Marcus Leach and his family are embarking on a motorhome tour of Europe, with the plan being to visit 25 countries across three continents. In the first part of a new series, he explains how they started planning the trip…

There was a time, not so long ago, when European travel was relatively straight forward. We could cross the channel with the minimum of fuss and set off to wherever our hearts desired in our motorhome. That was then and this is now.

Thanks to the double whammy of Covid and Brexit, European travel is not as straightforward as it once was, as we have discovered first-hand during recent months planning our Big European Odyssey. When, as a family, we decided to set off on a year-long adventure in our motorhome each of us began to name countries and places that we wanted to visit, quickly realising two things; the first is that a year might not be enough time to do everything, and the second is that even with close attention to detail with our route planning, there would need to be sacrifices along the way.

A motorhome driving down a scenic road
Travelling around Europe in a motorhome was once relatively straight forward but now requires some careful planning

This is largely down to the rules that cover travel within Europe and the Schengen Zone, which, in a nutshell, mean we don’t have the freedom of movement that we once did. Instead, now we can only spend ninety days out of every one hundred and eighty in the Schengen Area.

At this point it’s worth quickly clarifying that the Schengen Area is made up of twenty-six European countries that have abolished their internal borders ‘for the free and unrestricted movement of people, in harmony with common rules for controlling external borders and fighting criminality by strengthening the common judicial system and police cooperation’.

For most people heading off on their holidays ninety days is more than enough time and therefore they don’t need to worry about the 90/180 rule. However, for a growing number of people, ourselves included, it is a key consideration when planning longer, multi country trips. The first point to remember is that it is a rolling period, meaning anytime you wish to enter the Schengen, you just have to count backwards the last 180 days and see if you have been present in the Schengen for more than 90 days throughout that period.

If that sounds complicated and difficult to keep track of, don’t worry, there is a really handy free to use calculator that tells you exactly how many days you have been in and out, and therefor how many days you have left to use. As we have planned a trip that spans three continents and takes in close to thirty countries this calculator has been a godsend.

Kim sitting in the doorway of a motorhome

Whilst meaning our trip planning has not been as straightforward as it once might have been, the 90/180 day rule has actually helped broaden our horizons, forcing us to plan a route that takes in countries that we might not have otherwise considered, the likes of Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia to name but a few. All places that, having researched what there is to see and do there, we are, as a family, very much looking forward to visiting once we get on the road.

Ultimately travel is, we believe, about expanding our horizons and seeking out new experiences and so it’s with a great deal of excitement that we are preparing to set off on this crazy adventure at the start of May. We will be sharing a lot more on the practicalities of planning such a trip, as well as the journey itself, both in the magazine and here on the website, but for now there’s packing to be done and a new motorhome to collect.

Are you thinking of planning a long road trip in Europe? If so here are our top tips to ensure your motorhome tour goes as smoothly as possible…….

  • Use the Schengen Area calculator – it’s not worth the risk of over staying the ninety day period for the sake of a few quick calculations, and it’s free and easy to use.
  • Be open minded to exploring new destinations – do your own research and travel with open minds, there’s an amazing world to be seen so long as we are prepared to expand our horizons a little.
  • Make sure you have the right paperwork – countries outside of the Schengen Area often require different documents, plan ahead to avoid any difficulties at border crossings.

In addition to following the Big European Odyssey through Practical Motorhome you can keep an eye on Marcus and Kim’s motorhome tour of Europe through their own social media channels @marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey on Instagram, @MarcusGLeach on Twitter and @OurRoamingOdyssey on YouTube.

If you’re looking for somewhere to head to for your summer travels, be sure to take a look at our guide to the best motorhome parks in the UK, where we reveal our top selections from across the country.

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