Family camper van travel around Europe

Old Aug 26th, 2022, 01:49 PM
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Family camper van travel around Europe

Hi all. Were a British family who are in the process of selling our house and thinking before we buy our forever family home, we could consider travelling for 6 months ish around Europe.
This would consist of traveling with a 9 and 4 year old, as well as 2 dogs.
Its likely our trip would he throughout most of winter, so were thinking of heading to Southern Europe for a milder climate is necessary.
We would basically unregister the kids from school, travel and homeschool a bit. This would be a life experience for us all.
Would love to hear of anyones similar experiences, tips and ideas. What kind of vehicle would you recommend? Best winter destinations? Dog friendly options? Any tips welcomed!
Thank you

Last edited by annabellaboo; Aug 26th, 2022 at 02:35 PM.
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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 01:59 PM
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Welcome to Fodors. Before people can give much useful advice/info they'd need to know your nationality/passport/place of residence.

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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 03:53 PM
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The OP says they are British. Thanks to Brexit they are now subject to the Schengen rules. Six months in much of Europe isn't going to work unless they get the appropriate visas.

See: https://www.gov.uk/visit-eu-switzerl...-liechtenstein
Especially: https://www.gov.uk/visit-eu-switzerl...y-without-visa
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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
The OP says they are British. . . .
That does help . . . I see she edited the post 36 minutes after I responded -- The "British family" bit was not in the OP when I read it.
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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 04:56 PM
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Also sounds like they need a camper van, rented in Europe. I once followed a blog by a Californian couple driving a camper van with their young daughter, and overwintering in a Spanish village, but I can't find it now.
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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 08:48 PM
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Well, I did this as a young girl with my family many years ago. My parents bought a VW Campmobile in Germany and we toured around much of Europe for 6 months camping and occasionally staying in inexpensive hotels. We did stay in hotels at first, due to the weather. We had a wonderful time and all of us learned so much. My parents were teachers so were able to homeschool my siblings and me. My father had a sabbatical and completed a research project and my parents rented out our house which helped with expenses.

I think you may have to see if this is possible with the Schengen rules. You could spend 90 days in Schengen countries and then visit non-Schengen countries for 90 days. Weather may also be an issue as your kids and dogs will want to be able to run about. I suggest checking weather reports of the countries you are thinking of visiting and planning what you would do if there is rain or snow.

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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 09:28 PM
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I think it depends on what you want to do.

The Canary islands are full of people in campers. The weather will be warm.But you're basically going from beach to beach.

If you stick to mainland Europe the problem is most cities aren't really open to campers anymore. It's bad enough finding parking for a car IF the city even allows non residents to drive in.

If you wanted mainland Europe I'd likely think southern Spain. Better weather. Good roads.

I would not be thinking of driving in Rome,Venice etc with a car let alone a camper
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Old Aug 26th, 2022, 11:48 PM
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There are a lot of " adventurous camper-vaners" on You Tube. The cold and wet gets to them in the end. Most do not have children.
Are you allowed to take children out of school? A few may say it is not wise.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 12:13 AM
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Yes homeschooling is perfectly legal in the UK
I'd think the 90 day issue is going to be the barrier.
A fair few of my British friends have other nationalities, especially Irish which might be worth looking into to simplify much of this.
Portugal and Spain would be my target, I've also seen campers in southern France (at the Narbonne end) though how officially supported this is I don't know.
If you don't do it now when will you do it?
You could consider 90 days in Morocco, easily my favorite North African country though choosing exactly when and where might be more interesting. I'd go on the African section of Fodors to get most up to date advice Essouira might be good but they have a massive music festival in March that you might want to avoid/join in
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 01:14 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post
Also sounds like they need a camper van, rented in Europe. I once followed a blog by a Californian couple driving a camper van with their young daughter, and overwintering in a Spanish village, but I can't find it now.
this one?

