Navigating the Paperwork to take your RV to Europe

People have been asking me what all is involved in shipping your RV to Europe, and the answer is a lot – of paperwork. I've been noodling all over North America for six and a half years, and the most paperwork I've ever had to do is find Fiona's rabies vaccine documentation. Going to Europe is a little more complicated than that. Let me cover the broad categories for you, and tell you where I am with these preparations.


Our last trip, ten years ago, was simple – two weeks in a rented car.

First of all, the question is how long we're allowed to stay. The Roadtrek in US emissions and safety trim and a Florida plate can stay in the Schlengen Area (the EU, more or less) for six months of any calendar year, but we as tourists are only allowed to stay for three months in, three months out unless we get a long term visa issued by one of the countries. We're going down to the French consulate soon for an in-person interview to apply for one. We'll have to show adequate income, lodging, health insurance, and a bunch of other stuff to convince the French authorities that we're the type of people they want there. The lodging part is tricky – normally they want to see a lease or property ownership, I'm going to do some fancy footwork with my Roadtrek title and a story about how we'll stay in various RV spots. I'll tell you how well this gambit works out. Without a long-term visa we'll have to go to England for three months in mid-summer, and spend only three months total in the spring and fall on the continent, where we'd rather be.

Another limiting factor is Sharon's green card – you can only be out of the US for 180 days before the Customs and Border Patrol people start making noise about you abandoning your residency here. That would be an ugly mess. She's had a green card for about fifty years, but rules are rules, so we will be touching down back here 179 days after we leave.

Sharon says she has a deep spiritual connection with French cows. I think they were just hungry.

We'll need insurance – health insurance for us, and vehicle insurance for the Roadtrek, plus shipping insurance. GeoBlue works with Blue Cross policyholders to extend their coverage overseas for a reasonable rate, so that's what we're doing. You don't need a sky-high policy coverage limit – if either of us gets that sick, we'll come home anyway. I have two quote requests for liability and collision insurance on the Roadtrek and will be picking one of them soon, it'll probably be about $2000 for six months. Shipping insurance is 9/10 of one percent of declared value each way, which is another big wad of cash, but shipper's liability is limited to $500, and our Roadtrek is worth a lot more than that to us.

I actually found the Grande Corniche, the high road to Monaco. Traffic in Nice was hairy.

Shipping is the easy part, we are working with SeaBridge, who will ship it from Baltimore to Antwerp for about $6000 round trip. It's on the boat for two weeks, but you have to get it there five days early and pick it up two days after it lands, so three weeks total each way. We'll be flying over, which is normally not a hassle, but we're flying with Fiona the Fearless Kitty in-cabin, so we're negotiating all the restrictions, carrier dimensions, and fees. American Airlines doesn't do in-cabin on transatlantic flights, so we will go Delta or Air France. Fiona will be very, very happy to see the Roadtrek when we land. Fiona will also be armed to the teeth with paperwork from our vet here, plus a European microchip, all of which are required to import pets into the EU.

And, we got to Chateau Cande of Edward and Wallis fame. Sharon was ecstatic.

I hope I'm not forgetting anything – oh, internet and TV. We will have a SkyFree dish and receiver which will pick up English language programming in most of western Europe, and the European equivalent of a Verizon datacard, which will work all over the continent and give us the 30 gigs a month or so we use – for a fee. We also have to get some things like battery chargers which work on 240 volt supplies, plus a European spec TV, but that's just nuisance money. And I'm swapping out the toilet for a cassette toilet, since RV dumps in Europe are a different system entirely.

This is a lot of work. Of course, it was a lot of work to get ready to fulltime, but it all paid off handsomely, and we're fairly sure this European trip will be the adventure of a lifetime. As Jim Hammill would say, you don't want to be lying there in the nursing home wishing you had done this or that while you were able.

We'll be the ones in the nursing home with the big grins on our faces.