Wednesday, August 13, 2008
orignal artical here
Adelle and Ron Milavsky, a lovely retired couple who live in Connecticut, have been road-tripping across Europe for years. They've written the definitive guide on RV trips, Take Your RV to Europe: The Low-Cost Route to Long-Term Touring and now here to share a few more tips about this rather under-rated method of travel. You recently came back from yet another RV roadtrip through Europe. Tell us a bit about it. How far did you go? What were some of your best memories?
Over the years, we've spent more than a year touring Western Europe. Our latest trip was in April and May this year. We only stayed for six weeks this year instead of our usual 10 –12 weeks. We knew that it would be considerably more expensive this year because of the low value of the dollar. Because gas was as high as $10 a gallon, we only traveled in The Netherlands, Belgium and France with one stop in Germany.
In all we drove about 1500 miles. Our main stops were Bruges, Ypres, Waterloo and Gent in Belgium; The Hague, Amsterdam, and Keukenhof Gardens in The Netherlands; Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, Troyes in France; and Aachen in Germany. Our bills from this six-week stay were still affordable. Our total outlay for six weeks of travel (not counting airfare) was about $3,000 more than what we would spend at home for food and entertainment. For our 42-day stay, gas costs us $1200, campgrounds just under $1000.
Why Europe and not the US for RV trips?
Once we had begun, we found RV'ing in Europe was even nicer than RV'ing in America. Distances are much shorter, most cities have campgrounds in or near them, and public transportation is good. All of this adds up to a great way to travel – no set itinerary, complete freedom to go where you want and a minimum of driving. And of course, no packing or unpacking between stops.
Worst experience while RV roadtripping? Best?
We've had some uncomfortable moments when we were lost (or rather, taken the scenic route). But in all this time, we've never had a bad experience, except for the memorable time we decided to take the "2.8 meter Tunnel" to Caen in Normandy, France and found that our RV was 3.1 meters high. (We knocked the cover off our air conditioner and it never worked again.) But we've loved our extended stays in all the big cities in Europe – including Amsterdam, Bruges, London, Paris and Rome. We've been to Roman ruins, medieval cities and castles, towns built into the sides of mountains, museums of all sorts, caves of neolithic paintings, cathedrals, zoos, wonderful gardens, historic homes and more. And countless open-air markets.
When did you guys get the travel bug? What's your traveling background?
Before my husband, Ronald, retired, we had traveled the "usual" way to about twelve countries. Most were in Europe but we'd also been in China, Thailand and Korea as well as Venezuela. We stayed mostly in hotels, and ate most of our meals in restaurants. So we were "experienced" travelers.
In 2001 we bought a small motor home and traveled across the U.S. We fell in love with this style of traveling and decided that driving a motor home in Europe might give us a chance to really spend time there in an affordable way. Even better it would allow us to do something that we'd always wanted to do – go to the outdoor markets and buy food to eat at home as the Europeans do.
With gas so high, are roadtrips still affordable?
This way of traveling allows great flexibility. We used various published guides to European campgrounds, but there is a great deal of information available on the internet. We choose our next destination using three criteria. First, how far away is it from where we are now (we like to drive no more than a couple of hours per day). Second, what is interesting in that city? Third, is there a campground with bus service to the tourist area close by?
How can travelers take their own RV trip?
When we realized that how enjoyable and affordable it was to travel leisurely and extensively through Western Europe. Ron decided that someone (namely Adelle) should write a book about our adventures in Europe. So I did. Take Your RV to Europe was published in 2005 by The Intrepid Traveler. It goes into detail about how to ship and what to expect when you get to Europe. Any one who is interested, can go to our website and blog, where we publish our letters home detailing our experiences. Ron is working on a very informative web site that combines our experiences with an enormous number of links on the internet for information about the places we have visited.
Is it possible to rent a RV in Europe? US? How?
It is possible to rent an RV in many places in Europe. Renting costs from $124 per day in the "low season" to $194 per day in the "high season". This year, renting an RV for six weeks from April 24 to June 4 would have cost us just about the same amount as shipping our RV both ways. But, if we had stayed our usual 12 weeks, the cost would have been approximately $13,000 for a comparable size unit. You can see why we chose to ship our RV.
What about shipping a RV to another country?
