Thursday, 30 January 2014

GENERAL TRAVEL - Travelling light

During a 7 month trip to South America we travelled from the heat of the equator to the Antarctic. We were mainly backpacking but as well as having to cover us for all seasons our clothing also had to cover us for a 20 night "posh" cruise.

How did we manage it?

Type of luggage:-

First you need to have the correct size of bag preferably the maximum size for airline carry on.

Soft baggage is lighter and also easier to squeeze
                                                onto luggage racks etc.

The biggest thing most people have to decide is whether to carry their bags like a rucksack or trolley them

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

MOTORHOME number 2 "Charlie"

We only kept our first motorhome for 4 months.  By then we knew we loved the concept of motorhoming.  Our first trip was in winter when most campgrounds in France were closed so we discovered "free" camping (also known as wild camping or boon docking).  This meant that we were not going to be spending as much as anticipated on campground fees and could use some of the trip fund to upgrade the motorhome.  Based on our experience in our first one we knew exactly what we wanted and had a list of essentials - a fixed bed at the back, a standard European model and one that got at least 20 miles per gallon.

So how many of those things did we get?  None!  Steve is over 6' tall and most of the fixed rear beds in the European models were too short.  A very helpful dealer was trying to pursuade us to buy a Hymer costing over £50,000.  When we pointed out the bed problem he suggested we made a box to put at the end for Steve rest his feet on - we didn't buy it.

In the end we decided to have a look at American motorhomes.  They are beautiful inside, well made and the fixtures and fittings seem more substantial.  We were swayed by the layout of an American 1995 Gulfstream Ultra "C" class, 23' long with an overcab bed and fuel consumption of 15 miles per gallon.  The rear bathroom was huge and even had a sitz bath.  In front of this was a beautiful kitchen with double sinks, microwave, 4 burner hob, oven and grill with full sized fridge and separate freezer opposite.  Forward of this was a sofa bed opposite a dinette, both of which made small double beds.  Above the cab was an enormous king sized bed.

Although it met none of our criteria we were extremely happy with it and kept it for 8 years.  During that time we travelled all over Europe and Scandinavia and shipped it to the Canary Islands, Morocco, Crete and Cyprus, more about that later.  We also used it as a trade to exchange with people who had motorhomes in Australia, New Zealand and USA and that I will explain more about that in a future posting.

It was marketed by Travelworld for £38,000 and in the end they agreed to take our Solifer in part exchange and we paid £20,000.  We sold it privately in 2005 for £19500.  Overall this was our most expensive motorhome for purchase price and repairs and the one we lost most money on but we loved it !

Many people give names to their motorhomes and intially we were reluctant to do this but found it was a bit of a mouthfull to keep refering to it as "the motorhome".  Steve suggested we call ours "Charlie" and we found 3 very good reasons for this name.  We treated it like royalty, we often looked like "proper Charlies" when trying to manouvre and after a shopping trip the fridge resembled "Charlie and the chocolate factory" as I am a chocoholic!  Over the years having a name for each motorhome has proved a good idea as we know exactly which one we are referring to. 

We now had two different motorhomes to compare and this is what we thought of the American "C" class

Substantial fittings inside the vehicle
Large holding and fresh water tanks
A strong engine for steep mountain climbs
Large fridge and deep freeze

Wider than the European motorhomes and at times this caused far more problems than the length
When things went wrong with it in Europe there were very few dealers that knew the vehicle.
Obtaining spare parts was difficult although today with the Internet many can be sourced on line.
Updating this blog in 2014 I know that parts are much more widely available through the internet and there are many more dealers than when we bought "Charlie" in 1997 so this should make life much easier.

You can save money by buying a motorhome in the USA and shipping it back to England.  They are considerably cheaper there and you have more choice.  If you keep it and use it in the States before exporting you can even save on the tax and VAT as well.   
Autoshippers Internations shipping company

Sunday, 26 January 2014

MOTORHOME number 1, "The Solifer"


We have bought and sold motorhomes in 4 different continents and also done exchanges giving us use of over a dozen different ones.

This is the start of our motorhome journey with information on the pros and cons of each one.

The Solifer we bought in December 1996 and sold in May 1997.  It was our first motorhome and the 1986 model was bought second hand from Madisons dealer.  Eriba Soifers were built in Scandinavia and this was an "A" class model.  Ours was the 4-berth model.  Cost £18,000 and traded in for £18,000 against our next purchase.

The layout was a rear U shaped lounge which could be made up into a large double bed.  Forward of this was a kitchen on one side and a wardrobe and bathroom opposite.  Immediately behind the swivel cab seats were two inward facing single seats which created a 4 person dining area.  These could be used for a single bed.  Above the cab was a drop down double bed so overall a 5 berth.

Buying an older vehicle as our first motorhome meant we did not have to invest such a large amount of money on our first purchase.  We also thought we would have a good guarantee from the dealers but this didn't quite prove true.  Often the small print of any warranty makes it difficult to use especially if you are travelling abroad at the time.

The vehicle was not a common make so any problems with it were difficult to solve.
It had a retro fitted turbo which caused many engine problems.
The drop down hydraulic bed was curved so not as spacious as it looked and not long enough for a man over 6' tall.
Most of the interior appliances etc were either small or flimsy and not suitable for full time use.

WARNING The vehicle was bought Madisons dealers.  We traded in a car as part of the purchase price.  The motorhome cost £18,000 and the trade in on the car was £8,000 leaving a balance of £10,000 to pay.  The dealer asked if it was OK for them to write up the invoice as £16,000 purchase and £6,000 trade with the same balance of £10,000 as this would save them tax.  We agreed to this but when we went back to them to try to trade up to another motorhome they would not acknowledge the original purchase price but only the lower £16,000 marked on the paperwork even though it was the same guy! 

 Unless you have a lot of mechanical knowledge it seems better to buy a vehicle that is still in current production and by a manufacturer that is well known in the countries you intend to travel.

Unless you are 100% sure of having visitors then buy a motorhome to suit your own needs in terms of layout etc as you will be the ones using for the bulk of the time and people who say they will visit often do not.

Many people do not buy the correct layout motorhome first time around so if you buy a cheaper second hand model you are less likely to lose as much when you change it for a design that suits you better.

No matter how much you try to figure out the design you need many things cannot be worked out until you are actually using a vehicle.  Some things you will never get right due to size restriction of vehicle and there are almost always compromises.


Before deciding what vehicle to buy it is a good idea to rent one but of course rental prices are high.  In Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada it is possible to pick up relocations deals on motorhomes for as little as $1 day.
Standby Cars is a great site for listing the possibilities.
Other sites offering this are
Apollo Camper
Bartrak Australia