Touring Europe in an Elgrand (Part I to V)

Discussion in 'Camping and your Elgrand' started by ibebbs, Jul 26, 2016.

  1. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    So, my partner, myself and our 10 month old baby just got back from a European tour in our Elgrand. In 8 weeks we travelled nearly 8000 miles through 20 countries before finally returning to Blighty. I was an epic adventure and - for the most part - a resounding success so I thought I'd share details of some of the prep work, van mods and lessons learned in case they happen to be of use to anyone else.

    Be aware, this is a long (long, long!) write up in which I cover a lot (in fact I had to split it into several posts as it was too long for the forum). To make it readable (hopefully) I've tried to keep details fairly brief but if anyone would like further information about a given modification / piece of equipment, let me know and I'll write a more comprehensive post about it.

    Also, if you'd like to know more about the day to day details of our tour, how we planned where to go / stay and how the baby dealt with the journey, my missus kept a daily blog of our adventure here. It's anonymised (we didn't want the world to know the house was empty while we were away) but has some really great information - not to mention numerous humorous moments - that might help anyone else planning a similar trip.

    Conversion vs Modification
    First point to note is that we decided very early on not to convert the Elgrand from an MPV to a campervan. This was done mostly because, once the journey was over, we wanted to continue using the Elgrand day-to-day as an MPV for our small (but hopefully one day growing) family. However, we were very keen to be able to sleep in the van should we be unable to find other reasonable accommodation.

    As such, I had to work out how we could store all the gear needed for our journey without making any detrimental modifications to the van. This was challengine to say the least but, in retrospect, I think I found quite a nice compromise.

    Sleeping in the van
    As a conversion to a campvan was out of the question, we had to decide on how best to sleep in the van when required. I initially played with the idea of removing the rear seats and building a extendable platform for a bed / additional storage but quickly went off the idea as it seemed like overkill and required more modification than I would have ideally wanted to make.

    Instead we decided to keep it simple and work to the strengths of the E51; namely the fact that the rear seats all lay flat. We decided simply to buy a decent airbed and lay this across the flattened rear seats. So we bought an AeroBed Active Bed. At £65 it wasn't the cheapest airbed we could have gone for but the dimensions were about right, it came with a rechargable pump and was advertised to inflate / deflate in just 60 seconds.

    I'm pleased to say this worked extremely well. The fit was almost perfect and, while deeper than I would have liked (meaning less headroom) it still allowed access to the rear fold-up pockets which were perfect for storing keys / phones overnight. While - like any airbed - it lost some pressure through the night, it remained more than firm enough to sleep on and I never felt the need to top it up during the night. Furthermore the inflation / deflation claim of 60 seconds was actually spot on. The pump works extremely quickly (if a little loudly) to fully inflate the airbed and the quick release "whoosh" valve allows it to be deflated in seconds.

    [​IMG]

    The only downside to the airbed was the fact that, when laid flat, the rear seats in the E51 aren't perfectly horizontal. In this configuration the back seats lay higher than the middle seats such that the airbed had a noticeable slope. If, like us, you intend to sleep with your head under the large sunroof, then you find that your head is lower than your feet and, as I found this particularly uncomfortable, we normally slept the other way round even though it was a little more cramped.

    This was a shame as my other half had made an insect proof cover for the sunroof out of some magnetic insect netting (designed for doorways) so we could sleep with the sunroof open without getting eaten by the local wildlife. The magnets were stitched into the fabric around the outside at the appropriate dimensions to allow them to attach to the metal around the large sunroof (which meant stitching to pieces together - hence the seam down the middle). While we only got to try it a couple of times, it worked very well indeed and only cost about four quid to make.

    [​IMG]

    The Fridge
    As we were travelling with a baby, we needed a way of keeping her food (not to mention my beer ;0) cool. While a coolbox would have been relatively cheap, we didn't have confidence that it would keep the contents cool given some of the temperatures we expected to (and did!) experience during the trip.