The price to ship a motor home is computed per cubic foot. In 2002, we paid $2000 for our 21 ft. rig, but now the cost runs a bit more than $3000. If you can stay in Europe for three months or more, shipping a small RV would still be the most inexpensive way to travel. That $6000 round trip for the RV translates into about $66 per day. Together with campground fees, that is $100 a day, but that includes both overnight accommodations, the equivalent of a rental car to travel in, and the possibility of eating "at home" which saves a huge amount of money.
Incidentally, there is one other big "reason" to ship your own unit if you can. Traveling in the UK with a rented rig where the driver is on the "wrong" side of the vehicle is very hard and can be dangerous. But in your own motor home, you are able to judge the size and shape of the rig. The hard part is not sitting in your accustomed position. It is easy to remember to drive on the left!
We have literally visited hundreds of cities and villages in Europe, and it's been a wonderful experience. We think that other Americans should consider it.
Not all European motorhome rental have to be as expensive as what Adelle and Ron Milavsky have experienced; check out some of these discount motorhome and campervan rental sites in Europe:
original story here
It's a surreal experience being a tourist in your own country – but the Far North is a different world, Ruth Hill discovers on her campervan adventure.
The Matakohe Motor Camp manager seems shocked to see us. "A campervan! I haven't seen one of those in a week!" she says, making us feel quite the intrepid explorers.
It's true the town is not as lively as it was 150 years ago, when Matakohe was the kauri capital and the forest giants' timber and gum (which made lovely varnish) were second only to gold as New Zealand's top exports.
The impressive Kauri Museum's exhibitions include a scale model of a working steam sawmill, a gumdigger's hut and an entire boarding house, all peopled by mannequins modelled on real-life volunteers and descendants of the original settlers. Photographs from the pioneer era show proud bewhiskered men astride giant stumps in the rakish poses of big-game hunters.
One of the museum's recent acquisitions is a 150-year-old kauri trunk, which was cut down to make way for the Orewa to Puhoi motorway extension. A plaque explains it was donated to the museum "as part of a range of ecological initiatives" by the construction company.
After witnessing the destruction memorialised in the Kauri Museum, it's almost a shock to find kauri still in existence in Waipoua Forest, like meeting storybook characters in the flesh.
Where teams of bullocks and bulldozers ploughed through virgin bush, tourists now tiptoe over board walks to avoid treading on delicate feeder roots.
These ancient living things have outlasted the rise and fall of empires here at the bottom of the world.
The oldest of them all, Te Matua Ngahere (the Father of the Forest), a colossal five metres in diameter, was already 2000 years old when Jesus walked the earth.
North of the Kauri Coast, the road meanders down to Hokianga Harbour and the twin hamlets of Omapere and Opononi.
The predominantly poor and under- developed West Coast might as well be a different country to the East Coast, which is lined with luxury enclaves of architecturally designed monstrosities.
It's not uncommon to pass a corrugated iron shed on the verge of collapse and then spot a straggly line of washing and a carefully tended vegetable patch and realise it's actually someone's home.
The landscape is achingly beautiful: rolling green pasture land, primeval forests, chalky cliffs, golden beaches, turquoise waters.
The tatty little towns strewn casually about this majestic countryside are so self-consciously "Kiwi", it's almost like they are parodying their lack of chic, playing it up for the tourists. But the welcome is warm and genuine.
Opononi's heyday was in 1955 when a lone dolphin made friends with a little girl called Jill Baker, whose parents ran the tearooms, and turned the the town into a national attraction.
Opo inspired a hit song, and the Government even passed a law to protect her. A day later, she was dead.
It is suspected she was killed by fishermen, who accused her of eating their catch.
The townsfolk gave Opo a public funeral and put up a statue of her; more than 50 years later, she is still pretty much the only show in town.
Historic Rawene is the departure point for ferries to Kohukohu and the back road to Kaitaia.
In the days of sailing ships, the town could only be accessed on the incoming tide, but with three pubs, crews didn't mind the stopover and neither do we.
The ferries run every hour, but we're happy to give the first one a miss and enjoy a coffee at the Boatshed Cafe.
The surfing mecca of Ahipara is distressingly calm, and Ninety Mile Beach appears empty except for a couple of doleful Chilean surfers in a $250 Holden waiting for their luck to turn.
