What does it cost ?

It wasn’t until I published this blog site that I realised that ‘visitors’ and ‘followers’ of my humble ramblings were from an International community. Therefore I should point out that references to travel and costs are based upon on those who live in the UK and who have a UK registered vehicle. The initial point of departure will be from the UK to Europe. So those of you reading this who are from countries outside of the UK will obviously need to take into consideration any additional costs appropriate to your own country that I may not have covered or indeed deduct costs that are not relevant or appropriate.

Although throughout I will make reference to ‘Motorhomes‘, this is purely for ease so that term contextually within this subject matter also refers to any type of Vehicle or Conveyance used for the purpose of fulltime living e.g. Caravans, Camper Vans, Van Conversions, Self-Builds, 5’ers, RV’s etc.

The actual question to  ‘Fulltiming – How much does it cost” ? is one that cannot be definitively answered because there are just so many variables.  Quite naively, when I first thought about ‘fulltiming’ I believed that this was people who like me, intended to leave ‘bricks and mortar’ behind permanently to go and tour Europe 365 days a year and basically enjoy the ‘Nomadic‘ lifestyle. However, this I have discovered is not the case, there are many people who although they live in their vehicles fulltime, they may either continue to remain employed and so travel in to work each day to their respective places of work or who operate on a ‘work from their van’ scenario, in such cases the business is usually Internet related (which then brings in a whole new host of issues in relation to where they Pitch, Power supplies, Internet access etc.) Then there are people who will travel to Europe for 6 months and remain static on a long-term pitch before returning to the UK (usually during the warmer late Spring and Summer months) and do the same in UK. So it will depend very much on what category of ‘fulltimer’ that you yourself will fall into ? Lots of people do not like to be put into a ‘category’, however, it is simpler for me to use that term here so apologies if any ‘fulltimer’ reading this feels aggrieved at being ‘categorised‘. The ‘other’ categories to which I will briefly make reference here, but which will not be part of my further considerations for ‘Fulltiming Costs’ mentioned below are, ‘Long Terming‘ – generally people who keep a permanent residence (bricks and mortar) here in the UK and then spend several months travelling/living in their Motorhomes but who always return at some point to live in their primary residence. The other category is the ‘Extended Tourers‘ – People who live primarily in their ‘bricks and mortar’ residence but who throughout the year take a number of extended holiday trips in their Motorhomes.

When I started planning and researching the various aspects associated to fulltiming, one of the major questions that I had was ‘Can I afford to do this‘ ? and I spent a lot of time asking that question repeatedly on several Motorhome Forums. I have to say a big thank you to those people who were willing to provide some very personal financial details with me, a total stranger. Although they were unable to provide me with that illusive ‘definitive figure’, the spread sheets and explanations kindly provided for costings associated to their ‘own’ fulltiming activities were absolutely invaluable. They enabled me to re-assess figures that until then, I could only ‘estimate’, and provided me with more accurate and realistic costs so that my calculations could be adjusted accordingly. I have to say that my initial ‘guestimates’ were actually not that far off but I was able to ‘reduce‘ many of the costs that I thought there would be, rather than the other way around. But the one thing that I did learn was that you need to have got over the ‘romanticism’ of fulltiming, take off the rose-tinted spectacles and think about the realities of actually living a life on the road in what is ‘a box on wheels’. Power requirements and availability is a major difference, even if you were fortunate to live the majority of your fulltiming life staying on campsites, the Ampage provided varies from campsite to campsite as well as country to country, so you need to learn very quickly what your ‘normal’ daily requirements are likely to be. If you cannot be constantly connected to an Electricity Hook Up (EHU) then this aspect becomes even more crucial as you also need to consider both Summer and Winter scenarios, but more on this and many other things later. Finally, one of the most important factors that you will need to consider in your planning is that word ‘Compromise‘. For example, I was only used to staying on campsites during my extended holiday touring trips and had planned to use campsites as my primary ‘rest stops’ in my travel itinerary whilst ‘fulltiming’. Well, it became apparent very early into my financial planning that ‘my’ budget’ would not sustain this level of ‘luxury’ or ‘convenience’ and I had to re-assess the financial practicalities of ‘living the dream‘.

