How we stay within budget while on holiday in our campervan

2011 August van pictures 014
Cups of tea in the ‘van are cheaper than a cafe

How we all spend our money is a personal thing and holidays is no different; we all have our different priorities.  It is hard to argue that a campervan or motorhome that cost just over £40,000 is a budget option and I know that we only have our newish ‘van thanks to an inheritance that meant our savings for retirement could stay on track while we also funded a new ‘van which we expect to last us at least ten-years and many miles.

All that said, we do try and make the trips in our ‘van as frugal as possible by following these tips.

Campsites – the cost of an overnight on a campsite can be very high and, if you use campsits, is a major cost for ‘van owners.  We reduce our costs by wild camping and using Britstops when this makes sense and seeking out cheaper sites with fewer facilities at other times.  We also make use of the Caravan Club and Camping and Caravanning Club small farm sites, although we do think these can sometimes be over-priced.  Most of our camping is out of season when sites are cheaper and we can make good use of the ACSI card scheme in Europe, paying between €11 and €19 for a site.

Liquid Petroleum Gas – Our ‘van has a LPG refillable bottle that makes using gas for cooking and heating very cheap.  At around 50p / litre LPG is much better value than using replaceable gas bottles.

Cooking in the ‘van – this is where a campervan really comes in to its own and makes our trips affordable.  Eating out is expensive and we only do this as a treat.  The ‘van has a two burner hob and an oven that run on LPG and we have an electric hotplate to use when we are paying for a hook-up so cooking in the ‘van is both enjoyable and easy.

Planning meals – when we are travelling we plan meals for three or four days in advance and shop in supermarkets.  Our fridge will hold enough food for this long and we always have some tins in the cupboard if we don’t get to a supermarket when the fresh food has run out.  This way we are not tempted to eat out, we’re not tied to shopping everyday and we make sure we don’t waste and throw away food.

Onboard brews – unless we are in Italy, when having coffee in a cafe is part of the holiday experience, we will often make our morning coffee in the ‘van and always make cups of tea.  We carry good quality ground coffee and have a double-walled insulated cafetiere and a beautiful enamel milk-warmer so that we can make good coffee anywhere and we use a teapot to make a decent cuppa.

Cheap or free activities – Fortunately we are still two reasonably fit individuals who enjoy walking and cycling; both free activities (although the gear can be expensive).  We do visit attractions occasionally but this is often because I am writing a travel article.  I’ve just looked to see how this looks in practice and on our year travelling we spent just 5% of our expenditure on entrance fees and cable cars (just over £1,000).

Diesel – we own a 5.6 metre long campervan, rather than a large motorhome and we bought the most economical model of the Renault Master available so that our diesel bill isn’t too high.

Fixing things – when things break in the ‘van we don’t immediately buy new, we see if we can fix it.  We always carry some basic tools and equipment for fixing things on the ‘van and it is amazing what you can fix with a zip tie and a roll of duct tape.

Mr BOTRA the bicycle mechanic – self-taught, Mr BOTRA can fix most things on the bikes and this has saved us hundreds of pounds over the years.  From experience, we now always travel with the tools to fix the bikes and some basic spares after needing to replace my pedals on a trip to Germany; we hadn’t packed the pedal spanner and had to pay a local bike shop to do the job.

Buying second-hand – whenever we can we like to buy the gear we need second-hand.  Not only is this cheaper but we feel we have given something a new lease of life and we have helped the environment by recycling.  Outdoor gear is well-made and lots of people buy walking clothes that they either grow out of or hardly use and there are lots of bargains out there on Ebay.