Some Practical Stuff
We know that lots of people dream of doing a trip like this in a motorhome so we thought it would be a good idea to include some practical information. If you’re an experienced motorhomer, you will know most of this already.
Take the dogs to Europe or leave them at home?
In previous years we have left our dogs at home with house sitters. You can get house sitters for free by joining one of the house sitting websites and advertising your needs. House Carers is a good one to start with. You put your advert on the site, saying a bit about your home and where it is and what you want the housesitters to do for you e.g. walk the dogs twice a day, cut the lawn, water the plants. You then put what you can offer in exchange. We have offered the use of our car, insured for one person, unlimited use of broadband and of course all the normal comforts of our home. No money changes hands so the sitter gets a free holiday in exchange for a little work. If you want to know more about our experiences with house sitters please get in touch.
This year we brought the dogs with us. The main reason for this was that we didn’t want to name an end date for our trip and we have always missed them when we were away. We’re used to the daily routine of at least two dog walks and when we travel without them we tend to get a bit lazy.
The following advice applies to the rules before Brexit. If Brexit has happened or is about to happen when you read this please note that the advice here may no longer apply:
1) Go the vet at least 6 weeks before your trip, get them inoculated against rabies and get your pet passport from the vet. It involves quite a lot of paper work for the vet so don’t be surprised when you find you have to pay a fee. We paid £75 for two passports and £25 for the inoculations. Once you have it, the passport lasts for a number of years and the rabies injection lasts for three years. Boosters are required before the end of the third year.
2) Choose your crossing carefully. We decided to use Eurotunnel because it’s quick and you stay in your vehicle with the dogs. At the time of writing you could use Tesco Clubcard points to pay for your crossing but not for the pet fee which is currently £17 per dog. Tesco triple the value of your points if you use it for the crossing. Look on their website. Some ferry crossings allow your dogs to stay in the van while you go on deck and have a meal or a drink. They vary in length from 2 hours on a short channel hop up to 24 hours if you choose one of the Spanish crossings. On the latter you either have to put your dog in a kennel on board ship or pay for a pet friendly cabin. Either way it’s pricey.
3) In most of France, Spain and Portugal dogs are not usually allowed on beaches or in public parks in high season. Look out for signs. If you’re not sure ask another dog walker. In low season rules are often relaxed.
4) Make sure your dog is covered against fleas, ticks, sand flies and all worms. British vets usually recommend spot on treatments like Advantix and Advocate (you need to use both but not at the same time) and also a general wormer. One of our dogs is allergic to spot on treatments so we use Milbemax (called Millpro in Europe). This is a highly effective wormer that also protects them heartworm. Many people recommend a Scalibor collar or a Seresto collar for fleas, sandflies and ticks. We use the latter because it lasts for 8 months and has caused no irritation to the dogs.
Please note This information is only based on my experience. Ask a vet for advice before you go.
5) Before you leave to come home you have to go to a French or Spanish vet between 1 and 5 days of leaving and have a wormer given to your dog. The vet will then sign, date and stamp the pet passport. Check that they have signed it – without that signature they won’t let you back into the UK.
And that’s really all there is to it. We have been careful not to let the dogs loose near deep undergrowth in case there are nasties in there we can’t see. Some areas have snakes for instance and your dog might just get overly curious and get bitten. So far, the experience of bringing the dogs has been great. We’ve enjoyed walking them in different places and they’ve both been perky and interested in their surroundings. They’ve slept well and travel comfortably on a blanket on the rear seat with car safe harnesses attached to the seat belt clips.
Most campsites have Internet. It might be a bit slow and some of them charge for it but as a general rule it’s good enough for keeping in touch with home. We have a Motorhome Wifi booster to get the best of any signal available. We have a 4g mifi that will link up to 5 devices to it. You can buy data only sims for mifi devices. It’s a different Sim to the one used in a phone. Some mobile companies allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot when in Europe for no extra charge. We are with Vodafone and EE and both these companies currently allow use of your phone without roaming fees and allow them to be used as hotspots for connection to laptops or ipads. Local sims can be bought across Europe. The amount of kit we carry for connecting to the internet will be overkill for most people but as I’m writing a regular blog I wanted to be covered for most eventualities – and it has worked so far.
Motorhomes tend to have three types of power available. Gas, 12v battery and mains electric via hook up. We also have 300w solar panels and two 100 amp batteries and we have Gaslow fitted. Gaslow is refillable LPG ( GPL or Autogas in Europe). The refillable bottles are ideal for longer term touring as UK gas bottles are not interchangeable with European bottles so you can’t exchange them while you’re away. Another option, if your gas locker is big enough is to have one UK bottle and one European one on board with the necessary connectors at the ready. We prefer Gaslow because you simply fill the system at a pump. There is no heavy lifting and the price per litre is considerably less than you pay for an exchanged bottle of gas.
Touring and places to stay
Bear in mind this information is only based on travelling outside the main season. Fees in July and August rocket and also it can get very hot. We stay in the UK during these months.
If you prefer campsites it’s a good idea to get an ACSI card, the most we have paid for an overnight stay on a campsite is 20€. Generally we prefer to stay on free or very reasonably priced Aires de Camping Car. The latter are most commonly available in France although the number in Spain and Portugal is rising. Here is a good online resource for stop overs in Spain. The CamperContact app and website is our go to resource for motorhome parking places in Europe. For around £5 a year you can get up to the minute information about places to stay with reviews.
We strongly advise not staying on Aires on motorways. These are not considered safe. Choose the ones in small towns and villages where locals are pleased to get your custom in shops and cafés.
We have attempted to live relatively simply and to buy good healthy food, much like we eat at home. It is slightly dearer than home in France and a good bit cheaper in Spain.
At the moment (Autumn 2019) diesel in France works out at about 1.35€ per litre if you buy it in big supermarkets. It’s about 20c less in Spain. We rarely travel more than 100 miles a day and definitely not every day. We’re savouring the journey.
Our best advice is to enjoy the journey, greet your fellow motorhomers and enjoy the camaraderie of the adventure. It’s a great life.