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Hiring A Motorhome for the First Time

Our recommended motorhome packing essentials include:

  • Driver’s licence, registration and insurance information

  • Roadside assistance kit

  • Bed linen (check your motorhome listing to see if pillows and duvets are included; bed linen sometimes is too)

  • Chargers for phones, laptops, tablets etc

  • Outdoor furniture – chairs, table etc. Ensure these are secured safely before you set off.

  • Cleaning equipment – spray, dusters, washing-up liquid etc

  • Kitchen kit not included in the motorhome, e.g. corkscrew, wok, spices, condiments, ice tray, steak knives

  • Food for your first evening

  • Food storage bags or boxes – for use inside the motorhome as well as picnics or packed lunches on days out

  • Water bottles

  • Bin bags

  • Kitchen rolls

  • Wet wipes or washable cloths

  • Pen and paper

  • Maps/satnav

  • Cash/coins – for tolls and parking meters

  • Towels – at least two (one for showering and one for swimming), plus a beach towel (or picnic blanket)

  • Spare clothes – at least two changes, plus wet weather gear and warm socks. You might also want to include a woollen/beanie hat, Wellington boots and a swimsuit/shorts. Don’t forget sunglasses either (especially if you’re the driver).

  • Flip flops – to wear in or to/from campsite showers

  • Slippers

  • Blanket/s

  • First-aid kit including any daily medication, antihistamine tablets, suntan lotion and insect repellent

  • Spare glasses/contact lenses if you wear them; contact lens solution

  • Bathroom toiletries including shaving items and antiseptic handwash

  • Small rucksack or day bag

  • Torch and spare batteries

  • Face masks

  • Disposable gloves

  • Laundry detergent, pegs and line

  • Spanner – for disconnecting/removing the van’s gas bottle supply

  • Basic vehicle kit – your motorhome will be checked and roadworthy before you hire it, and any repair needs arising during your trip should be left to the owner to deal with after your trip. However, it’s always handy to carry essential vehicle kit like engine oil, WD40 and a spare fuse or two.

You might also like to bring:

  • Cards and games

  • Ereader/books

  • Laptop/tablet pre-loaded with films/series

  • Hairdryer, electric shaver, straighteners or other grooming items

  • Wifi dongle

  • Beach ball and games

  • Camera

  • Fishing kit

  • Umbrella

Add these to the essentials list if you’re travelling with children:

  • Toys and games

  • Tablet

  • Blackout blind/blanket if travelling if summer

  • Extra nappies and wipes

  • Nappy bucket

  • Several small containers to collect stones, shells etc

  • Bassinet/travel cot

  • Beach ball and games; buckets and spades

  • Sticker books

  • Audiobook

  • Colouring books and pencils

  • Headphones – at least one pair per child

And this list if you’re travelling with pets:

  • Food and water bowls

  • Tick remover

  • Any medication

  • Spare collar and lead

  • Toys

  • Bed/bedding

  • Vet records/papers

First time travelling in a hired motorhome

First-time travelling in a hired motorhomeYou’ve packed the first-aid kit, all the kids’ toys, maps and a satnav and lots of emergency kit… but what about the practicalities of driving a motorhome for the first time? How difficult is it to drive a massive RV if you go for a huge motorhome with all the mod cons? And can you drive a motorhome on a car licence?

Here’s thel official lowdown from the site on motorhome driving licencese, but in brief, if you’re under 70 and passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, the C1 category on your driving licence permits you to drive a motorhome of up to 7,500kg. If you’re over 70, passed your test on or after 1 January 1997 or haven’t renewed the C1 category on your licence, you can still drive a motorhome under Category B on your licence, but will be restricted to vehicles of up to 3,500kg.

For the practicalities, read on for our tips on driving Class A and Class C motorhomes. (“Class B” recreational vehicles in the UK generally refers to campervans – see our separate guide to first-time campervan hire.

Driving a class A motorhome

Class A motorhomes are the biggies - the luxury or well-fitted vehicles you might think of when picturing an American-style RV. They’re up to 25 feet in length (but can reach 40) and are steeped in luxury amenities like TV, full bathrooms, aircon and TVs. There’ll be plenty of living and entertaining space too.

All of which means a big vehicle that will be more cumbersome to drive and park, especially on Britain's small rural roads and around small rural villages. Also take the height of the van into account if you need to go under rural bridges, or enter a public underground parking. You may end up having to change your plans and, taking the wrong measures may lead to damage to the van. Don't forget to take into account the weight of your motorhome either, as limitations may be imposed on small ferries in Scotland. But driving a class A motorhome is definitely doable; just stick to these tips

  • Take it slowly. This is one of our favourite #vanlife tips in any case – motorhome and campervan breaks aren’t the types of holidays to rush. But with a Class A motorhome, you’ll need to take extra care to drive at a more sedate speed.

  • Do a test drive – take the motorhome out around familiar local roads before you set off

  • Remember that bigger vehicles need more reaction time and stopping distance

  • Get used to the side mirrors and rear/side-view cameras – no need to look over your shoulder to check your blind spot as you would in a car

  • Schedule regular breaks, especially on your first trip – Class A motorhome driving is more demanding and therefore more tiring

  • Be aware you may need a route change if your journey includes smaller roads

  • Park facing outwards – much easier to get out when you’re ready to hit the road again

Driving a Class C motorhome

Class C motorhomes are the smaller versions of Class A RVs,

with fewer luxury additions but still including conveniences like toilets and fridges.

