Camper vans

Camper Van Heaven – Your First Trip

Camper van on Holy Island

Camper van

Today, we’ve decided to brave the dour summer weather and head for the hills in the camper van.

It’s an old Hymer motor home to be exact, which is a little slow and elderly, but it does the job for us even if it is sometimes a little sluggish.

We got into the whole RV thing a few years ago on a trip to the States. I wasn’t sure if having a van was a good idea but my partner, Tony was keen to buy one.

Camper van

Modern camper van in Spain

So we hired our first RV (recreational vehicle for the uninitiated) in Colorado for a trip around the Rockies. I went along for the ride, even though I was deeply sceptical.

Hiring a van for a week would be a good litmus test of whether we could hack it on the road.

It was such good fun that we saved up and bought one not long after we arrived back in the UK – an old Hymer. It was cheap, old and comfortable.

Camper van

Our first Hymer camper van

We haven’t looked back since and have enjoyed (and sometimes endured) many adventures on the road since. We’ve encountered wildlife (animal and human), met some interesting and eccentric fellow travellers, and managed to extinguish a fire in the back of the truck!

One of the best things about the van is spontaneously taking off to somewhere at a few minutes notice.

Another is stumbling on the unexpected like spotting a bison having its breakfast in front of the truck – at Utah’s awesome Antelope Island.

RV heaven

RV heaven – Antelope Island, Utah

Having the flexibility of your own movable home means that going to gigs, festivals and events is much easier than sorting out a hotel or B & B.

Since our first foreign trip with a giant-sized RV in Colorado, we’ve had American trips to Utah in a van plus numerous European adventures in France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Holland and Belgium.

Here’s a few tips for getting started on the road to camper van heaven…

Tammy’s Beginners’ Guide to camper vans

Camper van

A modern camper van

  • Hire a camper for a week or two to see if camper vanning is for you rather than buying one and then regretting it.  You can also hire Volkswagen VWs in the UK.
  • Bear in mind the different sizes of van. A giant van may not always be the best option if you’re visiting a place with narrow country lanes like Cornwall or medieval cities in provence or Italy!  Find something that you’re comfortable driving.
  • Become obsessed with buying motorhome magazines like my husband, Tony. He has boxes of MMM (Motorhome and Motorcaravan Monthly) and Which Motorhome. All of them have the same cover with a shiny white van, blue skies and green landscape, making each monthly edition indistinguishable from the last. Both have second hand sales advice and classified adverts too.
  • Go to one of the big motorhome shows – always a great laugh -where you can lounge around in the van of your dreams before coming home disillusioned that you can’t afford that £75,000 new Hymer. Birmingham NEC hosts a big autumn show whilst Peterborough is the king of the shows in April.
The Motorhome Show - big can sometimes be too big

Birmingham Motorhome Show – big can sometimes be too big!

  • For your first trip try a RV or camper van friendly country like the USA, Canada, France or somewhere close to home where you can test the waters.
  • Don’t forget you can stay on small camper van sites as well as the large, mass-tourism ones.  In the UK there are CLs (Certified Locations) and CSs (Certified Sites) run by the Camping Club and Camping & Caravanning Club. These sites have just five pitches and are often nice and quiet if you’re looking for tranquility.
  • Many European countries have small city sites, parks or ‘car parks’ where you can hole up overnight in a van for a very small fee – water is often available on tap for a couple of Euros.
  • Wild camping is illegal in in England but not Scotland. Check other countries’ rules before you risk this.
  • Having a loo and shower is a big bonus, especially if you’re not sure about using a portable potty!
Inside the RV - a room with a loo

Inside the RV – a room with a loo

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