After spending very many hours, days, weeks and even months amending and then re-amending our Financial Spreadsheets, along with several replacement batteries in the calculator, we can understand now why the subject of finances is a difficult question to answer. However, whilst we cannot promise to provide ‘definitive’ answers or costings at this stage, as at the time of writing this page we have not even left the comfort of our Bricks and Mortar sanctuary (July/August 2013), but hopefully we can at least provide an insight and offer our own personal advice/information about the variables that you may wish to ‘consider‘ and just as a footnote before we delve into some specifics, I should just mention the need to consider and calculate within your proposed budgets some flexibility for those inevitable annual price increases !

So we are now guessing that all those who were reading this page in the hope that they may find some ‘definitive’ answers but now realise that they are not going to get any, will have already hit the ‘back‘ button. For those of you who have decided to stick with it, at least for the time being, we shall move on to the general areas of expenditure that ‘we’ feel need to be considered and which relate directly  to our own particular circumstances ……..

Your Fulltiming Vehicle and Home

Unlike using your vehicle just for annual holidays and/or weekend breaks throughout the year, when you are fulltiming the vehicle is not just your mode of transport from A to B, but it is also your permanent home. Just like a ‘conventional’ bricks and mortar home, your vehicle and its contents will require to be protected against mishaps/accidents and occasionally you will need to conduct routine maintenance on it and sometimes those frustrating but nonetheless essential ‘unscheduled repairs or maintenance‘.

Insurance – which takes into account, age of the drivers, type of vehicle, age and value, contents – which will include any additional non-standard equipment as well as personal effects. There are specialist Insurance Firms that provide Motorhome ‘Fulltimers’ Insurance. This is more expensive than the standard normal cover, however, it does enable full UK/European use without restriction, whereas generally normal Motorhome insurance cover will limit European travel to a set number of months in any one insurance year. And then of course there is the inevitable ‘moral’ dilemma, do you declare to your insurers that you are fulltiming ? (Declaration of ‘material facts’). I will not enter into any debate or opinion on this subject as it is quite a volatile subject for some and is therefore purely a choice for you the individual and very much dependent on your own personal  ‘Risk Apetite’.

Road Fund Licence – This does differ and currently is dependent on the type and class of the vehicle. However, legal requirements can and do change so it is best to research this just before you purchase your vehicle as it may have an impact on what vehicle you consider purchasing.

Service/MOT/Maintenance – Some people are fortunate enough to have the knowledge and experience to service their own vehicles and repair/maintain them as and when required. Other’s, like myself for example, need to engage the services of ‘other’ people to conduct maintenance and repairs for them and of course ultimately pay for those services (usually at an hourly rate). This is just one area of expenditure where budgets can be reduced dramatically dependent on your level of mechanical/technical knowledge and skills !

Breakdown Assistance Cover – Again, this is an expenditure that some people may feel is inappropriate based on their level of technical knowledge, ability and mechanical competence.

Fuel (Diesel/Petrol/LPG/Other ?) Lots of variables to consider within this subject. The cost is so variable from Country to Country although UK is recognised as ‘generally’ one of the most expensive, so basing your fuel budget on UK prices may be good place to start. However, a lot will also depend on the individual vehicle, the weight and any subsequent payload, heavy braking, all will have an impact on what the fuel return is (e.g. miles/km per gallon/Litre), how you drive your vehicle (Sedentary or Heavy foot on the Accelerator pedal). As far as Diesel/Petrol is concerned this will also depend on how you plan to do your fulltiming. Some are content to head for a destination and remain static for several weeks/months whilst other’s like to travel constantly, or of course a combination of both, travel in the summer and hold up somewhere for the winter. Therefore fuel budgets are an individual calculation based on how you intend to ‘fulltime’. You will also have to consider any secondary means of transportation that you take with you (e.g. Car, Motorcycle) then fuel will also need to be factored into your budget, as will other associated costs (Insurance, Tax, Service, MOT, Repairs).

Sea Crossings – Initially if heading for Europe this is going to be either via North Sea routes, Channel crossings to Belgium or France (Ferry or Euro Tunnel) or the UK to Spain ferry route. The cost of such crossings will vary immensely by factors such as, Length, Height, Width of your vehicle, additional trailers, the time of year and the time of travel e.g. day/night. But within this budget you may also wish to consider your travel plans and whether it will necessitate any other sea crossings e.g. Spain-Morocco, Italy-Greece, or even Inter Island Ferries (Scandinavia, Corsica etc). Do not forget to factor in the inevitable annual ‘return’ journey’ (Unless of course you have a vehicle that is MOT Exempt) !

