Wednesday, 26 February 2014

MOTORHOME NO 6 - The classic VW

Whilst travelling around Australia in our borrowed American Motorhome we visited friends who told us of a fantastic coast road in New South Wales.  However our motorhome would be too big to cope with it.  Amazingly they offered us use of their VW camper.

What fun it is to be in one of these, for no apparent reason we constantly felt ourselves smiling.  This was the classic layout with a kitchen and wardrobes down the side and a rock and roll style sofa bed.

We loved the fact the vehicle was small and rugged.  Making the bed was not too difficult as we just rolled the duvet back on the rear shelf.  This would make a great every day vehicle and double up for shorter trips away.  Longer trips would be fine in a sunny climate where you just used the camper for driving and sleeping and cooked and ate outside. Needless to say there was no toilet or shower room.

What we wouldn't have liked long term was the narrowness of the bed and having to make it up each night.  Minimal storage and very basic facilities mean this would not be our choice for a long trip.

Given the size of the vehicle we much preferred our Hi-Ace pop top that we subsequently bought in Australia and lived in for up to 10 months at a time so if you want a small vehicle you may want to

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

MOTORHOME NO 5 - An American Gulfstream Sunstream 2000 that we used in Australia

After 10 months in Australia followed by 6 months in New Zealand we flew to Sydney to pick up another motorhome on exchange for 6 months.

The 30' Gulfstream Sunsport looked huge and was very plush inside.  The layout gave us a fabulous fixed bed at the back coming out from the side and with access on both sides.  However fore of this was a comparatively cramped bathroom and wardrobe.

Next was a kitchen with dinette opposite and the lounge area comprised a very comfortable sofa bed,

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Getting around Britain on the cheap.

Travelling around Britain need not be too expensive, especially if you plan and book in advance.  

National Express offer fares as low as GBP1 from London to Edinburgh.  The secret is to check out the fares early and travel when they have the cheep fares on offer.  Usually this means you don't travel on peak days (weekends and holidays) or months (July and August),
Often the website will only let you book one ticket at he cheapest fare so if I want 2 tickets I open 2 windows at once and book the tickets simultaneously as they give you up to 20 minutes to complete the purchase.

Even if you don´t want to travel between major cities look for funfares from your starting city to another big city beyond the one you want to go to then check out the route, you may find the bus actually stops at the place you want to go to. 
For example Leeds to Manchester was showing GBP5 but Leeds to Liverpool had a funfare offer of GBP1 and this bus stopped in Manchester where we got off.   

Mega Bus also do fares from GBP1 and in fact at the moment are even offering some free seats.  Fares from £1 plus 50p booking fee.  This company now have bus routes across to Europe with great fares.

Mega Bus Gold Now this is something else.  These are really luxurious coaches and many do night

Monday, 17 February 2014

BACKPACKING Finding a room

When you are travelling you can opt to just go with the flow and find accommodation as needed or plan a little ahead.  Generally we like to research options to decide whether the type of place we are visiting has lots of the type and price accommodation we want or not and this will help us decide whether to flow or plan.

If you are a member of one of the Hospitality Clubs this may be your first area of research as not only do you get your accommodation but more importantly for us you meet locals and learn about the culture etc.

Generally you may find at it is easier to get a room earlier in the day and worth planning your journey so that you arrive as early as possible at your destination

It helps if you have an idea of what you are looking for such as dorms, private rooms with or without bathrooms and cabins and if you need additional facilities such as a swimming pool, wi-fi.

Budget will also be a consideration but must be taken into context with which country you are in and also which town or city or where within the city.

Some tourists offices are extremely helpful and have maps and list of accommodation including accurate prices, others are hopeless.

Guide books are also a good source of information to get you started and whilst we rarely stay in the

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Pay as you go mobile phone deal in UK with FREE SIM

Want a great deal on pay as you go mobile, read on.

Moving to a new area we needed to switch mobile phone companies in order to get a better signal.

