Driving a van.

Jun 15th, 2002, 11:18 AM
  #1  
Lynn
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Driving a van.

WE are leasing a van for a three week trip in France, Italy and Switzerland. We decided on a van because there are 7 of us and we thought it would be easier than two cars following each other. Is this going to be a problem finding parking space, hiding our luggage (as there is no trunk), navigating small narrow streets,etc.? Anyone with van driving experience, I would like to hear from you. Thanks.
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 02:13 PM
  #2  
Rex
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You will find opinions evenly split on this. I have traveled with seven in one (nine-passenger) van (three of them were petite teenagers) and also with six (normal sized adults) in a mini-van (that was quite crowded - - we did end up tying two duffles on the roof).

I have also traveled in a "caravan" of two, and one time - - three vehicles. Walkie-talkies are IMMENSELY valuable for this (buy them IN Europe to get the legal frequencies).

My wife is quick to point out that I like traveling by car because I am usually the driver, and rarely a passenger in the back or middle seat. So, you ought to ask the other passengers how they feel about this.

Clearly, navigating little streets CAN be easier in smaller cars - - but not THAT much difference. Parking is a more significant difference. Often a nine-passenger van will be unable to park in 50% to 90% of the available parking spots. But of course, you only need ONE space, not two with a van.

As for "hiding luggage", I never understand this question. I almost never go sightseeing with luggage in the vehicle. I go from one hotel (or villa or whatever) to another. I carry the bags in. Then we go seeing stuff. On rare occasions you might stop in a city, in transit. With a van, you simply choose an attended lot or garage (if you can find with over head clearance high enough). Not a bad idea regardless of the vehicle.

Best wishes,

Rex
 
Jun 15th, 2002, 02:35 PM
  #3  
Mari
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Six of us, all adults, travelled to Italy last summer so we rented a seven passenger van.

There is space at the back for 4 suitcases plus. Of course, we had the extra seat space also, but we were surprised at what we could fit in the back space of the van. Most of us put our carryons on our laps or in the space between the front seats. Our luggage, of course, was only in the van when arriving and departing so we didn't worry too much about what could be seen. Remember that hardly anyone except tourists drive these things anyway. We did not have a problem though with anyone trying to break in.

Finding space to park was not a problem for us, although do be careful about driving on narrow side roads. We got wedged between two stone walls in S. Agata and to this day we cannot figure out how a someone on a motorcycle got by us!

A nine passenger van will give you plenty of luggage space for 7 people but might be harder to negotiate driving around some of the streets. Fine on the autostrada though!

Have a great trip!

 
Jun 16th, 2002, 03:28 AM
  #4  
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Jun 16th, 2002, 08:29 AM
  #5  
Lynn
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Thanks for your replies. Yes, for the most part we won't have our luggage in the van. It will only be when travelling from one destination to another and enroute we decide to stop (which is the reason for driving as opposed to travelling by train.)
 
Jun 16th, 2002, 08:59 AM
  #6  
Bob
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We have used vans frequently in Europe and never had any serious problems. A few tight parking areas, but that is about all. We just finished a trip in Germany in December using a Ford Transit 9 passenger van for 6 people and it worked great. Good room for people and all the luggage. Parked it all over the area from Rothenburg, to Innsbruck, to Munich to Garmisch and this van was BIGGGG!

Do be worried about luggage in the car when you are in transit. Watch where you park and be careful. That is one problem with vans and no trunk. I stayed on guard at the van in Pisa one time as the others went to visit the leaning tower. Just try to empty the van at hotel prior to touring as many times as you can. Italy will be your main problem.
 
Jun 16th, 2002, 09:47 AM
  #7  
Wayne
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Depending on the type of van (and I'm referring to a minivan, not a 9 passenger) you might have some trouble with suitcases fitting in the available space with 7 passengers. Last summer, four of us traveled through Europe with a typical minivan and barely had enough space for luggage. Frankly, I can't imagine having enough space if you are going for 3 weeks with 7 people. And though renting two standard cars will be a bit more than the cost of a van, it isn't drastically more. And it gives the group two choices as to transportation. I've found that with a group that size, unless you are the only knowledgeable person and acting as a tour guide, some of them will want to do something different. So why not let them by getting 2 cars? I think 2 cars would be the best solution when you have that many people. Plus, sharing the cost among that many can't be too painful. And I definitely would NOT rent one of the big 9 passenger vans; they are simply too big for many roads and towns in Europe.

Rex's advice regarding radios (or even use of rented cell phones) is good as an extra provision in case you get separated. Personally, I have found that a combination of planning your stops ahead of time, use of hand signals and headlight flashing, and simply making unplanned stops at some point when there is a question, make it unnecessary to have radios.
 
Jun 16th, 2002, 09:55 AM
  #8  
Capo
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Hi Lynn. I don't know what size of van you're renting but we rented a Renault Megane Scenic van (very popular in France) a few years ago and the only real problem we had with it was negotiating some of the very narrow streets in the heart of Arles.

Now, obviously, you're not going to be able to fit into some small parking spaces that a small car could fit into -- and you may have a problem with some narrow streets in certain towns -- but that's one of the trade-offs with a larger vehicle.
 
Jun 16th, 2002, 01:10 PM
  #9  
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Jun 16th, 2002, 10:01 PM
  #10  
Marla
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Good experiences using walkie-talkies here also. There have been threads on the use of these, and we were glad we got them after reading about them here.

One benefit we never thought about. It allows a little bit of latitude on who drives at what speed. But it's like a friendly leash. When the car in front can no longer reach the car behind, that means it's time to slow down and let the car behind catch up. When the walkie talkies are out of range, you know you are too far apart.
 

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