Tolls –  Toll Roads, or Tolls for Bridges/Tunnels or Vignettes. Most fulltimers travel on normal roads rather than the Motorway Toll Routes, generally because they do not have to pay to use them, the scenery is far superior, there are lots of nice little villages or towns to stop at, you may even be fortunate enough to arrive at one in the morning where the weekly market has arrived, always worth a stop to have a gander. But most of the time the main road runs parallel to the Motorway anyway and if buses and trucks can use them then so can RV’s and large motorhomes. However, there are occasions when this may not be possible, whilst hopefully you will be in no rush on your adventure, there may be occasions when you need to be somewhere quickly or you are towing a trailer and the overall length precludes this. European Motorways are generally very good, so much better than UK Motorways with the only fly in the ointment being that in some Countries you have to pay for the privilege of using them (France, Portugal, Spain, Italy). Like any commodity these days, the cost of using the Motorways varies considerably from country to country with France being notoriously expensive. If you invest some cash on the purchase of a decent road atlas you will generally find that it will highlight the difference between Motorways (within the same country) that charge a toll and those that do not. Most modern satellite Navigation systems also offer the choice of ‘Non-Toll Routes.

So, let us say that you have decided to use the major toll-free routes and not the toll motorways, you would be forgiven for believing that is the toll budget saved then……….. well not quite ! You are pootling along on your nice toll-free major road not a care in the world when you suddenly see a tunnel ahead of you, tunnels no problem you think to yourself, come on, even we have a tunnel or two in the UK. But some of these tunnels require you to pay a toll to pass through them ! and not content with that they even have some bridges you have to pay to cross rivers. It’s not all doom and gloom though, the tunnel and bridge tolls are few and far between and you could always choose to go over the mountain rather than through it, or around the river rather than cross it, but before doing so you may also wish to consider the distances involved in doing so and the associated cost of fuel (false economy ?) My point though is this, if you haven’t allocated a ‘Toll Budget’ into your expenditure calculations then this cost will of course need to be supplemented from elsewhere within your overall budget. Also worth noting is that some countries, whilst they may not charge tolls for using their Motorways, they may charge you to ‘enter’ the country and you will be required to purchase something called a ‘Vignette’, which you display in your window. It isn’t actually that expensive and it is valid for 12 months so you can pop in and out of the country within that period without having to pay again (although that doesn’t exempt you from having to pay the odd Tunnel toll here and there as well). Austria have Vignettes but they also have something called a “Go Box” for vehicles that weigh in excess of 3.5 tonnes. However, rather than wax lyrical about them I would suggest that if you wish to use Motorways in Austria then ‘Google’ – Austria – Go Box.

Okay, so we have covered what I consider to be the ‘essentials’ but now I am going to cover other areas. I guess I should ‘re-iterate‘ at this point that the areas/topics that I have just covered and those that I am about to mention are costs that I believe I need to consider for ‘my own‘ fulltiming budget, so these may not necessarily apply to you. I already know that there are more experienced fulltimers that will disagree with some of the things I am budgeting for and/or some of the points that I am raising, we have had many a debate on the forum about such matters. However, it is up to you as individual’s to consider what is and isn’t relevant to your own fulltiming lifestyle and budget.

LPG/Auto Gas – I am talking about the stuff you will use to Cook with (on the internal hob/oven), Heat the water in your on-board boiler, or use for habitation heating when it turns a little chilly and you are not hooked up to an Electrical Hook Up (EHU)). Again cost of LPG/Autogas varies significantly from country to country (currently during 2013 I have had reports of costs that vary between €0.54 – €0.87 Ltr). The availability throughout Europe ranges from countries that have an expanse of outlets on almost every street corner to countries, where, if you arrive with full tanks of the stuff you have more than their National supply. You can purchase books that will list LPG retail outlets throughout Europe or you can go on the internet and find information and maps.  I am not going to get into a debate around the extremely volatile subject of what is the best set up on your vehicle for obtaining LPG in Europe, although I will say that depending on what you choose to do will/may have some impact on your budget for this commodity. The use of campsites with EHU will greatly reduce your LPG consumption, however, what you may save in LPG costs you will probably lose anyway in campsite pitch and EHU charges ? You will generally use a campsites EHU to power things like your Fridge/Freezer, water and habitation heating but do check what the ampage is from the EHU as it is usually much lower than UK sites and can restrict what electrical appliances you can use ‘all at the same time’. The EHU may be included in the overall pitch price but on some sites, especially if staying on long-term pitches, they usually charge Electricity separately and by the Kwh. When driving, you should find that your fridge/freezer will more than likely be running from your 12v vehicle battery.   So, you are fulltiming and part of this big adventure (or lack of budget) means that you will not want to use campsites on a regular basis and therefore when the engine is not running you need to use your LPG supply to power your fridge, heat up the water and maybe, dependent on how many pairs of woolly socks and jumpers you can muster, power the habitation heating, and let’s not forget the LPG used for cooking which includes the use of that ‘external’ LPG BBQ point.  How long will your Gas supply last ?  This will depend on the size/quantity of your on-board gas supply, how high you have your fridge/freezer settings, your usage of hot water, how much cooking you do and whether you need to use the habitation heating.

