WANT TO USE your motorhome for more than just a few weekends away, and/or for two or three weeks on an annual holiday? We are here to help!
We’ve combined a number of frequently-asked questions to form a comprehensive, Q&A-style guide to long-terming. Let’s get stuck in!
What is full-timing, and what is the difference between this and long-terming or extended trips away?
Ask three experts and you’ll get three different answers. Having said that, these terms have recently changed their meaning somewhat.
It’s now widely assumed that full-timing means that you permanently live in your motorhome, and don’t retain any sort of fixed, conventional home.
Long-terming, meanwhile, is using your motorhome to live in, but retaining a home, somewhere to come back to if you become tired of living in a ’van. Frequently the bricks-and-mortar residence is let out to provide an income.
Some long-term trips are of a fixed length, especially if you are able to get six months or a year’s sabbatical from work. Other adventures are more open-ended.
An extended trip could mean anything longer than three weeks away, but usually refers to a trip of between six weeks and six months. The norm (usually for home insurance reasons) is three months.
Do all who live in their ’van use it the same way?
No – quite the opposite, in fact. Broadly speaking there are three main types of usage.
First, there are those genuine nomads who tour all – or almost all – of the time, rarely spending longer than a week anywhere.
Second, and the biggest group numerically, are those who move seasonally. The most frequently encountered proponents of this type of motorhome transhumance like to see out the winter in southern Spain or Portugal, and spend the rest of each year on sites in the UK or elsewhere in northern Europe.
Finally there are those who ‘stay put’ on the same pitch on one campsite, usually in sunny climes and subject to a long-term rental agreement or outright purchase. I would argue that this is caravanning, rather than motorcaravanning, because the motorhome rarely (if ever) moves.
Of course, some full-timers mix and match, and others alter their lifestyles as their needs change.
A young UK family that we met recently home educated their children on the road, but when the eldest child reached secondary school age, they decided to stay on one site in Spain for the duration of the children’s education. They will resume full-time touring afterwards. In the meantime they go for extended trips in the long school summer holidays.
What’s the most important thing to consider when making the change to living in a motorhome?
We’ve lived in a motorhome in the past, but currently just go on extended trips. Based on our own experiences, and after discussions with fellow motorcaravanners, we’ve come to the conclusion that the most important thing to consider isn’t the motorhome or the type of usage.
For couples and families, it’s their relationship with each other. We had to work at this, but emerged closer than ever.
Many flounder because they aren’t used to spending so much time in each other’s company. Therefore you should do separate things at least once a week for a whole day and evening.
Don’t give up hobbies, pastimes and interests: you’ll just vegetate. And always allow others some privacy. Relationship breakdown is frequently cited as the reason why people give-up living in a ’van.
Do most people sell a home to go full-timing? Plus, I’m frightened of selling up completely. Any suggestions?
Some people finance full-timing by selling their home, but it’s an often-voiced misconception to say that everyone funds their chosen lifestyle this way.
A sizeable number of full-timers we have met didn’t own their previous house anyway. Many, for example, had retired early and managed to get their hands on a lump sum.
If you are frightened of selling your bricks and mortar completely, then don’t! We took a ‘Grand European Tour’ as a young family. To do so, we sold a house in an expensive area and bought a much smaller property in a cheaper part of the UK. We then withdrew the available equity to finance it, and still had a base to which we could return if we wanted to.
Do people work while living in their ’van?
Many do. Popular commercial activities are travel writing, seasonal agricultural work and hospitality – everything from guided historical tours to casual bar work.
A good number of people work part-time on the campsite they are staying at, either for the management or on fellow motorcaravanners’ ’vans/cars and so on.
Some with a portable skill, such as decorators, carpenters and gardeners, advertise in the local ex-pat newspaper and/or on websites.
Of course, if people can they will work from a laptop, especially those in IT who continue in the career they’ve just left, but on a freelance and part-time basis.
Do people give up quickly?
Some find out in a couple of months that they’ve made the wrong decision. but a surprising number have been doing it for decades.
Giving up full-timing or curtailing an extended trip shouldn’t be viewed as a failure. At least you won’t wonder whether you missed an opportunity!
How do I know which ’van is best to live in?
You won’t until you try it! Unless you are going to be ridiculously cramped – with, say, four of you in a VW campervan pop-top – I’d start off in your current motorhome (or if you don’t have one, a cheap used model).
Then, when you’ve decided what’s important to you, you can buy something that ticks all your boxes.
A significant number of people buy a very expensive motorhome to live in, but quickly find out that their actual usage isn’t the same as their anticipated usage!
Surely a huge RV is the most suitable?
Reader Michael Thomas presented the arguments for and against this very succinctly.
“My (now ex) parents-in-law purchased an American RV to full-time in when they retired. They were planning to spend summer in the UK and head over to sunny Spain for the winter.
“They’d never owned any kind of ’van prior to that purchase. They assumed that bigger was better, particularly as they wanted to accommodate visiting relatives and so on.
“Here’s what they learned about the vehicle:
- It has lots of room, slide-outs and a fixed rear bedroom;
- It offers loads of storage;
- They can put guests up;
- There are no payload issues;
- It’s easy to tow a small car.
- Their dream of travelling from site-to-site became a nightmare because the RV was too big to get into a lot of places;
- It costs a fair bit to run (although they did have a gas conversion for better running costs while driving);
- Being a secondhand American RV, they had some problems with replacement parts when glitches arose;
- They also had licensing issues.
“I believe they’re happy with the lifestyle that the RV has allowed them to have, but it is different to that which they originally envisaged. They pretty much drive to Camping La Manga in southern Spain during September, and head back to the UK in around March or April.
“Also, in the UK they have to pay an all-year charge on the pitch to guarantee it for their summer stay.”
All of which is great advice – thanks, Mike!
My advice is to buy the smallest ’van you are comfortable in, not the biggest you can afford. It’s equally applicable for those contemplating spending occasional weekends at a high-facility holiday park in Southend as it is for those planning a full-time tour of the world.
Personally, I would love to be able to afford a 28ft RV, and welcome any donations!
Long-terming during the Covid-19 pandemic
Be prepared for all eventualities. If touring involves moving on a lot, make sure you’re aware what the current entry regulations are for each country you’re planning to visit, or travel through. A useful website to check this is reopen.europa.eu. And, if you’re touring a country overseas and the necessity is to return to the UK in the event of further entry restrictions or quarantines, anticipate that you may have a long drive ahead of you. It goes without saying, that preparations for vehicle, travel and personal insurance are organised before you leave the UK.
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Buy the smallest ’van you are comfortable in, not the biggest you can afford.