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Excited but a little scared about your first campervan trip? There is definitely a lot to learn about campervans, from the best way to pack to how to sort all your gas and electricity needs. Not to mention: what can you do when it’s pouring with rain?

These top tips tell you about everything from managing hygiene to campsite etiquette. Don’t forget to protect your vehicle with campervan insurance. Your new home on wheels needs protection to put your mind at rest.

Above all, don’t fret about your first campervan adventure. You’ll soon develop confidence and familiarity with this wonderful way of travelling.

 Campervan Travel

Contents

  1. Take your time and enjoy the ride
  2. Get familiar with your van’s dimensions
  3. Take a holiday on your driveway
  4. Drive in short bursts
  5. Avoid speeding tickets by knowing your legal limits
  6. Make sure your driving licence is compatible
  7. Keep calm with the art of positive parking
  8. Reduce your risk by sticking to main roads
  9. Dodge collisions with the two second rule
  10. Extend your field of vision with auxiliary mirrors
  11. Enjoy peace of mind by knowing your paperwork is in order
  12. Stay comfortable through smart packing
  13. Divide your packing list into sections for clarity
  14. Make yourself a tiny food store
  15. Spontaneity can come at a cost
  16. Prevent breakages by securing your load
  17. Balance your vehicle by loading carefully
  18. Avoid a flat battery by cutting usage
  19. Be discerning to find the perfect pitch
  20. Keep things fresh by using campsite facilities
  21. Stop milk from turning sour by turning your fridge on before you set off
  22. Watch your spending by testing tyre pressure
  23. Save fuel by emptying your water tank
  24. Bring some rainy day entertainments
  25. Do your research before wild camping
  26. Avoid uninsured loss by reading your campervan insurance policy
  27. Make a departure checklist so nothing gets left behind
  28. Work on your campsite small talk
  29. Be considerate to avoid trouble with neighbours
  30. Check your campervan insurance cover before heading abroad

 

  • Take your time and enjoy the ride

Travelling is an experience in itself, and taking out a campervan means you can savour the feeling of moving between places and seeing new sights all the time. When travelling by campervan, you need to slow the pace and find a way to relax on the road.

It will help to be familiar with your route, plan rest stops and book yourself into campsites along the way. Avoiding congested routes and peak times will also avoid stress and give you the best shot at a clear, smooth trip.

 

  • Get familiar with your van’s dimensions

The average medium-sized campervan is around six metres long and 2.5 metres wide - compared to the average saloon car which is around 4.5 metres long and less than two metres wide.

You will be used to judging the spaces you can squeeze through in your car, but the calculation is different when driving a campervan. Try driving and manoeuvring somewhere quiet, taking your time to familiarise yourself with the vehicle’s dimensions.

 

  • Take a holiday on your driveway

The neighbours might think you’re odd, but who cares? There’s nothing like spending a night in your campervan to show you where you might need to screw something down here, tinker with a blind there or invest in some warmer bedding. Spending time in your campervan before you actually head off on a journey will let you sort these niggles out ahead of a big trip.

It’s also handy to stay in your campervan when you have tools to hand, shops and services nearby and plenty of time to spend getting your van into peak condition.

 

  • Drive in short bursts

Getting behind the wheel of a campervan can be daunting at first. Make life easy for yourself by going on short trips of less than two hours to start with, or breaking longer journeys into short legs. There are no prizes for rushing and you can easily get tired and stressed if you try to do too much, too soon.

Everyone is intimidated to begin with but after a while, driving your campervan will become like second nature. Just ease yourself into the lifestyle rather and make sure whatever you do is covered by your campervan insurance.

 

  • Avoid speeding tickets by knowing your legal limits

The crucial question when it comes to campervan speed is weight: does your vehicle have an unladen weight of less than 3.05 tonnes? If it is below this limit, the speed limits will be the same as those for a car (30mph in built up areas, 60mph on single carriageways, 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways).

If your vehicle weighs over 3.05 tonnes, the 30mph limit in built up areas applies but speed is restricted on other roads: 50mph on single carriageways, 60mph on dual carriageways and 70mph on motorways. Campervan trips are not about speed, in any case – taking a leisurely pace is safer and more enjoyable.

 

  • Make sure your driving licence is compatible

Before buying a campervan or motorhome, you must be sure that your driving licence permits you to drive it. Again, weight is a critical issue here: any motorhome with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes requires a category C1 licence. Motorhomes with MAM over 7.5 tonnes require a category C licence.

If you drive without a valid licence for that class of vehicle, you could be found guilty of a serious criminal offence. Not to mention, your insurance will almost certainly be invalid.

 

  • Keep calm with the art of positive parking

Over time, you can feel quite zen about campervan parking. It’s never going to be as easy as popping a Smart Car into a parking bay, but with the right approach you can find satisfaction in parking your campervan safely and with minimum stress.