https://www.soultravelers3.com
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 01:31 AM
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As others have said Schengen is a real problem for you. The dogs are a problem too post Brexit. You can no longer bring them to Europe on a pet passport as UK pet passports are no longer valid. You will need health insurance, and let your vehicle insurer know you will be abroad for so long. You need a green card, and also some sort of insurance to cover breakdown and repatriation of the camper. The camper needs to be MOT'd for the entire time you are away. Check the tyres. If you are likely to be travelling in the autumn/winter/early spring you need all season tyres.
Fuel is not cheap, and going up all the time, ditto bottled gas, and campers big enough for a family and two dogs and all the stuff you need for them.
Can you both drive a camper? Have you ever been on holiday in one? Do you have licences which cover a camper of over 3.5 tonne? Anything smaller will almost certainly not have the capacity to carry four people two dogs and all the stuff you need. Overloading will bring on big fines if you are spot checked (some countries also have loops in the road which will weigh you and fine you) and you will have to ditch stuff in order to continue. Find a weighbridge and check you loaded weight with everything and everyone on board.
You will need assorted vignets for different countries and also an environmental sticker for Germany and one for France, and need to be very aware of LEZ in different countries and the requirements for them.
You need to have a postal address in the UK and someone to check that post for fines. Not paying will cause them to mount up very quickly.
With regard to bottled gas not everywhere has the same gas bottles and connections, and not every country allows you to for instance fill an inbuilt LPG tank at a petrol station.
Wild camping, especially in camper vans/motorhomes is illegal in most of Europe. Some countries are really clamping down on this now due to the vast numbers trying to do the same as you. So you will need to stay in Aires/stellplatzen. Most do not allow you to sit outside or set up any sort of "camping behaviour", and most limit your stay.
Campsites are closed in winter, many have very short seasons and most are expensive, even with a discount card for off seasons. You need to find a campsite or a legal dumping area every couple of days, maybe even daily with 4 of you on board, to dump the loo, the grey water and stock up on fresh. many places charge for it. Do not dump grey water as you drive, do not dump your loo at the side of a layby.

Do not be fooled by the Instagram "Camper life" posters. Truth is it isn't like that at all, and it can put a real strain on finances, and relationships.

We sold our camper van earlier this year. I miss it terribly, but give the rising costs of everything, and the numbers of campers out there now, it was the right thing to do.

Sorry to be a bit of a downer on you but you really do need to think this thing through and make suitable preparations, check legalities, you can't just buy a van and head off for the wide blue yonder.

I would not sell your home before doing such a trip. Getting back on the property ladder won't be easy.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 01:40 AM
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wild camping is illegal in some counties.
If you sold your home then how do you register the insurance, van and license?
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 01:48 AM
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They don't need to buy a camper. There are rental companies just like the ones that rent cars. Saves you on many of the hassles. Not saying all the hassles but buying a camper in the UK. Making sure it's in good shape. Driving it all the way to southern Europe. Driving it back. Selling it on return. All that stuff isn't free.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Traveler_Nick View Post
They don't need to buy a camper. There are rental companies just like the ones that rent cars. Saves you on many of the hassles. Not saying all the hassles but buying a camper in the UK. Making sure it's in good shape. Driving it all the way to southern Europe. Driving it back. Selling it on return. All that stuff isn't free.
I would add to this that in the winter months it is easy to make a deal with some of these rental companies for long term rentals. Maybe the Adriatic coast could be an option, get the camper in Slovenia or Croatia and drive south. There are ferries to Italy from Croatia and Albania.

"Dog paperwork" is more of a problem than mixing up Schengen and non-Schengen. And finding places to stay in case you need to sleep outside your camper sometimes will be a lot harder with dogs in tow.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 05:01 AM
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Finding places to stay overnight in the winter, and places with internet and electric hookups and places to take on a dump in winter will be tough in many countries, especially those that get cold. If they are doing this in winter they absolutely need winter tyres or all weather tyres, possibly snow chains (which they need to know how to use, and propane only gas. They also need to ensure the vehicle is winterised, so the fresh and grey water don't freeze, and nor do they. They will get through a lot of gas heating a van which is intended for summer use.
Working out in and out of Schengen will be tricky. Ensuring they have all the right stamps in an out and doing the sums on days in and out will be a pain.
Finding places to teach the children, having the room to teach the children, tough.
And as i said finding a vehicle which will house them all and have weight over for gear when only on a "B" licence will be very hard.

