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Expert Explorers: Motorhome Lifers

May 21, 2014

The team at Pegasus Finance was lucky enough to interview Ali and Mike Kingston from Motorhome Lifers this week. Ali and Mike have spent the last 11 years travelling the world in their Motorhome, blogging about their experience along the way on their website. We’ve tapped into Ali and Mike’s wealth of experience, sharing with you their top tips and travel advice.

As ‘on the road’ experts, what are your top tips for people new to Motorhoming?

  • Think about whether you would like to make the bed up every night. We have always had a fixed bed.

  • Size – the bigger the motorhome, the more you get in terms of a home-from-home set up. The downside to this is that you lose the flexibility of going where the mood suits due to manoeuvrability, parking and fuel consumption.

  • We recommend investing in a solar panel to charge your leisure batteries. This saves having to drive every 2-3 days to recharge the batteries, or having to find a source of mains power from a camp-site.

  • Never be complacent about security and ensure you leave your valuables out of sight.

  • Respect those in authority. If you visit another country, you are guests in that country and subject to their rules and regulations, whether you agree with them or not.

  • Think about spending time on home soil before heading abroad, perhaps only a few miles from the house so you can get used to the motorhome life. I always recommend making lists of items that you do or don’t need to take with you – as you go.

  • When you first head abroad, think about how far you’d like to drive. Don’t start looking for somewhere to stop at dusk as it’s impossible to judge what somewhere is like in the dark! When you visit the continent for the first time it’s best to have a plan of where you are going first, or a pre-booked camp-site, so that you can catch your breath – without any additional stress generated by not knowing where you want to go.

  • Take time to stop for coffees, and breaks along the way. Relax and enjoy the journey, there’s no need to rush. The luxury of a motorhome is that you can travel at your own pace as you’ve already got your accommodation sorted.

Quite a few of our readers are new to touring, tell us about some of your essentials you can’t take a trip without.

We typically tend to take more than we need. However here’s an idea of some of the kit we take with us on trips, it isn’t exhaustive, but it should get new tourers thinking along the right lines:

  • Take what you would for a holiday.  Think about the time of year for clothing, and your destination. Will it be wet, warm, cold or all three?

  • Don’t forget to pack essential toiletries.

  • Practical essentials such as torch are an obvious must. Electronic items that are rechargeable on 12 volt system are ideal – to avoid having to use a power inverter.

  • You will need kitchen essentials for preparing food and eating, however, its usually less than you’d think. If you’re going abroad, I recommend bringing any home comfort foods you might miss if they’re difficult to find. I can’t go away without Salad cream, Bisto Gravy or Marmite!

  • Top Tip: Leave white clothes and bedding at home. This is an extra load at the launderette and extra cost, as you may not fill up a full load of whites.

  • A plastic 2 gallon watering can for filling the water tank, collapsible bucket, and a rigid one for dirty water. Washing line, or clothes hangers, pegs, small handled brush to sweep the floor.

  • Don’t forget to bring a warm blanket for chilly nights.

  • A good supply of books, DVDs and CDs to keep you entertained.

  • If you’re going somewhere with a mains electricity supply, you may wish to bring other electrical items such as an oil filled radiator if you’re going away in the winter. If you’re paying for on-site power, don’t waste fuel by using your campers own power supply. A travel kettle, toaster, iron and hair dryer all come in handy.

  • Vehicle essentials. Check on the AA website for country requirements e.g. a fluorescent jacket, red warning triangle, two breathalysers and first aid kit. Do you need winter tyres or snow chains?  In some countries this is a legal requirement during winter months. Check if a Go Box is needed for driving on toll roads (Poland, Austria) or a vignette. You may not need one if you are driving a 3.5T van, but its worth checking as the rules are changing all the time.

  • Ensure you’ve got all of the relevant paperwork before setting off. This includes valid insurance for each country, you can check this with the AA or the RAC. Keep your passports, currency, bank cards on your person at all times or invest in a small safe to hide inside your campervan.

  • Consider what you need for mobile communications. For many Wi-Fi has become a fundamental requirement for survival – but it’s not always available. Overseas ‘roaming’ charges are usually prohibitive for mobile data usage. We only buy unlocked phones so we can use a local SIM card in each country we visit. Skype is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family back at home – just make sure they know how to use it too before you leave!

  • Transport on arrival. We have bicycles but have tried all methods of additional transport over the years including; towing a car, scooters and motorised bicycles (they were great fun). Your campervan may be too big to get down European side streets, consider your transport options carefully and research local public transport.

  • Outdoor chairs, a table and a BBQ is a must.

  • Essential medication – Don’t forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

For more tips and info, check out our caravanning essentials list.

Where’s your favourite destination you’ve visited in your motorhome?

To have a favourite destination is so difficult to choose, I feel as though I’m letting down other un-nominated countries, that have so much to offer for motorhomes. However, Mike loves the Costa Brava in Spain for the restaurants, culture, medieval towns, markets, walks, and scenery.  My favourite is Portugal, the people are friendly, laid-back, caring, tolerant, polite and, importantly, good fun!  It has great beaches and unspoiled coastline combined with a fascinating history and culture.

We both really loved motorhoming on the Baja in Mexico, however it’s understandably a bit far for most!

Have you got any exciting trips planned for the future?

We have somehow missed going to the Eastern European countries in the motorhome; Bulgaria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Albania and Montenegro.  We have been to Greece and Turkey, which we loved, but we went via Italy and took a ferry to Greece and so we’re thinking of taking a trip overland instead, stopping in Istanbul on the way.

Mike is often thinking about future trips on the quiet and lets me know at short notice, before we’re due to set off. I love this spontaneity, it means we don’t waste hours researching places that we never really intended going anyway. Often plans unravel if our circumstances change. This may be due to vehicle problems or family commitments and are further reasons to go with the flow, and let events and destinations sway our decisions at the time.

What’s it like living on the road, full time?

This is a big question. Living on the road full-time presents us with a sense of freedom and choice of where to go as the mood suits us. We think of our motorhome as our home, and have everything with us that we need. We love being able to move on to somewhere new whenever we want. That level of spontaneity is fun, giving our lives zest and sparkle – you can’t expect this level of freedom with any other form of travel.

People do wonder how we can tolerate being with each other all the time. We don’t live in each other’s pockets and do quite a lot independently. For example, I may go off all day on my bicycle. Mike goes walking or does the laundry – he’s a domestic god.

When living in such close quarters, you can’t afford to let squabbles start. Neither of us have confrontational natures, but it makes sense to avoid anything starting up in the first place. I have found it best to plan the moment, and get an idea out there if I’m unhappy, or something is getting on my nerves. It’s best to discuss problems, don’t carry a grudge and let things eat away at the back of your mind. A sub-conscious scratch, could fester and become a nasty, angry boil.

Every day is something new and we rarely have to set an alarm clock – have very few time pressures. We feel very grateful about what we have and that we can lead the life we choose, able to go where our moods and whims suit us.

How did you catch the travel-bug?

My father was in the RAF and so I lived in East Africa, Malta and Cyprus during my childhood. We also went on family holidays to Italy, Sicily, Egypt, Israel and Syria. I found all these different places exciting to see and after leaving school, all I really wanted to do was travel.

Mike took a gap year in 1996 and went backpacking. Returning home as a changed man, he could no longer settle in one place having caught the travel-bug. When we met, we quickly realised that we shared a common life goal to travel.

 

If you fancy becoming a motorhome explorer Pegasus Finance can help. As specialists in motorhome finance, we work with lenders to find you the best deal around. Already got a price in mind? Not a problem, try out our handy motorhome loan calculator to see how much you could save.

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