It’s your first motorhome holiday, how exciting! This is an adventure like no other, but it can be thrilling if you have no idea what to do. That’s why we’ve broken it down into an extensive list of everything you need to bring and know for your first motorhome holiday. From choosing a campervan to returning it after the holiday, this is your guide to your first campervan trip.
You’ve had the idea, you’re ready to start booking, what do you do now?
Choosing a Motorhome
There are several things to consider in choosing a motorhome and given that it is your first time in a motorhome, you want to be happy with the one you choose! If you’re looking to buy a certain motorhome or campervan, definitely travel in something as similar as possible. If you’re not as tied down to a specific brand or style, consider the following:
- How many people will you be travelling with?
- How much time will you spend in the vehicle?
- Do you mind packing away a bed each day?
- Do you feel comfortable driving a larger vehicle?
- Will you be cooking often in the van, or mainly eating out?
- Will you be bringing bikes or other large items?
- Do you intend to drive large distances each day?
- Will you stay at campsites or wild camp? (If the latter, you’ll have a larger need for a toilet, shower or solar panels)
Consider your priorities in a vehicle, whether that is space to move around or space to pack more, spacious seats for lengthy driving or a bed that doesn’t need to be packed away. It’ll be hard to have it all, but by knowing what is truly important, you’ll find it easier to choose a motorhome for your first trip. This will also help you decide between VW campervan hire or 6 berth motorhome hire.
Be sure to ask the dimensions of the motorhome in case you plan to take a ferry or tunnel. Write these down and have them always available while driving.
Part of choosing a destination is deciding whether there will be multiple. This depends on how long your trip is, how much you enjoy driving and where you intend to go. But either way, be sure to always enjoy the journey as well, as a motorhome holiday is truly not solely based on the destination. You can also visit destinations but not stay a night there, depending on campsites available and how much there is to see. Just remember the following when choosing where you’ll stop:
- Aim for three hours of driving per day maximum. This ensures that the majority of your time is spent actually enjoying places and not behind the wheel. This also can be timed well to avoid traffic.
- If you plan to stay at campsites, look into possibilities when you decide on your destinations. Some areas will not have great/any campsites, or if you’re close to a city the prices will be extremely high.
- Wild camping is not possible everywhere, so if this is important to you, check destinations based on that.
To Plan or Not to Plan
That is the question! This is truly a personal preference. Some people prefer planning everything ahead to be more relaxed during their trip, they know where they’ll go and what to do. Others prefer it completely different, they don’t want to stress about their holiday and instead enjoy it as it goes. We’ll discuss the benefits of both approaches briefly.
- You can be more relaxed during your trip.
- You don’t need WIFI to look up things at campsites or worry about printing out tickets or receipts.
- You can follow a budget easier by setting it ahead of time.
- You can fit everything in your trip and not miss out on great opportunities.
- Given that it is your first motorhome holiday, you won’t forget anything important or make big mistakes.
Taking it as it comes
- The time before your trip isn’t made more stressful than it has to be.
- You’re utilising the freedom that a motorhome provides.
- You don’t miss out on staying in the present and learning of fun things to do along the way.
- If your trip is cancelled, you lose less to cancellation costs.
- You can adapt to weather conditions or the general mood of the day.
Our advice? A bit of both! Plan a few days ahead at a time, without having the entire trip set in stone. Leave time and space for new opportunities, but also write down your priorities for the trip.
Get your travel insurance before you book a motorhome, this ensures that any issues with your booking are covered as well! We really recommend getting travel insurance in case of any issues during your trip, such as theft. Also, confirm the details of your medical insurance.
The Necessary Apps
Don’t wait until you’re on holiday to check out the extensive road trip apps offered. There are so many road trip apps available nowadays, so check out this list of which you should download.
Bring a power bank and have it charged at all times as a backup. This is especially important for women travelling alone as it ensures you can always reach help. Ask what the sockets are like, and bring any necessary adapters. You may also benefit from bringing an inverter, particularly if you intend to charge a laptop.
Also, keep a list of emergency numbers for true peace of mind.
Packing for a motorhome holiday is difficult and easy at the same time. You have far more space than you would if you were staying in a hotel or flying, as you’re not limited to a suitcase or specific weight. You have everything at hand, and you can properly unpack as you won’t constantly be on the move. However, it is easy to overestimate the amount of extra luggage you can bring. Campervans aren’t massive, and they have only so much storage available. You don’t want to make your vehicle feel even smaller by overpacking, and bringing a bunch of stuff you won’t use.
To pack for your first campervan trip, it is vital that you make a list of everything you will need for your trip. Then you can use this when packing, and as a final check before you leave. Also, consider the most commonly forgotten items.
It’s finally time to hit the road! What do you need to keep in mind?
I recommend doing a grocery shop early on during your trip, as then you can look for a good store, perhaps one that you know. This will avoid you being forced to use overpriced shops with limited stock. Just be sure to check how much can fit in the fridge and how it works, so buy your groceries after picking up your vehicle.
Consider what items you might just want to bring from home, e.g. spices and olive oil. Put your food away carefully, as otherwise, you’ll be consistently unpacking all of your groceries to find specific items. You can either pack based on the meal (breakfast items in one place, dinner in another, snacks accessible when driving) or you can divide the food into day by day.
Avoid buying too much, as it will just take up space and could go off. Campervan fridges are small, so you don’t want to risk having more than can fit. You’ll also want to have several easy snacks or lunch options that don’t require cooking, so you can eat while driving and not need to set up and cook.
