Sunday 1 July 2012

Shrewsbury Summer Motorhome Show, Motorhome WiFi and Britstops

We visited the UK Motorhome Summer Show on Saturday 30 June.  Held at the Agricultural Showground, a large number of motorhomes had camped out over the weekend.  We arrived at about 0930 and after a cup of tea and a bacon roll (doughnuts for Cathy!), we had a wander around. There were a few stalls selling the usual gadgets and accessories, many of which we're sure we can live without, but more about the useful gadgets and ideas later.

The majority of motorhomes on show were secondhand from a number of dealers around the UK. It was interesting to compare layouts and sizes and, having learnt lots during our week's hire in Northumberland, we felt much better equipped to judge what we liked.  Many of the older motorhomes were quite tired (or "well-loved" depending on your view!).  However some of the newer ones were quite interesting.  Having read lots about Burstner vans, we were quite disappointed with their layouts - given their high price we're unlikely to pick one of these.  We visited a Chausson which still impressed with the quality of the finish.  Having talked about buying a motorhome with fixed single beds, we're now turning back towards a fixed double french bed, especially as we found a few with more space around the bed.  In particular we were impressed by the Rapido 7099F.  This has a very similar layout to the Chausson Welcome 85, with an L-shaped galley, large fridge and freezer, comfortable seating and lots of storage space. What really stood out was the large bathroom, which was at the rear and across the whole width of the van.  This meant that the french bed could be accessed from one side also, which made the sleeping area seem very open, light and airy.  However this motorohome, at 7.40m long, might be too long for us as a first purchase.  On the other hand, we're planning to eventually tour Europe for several months, so the additional space might be welcome.

We were pleased to meet up and chat with the Britstops team.  Having experienced the France Passion idea, they thought this would work well in the UK, where motorhomes are not made welcome pretty much anywhere but campsites.  This service offers free stopovers at all sorts of venues around the UK, including pubs, farms, vineyards and breweries.  Although the stopover is free, the hosts hope you will try their produce and services.  You have to pay for the Britstops Guide (and window sticker) but then have access to over 140 sites and we were told the list continues to grow.  With the relatively high price of campsites in the UK, wild camping prohibited and with very few overnight camping car parks or Aires, we think Britstops will take off.

It was also great to meet Adam who, with his his girlfriend Sophie, spent a year travelling through Europe, recording their travels in their Blog - Europe by Camper.  Adam was very enthusiastic about both their trip and their new business venture to provide internet connectivity when on the road - Motorhome WiFi.   We were particularly impressed with their iBoost WiFi System.  For people like us, who want to connect to the internet over wireless using a number different devices, this booster system to connect to wireless hotspots is ideal.  Lots of sites and local cafes, bars and resturants offer WiFi, however you have to find and visit them, so having internet connectivity via a secure private network in your motorhome is just what we're looking for. I like to update our blog daily where possible, including uploading photos, so having the option of doing this sat comfortably in our motorhome (or outside with a cold beer!) is just what I'm looking for. Although there's the capital cost of buying the iBoost WiFi system, I think the convenience will soon pay for itself.  When we have our own motorhome we'll certainly be looking at buying one of these systems.  We wish Adam and Sophie all the very best with their business venture - we think it's a winner!

We're off to Dubrovnik for a short break in a couple of weeks to celebrate Paul's 49th birthday but will be back in time to visit the Nothern Motorhome Show in Tabley near Knutsford, just a short 10 minutes drive from our home.  We also received our NEC Motorhome tickets in the post last week - more opportunities to visit motorhomes and dream!