Lessons Learned So Far……
1. Be prepared. It was well worth buying the van a year ago & getting used to it. For absolute beginners like us it was vital that we familiarised ourselves with the workings of the unit. For example: learning the correct way to flush the loo so that it didn’t flood the cassette compartment with yuk!
2. Have a sense of humour.
3. Take Advice. Speak to everyone you know who has a Motorhome & listen. However, realise that everyone has differing criteria for the ’perfect wag’ & you need to work out yours.
4. Shop around. Go to as many companies & fairs as possible to find the perfect van. Try them for size & even go for a test drive. Our Mercedes engine is FANTASTIC. Goes like a rocket & does 25+ to the gallon. We also wanted a fixed rear bed & its worth it. We could’t bear doing the jigsaw puzzle every night & we have plenty of room up front for we 2. Also, one of us can go to bed whilst the other burns the midnight oil.
5. Negotiate. Bargain hard with the dealer – they have around £6-7K or more to play with. Buyer beware if you buy privately. Shop around for insurance. Especially travel insurance. (see below)
6. Go away in the van. Try the van out over weekends & rallies. Learn all you can in short bursts. Use everything. Make sure both of you know how to do things – like empty the toilet cassette & bring water aboard. Buy a small water pump & get a 12v power supply near the water filler point.
7. Subscribe. Join clubs & subscribe to magazines & Motorhome Fun. There is a lot of good gen from people who know what they are talking about – but don’t take everything as gospel. There are a lot of moaning minnies & scaremongers out there as well.
8. Have a sense of humour.
9. Make lists. When you get a good idea for the van – write it down. There is so much to learn & do, it can be soon forgotten.
10. Plan ahead. It was a good idea to start planning a long way ahead – but we learned that flexibility is the key to Motorhomin’. Clearly, if you want to stay somewhere in the school holidays – you should book – otherwise you can take a risk.
11. Shakedown trip. Our month on the South Coast has been invaluable. We have discovered all sorts of minor niggles which need sorting. Hopefully, these will be sorted by SMC of Newark – where we got the van – this week when it goes for service. And we have another 3 weeks before we cross the channel – so anything we forgot can be fixed.
12. Engineering Skills. You do need a little knowledge about the basics of your van. Where are all the fuses. Keep spares. How does the water system vent & flow? Keep an eye on your batteries.
13. Co-ordinate. Get your road tax, MOT, servicing etc all in the same month.
14. Get disciplined over keys. Get spares & think about hiding a set under the van. We have good friends who locked themselves out this week. Get a safe fitted for all of those vital items – money, keys, passports, credit cards etc, etc.
15. Get LEDs for the light fittings. It’s expensive but worth it for the power saving.
16. Silver Screens. Get both inners & outers. They really do keep the wag snug & condensation free. We also bought a blind for the front window for the summer. Will lose the rear view mirror – but so what.
17. Top Box. Our top box means that a lot of bulky but light stuff can be put out of the way. Also, the big storage area under the bed in the Dakota is invaluable.
18. Leave it at home. You don’t need as many clothes as you think. Especially in the summer. And they can be washed at the better sites cheaply enough.
19. Bike it. Our bikes are strapped to the back & we are lucky enough to be able to ride them. Get good tyres though & no steel frames!! We got a Taylor Made twin bike cove. Its not as much hassle to fit as everyone makes out. Once you get organised it takes about 1o minutes to secure both bikes. Think about towing a car but wait & see if you need to. Not everyone will.
20. Have a sense of humour.
21. TV. We have realised that we can live without one – and its quite pleasant just reading & listening to the radio. We have a basic Freesat TV & it hardly goes on – just for Corrie & footie results.
22. Steps. Get a good set of steps for the habitation door. Could save you breaking your neck when a bit squiffy.
23. Cleaning Materials. Got loads for those days when you need to give the wag a good going over. Keep the algae away prevent rubber seal rot.
24. Budget. Plan your expenditure & try to stick to it. We have started on £300 per week including campsite fees. This seems adequate. We also have a substantial kitty for extraordinary expenditure such as servicing, insurance, ferries & emergencies. Get rid of all of your junk mail & phone calls. It takes about 6 months but they eventually stop sending you unwanted crap.
25. House sitter. We have kept our house in the UK & have a BRILLIANT house sitter. He has a formal rental agreement but pays only £1 per year & all of the household bills. He’s also great for checking our mail & actioning anything important in the UK or forwarding stuff to us abroad. And we have somewhere to store our kit & stay on our return visits. If you are lucky enough to be able to do this I recommend it. I would never have ordinary tenants using our home again. Also get your house in order. Paint in & out & make sure your boiler is OK. Big decisions should not have to be made in absentia.
26. Gas. We have converted from Calor to GASLOW & hopefully this will serve us well in Europe where Calor is not available. Make sure you have all the right adaptors.
27. Computer. Take a laptop & a dongle. We have got a 3 PAYG & it is great. Works everywhere & we cannot spend the £10 minimum spend each 30 days. Unless you use SKYPE it is really economical.
28. Car. To tow or not to tow. We will wait & see. But we will SORN our other car & leave it off road. We will re-tax it via DVLA online & buy short-term insurance for or visit next year. Then claim it all back when we SORN it again.
29. SATNAV. I wouldn’t be without one – but use it with caution. It will lead you astray if you don’t use common sense. You must know roughly where you are headed!
30. Prescriptions. Stock up before you go if you can. If not, you need to have a serious think about going abroad for an extended period if you are reliant on pills.
31. Records. Not 45s but documentary evidence of your trip. Diaries, scrapbooks & photos. Good to look back on & refer to. Lots of campsite reference books on board.
32. Have a sense of humour.
33. Travel insurance. Have researched this & many policies are limited to 90 or 180 days. NFu Mutual do a policy for around £300 for 365 days. SAGA don’t nor do Safeguard. Cant afford to skimp on this.
34. Tyres. Make sure the tyres are at the correct pressure. The proper BAR is printed on the wheel!!
35. Slow Cooker. What a boon this invention is. Set it going at 9am & by 6pm there is dinner ready to go. Simple. Don’t do rice in it though. Try & avoid frying if you can as it’s a smell that clings. We bought an exterior grill plate for our outside 3 pin plug. We BBQ a lot but use conventional charcoal. Found that the gas BBQ keeps blowing out.
36. Blog. Why not? :thumb: :driving2:
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