Planning your motorhome trip – how far should you go?
Having decided upon a motorhome trip, the next thing to do is to make a decision about what you want to see and how to fit it into the time you have available. A large part of the appeal of a motorhome holiday is the freedom to choose where you go and where you stay – there are no set deadlines and virtually no restrictions on your schedule.
When planning a European trip from the comfort of your living room it is very easy to bite off more than you can possibly chew when you get here! The Continent offers so many gems to explore that the inexperienced motorhomer often tries to fit in an epic trip in too short a visit. However, many clients soon discover that there is so much to see and do in France alone that planning a massive voyage covering more of Europe is actually a step too far – and they are better off exploring the delights France has to offer rather than setting a tougher target further afield.
For those who are not familiar with France and the French road network, it frequently comes as a pleasant surprise that there are great sights to see at virtually every turn of the corner. So setting a route which aims to cover larger distances very often achieves little more than racking up the miles. When there are villages and towns, chateaux and vineyards, history in abundance, culinary delights and ever changing scenery every few kilometers, very often the best experiences are to be found much closer together than you might think.
We also understand that another attraction of a campervan trip is the freedom to follow a route with a specific purpose – our vehicles are frequently used to explore the World War battlefields, to follow sporting events, to visit relatives and friends or to follow the routes taken by previous family generations – and all of this is possible and practical, as long as there is time in your schedule.
These few simple tips may help you to get the best from your trip:
The roads in France are designated into broadly four categories –
There is no denying that the cost of fuel is rising rapidly in Europe as it is worldwide. Typically a Litre of diesel (all of our hire vehicles have diesel engine) costs approximately €1.40 (September 2011) and the further you go, the more fuel you will use! If cost is a consideration in planning your route, it may be an idea to aim to see the best a local region has to offer rather than planning a major trip further afield – after all, the scenery can change dramatically in just a few kilometers in France so just a short journey can give the impression of a major change. To help you calculate the cost of your trip, our modern motorhomes use around 10ltrs of fuel per 100kms. For ways to economise on your trip follow this link to our top tips.
Many clients tell us that they wish they had not set such a demanding schedule when they return. Travelling long distances each day may allow you to see larger areas of a country but it is harder on the driver and has left some clients feeling that they have not scheduled enough true relaxation time during their trip. Covering a long distance in one direction also means you have to come back (very few motorhome hire companies offer one way hires and those that do usually apply hefty charges for the service) so you spend more time on the same autoroute on the way back.
Driving longer distances increases the risk of accidents due to driver fatigue too where relaxing on a great campsite or exploring a picturesque town allows all in the party to unwind.
A more relaxed schedule allows greater flexibility – according to many of our clients, even though they had set a specific schedule, many found themselves changing their plans just so that they could stay a few extra days in a region because it turned out to be too beautiful to miss. Far from considering this a failure, perhaps it is better to set an easier schedule in the first place so that if you do discover a real gem, you will feel totally happy with staying there longer.
One factor which many motorhome holiday makers consider is planning where to stay each night but actually, European campsites are rarely over booked (the possible exception being the in the coastal/touristy areas in July/August) so there is no pressure to book too far in advance when doing so might dictate a tight schedule. If you have a specific area to explore and a particular campsite in mind, booking in advance might be a good idea but it is generally not necessary if you are happy to take pot-luck on where you stay.
One good piece of advice however maybe to start looking for your chosen campsite earlier in the day each day rather than at evening time. The big movement of motorhomes and Caravans from campsites generally starts after breakfast each day and travelers start looking for their next site from mid-afternoon onwards so if there is going to be a problem finding a site, the later you leave your decision, the more likely you are to be disappointed.
The campsite guides we provide with our motorhomes have telephone numbers for each site so it is always possible to call ahead to reserve once you know where you are planning to stay that day.
Motorhome and campervan users do have one great advantage however – the autonomy of a motorhome allows you to stop literally anywhere you wish – even if you cannot find a campsite for the night. Motorhomes are welcome almost everywhere in France (there are very few restrictions on where you can pull up for a night) and because our hire vehicles are fully equipped so that they can be independent of electricity, water and any other outside supplies for a few days, your choice is unlimited when it comes to somewhere to stop.
