What do we do about meals?
ET phone home?
- Add-on Tours
- What about insurance requirements?
- What about passports / visas, drivers license, tour books?
- What should you bring?
As long as you are traveling all the way to Europe you may want to think about the possibility of adding on a side trip, either before or after or maybe even both. Some suggestions for these custom add-on travel packages are: Paris, London, Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Greek Isles, Prague, Kiev, St. Petersburg or Moscow.
If you plan far enough ahead and are a member of the International Caravanning Association (ICA) then look into the possibility of connecting up with one or more of their events, as the people are extremely friendly and the events are well planned and organized. Also, if arrangement and payment are made beforehand, motorhome rental, either before or after the caravan can be arranged if you want to come early or stay longer.
Insurance (public liability and collision with 1,000 Euro deductible) for your motorhome is included in the rental charges. You will be required to make a 1,000 Euro collision damage waiver (CDW) deposit that will be charged to your credit card when you pick up the motorhome. So, make sure you thoroughly go over and through your motorhome to note any and all damages prior to taking possession. The CDW deposit will be refunded and credited to your bankcard at the end of the caravan if there is no damage to the vehicle.
The motorhome also comes with a “service package” that can be used in case of a flat tire, mechanical or any other type of breakdown the RV may experience.
You need to check out your personal policies to confirm what coverage you may have, if any, while in Europe. Everyone who is on MEDICARE, as well as many of those with private health insurance, must recognize that your coverage does not apply while out of the US and most of the time the same is true for your secondary health insurance too. Canadians will need to confirm what/how/if their health insurance will apply. We require trip cancellation and health care insurance for anyone joining us for one of our overseas caravans, to protect you from cancellation charges or other travel and medical emergencies. This type of insurance may be available through your travel consultant or you may wish to contact your local insurance agency or off find one on the Internet. Make sure whatever insurance you decide upon that the coverage includes getting you home if you have a serious accident or illness.
Passports are required, so check and make sure yours is current and will cover the period you will be traveling in Europe and if it is not, begin the renewal process immediately. REMEMBER to include any before and after customized package tours you have added onto the caravan time frame.
No visas are required for US or Canadian citizens in any of the countries we are scheduled to visit in Europe.
No shots or vaccinations are required. For your own protection you might want to check with your physician for any recommendations he/she may have and to make certain your tetanus shot is current.
There is not an upper limit on the driving age in Europe, but there is a minimum age of 18 required. An International Driver’s License (IDL) is HIGHLY recommended, but not required. It can be a useful form of photo ID separate from your passport or regular driver’s license. You can get an IDL through your local AAA/CAA club office. Requires passport-style photos. Set the beginning date of this license as the date you will begin driving a vehicle in Europe, which may be different than your arrival date in Europe, if earlier than the caravan rendezvous date.
You have several options here. You can visit your local library and take notes as you read through those that are available or you can buy your own. They are also available for purchase from selected AAA/CAA club offices, usually at a discount from a retail store. There are a number of travel books, by different authors, which appear to be good and should be available through AAA/CAA. They are handy to have and refer to while traveling, but they are heavy to carry.
Coin laundries are now found in almost all of the campgrounds, but they are a bit pricey ($6 to $10 per load to wash and dry) and it may take 2-3 hours to complete a load. Use the “extractors” when they have them, it greatly speeds up the clothes washing process. Your road log will have photographs of the main type of washing machine and dryer, as well as translated instructions on how to use the European washers and driers. An alternative is to bring clothing items that are easily hand laundered and will dry quickly on lines/hangers in and around the motorhome.
Plan your wardrobe so that you have a mix and match color scheme that includes slacks, skirts, blouses and accessories. Make sure you bring a good comfortable pair of walking shoes. Bring shower shoes/flip flops to use in campground facilities. Plan to use the “layered look” so you can add or subtract to fit the weather. Dress is casual everywhere in Europe. Bring a raincoat, umbrella, warm outer coat (or sweaters to layer), headgear and gloves or mittens (silk long-underwear takes up very little room in your suitcase and is very warm). Both spring and fall in Europe are similar to the northern part of the US It can be warm and beautiful; can be cool; can be rainy; you could even experience snow on the mountain passes! There is never bad weather, if you are prepared for it! One caravanner took older clothes, wore them and then discarded them. Result? Less laundry, a chance to clean out a closet and an empty suitcase to use on the way home! Another suggestion is going to a “nice” thrift shop and buy clothes for a few dollars and then leave them to make more room for souvenirs. The weather in Europe, in general, is a bit cooler than those of us who live on the West Coast are use to and lacks the humidity of the East Coast. As a very general reference, Germany and the Netherlands are located about 7 degrees higher in latitude than the State of Maine, with Switzerland being around 2 degrees higher,
while Italy is approximately 2 degrees lower.
