Cartwright Chronicles, Spotlight

Tips for renting a family motorhome for the first time

A woman driving a motorhome

Dan Cartwright has over 12 years of experience in the caravan and motorhome industry. He is a judge for a number of prestigious leisure vehicle awards and regularly heads off in his motorhome with his family. Every week, Dan shares his insights with the community. Here’s what he has to say this week.

Quite a lot of motorhomes are hired by families, both in the UK and abroad, so here are my tips if you’re planning this sort of holiday for the first time. Firstly, I would say ‘do it’ – you will have a whale of a time. It’s a fantastic opportunity for inter-family camaraderie due to the forced closeness and figuring the whole thing out.

Stick to the UK… for now

I would recommend staying in the UK if it’s your first trip in a motorhome. A big exotic location like Route 66 or the coast of Australia are great ambitions, but make sure you rent a motorhome in the UK first to fully understand the implications.

Experience Freedom

Experience Freedom from the Caravan and Motorhome Club offers affiliated rentals, access to sites and support networks to help you get started. It’s worth going and having a look at this offering to make your first expedition as stress-free as possible.

Look at a friend’s motorhome

If you know somebody who’s got a motorhome, ask them for a tour and a talk-through about how to set up on site. It’s so much easier to be shown and ask questions than trying to figure everything out via rental manuals and YouTube videos.

Read the rental instructions

Any reputable rental company will provide comprehensive instructions for all aspects of the motorhome, so make sure you locate them. Referring back to this guidance may be necessary throughout your trip, so keep them to hand.

Compromises and quirks

Electrical, water and heating systems are likely to have quirks you need to get your head around. All of these things will be explained during the handover when you pick up your motorhome. If there isn’t a handover, rent from a different company.

Split responsibilities for understanding the utilities

Before collecting your motorhome, put each person in charge of paying more attention to certain aspects of the vehicle, such as big utilities. It’s almost impossible for one person to take everything in, so sort this out in advance and use your teenagers if you have them.

Post your height and width to your dashboard

I tell everyone to get a Post-it note and put the height and width of the motorhome in big capital letters on it. Then place this on the dashboard as a constant reminder when you approach low bridges, car parks and narrow roads.

Make your first night local

Only venturing a short distance away on your first night will mean you can set up during daylight hours and while the rental company’s office is still open. You can get used to driving the motorhome and iron out any issues with a local trip, calling the rental company if you experience any problems.

Be prepared to be outdoors in all weather

Whilst your motorhome is dry and comfortable, it’s a small space for a family and you will find you’ll be spending more time outside than you would at home. The walk to campsite showers and toilets can be very cold, and if you have small children, there’s likely to be a sleep divide, with you sitting outside after their bedtime.

Consider the amenities in a destination

The amenities that are local to where you’re pitched up are an important consideration. Once you’re set up, everything needs battening down if you want to drive off anywhere. Staying somewhere a short cycle or walk from essential facilities will make your trip so much easier.

Don’t stretch yourself too far

Even without leaving the UK, there are some long-distance road trips people like to tackle, but try not to make your holiday too much of a mission. It’s a good idea to plan, but travel seats in motorhomes are not the most comfortable, meaning long journeys can result in moaning children.

Allow set up and packing up time

Each time you stop off overnight on a multi-destination trip you need to allow an hour or so to set up camp and another hour to pack it all up in the morning. Couple that with travelling 250 miles a day and that mission mentality can take away the enjoyment of what can be a relaxing type of holiday.

Stay on campsites

The best piece of advice I can give for motorhome first timers is to stay on campsites. An electric hook-up will allow your motorhome to charge all its batteries. You shouldn’t be thinking about going off-grid on your first trip. Campsites are also friendly and those in neighbouring pitches will likely be happy to offer you help and answer questions.


Photo credit: Pixabay/ Volker Glätsch