A photographic look back over some of the favourite places we visited in 2017
A photographic look back over some of the favourite places we visited in 2017
6 months touring Scandinavia in our motorhome – how much did it cost? A look at our spending, activity and overnights stats by month and by country.
So, our 2017 Scandi trip; it wasn’t quite six months, but close – We had a total of 170 days away, from late-April until mid-October. We left the UK via Harwich to Hook of Holland and travelled through the Netherlands to Germany before reaching our first Scandinavian country, Denmark. A month there (to the day) and we ferried over to southern Norway to drive a wiggly route by fjords, mountains and tunnels to reach Trondheim, where we headed east to Sweden. We crossed to the Baltic coast before turning north to eventually reach Juoksengi and our midnight time-travelling Arctic Circle Swim. From here, a straight run north to Tromso was followed by a visit to the Vesteralen and Lofoten islands, before turning sharply south all the way to Oslo. We crossed back to Sweden and, via many lakes, we reached Stockholm then followed the coast to Malmö and back into Denmark. A few further weeks exploring then led us back into northern Germany and the Netherlands, before heading home by the same route.
Our route map (sketch)
Our Scandi trip overview in key figures:
Length of trip – 170 days
Countries visited – 6 (Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland)
Overall expenditure – €5419.37
Average daily cost – €31.88
Miles driven – 9087 ( Aaron – 4452 [49%], Nicky – 4635 [51%] )
Miles per gallon – 31.3
Cost per mile – €0.17p
Distance cycled – 596km
Distance walked – 619km
WorkAways undertaken – 4
Time-travelling swims – 1
Scandi Skinny dips – 16
Our Trip costs by category
The above image outlines our spending for this trip. With the distance driven (9087 miles), it is of little surprise that diesel for Benny (29%) has been the biggest expense we encountered, closely followed by food shops (inc. booze) at 27%. The next largest cost, at 18%, has been our campsite fees, with many more stops in ASCI campsites than on previous trips. Transport costs also featured highly, at 12%, as driving through Norway brought with it the necessity of many ferry journeys and also 953 NOK (billed so far) of road tolls. Several bridges between neighbouring Danish islands also carry a hefty cost.
Our trip costs by country (with daily averages)
Note: Germany and Finland costs are not indicative of travel in those countries as both were transition countries where we filled up with diesel and undertook large food shops.
Our trip costs by month, with accommodation, exercise & driving stats
Our Accommodation / Stopover synopsis
We stayed in free aires where we could, but on this trip we were a lot more inclined to slip into the comfortable ease of a campsite when the opportunity arose. Certain key places demanded it (Råbjerg Mile, Flåm, Melkevoll Bretun) but others we chose over available nearby free stops as we were passing during ASCI-applicable dates. We still only paid for around one third of our nights away, the rest being either wild camps or free aires. Our take on the difference may be specific to us, but we only rate it as a true wild camp if we have found it ourselves without the CamperContact app (or similar).
Almost two-thirds of our overnight stops were free (65%, or 111 out of 170 nights), with the remaining stays averaging out at a cost of €5.63 per night. (a €957.07 total spend).
In summary, for the entire trip, from when we left home to our return all those months later, we spent a grand total of €5419.37, for an average daily cost of €31.88. At current exchange rates that means the entire 170-day trip cost us around £4825.00, or, simply speaking, under £5000 all-in, which is much less than we had expected after all the horror tales of scandalous Scandinavian prices. Back in our salaried years, we had on occasion spent more than that on a special two week holiday, so to be able to experience over 24 weeks of such varied, interesting and fun travel for a similar amount – bargain.
Germany – A stormy traverse
We left our damp campsite on Als next morning, careful to ensure we safely got off the very wet pitch, to head south out of Denmark to northern Germany. We spent the next two days struggling through Germany, cursing the volume of traffic, only later realising that the whole of northern Germany was being battered by a storm named Xavier, with a state of emergency being declared in several cities. The traffic was entirely solid, and every detour we took offered only brief respite before we were stationary again.
Even with our ability to be anywhere, with no time constraints and with a constantly changing target aire to head for, we were still firmly stuck in the web of fallen trees, closed roads and tens of thousands of vehicles all desperately trying to be elsewhere. We drove for five hours making all of 77 miles, most of them before leaving Denmark, before calling it a day at a quickly selected fourth-choice aire in the town of Itzehoe. We sat out the continuing deluge in a huge gravel car-park behind the town centre under opaque sheets of rain, but at least the town had free Wi-Fi on offer to help entertain us.
The next morning nothing had changed other than the depth of the puddles that surrounded us, like our own private moat. We carefully exited the car-park, after facing several rather annoying dead-ends where we had to reverse back out from, where we rejoined the busy roads to again be battered by high winds and rain. Our second day in Germany’s storm was proving more of the same, stuck with having to use the bottleneck that was the stalled ring-road around Hamburg, replete with all its road works and lanes lost to downed trees and other debris.
