Morocco in Pictures

Morocco in Pictures

We were so inspired by Morocco; its landscape, people’s spirits and culture that it brought my imagination alive and my camera’s heart beat faster than ever before. So as we compiled our Morocco by Motorhome ebook, it felt appropriate to put together just one album of all our favourite images from our month there is February 2020. I took hundreds of images and I really wanted to showcase them in one special place.

We hope you enjoy our tour of Morocco through my camera’s lens.

Click on the image below. You may need to wait a few moments whilst it loads due to the megaloads of pictures I couldn’t resist including. Although if you experience any difficulties viewing it on any device, then click here.

Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

In our Travelling to Morocco by Motorhome series of posts, we take an in-depth look at everything to do with bringing your motorhome to and touring around this fascinating north African country. In this first blog we focus on what you need to do before you come and how to arrive smoothly in Morocco by Motorhome.  There are a lot of reports about where to sail from, and whilst everyone’s experiences are, for sure, valid and personal, we wanted to share our practical tips based on our journey in February 2020. Our aim is to quell those raging doubts and fears and give you both the knowledge and confidence to make this epic journey to Morocco by motorhome.

 

Part 1. What to do before travelling to Morocco by Motorhome

Whilst you may be like us and enjoy winging it – there are some destinations that really need some fore-thought. Morocco is one of them and Norway another. For Morocco, plenty of preparation is required. In part because it’s a different continent and the requirements are different to a majority of Europe. And also because, for many of us Moroccan newbies, it has a feel of taking us out of our comfort zone. Travelling with huge anxiety is not a great mix and so we must do some homework to make sure that our experiences are positive and fulfilling and not fear-making. 

We hope that this section might allay some apprehension as you begin to dream and think about taking your motorhome to Morocco.

 

1. Check out your Insurance and Breakdown cover – Green Card

Morocco is not often covered under standard UK motorhome insurance policies –  European firms may be different.  So your first step is to enquire about your particular company’s terms and conditions.  If they do allow for you to travel to Morocco in your motorhome, then you may require a Green Card which gives you Fully Comprehensive cover during your stay in the country. Sometimes these are offered free and others charge.

Comfort Insurance charged us £20 as an admin charge and then £22.40 per week of our travel through Morocco. 

If your company doesn’t cover Morocco even with a Green Card, then don’t give up. Speak to HIC Herts Insurance. They  offer a bolt-on cover and Green Card, so if your van is under £40,000 in value, then talk to them.

It’s worth mentioning whilst talking about Green Cards and Insurance, that you can get Third Party cover at the Port which is around 90€ so this is an option.

You also need to have a conversation with your Insurance company, if you have Breakdown Cover included in your policy. Or of course, call your Breakdown agents if you have separate cover. Just check what your cover is for visiting Morocco. With Comfort we are covered for breakdowns although DAS, our recovery company is not present here in Morocco. So their instructions are to arrange and pay for any mechanical issues whilst in the country and then make a claim for a reimbursement when we are in EU or back in UK.

 

2. Check your Travel/Health Insurance

If you already have Travel Insurance, then check that Morocco is covered, because whether you are travelling in the Brexit transition or not, the EHIC card is not useable here. As we travel full-time, we needed to secure our cover whilst out of our home country, and most UK companies will not therefore instigate cover.  So we sought the best deal from those that will cover you whilst you are already travelling. The quote ranged from £113.20 to £355.80 for two people without and pre-existing conditions. We chose True Traveller as they had the lowest quote for us for our one month road-trip. Make sure you choose the European Cover and not Worldwide, as Morocco is covered under the EU countries. The other insurer options are:

                                              World Nomads      True Traveller    Worldwide Insurance

 

3. Internet/Apps/Telephones 

Talk to your telephone supplier as their coverage and packages don’t cover Morocco and you will be charged crazy prices for calls and data, as it comes under International Rates. You will need to buy a Moroccan SIM card for calls and data, so you will need them to unlock your phone (you can do this online with most companies). Whilst some campsites have wifi, it’s not always great, like anywhere and whilst you are out travelling, you will want to have connectivity.

Our advice is to make sure you have off-line versions of the apps you use most often. Before you leave Spain for Morocco, make sure you have downloaded all the Moroccan maps for your maps.me app, if you have it.  Also we use Park4Night for wild camping and so bought the off-line version for £8.42 per year, and the Search for  Sites app for campsites for £5.99 per year. 

 

4. Documentation to take with you

Like with travel to most countries, you will need:

  • Passports and copies in case you loose them
  • V5 – in Morocco this is known as the Carte de Gris – the grey card
  • Your MOT certificate as it is reported that sometimes Police wish to check this
  • Hard copies of your Travel/Health Insurance and your Vehicle Insurance
  • Your Green Card

                                             

5. Plans for maximising your LPG

Because Morocco doesn’t have any LPG as we have heard, you will need to judge the use of gas carefully, especially if you are coming for over a month or more.  So think about options for conserving your gas. Obviously campsites will give you access to EHU, although from a cooking perspective and for wild camping, then may be you will need to look at other gas saving approaches. Some visitors have told us that they have been able to buy Red Moroccan gas bottles for 50MAD and swapped them in for 20MAD and this has got them through a 10 week road-trip.