The beach is an open road and various bus tours offer a hoon past the dunes. However, it's not recommended for smaller vehicles, as the odd car roof poking through the sand will testify, and all car-hire agreements prohibit such tomfoolery.
We stop off at Te Kao's general store, strangely drawn to the sign of the giant icecream. Inside, the walls are lined with flax kete, caps, hats and handicrafts in a rainbow of colours.
Bonnie Conrad is the dynamo behind the Kaikihikihi Arts cooperative, and her three daughters are among a small legion of weavers whose busy fingers keep the store stocked.
"Yeah, it's looking a bit bare at the moment," she says, gesturing to weaving strung from the ceiling and covering every inch of wall space.
"We had a bus-load of Hawaiians through last week and they cleaned us out."
Thousands of tour buses pass this way every year, but the road to Cape Reinga is unbelievably bad: old school metal broken up by huge craters.
It's late in the day by the time we make it to the parking lot, which is under construction, a swirl of mud in our wake. The car park and toilets are being moved because their old position was offensive to Maori, for whom the area is sacred.
According to legend, Spirits Bay is the place where the souls of the dead depart the earth and the 1000-year-old pohutukawa tree hides the entrance to the Underworld (Te Rerenga Wairua) among its roots.
Cape Reinga is not actually the northern most point in New Zealand – that's North Cape, 30 kilometres to the east – and the lighthouse keeper is long gone, the lamp now controlled by computer from Wellington. But standing on the cliff top, which is like the prow of a massive ship, with the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea churning together far below, it certainly feels like the end of the world.
The coastal riches that make the Bay of Islands a tourist paradise also made it a hotly contested territory for Maori tribes before Captain Cook sailed through in the late 18th century.
The hub for countless cruises and dolphin-watching excursions is Paihia.
It's possible to drive from Waitangi to Paihia in two minutes instead of circumnavigating the entire inlet, which we discover takes the best part of three hours.
However, thanks to my creative navigational skills, we get to see the world-famous Hundertwasser toilets of Kawakawa.
The reclusive Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser moved to the area in the 1970s and left a lasting testament to the town in this work.
It's a tad disturbing to see a bunch of people queuing for the loo with cameras in hand, but the weird and wonderful block with its crooked, patchwork, ceramic-tile columns and grass roof is certainly eye-catching.
Russell is a short ferry ride from either Paihia or Opua.
The town was notorious as the hellhole of the Pacific thanks to the rag-tag gang of whalers, sealers, traders and missionaries who followed in Cook's wake.
We make a last abortive attempt to find surf at Waipu but console ourselves by rummaging around in its great second-hand stores.
Our last evening is spent at the famous Leigh Sawmill Cafe, which attracts gourmands and music-lovers from far afield. The menu is so exciting we order too much and end up with an embarrassing number of platters.
The cafe is a converted 19th century kauri mill and the giant saws are now quaint decor features.
It's an apt setting for the final night of our Northland odyssey, bringing together the rich pioneering past of the region with its future hope, tourism.
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Holidaying by Maui van is easy to sniff at but one weekend behind the wheel soon reveals how blissful an experience it can be, writes Alex Robertson
Sitting in a traffic jam 8km south of Whangarei at 4pm on a wet Friday in winter is hardly the best start to a weekend away. However, instead of waiting in line then arriving at our destination late, tired and fuming, I took a glance at the road atlas, turned off and headed west.
The map told us the road led to Maungatapere, the GPS said "re-routing" (to rhyme with "outing" in an electronic American accent) and my wife asked how long the detour would take as we had a hungry 3-year-old on board.
And I couldn't have cared less - we were in a Maui campervan and could stop where we pleased.
Taking advantage of Maui's winter weekend break has been a revelation to me. For years I sniffed haughtily at campervan people sitting by the side of the road drinking cups of tea and eating ham sandwiches as I passed on my way to a "real" destination.
And I was always a little circumspect of people who decided to sleep next to the public conveniences at a popular beach or scenic spot (but why Cox's Bay, for heaven's sake?).
But, I was missing the point. They stopped there because they were thirsty, or hungry, or tired or fancied waking up to the sun rising out of the ocean with nothing but sand and sea to obscure the view.
Now we were heading in the wrong direction to Tutukaka, our target, not knowing how long our journey would take. And the sun was setting.