Water We take water for granted in our conventional lives, just turn on a tap and out it comes, a never-ending source (unless there is a drought or problem with the mains supply). But when ‘on the road’ your water supply is as much as the amount that you can hold in your on-board tank. Now if you are on a campsite then whilst you have to keep topping up your tank for on-board use (or use the site facilities) it is included in the cost of your pitch but what about when you are not on a campsite ? There are many ‘Free‘ sources of water throughout Europe, ‘potable‘ (drinking water) and ‘un-potable‘ (not drinking water) and good planning should mean that you do not have to ever pay for water, except if you do not trust the ‘potable‘ water source and therefore elect to purchase bottled water, which you will probably account for within your grocery budget anyway. However, if you are parked up on an ‘Aire‘ (more about ‘Aires’ later) or you stop at an ‘Aire‘ just to fill/empty on-board tanks then some of these do charge for ‘potable‘ water, generally only  €1-£2 for 100 Litres but many ‘Aires‘ do provide ‘Free’ facilities so it is worthwhile investing in the widely available books that list these locations e.g. www.vicariousbooks.co.uk or ‘Camperstops Europe’ (which in my personal opinion is a fantastic travel companion), BORD Atlas, Aire de Camping-Car etc. and there are numerous listings on the Internet. We will be allocating a ‘daily’ budget for the use of overnight stops and provision of service facilities which will obviously include any costs associated to obtaining ‘water’ where absolutely necessary.

LaundryAlthough we will no longer need to have the variety of clothes that we needed when we were both working, our leisurely travelling will mean wearing lots of casual clothing such as Jeans or Shorts and casual shirts. We started to replace our ‘wardrobes’ in advance of our travels so that we could spread the cost of replacing what was old or getting worn out so that when we hit the road we had pretty newish clothing and wouldn’t have to worry too much initially about replacing clothing out of our budget. Sharon knew that we would need materials that were easy to wash and where possible wouldn’t need much ironing (if at all). So, at some point the clothing would still need to be washed. We were provided with this handy tip from other Motorhomers – invest in a small bucket with a lid that fits firmly, it needs to be large enough to take underwear or the odd Tee shirt or two but small enough to store easily when not in use. Some water and washing powder in the bucket with the clothes, apply lid and stand in the shower tray. When driving, the movement of the vehicle will ‘agitate’ the water and wash powder and clean the clothes. Then just a matter of wringing them out and hanging them out to dry. For larger items (Jeans, Towels, Bedding) or bigger wash loads then you will need to think about washing machines to do the job. There are several options. Although like the UK the town launderettes are getting fewer, there are still plenty about especially in the European towns, some Aires even have facilities (some of the Aires books even state if there are launderettes nearby) and generally these are relatively inexpensive. Although some readers may frown, most campsites have utilities blocks that provide washing/drying and sometimes even ironing facilities (we have invested in a small travel iron just in case we go somewhere a bit more ‘select’ than normal that requires Tee shirts to be pressed !) If you are not a campsite sort of person it may be advantageous to occasionally stop on one to do the ‘bigger washes’ and also use the opportunity to charge up any essential electrical equipment, empty chemical waste and re-fill the fresh water tank. You may even be permitted to give the van a wash down, it may need it after days ‘on the road’. Like everything else, the cost of the laundry facilities vary from country to country but from what I have seen you are looking at about €3-5 for a washing machine and same again for a tumble dryer which you may need in the colder months. depending on your need or desire to change clothing on a frequent basis, a fortnightly wash should be sufficient, In the hotter weather, sheets, pillow cases, towels may require more frequent laundering. Depending on the size and payload of your van you may also wish to consider the portable washing machines that are widely available, some are manual (crank handle) whilst others are electrically powered but you would need the space to carry such an item and quite literally weigh up how much ‘load’ capacity of clothing does it have and how often you may use it. I have also been reminded that there is also the option of washing clothing in Rivers but I would suggest that you consider the environmental impact on the use of any detergents before doing so ?