Parking facing outwards will mean it is much easier to pull out again, as backing out from a space makes it hard to spot traffic and pedestrians. Don’t be afraid to ask your passenger to jump out to help direct you into a space - or even ask a passing stranger to lend a hand.

 

  • Reduce your risk by sticking to main roads

You know those times when you’re driving a car and the sat nav directs you up a narrow, winding country lane and you need to keep reversing to let oncoming traffic pass? Imagine doing that in a hefty campervan. Less-travelled roads can present challenges such as farm vehicles, fords, low bridges, mud on the road and low-hanging branches.

Plan your route carefully so you can travel on roads that have the width to ensure you don’t end up in a tricky situation. The stress of dealing with a hazard can easily result in a bad decision that damages your van.

 

  • Dodge collisions with the two-second rule

Campervans are large, heavy vehicles that need time to come to a stop. Six in 10 drivers admit to driving too close to the vehicle in front. If you share this dangerous habit, it’s time to make a change by adapting the two-second rule. When a car in front passes a particular point such as a lamppost, say to yourself ‘only a fool breaks the two second rule’ at a normal speed. If you reach the fixed point before finishing the phrase, you haven’t left enough distance.

Remember that the two-second rule applies in good weather conditions – in wet or icy weather you should double the gap. When driving a campervan you should also leave a generous space to give yourself the best chance of avoiding a collision.

 

  • Extend your field of vision with auxiliary mirrors

We’ve all heard horror stories about cyclists being injured or worse when a vehicle turns left across their path. In a longer vehicle like a campervan, other road users can be in the vehicle’s blind spot – the space that is not easily observable using wing mirrors.

Auxiliary mirrors are easy to fit and they provide a broader range of vision, helping you to spot other road users such as motorcyclists, cyclists, and pedestrians. The mirrors can also help with manoeuvring your way out of tight parking spots.

 

  • Enjoy peace of mind by knowing your paperwork is in order

If you get pulled over by the police, would you be confident all your documents are in order? You should be clear what you need: a driving licence that entitles you to drive your class of vehicle, campervan insurance, and road tax.

It is also advisable to take out breakdown cover, whether as part of your campervan insurance or as a standalone policy. You should also know the weight limit for your vehicle and be confident that you are within the permitted range.

 

  • Stay comfortable through smart packing

Packing for a campervan trip is a real challenge – you need just enough to provide for your needs such as food, warmth and shelter but not so much that you will feel cramped and cluttered.

For example, you can invest in miniature bottles and boxes to take just enough shampoo, tea bags and so on for your journey. Lightweight plastic plates, microfibre towels, and foldable equipment can also help you to cut the clutter.

 

  • Divide your packing list into sections for clarity

Making a packing list will help save time and hassle, but dividing it into sections will lift your game even further. Divide items into comfort, safety, and essentials. So for example, a first aid kit would go into the safety category, a set of fairy lights might be in comfort and essentials includes bedding, pots and pans and clothing.

Keeping your list for future trips can be really helpful, especially if you go on to develop different lists, for example essentials for a trip to the beach might be different for heading to the mountains, going on a fishing trip or wild camping on a moor.

 

  • Make yourself a tiny food store

Salt, pepper, oil, spices, ketchup – you might need these things, but only in small quantities. Use small, sealable containers to ensure you only transport what you need.

Buying supplies can also be inconvenient or expensive when you’re in a tourist hotspot. Stocking up on a few groceries such as pasta, fruit and vegetables means you can improve meals as you travel, without paying through the nose.

 

  • Spontaneity can come at a cost

Campervans give you a wonderful feeling of freedom - you can pack a bag and head out for adventure without a care in the world. However, sometimes planning is essential to make your trip enjoyable.

Even if you’re a free spirit who likes to take it as it comes, heading off to a busy area in peak season is likely to give you a headache. Planning ahead means you don’t need to scramble to find campsites while you’re away or risk missing out on something you want to see because it’s sold out.

 

  • Prevent breakages by securing your load

There’s nothing worse than a crashing noise in the back of your van as you drive round a corner. Driving sometimes means swerving, going over speed bumps and rough roads, breaking suddenly and other jolts. Everything kept in the back of the van needs to be able to withstand this.

Cupboards, compartments, hooks, clips and bungee cords will help to keep everything in place during your journey. It also helps to ensure your van stays neat and organised.

 

  • Balance your vehicle by loading carefully

In an ideal world, weight would be distributed evenly around your campervan. Distributing items around the vehicle will help to avoid uneven weight impacting your vehicle handling and efficiency.

For example, rather than piling up bags or boxes in one corner, unpack the contents and store in compartments and cupboards spread through the van. This will also help to prevent items from coming loose and moving around as you drive.

 Interior of motorhome

  • Avoid a flat battery by cutting usage

At home, we don’t think about the voltage of different appliances too much, but whatever you use on the road will draw power from the battery or campsite hook-up. Using high-powered gadgets like hair dryers and kettles can leave you with a flat battery.