    We therefore decided to bite the bullet and buy a decent compressor fridge. After measuring very carefully, it seemed that the Waeco CDF-11 would fit between the front seats of the Elgrand, saving space in the rear of the van for other bits. Hoping this would be the case I ordered and installed it, only to find that... it fit perfectly. In fact, it fit so well, it almost looked like it was designed specifically for the E51!

    [​IMG]

    I built a small platform to level off the fridge above the curve of the gearbox and covered it with non-slip matting and this is how it stayed throughout the trip. Its a very capable unit that, despite being subjected to cabin temperatures in excess of 35 degress, managed to keep the contents at a consistent 5 degrees. Furthermore, given that, in this position, it prevents the two cup-holders in the dash from being used, the cup holders in the fridge came in very handy.

    Unfortunately, the handle (which clips the cover closed) sprang away from the lid while trying to open the unit in just the second week of our journey while we were in northern Spain. I e-mailed Dometic (the makers/distributors of the Waeco units) to see if they could do anything while we were on the road but their response was (for such an expensive item) frustratingly unhelpful. Despite this, the unit continued to function well and we completed our journey without a handle.

    In short, the Waeco CDF-11 is a fantastic fit for the Elgrand and, despite the issue with the handle, worked well indeed. Service from Dometic could definitely have been better but we'll see how they handle the return under warranty.

    Continued in Part II
     
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  2. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Note: This is a continuation of Part I that was split into multiple posts as it was too long for the forum to handle

    Electrics

    Given the decision to install a compressor fridge, I needed a means of powering it. Even though the car battery *probably* would have had enough capacity to keep it running while the car was stationary, I really didn't want to face the possibility of not being able to start the car due to a flat battery. I therefore needed a leisure battery.

    The main issue with a leisure battery is where to place it. While the Elgrand has countless little cubby holes, none of them are big enough to house a decent capacity battery. So I needed a solution.

    Battery storage
    Fortunately, with the seats laid flat, there is a 210mm gap at the back of the van in which I decided to build a frame to house the battery. Design requirements were:


    1. Fit the narrow gap at the back of the van.
    2. Be completely removable without requiring any permanent modifications to the van
    3. House a removable box capable of holding
      • Leisure battery
      • Split charge system
      • Campsite hookup for charging the battery and providing internal 230v powering
      • Inverter for providing 230v power when no on hookup
    4. Provide space for a fold-up push chair
    5. Provide access to space under rear seats for additional storage


    After *a lot* of careful measuring, I built this frame:

    [​IMG]

    Which fitted in the rear of the Elgrand as shown here:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    With the fold-up push chair at the bottom (with access to the space under the rear seats behind it), battery box in the middle and a top shelf for storing luggage when sleeping in the van.

    Battery & components
    With somewhere to house the leisure battery, I had to source the required components and build a box to fit them in a relatively short space of time. I googled around and eventually found Rayne Automotive. While not exactly local, I was familiar with the area and liked the fact that their website had detailed instructions on installing the systems they provided. I got in touch with James at Rayne Automotive them and was really happy with how amazingly helpful he was. James designed a completely bespoke package of components specifically for me and even helped with some of the more difficult parts of the installation.

    The package included most of the components from their Complete camper/race van electrical 12v & 240v wiring conversion kit - hook-up and 1000w 12v 240v dc-ac power inverter twin socket usb + power changeover module. Along with this they included made-to-measure cables, all connectors and as much of the wiring loom as possible pre-wired. I cannot recommend Rayne Automotive enough; their communication was fast and thorough and the components and workmanship they provided of the highest quality.

    Rayne do/did not supply the actual battery though so I had to scour around for that too. Fortunately they provided a lot of advice which helped narrow down the choice. Primarily they recommended an AGM battery as:

    1. It was going to be in the van cabin with us and therefore needed to be fully sealed (not emit fumes when charging!)
    2. AGM batteries are much more suited to leisure use; i.e. allow for long deep discharge cycles.