We invested in a Remoska which is a fabulous electric oven that cooks pretty much anything, in about an hour, just like a normal oven.  It even works off the inverter whilst you are driving and is a great gas saving resource. 

Others have reported buying small, low wattage, two-ring hot plates and electric kettles. However you choose to conserve gas, it is certainly worth thinking ahead for this. 

 

6. Maps/Reference books

There’s a ton of blogs out there about Morocco from motorhomers and overlanders. Some you buy and some are free on the web. It’s definitely worth researching and having a read. We bought the book by Chris Scott called Morocco Overland, which offers lots of off-road tips if you are travelling with a 4×4, which also has great info on how to travel to Morocco by motorhome.  Whist the latest edition is 2017 and some of his information is out of date, there’s a load of really helpful tips in there.

One of which is to buy paper maps of Morocco. Given that whilst travelling in Morocco you need to buy a data SIM to stay connected to internet that apps like Google Maps feed off, hard copies can be essential.  So we bought two maps based on recommendations; the Reise Know-How 1:1 Mill and the Michelin Map. 

 

7. Stuff to take with you – and NOT!

In terms of stock-piling before you go, unlike our trip to Norway, Morocco doesn’t have the same price issue. Although these are the items we did buy;

 

  • the wine we like in boxes for easy storage
  • some chicken for the freezer
  • a few tins of staples that create the meals we enjoy.
  • we heard that crisps and nibbly bits are expensive so have plenty of these
  • Hand Sanitiser to keep carry around with you for their public toilets
  • a shawl for me walking through towns or mosques.
  • some long sleeved shirts and a head scarf to ensure my attire was appropriate for visiting towns and mosques
  • two tyre repair canisters in case of a puncture.  Although we would recommend you investing in TyrePal or a similar  notification system that gauges the pressure of your tyres and advises you of potential punctures or deflating issues.

And a final point – DO NOT TAKE YOUR DRONE WITH YOU. Either leave it at home or leave it with someone you trust as they are illegal in Morocco and if you van is search and your DRONE found it will be confiscated.  

 

Part  2 – Travelling to Morocco in your Motorhome

So armed with the results of all your research, you are now ready for the exciting bit – the travelling to Morocco. In this section we offer you a detailed and step-by-step account of the whole ferry and Custom’s procedure. I am driven to write this because of the plethora of reports out there and to share exactly what happens when you leave Spain and arrive in  Tangier Med (as of 6 February 2020).  So much of my EXCITYSCARED feelings were because of some of the horror stories we had heard about getting through Customs and what was to be expected. Now I have been through it, I felt it was really important to share how it was for us and give you top tips for navigating it smoothly.

 

1. Choosing which port to sail from

There are plenty of Spanish ports to sail to Morocco from along the south coast – you can even choose to go from Sète in southern France, Italy or Barcelona. As long as you are prepared for very long sailings of up to 60 hours. For the purposes of this blog, let’s stick with Spanish ports for ease;

  • Barcelona to Tangier Med; offers two ferry companies and up to 5 sailings per week and is up to 32 hrs sailing time
  • Almería to Nador or Melilla;  offers 7 sailings a week to Nador & 8 weekly sailings to Melilla taking around 5-7 hrs
  • Motril to Nador, Tangier Med or Melilla; for Nador there are 4 sailings per week, Melilla 6 sailings per week lasting aound 4-5 hrs and Tangier Med 7 times per week and is up to 8hrs
  • Malaga to Melilla; offers 14 per week sailings of between 4-6.30 hrs. You can also go to Tangier Med although only once a week
  • Tarifa to Tangier offers two companies who sail 11 times per day and 36 times per week. The sailing is just 1hr
  • Algeciras to Cueta and Tangier Med, offering 8 sailings per day and is about a 90 minute crossing.

Nador and Melilla are smaller ports that encounter less traffic and so their Custom’s processes tend to be swifter, according to Morocco lover and author Chris Scott.  And Tangier City has the reputation for being a nightmare as you have to drive through the city. And Cueta is a Spanish enclave so you have to drive a mile or so before hitting the Customs areas.

Algeciras to Tangier Med is the most popular crossing route and this was the one we chose. We stayed overnight just across from the port in a free car park, joined by four other vans. You may be approached by a man who says you can pay some money, although he is not an official car park attendant and whatever money you give lines only his pocket – you are not obliged to pay anything.

