The key to adventure: packing light

This is it. The key to adventure and the last bit of preparation I have to do before we hit the ferry to Roscoff on Saturday. It's something I always do before any trip in the van - sort out the spare key. It then goes round my neck until the moment we return. It's like my own personal insurance policy against loss, theft, silliness, drunkenness and carelessness. As long as this is around my neck we will be able to get home. In theory. I know, there are many other potential disasters that could befall us that are worse than losing the ignition key but it makes me feel good to have it there. So if we lose the main set of keys in the sand, leave them in a bar or get our pockets felt we'll always be able to fire up the old girl and hit the road again. We might not be able to open the doors, unlock the trailer or release our bikes but we shall drive.

It's not the only preparation we have done. I've imposed limits on baggage, numbers of socks per family member and agonised over what toys, books and equipment to bring. It runs in the family apparently. I have always quoted my grandfather as the king of packing but it seems he wasn't the only family member to impose dracoanian rules about what you can carry. As a young man he traveled the length and breadth of the country on his motorbike with nothing but the barest essentials. His limits were so strict that he would cut bars of soap in half to save weight. Then again that's nothing compared to my Dad. My mother told me yesterday that they went on holiday to Devon sometime in the early sixties in his 3 wheeler Morgan. Like my Grandfather he was always worried about carrying too much weight. In fact he was so concerned on that trip that he made my Mum go on the bus. From London. Nice one Dad.

I'm not that bad but I have considered it. For a moment. Actually I've been trying to keep up with the law when it comes to taking vehicles abroad. This year France imposed a law that all drivers must carry at least 2 disposable breathalysers in the car with them at all times. It's a great idea but it means another trip to Automate in Bideford to pick up more 'essentials'. Then there's the issue of rear mounted bike carriers in Spain. Thanks neighbours for putting the willies up me on that one. And not forgetting the beam benders, first aid kits, hi viz jackets and the EHIC. And so it goes on...

Thinking of heading off yourself this summer? You might need some of this:

  • 2 breathalyzers for France (from 1st July).
  • Warning triangle, two for Spain.
  • Hi-viz jackets for the driver. One for each person in the car for Spain (not mandatory).
  • Spare bulbs (recommended).
  • GB sticker (if you don't have GB plates).
  • First Aid Kit (not compulsory but advisable)
  • EHIC card and travel insurance (advisable).
  • Breakdown cover (up to you).
  • Beam benders (compulsory).
  • Wife and kids (not compulsory - if you prefer they can fly and meet you there)
Don't forget that we're still looking for suggestions as to where to head. We've had some really brilliant ones so far - Ile De Re, Les venises Verts and a nudist beach in Spain for starters. But we'd still like more. So, if you have been to the Atlantic coast of France or the north coast of Spain and have some brilliant recommendations, share them with us! We'll be blogging as we go.


  1. Great tips Martin. We had terrible trouble with our breakdown cover because of the age of our van... which is over 24 years old.

    Really looking forward to reading your stories while you're on the road. Happy camping!

  2. We'll be on the Ile de Re in early August - see you there!

  3. I hope you'll let Jo have a go at driving...have fun.

  4. If you're heading to the Picos in Northern Spain then Potes is worth a visit as is the cable car station at Fuente De - fab campsite there too!

  5. Since my VW is a new T6 I have 2 "surfer dude' keys. I always lock the 'plipper' in a convenient location in the van, press the immobilise button and lock the van mechanically with the key, like you I keep on a piece of leather around my neck. I also have a spare keyblade secreted about the van so if I lose the one at my neck (which I stupidly did once in the campsite showers) I have a back up. I have a 'break-link' in my lanyard so I don't get accidentally garrotted!

    The Isle de Re is good, as is the Isle d'Oleron. Seafood to die for. Do the 'degustation' (tasting before buying) at any of the roadside oyster (Les Huitres) shacks.

    If you like to take it all off, try Euronat or Arnouchot, beautiful places and big open campsites, and not at all tacky. Big beaches, big skies and very amenable. You will find Naturists far more friendly, accepting and open than regular 'campers'. And they will look after you, and nobody will stare or make any fuss whatsoever. The receptionists at the campsites are brilliant and extremely helpful even if you need a 2-pin local electric hook-up. (30 Euro Deposit)

    But don't think that Europeans 'get' Cool Campervans! They are mostly completely mystified by anybody turning up in an old van and direct you often to the tradesman's entrance.

    Off to the Lake District next week, then back to France/Spain again in August.

  6. Great post! Have just booked our ferry again for next year. Each year we learn a little more about how to make our van & our experience even better, mainly from experienced voyagers like yourself but also on campsite's where checking out others set ups is obligatory!!
    Our best purchase for 2012 was some stacking plastic units to house pants, socks, phone chargers, colouring pens, books etc. They were so much more accessible than scrabbling through an Ikea bag!! As you suggested, keeping up with the French/Spanish laws on the road is essential and we find the website to be helpful here.
    Here's to another great year on the road in 2013 :)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

What do you call yours? #mycampervaniscalled LOVE!

Countdown to a camper van adventure