Twelves Months on the road. One husband. Two kids. One Dog. 11 Countries. 95 Campsites. 65 Towns. 8 Great Lakes. 42 sites of historical interest. 6 mountain ranges. 2 subterranean rivers. 2 fallouts. 1 breakdown. 1 hospital admission. 0 regrets.
We have experienced a lot, seen a lot and heard a lot. Every Motorhomer has a great story.
Every traveller also has a toilet cassette full of opinions. Do this, buy that, avoid this and definitely, don’t do that!
Well, we are no different. After such an amazing experience travelling Europe in our beloved motorhome, we wanted to share with you, our top 15 purchases. These are items, that I would seriously not leave home without!
TOP 15 MOTORHOME PURCHASES (in no particular order!)
No. 15 – LEVELLING CHOCKS
Buy cheap, buy twice. Or in our case, buy three times! Honestly, a good set of levelling ramps will be a great investment. There is nothing more infuriating than your chock snapping at 8pm 200 miles from the nearest camping outlet.
First, we purchased a cheap pair from Halfords (Sorry, Halfords!). They snapped within three weeks. Then we purchased another pair at Mont Blanc but we could never obtain a level position because they only had one tier. Eventually, we purchased a solid three-tier set of levelling ramps that lasted us 10 months of hard wear and tear.
Being level really does improve your night’s sleep. I’m sure in those early weeks of travel, I allowed far too much blood to rush to my brain!
There are a number of novel ways to check if you are level but nothing works as well as a spirit level (in my opinion). You can buy miniature dash spirit levels, but we just purchased a normal size one and kept it in the cab.
No. 14 – FLY CURTAIN
Oh my goodness, we were driven mad by flies during the black fly season in Spain! We had a sliding screen on our motorhome but somehow the little blighters always got into the van, together with mozzies and other insects. I think it takes too much time to open and close the sliding screen – it only takes a few seconds for flies to invade!
So, when we arrived at Montroig we had finally had enough of swatting flies and being bitten. We marched off to a motorhome shop and purchased a chenille fly curtain – I can only say it is miracle worker!
I don’t know whether it is the fabric or the movement of the curtains, but flies hate them. For the last 7 months of our trip, we never had one fly or mozzie in the van!
I extend a sincere ‘thank you’ to the inventor of these curtains – they really did make our trip more enjoyable!
This curtain easily slots into my top 5 recommendations.
No. 13 – EXTENSION LEAD & EUROPE TO UK PLUG ADAPTER
You may not need the latter but, should one of your great British gadgets or appliances break, you will be glad of one of these adapters for the new European replacement. We were pleased to have one tucked away when both our clippers and our kettle died.
A good extension lead is a must, certainly for older vans. We only had one 240V and two 12V sockets in our living space. It was not uncommon for us to have more than one device plugged into the 240V socket via our extension lead.
Don’t worry about blowing the electrics on the campsite – it is very rare. We only managed to achieve it the once and that was when I added a hairdryer into an already overcrowded socket!
An extension lead is great for outdoor use too. We regularly dried the dog with a hairdryer, inflated a dingy and strung fairy lights with ours!
No. 12 – POWER INVERTER 12V to 230V
This is a must have gadget. I was so glad I read about this in our Go Motorhoming and Caravanning book before we left home, otherwise, I think we would have been screwed!
We first purchased a 1500W converter but found that it wasn’t sufficient to boil a low wattage kettle (surprisingly) so we changed to a 2000W Power Inverter DC 12V to 230V AC Converter with 2 AC Outlets. Bingo! It easily powered a TV, DVD, Laptops, Mobiles, kettle and Radio.
As our 240V socket was in the kitchen area at the opposite end to our TV space, this machine was a Godsend. If you need more 240V sockets, then don’t leave home without an inverter.
Well worth the money in every way!
No. 11 – RUBBER BANDS
Sounds silly, right? Nope…rubber bands are brilliant.
They have multiple uses. In an old van, if you have cupboards that open as you drive, you are likely to have damaged tables and work surfaces. We added a nice doorknob to the front of two such offending cupboards and a further two underneath. We then looped elastic bands around the two door knobs whilst we were driving – No falling objects, no smashed tables/heads!
Other uses; Seal food bags with them; double loop them to hang items from hooks (we hung our broom by threading rubber bands through the handle and hanging it on a high hook behind the passenger seat); keep cutlery together to stop clanging whilst you are driving; Keep glass items together, or toiletries, DVDs and toothbrushes to prevent them sliding or falling around whilst in transit.
Honestly, don’t travel without a ball of elastic bands!
No. 10 – CAMPING CARD ACSI BOOK
The camping card ACSI book is full of campsites across Europe that offer a considerable discount to motorhomers during the low seasons.
CampingCard ACSI is a discount card that you will find at the back of one of the books (you receive two books for every purchase) which will allow you to camp for up to 50% off in the early and late low seasons.