 

2. Buying your ferry tokens

There are plenty of Ticket Kiosks around the city, although the one that is pretty well famous these days is ‘Carlos’ from Agencie de Viajes on the Zone Commercial, just a mile out of Algeciras city. The coordinates for the Agency are  (36.17932 -5.44126). Whilst it is said that ‘Carlos’ no longer works there, there is  a toothless old man with a  kind  smile who greets you with a hand-shake and a Spanish kiss, looking like he owns the place. So whether it is him or not, for the purposes of this, the Agency is known as ‘Carlos’.

You must travel to ‘Carlos’ and buy the tickets face to face, there is no online facility. You can park your van in the parking area opposite and you are able to stay here for the night for free too. You have a Carrefour and Lidl within walking  distance and you are about 15 minutes driving time to the port.

Make sure you take cash with you as no credit card payments are accepted. If you don’t have a chance to get any before hand, there is a Santander in the main street opposite the Agency, although you will be charged 7€ transaction fee. You will be offered two ferry firms – FRS offers just three sailings per day for 180€ or Transmediterranea that offers six crossings for 200€. The latter has the better record and we chose this because of the timings, which start at 0800. You then get a pack with your tickets, Immigration Entry Card and a free gift of wine and biscuits. And that’s it – all done in under 10 minutes. 

Top Tips for your tickets

1. Take the early sailing.  Given the reputation for ferry delays and Customs Checks in Tangier Med, we chose the early morning sailing. Our thinking was, get on the first ferry and there will be no impact for backlog from previous ferry delays. Also when arriving in Morocco, there’s only one boat load of vehicles to deal with, so the process should be more efficient. You also guarantee landing in Morocco in the light, which if this is your first time and you have any apprehension, is sensible. 

2. You don’t book a specific sailing. You receive a printed token and take it with you to the Check-in, at least one hour before your desired ferry departure. We are guessing that if the boat’s capacity has been reached you will be put on the next departing ferry.

3. Take enough cash to exchange into Dirhams. Whilst the Agency doesn’t have a lot of cash to exchange, you will be able to get a small amount of Dirhams. The rate was 10.20 MAD to the Euro, which was slightly less than at the port, which offered us 10.36 MAD to the Euro.  Although I thought it was useful to have cash just in case. You can only get this cash  as part of your ferry ticket transaction.

4. Don’t worry about not speaking Spanish. The admin team speak French and English, although old man ‘Carlos’, if it is him – the god of Morocco tickets – does not. Hand signals worked pretty well. He doesn’t work behind the desk though so don’t worry – his admin team area great. 

5. Complete your Immigration Entry Card before boarding the ferry. This will save you time and stress when queuing up to get your passport stamped. Completion notes are in the next section. 

6. Keep all your documents and tickets together. I know it might sound a patronising tip, although in the stress that inevitably comes with ferry embarkation, arriving in a new country and not knowing what is expected, having everything in one envelope keeps your sanity in check. And I talk from experience and Myles will back me up for sure. 

 

3. Completing your Immigration Card

Whilst I may risk insulting your intelligence, I do want to go through the completion of the Immigration Form that you will receive from ‘Carlos’. I know it sounds ridiculous, although I spent a bit of time working out and researching all the categories I had to fill in. And because I didn’t want to risk getting it wrong and causing unnecessary delays, making sure the details were right felt important. So to save you that stress, here are sections and their interpretation.

  • C.I.N  This is a National Identity Card number and only needs completing if you have been to Morocco before and had your Passport stamped. You will find this number on the stamp, written in ink. If this is your first time to Morocco, then leave this blank.
  • Composteur No. This is some sort of validation number and we left this blank and it caused no issues.
  • Nom. Your Surname goes here.
  • Prenom.  Your first name.
  • Nom de Jeune Fille. This is your maiden name ladies.
  • Date et Lieu de Naissance. Date and place of Birth as in your Passport.
  • Nationalite. Nationality goes here.
  • Pays de Residence Habituelle. Put your country of normal residence here, ie where you live most of the time.
  • Profession. Your job or retired.
  • Passeport No. Passport number here.
  • Date de Delivrance. This is your Passport Issue Date.
  • Provenance. Where you are travelling from – so the Spanish or French port you are sailing from to Morocco.
  • Destination. The Moroccan port you are sailing in to.
  • Adresse au Maroc. Give the address of the first campsite you will be staying at or something like Hotel Fez.
  • Motif Principal du Voyage. What is the reason for your visit to Morocco? So holiday will do fine.

 

If you make a mistake on the forms that Carlos gives you, you can get blank ones on board the ferry.

 

4. Boarding the ferry

We recommend getting to the ferry at least 90 minutes before the ferry is due to depart. This way you can be sure to get your chosen sailing. Follow the signs for Puerto through Algeciras and then at the port, the signposts for Tangier Med.  You will then take these steps for boarding your ferry.

