5 Motorhome Life Hacks

Motorhome life hacks! A “Lifehack”, according to Wikipedia, refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency.  So what motorhome life hacks have we learnt in the last 2 months of touring in our motorhome? Here are my top 5 motorhome life hacks!

  1. Fuel efficiency whilst driving our motorhome and French tolls.

Touring in a motorhome is best done slowly. In France, where we are now, diesel has been costing us between 1.22 Euros and 1.35 per litre, so whilst stating the obvious, the more miles you do the more is costs. There are times though where you might have to use motorways and we used the French motorways to get quickly to the Royan area. I have already mentioned in a previous blog about how good the Sanef-t-Tag is driving through France on toll roads. You can access your online Sanef-t account anytime to see how much the tolls have cost you and a copy of my account is pictured below.

Sanef-t Tag account summary for French tolls

Back to fuel efficiency, whilst driving a motorhome  I found that using cruise control made a big difference to the miles per gallon but only when driving on the flat. On some stretches of flat motorway I saw the average mpg go up to over 60 as opposed to our normal average of 30.5 mpg so it’s well worth getting to know how your cruise control works if you have one of course! On average with cruise control on we were getting about 15% more miles to the gallon than without cruise control.

2. Fresh water and waste

Before buying our first motorhome we read all sorts of horror stories about emptying a motorhome toilet cassette, but it’s really not that bad. The job of emptying it falls to me though and Anne refuses to do it. With her nursing and midwifery background I’m surprised at that!

I empty the toilet cassette daily and only put enough fresh water in to the fresh water tank to keep us going daily, although if we are wild camping I will put more fresh water in to keep us going a few days more. For those times that you can’t get near to a tap I suggest getting a 10 litre watering can. We have found this the easiest way to get water into the tank. Our toilet cassette is fitted with a SOG system and this avoids the need to use chemicals.

Our toilet cassette with SOG system on our Hobby motorhome

3. Buy steps to access your motorhome

Our motorhome step

Our motorhome came with an electric step but we decided to buy some stand alone steps, after we had a problem with the electric step. Stand alone steps are more robust than our electric step but they are also multi-purpose. For example we use our steps to clean the windscreen and to make it easier to to take our bikes off and back on our bike carrier. They are mini step ladders!

4. Refillable gas bottles – The Gaslow system.

What a wonderful system the Gaslow re-fillable system is in my opinion. It’s not cheap to fit but because we will be spending a lot of time touring in our motorhome we can re-fill our 2 x 11 kg gas cylinders from many fuel stations in Europe. I have the FillLPG app on my mobile phone so that I can easily find nearby fuel stations that sell LPG. So far it has worked out much cheaper to buy LPG because we only put in what we need.

Our Gaslow system with external filler point

5. Cadac Safari 2 Gas BBQ

Cadac Safari Chef 2 BBQ

We love this gas BBQ. I’ve always been an advocate of charcoal but we have never had as many BBQ’s as we are having now. I can set up the Cadac BBQ in 2 minutes and be ready to cook 2 minutes later. The hotplate heats up very quickly and it is very easy to clean afterwards. Cleaning charcoal BBQ’s was always a pain! I can highly recommend the Cadac Safari Chef 2. It’s easily big enough for 2 people and I have used it to cook for 4 people with no problems. The Cadac comes with several cooking accessories such as a grill, smooth cooking plate suitable for pizza and frying eggs and a pan/kettle stand.

Experienced motor homers will have heard all this advice before but as newbies to motor homes it’s a steep learning curve for us and I wanted to share this information for other newbies!

 

Picked up our motorhome and we are on the road!

Our motorhome adventure started this week!

Having arrived back from 3 weeks in France on Monday we hired a van to drive to Kendal, where the motorhome dealer is, with the pile of belongings that we had planned to take with us in our motorhome. There was a lot of stuff, including 2 bikes and I was worried that we would be taking too much. Arriving at the motorhome dealer with a mixture of excitement and trepidation we unloaded our rental van and we were then given a handover talk lasting about 3 hours. There is only so much information you can absorb and after 3 hours and many questions answered I had information overload. I like reading manuals and learning for myself and I have about 10 manuals to read weighing an absolute tonne! That’s part of the fun though!

Our new motorhome parked up on a campsite pitch

The time had come to drive off to our first campsite, which was only about 3 miles away, so I climbed into the driver’s seat and Anne into the passenger seat, started the engine and immediately stalled twice! Not a good start considering I had to turn right across the very busy A591 and I was worried I would stall again but all turned out well and we were on the road.

I haven’t driven a vehicle before that is over 7 metres long and weighs 3.5 tonnes but it was no surprise that the acceleration and stopping distance are completely different to a normal car.

Our first job was to fill up with diesel so we headed to a nearby service station and pulled up next to the pump. First problem – I could not unlock the filler cap. I am similar to most men in that I don’t like asking for help but Anne asked a friendly looking Scottish truck driver and he solved the problem straight away. I was using the wrong key!

I then moved to another pump to fill our gas tanks with LPG. We have a refillable system. Luckily I had done my research and knew how the pumps worked so managed to fill the two 11kg tanks without a problem. I was starting to get more confident!

