Your first few days with a campervan are a real learning experience. If you’re only taking one out for a long weekend, or week’s break, then, it’s worth knowing a few things before you set off — whoever you happen to be renting it from.
If you’ve never driven a campervan before (or a vintage Beetle), you probably haven’t noticed how friendly their owners are to one another. Head off in one of out vans and you’ll notice that fellow vintage Volkswagen drivers will wave as you pass, often giving a friendly thumbs-up as you approach.
Wave back, and if you’re travelling with kids, get them to wave too. As soon as you hit the road in a camper, you’re joining the club.
Driving a camper is a wonderful way to explore the country. They’re a little slower than a regular car and have only four gears (plus reverse), so don’t expect to cruise much above 50mph. This gives you plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and really appreciate where you’re going.
The best campervan holidays, then, are those where you don’t go too far, buy enjoy the journey, and then park up beside a great view and enjoy the comforts of the van itself.
Volkswagen produced its first campervan concept in 1947, basing much of its core design around the Beetle (for that reason, the earliest vans were called Type 2 (or T2), as the Beetle was known as Type 1). The first production models rolled off the line on 12 November 1949.
You’d be very lucky to find anyone who would rent you a van of that age, but thirty or forty year old rentals are pretty much the norm for boutique rental companies like Happy Campers.
Naturally, vehicles of that age lack some of the niceties we’ve come to expect on a modern car or van, such as air conditioning and electric windows. They also lack power steering, so driving them takes a little more work than you may be used to. After a couple of hours on the road, though, you’ll be used to the way they run and it soon becomes a very enjoyable experience.
While you could — in theory — pull up wherever you want and bed down for the night, it’s not always to be advised. You can’t generally sleep in motorway service areas, and sleeping on the roadside isn’t necessarily safe. You could be involved in a collision while sleeping, and the passing traffic will probably keep you awake.
Booking into a campsite will be safer and more secure, and also means you’ll have the benefit of an electrical hookup for running internal lights, entertainment, gadgets and so on, without running down the engine battery.