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Standard camper vans are utility-sized vans outfitted with basic essentials for self-sufficiency: beds, sinks, crockery, cooking facilities, and a fridge. Larger vehicles (motor homes and RVs) might have toilets and showers. Conversely, you can get smaller vehicles (station wagons, minivans, or pop-tops) outfitted with camping gear and mattresses for sleeping in the back.
Your vehicle choice is dependent on how many people are in your entourage, where you want to go, your budget, and your desired comfort level.
Flexibility is good, allowing for diversions and the ability to stay in some idyllic spots longer than you might anticipate.
With freedom to take to the road and see where it leads, camper van holidays are good longer-term vacations. Bonus: your daily rate will be much lower.
Some camper van companies offer an option to buy the vehicle, sometimes with a discounted buy-back guarantee. You'll get a better price selling privately, but the guarantee can be good if you're visiting another country and can't sell it before you leave.
Generally if your trip is less than 8 weeks, rent. If it's 8-16 weeks, you might want to buy a station wagon, minivan, or pop-top and kit it out. If it's more than 16 weeks, considering buying a used camper van or small motor home (for both financial and comfort reasons).
When I took a camper van across Australia, I got fleeced by high gas prices, especially in the outback. When your "house" goes everywhere with you, you'll burn through a lot more gas!
Popular pick-up dates are Thursdays through Saturdays, with many places closed on Sundays. Picking up your vehicle at the beginning of the week is often cheaper.
Although it might be nice to drive across the country and drop the vehicle off at a different location, you'll probably pay more in one-way surcharges.
Always ask for a discount. Rental prices are usually flexible. The worst that can happen is they'll say no!
Any vehicle rental entails an insurance component. Sometimes this can be waived; check your own auto insurance policy to see what rental coverage is provided. Also, booking with your credit card can sometimes provide insurance coverage. Read the fine print so you aren't unnecessarily charged for insurance.
Insurance fees and requirements also vary by rental company; ask about their rates when comparison shopping.
Ask what comes with the camper van - down to crockery and cutlery. The less you have to supplement enroute because you realize essentials are missing, the less money you'll spend.
Camper van vacations don't equate to free accommodation! In many places you must overnight in official campgrounds, and powered sites are even more costly. Research campgrounds (and camping rules) when planning your route.
The battery running your fridge, lights, and outlets usually recharges after a few hours of highway driving. But if you stay in one place for a few days or drive small distances, you might lose power. Powered sites cost more money, so again some prudent route planning can help you avoid this cost.
Have you been on a camper van holiday? If so, do you have any tips to add? If not, what would your ideal camper van holiday be?
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Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora
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Do you have any suggestions as to where to rent? I have thought about getting a camper to travel Europe, but wouldn't know where to start. I am currently in the US. Thanks!