Use thin bath towels, washcloths and dishtowels that will dry quickly. “Chamois-like” man-made towels are available in auto sections of US discount stores like K-MART, WAL-MART and TARGET; they work well for toweling down after a shower and as a “wringer” to suck water out of your hand laundry. Bring along a stretchable clothesline or at least a cord that can be used for a line, plus some plastic clothespins. Clothes hangers are usually available at the motorhome rental agency; just remember to pick them up before you leave for the campground.
We STRONGLY ADVISE bringing one poly-filled sleeping bag each (3 pound, zip-together variety) for warmth, as well as economic reasons (check the label to see what the rating is for the low temperature). Small pillows, with cases, are also advised. The use of sleeping bags makes it easy to make up your bed, or adjust the bed arrangement, as not every parking spot is perfectly level! TWO sleeping bags can be packed in one duffel bag for easier handling. Consider purchasing inexpensive ones and then plan to leave them behind at the end of the caravan. This will give you an extra bag to bring home all of those wonderful treasures, gifts and souvenirs. Sally has made a liner for each of our sleeping bags from an old sheet by folding it over and sewing it across the bottom and part way up the other side.
The airlines have been frequently changing their checked and carry-on baggage allowances, so whatever we write here will most likely change before your flight leaves for Europe. We therefore HIGHLY RECOMMEND that a few weeks prior to your departure that you check with YOUR airline to find out what their current restrictions, limitations and allowances are, including carry-on. If your planning on carrying-on separate items, such as a camera and/or computer (we do not recommend bring a computer) or other items in addition to a single carry-on then check very closely with YOUR airline to see what restrictions that you may face. If your flight is NOT directly into Munich and stops first at some other European destination, such as Heathrow in London, even if it is only to change planes, then you may find that the carry-on allowance that passed muster in the US has now shrunk to about ½ the original size allowance when transferring to your continuation flight to Germany. This will more than likely require a very creative plan-B, a part of which WILL MOST LIKELY BE the checking of the NOW oversized carry-on piece. I can speak on this from personal experience, so our advice is to be very conservative with all carry-on items. We only carry-on medications, essential items and our point-n-shoot digital camera.
With the creation of the European Union, border-crossing checkpoints are mostly a thing of the past and with one or two exceptions all of the countries listed in the itinerary use the Euro. There is one slight down side to this and that is it is now much harder to find places to cash in US currency and/or US travelers checks. Most banks, particularly in the villages and smaller cities do not offer this service. About the only place to exchange currency or travelers checks is at the money exchange places located in major airports and train stations in the larger cities. This too has a down side and that is the fees that are tacked on for buying and selling. What we found best is to use our credit card whenever possible, but most of the campgrounds and many of the restaurants and businesses in the villages do not accept them. The best way we found to get cash is from an ATM (Geldautomat or Bankomat), which is either connected to your credit card or to a checking and/or savings account. This tends to not only give a good exchange rate, but the transaction fee is usually in the $1 to $3 range, which is a whole lot less than the moneychangers charge.
As stated above your motorhome is fully equipped with dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. Drinking water is good throughout the caravan. Ice is generally not available anywhere throughout Europe, even in restaurants.
Do not expect to find many US brand name products in their markets, but don’t worry, their products are excellent! They use very little in the way of preservatives in any of their products, so remember to buy small quantities, as they do not last as long, even under refrigeration. Paper plates and other paper products are available, but are a bit more expensive than in the U.S.
Breakfasts are easy to prepare in the motorhome and usually the hardest meal to find in restaurants, other than a McDonalds, as they usually do not open that early. Enjoy fresh pastry, bread, rolls, cheese and meat just as Europeans do. Eggs, cereals, pastry, milk, coffee, tea and the like are plentiful and delicious. A number of the campgrounds will provide fresh baked rolls (when you have signed up the night before) in the morning. Check your road log itinerary for the campgrounds, which provide this service.
Noon meals may be taken in a restaurant giving you an opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine as part of your sightseeing day. This can be your largest meal of the day, a taste treat and generally very rewarding. Sally and I are partial to picnics along the travel route at scenic places, such as along rivers, lakes, the Alps, etc., as a great way to spend a relaxing lunch break and catch a quick nap.