    After taking into account branding (it pays to go with a decent brand with leisure batteries), size and Ah/£ ratio, I decided upon a ES950 Exide G85 Marine and Multifit Gel Leisure Battery 85Ah. This battery worked flawlessly throughout our journey despite accidentally flattening it while stationary one week. It kept the fridge and a number of other devices powered permanently with an occasional use of the inverter for a couple of 240v devices. While I don't have a lot of experience here I can certainly vouch that this battery is capable of doing exactly what it says on the tin.

    Building the battery box
    With all components and battery in hand, I set about laying them out on a board with markings showing the space I had to work with. After a lot of tetris like juggling of locations / cabling, I finally found a way to fit everything in as shown below:

    [​IMG]

    I then designed and built as sturdy a box as possible (the battery is extremely heavy!) to house the components in this configuration:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Then came the fiddly bit, installing everything into the box:

    [​IMG]

    And testing it:

    [​IMG]
    Continued in Part III
     
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  3. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Note: This is a continuation of Part II that was split into multiple posts as it was too long for the forum to handle

    Installing the battery box

    With the battery box ready to go, I had to route cabling in the van. The tricky bit here was that, as outlined earlier, I wanted to make as few permanent modifications to the van as possible as I wanted to van to remain an MPV. As such, I didn't want to start cutting holes in the outside or underside of the van to house the campsite hookup connector and I didn't want to have to leave a door / boot open to root the cable to the outside.

    A bit of lateral thinking and I realised that, as I already had to route a cable from the van battery to the split charge system in the battery box in the rear of the van, I could put the hookup connector in the engine bay and route 240v cable along side the 12v cable. This turned out to be an extremely neat solution as I could fully close the bonnet even with the hookup cable connected.

    [​IMG]

    The 12v and 240v cables were routed into the cabin through a pre-existing (but sealed) grommet located behind the fused box above the battery as shown below:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    By removing the kick-panel, step panel, rear door step panel and interior trim on the drivers side, the cables were routed all the way through the van to the rear quarter, as shown below:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Additionally, a 20 amp 12v cable was routed from the rear quarter to the centre console in the cabin to power the fridge and other gadgets. This was done simply by removing the centre console kick panel and routing the cable under the drivers side carpet (there is a very convenient join in the insulation you can route between) and threading the cable into the lower pocket in the centre console, as shown here:
    [​IMG]

    The final touch was to cut holes into the rear floor pocket (where the sub is located on non-Bose Elgrands) to route the cables - and a chassis ground - back from behind the panels and attach connectors for the battery box:
    [​IMG]

    (I've not got a picture of the pocket with connectors installed at the moment but will update as soon as I do)

    This was done so that, when the battery and frame are removed, the pocket lid can be replaced and there will be no visible indication of the modifications.

    Note: The drilling of holes into this (replaceable) pocket was the only drilling needed throughout the entire install. The Elgrand just seemed to be designed for hacking around with and was super easy to work on / route cables through.

    With all the cables routed and connectors attached, the battery box could be installed as shown below:

    [​IMG]

    Continued in Part IV
     
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  4. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Note: This is a continuation of Part III that was split into multiple posts as it was too long for the forum to handle

    Additional storage

    Given the length of time we were going to be away, the fact that we were travelling with a baby and - potentially - sleeping in the van, we decided we'd probably need some easily accessible storage in the van. To this end, we decided to build window covers to enhance privacy (the van already has excellent privacy tint) with pockets on the inside as shown here:

    [​IMG]

    These were made from an insulating ground mat (silver on the outside - bought from Tesco's for a fiver), a packet of suction cups bought from eBay, some netting and elastic. All in, each one cost about four pounds and worked brilliantly at making sure people couldn't see into the van and for providing somewhere to store wash bags, nappies, first aid kit, etc.

    We did find that occasionally one of the suckers would come unstuck but I think this was mainly due to use overloading the pockets because of how useful they were. If I were to ever make replacements, I think I'd add an extra suction cup across the top and bottom (making three pockets instead of two) to provide extra support.

