Claudia DowellSee other Advice articles filed in ‘General motorhome advice’ written by Claudia Dowell
Ask any motorcaravanner what they love about our pastime and they will doubtless cite “freedom to explore” as one of the major reasons for motorhome ownership.
So why even contemplate an escorted tour? There are several reasons for their popularity.
Camaraderie for one: it’s an opportunity to form friendships and share experiences with like-minded people.
For those new to the pastime, it removes some of the anxiety of driving abroad and there’s the reassurance that you can call on someone to help should something go amiss.
For others, it’s about leaving the planning to those with more experience of the area, and having a guaranteed pitch; you get to see the best of a place, without spending hours poring over maps and researching sites.
What are the options on escorted tours?
Of course, motorcaravanners are an adventurous lot: some of the more popular escorted tours are very far away.
New Zealand, with its spectacular scenery and English-speaking people, is a place that many have as their bucket-list motorhome holiday destination.
It’s worth remembering, however, that these far-flung trips usually require a minimum number of people to book before they go ahead.
We’ve spoken to several operators bent on expanding the experiences of British visitors, to give you a flavour of what’s out there.
Each provides a pack with maps, GPS co-ordinates, site addresses, ideas about what to see en route and essential tips about driving in that specific country.
While their offers may differ slightly, built into all programmes is the freedom to explore – an important consideration, because it’s your holiday after all!
Caravan and Motorhome Club
- Call: 01342 316 101
- Go online
The former Caravan Club’s rebrand is designed to encourage motorcaravanner membership, and its Worldwide Tours should certainly add to the appeal.
You can sample an escorted trip to New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US – and if you want to extend your holiday beyond the tour, you can. The Club will look after flights, hotels and excursions, in effect acting as your travel agent.
The Club’s 32-day escorted tour to New Zealand includes two nights in Christchurch and Auckland, starting on the North or South Island, and 27 days’ motorhome hire.
The Club organises all flights, ferries, hotel stays, motorhome hire and premium insurance with unlimited mileage, plus a full tank of fuel, a sat-nav unit with Wi-Fi hotspot and pre-booked campsites all with electric hook-up.
Meanwhile, if enough people are interested, the tour guide can organise ad hoc boat trips and vineyard tours on a pay-as-you-go basis. The tour cost is £6000 per person, but you should also budget for fuel, food and attractions.
“Our Slovenia/Croatia tour has sold out twice over,” says Alex Hayes, who looks after the Club’s European escorted tours. “We’ve had to run two dates.”
These tours are open to both caravanners and motorcaravanners, and have a programme and social side more akin to rallies. Members make their own way to the start of the tour, so ferries are not included – and neither is the Club’s Red Pennant insurance.
As well as Slovenia/Croatia, destinations include Rome and Sorrento; Venice and the Islands; Spain’s Costa del Azahar; the Algarve and Andalucía; Switzerland; Austria; The Netherlands; and several French excursions.
For first-timers who have never driven in France there are two tours, Normandy and Picardy. Both start in the UK and include a course for driving on the Continent and dealing with the tolls, so you are prepared before you board the ferry.
Camping and Caravanning Club
- Call: 02477 670 638
- Go online
“Participants will have to not mind communal bathing,” says the C&CC’s Lisa Addleton of the Club’s escorted tour to Japan. “The facilities – or onsen – are single-sex and bathers enter naked, and many campsites offer these rather than showers.”
Don’t think you’ll be using your motorhome’s shower, either: none of the hire vehicles have them. In fact, of the two types of ’van on offer – a campervan and compact motorhome – only the motorhome has a toilet.
This tour is designed for the more experienced motorcaravanner and it’s sold out for this year, with only one place left for 2018 as we went to press.
The Japanese, it seems, are keen campers and have aire-type stopovers called ‘michi no eki’, which have toilets, shops and a restaurant.
The pace is relaxed; Japan’s speed limits are low, so you’ll be tootling along at a sedate 30-37mph on the left-hand side of the road through gorgeous scenery.
The Club also offers tours to New Zealand, Australia, the USA and Canada, with especially challenging tours to Argentina and South Africa, where running water at campsites is not guaranteed, motorhomes are the best available and roads can be dirt tracks – so the ability to change a wheel is highly desirable!
All tours are designed to give a flavour of the countries and their people, and a sense of adventure. And when the tour is over, the Club can act as a travel agent to help you extend your stay.
