Decisions to Make Before You Travel in Europe
Maybe make yourself a cup of coffee and get a donut. It's not gonna be easy this time. If you're serious about caravanning as a means of travel, you'll need a few gadgets
Car size is key. — Whether you'll enjoy traveling in a caravan depends largely on two things – the comfort of the living space and the agility of the vehicle. And these two variables have to compete with each other.
How can you fit all your living space into a car to travel when you need space? Easy. It's all about priorities and trade-offs. A small car, a Transporter California van, or a tent on the roof won't restrict your travels at all. You can get to the middle of an Italian village as easily as you can stick your front wheels in the sand at the beach. And the comfort? Forget that.
Or you can go the other way, and indulge in five-star luxury. Big bed, spacious shower, porcelain toilet, and TV. Perhaps even with a car or motorbike in a trailer. Can live without that? Then be prepared to take a taxi into town, not be able to get to the beach parking lot, and be turned away by some campgrounds because of the size of the rig. Not to mention the cost of fuel for travel, maintenance, highway tolls, and a Group C license.
And then there are about a thousand and one options somewhere in between. For example, the built-in larger Fiat Ducato-type vans have been the most popular for travel in recent years. They've even started a whole movement called #vanlife.
Motorhomes, vans, and caravans
Motorhomes are divided into three basic groups. The smallest are van conversions. These are often VW Transporter, Fiat, and Renault. The car will usually not exceed 3.5 tonnes and a Group B license will suffice. Then there are the classic motorhomes, which tend to be bigger or even giant. And finally, caravans, which have been popular for travel and holidays for years. These are divided into real minnows, such as the beautiful Tears from Hero Campers. However, such a trailer has no shower, toilet, or table. It is essentially a bulky tent. But the advantage is that the tow vehicle plays a balancing act with your car.
If you can get the weight of the car and trailer down to 3.5 tonnes, and the car is heavier than the trailer, you've won. In Europe, in most countries, you just need a B license to travel. Although all this is under the baton of European legislation, individual countries translate it in their own way.
Water, electricity, and gas
Now for a slightly more technical view. Appliances in dwellings are powered by three sources. On the campsite it's a 240V socket, on the road it's gas or a 12V battery. And again, comfort and freedom, if you like, are at odds here.
You can only use the air conditioning and a good coffee maker at the campsite unless you take a large battery pack with you at the same time. But if you find a good balance, you'll be able to get by with gas for weeks in the warmer part of the year. Thanks to the sunshine, you can also go endlessly with a cool fridge and a charged computer and phone. And with water in the tank, days or weeks, depending on how often you shower and wash dishes – the two biggest water guzzlers. And the biggest freedom killer will end up being a full chemical toilet if you don't already have an incinerator, bagger, or composter.
With a trailer hookup, then, you'll mainly be dealing with old-style (7-pin) or new-style (13-pin) electrical hookups. The new one can keep the fridge cool while driving.
Here's a very rough idea of the costs of the main options you face, which might be the starting point from which to make this initial decision!
- A tent next to the car – €80
- A tent on the roof – €1,600
- Used trailer – €4,000
- Used caravan and van – €12,000
- Trailer caravan – €20,000
- Built-in van – €40,000
- Basic motorhome – €60,000
- Luxury motorhome – €120,000
- Truck with garage inside – €400,000