Upon production of a valid CampingCard ACSI at a participating campsite, you will be able to stay with two people for just € 11, € 13, € 15, € 17 or € 19 a night.
We seriously saved hundreds and hundreds of pounds with this discount card. We met travellers who were paying 27 Euros for a pitch that we were paying 11 Euros for.
The books are easy to use, informative and accurate. The accompanying app also provides latest reviews (though I found these to be a place where most people like to moan!). The greatest benefit of these books is that you always know what you are going to pay. The codes enable you to see what facilities are on offer and whether they will accommodate pets, larger vans, children etc.
Your CampingCard ACSI is valid for one calendar year. If, like us, your ACSI card runs out during your travels, fret not – you can pre-order the next years’ books and ACSI will send them to a campsite of your choosing. We had ours sent to Tarifa in Spain!
No. 9 – SOLAR PANEL
You can survive without solar panels if you are travelling – but I wouldn’t want to!
We purchased two 120w Solar Panels for our van. To our surprised they charged even when the sun was not shining – they only needed daylight.
If you are travelling full-time, I would certainly advise fitting at least one solar panel. We were able to wild camp for weeks without electricity. The solar panel always kept our leisure battery full.
How else are you going to charge your leisure battery when you are not hooked up? Starting the van and driving around will soon become cumbersome (and pricey!)
A solar panel is a great investment. We never once, during our 12-month tour, ran out of power.
No. 8 – TEA & COFFEE
If you are an avid Yorkshire Tea or Tetley Tea fan, you might want to consider taking a couple of large bags!
Personally, I love a good cup of tea so I packed 1100 Tetley Teabags. I then stocked up in Gibraltar when we found a supermarket. Other than the highly popularised British hotspots (which we tried to avoid) we never really saw British breakfast teabags.
My husband also took a pack of 6 jars of instant Coffee Noir as good quality instant coffee was fairly difficult to come by. Having said that, good quality ground coffee is available, so don’t forget to pack your cafetiere!
No. 7 – PEGS & SUCTION HOOKS
Clothing pegs are an obvious choice for drying washing but they are also great for sealing opened food bags, from crisp packets to coffee/flour bags. The last thing you need is for your sugar to tip over during transit, so just peg the top to stop the contents from falling out should the item topple sideways.
I wish I packed more suction hooks because I found these very difficult to find in Europe. The closest I came was in Portugal but they had a sticky back that I wanted to avoid.
I took 5 suction hooks with me. I used 4 of them in the shower unit for wet coats (we’re a family of four) and 1 outside to hang a rubbish bag. The great thing about these suction caps is that they stick well to plastic surfaces in the shower compartments and are water resistant. They also stick to the exterior of the van without leaving nasty marks.
They have so many different uses, you’ll always need more!
No. 6 – SOG TOILET VENTILATIONS SYSTEM
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT THIS PIECE OF AMAZING KIT!
We had never heard of a SOG until we had our solar panels and bike rack professionally fitted. The owner of the shop asked how long we were travelling. We informed him that we would be travelling full-time and he recommended a SOG. Good man!
Essentially it is a fan that is fitted externally meaning that all toilet odours are filtered to the outside through a carbon filter mat that is fitted to the exterior of the service hatch.
As soon as you open the cassette seal to use the toilet, the fan is activated and sucks all air outwards. Without a SOG, the moment the seal is opened, the trapped air is sucked towards you! It’s called ‘blow-back’ and it is rather unpleasant!
In hot weather, the toilet cassette can really chuck out some repulsive smells. When we had our caravan, it didn’t matter how many nice bubblegum-smelling chemicals we added, there was always a potent undertone.
The SOG prevents all of this. It really does work!
We paid almost £200 for our SOG including fitting. I really cannot sing its praises any louder. We never experienced smells – ever, even on the hottest day.
Plus, it is ecologically sound. No expensive toilet chemicals are required (meaning less weight to carry around too!). It breaks down all toilet matter naturally, meaning that you are able to tip waste in a freshly, dug hole if you want to! It’s all biodegradable!
I have no idea why new vans are not fitted with this device as standard. It’s brilliant!
Buy it! You won’t regret it.
No. 5 – EAR PLUGS
Don’t laugh! I’m serious. Silicone Ear plugs are a must if you are trapped in a 10ft space with a snorer! They were the only thing that stopped me strangling my husband on some nights!
Equally, some campsites can be quite busy and rather noisy during peak seasons. Whilst you are enjoying life, you may not want to be up with the revellers at 2am without the added benefit of having socialised with them!
You will be surprised how many train tracks there are in Europe and how many of them will be situated right beside your pitch! They seem to spring up out of nowhere!
I purchased 6 packs and used every one of them! If you are a heavy sleeper, scroll on by. But if you are a light sleeper, who needs silence, make sure you add ear plugs to your toiletry bag.
