This week, we are taking a look into the inspiring lives of the Holcombe family, a trio that has been exploring North America by RV for the past five years. In a few short weeks the family will begin their greatest adventure yet, a world tour (yes, you heard correctly). First stop on their grand RV world tour is Europe. For the next five months the Holcombe’s will make their way across the continent in their 4×4 Winnebago Revel, in pursuit of adventure and exploration. We were fortunate enough to sit down with Kathy Holcombe and flesh out their route for Europe, the expeditions they plan to partake in, as well as, the finer details of overseas RV travel, including how to ship your rig, out of country insurance, RV maintenance, visas, navigation and so much more. If you’ve always wanted to go across the pond in your RV, this is your chance to learn how from seasoned RVers!
All photography provided by Famagogo
La Mesa RV: Tell us your story! What made you decide to take your Revel to Europe?
Kathy Holcombe: It goes without saying that we love to travel, but more specifically, we are at our best when we are exploring and discovering new things. While we certainly have many more places on our list for North America, the country is actually beginning to feel a bit small. The world is a big place and we only have a few more years before our daughter sets off on adventures of her own, so we decided that an around the world odyssey was in order while we all still live under the same roof.
Since we are not independently wealthy, we had to figure out a way to travel on a relatively tight budget and still manage to work while we explored Europe. An RV is an incredibly economical way to travel as you save on the cost of lodging, eating out and transportation. In the grand scheme of things, it really is not that expensive to ship a vehicle to Europe. All said and done it is going to cost us $3,500 each way to ship our Revel from Baltimore to Belgium.
LMRV: How long will you be traveling Europe?
KH: We plan to stay in Europe from June through December of 2019. We will pick up the Revel in Zeebrugge, Belgium and then head to Sort, Spain where our daughter will represent USA in the freestyle kayak world championships. After that we will work our way north through the Alps, all the way up to the Netherlands. Then we we will hop a ferry to Iceland for a few weeks. Once the weather up north begins to feel like winter, we will head south to the UK, then on to the Balkan Peninsula and soak up the last drops of summer. We plan to head back to the States mid-December.
LMRV: Is your pup going?
KH: It is absolutely feasible to bring your dog to Europe. As much as we would love to have our buddy join us, he is old and struggles to walk, and we fear that he would not fare well on the flight to Europe. Fortunately, we have an incredible family that will take excellent care of him while we are away.
LMRV: What is the process leading up to taking your RV overseas?
KH: There are two basic methods to ship a vehicle: in a container or RORO (Roll-On, Roll-Off). When you ship your RV in a container you pay a bit more but are allowed to fill the container with personal items. RORO is less expensive, but you are not allowed to stow any personal items in the vehicle while in transit. We elected for the RORO option because the height of our vehicle exceeded the capacity of a container.
There are a variety of companies that specialize in shipping vehicles overseas. We researched them extensively and found one that seemed to rise above the rest: IVSS. Not only did they offer competitive pricing, approximately $2,500 for an RV with our dimensions (a Sprinter 144) plus approximately $700 for insurance while in transport, they also provided insight into which ports were the best for smoothly navigating through customs.
Each country has different regulations, but Belgium (our arrival port) allows us to travel with South Dakota registration/plates for up to a year without any additional paperwork. Any US citizen is allowed to travel in the Schengen area of Europe (roughly equivalent to the European Union with a few exceptions) for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. However, we are planning to be in Europe for 180 days, so we have applied for a French Long-Stay visa that will allow us to base our travels as long as we do not engage in any local employment for the duration of our stay. We are allowed to continue our work with our US based partners while we explore Europe.
LMRV: What are the top preparation tasks an RVer shouldn’t forget to do before they leave?
KH: The first step is to ensure that everything on your vehicle is in working order before you leave and that any upcoming maintenance (oil change, new tires, etc.) is done prior to departure. It is wise to bring any spare parts you might need for your model of vehicle as well as a good repair kit in the event of a breakdown. Since we are driving a Mercedes Sprinter based Winnebago, it should be relatively painless to make any needed repairs while we are in Europe. However, as we make our way across lesser developed regions, we will expand our repair kit to include belts, hoses and other essentials just in case. We also plan to expand our fuel capacity prior to heading out into regions with limited ultra-low sulfur diesel and DEF supplies.
As for vehicle insurance, it is highly variable depending on where you go. Our South Dakota based policy does not cover us beyond the USA and Canada. For our travels in Europe, we are required to carry liability insurance to cover the other vehicle in the event of an accident. While liability insurance is fairly reasonably priced, comprehensive insurance runs about $1,000/month. Most policies cover all of the European Union countries as well as the UK and several others. Almost all policies have exemptions for traveling through former Eastern Block countries. We are working with Tour Insure for a hybrid policy that covers liability and limited comprehensive benefits for a smaller monthly amount.
LMRV: What is your planned route when you get to Europe? Is there a country or destination you’re particularly excited to go to?
KH: Our bucket list for Europe is pretty extensive and growing by the minute. Our first stop will be a month of training and competing in freestyle kayaking in Sort, Spain where our daughter Abby has qualified for one of three spots for junior women to represent the USA and compete in the freestyle kayak world championships this July.
After that, we have a long list of adventures planned: sea kayaking the islands of Croatia, bike-packing in the Scottish highlands and along the Danube River in Germany, a multi-day whitewater kayaking trip through Switzerland, climbing the Matterhorn, backpacking the El Camino de Santiago through Spain, exploring the hot springs of Iceland and whitewater kayaking in Norway. Of course we will check out the historical icons and museums along the way too. And the food…we can’t wait to explore the culinary delicacies from each region we explore.
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