    Navigation & ICE
    As we were planning to cover a lot of ground, in unfamiliar countries, we needed to do something about the Japanese navigation and limited ICE available in the Elgrand as standard. I knew people had used a custom cable to connect their mobile to the auxiliary inputs in the elgrand but this seemed a little messy to me. Instead, I decided to install a wireless Miracast system in the van so that I could use a smartphone to provide GPS navigation and music during the journey.

    For this I needed the following:
    - Beat-Sonic AVC14 Female AV RCA Input Cable
    - Beat-Sonic TV-Controller non-resetting TVK-12
    - ESYNiC 1080P HDMI Digital Signal to AV Composite 3 RCA CVBS Video Audio Converter
    - 3 * Indigo Banana RCA Male Phono Coupler
    - Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter
    - Car DC 12V to 5V Inverter Dual USB Female

    To install, the Microsoft Wireless Display Adapter was mounted directly in the HDMI input of the ESYNiC 1080P HDMI to AV box and the Beat-Sonic AVC14 cable was use to connect this to the AUX input connectors on the TV tuner in the drivers side rear panel as shown below:
    [​IMG]

    Both the display adapter and HDMI to RCA converter require power via USB connector so I mounted the Car DC 12V to Dual USB converter on the removable panel behind the rear cigarette lighter and piggy backed on it's 12v feed as shown here:

    [​IMG]

    USB cables were then routed behind the trim to where they were needed. With this in place, I was able to wirelessly transmit the phone display and audio to all the screens in the van as shown here:

    [​IMG]

    This worked perfectly until you disengaged the hand (foot) brake at which point the AUX input was removed from the front display. This, it turns out is a "safety" feature of the van. To work around this, the Beat-Sonic TVK-12 cable needs to be fitted to the rear of the DVD unit in the glove box of the Elgrand as shown below:

    [​IMG]

    Once fitted the navigation and music could be cast from the phone to all the displays in the van, even while driving. We used a Microsoft Lumia 640XL to drive the displays which, for the most part worked well although it would occasionally fail to play audio correctly.

    We used Microsoft Maps on the Lumia for navigation as it allows you to download offline maps of Europe and has a very clear, very quick display which looks great on the dashboard screen. Again, this mostly worked well, but seemed to only be able to pick the shortest - not quickest - route between to points which occasionally led to us being directed to travel down a narrow streets barely wide enough for the van or - on another notable occasion - cobbled paths through a forest only to find the way blocked by a heard of long horned cows. Don't believe me? Here:

    [​IMG]

    It also seems to massively overcomplicate the some routes, particularly after rerouting. Here's the route it suggested after we accidentally took a wrong turn which my other half managed to get a picture of while I was desperately trying to work out what I was meant to be doing (hint: it's go straight ahead):
    [​IMG]

    Finally, I also purchased a Satechi Bluetooth Button which could be mounted on the steering wheel to control the audio (start / stop / next track / previous track / etc). Unfortunately, while this connected fine and seemed to work when I first tried, in practice it barely worked while we were on the road. I'm guessing it's some sort of session mismatch between the bluetooth stack in the Lumia and the button but either way, it was a bit of a waste of money

    Continued in Part V
     
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  5. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Note: This is a continuation of Part IV that was split into multiple posts as it was too long for the forum to handle

    Other gear

    There was a bunch of other items I bought for the van to make our journey that little bit more convenient / enjoyable / memorable so I thought I'd cover these too.

    Mifi
    As we had decided to plan as few days ahead as possible, we needed a way of getting to the internet to do last minute research of places to go / stay. We therefore decided to buy a Mifi device from Three as they provide in-tariff data for all their "Feel-at-home" countries. This was installed in the van on a permanent live, basically make it a mobile hotspot.

    The Mifi device turned out to be a huge win and we really missed the convenience of it when we were in country not covered by "Feel-at-home". Data speed pretty much everywhere we used it was good to great allowing my missus to spend the hours I was driving, looking through TripAdvisor et al to find what we should be doing where.

    Unsure as to how much data we'd actually use, we decided to go for the top data plan Three sold which allowed for 20Gb of data per month. However, despite using it for e-mail and web browsing (no streaming or "heavy" sites like Facebook) almost constantly for several hours each day, we only used around 5Gb of data each month so probably could have gone with a cheaper plan.

