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Old 06-29-2015, 02:36 PM   #1
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Trailers and RVs in Europe

Just back from a week of camping in Austria and the Munich, Germany area, and I have to say that it was great fun as well as educational. Camping is very popular there, and you'll see trailers, as well as small RVs, on the road everywhere. The trailers average out at about 20 feet or so, mostly single axle, and pulled by a small car or small SUV. A VW Toureg is a large tow vehicle there. We saw exactly one pickup truck, and it was pulling a small 5th wheel - the only one of those we saw, as well. You just don't see the mega bus campers or very large trailers. Although semi trucks travel the secondary roads, you'd be challenged pulling a wide body Airstream. There's no room for error, and the Austrian and German roads have small wooden posts just off of the paved surface - no shoulder - to keep you honest. The roundabouts you'll go around in every town are another difference in the driving experience. The Autobahns are the quickest way between two points, but there are plenty of scenic twisties in the Alps regions.
A popular layout for a Euro campground is to have the campers nose to tail along the roads, and you park your car alongside. You back the trailer partially into the space, disconnect, and finish pushing it into place by hand. All of the trailers have handles built into the body at the corners, and a nose wheel at the front jack. A standard practice is to extend the living space by attaching a three sided room to the trailer.
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:05 PM   #2
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Europe, continued

The van in the pics above is our rental. All electric is 230v, but hooking up is no more complicated - you just plug in each end of your electric cord. The grey tank has a drain under the camper, and to empty it you just pull over a grate at the dump station and open the valve. Black water is not mixed with grey water. There is a removable cartridge that holds about 5-6 gallons. Every couple of days, you remove it and empty it in a toilet-like facility (or into an actual toilet). Put some water in to rinse the inside, slosh it around and dump it again. Reinstall the cartridge, and you're good to go.
Our camper had a combo hot water heater/furnace that ran on LP that I really liked. It was quiet and worked very well. It was built into the cabinetry so I couldn't get a good look at it.
We stayed at places that varied from a mosh-pit like free for all in a field at the Red Bull Ring race track (the most beautiful setting for a race that I've seen - ringed by mountains and punctuated by alpine villages), to the Grubhof Campingplatz in Lofer (incredibly nice and modern bathhouses, a great restaurant, spa and wellness center - all for under $30 with electric), to a Munich City campground on an island in the Isar river. We drove literally through Munich bottom (campground), though the city center (to drop our bags at the hotel) , to top (to get on an Autobahn to return the RV).
The van was a Citroen - diesel powered, manual shift, and got incredible mileage. It just didn't have enough room - barely big enough for two people. I would go one step up next time to gain some living space.
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Old 06-29-2015, 03:38 PM   #3
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Europe, continued

We did not run into anyone else from the USA at the campgrounds. Lots of folks from the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, of course, and the UK. Italy, Sweden, and Greece were all represented, as well as the Swiss.
We ended up at the hospital, but only because we drove a Swedish neighbor there with her camper to catch up with her husband who spent the night in the ER with some heart issues. Fortunately, the issue was minor and they were able to continue home.
Renting an RV in Europe? Certainly doable. Check out Motorhome Bookers, based in the UK - they are brokers for rental agencies everywhere, including the USA. Our unit came from McRent. We took a french press for coffee making, and needed it. Add-ons we selected included a bedding and towel set, and a set of outdoor chairs and table. A basic cook set and dishes were included. You have to return the unit as clean as you took it, and even run it through the car wash (at their expense) to get your deposit back. So, you end up buying some cleaning supplies when you grocery shop.
Austria is simply stunning, reminding me of Colorado, but greener, with pastures running up the sides of the hills. Wish we'd had a few more days, but look forward to going back someday. Hmmm... those roads sure would be fun on a motorcycle.
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Old 06-29-2015, 04:20 PM   #4
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Nice summary. Thanks for sharing the minutiae of what to expect renting.
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Old 06-29-2015, 05:23 PM   #5
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Great write up!
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Old 06-30-2015, 11:46 AM   #6
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Having lived in Europe twice I can relate to your incredible journey. We had an old VW camper back then and loved it. Then that rig was considered almost top of the line, with the exception of amazing Mercedes Camper they use to make. As fun and beautiful camping and RVing in Europe is it only makes you appreciate the treasures we have back home even more. Great story, thanks.
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Old 06-30-2015, 03:00 PM   #7
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Thanks for the great article. This is a dream of mine.....
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Old 06-30-2015, 03:19 PM   #8
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Nice. Those Euro caravans are nice.
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Old 06-30-2015, 04:57 PM   #9
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Euro RVs

