Adelle and Ron Milavsky, a lovely retired couple who live in Connecticut, have been road-tripping across Europe for years. They’ve written the definitive guide on RV trips, Take Your RV to Europe: The Low-Cost Route to Long-Term Touring and now here to share a few more tips about this rather under-rated method of travel.
You recently came back from yet another RV roadtrip through Europe. Tell us a bit about it. How far did you go? What were some of your best memories?
Over the years, we’ve spent more than a year touring Western Europe. Our latest trip was in April and May this year. We only stayed for six weeks this year instead of our usual 10 –12 weeks. We knew that it would be considerably more expensive this year because of the low value of the dollar. Because gas was as high as $10 a gallon, we only traveled in The Netherlands, Belgium and France with one stop in Germany.
In all we drove about 1500 miles. Our main stops were Bruges, Ypres, Waterloo and Gent in Belgium; The Hague, Amsterdam, and Keukenhof Gardens in The Netherlands; Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg, Troyes in France; and Aachen in Germany. Our bills from this six-week stay were still affordable. Our total outlay for six weeks of travel (not counting airfare) was about $3,000 more than what we would spend at home for food and entertainment. For our 42-day stay, gas costs us $1200, campgrounds just under $1000.
Why Europe and not the US for RV trips?
Once we had begun, we found RV’ing in Europe was even nicer than RV’ing in America. Distances are much shorter, most cities have campgrounds in or near them, and public transportation is good. All of this adds up to a great way to travel – no set itinerary, complete freedom to go where you want and a minimum of driving. And of course, no packing or unpacking between stops.
Worst experience while RV roadtripping? Best?
We’ve had some uncomfortable moments when we were lost (or rather, taken the scenic route). But in all this time, we’ve never had a bad experience, except for the memorable time we decided to take the “2.8 meter Tunnel” to Caen in Normandy, France and found that our RV was 3.1 meters high. (We knocked the cover off our air conditioner and it never worked again.) But we’ve loved our extended stays in all the big cities in Europe – including Amsterdam, Bruges, London, Paris and Rome. We’ve been to Roman ruins, medieval cities and castles, towns built into the sides of mountains, museums of all sorts, caves of neolithic paintings, cathedrals, zoos, wonderful gardens, historic homes and more. And countless open-air markets.
When did you guys get the travel bug? What’s your traveling background?
Before my husband, Ronald, retired, we had traveled the “usual” way to about twelve countries. Most were in Europe but we’d also been in China, Thailand and Korea as well as Venezuela. We stayed mostly in hotels, and ate most of our meals in restaurants. So we were “experienced” travelers.
In 2001 we bought a small motor home and traveled across the U.S. We fell in love with this style of traveling and decided that driving a motor home in Europe might give us a chance to really spend time there in an affordable way. Even better it would allow us to do something that we’d always wanted to do – go to the outdoor markets and buy food to eat at home as the Europeans do.
With gas so high, are roadtrips still affordable?
This way of traveling allows great flexibility. We used various published guides to European campgrounds, but there is a great deal of information available on the internet. We choose our next destination using three criteria. First, how far away is it from where we are now (we like to drive no more than a couple of hours per day). Second, what is interesting in that city? Third, is there a campground with bus service to the tourist area close by?
How can travelers take their own RV trip?
When we realized that how enjoyable and affordable it was to travel leisurely and extensively through Western Europe. Ron decided that someone (namely Adelle) should write a book about our adventures in Europe. So I did. Take Your RV to Europe was published in 2005 by The Intrepid Traveler. It goes into detail about how to ship and what to expect when you get to Europe. Any one who is interested, can go to our website and blog, where we publish our letters home detailing our experiences. Ron is working on a very informative web site that combines our experiences with an enormous number of links on the internet for information about the places we have visited.
Is it possible to rent a RV in Europea? US? How?
It is possible to rent an RV in many places in Europe. Renting costs from $124 per day in the “low season” to $194 per day in the “high season”. This year, renting an RV for six weeks from April 24 to June 4 would have cost us just about the same amount as shipping our RV both ways. But, if we had stayed our usual 12 weeks, the cost would have been approximately $13,000 for a comparable size unit. You can see why we chose to ship our RV.
What about shipping a RV to another country?
The price to ship a motor home is computed per cubic foot. In 2002, we paid $2000 for our 21 ft. rig, but now the cost runs a bit more than $3000. If you can stay in Europe for three months or more, shipping a small RV would still be the most inexpensive way to travel. That $6000 round trip for the RV translates into about $66 per day. Together with campground fees, that is $100 a day, but that includes both overnight accommodations, the equivalent of a rental car to travel in, and the possibility of eating “at home” which saves a huge amount of money.
Incidentally, there is one other big “reason” to ship your own unit if you can. Traveling in the UK with a rented rig where the driver is on the “wrong” side of the vehicle is very hard and can be dangerous. But in your own motor home, you are able to judge the size and shape of the rig. The hard part is not sitting in your accustomed position. It is easy to remember to drive on the left!
We have literally visited hundreds of cities and villages in Europe, and it’s been a wonderful experience. We think that other Americans should consider it.