  • Check-in 1. Hand over your token from ‘Carlos’ and your Passports. You will be guided to park up in a line.
  • Check-in 2. One hour before the ferry sails, you are guided to another kiosk where once again you hand over your token and Passports. In return you receive a Boarding Pass per passenger. You then proceed to another parking lane.
  • Check-in 3. Five minutes later as you head for the embarkation parking, where a ferry officinado will check your Boarding Passes.
  • Final Check-in.  Another officinado will approach the van and take one of your Boarding Passes and leave you with a copy. And that’s it. You wait for the lorries to embark and then it’s your turn. Chances are that you will go up to the top deck, which means if you have a big bottom like Scoobie, it might be a very tight clearance.  Although there was no scrapping for us thankfully.
  • Park where indicated and turn off your gas.

The whole process was very simple and we only left 45 minutes late, which given the reports from others, was nothing at all. Now the final bit you need to do before grabbing a coffee, is to queue up to get your Passports stamped and hand in your Immigration Form. Each boat will probably have a different location, although it is likely to be by the cafe area.  You will now be in possession of a mighty fine stamp in the back of your Passport. 

Do bear in mind that the ferries are functional. It is only a 90 minute crossing so they are ‘no frills’. There are not enough seats for all the passengers – our boat was only 2/3 full! And be warned that the cafe is very basic. So either bring your own water, coffee or breakfast, or wait until you are the other side. The toilets though are clean and have paper. 

In terms of the question over whether dogs are allowed on board –  we found nothing definitive. There is a No Dogs sign although we saw two passengers both with dogs on deck. So make of it what you will. I would attempt taking your dog with you until someone says you can’t.

Check out our gallery by clicking below.

 

5. Disembarking the ferry and getting through Customs

Now this is the bit that I think, in all reality, I was dreading the most. That moment in time where the horror stories of chaos, money-greedy touts and stress would ensue. So I was prepared and mindful of what could happen next. Although I was also keen to see how the process worked in practice given all that I had read. So here is the most up-to-date information about how the disembarkation from Tangier Med looks like (based on February 2020 arrival.)

  • Getting off the ferry. This did take a while as it does often with all ferries, so nothing major to report here. Even our low-slung rear made it off the boat without incident. So far so good.
  • Passport Check. We were guided by an official to have our Passports checked, which he gave a rudimentary check for the stamp on the back page and he waved us off. Still doing well.
  • A long drive to Customs. You then, most disconcertedly follow the EXIT signs for what seems like ages. It feels like you are heading out of the port and it left me wondering if we missed something. We finally saw the signs for the D16.  We headed for the lane marked ‘Our vehicle is not registered in Morocco‘ and waited.
  • D16 – Vehicle Import and Export form. This is the vital piece of paper you need to show that you and your vehicle will be leaving the country. I had read that this could be completed on-line although this is no longer the case. The Customs’ Police do it all for you. So sit tight until you are asked to drive to a holding area. Within 15 minutes our V5 (Carte de Gris) and Myles’ Passport were collected and taken to the Kiosk. We had a little panic at this point, as Myles is not the Registered Owner on the V5, that’s me. So we wondered whether the discrepancy would cause a delay.  Thankfully it didn’t and we were on our way. The D16 is a small Credit Card sized card that you must keep safely as you will be asked for it on your return journey. It’s good to see that things have progressed with these official procedures.
  • Another Border Control Check.  Once D16 and Passport are firmly back in your grasp, it is wagons roll. Well as far as 100m where there  is another Border Control Check. That takes seconds and you are on your way.
  • Money and Insurance.  The final step in the process is to drive a further 100m where there are some cabins on your left-hand side. Here you buy your 3rd Party Insurance if you don’t already have your Green Card and exchange your money. There are lots of cabins to choose from although they are not all occupied. So I chose the one that had a name I recognised. They are all kosher and there are no touts milling around putting on the pressure.  The attendants speak English too, so if your French is minimal, then you don’t need to worry.  They give you a receipt for your money and that’s that! You are good to go. I strongly recommend that you do the money  exchange, because if you head off south on the A4 motorway, it is a Toll Road and you will need cash to pay.

 

So our verdict of the Customs’ process? Easy as anything and nothing to worry about at all. From getting off the boat to hitting the road having got our D16 and our money was a mere 65 minutes. So my ‘catch the early ferry’ strategy seemed to work really well and I highly recommend it, to keep you and your family sane. 

Check out our gallery below.

 

Part 3 – Leaving Morocco

We thought it would be worth a quick mention as we’re talking about the process of arriving into Morocco, to share our experiences having just left. All in the spirit of preparation, knowledge and confidence, it feels important to take you through the steps for leaving the country.

 

1. Staying somewhere safe overnight

Depending on the ferry you have decided to catch for your return will partly dictate where you stay. Somewhere close to the port would be sensible if you are on the ‘red-eye’ 0830 with Transmediterranea.  Although there don’t seem to be many  options. There is a public parking area which is guarded by staff that some people have reported staying at (35.884201 -5.50203) although it depends how comfortable you are with staying  so close to the port. We decided to stay at a wonderful wild spot that was just 45 minutes drive and chose the 1100 ferry. Given the advice we received numerous times about not driving in Morocco at night, taking the ‘red-eye’ was not an option. So this was the perfect place to be. We left at 0800 and were having breakfast in the queue at the docks by 0920 having gone through Customs. More on this in a moment.

