Touring with a caravan or a motorhome? Motoring man Les Oliver checks out the pros and cons.

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MANY people towing caravans hanker after a motorhome.

They’ve usually switched from tents to become cosy campers, ie caravanners, and then after a few years, look enviously at the convenience of a motor caravan.

But as well as being much more expensive there are hidden factors to consider.

Though not cheap on rental , my advice is to hire or borrow one before spending money you may come to regret.

There are many points for and against. With a motorhome or campervan it’s easier to pull into a parking space at a scenic spot, get the kettle on and rustle up a snack in minutes.

On the downside, if you are used to towing, the noise inside a motorhome will come as a shock the first time you drive it.I was not prepared for the racket from oven shelves, crockery, cutlery and any loose items rattling and clashing while on the move.

If it’s your own instead of a hired vehicle you would probably have all this sound-proofed in advance.

Towing a caravan, of course, you are cocooned from all this.

Another major consideration is size. Small campervans may be easier to manoeuvre and cheaper than larger coachbuilt motorhomes but the limited interior space can seem like a retrograded step after you have been used to a much roomier caravan.

It depends on the vehicle of course. The Peugeot Boxer-based Bailey Approach, supplied by the Caravan Club for this assessment, was about the same length as our old caravan but wider.

Its layout provided more eating and sleeping space than our five-berth Elddis.

The downside though is that, like many motorhomes, it has only two forward facing seats with seatbelts so we couldn’t take a youngster with us.

GOING ABROAD

Taking a motorhome abroad couldn’t be easier and is a great way to see parts of Europe you otherwise might miss. It is also cheaper than a caravan on the Channel ferries

There’s a great website - www.aferry.co.uk - that covers every ferry crossing to the continent, offers the best available deals between ferry companies and gives customer reviews of the various services

As an alternative to the Dover-Calais route we chose LD Lines Transmanche Newhaven-Dieppe crossing because it was convenient for visiting relations en route and ideal for exploring the area along the Normandy coast.

It’s a longer (four-hour ) sailing but facilities on board were very comfortable.

Although you have the freedom to go where you want it is worthwhile having an itinerary in place with scheduled overnight sites planned for the beginning and end of your trip.

We stayed on some great sites listed on the Caravan Club’s website for members taking their vehicle abroad. Several are suitable for families with small children having games facilities and a swimming pool etc.

Attitudes towards motorhomes seems more enlightened in France. They are generally welcomed at beauty spots that attract tourists compared to corresponding sites in the UK where they wouldn’t be allowed.

The French, have dedicated overnight areas often close to water - rivers, canals, and the seaside - sometimes free or for a small fee and often with electric hook-up. fresh water and waste disposal facilities.

DRIVING ON THE CONTINENT

Driving in Europe is not especially difficult but check out the driving regulations for the country you are visiting.

French law now requires all motorists to carry one unused disposable breathalyser kit on all vehicles.

In practice this means you have to carry at lease two if you want to be allowed to drive on after the Gendarme has made you use the first one to prove you’re safe to drive

They’re available in the UK for under a fiver each.

Also get your headlamps converted for driving on the right and make sure you have a a warning triangle and high visibility vests.

CONCLUSIONS

One obvious drawback with a motorhome is that when you are set up on a site you can’t just jump in the car if you need to pop along to the shop for a loaf, as you can with a caravan.

So unless you bring a bike along - or are towing a small vehicle - you have to take your mobile home with you on excursions.

Also, apart from being much more expensive to buy they are also dearer to maintain than a caravan with road fund tax, higher maintenance and servicing costs etc.

Speaking to Caravan Club members who have made the switch, most say they would not go back to a caravan.

But I remain to be convinced. I like the convenience but don’t think it justifies all that extra money.

Unless I can find a real bargain, I’m sticking with the old ‘van for now.

FACTFILE

Planning a trip: Ferries: Book via www.aferry.co.uk

LD Lines sails daily from Newhaven to Dieppe or Le Havre

Touring abroad: The Caravan Club’s website at www.caravanclub.co.uk can help with booking sites, route planning and travel guidance.