Having arrived  at the Windermere Camping and Caravan Club campsite we drove onto our pitch for our first night in our new motorhome. First thing to do was get our electric hook up sorted so I got the cable out but could not work out how to plug the cable in. After a lot of cursing and swearing Anne decided to ask our friendly neighbour for help and sure enough the problem was sorted in seconds. The simple things can sometimes be difficult!

After a busy day we decided to eat in the campsite pub so we both had a very nice steak and ale pie before settling in for what tuned out to be a very comfortable night’s sleep.

What will day 2 bring?

France tomorrow – Without our motorhome, and a weight issue!

I’m writing this blog article whilst sitting in our temporary accommodation on the last day before our exciting holiday to Provence in France tomorrow. This is a planned holiday that we booked before deciding to buy a motorhome to tour Europe so it will be an opportunity for us to relax a bit before heading off to Scotland and then back to France again in September when our touring begins.

It’s great not having to think about work anymore. My mind is occupied with planning for our French holiday and also thinking about how we are going to fit all our stuff in our motorhome, and whether we have too much weight. A few weeks ago we made a pile of things that we wanted to take with us on our travels. Clothes, kitchen ‘stuff’, BBQ, chairs, camping table, cameras, bedding, gadgets, and many other things. We have since then gone through this pile twice to try and reduce the amount of things we are taking with us and the pile still looks too big! I’m having a mini panic about this and keep trying to convince myself that this will fit in our motorhome. There has been a couple of minor disputes with Anne, who thinks it will all fit in. Her  role is the chief organiser and packer, so I can blame her if it all won’t fit in!

Will this fit in our motorhome?

We have hired a van to take our belongings to the motorhome dealer in Kendal, Cumbria and I can’t wait to see their faces when we rock up with our van full of stuff. Our motorhome has a payload of 522kg but we have had extras fitted such as an additional 11kg gas cylinder, and leisure battery that weighs about 30kg. so we should have enough spare payload to stay legal hopefully! For the non motor-homers amongst you “payload” is the maximum legal weight a vehicle can carry.

So, our motorhome is still sitting at the dealers waiting for us to pick it up on the 15 August after our holiday. It seems ages ago that we decided to spend a year touring Europe in a motorhome but the start of our adventure is very close now and then the fun really begins!

Motorhome campsites, camping and information guidebooks

We have given away a lot of our books in preparation for selling our house and going on our motorhome tour of Europe, but guess what? We have bought a lot of maps, European guidebooks, France Aire motorhome stopover books and motorhome campsite books to replace the ones we have just got rid of!

How many do we really need? Here is a list of what we have got so far.

Camping Card ACSI – Cost 13.95 Euro

ACSI discount camping card

This is a discount card that entitles you to up to 50% discount on 3319 campsites In Europe in the off season. Prices range from 11 Euro to 19 Euro per night. We are not leaving the UK until late September so we will only get 3 months use out of it until we have to renew it for 2018. Is it worth it? Well, it was only about £11 and they send you two nice books with all the campsites in and you also get an app to use online.

All the Aires France, North and South by Vicarious

All the Aires France by Vicarious

I didn’t know this until recently but France is well known for its free or nearly free motorhome stops. They can be found in or near to most villages, towns and cities in France. The idea is that motor homers are allowed to stop for the night and that they use the local shops and amenities in return. A great idea!

 

Camperstop Europe

Camperstop Europe 2017 from Vicarious Books

This book has an amazing 9651 camperstops in 27 countries. Europe seems to be full of campsites and we could be on tour for years at this rate! This book looks awesome and many of the motorhome stops listed look to be in very scenic locations.

 

Rough guide to Europe on a budget

 

The Rough Guide to Europe on a budget

A great book for researching the best places to visit on your journey. Full of useful facts and information about how to live on a budget whilst travelling in Europe. Not just for motor-homers but useful for backpackers too. Hopefully a good book to help us plan where to go.

 

Caravan and Motorhome Club. We have joined the Caravan and Motorhome Club. I hope that this isn’t overkill! We probably have enough campsite books already and we don’t want to overload our truck with books and maps. (We have to think of the maximum payload!) Anyway, I paid my £49 annual subscription and I was sent a very nice pack of information. I just booked a motorhome pitch in Cheshire that was featured in the book but I was directed to the campsite website to book. There was no discount!

Maps, maps, maps!

Maps for motorhome trips in Europe

I have always loved maps. In the age of satnav we still need maps because they give you a bigger perspective on an area and help in the planning of a journey. This is a photo I took of just a few of the maps we have.

Motorhome insurance – A bit of a nightmare.

As an ex insurance underwriter and insurance claims handler I know a thing or two about risk and how insurance companies operate, so when I started calling some specialist motorhome insurance brokers I was surprised about how difficult this was going to be. Nowadays, insurance underwriters don’t think for themselves because all they do is enter information into a computer system and that computer says yes or no and provides the cost. There is no flexibility built-in so if you don’t quite fit then the system can’t cope and you get a no!

