A beginners guide for a motorhome road trip

A motorhome road-trip is always on the list of fantasies of a traveler (understanding the concept of “traveler” as something very different from “tourist.”) The traveler is someone who is willing to escape from the typical places and is more interested in living experiences rather than accumulating places). But it is a fantasy that very seldom is carried out because of doubts and fears. And in this article I intend to explain those factors that frighten the traveler and the reasons why there is nothing to fear. A few weeks ago we began a three months long trip in a motorhome with our son and our dog, departing from Madrid to Poland, and then heading back to Spain.

Traveling on a motor home is expensive:

This first topic may be true or it may be a simple myth, it depends on how the traveler is able to organize his journey. Let’s divide the economic issues into three parts: rent cost, housing cost, and fuel cost.
1) Rental cost: depending on the rental company, the season, and the type of vehicle, prices may vary. But if we talk about a vehicle suitable for 4 people, as is our case, we will be talking about an average price of 100 euros per day. This, of course, includes a vehicle that is also equivalent to a homestay. If we consider the fact that 4 people can travel and sleep there, we are talking about a daily price per capita of 25 euros. Today a bed in a shared room in a hostel with shared bathroom, will average around 10 euros per person, and depending on the places we can be talking up to almost 20. And renting a car can be around 15 or 20 euros a total. Therefore, for 25 euros per person, we would be having transportation and mobile hotel, with private bathroom and no strangers around. We rent the car in Caravaning K2 and it has been a great success, as it is a super modern motorhome with all amenities.
2) Cost of lodging: the motorhome, unlike a car, cannot be parked anywhere. However, in Europe, there are plenty of places where to park the vehicle and for free. There are two mobile apps that can be downloaded for free: Campercontact and Park4Night. These applications have an extensive interactive map of each parking lot, service area, and camping available across the continent, with exact GPS coordinates, travelers’ opinions, prices, and all the necessary information. There are car parks, which may or may not have services for motorhomes (services topic will be developed later, but to sum up, we are talking about electricity, water, and discharge of gray and black water); there are service areas, where there are just services available, and many of them are free or very cheap (there are some at around 5 euros a night); and there are the campsites, which can vary from 10 euros per night until 50, the most complete. But if the internet is not a priority, you can easily travel in Europe almost 100% free of charge. So the cost of hosting can be almost zero.
3) Cost of fuel: the motorhome has a fuel tank much larger than that of a car. We are talking about a capacity greater than 70 liters, so when you fill the tank, you can be frightened by the amount. But do not forget that filling a tank of 40 logically is not going to cost the same as a 70. But in relation, the price may not be so different. The motorhome that we have consumes 9 liters every 100kms, as long as you take care of the speed and go at 100kms / h. So the consumption will also depend on the way you drive.

Driving a motorhome is difficult

It is logical to think that getting into a vehicle of dimensions so different to what one is accustomed to is going to be complicated. And to tell the truth, when you sit behind the wheel and look forward to a height you are not used to, and look in the middle mirror to see only a bed in the background and a huge cabin instead of the cars that come behind, the first feeling is of “how am I going to do to handle this thing?”. But ten minutes after starting, the body is already accustomed to the dimensions and the motorhome is already an extension of oneself.
Only two issues should be taken into account when driving: the first is that always, and when I say always, it is always, one of the companions must get out of the trailer and help the driver to park. The fact of having no central mirror makes the notion of what lies behind almost nil. And even though modern motorhomes boast a rear camera, it is always better to avoid a displeasure, especially if you carry bikes on the back that extends the size of the trailer even further. And the second issue to take into account is the issue of curves. You have to think that unlike the car, the rear wheels are in a more advanced position, so when the rear wheel turns, the rear of the vehicle has not yet turned. If you take a very tight turn, it is almost certain that the back, when trying to follow the path of the front, will climb onto the street corner and take with it whatever is in its path. Then, when it comes to taking turns, you have to open up more than you are used to.
But beyond those two things to keep in mind, driving a motorhome is super easy and comfortable. One, from the top, has a much better view of the road than from ordinary cars.
One more thing that is very important: mobile homes require more time to stop. But I will assume that you are a responsible driver and maintain the necessary distances with the vehicle ahead.