Block out noise, sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed.
Oh, and as a bonus, silicone ear plugs are great for the water too. So, if like my son, you suffer from swimmer’s ear, pop a couple of these things in to prevent unwanted ear infections.
No. 4 – 10 LITRE WATER CARRIER
We actually left home without a water carrier. Naively, we thought we could just drive to a water point when we needed to top up the tank. But when you are all set up nicely on your pitch with the awning out and your table and chairs in situ, it is a pain in the backside to drive your van to a water point.
It is far more practical to take a 10 litre can to the tap, fill it up and bring it back. If you cannot carry 10 litres of water very far, I suggest a small portable camping trolley. We saw many motorhomers with a small folding trolley that they used to transport water and heavy toilet cassettes.
Remember to buy a can or container with a funnel. It can be quick tricky pouring in water without one!
No. 3 – WIFI iBOOST SYSTEM
Wifi connections have become an integral part of daily life. When travelling abroad, WiFi offers vital access to those left behind. It keeps us abreast of news and developments and helps us to map resources and plan our next stopovers. On rainy days it brings entertainment through movies, books, and social media.
During our tour of Europe, we had a constant battle with WiFi services. Our experiences varied, from great reception (that was free) to poor reception (that was costly).
At times I really struggled to operate my business from my motorhome and on the odd ocassion we had to move locations so that I could respond to emails without sitting in MacDonalds!
If we travelled again, I would undoubtedly purchase an iBoost System. The iBoost system for motorhome Wifi, boosts and strengthens the Wifi signal you receive, resulting in improved connection speed and greater flexibility in terms of the number of devices connected.
If you need to maintain regular contact with folks at home or want to be able to Skype friends and family, an iBoost System is a good investment and will save you hours of unnecessary stress.
No. 2 – SAT NAV WITH EUROPEAN MAPS
Sat Navs are a hot topic. Many disgruntled motorhomers who have found themselves knee-deep in mud at a remote farm will curse the day they were ever invented. That’s fine. There will always be some people who prefer good old-fashioned maps or Google Maps.
From our own experience, I can only sing its praises. Our Sat Nav was amazing. We only experience one issue when it reset itself and forgot that we were a ‘lorry’, sending us down an unsuitable road, but once we reset the settings to ‘Lorry’ rather than ‘Car’ we never had another problem.
We also wanted to avoid the toll roads which was an option we could select in the settings. We had European Maps installed and were able to easily navigate all over Europe using GPS Coordinates, without so much as an argument over stupid directions!
A word of warning: We purchased an ‘all singing, all dancing’ Sat Nav with Bluetooth, GPS Navigation, Touch Screen radio/CD player with USB ports and a reversing camera. We purchased the head unit on Ebay, only to find that it was not compatible with our van. It cost us much more to have it fitted than if we had purchased a similar one from Amazon for a slightly higher price. You pay for what you get.
Personally, I prefer an inbuilt system. I spoke to so many motorhomers across Europe who had their dash-mounted systems stolen whilst at the supermarkets. It takes less than one minute to smash a window and grab a dash mounted SatNav. Thieves haven’t got the time to try and remove a fitted head unit. Your reversing camera is as good as useless without the viewing screen and you may not be able to find the local police station without a Sat Nav – but it is a personal choice and a matter of affordability.
For us, it was worth the extra cost – and was a good investment when it came to selling our van.
No. 1 – LPG GAS CONVERSION
If you plan to visit more than one European country on any given tour, an LPG gas conversation may be something you wish to consider.
It can be difficult to find certain bottles in certain countries and let’s not even talk about the issues with numerous different adapters!
It might be easier and cheaper (in the long-term) to pay for an LPG conversion. If you opt for a professional installation, a gas cap will be fitted to the outside of your van so that you could easily pull into a petrol station and top up with LPG (or GPL as it is commonly known as) at the pump at hundreds of stations throughout Europe.
‘All the Aires of Spain and Portugal’ comes with a really useful map of all LPG stations across Spain and Portugal, together with GPS Coordinates. For all other countries myLPG.eu is a good resource – but be careful, some of the suggested sites can be out of date or inaccessible. It’s a good idea to see when the last inspection or review was carried out.
We paid £450 for our Gaslow R67 11kg LPG conversion, including professional fitting. Our annual bill for LPG for the 12 months we were on the road was approximately £25. It really did pay for itself in terms of cost and resale value.
I lost count of the times I saw fellow campers in a campsite reception asking for directions for the nearest gas bottle supplier. During peak times, it becomes more difficult to obtain the right bottle with ease. For us, it was never a problem. We never had to worry about sourcing and refilling gas bottles – we just filled up at the pumps when we filled up with diesel.
Less stress equals better times!
Feel free to tell us what items you would add to the list!