Our overnight was lovely, overlooking Erraouz Reservoir. It’s on one of Morocco’s  Provincial roads, which means that it varies in quality from a bit bumpy to good quality tarmac. It was one of the lesser quality roads we had driven on, although none the less very doable, just slowly. Here are the coords. (35.713367 -5.52351). It is a peaceful spot with herds of goats and sheep passing through from the village directly above you and there were four of us staying there, without any issues from the locals.

 

2. Arriving at the port

The port is as easy to arrive into as it is to leave. Whether you come in on the back roads or the motorway, just follow the signs for Automobile Access. You will pass all the cabins where you may have picked up your money on the way out and be guided to park up. This is so that you can validate your Ferry Token that you received from Carlos’ Agency. If you have asked for an open ticket, then you can choose the time you wish to depart. Get there earlier enough and it should be no problem at all. 

Take your Passports and your ticket, and in return you will receive a triplicate ferry ticket for the next available ferry.

 

3. Going through Customs

After the ease of arriving through Customs four weeks earlier, we wondered whether the process would be as simple on  our return. After validating your token and receiving your ticket, you have four stages to go through;

  1. As you leave the Ticket Validation car park, an Official will examine your ticket and wave you on.
  2. You then arrive at the first of the Customs’ Checks. They will check your Passports and give you a stamp to say that you have exited the country.
  3. You then move forward 100yards to the next Kiosk where they ask for your D16 – the small business sized card you received on  arrival. They stamp this saying that you are officially exporting your vehicle.
  4. Then you drive a mile up to the X-ray machine. Two vehicles at a time drive on the examination platform and you are asked to exit the vehicle.  They are searching for drugs and arms! Whilst we were there a converted, rally Renault who came through the day before had been impounded for carrying 52kg of Hashish. That’ll not be a pleasant extension to their holiday I’m sure. After a couple of minutes you are allowed back on your vehicle and you exit the platform. Then you take another short journey to find the departure  gate for your chosen ferry carrier and park up and wait. That’s it.

 

All of that took us just 30 minutes from arrival to parking up. So make sure you allow yourself enough time to go through that procedure for your chosen ferry. 

 

3. Getting on the Ferry

Just a word of caution. If they send you up on the top deck of the ferry, if you have a large overhang, as we do  then you are likely to scrape at the back. They will however give you ramps that will lift your rear end enough to clear it.

Once parked up chill out and wait for your passage to be completed, reflecting on your memories of your African Adventure. Just bear in mind that the boat only accepts Euros and not Moroccan Dirhams. 

 

Conclusion

So there we have it, in a rather large nutshell. Our entry into and exit from Morocco. Armed with plans, preparation and some conflicting information, I am pleased to report that it all went incredibly smoothly. I’m sure on another day it could have been different, although I am convinced that taking that first crossing made a huge difference to our whole experience. So I hope this detail helps you, if you are thinking about travelling to Morocco by motorhome or are about to do it imminently. As always, if you have any questions just drop us an email at themotoroaming@gmail.com

 

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Strategies for Planning your Road-Trips

Strategies for Planning your Road-Trips

Our Life on the Road series comes as we glide into a period where we finally feel experienced enough to share our insights. Having left UK shores at the beginning of March 2016, we have 50,000 miles under our belt and lessons galore that have expanded our minds. Whilst we don’t ever consider ourselves experts, we have built up a wealth of knowledge about life in a motorhome that we are passionate to share. Whether you are long-timers, full-timers, weekend warriors or new timers, there will be something in here for everyone. 

This latest blog in the series focuses on planning strategies for your next road-trip. Thanks for the overwhelming vote from our Facebook community this was bar far the most popular blog request. And so, read on if you would like some practical tips for making your next road-trip an adventure and not a nightmare. Enter into our world where we share how we plan for and prepare for the countries we visit and get a sneak preview of how we do things in Motoroaming HQ. This is especially relevant as we begin our research for our month-long adventure to Morocco in 2020. 

 

How to make your next road-trip an adventure and not a nightmare.

Travelling is such a personal affair. From the transport we choose, the accommodation we select to be home and the philosophy we hold when it comes to places we want to visit. So I enter this blog with a degree of caution as our approach may not suit everyone. That said, we offer our loose strategies in the hope that it might offer some inspiration.

Before I launch into my 10 Road-Trip Planning Strategies, here are some thoughts about how be a confident travel planner which makes the art of travel so much smoother. 

