101 Motorhome Hire Tips
Choosing a campervan hire
- Choosing a layout that suits you can make or break the holiday - think about sleeping arrangements, storage and facilities.
- Check your driver's license before hiring a motorhome as some motorhomes require a C1 category on your license.
- When hiring a motorhome, check the minimum and maximum ages for hirers – commonly 25-75.
- Make sure you declare any endorsements, accidents or disabilities as all these will affect the self drive hire insurance premium you pay.
- Planning your route can have a impact on motorhome hire choice. For instance, if you are planning to tour Cornwall with tight single country lanes, then maybe a 8m twin axle motorhome is the wrong choice.
- When travelling with children, think about the best sleeping arrangements to allow adults to sit up later in the evening. For example, rear bunk beds are usually curtained and leave the forward dining / sitting area for adults in the evening. Alternatively, children can be in the over cab bed (which always has a safety netting) and adults in the rear lounge area.
- If you plan to take bikes then you will require a bike rack. However if your bikes are high value then maybe choosing a motorhome with a large garage were the bikes can be stowed would be more suitable.
- What motorhome will best suit your travelling lifestyle? Do you expect to need a good amount of internal space for bad weather / dark evenings or will you be somewhere hot where you can be outside much of the time?
- If you intend using the motorhome for a hobby, think about where all the equipment will go - motorhomes with an integral garage are great for storing things like surfboards or skis.
- Most hire motorhomes will not have or allow you to use a roof rack or roof bars – don't work on the assumption that that's where your kayak or other large equipment can go.
- Do you mind making a bed up every night? Lots of motorhomes have permanent fixed beds to cater for a family with fixed bed above the luton cab, rear fixed bunk beds and central dinette converting to a double bed; a couple may opt for a low profile with a rear fixed bed; and a party of two couples would be best served with a motorhome with two fixed double beds.
- When travelling with a baby, think about where the baby will sleep as there is rarely space for a travel cot. A smaller pop up travel cot might fit onto the top of a bed but you will want to make sure there is a safety feature to stop it falling off. Alternatively the baby should sleep with an adult in a low bed, or in the over cab bed with the safety netting in place.
- Don't 'overfill' the motorhome with people. Take a look at the motorhome length and internal layout and think what it will be like if everyone has to be inside to eat or in bad weather. We would suggest that some motorhomes than can sleep six are not ideally suited for six people on holiday as there is simply not enough storage or circulation space.
- If you are travelling somewhere hot look for a motorhome with an awning. The awning is essentially a sun shade which is pulled out along the side of the motorhome. Not only does it give you somewhere to sit out of the sun, it also helps keep the sun off the motorhome and somewhat cooler than it might otherwise be.
- Wearing a seatbelt in the UK and Europe is a legal requirement. Make sure the motorhome or campervan you choose has the correct amount of seatbelts for the number of travellers in your party.
- Modern pop up tents are quick to erect and are excellent fun (kids love the independence) and will provide extra sleeping area. The great thing about taking a tent is that the campers still have use of all the facilities of the motorhome or campervan hire.
- Don't let the age of the motorhome or campervan put you off. For instance, a seven year old motorhome, manufactured by Burstner, Knaus, Hymer, Bessacarr etc. are high quality motorhomes that are built to last. In some cases these can be far superior to the modern budget equivalent.
- Hiring a motorhome is a great 'try before you buy' option – these are expensive kit and you want to be sure you have picked the motorhome that best suits you and your needs.
- Think 'outside the box'. Yes, motorhomes are great for touring holidays, but they also offer many other options. They are particularly popular for festivals. They can be used for business purposes, such as trade shows. And they also offer the option for additional accommodation when you have more guests than spare beds - put a motorhome on the drive for self contained guest accommodation.
Packing the motorhome hire
- Packing for an holiday can be a chore - motorhome home storage varies enormously so our advice is to travel light.
- Make a list of everything you'll need in advance and use it for reference as you pack up the motorhome – and indeed when you unpack again at the end!
- Think about the essential documents you will need to take and get these out ready.
- Lots of campervans and motorhomes will allow you to take a pet with you, but you do need to think about their needs. For example, if the pet needs to be caged then ask yourself where the cage is going to go. Also, to be courteous to the operator, make sure you remember to take your dog bedding and blanket, beach towels and bowls.
- A small, fold away barbecue is a great idea for cooking outside in good weather.
- motorhome rental and campervans do not come with bedding, towels and hand towels. Unless the motorhome you are hiring is local and you can take it home to pack, then hiring the bedding can be a good option to save space when packing your car ready for your trip.
- Decide if you want use sleeping bags or sheets and duvets - both have their own advantages but a made up bed always has more of a 'home from home' feeling. However sleeping bags may be the better option where beds need to be packed away during the day as they take up less storage space.
- When packing your clothes make the best use of the wardrobe. Some motorhomes do not have a lot of space for clothes so the hanging wardrobe which is always present should be optimised. Hang as much as you can and make sure there are enough coat hangers for everything you want to put in there.
