Why is it never easy??

When we decided that on retirement we would travel around mainland Europe on an extended tour we (1) didn't realise how soon our retirement would be, cos as you get older time seems to pass much, much quicker and (2) there is a huge amount of preparatory work to be done.

 As long time caravan owners (we bought our first in 1982) we already had a suitable caravan, Bailey Pegasus 554, and tow-car, a SsangYong so thought the main items were sorted - what a mug!! 

Car insurance was not among my worries as I had a good deal with a company that I had been with for some years that was until renewal time when they wanted to increase the premium by, what I considered to be, an unreasonable amount so I rang to chat about it and although they gave me a new quote at less than I was previously paying they would not increase their maximum allowable European drive time of 90 days. Never mind lots of other insurance companies out there I will try an internet comparison site. Well blow me down lots of companies insist they have, if not the cheapest then by far the best policy there is, but no they will not insure me in Europe for more than 30/45/60/90 days. Eventually I came across a broker - Stuart Collins and Co - that was able to offer a specialist policy for extended driving in mainland Europe the cost was less than I paid for a standard policy last year and a lot less than my old insurer wanted for this year.

After managing the motor insurance to cover us in Europe for a full twelve months (although there are some places we wished to go but cannot get a green card for, principally Turkey). The next problem was travel insurance.

All the travel insurance I came across on those comparison sites required you to return to the UK at intervals dictated by the policy, this period varied between 30 and 120 days. Several companies that we tried were willing to cover for one year away, with the policy "dying" if you returned to the UK early for any reason at all but always at unbelievably high prices. Eventually we found a company - Globelink International - that would provide cover for first three months and then extendable for three months at a time to a maximum of eighteen months without return to the UK and all at a very reasonable price.

We have started to formulate a rough itinerary - but more of that later.

The next problem was what to do with our goods and chattels while we are away, our house in Essex is let to tenants and the one we currently live in is rented so we had to have somewhere! The best idea was to buy a shipping container and put everything inside it for the duration. This was purchased from a company in Ipswich, Suffolk - CS Containers Ltd - where Rosie, the lady I ordered from, was one of the most helpful people I have had the pleasure of dealing with. The container was delivered to a secure location in Lancashire near enough to home  to make it easy to transport our stuff from the house but also near enough to where we keep the caravan to allow us to empty all surplus kit from that reasonably easily.

Now to the rough itinerary

First we must attend a family wedding on 30th June in Hereford and in order to do that must be permanently in the van by about 25th July - this will give us the chance to remove our bed and the last two chairs into store and to give the house a last top to bottom clean, as we don’t want to loose any of our security deposit and then its off to the wide blue yonder as set out in “The Plan