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Originally Posted by Wayne&Sam View Post
Nice. Those Euro caravans are nice.
They come in many configurations, and on chassis from Citroen, Fiat, Mercedes, and others. They also can be surprisingly inexpensive, compared to the Airstream Interstate. The rental depot we picked up the unit at is also a large RV dealer, and in their showroom they had units just like ours to buy for about 45k Euros ($50K USD). Ours only had 10k KM on it. The fit and finish were very good. One thing about it that was different - all of the RV area windows and skylights were made of plastic, not the safety glass we're used to seeing. That seems to be standard, as we noticed that other RVs and trailers all had the same. I liked the diesel/manual combo - it made me wish that my Sprinter was a manual. When I filled it up before the return, I converted liters to gallons, and Km to miles, and calculated that I got 28 mpg!
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Old 06-30-2015, 06:39 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robert claus View Post
We did not run into anyone else from the USA at the campgrounds. Lots of folks from the Netherlands, Germany and Austria, of course, and the UK. Italy, Sweden, and Greece were all represented, as well as the Swiss.
We ended up at the hospital, but only because we drove a Swedish neighbor there with her camper to catch up with her husband who spent the night in the ER with some heart issues. Fortunately, the issue was minor and they were able to continue home.
Renting an RV in Europe? Certainly doable. Check out Motorhome Bookers, based in the UK - they are brokers for rental agencies everywhere, including the USA. Our unit came from McRent. We took a french press for coffee making, and needed it. Add-ons we selected included a bedding and towel set, and a set of outdoor chairs and table. A basic cook set and dishes were included. You have to return the unit as clean as you took it, and even run it through the car wash (at their expense) to get your deposit back. So, you end up buying some cleaning supplies when you grocery shop.
Austria is simply stunning, reminding me of Colorado, but greener, with pastures running up the sides of the hills. Wish we'd had a few more days, but look forward to going back someday. Hmmm... those roads sure would be fun on a motorcycle.

Truly a good summary and introduction to camping in western Europe. We lived there for 20 years enjoying "camping" through the children's early and teen age years. Caravans (trailers) are generally quite "light" compared to an Airstream though most have the basic facilities one wants and needs. I laugh/smile about the "push in final trailer placement" comments. YES, the European campgrounds are full of folk eager to help their neighbors get in and/or out. All you need to do is stop your progress, get out of the tow vehicle and look perplexed. Within minutes several neighbors will be "taking over" your movement requirements. You never need fear requesting help; it is available without asking. The complete opposite my experience in the US where campground owners won't offer any advice or assistance for fear you will sue them if their help causes you issues. Sad, our litigious society really bothers me. Visit Europe and camp if able. Camping there is mainly for the middle class. Campgrounds are in or contiguous with cities and villages. Campers, especially the Dutch, bring a months supply of all needs with them, Grounds are "tight" and children facilities everywhere. We loved it and do think camping with our Airstream, different. Keep in mind trailers are rarely heavier than 1200 kilos.
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Old 06-30-2015, 06:47 PM   #11
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Great information. Thank's for all the info. Look's like a Beautiful Trip.
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Old 06-30-2015, 07:05 PM   #12
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Great info. Thanks! When we visited the mothership last year, we saw them making some of the 7'6" wide Airstreams for the European market. As mine is 8'6", those Euro models are NOTICEABLY smaller and from your description, would need to be to tool around those roads.
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Old 06-30-2015, 08:36 PM   #13
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Great review, made me a little homesick as I am from UK and will go back when I retire in a few _____ (fill the gap with either days, months or years dependent on what sort of day I have had at work!)

The tradition of van conversions is very widespread and off the shelf conversions are regarded as 'expensive' (even if about 1/3 the cost of an Interstate), much more common is a home conversion and there are companies that sell complete kits (https://www.reimo.com/en/).

Our Argosy MH has been built to 'hold its own' when we take it back to the UK - from starting with a 20ft Argosy (so it fits on the drive of the house we own over there) to all the systems (cartridge toilet (no black water tank), water, electric, propane) able to be used in both US and UK.

Just a small example is, we have had to make sure that we have no digital timers on board (or they can be replaced) as although it is relatively straight forward to use a 5kva 220/240 to 110 volt transformer to bring down the shore power down (we only have 30amp on board), the 50Hz frequency is much harder to change; it was a very strange series of calls with the guys from Magnum trying to make sure the MMS1012 is going to be OK on the transformer.
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Old 06-30-2015, 09:49 PM   #14
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Thanks for a great post(s). I've been tent camping from the car boot and backpacking when I was younger, but never trailer/rv traveling in Europe. I'm hoping to do so in New Zealand soon. My brother and his family did and it was a great trip: great people met all along the way. Thanks again.
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