Venturing abroad for the 1st time

T

Tackle man

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This is probably an old chestnut but I couldn't find any reference to taking a motorhome to Europe for the first time.
Irene and I have recently retired, we have motor-homed for a number of years but for various reasons have only travelled on the UK mainland.
Now that we have new found freedom we would like to spread our wings but are a little apprehensive about going.
There seems to be so much to prepare for plus language and different laws in different countries. We find it a bit daunting.
We would really appreciate some positive advice on how to go about it and peoples first experiences.
Are there times when a group of Funsters meet up in this country and trundle off in a group to Europe?
One of the trips we would like to take is to Holland's coastline.
We have had many people say, "Oh just get across there you will love it". This doesn't really help us as we need expert advise and help.
Thank you for any advice
Dave & Irene
 
May 29, 2012
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Search through the continental forums and you will find plenty of advice. Generally it is considered that France is the most motorhome friendly country to go to especially first time abroad. Holland on the other hand is not really motorhome friendly.

You don't need expert advice, take heart, have confidence and do what you have already heard............ just go (y)
 
May 29, 2012
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Oh, and buy the 'All the Aires France' book from Vicarious Books............. good for first time away:):D
 
Apr 18, 2012
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Are you a member of either the caravan club or camping & caravanning club? If so get their holiday brochures, they're just about to be published, there is lots of information in them. If you have specific questions, just ask on here - someone will answer. Remember we all had a first time :)
 
OP
T

Tackle man

Deleted User
Are you a member of either the caravan club or camping & caravanning club? If so get their holiday brochures, they're just about to be published, there is lots of information in them. If you have specific questions, just ask on here - someone will answer. Remember we all had a first time :)
Hi Scousebird, yes members of both clubs, will get info.
Thank you. (y)
 
May 29, 2012
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You're welcome, to be honest thinking about it is a lot worse than actually doing it (y)
 

Hymie

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We took our first trip to Europe in a MH in June Dave, only our 2nd time out in Harriet, made no plans other than making sure we had all the legalities coverd, hi vis, breathalysers, bulb kit, breakdown cover, etc.

The 1st night was spent wildcamping in Ypres, never done that before either, so was the 2nd night.

We made our way slowly up to Breskens in Holland, stayed at Zeeland for 4 nights as the sight was so good, great pool and pitches.

After that we made our way to the Calais area, had a couple of days there before making our way home.

It was beyond anything we imagined, easy travelling, no borders, lovely people, our biggest regret is that it was over so soon.

My only advice would be don't be nervous, jump in and do it, you won't regret it.

Hymie
 

DBK

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I'm with the "just go" school. Just go.

But, if you are nervous there are organised motorhome holidays but they can be very expensive.

The caravan club also organise rallies in Europe so this could be an option.

At this time of year there will be few campsites open so aires could be used but these might be a bit strange for you.

Living in Sussex is great for getting to France but it is a very busy bit of France, so if you don't mind a longer crossing try going from Plymouth to Roscoff - Brittany is much quieter and less crowded and the pace of life much slower.

There really isn't anything difficult about going to Europe and the laws needed worry you, stick to the speed limits and you will be fine. They do have the sneaky priorite a doite rule in towns but if you drive cautiously you will be safe.
 

sedge

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Both the clubs ie CC and the C&CC do 'escorted' tours which might be what you are hoping for, but as has been said they do tend to be expensive.

Personally whatever vehicle we've travelled abroad with - ie one of the motorbikes, one of the cars or either of the motorhomes we've owned - we really don't want to go in convoy. 10 of us used to go fishing in 3 cars, two with trailers. Two of us could find our way wherever cos we have brain cells and maps and/or a SatNav and the other one couldn't find his way out of a paper bag eg coming back to Boulogne for the ferry home was given the choice on the same motorway we came along both the previous years of either Calais, or Amiens & Paris. So he took the Amiens turning .......

Also we had Cruise Control and the other one with brains couldn't keep up with us in his manual. If you want to travel in convoy if you don't know the other folk well, how do you know you'll drive the same way, want to stop for the loo at the same times, like the same things or the same places? Some like to stay on sites, some on aires and others wild camp. Some like alcohol every night or insist on eating out whilst others don't. Some want to get there pdq on the motorway, others are in no rush just on ordinary roads. It's hard pleasing everyone!