First I checked to find out the best coverage 

This revealed that O2 would work best for us.  I like to stay on pay as you go or pay monthly leaving me free to cancel quickly.  I like at least 100 minutes for chatting, lots of texts and up to 500mb data and also don't want to spend more than £10 a month.

Not happy with O2's offer (pay as you go £10 with 75 minutes, 500 text and 250mb data and pay monthly at £11 with 50 minutes, unlimited text and 100mb data) I checked other companies such as Tesco and giffgaff who also use the O2 network.

The clear winner was giffgaff which is all pay as you go and offers a free SIM.

Their £10 goodybag gives you 250 minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB data and free calls to other giffgaff users.  Way more of everything than any competitor and better than many longer term contract deals.

The £5 goody bag includes 60 minutes of calls plus extras, 20mb data, 300 texts and free calls to giffgaff users.  For anyone visiting England for a short period this may be a great option.

At the other end of the scale £20 goody bag comes with 2000 minutes, unlimited web, unlimited text and free giffgaff calls.

Every month you can change to a different goody bag or even pay as you go where the prices are very competitive.

Better still you can make FREE calls to 0800 0808 and 0500 number which is unusual from any mobile. (However the time used still comes out of your minutes allocation).

Now it doesn't end there.  If you recommend someone giffgaff gives both you and the person recommended £5.

SO PLEASE IF YOU WANT TO JOIN GIFF GAFF AND GET A FREE SIM USE THIS LINK AND WE WILL BOTH BE REWARDED or if you opt to join through the main giffgaff website then put down "glenswatman" as the person who has recommended them to you.

Monday, 10 February 2014

MOTORHOME number 4 "Tunza" an exchange in NEW ZEALAND

Following directly on from our Australian motorhome exchange we went to New Zealand.on a motorhome exchange 

Our motorhome was based on a Mazda chassis, it felt like a truck and was not the easiest of vehicles to drive.  

The layout was interesting, much like the conventional rear kitchen one but with the extra length encompassing more wardrobe space fore of the toilet and more kitchen work surfaces opposite.  There was a sofa bed on one side and opposite this a single dinette which could easily be made into another sofa or bed.

We liked the heat exchanger hot water heating system that meant we had hot water for a good 24 hours after any journey.

If you are planning a trip in New Zealand you can get a lot of information by joining their motorhome club New Zealand Motorcaravan Ass

In the land of the long white cloud campsites are known as Motor Camps and most of their sites have excellent kitchens for guests and often a TV lounge. The majority cost between NZ$20 - NZ$30 night for two people on a site with electricity. The N.Z.M.A. handbook includes listings.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

MOTORHOME number 3 "Dew Drop Inn" in Australia

After a couple of years travelling Europe in Charlie we were ready for a change and decided to try and do a motorhome exchange.

Dew Drop Inn exchange arranged with the Dew family in Perth - hence the name of the motorhome. Fred converted the Mazda bus himself to make a wonderful motorhome. The layout was a bed across the back, toilet on one side and sink on the other in front of this with facility to create a shower in the middle.  Next came the kitchen with fridge and entry door opposite.  At the front were two inward facing sofas that also made a bed.  An ingenious layout and our only problem with it was that with Steve being over 6' tall the bed was a bit short and the internal height lacking.

Motorhome exchanges are a wonderful idea, not only do you get to use a motorhome suitable for the country you are visiting but you will no doubt make friends with the people you are exchanging with and be offered

Monday, 3 February 2014

Free and cheap camping for motorhomes in PORTUGAL

Whilst unable to travel abroad we still manage to do it vicariously through the blogs and trip reports of friends.

Hoping to revisit Portugal in the future we area pleased to hear how much more motorhome friendly they are becoming with Aires popping up all over the place.  Many are free whilst others incur a small fee.  To find these places you can get a lot of information on the Internet and from people's blogs or buy the book All the Aires Spain and Portugal through a company like Vicarious Books and have all the info to hand at any time.

