If you've never taken your caravan to Europe, but are thinking of doing so, I suspect you'll have the same concerns we did.
This summer we decided to take on an epic trip – with our Compass Casita 586 in tow – from our home in the historic town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire all the way down to the historic city of Venice in Italy. Quite a journey for our first time towing abroad. The two week round trip would see us covering more than 4,000 miles and we had three kids to entertain en route.
Although we're always up for a challenge, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having a few concerns before we set off. Would I get the caravan stuck getting into the channel tunnel train? Would I do something silly like drive on the left or go the wrong way around a roundabout? Would I get us lost going over the Alps or go up a road not suitable for towing caravans?
Fortunately, none of those concerns were realised. And towing on the right was easy and became second nature after a while.
After travelling along the European motorways for a few hours, we noticed a lot of the European caravans looked very dated. I'm sure some were held together with gaffa tape. Our Compass Casita caravan looked like something from the future in comparison.
We also found that the towing speeds differed between countries, most surprising was the Autobahn in Germany. Although famed for cars driving at 130mph or higher you are restricted to driving at just 50mph inless you have the appropriate German test certificate called a Tempo 100. A lot of the Autobahns are just two lanes where cars towing caravans aren't allowed to overtake. Throw in the roadworks and tailbacks, due to the inevitable crashes, and we found the German and Austrian Autobahns very slow.
With all the old caravans whizzing by I can understand the speed restrictions, but it did make the journey a lot slower for us.
We noticed some things were done slightly different on European campsites too. After staying at a European campsite, you appreciate the space at Club Sites in the UK. Although we weren't crammed in at every campsite, we found we were often very close to our neighbours.
Many of the campsites also like to pitch the caravans sideways, or facing away from the road, making it very difficult to tow the caravan straight off of the pitch.
Unfortunately, we don't have a mover on our caravan, but luckily caravanners in Europe are just as friendly and helpful if you need a hand manoeuvring your caravan into place.
Not wanting to paint a bad picture of European campsites, as each one we stayed at was great, you do notice a few different ways of doing things. For example, in Italy, our Aquaroll appeared to be an invention that hadn't reached there yet, so got many admiring looks – especially from those caravanners carrying jugs of water back to their vans. The water had to be got from the toilet block as there were no water points around the campsite.
Hooking up to the electricity differed too. At some campsites electricity is included in the cost of the pitch – similar to Club Sites – and you just connect with the European Standard electric hook-up connector (not all European campsites have the standard connector though, so you need to take a continental 2-pin adaptor).
At one campsite the electric supply was under lock and key and the campsite connected and disconnected you and the electricity used was paid in addition to the pitch fee.
All these little differences were part of the adventure of taking our caravan to Europe – an adventure we're so glad we had.
Venturing into Europe with a caravan isn’t that difficult. We visited five campsites, some of them more than once.
Although the distances were long, the kids did really well, and we all enjoyed seeing the things we would have missed if we had simply flown to the sun.
If you're thinking of venturing into Europe with your caravan, take a look at the Club’s European campsites and give Travel Services a call to discuss a route.