BUT on here if you search, various people have done videos eg of driving into the Eurotunnel at this end and out again on the other side which I think you'd find helpful.

If you do a route plan with 'ViaMichelin' and print it - it actually shows you the actual road signs you'll see on the roads it takes you on - I found that really helpful when we were on bikes, as I had to have the info in my head since I couldn't look at maps obviously! Despite maps and SatNav these days, I printed our chosen route last year for Calais- Albufeira cos Pete had never driven in Spain before and neither of us had ever been to Portugal before. It was useful as back-up. It also helped us plan better where we could stop off each night.
 

vwalan

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hi, i say just get off ferry /tunnel . forget sat navs . get a good country map. either turn right or in your case turn left . keep the sea on your left . . avoid m,ways . toll roads . just keep heading towards the sea and use a compass . drive through as many villages as you can stop and enjoy all of them . water is in every village if you look .
when half way through your time turn round and do it backwards . looks so different from the other way. mind pick your time of year . not ideal doing holland in winter . but if you see a place that looks good stop . have no real plans just drive slow . let the world go past . if you rush you miss the best bits.
 
Nov 18, 2009
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I am suspecting that your anxiety is to do with driving on the right. In the early hours, before you get used to it, my advice is to have your wife act like an autopilot.

Have her look in the appropriate mirror, warn you about traffic approaching roundabouts and be a second pair of eyes in tricky situations.
 
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Don't over plan,don't set targets,don't get stressed.Easy to say I know.But with the driving my copilot says to me turn left"that's like a right"or turn right"that's like a left".Helps me.Think about it you will see what I mean. Martin
 

Cal54

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There is a new site Jim has launched (Trailmates) which might assist you. It will enable you to find a 'travel partner' van. I agree with previous post about convoys, they are difficult at times but we use 2 way radios when 2 or 3 of us are travelling together. Only been abroad once in my MH and that was to the Dusseldorf show some years ago. I can honestly say it was easy driving.
Hope you enjoy, I'm sure you will.
 

kcy

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This is probably an old chestnut but I couldn't find any reference to taking a motorhome to Europe for the first time.
Irene and I have recently retired, we have motor-homed for a number of years but for various reasons have only travelled on the UK mainland.
Now that we have new found freedom we would like to spread our wings but are a little apprehensive about going.
There seems to be so much to prepare for plus language and different laws in different countries. We find it a bit daunting.
We would really appreciate some positive advice on how to go about it and peoples first experiences.
Are there times when a group of Funsters meet up in this country and trundle off in a group to Europe?
One of the trips we would like to take is to Holland's coastline.
We have had many people say, "Oh just get across there you will love it". This doesn't really help us as we need expert advise and help.
Thank you for any advice
Dave & Irene
All I can add to the great advise above is let us know how you get on:)
 
Jun 1, 2013
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We have driven all the way around Europe in a motorhome, and on the whole the driving is much more relaxed than England. Especially on the peage in France, which are usually empty. If you are over 3.5t remember that the speed limit varies by country, and in some (like Belgium) you cannot use lane 3 on the motorway. Germany deserves a special note, it can be very frightening the first time you get passed by someone doing in excess of 140mph, but you get used to it. Lane discipline is fiercely policed, when you finish overtaking GET BACK IN. And be careful use mirrors a lot.
The language barrier is not a huge problem, if you have at least rudimentary French you can get by.

My best investment was TomTom camper, this has poi's including Aires, campsites etc, with info about security. We found it invaluable.
 

Clive

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Once you've covered the legalities the rest is easy. Roads in France have a lot less traffic and French drivers are much nicer, in the main.
The one thing I will say is get blind spot mirrors makes joining from slip roads much safer, I found out on my first trip I could loose a car in my blind spot, soon got some.
Roundabouts are easy, just stay in the outer lane, everyone does.
A town sign surrounded by a red border means 50kph, normally the only warning you'll get.
You only flash your headlights as a warning unlike the UK.
Overtaking. Keep your left hand indicator on, drivers behind then know you are just getting past the vehicle and then going back in, stops them getting excited.
 