On top of that you can join a group called Orbitur who have over 20 campsites around the country, mainly on the coast.  For Euro 10.50 you join the group and get a passport and book of sites.  A block of 10 vouchers costs Euro 90 and each voucher entitles you to one nights stay including facilities so only Euro 9 a night or even with the initial charge around.

Probably next up the price scale is ACSI camping.  Euro 13.95 for one year (Jan - Dec) membership including book of sites throughout Europe.  Then off season campsites are Euro 12, 14 or 16 per night.

Given the increase in motorhomers visiting Spain and the decrease in places you are welcome to free camp or stay cheaply we can see Portugal becoming a choice winter destination and worth checking out.  

Sunday, 2 February 2014

CRUISING to Antarctica

There are many ways to cruise to Antarctica .  The main choices seem to be to take a cruise from Ushuaia with a company such as Adventure Life with prices from about $4000 for 5 days or a conventional cruise ship  with prices from $1600 for 20 nights.  

A quick search for Antarctic cruises through Vacations to go will give you a rough idea of current prices.  Most trips now go from Buenos Aires.  To give you an idea of prices today's best deal is 14 nights on the Celebrity Infinity starting at $1299.

The biggest difference is that on Ushuaia cruises you get to go ashore whereas on conventional cruises you just tour Antarctica but still get magnificent views of scenery, icebergs and wildlife.  Conventional cruises certainly represent far better value day per day and you also get to visit many other places as well.

In 2009 we did a 20-day Antarctica cruise.  This is our itinerary and information about the price

Saturday, 1 February 2014

MOTORHOME& MONEY SAVING - Why travel in a motorhome?

Without a doubt we find that travelling in a motorhome is our cheapest and means we can maintain the comfort (and cleanliness) level we enjoy.  Your motorhome is your accommodation, restaurant and public transport.  Compare this to paying for rooms, food and transport and we have found it is usually even cheaper than backpacking in third world countries.

Pros - You don’t have to search for accommodation and check out the room, you always have your own bed, you know the bathroom is clean, no more packing and unpacking, you can eat what and whenever you want and you can stop in many places where there is no accommodation. You always have everything with you when travelling in a motorhome so can make spontaneous decisions. If you find a nice beach you have your swimwear to hand, if you spot some wildlife your binoculars are available, if you find a really nice parking spot you may be able to stay overnight.  Basically the only thing you have to do is find a place to be parked up each night.

We belive that a motorhome has money saving advantages over a 5th wheel or caravan –

In many countries there are special places for fully self contained motorhomes to stay for free but not for other types of RV.

People often point out that with a 5th wheel or caravan you can go off touring with the main vehicle but to do that you would need a safe place to leave the caravan and often that would involve paying for campsite fees. Also any journey that you did would involve double the cost of fuel to enable you to return to base.

If you need to travel by ferry or have to pay road tolls they will be more expensive if you are towing.

In some countries there is a separate tax to be paid for each vehicle and you may also end up having more tyres to replace.

TIPS to make your money go further when we are travelling in a motorhome –

Keep your speed down around 50mph for better fuel economy
Try to find free camping (also known as wild camping or boondocking) - seperate blog on the subject later

Stock up at local markets or roadside stalls and keep a good stock of groceries on board so you don't have to pay high prices in small stores for everyday goods

Buy special offer items at supermarkets and freeze any discounted meat

Read up which day museums are free to visit and ask if you can stay on the car park overnight

Fit a solar panel and inverter in order to avoid paying for electricity

Run a fan through the inverter rather than the air conditioner
Use a solar shower bag to create free hot water

Check out thrift (charity) shops

Use the Internet for price comparisons on many items including fuel

Pick up free wi-fi wherever you can or check out the free computer use at libraries

Plan your journey to travel the most direct route taking in sights on the way

Putting toilet paper in a waste bin rather than in the toilet has 3 benifits -
You won't have to buy the special paper which is more expensive
Your toilet will not fill up so quickly
You will need less chemical