My reasoning is this -
1. We need space. We have 2 dogs, one of whom is LARGE. Once you stick one large dog and one small dog in a Land Rover there isn't that much room for your stuff. I will be working as we travel, coming back to the UK and other places around Europe to speak and coach so I can't just live with one pair of jeans and a t-shirt. I need shoes and dresses and a few nice things. My daughter has toys she MUST bring. We have dog stuff and bikes. A trailer would work but who wants to drag a trailer around? Anyway, if you're bringing a trailer you may as well have a caravan. If you may as well have a caravan you may as well forget about the Land Rover and get a campervan. See, that's how I got there! But there's more...
2. Even if we primarily stay in AirBnB there will be occassions when we need to stop en route or when we can't find somewhere in our budget. Having a guaranteed Air BnB roof over our heads means booking places months in advance which slightly takes the romance and the adventure out of the trip. But the idea of leaving things til the last minute and then finding ourselves literally homeless (with 2 dogs and a 10 year old) does not appeal.
3. AirBnB can be expensive. Out of season we can find places for £600-£1000 a month which is factored in to our budget. But in the summer this may not be the case.
4. HOW COOL ARE CAMPER VANS?! Let's not forget that camping is cool and that, with a bit of imagination you can turn the interior of your campervan in to something much more like a cozy den than a clinical camping machine.
Of course, my first step is Pinterest. So late last night and early this morning I started a new board. You can see it here Campervan Inspiration
We would not live in the camper full time. I need to be able to make phone calls, skype people, write and everything else my work entails so at least 2 or 3 weeks of the month we plan to be in a proper house. But we want to make the most of the freedom a campervan gives us.
So, I've also been asking seasoned travelers for their campervan tips.
Storage - Storage is an obvious priority. You want to be able to find your things but also have them hidden away out of view. For us this leads to buying something with a bed or storage over the driver seats where we can put clear stacking boxes with all our stuff. We will also look for underseat storage and perhaps build some extra storage on the walls. Pinterest shows a million clever ideas for keeping your stuff from flying abour while you drive.
Dog safety - We don't want the dogs flying about either. So one option is to look for campers that have at least two seats for the doggies to be safely strapped in to. However, we may actually remove the seats or change the internal configuration of the camper so we can have the bed made permanently. Folding beds up and down is a pain and a nice flat bed surface with an actual mattress is actually pretty useful. So if you have any ideas for keeping the dogs safe without having seatbelt harnesses or a crate (the big one needs such a big crate that it would really be a bother...plus he hates being in a crate so that kinda rules that out) then please suggest away!
Beds - I've already mentioned we want more berths than we need as we will use the upper beds as storage spaces. But I also think we need a proper mattress on the double bed down below. Comfort is key I think. You want a nice matters, a couple of really cofy duvets, blankets, soft pillows and some other soft furnishings to make the place somewhere you love being. I know that it's going to rain, be cold, the dogs will smell, we will be tired, stuff will be dirty. Knowing you can climb in to your soft, proper bed with it's real mattress will be bliss. So configuring the inside to allow something like this is something we want to do before we go.
Power - People dream of parking their camper in the woods or on the beach but I suspect we will opt for camp sites when we're on the move. A nice warm shower, a loo, a bit of company and, most of all, electricity, is more my style. Our camper should have electric hookup so we have light and can charge our screens without flattening the battery.
Kitchen - Slightly goes without saying but I've seen plenty of campers that don't have a kitchen. Fridge, cooker, grill are all essential as far as I'm concerned.
Size - As this is also going to be our car, we need something we can take to the supermarket, park at the cinema and drive on small European roads. While a big RV has its appeal in terms of on board loo, shower, hanging space it wouldn't work for us as our only vehicle.
Random things - A tarp or something to cover the bed/seats etc when the dogs are wet, wet, wet. Rugs for the floor to make it a more cozy experience and to be able to shake out the dust and dog debris rather than having to sweep all the time. Rugs cover a multitude of sins too. A fold up step ladder so I can reach the upper berth and get the bikes on the bike rack. A bike rack.
Dream things - I would love if the design of the camper allowed the back doors to entirely open up. Some of the more conventional motorhomes actually don't let much of the outside in. There's a tiny door for getting in and out and small windows. Whereas you're proper camper van usually has a nice big door that is out of your eyeline when it's fully opened and a large sliding door opening up the whole of one side of the van. That's what I want.
See what I mean?
Where to buy - The best site I've found so far for our budget (which is LOW) is http://motorhomedepot.com/ which has plenty of vans for under £10,000. In fact, the more expensive ones don't meet our requirements. They are too big, have tiny doors and are cluttered with a lot of fixed furnishings. However, if you know of a great place to buy what we're looking for, please let me know.
Next steps - Really, the first step is to buy one. I can then sell my gorgeous, sexy, completely unsuitable Audi. Then renovations start. We will want to make it our own. Thirdly we get a really good service on it to ensure it's not going to collapse day one. We buy good European roadside assistance for when it does eventually collapse. We take it on a few test runs to see what we need, what we don't need, get our van-legs at it were. And then we set off, probably mid March 2018, to our first destination.
We are wide open to suggestions and recommendations so if you have personal experience of campervan travel or even a camper to sell please comment. We are at an early stage but we also have itchy feet and want to get on with things so your help now will help us making a poorly thought-through decision!
Blaire and Ivy
The Brilliant Gamblers