Food & Other Consumables – Now this really is an individual thing and will be very much dependent on your style of living. I should just also explain that in our own weekly budget we have accounted for not just costs of re-stocking food and drink (which will include coffee and tea as well as water, beer, wine etc) but also other consumables such as, washing up liquid, washing powder, Aquachem, Shower Gels, Toothpaste, Toilet Tolls, Kitchen Rolls, Tin Foil etc. etc I am sure you get my drift. The latter items probably will not need to be purchased every week and like us you may initially take a reserve stock with you. However, dependent on the duration of your travelling you will at some point need to re-stock some, if not all, of these items. If you ‘do not’ allocate for this within your normal budget then when you do need to re-stock will you reduce the food/drink purchases or have to find the extra from elsewhere within your budget ?  We spent the 12 months leading up to starting our adventure monitoring our weekly shopping costs, we did not intentionally reduce it although we got into a habit of only buying what it was that we needed when we needed it, rather than stockpiling the freezer or cupboards with surplus. You may not have the luxury of space to store many surplus items in your chosen vehicle like you can do in a house. There were some weeks when we did buy extra because we had family visiting or we bought extra wine/beer because we were entertaining but we would expect to do this even when we are on the road, so this additional expenditure was also included and calculated within our ‘on the road’ budget. So, although our exercise in budget management is continuing (it is a habit now that is hard to break), we have been able to monitor, quite accurately, our overall annual spend which has included all those ‘other routine consumables’ and cleaning materials. This has provided us with an extremely useful guide for our ‘on the road’ weekly budget.

For those that are unfamiliar with travelling in Europe, it is worth remembering that Europe has large supermarkets similar to our own ASDA, TESCO, Morrison’s (Super U, Intermarche) as well as lots of SPAR, LIDL and ALDI stores. I would suggest that with a few exceptions you can get in Europe stores what you can get in UK stores so other than some unfamiliar names to contend with, the tins, jars, packets etc do have pictures which helps identify products and those that do not, do not require you to be a rocket scientist to work out what they are. It is not difficult to identify a loaf of bread, a box of corn flakes, a jar of coffee, a bag of sugar or carton of milk. Fruit and Vegetables also generally look the same, so just go and enjoy the experience. Shopping on local town/village markets can be great fun too, do not be put off by what appears to be mis-shaped fruit or vegetables, these are how they are harvested unlike the ones that are selected for large Supermarkets that have to be a ‘uniform’ shape, colour or size.

For those with ‘Special Dietery Needs’ it is worth remembering that it is not just ‘British’ people that have such requirements so although you may need to look a little harder and learn the right words for some of the less popular items, rest assured it will be out there.

As far as we are concerned, a part of this ‘big adventure experience’ is to eat what the locals eat.

Communications – Oh dear !! How can I stop this particular subject from dragging on into its own volume of War and Peace ? Let me start by saying that I am in no way technologically gifted, there are far more knowledgeable and better experienced people out there on forums who can better advise on what you need to know, how to use it etc. However, modern technology has advanced greatly and even WiFi is now much more widely available even on ‘Aires‘, Campsites, Cafes, Bars, Restaurants and within local communities (Town Halls and Tourist Information Offices) let alone the more usual retail outlets (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Internet Cafe’s etc). I was introduced to ‘Skype’ and ‘Facetime’ and so am amazed at being able to get WiFi access on a phone ! let alone an iPad and surf the internet, wow !! Laptops/iPads are still required and there are many ways of gaining internet connection, not just through the more normal WiFi connections where available but also through 3G and 4G mobile telecommunication technologies. The biggest downside was initially the cost, a UK SIM Card in a UK mobile phone would mean paying extortionate rates and if you didn’t turn certain settings off (Data Roaming or Push Notifications for example) you could be sent messages without asking for them and be charged for the privilege, sometimes without even knowing it  ! You could however buy a local SIM Card for your Phone or iPad thereby being charged at the going local telecommunications company rate and although this may mean purchasing several SIM Cards in several countries it would be economically much more viable. But Service Providers are now realising that this is what people are doing and it is losing them business so there are already changes in the reduction of call charges across Europe, which for once, is to the advantage of the consumer.