 

The Art of Travel – The Skills of a Travel Planner

 

To Plan or Not to Plan, that is the question

Back in my corporate days as a Leadership Development Consultant, planning and preparation were key to my business. Without it, my reputation would have sunk as low as the dipping sun. So having an organised mind became part of my raison d’être. Those skills have remained with me ever since. Although I have to say that my insatiable, almost obsessive need to have precision plans has faded enormously since we hit the road.

Before we left UK, I bought maps, spent a fortune on Guide Books and invested heavily in highlighter pens and post-it notes. I was determined that our supposed gap-year travelling around Europe in our Pilote motorhome would be as co-ordinated as a war-time battle strategy.  The only danger with this mindset is that whilst you have a vision, a checklist and a route-map they can become far too rigid. Perish the thought that there’s a road-block to take you off course. Or may be a Point of Interest offered by a fellow traveller that you are curious to see. 

So yes plan, research and mentally have yourself geared up for the journey ahead, although then let go of that plan. Leave enough space for a change of route, a longer stay and revisions along the way. These are what make your trip into an adventure. 

Adopt a Travel Philosophy

Surely just pack up and go right? You’ve spent six months planning, now the wanderlust, itchy feet are urging you to travel. Although part of the planning process that has served us well is having a travel philosophy. What does this actually mean?  

Give thought to things like:

  • Do you want to blast it or do more of a slow-travel?
  • What sort of campers are you? Wild, campsites, Aires or a mixture of both?
  • How many hours or miles do you want to travel each day?
  • Are you motorway lovers to reach your destination or do you prefer to meander around the countryside and explore?
  • What type of traveller are you? A reach your destination and chill type? A curious explorer? An adrenalin junky? A fitness lover?

These questions help you to discover the type of traveller you are or want to be. Whilst the answers may be uncovered the more you travel, giving some thought to it before you head off will influence your plans. If you are travelling with family or a partner, discuss this together and accommodate everyones’ needs.

 

Be Inspired by Others

It’s easy to develop a mind-set of ‘I’ll do it alone and I’ll learn along the way.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that type of exploration. Although these days there are so many people who are travelling and writing about their experiences, that they are an amazing resource. I used to have a skewed attitude that to learn from others was somehow a weakness and almost lazy. As if I was cheating. Learning from my own experiences, I thought would be far more life-changing. And that is true to a degree. Although when others have the voice of wisdom and insight it would be crazy not to dip into this. Travel can be exhausting so making our trip the most meaningful and fulfilling, when life is so short, is really important. Not only that other people’s knowledge can save you money, stress, time and expensive mistakes. So be willing to read blogs, ask questions and cherry pick from other people’s experiences. 

 

Be a Responsible Traveller

When we make time for planning a road-trip, it allows us to think about the planet. It gives us the space to ponder on how to minimise our carbon foot-print – especially if we are travelling in a diesel guzzling camper/Motorhome.  Whilst the miles we travel may not be a conscientious choice for the earth, the way we choose to live can be. So when planning a trip, explore ways to be responsible travellers in our country destination, and indeed those we travel through to reach it. For example when we travel through a country where animal welfare is poor, we take cat and dog food rations. If our research tells us about irresponsible littering, we take refuse bags so we can clean up rubbish as we go. We also consider the use of our refuse and find ways to limit the amount of plastics we travel with.

Sometimes when we are already on the road, getting ethical resources can be harder than when we are in our home country. So plan for ways to look after the planet. Look at whether products like Norwex or ECover can make your trip easier and cleaner and think about purchasing products like this before you leave home.

 

10 Planning Strategies

 

1. Good old fashioned research  – Checklist of Considerations

Once you have selected your country of choice then the exciting part begins. Although it can be such a minefield of information to gather. Using a checklist like this one, can help bring together all the questions that are running through your head. Whilst the follow set of strategies might be more technology based, there’s nothing, in my mind, that can replace just getting a list and running through all the things you need to think about. At the time of writing, we are planning a trip to Morocco for a month, so I used this as a basis for the strategies I used and hence how the checklist came to be. I realised how many of these questions I ask naturally when  we visit a new place. So having them all in one place certainly makes the planning phase so much easier.  So arm yourself with the checklist and then get jiggy with Google and begin answering the questions you have about your chosen destination. Click the image to download your free copy.

 

2. Pinterest

Social Media channels are a huge resource for planning our trips and Pinterest is one of my go-to channels. Whilst these platforms have their downsides and feed obsessive habits if not managed, if you know how to use them, they are a gold-mine of information.  

Pinterest might be a relatively new kid on the block in Social Media terms, it is one of the best places to search amongst the thousands of travellers who write blogs about their experiences. With a simple search of your chosen destination, you  will be presented with literally hundreds of posts that will highlight a diverse range of aspects of the country you are about to visit. From food, culture and ‘best bits’ to road-trip itineraries – Pinterest has it all. When we visited Sweden I did a search for alternative visits to Stockholm, which influenced a completely unique city experience in the summer of 2019. 