We finally broke free and hoped to flow past Bremen, but the road again soon became solid red on Google, passable only with the stoic application of hours of static patience. We had little, so we jumped off again at the first opportunity, heading back south east away from Bremen to hide ourselves in a small paid aire at a castle in Thedinghausen. The rains stopped for about a half hour around 6pm and we jumped out to have a quick walk around the sodden gardens and castle grounds, making it back to Benny with only seconds to spare before the skies opened again. This brief, rushed walk was our only exercise, gentle or otherwise, for two full days.
From here we had to backtrack all the way to and past Bremen, all the while dreading getting stuck again on blocked roads. But with a few exceptions, we made reasonable, if juttering, progress along the chosen route and finally seemed to have escaped the worst of the traffic as we approached the Netherlands border. We stopped just short in a town called Bunde to both visit services and to pick up some fresh provisions, then over into the Netherlands we went. Our German traverse was difficult and potentially dangerous, and went wholly unrecorded, photographically speaking. So to liven up this otherwise entirely dull blog post, here’s a sketch Nicky did of some penguins – Enjoy.
Our first year full-timing in a motorhome – how much did it cost? Here’s a look at the costs, annual and daily, associated with our chosen lifestyle choice.
(4th September 2016 – 3rd September 2017)
It’s been a full year now since we took the plunge, leaving our professions, friends and family behind for life on the road. We thought it might be useful to others who may be considering a similar lifestyle change to see, for their planning purposes, how much we’ve spent over a full year, and on what.
Of course, what we’re happy with on the road may not suit you, and vice versa, so we should say first that our spending levels are absolutely personal to us. Our costs are at a level we’re comfortable with, and they suit our current financial situation; but everyone is different. If required it would be possible to live on much less, with patience and frugality. And it would certainly be very easy to spend much more too, if eating out, guided trips and expensive attractions are what interest you on your travels.
We like cooking, so eating out only very occasionally is fine for us. Most of what we really enjoy doing is free, like hiking in the mountains, wild swimming, cycling off-road or running trails. The one big exception to this is skiing, which is definitely an expensive week (or two) whatever way you look at it, even if bringing your own accommodation helps reduce the costs a little. We like seeing cultural sites too, but we’ve learned to be selective, as paying into every church, museum, fort, gallery or other attraction we pass would be exorbitant. We have occasionally volunteered our time at WorkAway projects and these social, volunteer efforts offer a variation that invigorates us, offers a welcome change of scene and keeps our costs for that time at a minimum. We also have a few winter house-sits coming up which will enable us to live a more rooted, normal life for a time, and allow a more detailed exploration of specific portions of rural France.
More detailed country Route Maps: (paper maps marked up by hand)
Our travels during our first year were split into two long trips of roughly six months (France, Spain & Portugal) and five months (Northern Europe and Scandinavia) respectively. We had a month or so in between where we returned to the UK for servicing, maintenance and a catch-up with friends and family. We sneaked in a quick two week trip to Scotland (no map) during this time too. The Scandinavia trip is still on-going as our ‘one year on the road’ anniversary has fallen mid-travels.
We have tracked all our costs and distances as we travelled, noting down spending and mileage counts at driver changes or stops as they occurred. We added these to a bespoke spreadsheet set up to record, count and analyse our activities month by month and county by country. Synopsis tabs with some complex formula then collate each category into, hopefully, easy to understand tables or charts, for a quick overview. Yes, indeed we do have too much time on our hands.
France / Spain / Portugal trip:
Scandinavia Trip: (note: still on-going)
After the completion of our first six month trip we tweaked the spreadsheet categories a little, adding in new columns to allow for a more accurate breakdown of our spending. This meant the spend percentages between each portion of the trip were not perfectly aligned, but the spend totals remain unaffected and it’s these we have used for this post. We also added in a column for type of accommodation, to track where we spend our nights. Here’s a typical (actually, untypically expensive) month from our current spreadsheet (June 2017) , for interest. (note our serious lack of cycling in Norway!)
Outside the daily costs of living on the road we also had many one-off or annually reoccurring costs that enabled the trip to proceed initially. (note: these are all included in the totals and are shown here purely as examples of other costs that you will / may incur)
This doesn’t include purchasing our Benny (a new Benimar Mileo 201) in the first instance, so the cost of your chosen van, whether new or used, should also be factored in here. All our ferry costs to and from mainland Europe, or within each country are included within the daily cost totals under the category ‘transport’.
We tracked everything in euros, as this was the predominant currency of our first six months and it made sense to continue with the same base. All Scandinavian currency spends were recorded in euros at a fixed exchange rate, that of what it was when we first entered the country, so there may have been some fluctuation in value during our time (in either direction) that we didn’t capture.
Our annual totals by portion of year:
This equates to (at current exchange rates) an approximate spend of £13354.00 for our first year travelling in Europe, or an average spend of £36.59 per day, all in for us both.
On the Road spending pie:
FOOD – Food from a supermarket/shop. Includes wine & beer, but not eating out
FUEL – Diesel for Benny
LPG – Propane gas for cooking, heating and running the fridge when not on sites
TRANSPORT – Tolls, vignettes, ferries, bridges, public transport & day parking
EATING OUT – Eating & drinking in restaurants & bars (includes snacks & ice cream)
OVERNIGHT STAYS – Cost of sites, aires or parking overnight, where a cost applied
CLOTHING – This includes personal items such as clothes & shoes and laundry costs
ENTRY FEES– Entry fees for museums, galleries, castles, cathedrals and other events etc..