Other Budget Considerations :

Personal Expenditure – What budgetary constraints do you have, if any ? What ‘On the Road’ Lifestyle do you anticipate having ? It may be that you have no financial constraints and can live exactly the Lifestyle that you require. You may have a regular income that can be supplemented via other means e.g. Rental Income or Capital Savings. You may have a ‘restricted’ income with no additional or supplementary finances available. Only you know what your actual income will be and will need to budget accordingly. You may need to make some ‘compromises‘ or adjustments to the lifestyle you originally planned to one which is more economically viable.

I for one certainly led a different lifestyle when I was on annual Motorhoming holidays to that which I will have when fulltiming. However, within our ‘amended’ budget, we will manage to keep within the ‘principle‘ and ‘purpose‘ of our particular fulltiming lifestyle. The compromises that we have had to make are not using campsites quite so prolifically as we had initially hoped to do.

Motorhome ‘Aires The French generally describe their Motorhome Services as ‘Aires‘, they can be called something different in other Countries e.g. Stellplatz in Germany or Sostas in Italy. However, within the Motorhome fraternity they are all just generally referred to as ‘Aires‘. Do not confuse a ‘Motorhome Aire’ with an ‘Aires de Service’ on a Motorway, whilst the ‘Motorway Service Areas’ may provide facilities for Motorhomes e.g. Fresh Water and Waste Water dumping, these are not ‘Motorhome Aires’ in the true sense and although some may disagree with me, I would suggest, from personal experience, not to use them for overnight stops.

Motorhome ‘Aires‘ are in abundance throughout Europe, they can be small, no facilities and on a piece of scrub land right up to large ‘Full Services’ provided (including Toilets, Showers, WiFi). They can be in isolated rural locations, on the edge of small villages or towns or even close to the centre of some towns and cities. They can be on the Beach, by a Lake, River or Canal, in the grounds of a Monastery or parking areas of Cathedrals, they can be in designated parking bays at Swimming Pools or Sports Halls, outside or inside Campsites, in fact they are absolutely everywhere !!  There are very many that provide services ‘Free’ of charge and other’s that charge either for parking up, provision of services or both. However, unless you use ones in the height of summer in the tourist areas then you are not going to be paying very much, anything from ‘Free’ up to about €15 per night. But generally I would say from my research over 2 years that if you allocate a daily budget of €10 you will more likely come away with change.

We have spent a great deal of time over the last 2 years or so researching the availability of  ‘Motorhome Aires’ throughout Europe, as these will be our primary locations for Nightstops (with the occasional Wild-camping locations and a few campsites thrown in for good measure). In doing so I have been astounded at the extensive network, the wide provision of services provided (especially the numerous ‘Free’ ones) and some of the beautiful locations that they are in. Parking on the edge of a Pine Forest next to a sandy beach, on the banks of several lakes which will be great for Kayaking as well as Rivers and Canals. It will certainly be an experience but one that we are looking forward to. The numerous Guidebooks also provide information on facilities and services that are near to the ‘Aire‘ itself, things such as Supermarkets, Restaurants, Public Transport, Launderettes and distances to local towns.

 In addition to the ‘Aires‘ network there are other night-stop locations such as ‘France Passion‘ a scheme that permits ‘Free’ camping generally in rural locations e.g. livestock and arable farms, vineyards, alpaca farms etc. and although these generally provide no facilities they do provide parking for 24 hours.

‘ACSI Campings Europe’ provide, upon a small subscription payment, a Camping Card that provides discount at certain campsites in Low Season periods and these can be very economical to use especially if you have saved some of your daily budgets on the alternative ‘Free’ accommodations. It is also worth noting, especially in the Low Peak winter periods that many of the campsites do ‘Long Term’ offers e.g. if you stay for 90 days or longer a pitch with EHU can cost as little as €15 per night and many of these, especially in Southern Spain can be on or within close proximity to the beach.

So all in all, the budget can be dramatically reduced simply by using alternatives to ‘campsites’ and even more dramatically by spending some time beforehand researching and plotting the ‘Free’ ones ! Although this can be very laborious and somewhat tedious so best done in small chunks.

Birthday/Christmas Funds If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or other close family and friends that you would normally send cards or gifts to, you may still wish to do so. This is a personal choice and one that will have to be calculated within your allocated budget.