Everyone needs to find their own balance regarding how much they want to drive per day, and that can change by the day. Just make sure you’re enjoying your present destination enough and not just think ahead to where you need to go next. It can be easy to slip into the mindset of ticking off enough destinations during your road trip, but is it worth ticking them off if you didn’t truly experience them? The beauty of a motorhome lies in the flexibility, the fact that you can leave a day earlier if you’re not enjoying a place, or even a day later if you really are. No public transportation or hotel bookings to anchor you to a specific schedule.
We advise taking your time with the road too. A great tip is to set your Google Maps route to ‘Avoid Highways’. This could lengthen your journey slightly but will ensure that you’re driving along beautiful roads and truly enjoying the drive. You can also use the filter of ‘Avoid toll roads’, and save a few bucks along the way.
Always check the driving rules for the country you’re visiting, as they can differ greatly! Here are a few driving regulation blogs you can check out:
Also, consider if vignettes are required! There is a hefty fine for not having one. Even if you just drive through a country briefly, even for half an hour, you can be fined for missing one. Avoid this with the necessary research and keeping it safe.
Be sure to take frequent breaks where you stretch your legs, as most accidents are caused by fatigue. Also stay hydrated, as it is easy to forget to drink water when you’re seated all day, but dehydration contributes to fatigue. Listening to music or podcasts can be great for keeping you entertained, but never do this through headphones as that poses a risk.
Setting up at campsites
Always make sure you arrive at campsites before the sun sets, not only to enjoy the pretty view but also to be able to set up correctly. Particularly for the first night, be there hours before in case of any issues. It can be tricky to connect to the electricity if you’re not experienced with it, so you want the light and time to do it right. Be sure to park on flat ground to avoid being tilted in the van. Position your van away from others to give yourself a bit more privacy, but leave enough room to set up the awning. Be sure to switch the fridge over to the electricity and off of the car battery! This applies for all electrical outlets, as forgetting this will result in a nasty surprise when you try to start the van again…
Try to unpack as much as possible, even for shorter trips, as it will keep everything tidy and avoid the added hassle. Fill up on clean drinking water at every campsite, and make sure you have spare for whenever you’re driving.
Before leaving a campsite, always check the following has been done:
- All drawers and cupboards are securely closed.
- Nothing is unsecured and could fall or cause injury.
- Turn off the LPG gas
- Turn off the water tank.
- Check the external footstep is retracted.
- Check that windows and vents are firmly closed.
- Make sure the pop-top is put down and firmly secured.
- Ensure that all sink and shower drain plugs are fitted to prevent grey water leaking and causing an awful smell. Better yet is to empty your grey water tank. You may also want to put a bit of nice smelling detergent in it to combat a possible smell.
Talk to people
There is an awesome community of motorhome owners, and you’ll come across many during your trip. Strike up a conversation to get great tips for your holiday. Tips for using your vehicle or in the local area. Never be afraid of looking stupid for not knowing something about the vehicle, either ask someone, message the owner or check the manual.
Evenings in your campervan
If it is your first trip in a motorhome, you might be wondering what you actually do once you’re at the campsite! Here are our top tips for evenings in a campervan:
- Play board games or card games, old school but super fun!
- If you bring a laptop or iPad, have a few films downloaded in case of rubbish weather. It never hurts to have a backup.
- Take your time cooking, make it a social activity with your fellow travellers and enjoy it.
- Try a beer or wine tasting with different brands. Best accompanied by a cheeseboard.
- Play a conversation game together.
- Go for walks, but make sure to properly lock your motorhome behind you! And don’t get lost.
Sadly your trip cannot last forever, and eventually, you must come home! After returning the motorhome to the owner and having it all check over, it is time to go back to your own bed.
Returning the motorhome
Consider the following before giving the motorhome back:
- What is the cleaning agreement?
- Did you empty the water tank?
- Did you empty the toilet tank if used?
- Have you checked all the cupboards to make sure you don’t forget anything?
- Notify the owner of your estimated time of arrival.
- Fill up the fuel to the agreed amount.
How do you empty and clean a toilet cassette:
- Remove the toilet canister from the motorhome.
- Pour out the contents into the designated drain, available at most campsites. If this is really not possible, use a public toilet for this.
- First rinse the toilet cassette with water, using a hose or bottled water.
- Then rinse it again with disinfectant. Be sure to shake this mixture inside of it, and then empty it again.
- Add a bit of water and inset a disinfecting sachet or liquid.
- Replace the cassette, ensure it is secured properly.
Not the cleanest job, but certainly not a difficult one!
Using your photos
We are quick to snap away using our phones, but then we leave those tucked away, eating at our data. Eventually, they’ll be deleted or forgotten. Avoid this through going through your photos upon return, both to ease the blow of your holiday ending and to choose the best to print. Either print them yourselves or get it done at a shop. You can either put these photos up and create a collage or start a holiday scrapbook! Even if you use one double-page per trip, you’ll soon have an amazing book of memories.
Leave a review
Sharing your experience is super helpful for future travellers looking for a motorhome to hire, and can provide insightful feedback for the owner. Be sure to take two minutes to write a review for them.
Look forward to the next one!
Life is better when you have a holiday to look forward to! Take a minute to reflect on what went well and what could’ve gone better. No holiday is perfect, but it’s about how you handle those moments. Would you travel in a motorhome again? Where would you want to go next?
And there you have it, your first motorhome holiday done and dusted! This is everything you could need for your first motorhome holiday. But don’t stress too much, as part of the campervan experience is learning as you go. Each time you’ll realise more and know what you prefer, making each holiday better than the last!