Campervan Tips for Newbie Drivers

See our campervan tips to help you get the best out of your journey. Whether its wild camping and van life or just relaxing in a campsite we have the best campervan tips here for you!

Using or driving a motorhome can prove challenging for just about anyone, especially when it is your first time driving one. In this post, we present several vital, practical tips and tricks to help beginners go for an exciting and hassle-free motorhome trip for the first time and wish for more such trips in future. If you want to learn about motorhome basics, campervan guidelines for beginners, or how to hire or own a new motorhome, the best motorhome tips below will make the experience worthwhile.

First time hiring a campervan? See why we think it is the best type of holiday!

Ensure your motorhome is equipped with what you need before you hire the vehicle

Recent designs and models of motorhomes can be sophisticated and challenging to understand. Therefore, consider doing your research and due diligence before you start your motorhome life journey. More specifically, confirm that you understand how all the systems, facilities and devices in the motorhome operate.

A comprehensive handover is extremely helpful, but you can remember a few essential details.

Most people who have never used a motorhome before prefer to spend their night on the driveway before setting off to their camping destination. Doing this helps to test and look for potential issues that may develop later during the camping trip. For example, you could discover that the front bed extension parts or the table extension take up too much space or hinder you from moving freely in the motorhome.

Also, adjust the setup of the motorhome as if it is at night and confirm that the blinds are functioning perfectly, see where the cab screens are situated, and how the bed should be when it is not in its permanent position.

Rely on a GPS navigator

This tip might appear obvious; however, many beginners attempt to wing their motorhome trip. Therefore, as part of your first trip planning, ensure you pre-load your GPS device with the country or region you want to drive during your trip. Simultaneously, your maps must be updated as sometimes new roads get constructed, and the timeworn ones are decommissioned.

campervan navigation

Particular types of GPS navigators allow you to key in the vehicle model you will be driving together with its dimensions. Entering the vehicle's dimensions will protect you from having to re-route to avoid low bridges and narrow roads. In addition, you may set the navigator to stay away from toll roads. Whether you are wild camping and living the van life or just doing a set journey, a GPS is invaluable.

See our essential campervan route planning tips here.

Confirm you know how heating controls work.

It would be best to keep yourself warm while travelling through the UK in your motorhome. Therefore, ensure you know how the heating controls are operated before embarking on the trip.

Does the vehicle have a full gas bottle? Is the vehicle's LPG tank or diesel fuel tank always full? You must stay supplied with these essentials at night.

In addition, note that removable gas bottles ordinarily come in two different colours: blue to denote butane and orange to denote propane. Propane is preferred in the UK as it remains in a gaseous state at low temperatures.

It is pretty challenging to determine the amount of gas remaining in a bottle; however, the best way is to weigh it – you may use a bathroom scale for this work. A 6kg orange propane cylinder weighs 9kg when empty and about 15 kilograms when brimming.

Typically, you will need a gas spanner to switch the cylinders – they use a reverse thread. The regulators are distinct to every type of gas; therefore, there is no risk of fixing the incorrect bottle, as it will not fit. For this reason, carry a gas spanner or an adjustable spanner – you can pack it in the vehicle’s gas locker to help switch the cylinders easily.

You can collect replacement gas bottles from garden centres, filling stations, and motorhome dealers. You can also buy replacement bottles at various campsites if you encounter hindrances; however, do not fully depend on this option as you are never sure of the types and sizes of bottles they sell.

It is always helpful to teach yourself how to refill an LPG tank if the tank is already fixed on your motorhome. To refill one in the UK, you may need to fix a bayonet-style attachment and press a button until the tank is full. When you let go of the button, you should hear a loud hiss; this can be frightening, but that is what routinely happens.

Rely on navigation maps for your campervan trip.

You can make the most of the free wifi with several apps to help you navigate around as you enjoy your campervan road trip together. The leading apps for this work are Campercontact and MAPS.ME.

