With the holiday season upon us, you may be thinking about packing your campervan and heading out on to the open road.
This type of break can be a lot more affordable than other types of trip, as you are essentially combining your vehicle and hotel room.
But if you’re on a tight budget, there are still plenty of ways you can make your motor home holiday as cost-effective as possible.
1: Hire rather than buy
If you don’t have the funds to buy a campervan outright, you should be able to hire a vehicle for a fraction of the price.
Vans come in all shapes and sizes – so be sure to pick the one that’s right for you.
Whilst it might be tempting to go as small as possible, bear in mind that everyone needs enough space to sleep, otherwise you might find yourself having to splash out on an emergency hotel room when sleep-deprived tempers fray.
Don’t try to make the driving and passenger seats multitask as a single bed at night – this might work in the movies, but in real life it’s not a good idea. Again, you’ll probably end up staying in a hotel room – and probably need some expensive back treatment to put you right again afterwards!
Some motorhomes come with an awning that can extend your living space once you park up, but won't cost much more to transport.
Alternatively, you might like the look of a motorhome that’s quite literally a well-appointed home on wheels, but don’t forget this will cost you much more in terms of petrol, and the day rate of hiring it.
Look seriously and honestly at what you need, and make a decision based on your own personal circumstance.
And whilst you may feel the allure of a traditional VW camper, make sure it’s a practical choice, as the living quarters can feel a little squeezed compared to the modern motorhome.
To hire a campervan, try sites such as campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk and coolcamping.co.uk.
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2: Research carefully
When holidaying in a motorhome, you may be able to rock up and find a space at a campsite, but it may make sense to book ahead – especially at busy times, so you don’t end up having to pay over the odds in a last-minute panic.
Equally, while you may like the sound of a site with extensive amenities, if your vehicle has a toilet and shower installed, you could make some big savings by considering a more primitive location – which many might argue is the whole beauty of campervanning in the first place (though you'll have to consider your chemical waste issues).
If you join a few campervan groups on Facebook in the months before you travel, you’ll be able to ask questions and get hints and tips from locals or people who have taken their campervan to the sites you’re considering visiting – most people are happy to divulge their mistakes so you can learn from them!
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3: Pack sensibly
Don’t over pack the campervan - taking too much stuff with you is a waste of time, money, and much needed space. Check if the campsites you’re planning on staying in offer laundry facilities – if so, you can cut down on how many clothes you take and wash them on the go – every little cut in petrol costs helps when you’re considering hundreds of miles on the road.
In the months leading up to your motorhome adventure, start collecting those ‘inessential until you need them’ key items that you find yourself needing from time to time but might not think to pack, like nail clippers, sellotape, superglue, hairbands and string to mention just a few, in order to avoid having to pay for things on the road.
Consider filling an ice cream tub with key ingredients for cooking like herbs and spices, oil, salt and pepper, vinegar and sauces, to prevent you buying all new products – or giving up and getting a takeaway, or visiting a restaurant.
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Remember that motorhomes and campervans have proper beds, so you can take your house bedding instead of bulky sleeping bags, roll mats and blow up mattresses.
And if you’re going abroad, make sure you have the required kit for driving abroad before you hop on to the ferry, as on board they tend to be much more expensive.
Where you can, take the opportunity to drive the scenic route and avoid tolls; travelling from Calais to Italy can add a significant cost to your holiday if you only take the toll roads.
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4: Avoid the peak season
If you are not tied to going on holiday in the summer, you can cut costs significantly by avoiding the months between June and August when families are planning their getaways.
Travelling after September or before June means you won’t have to worry about getting too warm to sleep in the motorhome at night, and if it rains, you’ll be able to retreat into your own sanctuary to play cards or read – experiencing the moment when the rain stops, the clouds clear and the sun comes out over a now-empty beach is a pretty magical experience.
5: Visit a less well-known location
Rather than head to a popular beach, why not wander a bit further from the beaten track, and try somewhere a little less well known?
With just a little research online you should be able to seek out some hidden gems away from the tourist traps. Or you could dedicate a day or two to simply exploring – who knows what beautiful scenes you might stumble upon.
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6: Plan lots of free activities
While there may be a few paid-for attractions that you definitely want to visit during your holiday, you should also come up with free or low-cost activities for the other days, such as walks, bike rides or picnics.
Why not stroll around a village, take in a local landmark, or pay a visit to one of the UK’s many free museums and galleries?
Keep an eye on the discount voucher websites like Groupon or Wowcher, as you can narrow down the search to the area you’re visiting – not only could you find some great deals, you also might discover something you didn’t even know you wanted to try…
You could also think about paying for National Trust and English Heritage membership, as this will give you access to forests, national parks, castles, forts and ruins; you will soon recoup the cost after just a few visits.
7: Keep your vehicle in tip-top condition
It’s well worth keeping your motor home well maintained, as this could help you avoid problems and breakdowns while on holiday – plus it will mean your vehicle is also more fuel-efficient.
The key is to give your vehicle the once-over before getting behind the wheel; that means checking the oil level, water and tyre pressure and so on.
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8: Plan where to fill up with petrol
Rather than fill up at a costly motorway service station, plan ahead so that you can fill your campervan more cheaply.
Supermarket fuel stations usually offer a cheaper alternative – although it’s also worth logging on to Petrolprices.com to check out the very cheapest prices locally.
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In addition, try modifying your driving style, as you will burn less fuel by driving more slowly and carefully – though of course, you’ll be doing this anyway, as you admire the landscapes you’re exploring!
Next article: Caravan driving tips >>>
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