Closer to home, the Club’s European Escorted Tours offer 19 destinations, including the Faroe Islands and Iceland, and Morocco. Some are suitable for first-timers, and most include some excursions and meals, which make them more like rallies than the worldwide offerings.
Tours do not include ferry crossings or personal insurance, which must be organised either independently or with the Club – plus it can arrange sites en route and motorhome hire if you don’t want to take your own vehicle, or are travelling with friends who don’t own one.
The brochure lists tour-only mileage, mobility ratings, and whether or not the tours are suitable for taking pets.
- Call: 0049 6081 9191212/0049 170 355 1765
- Go online
MandA Tours likes to keep its groups small, with a maximum of 12 ’vans, and because its tours are for motorhomes only, it allows more flexibility in where you stay.
It may be a vineyard or a lake shore, so you need to be self-sufficient for one or two nights, although hook-up is usually available.
MandA can also cater for large motorhomes – up to 10m long, 3.5m high and 7.5 tons – and ensures that facilities are available for discharging fixed waste tanks.
The firm likes to focus on a small region to keep mileage and fuel costs low. Tours for 2017 include Provence; Germany’s Rhine and Moselle Rivers; the Black Forest; and the Romantic Road.
A welcome dinner is included in the price, and for those lasting 10 days to two weeks there will be one or two highlights, such as a river cruise or wine tasting.
These escorted tours will always run, even if they are not fully booked, and early-bird bookings receive a discount.
The guides have lived in France, Spain, Germany and the UK and can speak the languages – useful if you get into trouble.
GB Motorhome Tours
- Call: 07481 479 057
- Go online
At GB Motorhome Tours, the trips are researched, arranged and escorted by its team of ‘tour directors’.
A tour can start in or near the destination country or, for those new to travelling abroad, there’s the option to start in the UK with the tour directors.
This package includes a fully flexible return cross-Channel ferry ticket, plus additional campsite nights from the UK to the start of the tour, and the services of the tour directors travelling with the group. Group sizes range from seven to 15 units, and often include single travellers.
Tours range from one week to three months in duration, and its programme for 2018 includes the Canary Islands; the Côte d’Azur; Germany’s wine rivers, the Rhine and Mosel; Denmark; Ireland; France’s Atlantic coastline; Poland; the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary; Croatia; and Sicily.
“Our tour directors travel in their own motorhome, and are on hand throughout to oversee smooth running and provide assistance,” says GBMT director Kevin Griffiths.
“We use sites close to attractions and incorporate excursions with all transport, a local guide and entrance fees, plus include a number of group meals. We often include a night at venues not available on an individual basis, such as wineries where we have tastings followed by dinner and overnight parking.”
Crossings Motorhome Tours
- Call: 01522 861 715/07545 611 327
- Go online
Bob and Wendy Reeves spent two years full-timing in a motorhome, and during that time they covered thousands of miles – from the Arctic Circle to the costas of Spain – discovering the best that Europe has to offer.
They now offer tours that cover France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy, Croatia and Slovenia.
All start in the UK and include flexible return ferries. The group sizes are small, typically between six and 10 ’vans, or 12 at the most.
These escorted tours are aimed at both first-timers and the more experienced, and durations are between 14 and 25 days.
“It gives newcomers reassurance that there is someone there to guide them through any problems,” says Bob, “and people really like the camaraderie. Two-thirds of our clients rebook.”
Crossings has a three-countries tour designed specially for less-experienced motorcaravanners. It visits France, Belgium and Holland over 14 days, but still keeps the mileage low.
The tours are launched in July the previous year, and most bookings are made from October through to December – early birds get a discount.
Excursions are not bundled into the price, but are booked on demand and are pay-as-you-go.
The Reeves accompany all of their tours and, if their testimonials are anything to go by, it’s that personal touch which makes them special.
What will it cost?
Charges depend on the location and length of tour, but don’t forget to budget for fuel, food and insurance.
The C&MC’s European escorted tours start at £589 (two people plus unit) for a four-day Paris city break, while its 32-day New Zealand tour is £5999 per person.
The C&CC’s nine-day tour of Holland costs £860 (unit+2), rising to £4265pp for its 20-day tour of Japan.
Crossings charges £2300 (unit+2) for a 25-day Swedish break, while GB Motorhome Tours’ 70-night Canary Islands extravaganza costs from £2749pp. MandA charges £1150 (unit+2) for a 15-day tour of Germany.