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Bamboozled. First trip to Europe. Motorhome v car and other questions...

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Warning - long post!...

OK, so here’s the background. I’ll be 40 next year and this is our first trip to Europe. Make that first major trip anywhere! We will be in Europe approx. 12 June 2017 to 7 July 2017. So we’ll be on the ground for around 24 days. We will have a hire vehicle of some sort for the duration. We have 2 kids who by then will be 8 and 5½. It’s important to know that my wife and I are very budget conscious. That’s not to say we don’t have enough money for the trip – we certainly do – but we are always likely to weigh up what we feel is the best value for money. You may tell us to splurge (fair enough) but that’s not quite who we are so better to know it upfront!

Anyway, I’m attempting to plan this trip and seem to be going in circles now so I’m here for advice. We have some time in the UK and were also looking to spend some time in Europe. The thing is that taking into account how long it has taken us to get there the first time around, and how budget conscious we are, it is highly unlikely we’ll be back to Europe in the next 10 years or probably more. So we want to see as much as we can while we’re there. Now I fully realise everyone says to just go to 2 areas and spend your time there but I hope you can also take into account our desire to see a reasonable number of different things given the situation…

My original itinerary looked something like this:
Day 0: Arrive London (evening)
Day 1: Recover, explore local area
Days 2 – 3: Usual tourist stuff in London (Big Ben, Ride a double-decker bus, Buckingham Palace, etc). I don’t wish to spend longer in London even though I’m sure you could spend much more…
Days 4 – 7 (3 nights): Wales staying at B&B’s.
Days 8 – 15 (7 nights): Scotland – holidaying with my wife’s brother and his family. Will probably base ourselves in Edinburgh or quite possibly a smaller seaside town nearby and just do day-trips from there to see the sights. After this overnight back in London.
Days 16 – 24 (8 nights) – Europe.

OK, so I am reasonably happy with the UK side of things. I need to work out some specifics, but I’ll get there. As for Europe my original plan was to travel through northern France, Belgium, Netherlands then depart from Frankfurt. 13 ½ hours of actual drive time for my chosen route according to Mr Google. No problems at all since we’re from Australia so are very used to driving long distances (and that would be considered a short distance over here for a road trip in the time-frame). I totally realise we won’t see everything in between during that time – my thought was to see some of the major stuff and just take a good look at the countryside on the way.

My preference for Europe was to hire a Motorhome for the Europe leg which means we aren’t on a schedule to get to a Hotel or B&B every night. If we want to stay longer in a spot we can do so then just make up the time later. I was pretty keen on that but then it occurred to me that this is when the Tour de France is on and I wondered if hiring a motorhome would be difficult/overly expensive at that time. So then I thought maybe we should reverse the trip – fly into Frankfurt, do the Europe side of things first then head over to the UK. However I’ve had difficulty finding anywhere online at all that will do a one-way hire of a motorhome. And even for just 9 days motorhomes don’t look cheap!...

As a result I am now wondering if we should fly into London, cross the Channel for the motorhome tour of Europe (start at finish in Calais or similar), then return for the UK leg and finally fly out of London. Then the question is what we can see in that time for the Europe leg – as per my previous comments we don’t need to see everything in every location. And would sort of like to see more than one country over there.

Then I started thinking maybe we’re better off just doing all of the UK and scrap Europe. Argh – as you can see, lots of thoughts but not lots of answers. ;-)

As for what we’d like to see - my wife has her heart set on taking the kids to Disneyland in Paris. And she is keen on ‘kid-friendly’ stuff. However we did a bit of travel when I was a kid (in a caravan) and always just went to landmarks and looked at scenery. Never really did any specifically kid-friendly stuff and I didn’t have a problem with that at all. So to me, yes, some kid stuff is handy but should certainly not be the majority of things. After-all I want the kids to be amazed by the world around them and to learn some of the related history.

The 2 things on my bucket list were to see some super high mountains (Pyrenees, French or Swiss Alps) and to see the Millau Viaduct. Obviously these weren’t on my original tour itinerary since I felt they were too far out of the way, so I won’t be heart-broken if I don’t make it, but it sure would be nice. Aside from that I enjoy seeing the scenery plus some good architecture and magnificent structures but am not a real people person so crowds do not excite me.

Anyway, you have all the back-ground info. Now over to you guys. (Sorry, I hope you didn’t mind my short essay). I am most willing to receive comments on any aspect of this trip, but I do have a few specific questions:
- If you had 9 days in Europe and might not get back there for 20 years, what is the absolutely must see stuff that you’d do in this time? Or do we forget mainland Europe altogether?
- Has anyone run the sums on the costs for a motorhome vs a hire car plus staying in B&B’s? Also keeping in mind other costs – e.g. if we stay in B&B’s we’re more likely to be eating out for lunch and dinner as opposed to a motorhome where we could carry food purchased from a supermarket.
- Is it possible to get a one-way motorhome hire between Calais (or similar in France) and Frankfurt (or the reverse of course)?

I am looking to finalise at least a beginning and ending to the trip so I can get flights booked. Then I can sort out the details for the stuff in between over the next few months. Definitely need a framework though so I can work out whether it’s a motorhome (which means no extra accommodation to find in Europe) or a car that we hire (which means the planning needs to be more precise).

Let me have it!...

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