If it's your first time hiring a campervan or motorhome you may be a bit nervous about hitting the road. That's perfectly understandable. Campervans are larger than cars and, for many people, getting behind the wheel of a campervan is their first time driving such a large vehicle. The good news is, campervan driving is easier than you think and, provided you remember a few key rules, you'll find you're at ease on the road in no time.
To help you on your first campervan holiday, we've compiled a few key bits of advice that will help you drive off in confidence when you pick up your vehicle. Before you go, remember to ask the campervan hire company you are using for their own tips and advice for your particular vehicle and ask any questions that you may have. After that, just remember you're on holiday and take it easy. With these tips you'll be a comfortable campervan driver before you know it...
1) Slow down
You have to remember that you have chosen to take a holiday to get away from the chaos of everyday life. Picking up the kids from school, running them around to sports clubs, getting to meetings on time, while also making time for your partner and friends. Hectic! Just take a breath and relax. You're not racing around in a car anymore, instead your travelling by campervan, which should be a sheer joy. The fun here isn't just in the camping but also in the journey, so take it easy and remember there's no rush. A great aspect of campervan holidays, too, is that all the way through the journey you don’t have to get stressed about having to pitch a tent when you get to your destination. It’s all done for you, with no poles or pegs involved at all. This can give you extra time to enjoy the journey and the beautiful views as you drive.
2) Use your mirrors for the right reasons
Your mirrors may not be great for seeing the sights, but they are there for a reason. Your campervan may not have a rear window or it might be obstructed, so take care to ensure your wing mirrors are positioned correctly to give you a full field of view. You're on holiday, so don’t get yourself into a stressful situation like cruising on the motorway and not being able to see if there is a car in the lane next to you. But even if you sort the mirrors out first, it’s likely that the campervan is bigger than your everyday car, so expect a larger blind spot and pay greater attention when checking your wing mirrors. Take care, too, when you attempt to fit into a parking space. It is usually a good idea to have one of your passengers get out (or a passerby) and help you reverse into the space on your first attempt. Be patient and check your mirrors regularly. There's no rush.
3) Know your size
The size of your campervan will be listed on our campervan hire page as you book or in the vehicle log book located in the glovebox. Your camper will almost definitely be longer than the car you’re used to, so for some corners or junctions take into account that you may have to swing out more. This is vital to know and it is always a good idea to take a note of these measurements. There should always be a warning sign before low hanging obstacles or a narrow section in the road coming up. Having your measurements handy means it is easy to cross check with the sign to ensure that it is safe to proceed. If it is not safe there is no need to panic, find another way around. Who knows, you could be around the corner from the best café in the whole county!
4) Be prepared
Our previous tip leads nicely on to this one; try to plan a route that avoids these obstacles and is motorhome friendly. Generally even experienced campervan and motorhome drivers try to avoid narrow country lanes, so if you are new to the game and you aren’t comfortable driving a large vehicle yet then we would definitely recommend checking through your route and altering it if necessary. This can be a lifesaver if your journey time to get to the campsite is already very long. You’ll thank yourself for having a straightforward journey without any unexpected surprises.
5) Know the speed limit
The last thing you want spoiling you holiday is a speeding ticket and, anyway, it's never wise to drive a motorhome over its recommended limit. Speed limits on motorhomes, campervans and large vehicles are there for a reason and help you keep maximum control of the vehicle. Plus, see Tip #1. There's no rushing here folks, you're on holiday. It' best to know the speed limits because they can sometimes vary if you are in an especially large vehicle. There's a clear government web page to help you get informed before you head off.
6) Tie it down
Wow. Look at all the room in the back of the van, there’s easily enough space to fit all your holiday goodies in! We know it can be overwhelming thinking of all the ‘necessities’ you want to put in there. But make sure you pack it well, try to fit things in to spaces that are snug to reduce their movement during the journey. And anything that doesn’t have a snug spot needs to be anchored down to stop it moving around. You don’t want your first roundabout to result in you having to repack the campervan and buy new crockery! Trust us, if you haven't driven a campervan before, things will move around a lot more than you think. Take the time to secure everything and don’t just throw your belongings in the back. Even though you are excited to get going, this is a very important to do before you start the engine.
7) Don’t worry
As we’ve discussed, campervans are large vehicles. But the basics are the same as a normal car. Therefore if you know how to drive a car, you’ll be able to drive a van. It’s not as hard as you think. If you follow Tip #1 and just take it slow you will ease into the rhythm of it and be relaxing on your sunlounger in no time. All of these tips are to help make your journey as stress free as possible, but only once you’re in the campervan and its only when you get behind the wheel that you'll gradually get used to it and learn that it's easier than you might of though. And, if the thought of driving a larger vehicle really does make you too nervous, have a think about the size of campervan you want to hire; look for smaller models and choose a compact campervan that will handle more like a car, it will give your greater confidence behind the wheel and be more like what you are used to.