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, towing our Compass Casita 586 from our home in the historic town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire all the way down to the historic city of Venice in Italy!
We had two weeks and three kids to entertain on this 2700 mile trip, and this was our first time towing abroad.
We're always up for a challenge, but I'd be lying if I didn't have a few concerns before we set off. Would I do something silly like drive on the left or go the wrong way around the roundabout? Would we get lost going over the Alps and go up a road not suitable for towing caravans? Or, even before I get to the Continent, would I get the caravan stuck when getting into the channel tunnel train?
Fortunately, none of those fears came true. And towing on the right was easy and second nature after a while.
After travelling along the European motorways for a few hours, we soon noticed a difference with caravans in Europe: most of them looked very dated. Some were held together with gaffa tape, I'm sure! Our Compass Casita caravan was like something from the future.
We also found that the towing speeds were very different between each country.
Most surprising was the Autobahn in Germany, which is famed for cars driving at 130mph or higher. However, without having the appropriate German test certificate, called a Tempo 100, you are restricted to driving at just 50mph. 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, just held together with gaffa tape, I can understand the speed restrictions, but it did make the journey a lot slower for us.
They did things slightly different on the European campsites too.
After staying at a European campsite, you appreciate the space at the Club sites in the UK. We weren't always crammed in at every campsite, but you were often very close to your 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 out 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.
I don't want to paint a bad picture of these campsites, as each one we stayed in was great. You do notice a few different ways of doing things though. For example, in Italy, our Aquaroll appeared to be an invention that hadn't reached there, and got many admiring looks, especially from other caravanners carrying jugs of water back to their vans. But the water had to come from the toilet block as there were no water points around the campsite.
Hooking up the electricity could be different too.
Some campsites were just like Club sites: the cost of the electric part of your pitch cost 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.
We also found at one campsite, the electric supply was under lock and key, and the campsite connected and disconnected you. The charge for the electricity use paid as an extra.
All these little differences were all part of the adventure of taking our caravan to Europe. An adventure we are so glad we did.
Venturing into Europe with a caravan isn’t that difficult. We ended up visiting 5 campsites, and some of those 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 are thinking of venturing into Europe with your caravan, then have a look at the Club’s European campsites, and give the Travel Services a call discuss a route.