I was emboldened by the confidence that we could pull over to the side of the road anywhere and pitch camp: no setting up poles; no stretching canvas; no hammering tent pegs. Just pull on the handbrake and brew up.
The GPS soon recalculated our route (I'd already checked that we could double-back on the map) and we cruised through golden, winter, afternoon sun chasing rainbows over Whangarei and the coast beyond.
That first night, we stopped short of our target and pulled over by the toilets on the water's edge at Ngunguru as daylight failed. Dinner was soon served and cleared away and setting up the sleeping arrangement was a cinch. These vans are well designed and easy to use, with lots of storage and plenty of space. There's even a shower and a loo.
There's not much to do when you're sharing your one-roomed pad with a sleeping mini-me, so, after a couple of glasses of wine and a few chapters of a book it was lights out.
The tremulous bark of oyster catchers woke me just before dawn. Another little voice soon pitched in demanding breakfast and we were soon gulping down steaming porridge watching the colours change on Ngunguru sandspit and Whangarei Heads, as the sun came up.
The locals were friendly and didn't seem to mind our camping across the road from their living rooms. Maybe a small, fleeting addition to that gorgeous view that hasn't changed for thousands of years added a little interest. We were soon gone, stopping in at Tutukaka for coffee before heading up the coast through Matapouri (for a picture stop) past golden beaches and rugged headlands, then climbing bendy roads through rolling, verdant farmland.
We turned off to Whananaki South and soon hit the gravel road. The big (7.2m long) Mercedes diesel automatic was superb at negotiating the tight, twisty road and slippery hills and was as easy to drive as a family car. We met another Maui campervan coming the other way and we all breathed in (mentally) and managed to pass without incident.
At Whananaki South (a handful of houses and a beautiful ocean beach) we found the Southern Hemisphere's longest footbridge, which crosses the estuary to Whananaki North (not many more houses, a school, library and community hall). Whananaki North also has a sealed road, but that was all water under the (foot) bridge.
We headed back south to Waipu, stopping for lunch along the way because we could, and spent the night at the Waipu Motor Camp ($20 for a van with two adults, hot showers and electric hook-up).
I took a walk along the beach with a 40-knot easterly battering the shore.
The stormy sea and threatening clouds painted a beautiful, dramatic picture that glowed eerily pink and orange from the setting sun: It was a scene that Turner could have painted.
The rain lashed our roof all night and the van rocked now and then as a gust blew through.
We stayed warm and dry - unlike my previous attempts at camping in a storm, but that's another story.
Sunday was grey and miserable and we decamped fairly early taking the coastal route through Langs Beach to Mangawhai and a coffee and art stop at the Smashed Pipi Cafe.
We then tried the back route through to Matakana and, after a brief detour back to SH1 after our GPS disagreed with the driver and the map, we headed through the beautiful Whangaripo Valley and over the hill to Matakana (windy, steep gravel roads again handled with ease).
The trip home to Auckland was (thankfully) uneventful with easy flowing traffic and no need for further detours.
Having cleared our gear and returned the van, my wife discovered that she had lost a bracelet. I called Maui the next morning advising them to look in the microwave (yes, they even have a microwave) and it was duly found for me to collect the next day.
I mention this because the people at Maui were as friendly and helpful as you could hope for and a perfect complement to their wonderful product.
Next time you see somebody enjoying a cuppa in their campervan at the side of a busy road, give them a toot and a wave. It could be me.
Alex Robertson travelled courtesy of Maui.
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Campervan slogans found to be misogynistic, offensive Posted Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:08pm AEST
The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has upheld two complaints against marketing slogans used by an Australian campervan company. The company, Wicked Campers, hires out campervans with quirky cartoons and phrases painted in graffiti-style on the side.
Complaints were received by the ASB about six slogans, and it found two of them to be misogynistic, offensive and discriminatory. Wicked Campers has been ordered to paint over those vans found to be offensive.
The Bureau's CEO, Alison Abernethy, says Wicked Campers has cooperated fully with the decisions. "Free speech is a fantastic notion in this country, and ... lots of the slogans on the vans are very funny, they're very clever," she said. "They're very quirky, but there are a few that cross the line.
'We got complaints against six different slogans.
"One of them was 'If God was a woman sperm would taste like chocolate' [and] a second one was 'Women are like banks, once you withdraw you lose interest'. Save a whale - harpoon a jap"
original article here.
