How we bought our campervan and we did not die in the attempt

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Autocaravana y Familia

We did it!

Yes, here we are, we have survived this adventure… The truth is that it has not been an easy task. Just imagine, you get into the campervan world, an unknown world for us until now, with an initial significant investment. You start getting informed, looking around and checking websites and you realize that there are thousands of different configurations, brands, tips and you don’t really know where to start!

So this is how we started off, with many doubts but it was clear for us since the beginning that we wanted to buy the campervan. We were going to realize our dream of traveling around the world!

How do others travel?

The truth is that the first thing we did was checking online to find other travelers with a campervan and see which vehicles they have. Some of them travel with vehicles equipped with bunk beds, others with double beds, others have modified trucks, 4×4, modified vans… there are vehicles of all types traveling around the world. This online search also helped us realize that there are many people out there like us who want or are realizing their dream of traveling the world. This encouraged us and we started getting in touch with some of them to look for some advice. I will talk about this later on as this deserves a special post.

What did we decide to go for?

Model

after much checking and chatting, we decided on a campervan equipped with bunk beds for the kids and a double bed for us; we went for a high-top campervan (campervans which have an extra space just above the driver’s cab). However, this was not going to be our final choice. We read some tips from other travelers which made us opt for double beds instead of bunk beds for the kids.

The first reason is that with small children it’s quite usual to change beds: if you have to change because someone needs company it’s easier and more comfortable for an adult to sleep in a double bed. The second reason is that this way the children would always sleep with someone, which is something that our family like. And the third reason is that with this model we will have more space in the luggage boot, something that we will surely need.

New or used vehicle

we had to make a decision; do we buy a new or used one? Everybody likes to have a new car, but this was clear from the beginning for us. We would look for a used vehicle with the warranty, so we could save a good amount of money which would allow us to extend the trip.

We visited several campervan companies, both car rent, and sale companies, as the idea was to check out the vehicles and the configurations as, till that day, we had never stepped into a campervan.

Where to buy it

We visited companies in Spain and Ireland and we spoke with many people until we found an ad for the “Madrid 2017 Caravaning Fair“. When we saw it, we understood straight away that this was our chance, so I bought plane tickets for a round trip Dublin-Madrid on the same day and off I went in search of our future house on wheels.

Everything was just magic: the trip, the meeting, the fair. There were many people, a lot of new vehicles but only a few used ones. As soon as I got to the fair, I found it and it was just perfect:  the first campervan I saw and stepped in, it was Kale (Kale is the name which we have given to our new family member).

There is

After only 2 minutes of getting to the fair, I met “Alejandro”, who showed me what it’s now our campervan. I then visited the whole fair but I was thinking all the time of the first one I saw: was it love at first sight? I called Caro and I then quickly returned to close the deal with my name-twin guy.

We bought the campervan from “Alejandro and Almudena”, a lovely couple who have a campervan rent and sale company. Highly recommended for those who want to live the same experience. Renting a campervan with them will be for sure a wonderful experience. We leave their name for those who are interested: Caravanas Albatros.

Welcome Kale

Well, I now introduce you to Kale. Certainly, it’s not the best or the worst, but it’s now our family member and we love it just as it is.

It’s a high-top campervan as I mentioned before, it’s one of those campervans which have an extra space just above the driver’s cab. It’s a 6 berth campervan and sleeps up to 6 people, all double beds.

The brand is Sun Living, a sub-brand of Adrià, a well known German brand in the campervan industry (totally unknown for us at that time).

Kale started strolling around in 2010 and has accumulated 69,000 km until 2017.

Now it’s time to accumulate kilometers with us.

And what is this button for?

The truth is that until you start to find out how it works and how many buttons it has, you are not aware of all the things that need to be done and taken into account with a campervan. Nothing to be scared of, but there are several things to deal with: water and wastewater, light, fuel, gas, maintenance, and toilets.

Thanks to a YouTube group we follow, understanding all this became much easier as we discovered many tricks and we asked for help on other topics.

On the other hand, we found a Facebook group from the same authors, which we are part of, and we followed carefully all the topics discussed there. Little by little we are getting to know everything, every time better, and we are becoming experts in the campervan world, thanks to the unforeseen and surprising events which come with it.

YouTube group (Spanish): VIAJAR EN AUTOCARAVANA Fernando Yuste
Facebook group (Spanish): TODO AUTOCARAVANAS, CARAVANAS Y CAMPERS

Water

in a campervan, you have to take care of 4 different types of water:  water top ups, greywater, blackwater and drinking water. The darker the water colour is, the more complicated the water change is but it’s not so complicated after all.

Types of waters

  1. Topping up water for showering and washing is simple if you find a tap. Generally, in Europe there are several taps to top up water, we will see how it is in South America and how we will be able to top up water. In order to keep the water in good conditions, we add a tablet which makes the water in the tank drinkable AMAZON.
  2. Emptying the greywater is not difficult either. The greywater is the water from showering and washing. You have to find a place specifically designed for this or a sewer. To empty it, you need to rotate a small lever located underneath the campervan, next to the rear wheel (this is how it works for our campervan model).
  3. The blackwater or the toilet is the hardest to empty. For those who don’t know, the toilet has a watertight compartment where you need to add a chemical product once it has been emptied and cleaned. We use small bags which already contain this chemical product. After emptying and cleaning the compartment, we simply have to put the bags in it and that’s it AMAZON. While the compartment gets filled in, this chemical product acts as an air freshener and decomposer of what there is in there (as to say: this chemical product makes sure that the campervan does not smell bad and decomposes the waste in order to empty it more easily). To empty this compartment, you have to find places specifically designed for this.
  4. And finally the drinking water; we opt for buying mineral water bottles and we store them for the family’s water consumption. There is no secret for this but you have to remember to stock them up.