FINALLY !! ……………………………………………………

FreedomWe have spent a lot of time identifying potential costs that you may wish to consider when planning your budgets in an attempt to answer the question “Can I afford to do this” ? But it would not be right to not include the cost of the Freedom that this fulltiming lifestyle will provide. To be able to spend as little or as long as you choose in one place, town, city, region or country. To dictate your own pace, your own direction. To wake up and look out of your window at ever-changing scenery with the knowledge that you do not have to cut one blade of grass or water one flower, plant or shrub but you can still enjoy it. The freedom to choose whether you dine ‘al fresco‘ outside your Motorhome or on a pavement Café or Restaurant in a nearby village or town. The freedom to choose whether to walk coastal footpaths, along canal towpaths, barefoot on sandy beaches up in hills and forests or take bicycle rides through country lanes or quaint villages, or swim in the sea or a lake or a river. The freedom to go Snorkelling or Kayaking or Canoeing or Fishing. The freedom to just sit in a chair outside your Motorhome, ideally with your favourite tipple or even a nice hot cuppa, read a book (or Kindle), listen to your favourite music, people watch or just have a quick inspection of the undersides of your eyelids. The cost of this Freedom……….. Priceless !!

“Dare to step outside your comfort zone, Dare to Dream, Dare to Live that Dream”

UPDATE 14th February 2014

When I originally published the above I had not travelled for an extended period of time and so the comments were of a general nature. However, we conducted our first real extended trip between October 2013 and January 2014 and kept a record of our expenditure. Obviously, the costs reproduced below were for ‘our’ way of doing things, to suit our ‘lifestyle’ and so not necessarily the way that others may choose. I have converted our costs back from Euro to £Sterling and although the full length of our trip was 94 days, for ease of calculations, on a monthly basis, the costs below are for a 12 week period.


We gave ourselves a budget of £10 per day (£840) and actually spent £378.72 which worked out at an average cost of £4.51 per day leaving us a surplus of £461.28 :0)


We gave ourselves a budget of £135 per month (£405) and actually spent £385.43 which worked out at an average of £128.48 per month leaving us a surplus of £19.57 :0)

Groceries (Included our beer & wine):

We gave ourselves a budget of £80 per week (£960) and actually spent £725.93 which worked out at an average of £60.49 per week leaving us a surplus of £234.07 :0)

Personal Expenses:

We gave ourselves a budget of £15 per day (£1,260) and actually spent £664.41 which worked out at an average of £7.91 per day leaving us a surplus of £595.59 :0)


We gave ourselves a budget of £10 per week (£120) and actually spent £30.73 which worked out at an average of £2.56 per week leaving us a surplus of £89.27 :0)


We gave ourselves a budget of £40 per month (£120) and actually spent £58.54 which worked out an average of £19.51 per month leaving us a surplus of £61.46 :0)

Over that 84 day period we used Campsites for 14 Nights, Aires for 52 Nights and we Wildcamped for 18 Nights

Our Total Expenditure for that 12 week period was £2,243.76 an average weekly cost of £187.48

I hope that the above figures will be useful for those of you planning your finances !! Remember, these were ‘our’ costs, it can be done more economically :0)

 Update 2nd September 2015

For a breakdown of our Finances for our last Winter Trip (2014/15) read the associated blog post published in Feb/Mar 2015)

12 Responses to What does it cost ?

  1. Cassandra says:

    When converting costs from Euro to Sterling you could put the average exchange rate you obtained. If sterling went back to either 1.50 Euros or 1.05 Euros it would make a huge difference in the costs of trips to Europe.

    How much were your ferry costs? Although they differ for sizes of vehicle they should be included in your costs because without that expense, you wouldn’t have been unable to take advantage of the cheaper foreign Aires.

    Although you haven’t been doing this a year, you must have a budget for how much your annual MOT, Insurance, maintenance, communications, etc cost. So shouldn’t you add in a figure for that for this length of trip? e.g. annual cost / 52 then times 12, for a 12 week trip. Those costs are relevant for every week in the van, they cannot just be ignored. Your £187 a week is more like a partial holiday cost than a full time cost, without including some pro-rata annual costs.

    The other cost that blogs always ignore is something for van depreciation. People could get lucky and not lose much but the longer someone does it full time then the more they need to think about putting money aside for a replacement van. Your £187 a week as costs is about £10k a year. How much might it cost to replace a van in 5, 10, 15 years? Say you decided you might need £5k a year that’s another £100 a week onto your costs. It’s something people should consider for a true picture of annual costs.

    • Not quite sure what you are expecting from me Cassandra ? By the sounds of it I may as well just publish ‘all’ my personal financial information. Have you read ‘all’ my posts ? Within them is information that actually answers some, if not all, of your questions !!