Jun 30, 2013
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We made our first camping trip to France around August 1988 in an old VW camper. Nothing was planned ( except getting currency) we got to Calais and turned right. There were no Aires then, we used Municipal campsites or wild camped. Nothing was prebooked and we managed to stay where we wanted.
We had a great time and to this day have never really planned where we are going except to pick a compass point.
Driving on the wrong side of the road is easier than you would think. Just take your time till you are used to it ( takes about 10 minutes!) and remember, few people drive quickly in a Motorhome so don't be afraid to dawdle along if you are not sure where you are going.
The French road system is much better than ours, better road surfaces and fewer cars.
And people really appreciate if you try and speak their language, however badly. There's nothing worse than seeing English people trying to communicate by speaking English very loudly!
Enjoy
Allan
 
May 30, 2012
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For a first trip try arriving on a Sunday. No lorries on the road and easier to get in the swing of things! After the first hour you'll be an old hand! Enjoy!!
 
Dec 4, 2012
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Hi Dave and Irene

I suppose most people are a tad nervous about taking their motorhome abroad for the first time. It has been said on this forum many times that when you have been driving in France (great for motorhomes) for half an hour you'll wonder what you were worrying about.

The best thing to do is just get yourself across the Channel and have fun! As others have said, get yourself a copy of All the Aires France by Vicarious Books- its worth its weight in gold.

Also, look up Keith Chesterfield's aires videos on Youtube and you will see what you are missing.

Paul
 
Feb 16, 2013
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Not much I can add, but if you are thinking of going to just have a bit of a tour round I would say go on the tunnel then head north for the first bit if you are worried about driving on the wrong side, as when you get off the train you are straight on to the motorway , everyone's going the same way no crossroads or anything , there are various aires you can go to within 20 miles , as everyone is fed up of hearing me going on about it, gravelines is my favourite 20 mins and you can be parked up.
I would have a basic plan of where you want to go, but a detailed route would be soon out the window, just go with the flow , far more to see and do than you can get out of books, as last year we were planning on going south in a couple of days but took best part of a week , first day on the road came across what looked like a county show around the streets of steenvord, so that took up the first day, plan gone!!
Just another aside personly , I know others think different but unless you have something special to go for , I would avoid Holland apart from Amsterdam , not going into it as it's been done to death but we went this spring , hated the whole thing.
Stick to france and Belgium to start with , you won't go far wrong(y)(y)
 
Apr 11, 2011
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Give some thought to the Newhaven/Dieppe crossing - good price, only 4 hours, and you do not disembark in the middle of a city, just out of the gate, up the hill and away ... (y)
 

phodetheus

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Jan 20, 2014
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This is probably an old chestnut but I couldn't find any reference to taking a motorhome to Europe for the first time.
Irene and I have recently retired, we have motor-homed for a number of years but for various reasons have only travelled on the UK mainland.
Now that we have new found freedom we would like to spread our wings but are a little apprehensive about going.
There seems to be so much to prepare for plus language and different laws in different countries. We find it a bit daunting.
We would really appreciate some positive advice on how to go about it and peoples first experiences.
Are there times when a group of Funsters meet up in this country and trundle off in a group to Europe?
One of the trips we would like to take is to Holland's coastline.
We have had many people say, "Oh just get across there you will love it". This doesn't really help us as we need expert advise and help.
Thank you for any advice
Dave & Irene
We have been full timing in our Motorhome for nearly a year now but only ventured over to mainland Europe in September (Were still there). I have a blog about our experiences that may be of use to you. The European part of our story starts at http://www.burfield-wallis.me.uk/goodbye-blighty/ Hope it helps.

Gary & Ann
 
Aug 30, 2012
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We did our first motorhome run 3 years ago and I have driven in Europe for many years trucks car and cranes

My adevice is the same as many listed in this post
Don't over plan
Don't travel too far in one day
Use the aires all the aires vicarious books is a must have
Buy a good map and satnav
Use the wife as a overtaking mirror and mistake spotter
If you have a tablet PC get the free apps for sites
As for any thing you have forgot to pack france has shops
When on aires talk to people it's suprising how many people speak some English and watch what others are doing


Rule one don't flap
Rule 2 enjoy

Hope you have a great time and don't forget the world wide webby thing is everywhere so you can still post on here to get any questions answered

Pack up and bugger off :)(y)
 