Once I find an interesting article, I then pin it to my own Pinterest Boards, take notes or pin the places to Google Maps so I can come back to the information nearer the time. More on that shortly. 

For information on the boards I manage, click the image below.

3. Facebook/Instagram

Facebook is another place where a ton of experienced people can be a font of knowledge for you. Forums and Groups have a great collection of topics for discussion and I often explore these for nuggets of information about our next destination. Whilst in the process of planning Morocco, synchronistically a handful of motorhomers were visiting and posting valuable information and images that helped prepare us for our trip. So watching their videos, seeing their photos and reading their challenges has been really helpful. 

You can use Facebook as part of your research either by watching it day-to-day and hoping you catch the relevant posts. Or you can use the search facility in a specific group to pull up past posts on your chosen country. Check the images below to see how to make Facebook work in this respect. If there is a post you want follow as people in the community continue to comment, then there is a save facility which means you can access the post easily when you need it. 

Alternatively you could use Facebook to ask specific questions that are concerning you and that help you fill in any gaps that you can’t find answers to elsewhere.  What a fabulous planning tool this can be. You will often find me checking out a wild spot, a pretty town or location recommended by someone else and pinning it to my Google Map. 

Instagram is another source of visual inspiration, depending on the people you follow. Whilst it isn’t a significant planning resource, as a visual person, I do love the images and it whets my appetite. Thanks to an image of Hallstatt in Austria, we made a diversion to this picture perfect location hidden in the Alps. How lovely it was too. 

4. Ebooks and Country Guides

In the olden days before Google, we used to rely on books like Lonely Planet Guides. And whilst they have their uses for sure, they are weighty. And let’s face it, we all need to watch our weight when we travel. So I started to use eBooks dowloaded to my iPad to learn about new countries and their cultures. Whilst they don’t give me the intricate detail I might need for our love for ‘off the beaten track’, it can be really useful as a first level planning tool. These Guides are written for a certain genre of traveller, which often does not include the road-trip camper and motorhomer. Although they do give some valuable information that goes into the melting point, so they do serve a purpose. 

Again for Morocco, the books I wanted to read didn’t come in eBook versions, so had to rely one particular book that caught my eye on Amazon. So with interest I bought it and it will become an important source of research and learning. 

5. Note Taking

When I’m in a creative mode, which sometimes battles against my need for structure, I just get out my notepad and coloured pens and just mind-map. A technique I used in my corporate life serves me well as a traveller. This is especially helpful when I’ve read through my saved Pinterest articles, got the all-important information from Facebook and ticked off  my checklist through the internet. I just love to jot my highlights and main points on paper randomly. It gives all my thoughts some organisation and I can see things coming together. This is where excitement fills my belly and enthuses me to do more reading and count down the sleeps before we go. If you want to have some fun, get paper and pens and just write down randomly what you are learning. See it all coming together before your eyes. Not everything needs to be high tech. 

6. Other People’s Experiences

When we adopt an attitude of asking others about their experiences, we can learn a whole new perspective of a place. Of course we all have our own journeys and personal views, although collecting those invaluable memories will help you make your own decisions. So whether it’s through your own network of friends, your motorhome/camper fraternity or through Social Media, pick people’s brains. Learn about their highs and lows, extract advice and get their recommendations. Whilst you are unlikely to take on board all that they offer, it will give you more information from which you can make choices that suit you and your travel philosophy. 

 

7. Google Maps and Maps.me

Ok, now we’ve done some fabulous planning, we’ve scoured the internet, read until our heads hurt and our excitement is off the scale. We’ve started to organise things that we need for the trip like Green Cards or Insurance – so what next?

For me, it’s time to drill down a bit and start to explore more of the specifics. The high level planning is great, although as the trip gets nearer, having a plan about the routes you might take, the border crossings and priority places you have on your must-visit list now becomes a priority. Whilst we need to balance our plans with a degree of flexibility, having a rough route or direction feels important. It would be a bit like running a race and not having a defined starting line. It would result in chaos. 

This is where two apps come into play for me. Google Maps and Maps.me. I love Google Maps, it offers so much to the organised traveller; it’s a Sat Nav, walking guide, services search facility and Point Of Interest guide. I see it like a paper map that we might have used when we were kids, peppered with drawing pins of places we dreamt about visiting. This digital version is so much easier to manage when we’re on the road, thanks to our many devices. 

