Tuesday 5 June 2012

Lessons Learned from our first Motorhome Trip

As this was our first motorhome hire, we didn't know what to expect. So I thought it would be worth documenting our concerns and the reality, plus share some of the things we learned along the way.
The first point is find yourself a good hire company. On this point we did really well; Live the Dream Motorhome Hire are based in the next village of Anderton, so it made sense to try them. From the first contact (when they were in fact on holiday in Germany) both Steph & Ian were very helpful. The booking process was quick, clear and transparent. They took plenty of time to explain all the ins and outs of managing the motorhome and gave lots of useful and helpful advice; they clearly love motorhoming themselves. We knew that even after we had left, they were only a text or a phone call away if we had any problems or questions.  We highly recommend them.

During our trip we made notes as we went along and I've listed these below, in no particular order:

- Take your time driving - if you’re unsure slow down or stop. This was particularly relevant on the smaller, windy roads with dry stone walls, such as in the Lake District.
- If you’ve built up some traffic behind you consider pulling in to let them pass - they'll appreciate it and you’ll feel less stressed.
- Practice manoeuvring, particularly reversing. We had good wing mirrors, a rear view mirror and a rear camera, but we still had the passenger get out to guide the driver in. This is useful if you’re on a pitch with overhanging trees,
- Always top up & empty out at every opportunity; although we had full facilities each night, if we hadn’t booked up we might have wanted to stay at a Brit Stop site somewhere and doing this every day gives the flexibility and endurance to do this.
- Take clothes for every eventuality - we didn't take enough hot weather clothing (we didn't expect to need them in Northumberland in May!).
- Get rid of rubbish, particularly food waste, at every opportunity.
- Before setting off make sure everything is put away & secured, with doors & cupboards locked (or as Paul said, secure for Sea State 7!). We put together and used a checklist and then we checked each other. It sounds overkill but we had no incidents and in time I’m sure it would become second nature.
- If you see a nice pull-in off the road, then stop, put the kettle on and enjoy the view - what's stopping you!
- Top up with food, drink and fuel whenever you can - you might end up somewhere where these are scarce.
- Slow down, take your time, enjoy the views.
- If you're unsure of anything, ask - most site staff (and other motorhomers) are very helpful and happy to help.
- Take an aromatic candle in a tin - not only does it add a lovely ambience when eating or relaxing at night, it's also a great air freshener.
- Know where the fuse box is sited - you can guarantee a fuse will blow in the dark when you least expect it (so also take a torch).
- Take plenty of small plastic containers - great for keeping food in the fridge or small items in one place; they're easier to stow away and less likely to move around.
- Kitchen/bathroom wet wipes make it easy to clean quickly. They can also be used for wiping down the toilet cassette before refitting after emptying.
- Antiseptic hand wipes or gel can be useful when emptying the toilet as a few of the sites had no hand washing facilities at the chemical toilet disposal point.
- Booking in advance is fine (and this reduced the stress on our first trip) but if out of high season try leaving a few days free to stay on at a site, or perhaps try one of the stopovers available through Brit Stopovers. We would have happily stayed at a couple of the sites for longer than the one night we actually booked, and having booked all nights in advance, we had no option to change our travel plans.
- Take a micro-fibre towel to use as a floor mat for the onboard bathroom. Steph also suggested using it in the onsite facilities as sometimes you have nowhere dry to stand and dress after showering (we can vouch for that!).
- Clothes hangers can be bulky but also noisy when driving if made of metal or plastic. Wilkinson sell some flat hangers that are also felt-covered so silent.
- We took a small gas stove for cooking outside which worked well for things like breakfast sausages and also warming up the Craster kipper! It reduces cooking smells in the van as well as cleaning and is also fun.
- If you plan to use a public car park, get there early. It means you can chose your spot in your own time without the stress of other users waiting for you to manoeuvre. It also means you can pick a spot that will be easy to get out of when you leave.
- Consider taking paper plates and disposable cutlery. We stopped for a quick lunch a couple of times but didn’t want to leave dirty plates so washed up the few items we used, whereas throwing away disposable plates and cutlery would have been much easier and also saved both water and gas.

That covers the notes we made along the way. If I can think of anything else in the meantime I’ll add it later, but hopefully this gives you some idea of what we learned on our very first motorhome trip. We loved the experience and look forward to many more adventurers. We've already booked and are starting to plan a two week trip to France next year as part of our 30th wedding anniversary celebrations. No doubt we’ll learn lots more on our first foreign motorhome trip.