We’ve been loaned Casper the caravan, a Compass Casita 586 family caravan, for just over a year now. The Camping and Caravanning Club had given us a challenge of visiting Treasure Houses and Gardens around the UK, and so we’re definitely feeling like more seasoned caravanners than when we first started. However, we haven’t had a chance to use the caravan as a base for a longer stay at a campsite. And that’s something we think a caravan should be great for.
With the summer holidays approaching, it was the next obvious caravan challenge: could we manage to have a beach holiday in the south of Europe, but using the caravan instead of flying and staying in a hotel, apartment, or villa?
So where to go? Europe is a big place.
We only had two weeks off work and with the distances involved, our choice of destinations would be limited. We wanted to take the kids to as many countries as possible and still have at least a week by the hot southern European coast.
So, with the destination set, it was time to start planning the trip in more detail. Just how were we going to get from our historic hometown in the heart of the UK to the historic and world-famous floating city of Venice…. with a caravan in tow!
We may have racked up the miles with the Caravan in England and Wales, but we hadn’t taken it abroad. Many caravanners take their vans across the channel, but towing in Europe was going to be a new experience for us.
Camping Ca’Savio in Italy is near the lagoon to Venice, and we had previously stayed in a static caravan at Ca’Savio when the kids were younger.
Wouldn’t it be great to re-visit but this time bringing our home with us? And, instead of flying over the Alps, what if we could stay there as well?
I had camped in the Alps before, and I knew how picturesque they are, but this would be new for the kids.
For planning the journey with the caravan, we used the Via Michelin website. With the Via Michelin route planner, you can specify that you have a caravan, and it is supposed to select caravan-friendly routes and adjust journey times accordingly. I say “supposed to“… more on that later.
There are a few routes to the Italian coast: through France, through Germany & Switzerland, or through Germany & Austria.
We didn’t want long journey times, but as we only had two weeks off work and wanted at least a week at Ca’Savio, the trip was going to be long at both the start and end of the trip.
After much internet searching, we decided on a route, that would take us through France, Belgium, Holland (well, only a bit), Germany, Austria, and to Italy.
Most importantly, we would be towing the caravan over the Alps!
Our first campsite would be Canterbury for a single overnight stay before catching the Eurotunnel the next morning. Our first European campsite would be Burg Lahneck in the Rhine Valley, then followed by a few nights at Seeblick-Toni in the Austrian Alps, before finally spending eight days at Camping Ca’Savio in Italy.
Our return leg would be the same campsites but staying at Camping La Bien Assise in Calais the night before an early Eurotunnel Crossing back to the UK.
We also bought a Vignette for the Austrian Autobahn.
The caravan was made light by removing things we’ve been using for cooler weather, and instead packed more items for the warmer weather and the beach.
Packing was a lot easier than a holiday by plane: we just needed to put the items into the caravan!
Here are some useful items we found when planning our caravan trip to Europe.
We used the Michelin route planner, Via Michelin, to plan our trips across Europe.
This is free to use and you can create a free account, which enables you to save your route.
Using the Michelin Route Planner we could get an estimated duration for our trips between campsites. However, as we came to find out this wasn’t that accurate.
Another route planning tool, which we got at the last minute, was the Garmin Camper GPS (full review coming soon!).
The Garmin Camper is a SatNav specifically for motorhomes and caravans.
We noticed that it planned slightly different routes, sticking to main roads, and also reported a much longer journey time.
I suspect that the Via Michelin assumes you have the Tempo 100 permit to drive at 100kph (around 60mph) in Germany and Austria. Whereas the Garmin Camper assumes you don’t and are restricted to 80kph (around 50mph).
As it turned out, the Garmin Camper was much more accurate with the journey times – they were much slower than those calculated by Via Michelin.
Despite travelling from North to South, we only had tolls when we reached Italy and these weren’t a problem at all. Either someone was there to charge your card, or you simply put it in the toll machine.
Check for lanes that are marked for caravans, but you’ll probably find all lanes are suitable.
All of the Route Planners above should warn you of Tolls. The Michelin planner helped calculate the cost.
The AA also has some good information on European Toll roads.
One thing we did need was a Vignette for driving on the Austrian Autobahn. This is equivalent to buying Road Tax here in the UK, though you can get Vignettes for short periods.
We bought our Vignette from Tolltickets.com, and it arrived in the post before we set off...
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