Top tips for long European winter trips in your motorhome
Why shiver in the UK and spend money on heating bills over the winter, when you can head to the warmth of Spain. Our article on the long road south takes you stage by stage all the way through France and into Spain.
To help you plan and get the most from your trip the below guides aim to help your journey to run as smoothly as possible allowing you to arrive in Spain all relaxed and ready to slip into the Mediterranean way of life.
General notes and tip for travelling through Europe
- If possible be flexible on your departure date, so you can check the weather forecast to get across France. Book the crossing at the last moment and get an open return ticket. It’s a long way back to be committed to a crossing you cannot change or incurs a hefty premium.
- Check prices regularly for all the operators, they often change and there can be large differences between one crossing and the next.
- Buy a copy of Camperstop Europe, now available in English, or the books which list aires in France and Spain. Available through Vicarious Books.
- Buy an ACSI low season discount card for lower winter campsite prices.
- Campsites listed in guides as open all year may still close if there is no demand. Even those in the ACSI scheme have been closed on our arrival.
- Do not stay overnight on motorway rest aires or lorry parks which are not save. Motorhome aires are entirely separate and usually close to village or town centres.
- Remember it gets dark early. If you’re not familiar with the overnight destination then plan your day to arrive in daylight.
- Use a credit card for larger payments, particularly fuel, you will get a better exchange rate than cash. Arrange for the credit card account to be paid by direct debit so you don't default on paying it off.
- Check your home insurance for the length of time the house can be left unoccupied, 30 days is common, which will not be long enough. Similarly check your travel insurance, vehicle insurance and breakdown cover for any overseas trip length limitations.
- You will save a huge amount in energy bills. Eight weeks in Spain from mid January to mid March virtually halves our total annual bill and goes a very long way to offset the cost of the trip.
Tips for France in Your Motorhome
- In winter the water supply on aires may be closed. Carry enough water for a few days. Waste facilities including toilet cassette drains are always available.
- If the aire has electric it’s worth connecting, even in winter power may still be on.
- Payment for aires is often suspended in winter, ticket machines are disabled or the money collector just doesn’t bother to turn up.
- Keep a ticket machine fund, suggest €20, with 10, 20, 50cent and €1 coins. Machines rarely give change or take notes although credit card payment is increasing. Can be a problem when the bank or atm has issued high value notes. The ferry money desk may change a note to get you started.
- Use large supermarkets for ‘better value’ fuel and fill up when pay booths are manned and popular credit/debit cards can be used. At the 24/7 pumps UK cards may not work. Avoid refuelling on Sundays, pay booths are invariably shut.
Tips for Spain in Your Motorhome
- Campsites along the Med coast are busy in the winter. Many people pre-book, but this does fix your travel time and itinerary. If you prefer to tour without booking then arrive by lunchtime for a better choice of available pitches.
- Campsites in Spain away from the coast, even by just a few miles, will be quieter and pre-booking is not necessary.
- Motorhome aires are not very common but there are a growing number of motorhome parks, small campsites just for vans, springing up along the popular coastal areas.
- Wild parking is much less acceptable than a few years ago and large groups of vans which stay too long will be moved on by the police.
- There are plenty of fuel stations in built up areas and prices don't seem to vary greatly. Often there's forecourt service and we have not encountered problems paying by card. Unlike France there is little opportunity to get better value fuel at supermarkets. Make sure you fill up before crossing the remote centre.