MAPS.ME helps you plan your trip and mark multiple locations on your route that you want to visit. The app is easy to download and install on Android, iPad, or iPhone. It is an excellent solution since it can be used offline, allowing you to find your way to various destinations without being connected to the internet.

Campercontact is a popular app among a majority of the motorhome owners and drivers. It is straightforward and provides detailed information about the motorhome parking sites you can use, showing their respective rates, accompanying facilities, and when they are available. In addition, it also shows different customer reviews to help you decide the best option for your stay.

Familiarize yourself with the motorhome manual

Admittedly, it can become quite bothersome to read the manual in its entirety; however, it is always worthwhile for anyone looking to hire a motorhome. The manual shows you the location of all the equipment and the facilities you need and how they function. For this reason, spare enough time read the manual in detail and learn about the installations and facilities in your motorhome.

If you intend to hire a motorhome in a country that does not speak English, request a manual written in a language you are familiar with beforehand. The rental agency should order and deliver an English manual for you or give you a link you can use to access an online copy.

Pack low electrical power devices and appliances

Many beginners make the mistake of carrying home electrical appliances in their motorhomes. Please note: heating appliances with a heating component, such as a microwave, kettle, toaster, hairdryer, fan heater, etc., usually need a high voltage current and will trip the hook-up protector in most motorhomes and campsites. You also don't want to run your leisure battery down too quickly.

campervan electrical appliances

For example, the 3000w electric kettle you ordinarily use at home need as much as 12.5A of electrical current, which will be too much for some hook-up electrical systems to handle. Remember, the campsite’s hook-up bollards are usually shared between multiple users and may limit the power allowance you get.

Therefore, always evaluate the power demands for the gadgets you intend to carry or seek alternatives, such as a kettle designed to sit on a gas hob. In addition, ensure you identify the location of the mains consumer on your motorhome.

Make contingency in case of an emergency.

Having solid plans to help you deal with accidental occurrences likely to set you back is always the right thing. To begin with, ensure you have all the insurance information you need at hand and other emergency phone contacts with you all the time. It is also necessary to find out earlier enough how and when you can report an emergency or accident to the motorhome company that leased the vehicle to you. In some instances, the companies have policies that provide the maximum time you should take before reporting an accident or emergency. Anything could happen so be sure your campervan has the basics like a tyre repair kit or spare wheel. Every one of our campervan rentals comes with its own roadside assistance guarantee.

Understand your pre-load vehicle checks.

You must conduct several motorhome checks before you begin your journey every day. They include:

-Switch off the LPG gas

-Ensure the drawers and cupboards are secure and closed

-Place paper towels in between pottery, such as plates, to stop them from rattling

-Make sure you retract any of the vehicle's external footsteps

-Confirm that the day's GPS waypoints have been keyed in your navigation devices

-Ensure all the vehicle's window vents and roof are shut and secure

-Ensure the shower and sink drain plugs have been fitted properly

-Carry some snacks, water, and other refreshments for the passengers and the driver

You Need Adapters for the Water, Gas and LPG

We purchased two plastic water-tap fittings of varying sizes (21mm and 26mm external diameter) to help us connect the water hose to an external water tap.

In addition, we also purchased two separate gas adaptors to help us re-fill the German LPG bottles at gas stations as we traversed various European countries. One adapter was meant for the gas bottle, and the other was for the autogas outlet on the filling hose.

Have the correct dimensions and weight of the motorhome

You must know and remember the width, height, weight, and length of the motorhome you are using. This information will help you avoid being stuck underneath a bridge. In addition, some motorhome parking facilities can only accommodate vehicles of a particular length.

The motorhome's weight will be vital when registering for tolls. Some countries can only let you drive through toll gates if your motorhome has yet to reach a pre-determined weight limit.

Consider Parking on Cities Peripheries

For beginners, driving a motorhome can be quite challenging; however, driving the motorhome through busy roads in foreign countries is far from fun.