Evening meals may be prepared in your motorhome, many times more rolls, meat and cheese or sometimes soup and bread. Pre-packaged, fully cooked dinners are now available that can be heated in boiling water; also tasty canned meals can be heated on the stove. Every caravan is different and some participants will eat lunch in their rig or at a picnic table at one of the many turnout areas. Some groups get together in the evening to eat at a campground restaurant or go off to a restaurant in the town. Feel free to set your own standard, it is up to you. Just remember that the really important thing is to enjoy the experience and have a great time.
Of course, everyone can find time to have coffee breaks with some of the finest torts and freshly made pastry in mid-morning, mid-afternoon and even sometimes in the evening! Don’t worry; you will walk it off with all the sightseeing!
Receiving mail is tough to do, but not impossible. It is primarily a challenge of timing for surface mail, but by using FAX, this is solved. Email is also a very good option, as many of the campgrounds we stay at have a computer available, for a fee, to check your email. There are also Internet shops, mainly in the larger cities, that have several computers and they too charge a fee. Try and plan to arrange your affairs so that you do not need to get mail. Leave checks to pay bills or even prepay them. You will be provided an “EMERGENCY CONTACT CAMPGROUND TELEPHONE / FAX / ADDRESS LIST” to leave with someone at home (this list will come inside your road log or can be emailed out to you ahead of time upon special request). It is relatively easy to telephone home by purchasing a prepaid phone card in Europe and using a payphone, both of which can usually be found at the above mentioned Internet shops. You need to remember the time difference — 6 to 9 hours with Europe being ahead, depending which coast you live the closest to. Your caravan travel consultants will also have a world mobile phone, with a European number that will be provided to you for usage for contact FROM the USA in case of an emergency.
BE SURE AND HAVE AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF ALL PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION ITEMS THAT YOU WILL NEED TO TAKE FOR THE ENTIRE TRIP PERIOD. Also bring your supply of vitamins, aspirin, Tylenol, throat
lozenges, Tums, etc., thermometer and a few basic first aid supplies. Bring “Wet Ones” or “moist towelettes”
and possibly “panty liners”. Toothpaste, soaps and shampoos are readily available unless you want to stick to your own brand.
Apothecary shops offer a wide range of over-the-counter medicines that work very well for upset stomachs, colds, cough, etc. However, they will not
be “brand” names that you are familiar with. Find a shop where they speak some English and be sure to take your old bottle in, if you
have run out of something you have brought from home, so that they can read the label. Also, beware that a specific medication from the US may have a
completely different usage in Europe. A good example of this is Aleve, which is naproxen and used in the US to control inflammation, while in Europe it is
used for reducing pain during a women’s period.
Any electrical appliance (hair dryers, travel irons, razors etc.) you might take with you MUST BE DUAL VOLTAGE, operating on either 120 volts 60
hertz or 240 volts 50 hertz and have a special adaptor to convert US plugs to fit electrical outlets in Europe. Depending on which caravan you are on there may be a need to hook-up to electricity in some campgrounds, otherwise we tend to dry camp; the motorhomes are designed to operate self-contained and we have found that the extra cost for electricity is simply not needed under normal circumstances. However, at some of the campgrounds electrical is automatically included (you have no choice), this is particularly true in Italy. We carry a limited number of inverters that convert 12 volts DC of the motorhomes to 120 volts 60 hertz AC power to be used by caravanners to charge razors, camera/camcorder batteries or computer batteries; these inverters are shared among the rigs on an as needed basis.
We recommend that you bring a pair of handheld FM-type radios if you already have them, as they are very handy to communicate between RV’s.
FM, handheld radios usually have a range of about 1 - 2 miles (depending on terrain and buildings in vicinity) and are crystal clear. They operate
on AAA rechargeable or alkaline batteries that are available everywhere. We have several pair of these personal FM radios that can be loaned out
on a first come first served basis, if we are notified of your desire PRIOR to our departure for Europe.
REMEMBER, these will also need to be
recharged NIGHTLY, thus putting additional demands on our supply of 12 volt inverters, so you may want to bring your own small one if you have one.
If you have questions, please feel free to email, call, fax, or write, we will get you answers. Also, watch this WEBSITE
for our periodic updates as planning moves ahead. Hope to have you on board!
Jim and Sally Elmlinger,
Caravan Travel Consultants
Overseas RV Camping Caravans