Sarah Wakely

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Save money on fuel, fabulous food and motorway tolls – and find the cheapest ferry routes – with expert advice from Practical Motorhome's Sarah Wakely

Would you like to save money on your next motorhome tour? Over the years I've found plenty of ways to travel further for less money, and now I want to share this experience with you. 

Ferry crossings for less  

Shop around as much as you can – and if you’re flexible in terms of timings, try searching for various days and times (late at night, for example) to get the best deal. An online search facility such as Travel Supermarket will allow you to select motorhome-specific deals. 

Don’t assume that you’ll get the best deal with a return ferry ticket – buying two single tickets with different operators can sometimes save you money. Likewise, you can also consider different routes; travelling from Dover on the way out, but returning to Newhaven, for example.

Take a packed meal to eat on board, rather than paying for expensive food from the ferry’s restaurants. 

It can be tempting to simply take the most direct crossing, but taking a less obvious route can work out cheaper, even once you’ve added in the toll costs in France. To find the price of motorway tolls in France, see autoroutes.fr.

Save money on campsite fees  

In Europe, low-season camping schemes such as ACSI Camping Card and Camping Cheques will save you lots of money if you’re planning to travel out of the high season – you pay a set amount upfront onto a card, which is then redeemed when you arrive. Many sites accept the cards during the traditional high season, too – some even during August.

In Britain, if you stay on The Caravan Club or Camping and Caravanning Club sites during the year, you should consider membership. The non-member fees that are added can quickly add up, plus if you join you’ll also get many other great benefits.

Do try our fantastic Nightstop network – it features 40 motorhome-friendly places across the UK where you can pitch up for nothing, or for a small fee. We run them in conjunction with the Motor Caravanners’ Club of Great Britain, but the Nightstops are open to everyone, and they’re fully licensed.

In the market for food and drink deals   

Find out whether the town you’re visiting has a local market – it’s often much cheaper to buy produce direct during your stay, rather than stocking up at the supermarket before you go. Chances are that the goods will be fresher, too.

If you’re tempted by souvenir food and drink from regional vineyards or producers in France, first take a look in the local supermarket. You’ll often find local honey, chocolates and wine much cheaper than the price you're asked to pay at tourist attractions.

If possible, cook your favourite meal before you go away and freeze it – then, put it in the fridge before you go, and it should have defrosted by the time you arrive. It’ll save you being tempted to go out for a meal or get a takeaway!

Fuel price checker

The Petrol Prices website is fantastic for finding the cheapest fuel in your area – simply enter your postcode and it’ll tell you where you can get the best deal at the pump. It’s free to sign up, and you can get a daily update of the cheapest prices in your area, too.

Motorhomes need a lot of fuel, so be sure to use a loyalty card (such as Nectar, or Tesco Clubcard) each time you fill up. You won’t save money at the pump, but you’ll soon save up enough points to get serious amounts of cash off your grocery shopping.

If you’re not planning a long journey, don’t fill your fuel tank* – it will add lots of weight, and your fuel consumption will go up accordingly. On the same note, don’t fill any onboard water tank until you arrive at a campsite, and be sure to empty your waste tanks before you hit the road.

As I write, there are *fuel strikes and shortages in France. If that's still the case when you go to France, do fill your tank in Britain to avoid running out! Check Mon-essence.fr and also the Carbeo website for updates on which fuel stations to use or avoid in France. 

Toll-free touring 

If you’re not in a rush when driving through France, stick to the route nationale rather than using the autoroutes – they’re generally free to use, and very often they’ll be more scenic, too. If you do want to use toll roads, take a look at www.autoroutes.fr before you go to find out the cheapest journey.

If your motorhome is lower than 3m high and has a Gross Vehicle Weight of less than 3500kg, you can purchase a French télépéage tag via the dedicated UK website Sanef tolling. It allows you to drive through any non-height-restricted télépéage point, and the toll will be taken automatically from your bank account via direct debit. Certain small fees apply, but it does mean that you won’t have to pay a transaction fee on your credit card for each purchase, and you’ll be able to drive straight through péage booths without needing to queue.

Happy touring!

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