    Regardless, the Mifi from Three with "Feel-at-home" was a great idea and definitely something I'd recommend for anyone else looking to do a similar tour.

    Dashcam
    Given that we intended for this to be quite an epic road trip, we were both keen to record the journey and so I started researching dashcams. I don't know if you've ever looked into buying one of these but there is a metric f**k-ton of them on the market, at all price points with every combination of features you might want. This led to serious analysis-paralysis and, after a long time spent of googling, comparing, agonising and - eventually - giving up, I was advised to not buy a dashcam at all but instead invest in a GoPro. Given that this would provide more reuse after the trip, have much better quality than any dashcam currently on the market and could function in a continuous time-lapse mode, it seemed like a good suggestion (and meant I didn't have to do any more research!)

    I ended up buying a GoPro HERO 4 - Silver Edition from Expidite Electronics as they were so much cheaper than anywhere else that it overcame my reticence of buying from a new company. Fortunately it arrived quickly and as advertised so I'd probably use them again (although the don't seem to sell the silver edition any more).

    In addition to the GoPro I bought a Smatree® Frame Mount for Gopro so the GoPro could be charging while recording and Smatree Suction Cup Mount so that the GoPro could be mounted on the dash.

    I ended up mounting the GoPro vertically on the rear of the central screen as shown here:
    [​IMG]

    While the suction cup mount would occasionally come unstuck (usually while attaching or detaching the GoPro) ordinarily it would remain in place for several days at a time. Furthermore, it kept the GoPro out my eye line while driving and provided a good, central view of the road as we travelled. Here is a picture of the GoPro installed so you can see how unobtrusive it was:
    [​IMG]

    The footage from the GoPro was excellent and we're both really pleased with it. I'll upload some once I've transcoded / resized it to a decent file size (about 6Gb of files per day at the moment!)

    Coffee machine
    I'm a bit of a coffee fiend and really can't start the day until I've had a cup. As we were intending to sleep in the van on campsites (or even road side if necessary) I knew I'd have to find some way of making a decent cup of coffee in the van. Space was extremely limited so I ended up buying a Waeco MC-01 Single Cup Coffee Maker as it had pretty good reviews and I was extremely impressed with the Waeco fridge.

    The first thing to know about this coffee maker is that it's small. Very, very small. While it says "single cup" it actually means about half a mug. Seriously, I could drink the lot in just a few gulps and ended up having to brew a couple of cups each morning to sate my caffeine dependence.

    Fortunately, it made pretty good coffee and given it came with it's own reusable filter and cup (as you couldn't fit another cup in there!!!), it was extremely compact. It was also quite energy efficient and brewed very quickly so, all in all, I was quite happy with the purchase. Here's a shot of it in action (forgive the blurriness - I had the caffeine shakes ;0):

    [​IMG]

    Viva El Van
    In summary I'd have to say the Elgrand makes one hell of a touring van. It's big enough to comfortably sleep my partner, my baby and myself while storing 8 weeks of travelling gear yet small enough to easily take into city centers. Tall enough to sit up in when sleeping in the back yet low enough to comfortably park in an underground carpark. Powerful enough to make it up some incredible gradients while fully loaded yet smooth enough to glide through the miles on highways.

    And lets not forget it's looks. The Elgrand (an E51 Rider Autech) turned heads everywhere it went; from a Portuguese guy running up to me asking where he could buy one to the French customs police ("Le van American?"). I was asked about it by someone pretty much everywhere we stayed and would often see people stop to check out the van as we drove by. In 8 weeks I didn't see a single other Elgrand on the continent which surprised me given how popular they have become in the UK but also made driving it round that little bit more special.