Think creatively to find ways around this – could you boil a kettle on your gas hob and store the hot water in an insulated flask? Maybe you could have cereal instead of using a toaster, or put another jumper on rather than using an energy-guzzling electric heater?

 

  • Being discerning to find the perfect pitch

No two campsite pitches are identical – when it comes to choosing a pitch, you need to know what your priorities are. Do you want a gorgeous view, somewhere quiet and peaceful, a spot near the shower block or somewhere you can sneak out early in the morning without disturbing other campers? Maybe you’d like to be near the bar, or maybe that’s your worst nightmare.

At busy times, you might have to take whatever you can get but where choice is available, making the right decision can have a significant impact on your enjoyment of the site. The perfect pitch that combines everything you like comes along every now and again, but it’s too much to hope for every time! 

 

  • Keep things fresh by using campsite facilities

Unless you drive the very flashiest model of campervan, your showering facilities will be inferior to any laid on by the campsite. Wherever possible, make use of facilities in campsites so you can enjoy good hygiene without the downsides.

 

  • Stop milk from turning sour by turning your fridge on before you set off

If you are travelling in summer, popping your milk and other food in the camper fridge will help keep them cool - but only if the fridge is actually cold. It can take a few hours for a fridge to get cold, so turn it on a few hours before you’re ready to leave.

 

  • Watch your spending by testing tyre pressure

Soft tyres are less fuel efficient and are more prone to punctures and blow-outs, which can be dangerous. Checking your tyre pressure is not hard to do, but if you need help then ask a local garage to do it for you.

Driving with underinflated tyres could also land you in trouble with the police, and it’s your responsibility as a driver to ensure your campervan is roadworthy.

 

  • Save fuel by emptying your water tank

It costs enough to fuel a campervan as it is, without paying extra to transport a heavy, full water tank. Unless you’re wild camping, you should be able to fill your tank on arrival at the campsite so taking water with you will only add to your vehicle’s weight and make it less fuel efficient.

 

  • Bring some rainy day entertainments

Being cooped up in a campervan because of wet weather is not what anyone plans for, but with a little planning you can make the best of it. Your first instinct might be to reach for your phone or tablet, but it can be more relaxing to develop a new hobby.

Bring along some knitting, a little watercolour painting kit, a pack of cards or a small board game to help while away the hours. As the rain drums on the roof, you’ll be absorbed in your activity until the sun comes back out.

 

  • Do your research before wild camping

Pulling up your campervan in a wild spot can be nothing short of magical, with all the landscape laid out before you and not another soul in sight. However, you need to know what you are doing or you risk being moved on or getting in trouble with the police.

Local laws on wild camping vary within England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the most restrictive rules in England. You should only do wild camping in a place you are sure it’s permitted. Leave no trace and don’t be tempted to feed wild animals.

 

Reading a campervan insurance policy doesn’t take long, and it can be invaluable in helping you understand what is or is not covered. For example, are you required to store the vehicle in a certain setting? Are you covered for bikes, electrical devices and other belongings stored onboard?

To avoid unpleasant surprises, it’s best to understand your campervan insurance and add optional extras or take out separate cover where necessary. For example, if you are taking a laptop or tablet along with you, is this covered under your campervan insurance? You might also be able to secure a discount if you use an immobiliser or other security device – be sure to ask your provider about this.

 

  • Make a departure checklist so nothing gets left behind

When you depart or arrive somewhere in your campervan, there will be the same tasks to complete. To make this easier, write out checklists so you don’t forget anything.

This might include things like closing all windows and doors, retracting the back step and ensuring all cupboards are securely closed.

 

  • Work on your campsite small talk

People travel around in campervans at all stages of life, and engaging with other lovers of vanlife can be enlightening and entertaining. To break the ice, think of some questions you might want to ask about the local area, their vehicle or some problem you have with your van.

You can pick up all kinds of tips and tricks for making the most of your campervan, as well as enjoying the variety of people you meet along the way. Campers are also often more than happy to chat and help where they can.

 

  • Be considerate to avoid trouble with neighbours

Van owners are usually kind and friendly, but you could get on the wrong side of them if you don’t show the right campsite etiquette. You should follow site rules about quiet times, particularly late at night and early in the morning. Position your van to allow for maximum privacy for others, and if you need to share a water tap, do so considerately.

Grey waste such as washing up water should be disposed of in a soil pipe rather than onto the ground – it might seem harmless but it can attract vermin and bugs as well as causing a bad smell. Keep your engine off unless absolutely necessary to reduce noise and fumes.

 

Taking your campervan overseas can be an amazing experience, but it can turn into a nightmare if you haven’t sorted out legalities and campervan insurance. You should always check local laws to ensure you comply.

Many campervan insurance policies cover you to drive throughout the European Union, but exclusions and limitations can apply so check your policy. Campervan insurance might also place restrictions on how long you can stay away, and the amount you could claim.

Call Motorhome Protect today for a campervan insurance quote to make sure you have the right protection from the get-go.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.