For this reason, we recommend you seek camper stops outside the city or in less busy towns with efficient transport links to the city. We often relied on trains, buses, and bikes to move around the busy parts of the big cities we toured.

In addition, consider buying strong bike locks that provide maximum security in the car park case thieves try to steal your wheels.

We went through this unpleasant experience: thieves managed to steal our bikes in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, although we had locked all the bikes to a bike rack. We were compelled to report the crime to the police to enable us to claim the cost of the stolen bikes from the travel insurance we had arranged.

The next time we purchased our bikes, we ensured we purchased two strong security locks and chains to keep the bikes safe.

Fuel your motorhome whenever you get the chance.

You will soon discover that campsites are usually located in different places, sometimes delightfully far-flung areas where fuel stations and facilities may not be immediately accessible. For this reason, ensure you refill the gas and fuel when you come across a filling point on your trip.

What  to do when you get to the campsite

Most recent models of motorhomes may come close to their payload limits; therefore, carrying an empty water tank for your motorhome road trip, is a great idea. This ensures you fill the water tank when you get to a campsite.

Since many models of motorhomes come with an in-built water tank, forcing you to drive the vehicle near the water tap or use a hose with a hook-up point to fill the tank.

In addition, park the vehicle in your allotted spot and connect the main’s hook-up cable to the vehicle’s socket. Then, connect the other end of electric cable to the electric hook-up bollard and confirm power inside the motorhome.

If there is no power inside the vehicle, confirm the consumer unit of the hook-up bollard has not tripped. You will need to reset it if it has tripped or seek assistance from the site owner. If the problem persists, you might also need to confirm the vehicle’s consumer unit has not tripped; if it has, you will need to reset it.

What to do before leaving the campsite

Remember to empty the chemical loo and wastewater tank before leaving the campsite. There are numerous campsites with motorhome service areas for both service facilities.

You will need to place the motorhome on the vacant point and open the valve to drain the wastewater – you will need to step aside to prevent getting splashed with fresh water. Emptying the 80-liter tank may take some time, so you can also use this time to empty the loo.

campsite best practices

Once the waste has been completely emptied, close the drain valve and ensure it is secure.

Also, you might need a few hand wipes or alcohol gel in the vehicle to clean yourself after this task.

Ensure the doors, vents, windows, and lockers are secure. Also, safely place any object inside your motorhome that may fall when the vehicle is safe and secure. Particularly, ensure the fridge and washroom doors are closed – they are often the culprits to flap open when the vehicle is in motion.

Have the Correct Dimensions of the Motorhome With you

Knowing the width, height, and length of the camper van vehicle is beneficial. Motorhome dimensions are vital to know. Knowing such dimensions will help avoid being stuck below bridges during your trip. You will also know which campsites you can get admission to based on the length of the campervan.

In some European countries, during the construction of the road network and temporary lanes were in use, the lanes’ width is shown on the signs near the road.

An extra helpful tip: the slow lane is usually wider since it is designed for use by lorries and trucks. This lane is ideal for motorhomes since the additional width accommodates the vehicle.

In addition, if you opt for a ferry, you must specify the vehicle’s length when signing up for a ticket.

Know Your Motorhome Weight Limit

You will be allowed to use the ordinary motorhome highway tolls and pay for them by card or using a card at the toll booths, provided your vehicle is below 3.5 tonnes in gross weight.

Otherwise, you might be forced to buy a vignette, a sticker on the vehicle’s windscreen. A vignette is only meant to last for a given duration, which you must determine when buying the sticker. To avoid forgetting the expiry date, we should set a reminder using your phone, which is what we did.

If you are driving a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes (the legal weight limit as allowed in many EU countries), you must register for an electronic tag or box, which will be carried inside the vehicle.

Whether it is your first campervan trip or your fortieth, these tips are vital for you to get the best out of your family holiday, short break or whatever else. These are only the essentials for you to experience the trip as best as you can. Rambling Rover is your number one choice for all things campervan in Ireland.