Taking care of a mobile home is complicated and requires a lot of work

Here we are not talking about the technical maintenance of oil, water, motor, brakes, filters, etc. That’s just like any other vehicle. Here we are talking about the fear of the traveler of the bathroom, water, kitchen, gas, etc.
And I have to tell you that it is more complex and requires more work to maintain an apartment than a motorhome. So if living in your house is easy, in the motorhome will be nothing more than a simple routine.
The mobile homes have a tank of drinking water, a tank of gray water, a tank of sewage, and gas cylinders, in addition to the electrical outlet. We describe each thing now.

1) Drinking water tank: I do not have to explain what it is. This tank will serve to drink water, use it for cooking, use it to wash hands, and for the toilet. It is the only water tank that feeds the vehicle, and, in our case, has a capacity of 100 liters. Filling it is as simple as opening the hatch on the vehicle wall, inserting a hose, and opening the water supply that is available in the service/camping area. The electronic dashboard of the interior of the vehicle will notify you the percentage of filling of the tank. Once you reach 100%, you will close the water supply, the hatch, and that’s it. Nothing else. If you don´t realize when to stop, do not worry. The water will begin to flow out of the hatch and you will realize that it is full.
2) Gray water tank: this tank will be filled with everything that is kitchen drain, sinks, and showers. The electronic board will notify you when it is full. To empty it, you simply have to open a lever with a key that opens the spout and the water starts to come out alone under the vehicle. It is necessary to try to empty the tank in the corresponding area and not in the middle of the street. It is done on a drainage grid in an area specifically marked for that. Once empty, the key is closed and you are ready to go.
3) Wastewater tank: this is the one thing that may cause some rejection. But it is normal. This is where urine and fecal matter go. The tank is a hermetically sealed pouch that opens manually and is depleted in a black water well specifically prepared for that. But there is nothing to worry about: it has no smell. To avoid odors and erosion of the plastic material, a chemical is used. It is poured into the tank after emptying it. Each water well has a tap next to it to wash the tank well. The use of gloves is recommended to carry out this process. But it’s not as unpleasant as it sounds, and it’s extremely simple and fast. Behind the toilet an indicator light tells you if the tank is filled.
4) Gas cylinders: they have their own separate door to avoid any type of leak, and are the ones that feed both the kitchen and the heating when the engine is off, and cool the refrigerator when not fed with the battery of the auto ignition or electrical outlet of service areas (the refrigerator has an automatic system that detects the power source to use, so it is dummies-proof). They are huge and last a long time. We, in almost a month, have not yet finished the first. And its cost is around 12 euros.
5) Electric socket: it is just that: an electrical socket where to plug the motorhome to the electricity source of the service area or camping. Once plugged in, the house becomes 220 instead of 12v, and all electronic devices (refrigerator, TV, radio, etc) switch to using electricity instead of the car’s battery or gas.

In short, the maintenance of the motor home is just that. It is advisable to empty and fill every day, to avoid being in a parking lot without services available and without water for showering or without the possibility of using the bathroom because the tank of gray or black water is full. And logically as the name implies, it is a rolling “house”, so you have to take care of it like a house: clean it, keep it tidy, and everything you would normally do with a house. And to keep in mind, always before starting, you have to make sure that all windows are closed, the ladder is in its hidden position and the drawers with their anti-opening locks. The rest is just “drive and enjoy”.

Therefore there is no reason why we should not fulfill the fantasy of a mobile home trip through Europe (or wherever). A motorhome is the apex of absolute freedom. It is being able to have in your own hands your travel destiny. Staying when you want to stay. Leaving when you want to leave. Eating when you want to eat. Sleeping when you want to sleep. It is discovering a corner in the middle of nature and deciding to lower the chairs and tables to eat in contact with the mountain, with a lake. It is meeting people with the same passions and interests as yourself. It is traveling on an adventure and feeling all the time like home.


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Written by Pie & Pata
Happy is he/she who enjoys family travel.