We caught up with Wandering Bird about her trips to Europe. Hear more about this in the Freedom to Go Theatre (Hall 2) on Thursday 21 February at 11:45
1. Check your paperwork
Before you leave the UK, you need to check to make sure your paperwork is in order.
– Check your motorhome/ caravan insurance covers Europe travel and for how long. Make sure it is fully comp (some providers only offer 3rd party in Europe)
– You need to carry your REAL vehicle logbook, not a copy. If it is a hire vehicle, you need a signed letter giving permission for it to go to Europe.
– You also need an MOT (in date!) and driving license. We have been told the pink part is fine, but we carry both parts just to be safe.
– If you are taking a trailer, you need to provide proof of its EU certification.
2.Check you are carrying the correct equipment
You need to carry at least the following:
– First aid kit, GB sticker, 2 x breathalyser, High-vis jackets for each person which are accessible from INSIDE the vehicle, Warning triangle, Headlight deflectors
Each country has a list of specific items too, such as a vignette for Switzerland or anemission sticker for Paris. Do your research carefully in order to avoid large fines.
3. Is it better to go by Ferry or Tunnel?
This is a personal decision, but consider a couple of factors:
⁃ The tunnel = cheaper, especially if you book in advance and go out of ‘peak’ times and considerably quicker. Pets are easy to take on the tunnel, but they could be in the car less time if you take the ferry and get a pet cabin (Portsmouth to Le Havre with Brittany Ferries)
⁃ Think about the weather. In winter, there’s higher chance of storms; not fun on a boat. In summer the queues through the tunnel are horrendous, so we avoid them if we possibly can.
4.Where to stay on your trip
This depends entirely on what you like to do!
– Are you hoping to relax, soak in some sunshine and let the kids play on the beach? You’ll probably find a campsite easier and more relaxing, but they do get pricey in high season.
⁃ Do you enjoy moving around every few days and seeing different areas within a country? Look for aires (France), Sostas (Italy) or Stellplatz (Germany). These are approved Motorhome parking areas, often with facilities for fresh water and waste disposal, which are offered first come, first served for a small fee (often 5-10€) Most towns and villages have these throughout Europe
Nobody like to think about it, but a little caution can save a lot of heartache. We follow
these simple rules:
– Keep your passports well hidden and ideally don’t leave them in the motorhome unattended, even in a campsite.
– Don’t bring much jewellery. It’s just one less thing to worry about.
– Don’t advertise when you are going to be leaving the motorhome all day. And we never leave the motorhome unattended in a wild camping spot.
– Carry a set of spare keys and keep them separate from your other keys.
– 112 can be dialled from anywhere in Europe in an emergency.
Check your mobile contract to ensure you won’t be charged high fees for using your phone abroad. The biggest thing to look at is data- we use our iPad as a Sat Nav and regularly use the internet to look up places to stay as we travel, so we made sure to get a package which included free data use in Europe. It is illegal in many European countries to use a headset whilst driving, even with a hands free kit. It needs to be on speaker phone.
We carry a wifi dongle, which has been brilliant. There are many on the market and they’re all pretty similar- just be sure to get one which works in Europe.
7. Bank charges
This is something we didn’t think about until after our first Europe trip- which meant that we paid a fee on every single bank transaction we used in France! We have now switched to an account which doesn’t charge for foreign payments and if you travel regularly it might be worth looking at. Your bank might need to know that you’re going abroad, especially if you don’t go
regularly. Otherwise you run the risk of them blocking your transaction. Many banks accept notice over online banking.
We travel back and forth to Europe monthly and now we’ve added a puppy into the mix! Pets need a pet passport, and they may also need a worming tablet administered by a vet between 1-5 days of your return to England. Take this into account when you are travelling back. Most vets near the border are used to ‘walk-ins’ and will do their best to fit you in, but others may not have an appointment so try to book in advance if you can.
Also, make sure your pet is secured in the vehicle- it is no longer ok for them to be sitting in the back untethered. If police see a ‘loose’ animal in a vehicle they will stop and fine you.
Tolls are a fact of life whilst travelling in Europe, especially if you want to use major roads. Ideally, you want your motorhome to be under 3m tall (any higher puts you as a commercial vehicle). Carry cash for the tolls, or get a toll pass if you’re planning to travel regularly. We use eMovis, which sends us a bill at the end of the month for whatever you’ve used.
You don’t need to bring a lot of food with you- people in Europe eat amazing food and trying local delicacies is part of the fun! However, I always try and bring enough food to last a day or so, so we don’t have to find places to shop en-route if we don’t want to. Keep things simple- cooking in a small space can be tricky, especially if there’s a few of you. If you have kids (or husbands!), you might want to bring a few things you know they’ll eat on the journey to keep them happy.
The biggest tip I have is keep calm. Driving in Europe is fairly straight-forward, and exploring Europe is so much easier with a motorhome or caravan, especially when compared with the UK. You’ll also meet some wonderful people who are all enjoying the same lifestyle. If you see us on the road, please come and say hi!
If you’d like to learn more about taking a Motorhome/ caravan to Europe visit wanderingbird.com