If like us, you are new to the whole motorhome and campervan life, then we wholeheartedly recommend that you spend time researching a) which type of vehicle you would like and b) what layout suits you best.
You could spend your weekends wandering around different dealerships, which we did, but if, like us, you wanted en-mass vehicles to look around, the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC in Birmingham is the place to go.
For anyone unaware, the NEC in Birmingham holds various events throughout the year, some repeated more than once, including this particular show – typically February and October.
What we learnt from a Weekend at the NEC Motorhome Show
Who attends the show?
In short, everyone interested in this lifestyle could benefit from visiting.
From the well-known brands like Auto-trail, Adria, Bailey, Dethleffs, Knaus, Elddis, and Roller Team, to the van conversion specialists Bespoke NI, Bilbos, Devon Conversions, Jerba Campervans, and Vanworx, they all appear for the show.
And, for those looking at absolute luxury and who have over £150k to spend, Morelo and Carthago are also there.
On top of that, there are motorhome manoeuvring workshops, talks from specialists, and even destination representatives should you wish to discuss the possibility of taking your chosen camper to a particular location.
Even if you want to convert a van, why not head to the show to gain insights and knowledge from those who do it for a living?
It’s a weekend for all like-minded people to geek out, talk about the things they love, and learn from others.
At the same time, there are plenty of activities for both kids and big kids to participate in, including things like paddle boarding and a climbing wall, plus more than enough vendors are present to keep you fed and watered.
However, the top tip here is if you don’t want to spend a small fortune on food and drink across the weekend, remember your packed lunch or a water bottle.
What we learnt
#1 There is a reason you can buy a weekend ticket, and we are so glad we did.
When we decided to visit the show, we went with a plan in mind.
To look at as many different vans as possible, to come away knowing whether we wanted a camper or motorhome and what layout we liked best.
It sounds simple, but with so much to choose from, it did take us all weekend.
While we weren’t first-timers, we haven’t visited this show for around eight years, and in that time, it has grown exponentially.
So, if you are there on a research mission like us, make sure you allocate enough time.
I loved that after we spent the first day looking around at as many different campers as possible, we could spend the evening over a glass of wine discussing what we liked and didn’t like.
This meant that on day two, we could refine our search and revisit those that stuck out for us.
It certainly helped us in our buying process.
#2 There are more motorhomes and campervan designs on the market than we ever thought possible.
It soon became apparent that narrowing down our perfect van was going to be an impossible task. Not only do you now have more companies entering the motorhome industry you also have both traditional campervan companies and the new high-end conversion companies to wade through, and we did.
#3 Plan to be on your feet all-day
Make sure you wear sensible footwear on the day because if you are on a mission, you will need every valuable second that the show is open to get around the various displays.
Please make sure you also allow time for queuing, because for the present at least, it is one family in, one family out of each vehicle, and some, like the massive Morelo, had a queue about 20 deep. I feel this was more out of curiosity than desire or ability to buy, but still, it’s essential to consider when planning your day.
#4 Don’t forget about the ‘accessory’ stalls
While it is about the vehicles on display, do forget to look at the side stalls and the activities hall where things like electric bikes and paddle boards are sold.
Everything for your motorhome lifestyle is available at this show, and often there is a good deal to be had, especially during the closing stages when people are trying to sell the stock off; you may find that discounts begin to appear.
It is also an opportunity to talk to experts about their products rather than just reading about them online. For example, you may wish to visit Gaslow and speak to them more about their refillable gas options, or you may want to head over to Eco Tree to discuss the advantages of solar panels and lithium batteries.
#5 Camping holidays and van life has become far more popular in recent years
Whether you are a seasoned camper looking to move from tents to a campervan or someone looking to embark on the van life lifestyle, it is essential to remember that camping has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years.
It means that more people are attending these shows, and therefore, it is advisable to book ahead online. Whereas before, the show offered walk-in tickets, for this year at least, it was book-in-advance only due to the sheer number of expected visitors.
Don’t lose out on the opportunity because you didn’t plan.
For those that already have a campervan or caravan, there is also the option to stay nearby overnight or for the entire weekend should you wish, but again make sure you book in advance.
Now that we have our camper, we will be camping here next time we visit, as it allows you to meet up with like-minded individuals after the event doors have closed.
#6 Buying new doesn’t necessarily mean you will get it quicker
We very naively thought that if you were to purchase a brand new motorhome or camper, it would arrive in a matter of weeks.
There is an extensive waiting list for brand new vehicles, but some of the show’s salespeople fail to mention just how long.
We were told that the wait time would be from 6 months to 2 years, depending on who you spoke to, and while I am sure the pandemic has not helped this, neither has our withdrawal from the EU.
We spoke with one company who had told us that their manufacturing of right-hand drives had been significantly reduced due to the extra costs of importing them now. It means they are concentrating on the rest of Europe as they can make more money, and any like-minded business would do the same. However, it means that we have to wait longer for vehicles.
While we were there, one gentleman stood at one display section (and we won’t name and shame here) explaining to anyone that would listen that he was promised his vehicle would be delivered within six months at the last show, and he was still waiting more than a year later.
Of course, we are not saying don’t buy new; we are just hoping to highlight that this is not a quick solution for those wishing to get on the road as soon as possible.
Finally, if you decide to go, remember it is an exhibition so thousands of people will be there. If you do not like crowds, you may not like this event, but if you persevere through the sea of heads, you may just find your perfect tiny home on wheels.
Have you attended this show or anything similar? If so, we would love to hear about your experiences, how you found them, and whether it was a successful day out for you.
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