- Avoid rigid suitcases; space is at a premium in a motorhome so having rigid suitcases can really get in the way! Better to pack clothes in large soft bags which can be stowed away while not in use.
- Where possible pack straight into the motorhome – rather than pack up bags boxes and then move these into the vehicle, empty them out and take them back to your house or leave them in your car – you'll be glad of the extra space.
- Check the motorhome inventory in advance - there may be a 'must have' specialist utensil you rely on that's missing and you will want to take - it may be the case you can't live without your pizza cutter for example!
- A few Tupperware boxes and plastic bags are useful for storing the contents of open cans and packages in the fridge and cupboards.
- If you have children with you, you'll probably need to wash a few items of clothing out - remember some laundry liquid and pegs.
- Motorhome kitchens will come fully equipped but don't forget those obvious additional things you will need such as washing up liquid, kitchen towel, scourers, cleaning cloths, hand towel and tea towels.
- Think about days where the weather may not be so good and if there will be dark evenings. Do you want a motorhome with a TV / DVD player? Consider taking a pack of cards, some family games or other forms of entertainment.
- Before travelling abroad, take a copy of all your important documents and hide these in a different place in the motorhome from the original documents, in case the motorhome gets broken in to.
- Don't forget the camera!
Travelling in a motorhome rental
- Motorhomes can be long and have a large rear overhang over the back axle, anticipate overtaking by manoeuvring much earlier than in a car, and use the mirrors to keep an eye on the rear of the vehicle.
- Some motorhomes have reversing aids such as cameras. However when reversing, always get the passenger to step out of the motorhome and watch the rear of the vehicle.
- Try to avoid tight country lanes, were passing is impossible.
- There are height barriers in many car parks - supermarket car parks are a good option in towns for parking as there are not height barriers and there is plenty of space for a longer vehicle.
- Be aware of the dimensions of the motorhomes for hire and make sure these are somewhere visible that the driver can see.
- Using a navigation aid such as a Sat Nav is a great way to get from A to B. They do however have a tendency to cut corners and lead you down minor 'B' roads or routes with low bridges. Use a conventional map for planning your route using motorways and 'A' roads, and then when you are close to your destination use your Sat Nav to guide you to the exact location. Most of our operators provide them for hire.
- Some motorhomes come with tow bars and these have a maximum weight limit for towing. If you are thinking of towing another vehicle it's important to know the combined weight of the trailer and load. Always check with the operator that this does not exceed the tow bars maximum capacity and note that the towed item will not be covered by the self hire drive insurance in the event of an accident.
- Electrical items are a necessary evil of modern life. Before setting off on your journey make sure all your electrical equipment is fully charged. Electrical equipment can be charged while on the move using the 12v cigarette lighter, however laptops, i pads etc need a 240v power supply to charge. Make sure when choosing a campsite a hook up is available as this will allow charging of this equipment.
- All motorhomes have a fresh water tank, used for showering, washing up etc. Avoid overfilling the fresh water tank when starting your tour - the tank is extremely heavy when full and can have an impact on the MPG.
- Local byelaws forbid overnight parking in many areas so campsites will be a necessity, although Scotland has different rules.
- Plan your route in advance and pre book campsites during peak periods as many will be fully booked over the school holidays and Bank Holidays.
- Your hire fee will include self hire drive insurance but you should consider taking out holiday insurance to cover those unexpected events.
- Motorhoming is not only for the countryside - there are great campsites in the centre of London for example that provide a great low cost option for staying in the capital.
- With children on board, break long journeys into segments. Plan stops that have some interesting places.
- Switch the fridge to the leisure battery when travelling.
- For safety, turn off the gas at the bottle when travelling.
- To find a campsite we recommend browsing ukcampsites
- Avoid parking on soft wet grass or mud. Most motorhomes are front wheel drive and the weight of the rear living accommodation makes them vulnerable to wheel spin and getting stuck. A top tip if you find yourself in this situation is to place pieces of carpet under the driving wheels, as this will normally do the trick of getting the motorhome free.
- Try to choose a level spot when parking for the night; parking the motorhome on a steep slope can not only affect your sleeping it can also affect the function of the fridge.
- Where there is a slight slope that you can't rectify, sleep with your head at the top of the slope – this will help avoid a headache.
- Use levelling blocks to level your motorhome or campervan. Always remember to chock the wheels to stop the motorhome from rolling backwards.
- When parking up, decide which side you want the living area door to be on – think about where others are parked / camped and road safety where you have children and / or pets with you.
- On hot summer days keep the window blinds shut and the windscreen sunshield on. The blinds in motorhomes have a silver back that reflects the sun keeping the motorhome cool.
- When hooking the motorhome up to a 240v hook-up, always attach the plug to the motorhome before attaching to the 240v supply, this can prevent electric shocks from wet cables.
- Where a hook up is not available you won't be able to use the 240v sockets and will rely on the 12v supply and gas.
- Where relying on the 12v supply make sure you keep a check on the supply levels on the control display panel – it will re-charge as you drive around or run the engine for half an hour or so if you intend to remain stationary.