    So special in fact, I bought flip-flops to match:
    [​IMG]

    Travelling with a baby
    If you are thinking about travelling abroad with a baby/toddler but have doubts, you should _totally_ do it. Travelling with our little girl was amazing. Everyone you meet reacts to you in a completely different way; instead of a _stranger_, you're a _parent_ and therefore trust worthy. If you stay in hotels you tend to be upgraded to larger rooms / suites that can accommodate the travel cot. And if, like us, you have a baby who loves to meet new people (waving / smiling / etc) then they're an immediate ice breaker and you end up talking to all sorts of new, nice and - more often than not - very interesting people.

    Our baby was happy to sleep in the van while we drove (conveniently giving her the two naps a day she'd normally have anyway) and, on the occasion that she'd wake and want to get out the car before we'd reach our planned destination, we'd simply change our plans. This randomness led to us finding some really cool places that you'd otherwise have no reason to stop at and see.

    Again, assuming your baby travels well (I think most babies fall asleep in the car, right?) then I would absolutely recommend trying an adventure like ours. While I'm not sure how much of it - if any - she will remember, I hope that seeing new things and meeting new people every day for 8 weeks at least provides some foundational experiences for her which might help her in the future.

    ... and finally
    I'll leave you with some van porn; the Elgrand in Slovakia (where we stayed on a farm and had cow-fresh milk the next morning!):
    [​IMG]

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on the trip and answer any questions you might have.

    Cheers,
    Ian
     
  6. micky_h

    micky_h Here for life E51 Owner

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    wow

    bloody brilliant
     
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  7. Phill1

    Phill1 Well-Known Member E51 Owner

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    Thanks for taking the time & effort to do such an in depth post......excellent stuff.
     
  8. nobby62

    nobby62 Well-Known Member E51 Owner

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    Fantastic writeup, thanks for taking the time. I am also planning on using my elgrand for a trip to France and I too do not want to do any permanent conversions. Your info is very useful :clap::rock:
     
  9. macmils

    macmils Member Premium Member E51 Owner

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    Excellent write up, I think you've done yourself proud. It's given me some food for thought on travelling.
     
  10. Roamin

    Roamin Active Member Premium Member E51 Owner

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    Great story, you put a lot of work in preparing the van, that leisure battery setup is good. I couldn't manage to do that so will look for an auto electrician to do it for me.
     
  11. rayfisherman

    rayfisherman Well-Known Member

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    As said , a bloody brilliant writeup!!
    Thank you for taking the time and effort to share!!!
    Ray.
     
  12. Rosco

    Rosco Newbie E51 Owner

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    Wow! i only got my elgrand yesterday and now I'm planning a trip round the world!
     
  13. Kev_R

    Kev_R Active Member Premium Member E51 Owner

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    Superb

    Planning on a round-trip to Bulgaria in September with wife and two year old and though we're not planning on sleeping in the van there is plenty of things to make me google.
    I'd be interested in knowing the longest distance you did in a day. And how you and the baby coped with a long time in the saddle.
     
  14. Motorheaded

    Motorheaded motorheaded Premium Member E51 Owner

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    How come you mounted the fridge that way round?
     
  15. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Hi Roamin,

    I'm a software developer by trade and not much of a DIY'er so was a little intimidated by the build at first. I also looked around for an auto-electrician (and, I think posted on these forums asking for recommendations) but couldn't find one willing (and having the time) to undertake the work.

    I therefore had to do it myself and will let you in on a secret... it's really not that hard. You have to be careful (measure twice, cut once, etc), concentrate on what you're doing (making sure you keep polarity correct in your connections) and take your time but the woodwork is mostly just measuring, cutting and drilling and the electrics are all colour coded. If you get really lost, hopefully the component supplier will help you out - as I said, Rayne Automotive were extremely helpful during the build (I had no idea battery terminals had a specific orientation!!!).

    Anyway, I'm really pleased I did the work myself as it made me more confident about being able to fix any issues that might arise while we were travelling (although fortunately we didn't hit any). I'd definitely recommend trying it and, as I said, I could the document the build/connectivity of my battery box in more detail if you're interested.

    Cheers,
    Ian
     
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  16. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Hi Kev,

    Great questions, I should have included a bit more information about this in the write up.

