By way of introduction, my wife and I are a mid-sixties retired couple from South Africa who decided on a 31 day motor home holiday in Europe. We chose this duration and option of travel for primarily the following reasons:
Having never entertained anything of this nature before, to say that we were somewhat apprehensive about the whole adventure is an understatement. Driving into the unknown, on the wrong side of the road for us, in a considerably larger vehicle than what we were ever used to, made up for most of the anxiety. Never were we more mistaken however, as the following story of what turned out to be a most unique adventure will reveal, and which we think could be of interest to others like ourselves who are maybe contemplating doing the same, but need a nudge.
It all starts here and one is really spoilt for choices. We used Eric & Doug Bredesen and Freik from Ideamerge for our booking and found them to be very efficient, helpful and obliging with our enquiries. Responses were prompt and concise and we will have no hesitation in using Ideamerge again. We chose the DRM D2 due to its layout as it is ostensibly designed for two people, albeit that it could also sleep four, as the dinette area table drops down to form another bed if need be. We liked this feature rather than having a second double bed over our heads over the driving area and which can also cancel out the large sunroof and skylight during the day, if not permanently. Overhead beds also restrict headroom in what is already a somewhat cramped environment. Simply put, your choice of Motorhome should be balanced between what is practical and comfortable for your needs. It is pointless hiring a large motorhome designed for a family when there are only two of you. All you are then doing is lugging a pile of extra beds etc around which hardly increases your living area but rather the running cost. We started out limiting the length of our van to 6mts and ended up with the DRM D2 at 7mts. It could have been longer as there is really no difference between driving a vehicle of 7 or 7.5 or even maybe 8mts. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy, but you need to exercise care all of the time. Make sure however that your drivers license qualifies you to drive the larger vehicles beyond 3500kg in weight if choosing the bigger or heavier vehicles. Note however that some campsites charge a higher fee for 7mt plus campers. Our primary specifics were a larger fridge & freezer, a functional separate shower and practical kitchen space, lots of lockers and a comfortable dinette or internal lounging area. We also wanted to avoid having to ladder in and out of bed as we are maybe not as agile as we used to be. The D2 did it for us perfectly. The DRM vehicles are slightly more expensive than e.g the McRent units, but there is a considerable difference in the quality of the vehicles from what we could see. What we really appreciated about the DRM D2 was that its climate control systems were fully automatic. It also automatically converts to gas, battery or 220v power as required, so there was nothing to do really but drive and enjoy it. It might also be so that most other vehicles have the same features. Our vehicle was virtually brand new on pick up as it would seem they all are, as DRM change their entire fleet of 900 vehicles virtually every 6 months they tell us. They also guarantee you a current year model. Ours, like we would assume all are, was a pleasure to drive and had great features. 5 star interior and sexy LED light systems, with instant piping hot water to round off what was a very nice and comfortable home away from home. It is also noteworthy that the DRM hand over on collection at the depot in Munich was extremely thorough and professional. A useful tip here is to video the technical parts of the handover with your phone or iPad so that you can refer back to it when you get stuck. There is a lot to absorb in a short space of time at the handover. They also equip you with emergency and personal contact numbers should one need to talk to them. All in, we were delighted with our vehicles comfort, performance and features and would most certainly hire it again via the same process and people. Maybe even a larger one!
Our mission was to experience the diversity of some of Europe in the time available, so we chose a proposed routing between pick up and drop off from Munich which took in visits to Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. France and Belgium were also part of our original planning but we never got close due to time constraints. We firstly researched campsites in the areas we would be visiting, and programmed their locations as with other sights or places of interest along our route into our GPS device which is a simple 'not negotiable' must have. To entertain a trip like this with only road maps is frankly stupid and will probably be costly and definitely very frustrating. Incorrect turns that put you into confined or restricted areas or onto toll roads make U turns time consuming and costly. Even with our GPS we got it wrong on occasions. Sometimes mistakes were somewhat entertaining, and other times down right nerve wracking! One U turn we made cost us €9 through a toll gate in Italy and promptly €6 through the same toll gate on the opposite side of the road. No refunds! We also generally programmed the GPS to keep us off the beaten track and to mostly avoid toll and main roads. This turned out to be a good idea as we saw the country side, experienced mountain passes and views that took your breath away, passed through the most interesting villages and in general really got to see places you would never normally see on any commercial tour. Literally every corner was a new and fascinating experience, so much so that we would often come across unique locations and stop for the day or night, exactly as anticipated would be the case in our mobile home and hence us nowhere near completing our intended route. Our anxieties about being left out on the side of the road without a place to park or stay-over were also soon dispelled as there are multiple parking opportunities in all areas and directions. We also noticed RV's parked in dedicated Aires or simply in open areas, parking lots or even truck stops for that matter. Being from South Africa, we by nature are more vigilant security wise so preferred using the camp sites. There are obviously considerable savings in not using the camp sites which are no problem as the vehicle is fully stand alone with its own power and personal facilities? At some point however one needs to drain the grey and black water (the portable cassette wc) and top up the water tank, services that are provided without fail at all the parks we stayed at. We planned our trip during the 'shoulder season' which ends in early July so the rates etc were lower and there was no need to book at camp sites. Over the 31 nights we only came across one campsite that was full and found in fact a better alternative 10kms further. Also get to know the road ordinance issues of the various countries you will pass through insofar as vignettes are concerned in particular (a compulsory permit allowing the use of the roads which you purchase at filling stations prior to entering a country) Also check on the toll fees so you at least know what you’re in for if you don’t go the rural route.
