Campervan holidays saw a surge in popularity over the last couple of years, with many people now taking on their own DIY campervan transformations to travel the world. Pippa and her boyfriend Benn are one such couple, who managed to complete the majority of work on their second-hand van in just five months. Pippa recorded much of the renovation process on her Instagram page @LittleMCRHouse.
The couple decided to take their newly refurbished campervan on its first international trip to Europe mid-refurbishment. “We actually drove straight to Europe on our first trip which was super risky looking back in case we’d made any mistakes,” Pippa, who heads up Scoop PR, told Express.co.uk.
“We had the leave booked off and we basically ran out of time to get it ready. We were still working on it the night before we left! But we’re so glad we did though as we had an incredible time and it gave us the chance to think about changes we might make to our design when we got home.”
Over the course of three and a half weeks, the couple travelled through France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland with their dog Mags, and learned a few things about ‘van life’ along the way.
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“We only had a very vague idea of where we wanted to go when we left home and had made a list of landmarks we’d like to visit but we essentially played it by ear and followed the weather,” Pippa said.
While they were met with incredible views and experiences in every destination, one country, in particular, stood out for its welcoming approach to campervan and driving holidaymakers.
“We loved France,” said Pippa. “The whole country is really campervan friendly and it’s really easy to find somewhere to park up – they have free Aires which are essentially car parks for motorhomes all over the country, we found some great locations, like in vineyards and by lakes.
“We stayed on the French Riviera for a few nights and it was so nice to be by the sea! We spent almost a week beach hopping, and when we found a good campsite we just used the local buses to get around so we could go see nearby cities like Nice, as it’s harder to park up where it’s busy.
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“In France, you can be super flexible because they have the Aires, but in other countries, you need to be on a campsite.”
Though the couple “loved” Italy, they recommend planning your itinerary before journeying there. Pippa explained: “We loved Italy but if we went back we would definitely pre-book there as a lot of the sites were full when we tried to book.
“Every morning we decided where to go next, and then while Benn was driving I’d look for a campsite and call ahead to book. We went in June so it wasn’t too busy, so if you go over the summer holidays it’s worth checking with the campsites earlier.”
And if you are pre-planning your route, Pippa recommends looking for campsites with added perks. “We spent a night in Switzerland near the Great St Bernard’s Pass,” she said. “The campsite we found was in a valley so we were surrounded by beautiful mountains – it was so peaceful.”C
Pippa’s campervan holiday essentials
As well as figuring out the best places to visit, the couple’s first campervan trip also taught them about the essential items to pack.
A BBQ: “We have a mini coal barbecue but not all campsites let you use them, so if it’s your only way of cooking go for gas!”
Camping chairs: “You’ll have to use these a lot so invest. We got two chairs with arms and cup holders in, they came out every night as the views on some of the campsites have gorgeous views.”
A comfy bed: “This is especially important if you are going for a longer trip. We managed to get a full double mattress in the bed by creating a winch to lower it from the ceiling.”
Insulated window covers: “Choose the reflective ones. They keep heat and light out when it’s sunny, and heat in when it’s cold. They do really work so it’s worth the investment.”
Flip flops: “These are especially important when using the shower blocks on campsites.”
A few tools: “These will come in handy just in case you have any problems on the roads.”
Clothes for all weather: “On our trip around Europe last June we had all weathers, at one point it was 12C and at another, it was 38C, so pack wisely.”