Their smaller size and price tag makes them ideal for first-time motorhome hirers.

They’re built on a truck chassis, normally with a separate cab, and range from about 20 to about 33 feet in length. Most of the tips about driving Class A vans relate to Size C:

be aware of your mirrors, drive slowly, leave extra time for your journey and take a test drive beforehand if this is your first self-drive motorhome trip. However, you won’t have to consider smaller roads and the possible need to adjust your journey, and you can stop off in any permissible car park or service station without worrying about lack of parking space.

Motorhome speed limits in the UK

Britain’s speed limits for motorhomes are included in the government overall guidance on vehicles and speed. Motorhomes and “motor caravans” have a speed limit of up to between 30 and 70 miles per hour depending on their size and where they’re being driven: UK National Speed Limits

Other issues to consider with first-time motorhome driving

Ensure you’re aware of our insurance details for hirers. Comprehensively covers all hire vehicles against accidents and damage while they’re on the road, working with some of the UK’s biggest insurers to give you full peace of mind. We also have a UK-based support team and offer 24/7 breakdown cover via the RAC – full insurance details here.

Companies all over the country offer motorhome driving courses if you want that extra layer of confidence. The Caravan Club and the Camping and Caravanning Club both offer motorhome manoeuvring courses and plenty of driving schools can offer individual instruction.

Using a motorhome for the first time

Once you have your motorhome and are ready to start your first #vanlife adventure, make these final checks. Some if not most will have been sorted by the motorhome owner, but for the safest and most comfortable trip ensure all these are covered:

  • Toilet – if using a cassette or Porta-Potti, has it been emptied and cleaned? (If you’ve never used a cassette toilet, ask the motorhome owner to show you how it works.)

  • Waste tank – emptied and cleaned

  • Tyre pressures – checked, including spare

  • External lockers – locked

  • Internal lockers/cupboards – secured

  • External security devices – disengaged

  • TV aerial – retracted

  • Loose items inside the vehicle – secured, placed in a secured cupboard or in a tub with lid

  • Seatbelts and car seats – working and engaged

  • Oil, water and fuel levels – checked/topped up

  • Mains cable – disconnected

  • Rear camera – working

  • Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – tested; also fire blanket/extinguisher easily accessible

  • Fridge door – locked

  • Main electric connector switch (12V) – disengaged or switched off

  • Gas bottle – main turned off at cylinder; spare present and safely secured

First time on a motorhome park

Congratulations – you’ve chosen your motorhome, started your holiday and have now arrived at your first motorhome park. Here are the things you’ll need to know:

Arriving at the park

When you arrive on site, check in with the owners and pay your pitch fee if you haven’t already.

Ask about accessing the electric hook-up point for your pitch as you might need a key to do so. You may also be given a code or key for the entrance/exit barrier and for the showers and toilets. If there’s a laundry room you’d like to use, check whether the washing machines take coins or tokens.

Top tip: ask at reception for local maps/bus times if you prefer to leave your motorhome on the park while you sightsee. Many parks will have leaflets and/or discounts on local attractions too.

Parking on your pitch

Many motorhome parks have fixed pitches while others allow guests to park where they like/where there’s room. If the latter, where you park will depend on your own preferences. For example, you may want to park closer to the toilets if travelling with less mobile family members, near the play area if travelling with children, or in a secluded corner if you want to get up late.

For your first time parking a motorhome on site, have one person exit the van to direct the driver, especially if reversing.

Once parked up, fill your water container (or drive to the nearest water point before you drive to the pitch), attach your electric lead and connect your gas. Then put out your awning, table and chairs if you have them… or sit down with a cup of tea or a beer.

Waste disposal – grey waste/water

The grey water tank in a motorhome used water from the shower and sinks and is emptied using a lever under the van. Drive over the grey water disposal grate at the campsite and pull out the lever to get rid of the waste water.

Waste disposal – chemical disposal/toilet

If your motorhome has a flush toilet (operated by a foot pump) or a vacuum or macerator toilet, the waste collects in the black water tank fitted to the outside of the van.

To empty the black water tank, drive to the chemical disposal unit on the campsite and park as close as possible. Attach one end of the motorhome’s sewer hose to the campsite’s disposal station (you may want to wear disposable gloves for this), then check that the valves to the black and grey water tanks are closed. Unscrew the cap of the black water tank, attach the hose adapter then open the valve to the black water tank.

A full tank should empty within a few minutes. Once it’s done, close the valves, disconnect and rinse the hoses, and add fresh water and cleaning chemicals to the holding tank.

If using a cassette toilet, dismantle it and carry the waste section to the campsite disposal point. Empty the cassette then add your blue and pink cleaning liquids.

You’ll need to empty the waste tank or a cassette toilet every couple of days. Most motorhomers prefer to use the campsite toilets when staying at a park so the van toilet doesn’t have to be emptied as often.


Always ensure you have enough bottled gas on board, especially as this will be your source of energy for heating, cooking and your fridge when on the road. Most campsites sell propane or butane bottles; your motorhome owner will let you know which one you need.

Finally, if you run into problems or aren’t sure of any procedure, ask the park owner or another motorhome. The motorhome and caravanning community are generally a friendly crowd and should be happy to help.

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