Those of you following my instagram feed will have see the influx of photos from my holiday. I’ve just got back from a fantastic week touring Cornwall in a stunning 1972 Devon, Classic VW Camper van called Delilah and I am in love. We rented Delilah from Cornish Campers and couldn’t have been happier with how the holiday went. As much as I want a holiday abroad next year I can’t wait until my next chance to get back inside Delilah and I’m already thinking about where I’d like to take her.
If you weren’t already a fan of retro VW Campers then just five minutes listening to me is probably enough to convince you it’s a great idea to go ahead and book one for your next holiday. That being said, there are a few things you should know before making the decision to rent a classic VW Camper Van.
The following post will introduce you to all the wonderful quirks of glamping in a camper van. Follow my advice and you’ll be well prepared for a proper retro holiday.
1. Be prepared to go slow
If you’re renting a classic camper as opposed to a modern transporter, you’re probably renting a vehicle between 40 and 50 years old! They are therefore a little slower than modern cars.
Expect to have a top speed of 55 miles per hour (if you’re lucky/going down hill) and plan accordingly!
2. Forget what you know about driving a car…
OK, so maybe you shouldn’t forget everything but you will want to pay close attention to everything the camper van rental company has to tell you about your van. The likelihood is that your steering wheel is huge, the wipers and lights are engaged a little differently and your hand break is nothing like you’ve seen before.
You’ll also have to get used to a HUGE turning circle so take extra care when manoeuvring. Those pesky hills you’ve never noticed before suddenly become a huge mission. In a classic camper everything is a hazard so be extra careful.
3. Be flexible with your journey
Because campers can be slow, difficult to handle, and complicated to drive, you might want to think again about long drives, windy roads and scenic detours. That’s not to say you can’t do all of those things but there is a balancing act between doing the tour you want and doing what’s best for your camper van.
We planned our tour of Cornwall before we headed down, booking into a couple of camp sites ahead of time. We thought we had our routes sorted to but, after struggling to turn right at the first junction we came to, we decided to go left instead taking a longer, prettier route, which was easier to drive!
The journey is all part of the fun so don’t panic if you have to take a detour and change plans last minute (especially if you also struggle with right hand turns!)
4. Pack light
This is probably a good tip whether you are camping under canvas or in a camper. Although camper vans are much bigger than your average car, space is somewhat limited. The rental company will probably be able to provide all the kitchen utensils you need, bedding and more. Other than your clothes, the van will have it covered.
As a rule of thumb take half of what you think you’ll need (particularly clothes) – we thought we had packed light and still came home with one suitcase full of clean washing! It’s also a good idea to take things that serve multiple purposes e.g. 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner.
Just remember, anything you don’t have that turns out to be essential can be bought once you get there! That’s what campsite shops are for.
5. Use your storage wisely
When you first pick up the van, the temptation is to chuck all of your stuff in the back and get driving which means you never get yourself truly organised…
VW Camper vans have lots of very clever storage and they are ingeniously designed. At the first possible opportunity unpack, making the most of the inbuilt storage. The last thing you want to be doing is unpacking / repacking every time you move on to a different camp site. Ideally all you will want to have to move each time are your outside items (deck chairs, table, etc.) and your suitcases.
6. Get used to being centre of attention (and not always for good reasons)
No doubt you’ve decided to rent a camper van because you think they are beautiful. Their design is a work of art, their shape is iconic and they come in such fun vibrant colours! It’s therefore no surprise that you will be the centre of attention wherever you go.
The first rule of driving is VW Camper is that you have to wave at all other VW Campers you pass on the roads. You’ll also end up waving to every child or young at heart adult you see too!
Unfortunately every once in a while someone won’t take so kindly to being forced to drive at 40 mph as they get stuck behind you. Aggressive drivers will probably honk their horn at you, overtake at unsafe points and, if you’re really unfortunate, you’ll get a few of them waving back at you in lewd gestures. It’s not nice but it is something to be aware of.
7. Get used to moving about every couple of days
For most people whether they have camped, caravanned or stayed in apartments or B&B’s they aren’t used to moving about every couple of days.
With a camper part of the fun is of course driving around. Having the open road ahead of us and not feeling tied to one place was the real appeal when we decided to rent the camper van. It can however be a bit difficult to get used to moving about especially if the weather is good and you are enjoying where you’ve parked up.
On the other side of the coin, just because you have rented a camper van doesn’t mean you have to move around every day. I’m guilty of trying to pack too much in to a holiday and I wish we had have had two weeks to explore instead of just one.
Our route around Cornwall went something like this:
- Heligan Woods (1 night)
- St Ives (2 nights)
- Perranporth (1 night)
- Padstow (3 nights)
Staying somewhere for just one night works well if its somewhere that you’re visiting for a very specific reason. Stays of three or four days are best reserved for areas where there is lots to do in the vicinity.
8. Book ahead for overnight stays
One of the unfortunate realities of camping in the UK is that a lot of camp sites aren’t too keen on accepting people for one or two nights peak season when they could have a family pitched up for the whole week (or longer). As a result, to make sure you book into the best camp sites you will need to book ahead. That way you’ll have the pick of the pitches! That being said, the UK has SO many camp sites to choose from if you do find yourself at a loss one evening with no where booked it is highly likely a camp site in the evening will have a pitch spare.
9. Make the most of Brit Stops where you can!
Although Brit Stops is designed for those lucky souls who own their own camper vans and motor homes you can join for just short of £30 for annual membership. For the cost of just one nights stay at most camp sites, Brit Stops offer free one night stopovers at a whole host of different sites. Stop over options include farm shops, country pubs, vineyards, breweries and more! So you not only get a free overnight stay along your journey but you also get to stop somewhere interesting where you may learn a thing or two or get a good meal thrown in too!
10. Pack the little luxuries
Don’t forget you are glamping! Although packing light is pretty much essential that doesn’t mean leaving your make up bag, hair dryer or your favourite food and drink at home. A small portable DVD player also isn’t a bad idea considering the British weather!
You’re here to have fun – this is glamping after all! I may have got a few funny looks from fellow campers decked out in my vintage jumpsuit, heeled sandals and a bottle of champagne in hand but by god did it make all the difference. I felt awesome and as a result nothing could get me down! Who knew being able to properly blow dry your hair in the morning made that much difference.
So there we have it – if you take the plunge and decide to hire a VW Camper for your next holiday do let me know in the comments below! If you’re a seasoned veteran perhaps you have some extra tips you’d like to add? I’d love to hear them!