There are two ways of using Google Maps. The first is using the App on your phone to search for and then pin places that you want to visit, taking notes of why it appeals. (Don’t forget this bit as you risk having a collection of random pins that you’ve forgotten their relevance.) The second way I use Google Maps is on my Laptop to create a personalised map of a particular road-trip so that I can track both our potential and actual routes. I can upload pictures, write my thoughts, link to websites and develop it into a whole exciting interactive map for our followers. It’s awesome. Check out some of the maps we’ve created here

Maps.me I came across through a fellow motorhomer in year two of our travels and it revolutionised our journeys. As a free App and community sharing tool, it allows you to create your own pins for overnight stays, UNESCO sites, Service Stations, LPG and campsites. Most powerfully though, it enables you to share with other travellers. So you start to build up a collaborative resource amongst like-minded people. Best of all it is an off-line facility. So once you have downloaded the maps for the country of your choice, then you can use it to navigate to a place to stay, visit for the day or do a city walking tour without it costing a fortune with your data. Perfect. I love Maps.me, it’s an incredible resource and if you click the blue link you can go to the website for more information. If Maps.me is new to you, I have written a PDF guide about how to get the best from it, which is yours, for free by clicking this link here

8. Search for Sites and Park4Night websites/Apps

Given that we are now at the stage of planning a very rough route and possibly ear-marking some places to stay, it’s time  to get more detailed. Now we love wild camping, although some countries don’t allow it, frown upon it, or it is simply not appropriate. So having a bit of foresight into places to set up camp, especially somewhere like Morocco, seems appropriate.

We always find somewhere for our first two nights. Sarah from Veedubadventures lovingly calls this her ‘soft landing‘. I think this is great. We call it grounding ourselves. Arriving in a new country can initiate a stressful response with all the build up. Language challenges, ferries and a host of uncertainties all combine to potentially create a storm of anxiety and sometimes just a bit of edginess. So we always make sure we have somewhere to stay for the first two nights and have this destination in our plans ahead of time. After that we then get a sense of where we want to go next and take flight.

These two grounding days, if we haven’t done it already, become a playground for exploring wild camping options or nice campsites that are in and around the places we’ve pinned. And our two ‘go-to’ apps for this are SearchforSites and Park4Night. Both sites give us untold treasures when it comes to recommended places to stay. Park4Night for wild options (although can be a bit tricky for a 7.5m motorhome) and SearchforSites for good quality campsites and Aires from trusted UK comrades.  Both of these resources are excellent for planning purposes and the recently upgraded SearchforSites App gives you a much more robust route planning tool and off-line navigation if you want it.   We do though, tend to use these sites on a day to day basis rather than mapping out all our overnight stops. So much of our journey depends on the weather, road conditions and our frame of mind that booking ahead is not really an option for us.  Although our strategy might differ in Morocco as our plans unfold and we learn more about the country.

 

9. Good old fashioned Maps

Whilst technology serves us well on the whole, sometimes, just sometimes, a good old fashioned map is appropriate. We started out on our travels with a huge A5 Europe map that I had littered with post-it notes and coloured highlights. Although over time this was relegated to the footwell of the cab and fell victim to curls, frays and tears. So it made way for our Google Maps instead. That said, for Morocco the advice I have read is to get a proper, recently updated map that allows you to see the big picture and plot a route according to your highlights. There is something quite cathartic about the feel of real map and a Guide Book – and it excites me to use them again. Crazy eh? If there is enough detail in the map (go for at least 1:250,000 for detail and 1:1million for a bigger scale) then it will give you POI that may not have come up in your research so far. The Book Depository based in UK has a great range of maps – nearly 32,000 of them and is where I sourced my Morocco maps from. 

10. Now go with the flow!

The final strategy that you need for planning a great and memorable road-trip is to now let go! It may seem counter-intuitive based on everything that I’ve just said, although let go you must! It’s so easy to become too obsessed with a plan and in doing so you miss things that could be one of your greatest highlights. We also love meeting people along the way, especially locals, who will tell us about things, that take us completely off-piste. And to those people, we are so grateful. We love off the beaten track places and it’s often the locals who know about these places. So being willing to let go of the route plans and pins you have created and go with the flow a bit, is really important.

I love that I have the knowledge, route options and highlights running in the background, although there’s nothing better than going left instead of right sometimes. So be free to move beyond your plans and allow your trip to open up in ways you’d never thought possible. Trust your intuition and put your curious, explorer heads on and see what delights emerge. The beauty is that you always have the safety of the plan to come back to whenever you need it. 

 

Closing Thoughts

Eisenhower once said that ‘Plans are nothing, planning is everything.’ And he is right. Whilst going out on the road with no plans might seem really exciting and adventurous, these days that doesn’t really work as a philosophy. Travelling is an art and that art doesn’t just happen. It needs a little thought and clarity. We learnt this after our trip to Scandinavia in 2019. Without the plans and our detailed research, our trip could have been messy, expensive and far less memorable than it was. So we are happy that there is a planning queen on our team! 

Although the art of a great traveller is also to have enough courage to let go of all the plans if your intuition tells you so. The plan is just that, a plan! It is not caste in stone and, for a truly memorable experience, sometimes letting go is important. So armed with these planning strategies, we hope it has given you an insight into how we plan our life on the road.

Let us know how you get on with these techniques and whether you have any other top tips for road-trip plans.

 

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