I would suggest the rent a van of the size they are considering for a week or two in the UK and see if they can survive living on top of each other in poor weather. Though many places don't allow dogs in their rentals.
Having travelled a lot in a camper van, not a motorhome, with just the two of us I can tell you it can be challenging to your relationship. Add in a couple of kids and dogs ad it could get very challenging.
Oh and talking of the dogs - how do you plan to secure them whilst driving? Some countries do not allow dogs to be loose in a vehicle, and even if they do they are at risk if you have to brake suddenly.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 06:30 AM
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I have just been whatsapping with a friend of my sons.
He is Dutch so no Schengen problems, and he also had European healthcare, and coverage for the camper, but he did have to remain registered in the Netherlands at all times. Luckily they were able to "move in" with his parents (which they actually did for a short period before and after their trip) after giving up their rental flat in Amsterdam.
Anyway he has a C1 licence, she doesn't so he did all the driving. They had a big old camper for the five of them, and spent a year going from Nordkapp to Algarve, Western Spain to Albania and all points between. They were able to stay for sometime on a friend's plot of land in Portugal, to get through a couple of winter months.
It cost them more than they had budgeted for, even with her continuing to work remotely. Finding good internet was sometimes a struggle, even with free roaming. They had special permission to home school. Six, five and two were the ages of the kids at the time they set off.
It was a huge challenge, and at one point his partner took the kids back to the Netherlands for a break from the road and from the camper, and from him. He admits it was touch and go if she would return.
Homeschooling was more of a challenge than they expected, as even with university degrees they had no teaching experience and found imposing the necessary discipline was hard. Especially with a two year old aroud as well.
Whilst he thinks they all gained from the trip he also says they went into it too lightly, and that his kids really don't remember much of it all, even the six year old.
This was in 2018-19, so pre Covid, pre-Ukraine, pre fuel price rises. He doesn't think he would do it now because of the costs, the increasing restrictions on where you can stop and where you can drive with a diesel, and the worry about Covid flaring up again.
Upon their return they struggled to find somewhere to live, and to work. It took a while but now they are settled, thanks to the help of family and friends.

Oh btw you don't say how you will finance the trip but you are not allowed to work in the Schengen zone as non-EU nationals, not even remotely.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 07:52 AM
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In Italy, most towns have camper sites, with hookups. Our small town (4000 inhabitants) has a camper zone, and there are almost always some visitors there.

I see various other problems with the plan.

Fuel costs have more than doubled in the past year.

Southern Europe doesn't have uniformly mild weather in the winter. It's often rainy, windy, and foggy. Away from the coast, it can be quite cold. If you look at a topological map, you'll see that Greece, Italy, and Spain are fairly mountainous, and at higher elevations, it can be quite cold.

I would go stark raving mad in a camper for six months with two small children and two dogs. What will you do when it's been pouring rain every day for a week?

Last edited by bvlenci; Aug 27th, 2022 at 08:01 AM.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 08:43 AM
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Many places have camper sites, true, but many turn off the water in winter to prevent it freezing or some kids deciding it would make a good ice rink. Plus as I said normally you are not allowed to put chairs and tables outside. It is purely to be used as a stop, a place to visit the town/village and all living must be within the vehicle otherwise.
Most are nothing more than a car park with a hook-up if you are lucky and maybe a place to dump and refill.

there are apps (Camper Contact for one) and books that list these places and what is and isn't permitted and available, and the costs.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Traveler_Nick View Post
They don't need to buy a camper. There are rental companies just like the ones that rent cars. Saves you on many of the hassles. Not saying all the hassles but buying a camper in the UK. Making sure it's in good shape. Driving it all the way to southern Europe. Driving it back. Selling it on return. All that stuff isn't free.
Link to a UK suppler that can rent a van for such a long time please.
If you rent you need a home address for licnce. You need banking facilities that also needs a home address. The issue is these UK persons on YouTube do not tell you all.
Just hadanother thought. How does a family wash a go to the toilet?
I do like the post by hetismij2. It shows some realities of living in a metal box.
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Old Aug 27th, 2022, 10:08 AM
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I've spent many a week in a metal box on wheels. Our had a toilet and nominally a shower but we never used it, space was tight and always the danger of an overflow into the rest of the van. With two of us, staying at camper stops rather than campsites we managed three days or so before the loo needed emptying. By then though we both needed a shower! You do have to accept a lack of privacy as well.

The more luxurious, and so much more expensive vans and motorhomes have bigger bathrooms but still a squeeze.

Too big and you can't park the damn thing or negotiate small roads and narrow streets in towns. Many mountain passes are blocked too above a certain size.

This is like we had: https://www.wohnmobilpark.com/wohnmo...hp?womo-id=863
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