In total I made 4 calls and here are the results:

Firstly, I called Comfort Insurance. As you know, to get a quote for insurance you have to answer a lot of questions about lots of things such as accidents/claims, convictions, age, occupation, vehicle details, address and most importantly how often you will use the motorhome and where it will be stored.

Comfort Insurance turned out to be the most knowledgeable and helpful about the circumstances that I outlined. These were that we are selling our home and going touring in Europe for between 6 and 12 months. During that time we will have a postal address at my daughters and go on the electoral roll there. Comfort Insurance class this as a “full timers” rate and actually don’t need you to have a UK address.

This is what the proposal documents said:

  • Proposers must maintain a full UK residence, either through ownership or long-term rental (of at least 9 months) unless a full-timing rate has been agreed and paid.
  • This address must be the one at which the proposer is on the electoral roll, (unless a full-timing rate has been agreed and paid) and also the one that appears on the driving licence and vehicle documentation.

I was very impressed with the cover that they provided. It was unlimited mileage for 365 days in the EU.

A further search on Google unearthed a company called Adrian Flux. They were advertising themselves as motorhome insurance specialists but after I explained what I wanted  they declined to quote.

The third insurance broker I called for a motorhome quote was Safeguard Insurance. This is when the whole thing got a little confusing because they wanted to know where I would keep the motorhome when I returned to the UK to visit relatives. I explained that we would probably be staying on a local campsite and would not be leaving the motorhome on a driveway. Safeguard said this was not acceptable and that whilst in the UK it must be stored in a secure compound or on the driveway of our registered address. This seemed mad to me because surely it’s safer to stay in the motorhome than leave it on a driveway. It’s as though they are saying you can’t use it in the UK!

Finally, I called a company called Caravanguard. Again they were advertising in Motorhome Magazine as motorhome specialists but they would only offer a maximum of 9 months in Europe.

It seems that insuring your motorhome if you intend to travel extensively in Europe is very difficult. There is clearly a market for this type of cover and in my view if you are using your motorhome long-term then there is less risk of it being stolen than leaving it on a driveway.

The most expensive quote was from Comfort Insurance but the others fell short of providing exactly what I wanted. It’s a real shame in my view that there are no other insurers that I can find who will offer so-called full-timers cover but it was certainly a learning experience making the time-consuming phone calls!

A life changing day – we bought our first motorhome!

Today was a life changing day. In fact it’s been a life changing week! We bought our first motorhome at the Yorkshire Motorhome Show in Harrogate. This is my blog article about why we have decided to buy a motorhome.

It’s been a life changing week because we have also decided to sell our house that we have lived in for 32 years so next week it is going on the market and hopefully it will sell quickly.  For some people this might sound like a drastic decision so let me explain why we are doing this. The main reason is that we want an adventure before we get too old. Next month I will be 62 years old. I’m fit and healthy with a young outlook on life. I’m a travel and tourism teacher at an FE college and my wife is a midwife at a large teaching hospital. Both are stressful jobs and we both feel that the time is right to follow our passion for travel.

Prior to becoming a qualified teacher only 6 years ago I had my own travel agency that I ran with my brother for 19 years. Travel is in my blood and I want to do more of it. My wife Anne and I have explored Europe by rail on several occasions in the last few years and we love the scenery, history, architecture, the food and the people so we have decided to tour Europe the slow way in a motorhome and then if we get bored of that we intend to live in France or Spain for a while. We are fed up of the British weather and want more sun and warmth.

We wanted to move house at some point soon to try living abroad for a while so all we are doing is having an adventure first. If we find somewhere to live in France or Spain whilst we are exploring by motorhome we might take the plunge and rent or buy there. Alternatively, we might come back to the UK and live in a different part of the UK other than Leeds, where we live now. We shall see how things work out.

This whole plan might sound crazy to some people especially when I tell you that we have never actually driven or stayed in a motorhome before, but we have thought long and hard about this over several months and we are very confident that this is the right thing to do.

Our plan is to spend a few weeks in the UK testing the vehicle and getting to know how things work. We are then going to get on a ferry and drive through France to Spain and Portugal before heading north again in May 2018 to Norway and Sweden before heading south again through Germany to Italy and Croatia. We might be on the road for 12 months if things work out well.

We have visited several motorhome dealers over the last few months and done a massive amount of research. We soon decided that we wanted fixed beds in the rear and a big garage to store food and motorhome essentials in. We ended up buying a Hobby Optima DeLuxe T65GE from ES Hartley at The Yorkshire Motorhome Show. The motorhome has a good specification and I also negotiated a few more extras in the price too such as a Cat 1 alarm, solar panel with extra battery so that we can wild camp and be self sufficient, a bike rack and a TV. It’s made in Germany and is just over 7 metres long, 2.8 metres high and 2.33 metres wide. This is a high quality vehicle – a bad boy motorhome!

I’ll be adding blogs, photos and video on a regular basis when we hit the road to bring you all the highs and maybe lows of our adventure.

Here is the photo I took of our motorhome at The Yorkshire Motorhome Show before it’s stored for us for a few weeks.

Our first motorhome