30th October 2019
The aim of last year’s Bristanbul trip was to test a caravan in gruelling, real-world conditions and inspire folks to cross the English Channel for the first time, or travel a little further if the near continent was a familiar destination.
Weaving our way through twenty-one countries in as many days was tough at times, especially when trying to stick to a tight schedule, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, my brain was bookmarking various destinations that looked perfect for a family holiday.
Exploring Europe by caravan gives an up-close-and-personal feel, and once I’d mentally processed the trip to Istanbul, plans were hatched so I could share elements of it with Helen, Poppy & Charlie. My jumbled, mental map was transferred to paper and to minimise the miles, Croatia would be our furthest destination. Three (and a bit) weeks would allow us to follow a largely circular route, showing the kids ten different countries if we included the UK as our final destination. I wanted the holiday to begin the moment we left home, choosing destinations based on wide-ranging criteria to keep the trip fresh and the children entertained.
The first two sites in Northern France were old favourites, but the Alsace region was completely new to us, and even though we were travelling during peak season, the tourist trail seemed to have bypassed this region of France. With streams paddled in, lakes sailed upon and mountains crossed, we then dropped into stunning Switzerland. Not wishing to pay Swiss prices, we brimmed the car’s fuel tank and filled the fridge before leaving France as the increase in costs are immediately noticeable. This proved to be a double win as later that evening we were tucking into budget-friendly French cuisine surrounded by the beauty of Lauterbrunnen and its seventy-two waterfalls.
Our onward journey saw us swimming in the warm waters of Italy’s Lake Garda and kayaking across Lake Bled in Slovenia before we reached Croatia. Tourism has boomed in the former Yugoslavia with visitor numbers skyrocketing in the last three years, making pre-booking essential during the trip. We decided to stay at two Croatian sites, one inland and the other by the coast, which offered a dramatic contrast. Tourist numbers boosted pitch numbers at both sites, one of which boasted 100 pitches near Plitvice Lakes National Park, and the other resembling a small town with impressive infrastructure and almost 1000 pitches. The journey south, from Zagreb to Zadar, was stunning with mountainous scenery occasionally giving way to pockmarked buildings that hinted at Croatia’s recent history.
Returning home from a package deal can be a whirlwind of queues, check-in desks and baggage carousels, but our journey back to the UK was simply a continuation of our holiday as we ventured north through Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium. We didn’t need to set the alarm for an early morning flight so enjoyed a lazy breakfast instead, making our way home in a leisurely manner.
Visiting a single destination by jumping on an aeroplane means you miss all the bits in between. At times, we had to pinch ourselves as a reminder that this was a caravan holiday and not an expensive package deal. Rather than spending ten days rooted to the spot, towing the tin tent on a 3220-mile extravaganza gave the kids a real insight into different countries and associated cultures, something which a pre-packaged holiday can’t always achieve.
Sites, ferries and Red Pennant travel insurance were booked through The Caravan and Motorhome Club, and Journey times were calculated with reasonable accuracy thanks to the (free) Via Michelin app and its caravan function.
- Dover – Calais with P&O
- France – Chateau du Gandspette (P08)
- France – Camping Au Bord de L’Aisne (P02)
- France – Camping Close de la Chaume (J08)
- Switzerland – Camping Jungfrau (S15)
- Italy – Camping Fornella (Y11)
- Slovenia – Camping Bled (X03)
- Croatia – Plitvice Holiday Resort (X10)
- Croatia – Zaton Holiday Resort (X14)
- Slovenia – Camping Terme Catez (X05)
- Austria – Camping Sportcamp Woferlgut (G06)
- Germany – Gutshof (G15)
- France – Camping de L’ill (J12)
- Luxembourg – Camping Gritt (H07)
- Belgium – Kompass Camping Nieuwpoort (H19)
- Calais – Dover with P&O