After making the decision to move back to Australia at the end of our UK visas, David and I wanted to go out with a bang. We’d always dreamed of buying a campervan and living on the road for an indeterminate amount of time. Budgetary restrictions meant that, for this time at least, a 4 week journey would have to do. Starting in London, we had a few options open to us to facilitate our 4 week trip through Spain and Portugal. Ultimately, we decided upon hiring a campervan from Spaceships UK. I’ve outlined the reasons for the decision below, plus a full honest review of Spaceships’ service and the van itself.
Please note that I did not receive any incentive from Spaceships to hire with them or write this post, so you can be assured this is a full and honest review.
Hiring the van from the London depot, we drove South to Dover for a ferry across to Dunkirk. This would be the beginning of a 4 week trip South through France, crossing the border into Spain. We travelled along the Northern coastline of Spain, visiting Portugal before completing a sort of circle through the South coast. We visited Andorra on the way back into France, before crossing back over to the UK. But, there’ll be more about that journey in a separate post.
Why hire with Spaceships?
Working with a limited budget, we decided to hire with Spaceships as it had the best value for money for what we needed. We looked into purchasing a van ourselves, but being Australian, the cost of insuring our own vehicle would have blown out our budget. The UK, for some reason, acts as if we were new drivers even though we had been driving for more than a decade at that point. Spaceships included insurance in their hire fee, and were supremely unconcerned by my Australian licence. David had transferred his licence over to a UK one so we hired the van under his name. Adding me as an extra driver cost no extra, something we found very unusual as well. Another advantage was that, at the time, driving in Europe was allowed at no extra cost. I believe Spaceships has now added an insurance surcharge for driving in Europe, but overall, I believe Spaceships would beat most other suppliers in price.
We also considered flying into Spain and hiring a car once there. Again, my Australian licence was an issue, as Spain is fairly strict on International licences. Only the most expensive suppliers would allow me to be added as an extra driver, and even so, still with a large fee. Also, a lot of the suppliers in France and Spain required a €2000 deposit to be held on a credit card. This ruled them out right away for budgetary reasons. Spaceships did not hold a deposit from us, which is obviously ideal.
Plus, baggage was a problem. As we were leaving London for good at the end of the trip, we still had a lot of personal effects with us. A lot had been shipped back to Australia, and some we were able to store with friends in London for when we returned for our flight back to Brisbane. But in any case, we were effectively homeless and we had a lot of stuff. Flights to Spain from London are obviously fairly cheap, but after adding in the cost of checked baggage for both of us, and the extra fees for having me as an extra driver, it was far too much.
So after looking at number of different suppliers, including the costs of leasing a van directly from VW or similar, we decided on Spaceships.
What did we get from Spaceships?
Spaceships has a lot of different hiring options for campervans. Given there was only the two of us, we were only going for 4 weeks and neither of us are especially tall (we’re both around 5’6-7”), we went with the VW Camper Car. Because this is technically a converted car, it’s much smaller than a traditional campervan. The advantages of this are four-fold. First of all, our ferry at Dover with DFDS was cheaper as the camper car’s dimensions fit their smallest ticket option. Secondly, when camping at paid camping sites, most places charge more for larger vehicles and campervans. While camping with just a tent is obviously the cheapest option, having a car sized vehicle was the next best thing. Thirdly, the camper car blended in well when parked in major cities, and didn’t scream “hey! All of our stuff is in here! Come get it!”. And finally, it made maneuvering the narrower European streets and questionable parking spots and garages all the more easier. We never had to worry about the height of the vehicle or the berth of it.
The camper car was well-equipped for our needs. As this would be our first time camping (at least, first time in Europe), we didn’t have a lot of our own supplies. If you’d like a tour of the vehicle, I quickly talked through it on my Instagram stories. Head to my profile and watch the “roadtrip wk 1” highlight.
Included in our camper car (which was named Leo), we got the following:
- A double bed mattress that was reasonably comfortable (hardly 5 star, but to be expected)
- An 11-litre cooler bag that charged using the 12-volt cigarette lighter. Our cooler bag was broken, and we ended up having to buy an Esky. This inconvenience was significant as it seriously limited the foodstuffs we could carry with us, but Spaceships did give us a small refund as recompense.
- Significant luggage storage space
- Cutlery and crockery, including a pot and a pan
- 1-burner gas cooker
- A 5 litre water tank
- An AUX cord. Our AUX cord was also broken, but we bought a new one and kept it afterwards – no big deal.
- Foil sun block shades for every window
- A canopy for the side of the van
- A table and two camping chairs
- A European driving kit (legal requirement for driving in Europe)
What we took with us
Aside from our clothing and excess luggage we couldn’t leave in London, there were a few things we took with us. I highly recommend doing the same, to supplement what Spaceships’ provides.
- Extra gas canisters. You can buy this fairly cheap on Amazon
- A stove top coffee maker
- Battery powered fairy lights to provide extra light inside the car at night
- A double USB adaptor for charging two devices at once using the 12-volt cigarette lighter
- A large mosquito net. We actually didn’t take this and had very big regrets. Being able to have the sliding door open overnight would have been very welcome in the Spanish desert.
- A solar powered shower. We got this one off Amazon
- Sheets, pillows and a doona / duvet
- Fast drying micro-fibre towels. We took two each, for showers and the beach
- A knife and scissors. I guess for safety / legal reasons, these aren’t supplied by Spaceships
The Good and the Bad
We had few qualms with the service provided by Spaceships, and the advantages of hiring with them have largely been covered above. Although some of our equipment wasn’t working, they were very prompt with the refund.
Leo was a manual which is ideal for the more mountainous parts of Europe. He also ran on diesel which is economical (yay) but bad for the environment (boo). Leo also didn’t have air conditioning, which made Spain in Summer a wee bit of a challenge. We didn’t even think to check for air conditioning beforehand, but it’s clearly stated on the inclusions for the vehicle.
Leo had significant blind spots, especially when driving on the other side of the road in Europe. Although you can see out the rear windows directly behind you, there are no other windows on the back panels. The driver regularly had to ask the passenger if the lane was clear before merging left. This also made reverse parallel parking almost impossible when on the opposite side of the road.
Spaceships were very friendly, helpful and informative. Their pick up and returns process is seamless, and the car was clean, new and comfortable. All-in-all I would highly recommend Spaceships for their service and price point. For new campers, or campers new or temporary to the country, the supplies are excellent. I would not hesitate to hire with Spaceships again!
Let me know what you thought of Spaceships!