May 7, 2011
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Hi Irene & Dave, As said before go for it, I suggest make a simple plan of what you want to do and see, nothing is more daunting !!! as being somewhere with no idea of which way to go , having said that when you are over there most villages/towns are so interesting you don't want to move on too much. I would invest in a reasonably good satnav - All the aires book - Alan Rogers campsite guide, although the municipal c/sites are more basic but good and considerably cheaper. Driving over in France is so much easier once you get over the first 5 minutes , just remember when you stop for a cuppa and you are relaxed too drive away on the right hand side (it's easy to forget when relaxed) get Irene to remind you each time til you get in the swing. Sunday's over there is quieter as not too many lorries on the road but remember a lot of petrol/diesel places close, also some are credit/debit card only. Another thing which I always get wrong is you don't flash your lights to be courteous as over there its seen as a sign of aggression, In France they don't have 30mph signs they use village/town name signs as the speed restriction 50kph as you enter , and when you leave sign has lines thru name sign denoting end of speed restriction. Hope this helps , I personally use the aires (satnav gps co.ords help find them) as saves a lot of extra expense and you get to meet like minded people from various countries, most of which can be very helpful, dont worry about the language barrier most muddle thru, I only know a handful of words just remember to say Bon jour , S'il vous plait.
Terry FIDGET
 

gibbon

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We're doing it as I type this. Also our first time.
We're about two thirds of our way through France & have been using the excellent aires system they have here. You must get the "all the aires" from vicarious books. Ours us the slightly out of date 3rd edition but it's been a godsend.
I've always been one for fretting about the details, there's really no need, as I'm now realising.
We set our sat nav to avoid tolls & motorways and we've wafted from village to village, lovely once I'd stopped arguing with the sat nav & began to trust it.
Got the challenge of Spain & Portugal yet!
If this was difficult then it would be beyond me, but it isn't so it must be easy!
You'll love it.
 

Jaws

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I think you will be amazed at how easy it all is, and how much fun too !!!

My advice ?
Do not over think it... Take with you what is legally required** ( depends on what country(s) you will be going to ) but apart from that just do it (y)

Language ? I am quite the worlds second worst linguist and woman is quite possibly the worst, yet so far, after 8 years of travelling to just about every corner of Europe, we have had absolutely no problem at all


**
Two emergency triangles
A reflective jacket / bib for each person in the vehicle
A first aid kit
A fire extinguisher
A pair of beam benders for the head lights ( If you are posh.. if you are like me a couple of bits of black tape strategically placed ! )
Your log book ( not a copy ) and any other vehicle related paper work
Your driving licence
A EHIC card for each person .. ( European Health Insurance Card ) if you have not got them click on the following link.. They are free

http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx

But I reiterate.. it really is absolutely nothing to get stressed about.. Have FUN !! (y)
 
Sep 24, 2013
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We had our first trip to France in our MH in September and were very apprehensive about it. we used aires most of the time so the All the Aires book was invaluable. Check out what the signs for priorite a droid are. We'd been to France lots in a car but only found out this year what they were! Stick to speed limits. Fit a rear view camera if you don't have one. Decide which aire you are staying on for the first night and also another one nearby in case that one is full. After that just wing it! We would decide about how far we wanted to travel or what sights we would want to see and then look up an appropriate aire for the next night. Oh almost forgot. Check out where a supermarket is for when you get to the other side for provisions and cheap fuel. If you've forward planned for the first day you will feel a little more secure.
 

CWH

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We're in a similar situation. Bought Harvey just a year ago, never done either motorhome or caravan before, just back-packing. Very anxious about Europe. We're OK with language, driving on the right & not planning in advance (done this in USA a number of times with a car), but what's makes me apprehensive - apart from legislation etc - is "camping culture". It took us a while to understand this in UK as we took Harvey out for his first trip, 3 months touring.
However: all the above is really useful advice and I've made a list of things to check/ do/ think and I hope we'll "bite the bullet" in spring.
Also: have come across a local motorhoming group that meets in a pub to chat, and sometimes a few travel together, we're going to our first meeting this evening. Might be worth checking in your locality? If we do go with one or two others, at least we can get to know them first, maybe do a couple of overnights or weekends in UK to make sure we're properly compatible - Sedge makes good points about this!
 
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