As we sat planning The Big European Odyssey over many nights at home in Wales we thought we had covered everything to consider when planning a motorhome tour of Europe, from the initial stages of our route through to what to pack and the various rules we needed to adhere to. However, there’s nothing life real-life experience to remind you that no amount of planning can cover every eventuality.
So, having safely made it to Croatia and out of the Schengen Area with three days of the maximum ninety to spare, we sat asking ourselves ‘what did we wish we knew before setting off?’
Other than the first item on the list below none of them are exactly major, but they are all little details that can ensure a trip runs as smoothly as possible.
It’s (almost) impossible to get a LPG refill in Italy. Before setting off on our motorhome tour of Europe we made the decision to have a GasLow refillable double-cylinder system fitted in our Bailey of Bristol Adamo, ensuring we could carry extra gas and avoid the hassle of having to swap bottles when they were empty. Up until entering Italy this had served us well, and we had no reason to think it would change once on Italian soil, so didn’t think twice about getting a refill before leaving Switzerland. If only we had.
It turns out that not only do you have to have an attendant fill LPG for you in Italy, 99% of them won’t fill bottles on a motorhome. We were offered various half-baked excuses as to why this is the case by a series of arrogant and unhelpful men at a string of stations as to why, but the truth, as we understand it, is this. Gas for cooking is taxed at a higher rate than gas for vehicles, hence the reluctance to fill up motorhomes. Thankfully we had enough to keep us going just long enough to get a full refill in Austria on our way to Slovenia.
You need vignettes to drive on motorways in Austria and Slovenia: Ok, so this is not as bad as running out of gas, but if you are caught driving without a vignette in either Austria or Slovenia you can expect fines in the region of €120-500. Had we not been told as much by a friend who was travelling the other way from us, and had fallen foul of the situation in Austria, we would not have known. Thankfully you can get them online, although the easiest thing to do is pull over to the first service station once over the respective borders where you can easily get a vignette. For Austria it’s a sticker that goes in your window (€9.60 for ten days) and for Slovenia you get a digital vignette (€15 for a week).
Switzerland has a different plug to the rest of Europe. We thought we had packed every piece of kit for our motorhome tour of Europe, including two different adaptors for our electric hook-up cable, and then we arrived in Switzerland and discovered none of our adaptors worked there. Thankfully we found this out on a site with a friendly owner who was happy to provide us with the connector we needed to hook up to the mains. For those travelling to Switzerland you will need a Type J plug adaptor.
You need to queue in the ‘All Passports’ lane to leave Slovenia/enter Croatia: This might seem obvious now that we have left the EU, but if you’re travelling further afield, and especially if you’re running close to the maximum 90 days in the Schengen Area, you must go through the ‘All Passports’ control lane at the border crossing into Croatia. This will ensure you get both exit stamps from Slovenia as well as entry stamps into Croatia, essential in proving you haven’t stayed more than the allowed time in the Schengen Area. It’s a really simple process, as both the Slovenian and Croatian booths are one after the other. However, expect traffic leading up to the border, and factor this into your travel time – it took us an hour to do the final 7km before the border.
Don’t overpack toys for the kids. Ok, so this is only relevant if you are travelling with children, but we quickly learnt that we could have taken ten percent of what we did for them and they would have been just as happy. Thankfully we had a week with my parents in Switzerland so were able to offload all of the toys that we thought they’d want but hadn’t touched in two months. Not only do most sites have a pool, or are near water, but also play areas that the kids love. We have realised that they are, on the whole, far happier exploring and playing outside of the motorhome, only occasionally wanting toys to play with.
Don’t forget that you can follow our adventure on a daily basis on (@marcusleachglobal and @our.roaming.odyssey) and Twitter (@marcusgleach), where we are happy to answer any questions people might have regarding our trip and living full-time on the road.
Missed the previous instalments of The Big European Odyssey? You can catch up here:
- In the first part, Marcus tells us about the process of planning for a tour of Europe
- In part two, Marcus explains the essential preparation that needs carrying out before carrying out a European tour
- In part three, we find out about the crucial items to pack for a European tour
- In part four, we discover the war memorials to visit in Belgium and France
- In part five, Marcus tells us about the realities of adapting to life on the road
- In part six, Marcus and family stop off at the Hotel Nendaz 4 Valées & Spa in Switzerland
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