In the campervan control panel, you can check the levels of all waters as to plan when you need to top up or empty them.

Light / batteries

In the campervan, there are two types of batteries. The engine’s batteries work to start the engine and provide power, like in any vehicle. We then have the cabin battery, which is the one providing light to all the components which need it within the campervan: the lights, part of the heating, part of the water pump, part of the refrigerator, the TV and anything needing a plug. If you don’t have a converter, you won’t be able to plug in some devices, as everything in the campervan work with 12V. I had to watch videos and read to know about this because although I can do my own for many of these things, this particular one was totally new to me.

Converter

What are converters for? The converter is a device that when is connected to the battery, when the campervan engine is on and operating, it transforms the power of the campervan plugs from 12V to 220V and this way you’ll be able to charge computers, mobile phones, cameras and everything else you might need. There are several types of these devices, all with different prices and features. Depending on their features and the components you want to use in your campervan, you will have to invest some money in a converter.

Charging the batteries

Generally, batteries get charged when the vehicle is moving or the engine is running but for charging the cabin battery the solar panels are usually the best option. In our case, we have a solar panel which helps us to charge the cabin battery and allows us to be independent, without having to connect to the power to charge the campervan.

The good thing about the campervan is that you have a control panel to check the battery level, which allows you to know the level of both batteries you are depending on, so you can anticipate any unforeseen power cut.

Gas

well, this is an important topic and you don’t need just a course… but a Master’s degree! Cooking, heating the water for the shower or washing, the heating, and the refrigerator are all the items that work thanks to the gas. This topic which seems easy at first becomes a big dilemma if you have plans like we do, to travel around different countries. I’m going to give you a quick summary.

There are two types of gas, butane, and propane. In general, in Spain, it’s easier to get butane gas at gas stations but in other countries, you can choose the type of gas, since both can be easily found. The most important feature you need to consider is the temperature at which the gas can resist without freezing. The propane is the best option for low temperatures.

The LPG

The gas connection is a critical topic as in Spain a different system is used compared to France and Italy and this applies to many other countries… Travellers who like to discover new countries need to be prepared to set up these gas connections. In general, I have been told (I have not tried it yet) that in Europe you can go around with no problems adapting your campervan to the LPG. The LPG is the liquefied gas that can be loaded as well as the fuel at many gas stations across Europe, including Spain.

I mean that the LPG can be used for the campervan components, not as fuel. It is not recommended to use the LPG as fuel for the campervan. If you use the LPG, you won’t have to worry about replacing the gas bottle, since you’ll have to top it up directly. The only problem is that this adaptation it quite expensive but we have finally decided to do it in our campervan.

Quite big to drive and park, right?

When you buy a campervan you don’t realize how big it is. Our campervan measures more than 7 meters, it’s the double of a car or even more. When you drive it for the first time, you realize that you don’t have a mirror to see what happens behind. You need to do wide turns because the campervan is long and the turns get tight, therefore the side mirrors stick out on the sides and you need to be careful. And when you have to reverse, you absolutely need help, or a reversing camera, which we don’t have. The first trips we took were a real adventure but to our surprise, it was much easier than we expected. Our real test was to drive the campervan in Ireland. For those who know the Irish roads you will understand us, for those who don’t, there it’s the explanation: in some cases the roads are narrow and in other cases, they are very narrow!

Parking and staying overnight

we have already spent several nights in parking, paid to park, in campervan parking, in places where you can park but not camp. Little by little, with some apps we downloaded on the mobile phone and asking around, you will get to know the available options to enjoy the road trip and to have a good rest.

  • For Europe, in general, we have used  Park4nigth. This app is very good, it allows you to configure the height of your vehicle and this way you won’t find unwanted surprises. You can find services for campervans, parking and overnight stay areas, many of them with photos.
  • For South America, we will check but we have been recommended to use IOverlander. We heard that this is “the app” and we downloaded it already.

You also need to take into account entering a town or a city as it’s not like driving a car. Finding the right place for the campervan is not easy but you’ll find it without problems.

We are now planning the greatest journey of our lives with Kale. We are checking and finalizing everything we will need before leaving for this trip: maintenance, wheels…

We will decorate the campervan with our logo and our website image so that when people will see us passing by, they will recognize us and will think “There it goes The Vegetarian Travel!”.

So, if you see us passing by, please do not forget to say hello.

See you on the road!

Primera foto en la autocaravana
Campervan first picture – 2017

Thanks for sharing this post

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Ale

Papá, amigo, aventurero y curioso, si no me conoceis estas son algunas de las palabras que me definen.

Comments

  1. The very best of luck on all your travels, it will be the adventure of a lifetime for you and the children!

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