Footloose USA to Europe
Foootloose “able to travel freely and do as one pleases due to a lack of responsibilities or commitments”
We may not be as footloose as we want but hey it’s a start!
Introducing Footloose the caravan – our start in being Fancy free in Europe.
(From 2019 we continued our travels in Europe – in a caravan!)
Having travelled in the USA for 4 years we found that the cost was rising with fuel double the price on the West coast from when we started out in 2015 in the South. Whilst we had been boondocking and keeping our campsite costs down dramatically, travelling the west coast was very difficult without going to paid sites putting of costs up even higher. On top of this with Alan reaching 66 in 2020 the cost of medical insurance was going to be high and restrictive to the amount of time we could spend away. So we decided to sell our RV and buy something in the UK for travel around Europe. In the past 4 years we had relocated our main home from Southern Spain to the UK and now live in beautiful Pembrokeshire, Wales.
During the last few years Colleen has written a book with the help of Alan for anyone who is interested in buying and using a RV in the USA. Whilst it is aimed at Europeans/non US citizens the book has much information for Americans as well and is available as a Kindle ereader copy via Amazon.
We have now totally changed our rig to a European caravan of 7.43m ( 24.37 feet) with a car of 4.4m (14.43 feet) which although a total length of 11.84m (38.8 feet) is just below the long vehicle regulations of 12m+.
We had thought that we would want to continue with an RV (motorhome) in Europe particularly now that there are so many on the roads compared to 17 years ago when we lived in England and they appeared to be the “new wave” of camping.
Caravan verses RV (motorhome)
In the end we decided on the caravan for the following reasons
1.You need a suitable car to tow a caravan and suitable ones were in the higher price range of cars. Then we found the Ssangyong Korando at a sensible price and it would tow up to 2000 kg and it had a max 100 kg tow hitch. Most cars were below the tow hitch weight allowed and also lower caravan weight. It had also won the caravan tow car or the year award as well in the past 🙂
2. We would have a smaller vehicle for using when away and the caravan on site. No having to take a motorhome around everywhere. Before in the US we had a motorbike on the back to solve this problem.
3. Motorhomes were a lot more expensive than caravans. Campervans new were from about 45K making second hand ones expensive and very old at lower prices.
4. We had bigger living space and an awning to make it even bigger if we wanted. We did think though that we would not put up an awning unless staying in one place for a week.
5. Motorhomes tended to have in the smaller range the double bed that is across the vehicle. So one person would have to climb over the other to get out to the toilet at night.
6. The new space saving motorhomes also tended to have the double bed on a drop down system from the roof which required electric power. Always wary of not having enough battery power.
7. European motorhomes generally use 2 small standard gas bottles instead of a large tank underneath. Costly to exchange bottles.
8. We have more space for living in for a comparable size motorhome. Our total rig length has got bigger though! 7.34m caravan and a 4.4m car making it just under 12m!
Against an RV (motorhome)
1. No waste storage tanks on caravan. Then on checking European motorhomes either did not have, or were very small. (we were used to 55 gallon fresh water, 25 gallon black and 20 gallon grey tanks!)
2. Small cassette type toilets which only hold 18 ltr. Then we found this was the standard for motorhomes as well.
3.Need to carry a 40 ltr fresh water tank and have to continually fill it up.
4.Insurance for a car use all year round and a motorhome (mainly in storage) was more expensive than the car and caravan option.
5.Bigger more expensive tyres.
Against a caravan
1. A decent size caravan and car will be 12m or more making it a large vehicle. You need to be confident to drive on the road and ensure you have a sufficiently powerful car.
2. Not so easy to reverse.
3. Risk of “snaking” and having an accident. (Drive sensible and not fast to stop this)
4. You can not travel as fast as a motorhome legally or safely! (We never did travel fast in our American motorhome and this also saved fuel)
Possibilities for a caravan or motorhome
1. Gas bottle set up for caravan or motorhome –
It is possible to fit a car type bulk LPG filling system to a caravan or motorhome but it quite expensive to do and the returns to balance out will take a lot of use/years.
2. Both caravans and motor homes get wind buffeting from large vehicles as well as strong winds. So they are no different in this respect.
Advantages of a motorhome (RV)
1. Easy to get to the facilities when stopped on a journey. Particularly if raining!
2. You do not have to wind support leg(s) down to go into a motorhome when stopped on route or overnight.
3. Modern motorhomes tend to have a good large storage area at the back via outside door. Better than caravans. There are however now some clever caravans you can get a motorbike in!
4. Driver and passenger seats are high up giving you better views when travelling.
5. Europe and particularly France has Camping Aires that are only for motorhomes in towns and coastal areas. They can be free or cheap to stay. These however often tend to be parking bays and like a car park.
6. You do not have to hitch up a caravan when you want to move on. If only staying for a night or 2 this is a big advantage.