Caravans are a popular choice of vehicle for those who like to holiday in the great outdoors, and many take to the roads on a Bank Holiday and during school holidays in order to drive to campsites around the UK and into Europe.
If you’re looking to holiday across the Channel and take your caravan into Europe for a short trip, you must make sure your vehicle is in good condition, your documents are in place and up-to-date, and you have packed correctly for each country that you want to travel through.
So What Should You Be Preparing?
Before you begin your journey there are a few things you should check in preparation;
Do I have the right licence classification to tow a caravan?
Check your driving licence to see if you have the correct classification in order to tow your caravan. Depending on when you passed your driving test can affect what you are entitled to drive:
- Before January 1st 1997 – any vehicle and trailer up to a maximum of 8.25 tonnes
- From January 1st 1997 – any car and trailer up to a MAM of 3.5 tonnes
- From January 19th 2013 – any car and trailer up to a MAM of 3.5 tonnes
What is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of my vehicle?
The Maximum Authorised Mass is the total of the weight of your car and the caravan you are towing and takes into account a fully loaded caravan and a car with a full tank of petrol.
The MAM for holders of B1 and B classification driving licences is 3500kg (3.5 tonnes), if you want to tow a heavier load, you must pass a driving test for a C1+E licence in order to be able to safely tow a heavier caravan.
What documents should I be taking with me?
There are a number of compulsory documents that you will need for travelling to the EU, which you should make sure you to take at least one copy of these in a folder just in case:
- Car insurance and caravan insurance policy documents
- Up-to-date MOT certificate for your car
- V5C logbook (in the case of a motorhome)
- Central Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS) document for your caravan
- Driving Licence (paper and photocard)
- Passport (and any additional visas required for certain countries)
- Travel insurance documents and an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card)
- International Drivers’ Permit – required if you want to continue your journey outside of Europe
- European breakdown cover policy
What equipment should I have with me?
You should also make sure you have the following equipment in your car or caravan at all times, as some of them are required by law in some EU countries:
- GB numberplate or GB sticker affixed to the back of your vehicle
- Breathalyser – these are a legal requirement when driving in France, you can usually buy these on the ferry
- Headlight converters – should be fitted on the ferry to ensure you don’t dazzle other drivers
- Extendable mirrors – essential piece of kit for improving visibility when towing
- Fire extinguisher
- Warning triangle – or 2 in some countries; including Spain and Croatia
- First Aid Kit
- High visibility vest
Remember that in some countries, including Croatia, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, it is compulsory to use your headlights at all times, so having some converters on will help to avoid dazzling oncoming drivers.
What Else Should I Take With Me?
There are a few more extras that would be useful to have in your car or caravan for when they are required:
- Road atlas of the countries you are visiting – if the satellite navigation system breaks down on the journey
- Spare wheel and repair kit in case of an emergency
- Spare headlight bulbs
- Phrasebooks for each country you are travelling through
- A small amount of local currency for the countries you will be travelling through – because chip and pin might not be available everywhere, so leave yourself a small amount of pocket money for petrol and food along the way
- Keep an address book with essential contact details in the glovebox of your car, including insurance numbers, those of the British embassies and emergency contact numbers back home
- Data roaming or international phone plan – with prices having recently been reduced you can take your phone along in the confidence that it won’t cost you too much to make calls or use data while abroad
Should you break down on the way to the campsite, it is important to remain calm and ensure you get to a place of safety while you wait for help to arrive.
Make sure you use your warning triangles and hazard warning lights to warn other road users. Phone your breakdown provider using your smartphone or a nearby phone.
Many providers will make use of GPS in order to pinpoint your location before deploying help in the country that you have broken down in, make sure you double check if a cover is available in your chosen country before you take out a policy.
Before you travel and tow, whether you’re holidaying in the UK or abroad, you must make sure that your vehicle and caravan have insurance to cover you in the event of an accident.
Caravan insurance policies are separate from car insurance policies and are available for a number of models and sizes of a caravan. Check with your broker as to whether they will also include EU cover as part of a policy as an additional extra.
If you want to help drive down the cost of your caravan insurance before you drive off on holiday, try bearing a few of these in mind before you travel, as they could help to reduce your premium price:
- Membership of a caravan club could help to reduce your policy
- Fitting security devices – such as hitch locks and wheel clamps – in order to deter thieves when the caravan is not in motion
- Take a towing course – to increase your confidence in towing a trailing caravan
- Store the caravan safely when not in use, making use of wheel clamps to deter thieves when not in use