    We based our travel on the baby's nap times; typically two hours in the morning and one in the afternoon. So three hours a day to drive and we thought we'd be able to do something like 50 mph on average (we mostly avoided highways). This gave us 150 miles per day although we - somewhat surprisingly - almost always did more than this.

    As we deliberately didn't make plans until the last minute, we'd basically just drive when the baby slept and, when she woke, find somewhere / something interesting near by. Having the Mifi in the car meant we could book where we wanted to stay that evening while on the road in the afternoon (we literally turned up at one camp site 4 minutes after booking it!). This became more difficult in non-"Feel-at-home" countries but, in the worst case scenario, Three provide a "Euro-booster" for a fiver which allows you to get online (on your phone) as much as you like for 24 hours.

    As for longest distance, we once did around 400 miles in a day.. around 5 hours of driving in total. This was less than ideal and no-one enjoyed it (my partner and I were tired and the baby was not happy to say the least). This was due to organising to meet up with friends in the south of Spain and having to pick them up from the airport on a specific day. This meant we couldn't be as flexible with our travel as we ordinarily would and was the cause of many tears (only mostly from the baby).

    In short, I'd definitely recommend basing your travel plans on what your two year old will (happily) tolerate and being prepared to change your plans on short notice. As I'm sure you already know, driving with a screaming baby/toddler in the back is really no fun ;0) Also, I'm not sure how your toddler sleeps but our baby seemed to want to wake us up several times a night most nights so she wasn't the only limit on how far we wanted to drive each day.

    That said, if you do manage to reach a decent compromise with your youngster, I think they would really enjoy the travel. Our baby seemed to relish seeing somewhere new each day, loved meeting all the new people and always wanted to explore when she got out of the car. Overall, there were way more giggles than tears... which we count as a win.
     
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  17. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Hi Motorheaded,

    We decided on that way round as we wanted to be able to access the contents of the fridge while sleeping in the back of the van. If we'd mounted it the other way, we'd have had to reach over the top of the lid and wouldn't have been able to see what we were grabbing (being a small fridge, things were packed pretty tight in there).

    Also, I've never liked the cup holders in the dash. Anything bigger than a can just seems to get in the way of the stereo / gears / etc. Having them away from the dash, while slightly more awkward, means I can use my (very large) travel coffee mug without obscuring any of the controls.
     
  18. Kev_R

    Kev_R Active Member Premium Member E51 Owner

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    Thanks for taking the time to respond. We are on limited time, so was planning on 5-600 miles a day at the top end with some shorter days to take in some sights and breaks. But will bear in mind to be flexible.
    We have certainly spent more than 5 hours traveling before in UK with our motorway jams. She's generally a good traveler, we've already taken her to New Zealand and back with very little grumble even with being in our laps. I've installed a dvd player in the bus for her as well as a selection of toys to keep her entertained.
    I've looked in to three's offering and decided against it as we won't be in the feel at home countries long enough. So will be using euro traveller at £3 a day from Vodafone to use my home plan on my phone and using that as a mobile hotspot for the other devices to connect to. And then buying a local SIM in Bulgaria for buttons.
     
  19. Motorheaded

    Motorheaded motorheaded Premium Member E51 Owner

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    Makes sense. Cheers.
     
  20. ibebbs

    ibebbs Member E51 Owner

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    Wow, that is a lot of long stretches in the bus.

    Google's opinion is that the fastest route to Bulgaria is 1645 miles, making it a round trip of 3290 miles. Even at 500 miles a day (which, if you can somehow average 80mph, is over 6 hours driving each day) this is almost a week of driving. Hope you have a good selection of toys / dvd's ;0)

    Then again, if you're happy to do those sorts of miles, then perhaps you can take days off in between to give the family a chance to stretch your legs and explore a bit. It may even be better this way as (I'm guessing) a two year old is unlikely to need to nap several for a few hours each day which is the time we used to drive.

    One point, have you checked to make sure Vodafone allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot (aka, tether) while you're abroad. I think this is quite rare. Three certainly don't allow you to do it which is why we went for a Mifi device.
     
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