges (they do exist!) we purchased a TomTom Go Live Camper & Caravan GPS, which factors in overhead clearance and width restrictions.
I was pretty nervous as we set off on this grand adventure. We left Luxembourg with Lake Lucern, Switzerland as our first destination and I was certain we wouldn’t make it safely through the Sandweiler roundabout. Our then 5 year old daughter and 4 month old son were secured in their car seats, buckled in to what would be our kitchen table and then later transform to a bed.
“Is it supposed to be this loud?” I shouted to my husband, “I feel like we’re in a metal can.”
With each bump, the dishes in the miniature kitchen rattled and cupboard doors shook, threatening to open and spill their contents onto the floor. We learned that putting rolled up towels in the empty spaces helped with this. I grew increasingly anxious that I was traveling in an oversized vehicle with difficult visibility, stocked with combustibles and the people I love most.
The rental company had given us some practice time and lots of pointers: pull all the way up when turning at a junction, leave lots of room between other vehicles, and always work as a team when backing up. This type of a holiday requires that every able bodied adult pitch in and pull their own weight, and then some. My husband took the primary driver role, I was his second pair of eyes for lane changes, tended to any fall hazards and once we reached the motorway, everything (including my nerves) smoothed out.
Making an Itinerary and Campground Reservations
Unless you have no limits to the amount of time you’ll spend on holiday, taking a campervan through and around Europe involves detailed planning, yet a great deal of flexibility. Start by making a list of your must visit destinations and how long you’d like to stay at each place. Is the goal of your trip to see lots of sights or to go slow and really enjoy the camping experience? Determine how far you’re willing to drive in a day and work out a schedule. We decided that we wanted to spend time in Corsica, so we worked out an itinerary that took us there, with some great stops in Switzerland, Italy, and the South of France.
Europeans love to camp, and campgrounds are just about everywhere. They range from resort-like with swimming pools, tennis courts, bars and restaurants to very rustic with just the basics.
We used Eurocampings.com to find and make all of our campground reservations. User friendly with relevant and up to date content, you simply begin your search by country and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds of campgrounds with ratings, reviews, maps, and information on how to make a reservation. Eurocampings offers a discount card that lets you camp for 50% savings during the low season, and an app that runs without an internet connection and provides detailed information for over 8,000 camping destinations in Europe.
During the high season it’s not uncommon for popular campgrounds to reach capacity and reservations aren’t available. Most have a waiting area at the entrance and will allow you to hook up to water and electricity and wait for a space to become available. If you find yourself out on the open road and exhausted, there are plenty of “stopover” sites where it’s legal and safe to stop for the night.
We took along a copy of Facile Media’s Camperstop Europe, which gives detailed information, including GPS coordinates for nearly 8,000 stopover spots in Europe.
What to Bring
Even for an overpacker like myself, there’s no need to fret over what to bring as it’s easy to stop and pick up any forgotten items and a lot of campgrounds have stores on the premises. After determining what your rental company provides as a part of your package, here are some additional things that we found useful:
- Plastic bags and/or aluminum foil
- First Aid Kit
- Insect Repellant
- Flashlights (torches) and extra batteries
- Fire extinguisher
- Tool Kit
- Road flares
- Rubbish bin and bags
- Jumper Cables
- Tire Pressure Gage
- Extension Cords
Make sure to download and upload everything on your electronic devices before you leave, when you have a good internet connection. Even though a campground advertises wifi, it isn’t always reliable or convenient. It’s also important to make sure you have prescription medications to last the duration of your trip.
Record your Memories
As we do every holiday, we took along a journal and wrote down the places we visited, funny things that happened and other memories we want to keep. We took hundreds of photos, many of which are framed and displayed in our home. Travelling Europe via campervan is not only a great way to travel with kids (what kid doesn’t love camping?) but it’s also perfect for ticking off many of your bucket list items all in one fell swoop.
Ibn Battuta once said that traveling leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller.
He was right.
I don’t think our family will ever tire of telling our Campervan Europe stories.
Featured photo: Tina Pace