- Avoid campsite pitches that are under trees as low branches scraping on the roof of the motorhome will affect your sleep.
- The over cab bed can sometimes feel claustrophobic; the best tip is to have the over cab window open as this allows air to circulate.
- Awnings are fantastic in summer and are designed to shade you from the sun. Avoid putting them out in any wind, but never leave them unattended or out overnight.
- Secure the legs of the awning using tent pegs as this will prevent children and animals accidentally knocking the legs away from under the awning.
- When using a hook up make sure the fridge is switched to 240v as this will save gas.
- Using campsite bathrooms rather than those in the motorhome as much as possible - this cuts down your water use and the need to empty the toilet too frequently - chores you want to avoid when you're away and enjoying yourself.
- Toilets in motorhomes indicate when they are close to full. Empty the toilet straightaway when the indicator light appears as this will avoid overflowing.
- Find were the chemical toilet emptying point is before attempting to empty the chemical toilet. If parking the motorhome close to the emptying point is possible then do so, the toilet cassette can be very heavy.
- Although emptying a chemical toilet is not too bad an experience, wearing rubber gloves is a good idea.
- Make sure the external gas vent is not covered while gas is in use.
- When recharging the toilet cassette avoid using the campsites drinking water supply; a dedicated water supply should be located close to the chemical toilet emptying point.
- Plan your next campsite before setting off, always ring to check availability and book your next site if possible.
- Motorhomes have a onboard container that stores waste water. Whilst on a campsite make sure that the emptying valve is closed. Grey water running from the motorhome to other campers is not desirable. Most campsites have an area to empty the grey water when leaving.
- Avoid carrying the grey water from site to site as they can add a considerable amount of weight. Emptying the grey water tank before leaving the campsite is preferable, although emptying the grey water on waste land is acceptable.
- Before setting off in a motorhome always do a visual "pre flight check" - check the windows are closed, that the tv aerial and roof lights are all shut and the hook up lead is disconnected.
Motorhome Stopovers, Aires and Wildcamping
- Motorhome stopovers are a free network of places to stop (usually pub car parks)
- Aires de service are a network of mostly free motorhome (camping cars as they are known in Europe) stopovers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain for more information visit www.vicarious-shop.com
- Wild camping can mainly be found in Scotland for more information visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com
- Although it is rare to hear of any incidents involving motorhomestopovers, Aires and wild camping, security and your own well being is important. If the area feels dodgy and the site is vulnerable then moving on to the next stopover is the best option.
- Motorhome stopovers, Aires and wild camping have little or no facilities; when using these conserve water and the 12v leisure battery as much as possible.
- Emptying the chemical toilet when wild camping or in a motorhome stopover is not possible; instead plan a campsite stop every 3 or 4 days to empty waste and take on water.
- Using a generator is frowned up on by fellow motorhomers and not allowed on most sites.
- Using motorhome stopovers, Aires and wild camping are by and large free and therefore as a motorhomer your duty is to keep them tidy and it is extremely important when leaving that all litter has been removed.
Motorhomes and festivals
- Motorhomes are a great option for festivals, offering a 'home from home' at the end of a long day of fun (and for avoiding the rain in bad weather).
- Check the festival information to see if motorhomes are allowed, whether special tickets are required and if there are motorhome length and height limitations.
- Some festivals only allow motorhomes on and off the site on particular days, at certain times or via pre defined routes – factor this information into your planning.
- Pack the vehicle well – you probably won't be able to leave the site to stock up on essentials mid festival.
- Electric hook ups will not be provided and you will be reliant on the 12v leisure battery supply and gas. Keep the leisure battery topped up by running the motorhome engine each day – we recommend the most convenient time to do this is over breakfast.
- Avoid using items such as the TV, spotlights etc. These consume large amount of energy and will quickly run down the leisure battery.
- You will have access to fresh water but you may not be able to drive to the tap to fill up - conserve water as much as you can and take a water roller barrel so you collect more water.
- Water conservation is important; when showering avoid leaving the shower on, instead wet yourself down then switch the shower off, wash yourself down with soap or shower gel then switch the shower on again to rinse off the foam.
- Keep the motorhome keys in a safe place at all times, losing keys would be a disaster to your stay.
- Remove your boots before entering the motorhome, mud and grass in the motorhome will affect your comfort.
- Allow plenty of time in your journey schedule for leaving the festival – events such as Glastonbury have around 30,000 motorhomes and campervans on site and this amount of traffic can take a while to clear.
Returning the motorhome
- Return the motorhome at the agreed time and at the agreed location; remember the motorhome will most likely have to be prepared to go out again on the same day.
- When returning the motorhome make sure the toilet cassette and grey water tank is empty and the gas is switched off
- Check fuel is at the same level as when received.
- When emptying the motorhome open all the cupboards, check the garage area and any other storage to make sure no personal belongings have been left behind such as i pods, computer leads etc.
- Remove all litter and give the motorhome a good sweep out.