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About to rent a campervan? Here are my top tips.

Thinking of renting a campervan or motorhome for your next holiday? Perhaps you are thinking of buying a van and you want to try one out first to see if the experience a really your cup of tea.

Campervan holiday.

Hiring a campervan or motorhome (and for simplicity I’m just going to say campervan from now on) is a fantastic way to get out and see the world.

Although not full-time travellers, we have been travelling Australia & New Zealand this way for several years now. We have had a total blast.

Try before you buy.

Kelly and I took quite a few trips in rental vans before we decided to buy one for ourselves.

These trips were invaluable missions for scoping out various van sizes and layouts before actually committing to a rig. It also gave us the opportunity to see if travelling this way worked for us. I have heard more than a few stories of couples or families that purchase their own van only to discover:

  1. The van they purchased is too big, too small etc, or
  2. the reality of travelling in a campervan is not what they envisioned, or
  3. Their relationship is in dire risk of mutually assured destruction after spending more than 48 hrs living in such a small space together.

Campervan hire tips:

So here are (in no particular order) my top tips for getting the most out of a rental campervan experience.

Know thy rig.

Due diligence in getting to know the basic operations of your rental campervan before you head out can save a lot of embarrassment and wasted time down the track (literally).

These days most rental companies have comprehensive videos on YouTube explaining the basic operating functions of their vans.

Things to study up on include:

  • Basic driving/dashboard operations.
  • Turning on/off the propane gas system.
  • Using the power management system.
  • Using the cassette toilet.
  • Using a dump station.
  • Extending and retracting the awning.
  • Plugging into external power at van parks etc.
  • Fridge operation (including switching from power to gas if this is relevant).

Take out insurance.

Insurance is often a significant added cost when hiring a campervan. Many decide to skip it. At their peril.

The rental company we used in New Zealand told us of a couple who damaged their uninsured van on the second day of their holiday.

They swapped out for a replacement van to continue their trip and declined insurance on that one too. You guessed it. The first roundabout leaving the premises. BAM.

All OK but the $180K van was a write-off.

I highly recommend you include the most comprehensive insurance you can afford when researching your campervan hire plan.

Do your checks before you pull away.

It is way too early, and you havent had that second coffee yet. You are in a hurry to get back on the road. OK…we’re good. Lets go. Lets go.
Unfortunately your day is about to go exquisitely pear-shaped.

There is a reason why experienced pilots religiously use a pre-flight checklist. No matter how many times you have packed up and secured the campervan, there is always that ONE time you forget something. It might be something small like forgetting to unplug from power (I have done this myself). It might be something more serious like forgetting to retract the awning (yup…I have seen it happen).

Here are some tips to help you prepare a checklist.

Maintain spatial awareness.

It is easy to forget how much longer, wider and taller the campervan is compared to your usual vehicle. Until you develop a feel for where the vehicle boundaries are in relation to you in the driver’s seat, it is very easy to snap off a mirror, damage the roof or side panelling or even completely tear off an airconditioner or awning.

Once you start paying attention to campervans on the road you will realise this happens a lot more than you might think. Look for repaired roof damage typically on the front drivers side, and repairs to awnings & air conds.

  • Pay particualr attention when pulling in next to low hanging shopront eves, signposts, trees etc.
  • Be aware of your side mirror coverage as well as the concepts of off-tracking and rear-overhang. Here are some videos to help with this.
  • Reversing into tight campsites is a two-person job in larger vehicles. Get someone outside to spot you as you reverse. And make sure you can see them at all times.
  • Know the height and length of your rig. Write it down and stick it on the sun visor for quick access. Suddenly seeing a sign warning of a low bridge or other obstacle is not the time to be guessing exactly how much clearance you might have.

There’s an app for that.

There are plenty of apps you can download before your trip to greatly improve your experience during a campervan holiday. Researching and planning routes and potential campsites on the road is all part of the fun.

Here are my recommendations:

Have a great trip.

Finally….use the opportunity to really make the most of the multitude of benefits of having a temporary home on wheels.

Don’t hesitate to use van parks, overnight-by-donation spots and free campsites to get the full campervan-experience (try not to be stingy with the donations if the location is worthy).

Don’t be in a hurry to get somewhere. Your home is where you park it, so that nagging pressure get to a particular destination before the end of the day will (over time) evaporate. This is the joy of campervan travel.

We try to make a point of stopping and exploring those smaller off-piste towns that we wouldn’t usually think of visiting. We have been rewarded with some great memories doing this.

Follow local council rules regarding where you can and cannot stay overnight, and take care not to spoil those outstanding campsite opportunities you do find for future travellers. Here is one way to do that.

Safe travels and safe return!

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