We Made the Mistakes so that You Don’t Have To!
We had never owned a caravan before. However, we Accidentally bought a Caravan, gave up work and made the decision to live in it full-time and tour Europe…
We went from First Timers to Full-Timers in a month – and it was a steep learning curve!
So. What did we learn in our first year?
- Travelling with dogs is an absolutely WONDERFUL way to meet people! We now have new friends – and invitations to visit – all over the world!
- If you caravan at altitude, your toilet will explode! See Toilet Training – How to Avoid the Kamikaze Chemi-Khazi!
- Behind my husband, the dogs and the caravan, a caravan-specific Sat Nav is the last thing that I would part with. We had a Snooper, which was worth its weight in gold until it betrayed us in Romania. We replaced it in Hungary with a Tom Tom Go Camper, which has been excellent. (Click on the link to read my full review of the Snooper Ventura Pro 2700.)
- We tried expensive spirit levels and found that they read differently, depending on orientation; we tried levelling apps that told us we were level when the caravan looked like an Apollo rocket on the launch pad; a tennis ball rolled down the centre of the caravan worked quite well as did the bullseye spirit level that we got free at the Motorhome & Caravan Show… but the most civilised way to check that you are level is to place a glass of wine on the worktop. You can’t read that in a book! Cheers!
- Carry a pair of gripper tracks. You are never too clever to get stuck. You might think that you are. But you’re not! (see Black Monday – an account of our worst ever day caravanning!)
- They have dogs in France, so dog food is widely available to purchase. So you DO NOT need to take 100kg of dry dog food with you…! (For further advice, see Killer Caterpillars, Gunmen & ‘Chien Interdit!’ – 10 Things you Need to Know About Taking your Dog to France!)
- HOWEVER; you DO need to take 100kg of proper English tea with you… So don’t blame me if you run out and get stuck drinking the evil brew that is Lipton’s Yellow Label!
- If you can’t get dog food (or pretty much anything else for that matter – like a battery for your laptop or your favourite pair of sandals – but not PG Tips…) you can order it on the internet and have it delivered to the Campsite Reception or a “drop off location” such as a Post Office. You can even order in Sterling on Amazon UK and, if you set the delivery address as your primary address, Amazon will tell you which merchants deliver to the country that you are in!
- Melamine is the Work of the Devil. We found that Wedgewood china is perfect for caravanning. It is particularly perfect if every other piece of crockery that you own broke when it fell out of the back of your van, just before your trip… (see How to Cram your Life into a Box on Wheels!)
- A Bridgedale Merino Hiker makes a perfect cover for the safe transport of crystal glasses. Well you don’t want to be drinking all those lovely French and Italian wines out of plastic, now, do you?! (Alternative, woolly walking socks work just as well!)
- Even if your phone company (Three in our case) tell you that you CAN tether your laptop to your phone to get internet access abroad (in answer to your specific question about whether tethering abroad is possible) – you probably can’t. So don’t believe them. This will save you from paying for 20GB of data per month, which you can’t use, on a contract from which they won’t release you because you signed it, you idiot! See 10 Tips to Save Money while Caravanning for advice on how to get internet abroad.
- Silica gel kitty litter is CHEAP and GREAT for drying things out (we buy ours from Home Bargains.) Put some in a pop sock; it will keep cupboards and lockers dry, it will dry and de-odourise boots, trainers and ski gloves. We pile some in open plastic food containers to keep caravan Kismet condensation- and mould-free during winter storage.
- “Luck happens when Planning meets Opportunity.” Unlucky 13? We have proved that Livin’ the Dream need not be impossible. It is within your grasp, provided that you are realistic, plan how to get there – and are willing to make some sacrifices! For some advice and inspiration, see Carry on Caravanning: Part 1 and Tips for Planning the Perfect Trip. I have also published our budget to give you an idea of what it costs! See The Question that No-One Dares Ask – “What Does It Cost You to Tour Full Time?!”
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