We try and undertake trips lasting several weeks rather than lots of small ones. The reason being we tour abroad, that’s why I bought a LHD motorhome. The only short trips we make is to keep the vehicle used and to identify any minor problems. Far better to spot and fix them on this side of The Channel than wait until we’re ‘on the road’.

With that in mind we have timed it so that both the car and motorhome’s MOT and insurance expire during the peak summer months when we don’t plan to be touring, leaving the roads and campsites for families.

PLANNING

I believe that much of the success of any trip depends on its planning. We’ve tried just setting off with a blank sheet of paper but it doesn’t work for us. We like a bit of structure, though having said that any plan is always subject to amendment, we are not slaves to it by any means. The plan will list destinations in chronological order, where to ‘park’ when there, what to see when we’re there and the location of the nearest large supermarket, ideally selling cheap fuel as well.

My most useful tools for planning are firstly Google Maps. I can flip between ‘Map’, ‘Satellite’ and ‘Street View’ to accurately identify locations, the surroundings and GPS co-ordinates. For that, zoom right in to where you want, flip to ‘Satellite’, get as close as you can to the road junction etc, and then double click on the co-ordinate you want, I click on entrances to campsite etc or road junctions. Having done that up comes a little box at the bottom with the co-ordinates (a minus sign means ‘West’). These can then be fed in to your satnav. For 'Street View' zoom in to the spot you want to look at. Then in the bottom right of the screen left click on the little yellow msn and drag him to the spot you're intersted in and release him. After a brief pause you'll be able to look around the 360 degree images as well as clicking further down the road to progress the journey.

This is followed by a European Road Atlas such as:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philips-Big-Road-Atlas-Europe/dp/184907500X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3K5RPPZEK2T56&keywords=european+road+atlas+2020&qid=1565348590&s=gateway&sprefix=european+road+atlas%2Caps%2C175&sr=8-1

These are cheap enough to replace regularly and so I run highlight pens over the pages of interest.

Next come books listing campsites, aires and camperstops. At this point I we need to clarify the difference.

CAMPSITES

Straightforward enough, and they vary in standards, price and convenience. We try to avoid those offering such things as swimming pools, bars, clubs, restaurants and play areas. These are facilities we don’t need and therefore see no sense in paying for. What we look for are:

  • Good location

  • Easy access to public transport, normally a bus stop nearby with a regular bus service.

  • A clean, well maintained toilet/shower block.

The two main caravan & camping clubs offer listings as well as access to their own club sites. Membership of each will cost about £40pa, and you are issued with a membership card and a book of campsite listings. These campsites are supplemented by much smaller sites, CL’s (Certified Location) in the case of the C&MC. These sites are privately owned and can accommodate no more than 5 units due to planning regulations.

www.caravanandmotorhomeclub.co.uk

www.campingandcaravanclub.co.uk

There are also many privately owned campsites throughout the UK.

We personally don’t like touring in the UK. The location of many campsites seems to favour caravanners in that they are too far away from main towns and attractions often without access to public transport. This is where caravanners win hands down – they have their cars. We motorhomers have to rely on public transport, walking or bicycles.

AIRES

This is the French word for parking facilities provided, usually free of charge throughout France, Germany, Italy and other European countries offer similar facilities. Such Aires are only available to motorhomes, not caravanners.

I think the anticipation of the French communities who provide them is that campers will spend money in their shops, bars and restaurants whilst they’re parked up. I say ‘parked’ because this is the technicality, and you’ll come across it with ‘Camperstops’ as well. Such facilities are provided for you to ‘park’ including overnight. If you were to get tables and chairs out, or wind out your awning you are no longer ‘parking’ you are now ‘camping’ and breaking the rules. It is likely you will be asked to either remove them or asked to move on.

Again these Aires vary wildly in size and facilities. The ‘parking’ area allocated to each vehicle is usually fairly narrow, so park considerately, and there are usually dump facilities. That is so you can get rid of your ‘grey’ household and bathroom waste water, your ‘black’ or toilet cassette waste, and take on fresh water, though there is often a charge for this, sometimes a coin, usually €2 for 100ltrs or tokens which need to be purchased from a local shop.

Make no mistake these facilities are just so very convenient to use and widely available. If we’ve had a free day or two on an aire then we do make a point of spending money with them locally as a way of saying ‘thank you’.

There is a very useful bookshop available online which can provide all of the popular and useful publications needed by a motorhomer travelling abroad.

https://www.vicariousbooks.co.uk/

CAMPERSTOPS

This publication https://www.amazon.co.uk/Motorhome-guide-Camperstop-Europe-countries/dp/9076080585/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=camperstops&qid=1565351597&s=gateway&sr=8-1 lists parking locations, normally with overnight facilities for the whole of Europe. This publication is by my side when I’m planning a tour. It may look a bit pricey, but remember as with all of these sort of books, if you can get a few free nights out of each publication then they’ve paid for themselves.