Our hire price also includes free membership of “France Passion” for the duration of each hire – a network of FREE overnight halts at properties such as wine and cheese makers, tourist attractions and other places of interest – for tips and ideas on how to make your trip a little cheaper (and to sample a real taste of France!) take a look at our page that explains it in detail:France Passion page
Campsites in France and Europe are generally extremely well equipped for motorhome users. Prices vary depending on location, season, facilities and size but it is possible to find a campsite for 2 people in a smaller campervan for as little as €6 per night whilst prices could rise as high as €40 - €60 per night for a larger family group in a bigger vehicle during high season.
Generally, campsites with a greater range of facilities are more expensive as are those in touristy areas (close to the coast for example) so it is a question of choice as to how much you spend each night. Remember, the joy of a campervan is that you have all your own facilities with you (bathroom, toilet, kitchen etc.) so unless you particularly want entertainment or a swimming pool, it is possible to stay on smaller, less well equipped sites for very little each night.
There are many publications which list campsites but no single book lists every site in Europe so planning a longer trip may involve buying several guides. France Motorhome Hire provide the most comprehensive guide to French campsites in each vehicle (the Michelin Guide to Campsites of France) but other good sources of campsite info are:
In France, the local tourist information service (Office de Tourisme) is often the best source of information – for a list of offices in France see www.frenchtouristoffice.net
Calculating distances and driving times before you leave home can be difficult if you are not familiar with driving in France but as a guide, visit www.viamichelin.com to see how long each leg of a journery might take. Don’t forget to add time for sightseeing!
Once in France, a good road Atlas is an essential tool in the cab since, even with GPS, it is sometimes difficult to plan the best route to take in the highlights if you only know the name of your destination town and have no overview of the areas in between start and finish points. We offer GPS hire and have good quality map books for sale on departure. Remember to book these before you come to make sure we have them ready for you.
Above all, wherever you set as your ultimate destination, a motorhome holiday will be a memorable experience because of the sights you see, the people you meet and the welcome you will enjoy from both locals and other travelers alike. That welcome will be the same if you travel 30kms or 300kms per day – so setting your schedule should be about achieving the best holiday for you and returning home as relaxed as possible!
As an indication, some already tried and tested itineraries include:
|Route/Destination||Distance from depot to nearest town within the area|
|Northern Burgundy wine route including Chablis, Auxerre, Sens and the River Yonne Valley||70 kms / 44 miles|
|Southern Burgundy including Beaune, Dijon, Macon and the famous wine "appellations" of the Burgundy region||215 kms / 134 miles|
|The Loire Valley including the famous Chateaux of Chenonceau, Chambord and Cheverny, and the towns of Orleans, Blois and Tours||100 kms / 63 miles|
|The Upper Loire Valley and wine regions of Sancerre, Menetou Salon and Pouilly Sur Loire||80 kms / 37 miles|
|The Champagne region and lakes of Troyes||125 kms / 78 miles|
|The Jura Mountain region including Besancon||300 kms / 186 miles|
|The Massive Central region including Clermont Ferrand and the Mont Dore||270 kms / 168 miles|
|The Alps mountain ranges including the Chambery region||460 kms / 285 miles|
|The Lot Valley including Entraygues and Espalion||460 kms / 285 miles|
|La Rochelle and the Atlantic Coast||450 kms / 280 miles|
|Southern France and the Mediterranean Coast||620 kms / 385 miles|
Distances to other major towns
and cities in France:
·Paris 140 kms / 87 miles
·Disneyland Paris 160 kms / 100 miles
·Lyon 365 kms / 227 miles
·Nice 840 kms / 521 miles
·Toulouse 575 kms / 357 miles
·Bordeaux 540 kms / 335 miles
·Limoges 290 kms / 181 miles
·Rennes 420 kms / 261 miles
·Rouen 276 kms / 171 miles
·Reims 245 kms / 152 miles
·Nancy 360 kms / 224 miles
·Strasbourg 500 kms / 310 miles
Distances from cross channel ports:
·Dunkerque 430 kms / 267 miles
·Calais 425 kms / 265 miles
·Boulogne 395 kms / 245 miles
·Le Havre 340 kms / 210 miles
·Caen 375 kms / 233 miles
·Cherbourg 495 kms / 307 miles
For a quotation for your motorhome adventure, click here