As alluded to, we decided to travel off the autobahns, major roads and the like, in order to savour the country side. This was the best decision we could have made. Using the highways is certainly faster but is that really what it is all about? Certainly not in our case. Speed restrictions limit driving speed to between 30, 50 and 70 Kph in most cases with occasional step ups to 90 Kph and rarely beyond that. We restricted actual travel time to a max of maybe three hours in a day, but still found ourselves only arriving at camp sites in the late afternoons due to the stop-start nature of taking everything in along the way. We once read of a couple doing 14,000 km in three weeks. Positive madness! Part of the adventure is taking it all in at a relaxed pace, with the pleasure of campsite parking and setup with the awning out, table and chairs at the ready for that cold refreshment and maybe even a barbecue in camps where permitted.
As South Africans we love to braai (barbecue) so used most opportunities. We started without a barbecue and ended up with two (a small Weber and a normal metal unit) retrieved from the disposal areas of campsites. We were informed that many campers dispose of what they cannot take home with them, as was the case with us and that it was a good policy to take a peek at the disposal areas for what has been discarded by others that could be useful to you. It certainly worked for us.
Insofar as the campsites were concerned, we mostly stayed in the better rated sites while also spending the odd night in Aires, as all we needed was a stopover for the night on our way to a destination. The issue of where you stay is important and depending on how long you plan to be there should determine the nature of the site. For one or two night stop overs we avoided the huge 'family' type camp sites that had all of the amenities for kids etc. and we rather opted for the smaller more exclusive parks where you aren't paying for facilities you will not use. Virtually all of our sites visited offered free Wi-Fi, electricity and showers, charged laundry and drying facilities with all of the other vehicle service basics included. The ablution facilities varied from 5 star to two star and more than sufficed for our needs. Some sites also provided full kitchen facilities including microwaves and dishwashers. We also very quickly learned that prior to entering the park, it was good idea to take a walk around to identify where you will park. Important things to consider here were site levels, wind direction, proximity to the ablutions, noise generating activities as in pubs, Wi-Fi coverage, the water and chemical toilet disposal area and so on. As we were on a sightseeing tour, we chose camp grounds that offered the best in views, with as convenient an access to places of interest, transportation and shops as was practical. To this end we mention a few camp sites in particular that were head and shoulders above the rest either in facilities or position and which we would highly recommend if you are in the area:
We highlight this item for good reason. The vehicles are very expensive and equally expensive to fix. Do make sure that you are covered for any eventuality and it is a good idea to consider taking out the additional CDW excess cover with Alliance which considerably reduces what you will be liable for in the case of an accident. We stupidly bumped the rear of our van against a rock on day four of our holiday, the damage quote was near EUR1800 to fix. As we were covered by the Allianz CDW Excess protection, we were liable for the first EUR400 only. Still expensive, but less than a quarter of what it would have cost us. We strongly urge that this cover be considered no matter how competent a driver we believe ourselves to be.
In all of our years of travel, nothing comes close to the relaxed experience we had during this, our first motorhome trip. The sights, the places of interest, the intrigue, the unknown, the beauty, coupled to the relaxed life style, comfort and convenience of having your own home along with you to stop wherever and whenever you liked, simply made for a unique affordable experience to see the world like in no other way, and we cannot wait to repeat the experience again next year. Our planning is already in progress… Hats off to Ideamerge and DRM for making it all possible.
– Alan & Moira Orchard, South Africa, July 2016