MISC. – All other items not separately designated (from stamps to ski passes)
If we removed all the up-front facilitating costs and only looked at expenditure on the road, we are spending under €950, or £870, per month, and for the incredible experiences we’re having and the beautiful places we are seeing, this seems like a very good deal to us – long may it continue.
Leaving the beautiful tulpen route of the Netherlands behind, we drove ever eastwards, through unchanging rural emptiness, barely registering when we slipped into northern Germany. The only obvious visual change was the greater number of wind turbines spread out across the windy flatlands. It was Nicky’s birthday the next day, so deciding a little bit of lazy comfort was required, we found a registered ACSI campsite nearby where we could utilise our recently purchased membership card for the first time. We settled on a site in Astederfeld, set adjacent to a white sandy beach on a large swimming lake, where we considered a birthday swim may be in order.
We had two days of chilling, both still feeling a little fatigued from our busy days of planning and organising. It rained on and off, dampening the air, the grass and our willingness to exercise. We had planned to complete a lengthy swim but both the water temperature (11 deg) and our level of tiredness prevented us from actually getting in; a fact that disappointed us in hindsight and we slightly regretted the wasted opportunity.
The site shop was not open on the Sunday we arrived, nor did it have any provisions on the May Day Monday morning. We walked 5km into the town of Neuenburg to find the only local shop touted to be open. It turned out to be a petrol station kiosk, and they also had no bread or fresh food available, so we marched that 10km for only a bottle of coke. The rest of the afternoon we chilled around Benny, repacking, reading and recharging, then enjoyed a lovely sunset across the fields.
The next morning we drove to Bremen, stopping only to complete a quick shop, then drove past Hamburg without stopping at all. The scale of the industrial activity in Germany’s second biggest city and busiest port was definitely impressive, if not aesthetic. We were not in the mindset for city breaks, so making progress towards Scandinavia became our main goal. We stopped to overnight at a spacious free stellplatz in Kaltenkirchen, where we could service Benny and also pick up free Wi-Fi from the nearby town – bonus. The following morning we pushed on to a peninsula on the west coast of Germany, where we had read a little about a special stretch of beach and decided to investigate. We took the Autobahn past Heide and Tönning and parked up in the small village of Garding to begin our planned cycle.
We cycled through the central street of Garding, before making our way into the rural countryside, west and south. This was our first cycle through villages in Germany, and the style of buildings was both distinctive, but yet subtly different to the Netherlands. We passed austere red brick buildings with elaborate, decorative thatched roofs, set alongside colourful ship-lapped timber homes with steep slate roofs. The one notably absent feature was any personal fencing, hedges or boundaries around houses, with them all standing freely on a portion of land shared with neighbours and ownership denoted only by a change of planting or surface material. It made the houses look somewhat bare, even unfinished in some ways. This might be due to our own warped perception, being so used to seeing the extreme lengths and pedantic ways people in the UK go to ensure they define their exact boundaries and ownership. We did wonder about how young children and dogs are catered for though, with busy roads so close by.
Further along we cycled adjacent to a military zone, along a large raised bund or dyke. It looking like an abandoned velodrome, with its old, tarmacked surface sun-melted and slowly running down the slope in thick black waves. Every so often a set of steps with a neat, timber viewing platform appeared, allowing visitors to rest up and look out over the expansive muddy marshlands towards the white beach. These inaccessible areas of grassy mud were reminiscent of wild savannah grasslands, flat and yellow, with only a hint of sand dunes behind. The only way to reach the beach was by crossing on these intermittent walkways on stilts, and only then by paying for a ticket.
At the end of the town of Sankt Peter-Ording we, against ideological objections, relented and paid the €2 each to access the beach beyond the grass. We cycled 1km down a wide smooth timber walkway occasionally covered by drifting sands to reach a cycle-park where we dismounted and walked barefoot along the sand. There were raised restaurants and cafes, set high on timber struts like short piers, showing signs of how high and wild the sea must be at certain times. Loose sand was blowing in pulsing waves across the surface of the beach, whipped up by the blustery cross winds.
The tide was a long way out, but we persevered to reach the water and paddle a little, chilling and refreshing our feet. We happily sat in a blue and white striped double seat with moveable footrests and a fold-down drinks shelf, the sides providing instant protection from the constant wind. We looked like extras in a Punch and Judy show, but sheltered from the wind it became a totally different day and the sun soon warmed us through.
We later cycled through the pretty but rather twee town, filled with the usual beach-resort tourist shops, and returned to Benny by a similar route. This time we were cycling into the hard bluster of the cold coastal winds and had to work twice as hard to go half the speed home. We then drove off from Garding to overnight in a free aire near the town of Lunden. This was a quiet, gravel car-park at the end of a long rural lane, by a river with views out over green fields and only a few curious cows for company. We enjoyed a late afternoon of planning our upcoming route followed by another deep red sunset and restful evening, our last in Germany for now; Denmark beckons.