Tempted to dabble in van life? What you need to know about renting a campervan to get out on the open road… and you can do it from the middle of April
- Campervan holidays will be the first allowed to go ahead
- Motorhome rental companies are introducing flexible terms and conditions
- Self-contained facilities could be open for hire from April 12 in England
Foreign holidays are on hold until at least mid-May – but from the middle of next month you can enjoy the freedom of the open road by embarking on a campervan adventure.
Holidaymakers who travel in a home on wheels will be among the first permitted to go on vacation as it is possible to leave home and still observe social restrictions.
You need not mix with others outside your ‘bubble’ and can be self-sufficient with your own kitchen and bathroom. You also have the freedom to choose where you travel – so you can avoid any Covid hotspots and stick to safe and quiet locations.
With future restrictions still remaining uncertain, campervan and motorhome rental companies are introducing flexible terms and conditions.
Freedom: You need not mix with others outside your ‘bubble’ and can be self-sufficient with your own kitchen and bathroom
So if there are further disruptions caused by the coronavirus you should be able to rebook for another time at no extra cost.
Bookings are already being taken following recently issued Government guidelines that self-contained facilities could be open for hire from April 12 in England.
Campsites will be able to offer a parking spot, electricity and access to running water, though shared facilities will not be available until May 17.
In Wales, campsites are allowed to reopen with limited facilities from the 29th of this month. In Scotland campsites will not reopen until April 26.
Homes on wheels come in all shapes, sizes and budgets – starting from about £400 to more than £1,000 for a week with unlimited mileage.
Campervans are vans set up as a self-contained travelling home, and generally don’t have a divide between the cab and living quarters. Motorhomes tend to be bigger and usually have a divide.
You can choose anything from a 1950s split-screen Volkswagen to capture the timeless romance of travel, to a motorhome with all the latest mod cons.
Adam and Trudi Lilley run Leicestershire-based motorhome hire company Hey Campers.
It has a stable of nine vehicles, including a range of four and six-berth £60,000 Benimar, Fiat and Ford luxury motorhomes that come with hot water shower rooms, fitted kitchens and king-size beds.
Adam says: ‘You can forget about that old-fashioned camping experience of cramped spaces and basic amenities – this is luxury hotel accommodation.
‘It is not just about the freedom to go wherever you want but also having the facilities modern families demand. This includes a flat-screen TV with 5G Wi-Fi and a range of streaming services offering premium film and sports channels.’
Vehicles also come with fresh cotton bedding, towels and central heating – or air conditioning if required.
FINDING THE RIGHT PLACE TO STOP
The joy of a motorhome is that you can roam where you choose, but be careful where you stop for the night. It is illegal to sleep overnight in lay-bys and if you’re caught, the police can issue a fine of at least £200.
Rental companies often suggest itineraries and campsites with which they have special arrangements.
But campsites with shared facilities are not expected to open fully until mid-May, so this may not be convenient for those with basic campervans with no toilet facilities.
To cut the cost of campsites, you could consider joining a club. Caravan and Motorhome Club membership starts at £54 a year – offering discounts of typically £13 a night at 2,700 sites – but you do not need to be a member to use its facilities.
Annual membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club starts from £41 and provides up to 30 per cent discounts at more than 2,000 locations. Non-members can also use its services.
Adam understands how people might baulk at the minimum rental fee of £120 a day – but says once they realise the cost is split between everyone on the trip and includes not just a holiday on wheels but all the facilities required, it becomes good value.
Rental costs also include cooking equipment and outside extras such as deckchairs and a barbecue setup. You might have to pay from £5 extra a day for additions such as bicycles which can be attached to an outside luggage rack.
Other motorhome outfits include Just Go, Bunk Campers, and Camper Rent UK. Prices start from under £50 a day for small vans to £200 a day for six-berth beasts the size of a small lorry.
Most rentals offer virtual tours – a video viewing from the comfort of your own sofa – during lockdown.
Many motorhomes come fitted with rear cameras – a comforting thought for those intimidated by the idea of driving a large vehicle for the first time.
Fully comprehensive insurance should be included in the cost of renting the vehicle, as long as you have a driving licence.
However, you should check out the small print as a £1,000 excess might also have to be handed over as a refundable deposit when you make the booking against accidental bumps and scrapes.
Nick Lomas, director general of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, says: ‘Pop-up campervans – where you push open the roof to make extra sleeping space – tend to be smaller and feel similar to driving a car so are perfect for beginners.
‘These are an alternative to the larger motor homes.’
A great place to find retro Volkswagen campervans and other pop-up options – as well as larger motor homes – is through an online marketplace such as Cool Camping, Yescapa, Goboony or Camptoo.
These offer details of private owners renting out campervans and motorhomes as well as rental companies.