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More people are choosing to holiday in a motorhome than ever before according to new figures released by the Caravan Club. Already, bookings for caravan and motorhome sites across the UK are up 8 per cent on last year and experts say this is only going to increase.
Alvin Wiggins of Motorhome Groups, a motorhome hire service based in Nottinghamshire told Times Online: “My customer enquiries have doubled and business in booming. Not only am I receiving enquiries from British holidaymakers that have decided to stay in the UK this summer, I’ve also seen a surge in holidaymakers from the continent.”
In the past decade, sales of new motorhomes have more than trebled, exceeding 11,000 in the UK in 2007, while the Caravan Club claims that caravanning is the most popular paid-for holiday choice in Britain. Read the rest of the story here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/news/article4385992.ece
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With the dollar weak in Europe and gas prices near record highs, many Americans are opting to save some cash and take short-distance travel alternatives for this year’s summer vacation. The economy drive is understandable, but following the herd has never been my style. I still wanted to find a way to take my children to another country this summer to give them the experience of being immersed in a different language and culture.
The solution: a vacation in Quebec, where my 10-year-old son and two daughters, ages 13 and 7 years, would find 98 percent of the residents are Francophones.
Quebec is not France, of course, but it is sufficiently foreign to serve as a budget substitute at a time when fuel costs are driving transatlantic air fares ever higher.
read the rest of the story here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26154029/
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Sales of RVs might be down, but rentals are up about 18 percent this year, according to the RVIA’s Broom. This implies that Americans still want to use motor homes and trailers, he said.
“We think they are postponing their purchases until their confidence in the economy improves,” he said.
RV dealers are dealing with tougher times by finding new ways to boost revenue, such as by opening rental offices, or by focusing on customer service, said Phil Ingrassia, a spokesman for the National RV Dealers Association in Fairfax, Va.
for complete article go here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/25886538/
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Monday, August 11, 2008
Although it might seem counterintuitive with gas prices skyrocketing, a recent study says vacationing in recreational vehicles is still one of the cheapest options available to families seeking summertime fun.
A study conducted by PKF Consulting, an international consulting firm with expertise in travel and tourism, found that "typical RV family vacations are on average 27 to 61percent less expensive than other types of vacations studied."
The study factors in RV ownership and increased fuel costs.
Even though RV ownership has decreased, rentals have gone up 20 percent this year, according to a spokesman from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association.
"People are postponing the purchase, so they're renting RVs instead," said Kevin Broom, director of media relations for RVIA.
In the Inland Empire, most RV rental places are seeing those increases firsthand.
"When you rent, you get to try out the RV before buying it," said Jeff Ramsey, owner of Quality RV Rental in Chino.
Ramsey said rental customers do not have to worry about maintenance costs or putting miles on their personal vehicles.
Joe Laing, director of marketing for El Monte RV, attributes the decrease in sales to the credit crisis, not increased fuel prices.
"The credit crisis has affected motor-home sales the most," said Laing. "People think it's gas prices, but it's not."
Broom said an estimated 30million people travel in RVs each year and that 8.2 million families own RVs.
RV owners and renters save money because they do not have to pay for hotels, restaurants, flights and rental cars, he said.
"When you add all these things together, it's still cheaper to rent the motor home and take the trip," said Ken Schork, president of El Monte RV, one of the largest RV rental companies in California.
Most rental RVs can fit six people or more and do not require a special classification on the renter's driver's license. Most the rental companies said their motor homes get 8 to 11 miles per gallon.
Mellanie Ingle, vice president of corporate affairs for Giant RV, which has locations in Colton and Montclair, said the company sells smaller RVs available that get 16 to 18 miles per gallon.
The average campground costs $30 to $50 a night, but savvy RV drivers can park for free overnight in many Wal-Mart parking lots, according to Phillip Keene, a company spokesman.
The company does not offer amenities such as electrical and sewage hookups, and drivers should ask the store's manager if they can park overnight.
Besides the cheaper price tag, RV users experience other advantages, such as the freedom to stop whenever needed and take pets along with the rest of the family, according to RV dealers.
"It's really a hassle-free form of travel," Ingle said. RV travelers get to spend "real, true quality time with their families."
For information about RVs and the cost of renting one, visit RVIA.org.