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Renting an RV to Travel through Europe

RVing in Europe
Experience the freedom of renting an RV in Europe.

My wife was looking at me over the top of our well-worn copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.

"No, I’m serious," I replied. "We rent an RV in Paris and drive through southern France. No hotels, rental cars, trains, planes, nothing. Just you and me and the RV."

She put the book down and folded her hands and said, "Jim, honey, I don’t think we’re RV people."

Then, after a long pause: "Okay, well give me five reasons why this RV idea will work."

At least I had a chance, so I took a breath and rolled on. "First of all we don’t have to look for a hotel, that saves us a lot of time…."

Our fifth trip to France had come about more or less by accident. We wanted to go, but who has the time with work and family matters. Then my company closed.

With the boring details of jobs out of the way, we were set to go. Except this time we wanted something different, some way to see more of the country.

Car rental companies wanted at least $50 to pick us up and drive us to the location. Checking the map I figured that taking the RER ($4.50) then a taxi ($5) I could save $40. (I don’t recommend this on weekends.)

It took us a bit to get the hang of things, but once we did we had two of the best weeks of travel we’ve ever had and all at a price that didn’t require us to check the bank account every two days.

In the end we came up with nine reasons why an RV is better than any other mode of transportation:

9. You have your own bathroom.

8. You can park anywhere. If you want to see a place, you can arrive early, park, and nap until they open.

7. No telephone, no TV, and no interruptions. We did rent a cell phone for $3 per day, which included 10 minutes of daily calling time. It came in handy when we wanted to check our phone messages at home and occasionally get directions.

6. Food. We had our own refrigerator and stove. If we couldn't find a place for lunch, we could whip up our own. Most evenings, we would open a bottle of wine, see what we had in the fridge, and relax.

5. Money. The RV cost $100 daily; the campgrounds were about $15. That was it. We bought good wine for a few dollars per bottle. Everything was inexpensive. A meal at a restaurant can run $25 to $30 per person. We could live a week on that. Not only do you save money but also time. We never had to worry that it was getting close to six o'clock and we better look for a place to stay. Worst case, we could pull over and spend the night. If we got ravenous, we always had something in the fridge.

4. Ice. You may laugh, but try to get ice anywhere in France. The French didn't sell it until recently in huge supermarkets.

3. Scenery. We took the back roads whenever we could. So we saved on tolls, allowing us to see things not on the typical tourist list. We would park somewhere for lunch or breakfast that would give a great view so we could dine and be entertained. We parked for the night overlooking the Mediterranean, the waves crashing on the beach outside our door.

2. Convenience. You can take all your stuff and never once have to pack or unpack it. Laundry service is available at most campgrounds.

1. Good company. The French love camping. Forget the campground guides. You don't need them. Just show up in any town, and they have a campground. Most towns have two or three. Even Paris has campgrounds. Some are near Metro stops, so you can park the RV and take the train. Avoid the month of August when every Frenchman is on holiday. Some campgrounds do close in the winter.

A few nights, we wanted to cover a long distance, so we drove late into the night. The main highways have rest stops every 15 miles or so, with restaurants, showers — everything you would need — and they are free. We stopped in late one night and went to sleep. When we woke up the following day, we were parked in front of the ruins of an old Roman theatre.

There are, of course, a few negatives.

Driving can be demanding, especially in small towns with narrow streets. We avoided driving in major cities by taking the bus or train. But during the off hours, even major cities were pretty decent.

RV Resources

We booked our RV over the Internet through a dealer in Australia who had the best deal at the time, and with the exchange rate from the U.S. we paid under $100 per day for the 14 days.

Options in Europe itself for RV and motorhome rentals include McRent and AutoEurope RV and Motorhome Rentals.

JIM FRANKLIN writes from Palm Springs, CA.

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