      I take some of your points but why should I include how much it costs me to Insure, Tax, Service/MOT my van !! Or what it cost for ‘my’ ferry journey. This will have absolutely no relevance on what it would cost ‘others’ as everyone has their own Units. Please take time to read the full page ‘What does it Cost’ as I have already covered all of these points and also the post ‘Reflections’, the information is there if you take time to read it.

  2. Cassandra says:

    Sorry I thought the idea of a separate “What it costs” section was to gather all the costs in one place without reading all the posts.

    My post wasn’t a criticism it was only meant to give your readers more food for thought about what full timing might really cost longer term. I’d hate to think someone might google motorhome costings read a couple of partial costings pages and think “They live well on only £187 a week…. great I can afford that”. I think when everything is added in it might cost significantly more than that, depending on the lifestyle people expect.

    Like I said I have yet to see any motorhome costing page that even mentions something like van depreciation. I’ve seen one that includes £500 a month “rent” on the bricks and mortar side but nothing on the van cost side and says full timing is £300 a month cheaper!

    Your annual costs aren’t going to reflect a year on the road full timing anyway because of the campsite job (well done getting that by the way) so never mind.

    • Hi Cassandra, no I didn’t take it as criticism, hopefully explained in an Email I have sent to you :0) I had hoped that my ‘original’ write up on ‘What does it cost’ had explained a lot of the ‘extra’ costs that needed to be considered, including many of those that you have mentioned :0) the costs I added recently was just really to give readers an idea of what it did, in reality, cost us on our trip against the budgets we had allocated. Nobody should enter into this without considering ‘all’ costs associated to the lifestyle which as you rightly mention, should include maintenance and depreciation.

  3. Martin Cadogan says:

    Hi Eric, it’s Martin (Cranwell DD Dogman). Just been pointed in your direction having been chatting to our old boss JS. Wow, so you packed up and ‘done one’!! That’s brilliant!! I’m well chuffed for you if not a little (or a lot) jealous of you grabbing your cahonas in hand and going for it!!!
    There must have been something in the water we were drinking because this is EXACTLY what I plan to do with my wife (Debbie). It’s something I’ve been talking to her about over the last 2 years or so. She’s never been to Scotland/NI and neither of us have been to the Lake District so my plan is to show her the parts of the UK she’s never seen head across to Europe and see where it takes us. I will be reading your blog with great interest. Brilliant!!! Keep it up mate 🙂

    • Howdy stranger ! Good to hear from you after such a long time. Got two more posts to publish when I get a decent WiFi connection, currently just tethered via my mobile so you will have to wait for the next instalments :0)

  4. Martin says:

    Nice one Eric. I look forward to following 🙂

    • Always good to have another follower ;0) If you have any questions, or just want a ‘general’ catch up chat, just drop me an Email. Will have more regular WiFi soon as moving down on to ‘Algarve’ tomorrow :0)

  5. Glenn says:

    I have just found this blog. We are looking to do something very similar next spring when I will retire after 30 years as a fireman. We are looking at the autotrail tag axle island bed as well. Have you found the van to be the correct one for you? have you had any problems with the size etc? I am going to be following this very carefully now. Thanks for taking the time to do this I now cannot wait to be doing the same as you.

    • Hi Glenn, having had four previous Motorhomes we were in a good position to know what we were looking for in our ‘Retirement’ van. People have different priorities and so, size, layout and storage can vary significantly. The Auto Trail Comanche ticked all of the boxes on our ‘Essentials’ list and then surprisingly ‘All’ of the boxes on our ‘Desirables’ list so it was a ‘done deal’. You will see from some of my blog posts that we have had some ‘interesting’ moments (don’t forget to pack some brown coloured shorts/trousers !!), some of my own making and others not. However, once on the circuit you will hear all sorts of similar tales from people in a vast array and size of vans. However, to answer your question, No we have not had any ‘problems’ with the size of the Motorhome, we have been up mountains, down narrow roads etc.
      Please feel free to Email me if you have ‘Any’ questions or you need a ‘sanity’ check !! :0)

  6. Alan Priestnall says:

    Hi Eric n’ Shazza,
    Thanks for the blog, very helpful.
    What I need is details of recommended sites in Morocco for a similar experience?

    • Go into my blog trip for Morocco and there you will find two publications that I used, one was from vicarious books the other, a French publication (and the better of the two), I purchased from the Internet 👍

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