Every trip regardless of its length requires some nuts and bolts to pull it off, some accounting to figure out how much it cost, and some reflection to put it all into perspective. We’ll do our best to cover all three in the posts to follow.
Europe 2014 as is to be expected, took a serious amount of planning to execute, but not necessarily the type typically associated with a vacation. Given its overall length and our fluid itinerary, we made few lodging reservations in advance, removing the need to conduct that kind of research. As we’d been thinking about this trip for a long time, some elements fell into place almost naturally, part of that process of thinking and discussing. We began to get serious a couple of years before we intended to depart, with some components of the trip taking precedence over others in the planning process.
The most important of these, as many other decisions would flow from its conclusion, was our mode of transportation. The length of the trip, our desire to bring our bicycles, the amount of gear needed to make six months of camping comfortable and the expense of using public transportation ruled out using trains or buses.
We felt driving would be the best option, having done so before in Europe, providing us with the freedom to go where and when we wanted combined with the convenience of being able to haul all of our stuff around, including folks who might come to visit us while there. This left us with three choices: rent a vehicle, buy one in Europe, or ship one over.
We’ve rented a number of times in the past, including 1992, 1999, 2002, and 2007. In three of those instances we used Hertz and picked up the car in Frankfurt at the airport. This is a convenient way to go, almost exactly the same as doing so in the United States. But renting with a mainline rental car company is expensive and gets even more so if you want to select a car outside of the inventory they typically carry at your pickup location. There is also the matter of getting all of your gear there and back, and to and from the airport to the rental location. This discussion is also applicable to buying a car in Europe.
As mentioned earlier, we planned on taking quite a bit of gear, our days of living out of a backpack behind us. Here is a breakdown of the extra bags (Out clothes would go in to carry on bags and two free checked bags) we would have shipped:
|Gear Shipping Items||Number||Per Item||One Way||Round Trip|
|Action Packers (Two with kitchen gear, one with toiletries and dietary supplements, one with miscellaneous)||4||$200||$800||$1,600|
|Bag with Extra Clothes and Bike Equipment||1||$100||$100||$200|
|Sleeping Bags and Pads||2||$200||$400||$800|
Although this may seem like a lot of stuff, it would still mean we would need to purchase additional items in Europe like folding camp chairs, a lantern and a few other miscellaneous items whose cost of shipping would outweigh the expense of buying them there.
An entirely viable solution for long-term rental is to use one of the leasing programs offered by some European car manufacturers, Renault and Peugeot being two that come up in web searches. If you choose a smaller car, the cost including full insurance coverage would be about $5,000, which works out to about $200 a week, quite reasonable. Two vehicles we might have chosen, both offering very good fuel economy and running on diesel, which is cheaper than regular gas there were the:
- Renault Grand Kangoo – Diesel 110hp Manual with GPS Europe – $5,698.00
- Renault Trafic LWB 9 Seats – Diesel 115hp Manual with GPS Europe – $10,160.00
The Kangoo is a nice well-sized car, but not big enough to hold our bikes inside, necessitating purchasing an outside rack, an additional expense. The Trafic would be big enough to hold all of the gear and bikes, but came with a larger price tag. We’ll look at the pricing comparisons when we examine all of the options available to us in the posts that will follow.
Renault Eurodrive: http://www.renaultusa.com/
Rubbermaid Action Packer: http://www.rubbermaid.com/category/pages/ProductDetail.aspx?CatName=Storage&Prod_ID=RP091427&Redirect=1