ACSI

I think this is a Dutch or Danish organisation. Again it is available through Vacarious books. This only costs something like £14 a year and is worth every penny. You get a couple of books of campsite listings a map to help locate the campsites near you and the annual membership card. This scheme gives you access to participating campsites offering substantial discounts when used out of the peak season. Every year we use it and every year we more than get our money back. Available through Vacarious Books or

https://www.campingcard.co.uk/

TRUCKSTOPS

This is a term which perhaps only I use to identify what are basically motorway rest areas, with one big difference – they offer substantial overnight parking for HGV’s. They are to be found over the Europe and are no comparison to what we have to endure over here, which are signs telling you that if you’re parked for more than two hours you’ll get a fine unless you get your mobile phone out and agree to pay dearly for the right to stay overnight.

When using them in Europe we always park with the HGV drivers. Firstly because the parking spaces are large enough to easily accommodate a motorhome or car and caravan unit quite easily, unlike the busy car parking area when cars and noisy people will come and go throughout the night. These facilities are free, with the added bonus of being able to buy food, fuel, and fresh baguette in the morning before leaving. Don’t be too surprised if when you climb out of your vehicle there’s a smell of pee. I think HGV drivers pee up the wheel of their lorries as a matter of habit.

These Truckstops are an absolute boon when on a long journey from ‘A’ to ‘B’. They save you having to pull off the motorway (Truckstops are also located along many major trunk roads) in a strange area to find a campsite for the night, paying for that accommodation and then having to ravel back to the motorway to continue your journey the following morning.

In the past we've had a problem when parked overnight on a Truckstop in cold weather. Due to the condensation on the interior of the windscreen it's sometimes been both difficult and time consuming to get the screen clear before being able to set off, with lots of wet cloths in tow. I've now solved that one with a glass vacuum cleaner, and it works a treat. It's fast and efficient, and it's amazing just how much it can suck up. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01N9IFRU3/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

BRITSTOPS

This is a UK version of the French Passion scheme. Basically you buy an annual book which becomes you membership card. This then gives you access to parking and overnight facilities at participating businesses. Understandably most of them are pubs. The theory is that you can park overnight for free, but in reality of course you’re going to feel duty-bound to spend money with them, after all they’re not charities. We have no problem with that. If the location of a ‘Britstop’ works out for us then we’ll phone ahead, use it and enjoy an evening meal in the bar. After all you were going to have to spend money on campsite fees, so why not spend it here instead, it frees up the lady of the ‘house’ from the kitchen on the odd night.

https://www.britstops.com/welcome.php

FRENCH PASSION SCHEME

As above, but in France, that’s about all I can say really. We did try it for one year but it didn’t rock our boat. Most of the sites offered are very rural and can take you too far off your planned route to reach, but hey, it works for many people.

https://www.france-passion.com/en/

So that’s pretty much accommodation taken care of, unless of course you come across the opportunity for a bit of ‘wild camping’, though such opportunities are becoming limited, mainly because selfish and irresponsible campers in the past have abused the opportunity resulting in restrictions being put in place.

Finally when undertaking trips on the continent we only ever book the outward Channel journey, normally on EuroTunnel as it is such a civilised way to cross the water, though more expensive than Mr Peando’s Multicoloured Ferryboat, but each to their own. Once across the channel we’ll park up in the designated car park at Citi Europe, the large shopping complex located next to the EuroTunnel complex. There we’ll spend the night before setting off the following morning having enjoyed a good night’s sleep and perhaps some last minute shopping.

Citi Europe Parking. GPS: N50.932880º E1.811049º

Always make an efort to legally and responsibly dump you black and grey waters, rubbish bag and take on fresh water at any opportunity that arises, that way you're not dragging unneccesary weight around with you and have the spare capacity should you wish to park up somewhere for a few days spontaneously.

Careful thought must be given to your power needs whilst touring. We have mains electricity and battery alternatives with which to charge things like phones, iPads, camera batteries, laptop, electric toothbrushes etc.

Some of the tools in our armoury are;

A small inverter for charging items which come with only a 3-pin plug as an option to charge them, like electric toothbrushes. This inverter, like most of them, comes with a small cooling fan in it, so keep an eye on its current drain unless you use it on the move with the engine running. 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00INW611Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 

Next comes the 12v charging and USB plugs. I use the following product because a couple of the USB plugs seem a bit meatier than most, and ideal to power the dashcam and charge The Chef's ipad: 

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/CHGeek-120W-3-Socket-Cigarette-Lighter-Adapter-12V-24V-DC-Outlet-Splitter-with/163783407418?hash=item262240773a:g:fOwAAOSwfmddMaRk

All AA and AAA batteries used onboard along with spares are rechargable. This is the mains charger I use: 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008ETHO7G/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1