As caravan enthusiasts and lovers of travel, it wasn’t a difficult choice when deciding whether or not to head to Germany for the Caravan Salon at Düsseldorf – The largest trade fair for caravans and motorhomes in the world! Having heard a lot about the scale of the show we couldn’t wait to get stuck in and see what the rest of Europe has to offer.
The adventure began when we arrived in Calais after a smooth ferry crossing over the channel, we weren’t at our destination yet but the journey is always part of the fun! As we made our way through France, Belgium, Holland and into Germany, the late summer sun was beaming down on us, and the cars thermometer was showing a slightly warm outside temperature of 37 degrees celsius.
After a 6 hour tow we arrived at Rheincamping Meerbusch where we were greeted by our friends Karina and Jules from Here We Tow, along with their gorgeous and location-appropriate German Shepherd, Fudge. There we spent a couple of days catching up and trying our best to keep cool on the edge of the River Rhine, before we headed to Düsseldorf in convoy for what was set to be a fantastic week.
Arriving at the Salon campsite we were directed along rows upon rows of caravans and motorhomes, all lined up like (very expensive) sardines, and found ourselves a lovely spot with trees for shade, to settle for the week.
Later that evening we were joined by Andrew and Dougal, who made our “Team GB” trio complete, and the atmosphere of the Caravan Salon began to buzz. From our pitches we could hear the friendly chatter in the many languages of the people around us, and the live music from the bar drifted over to us as we enjoyed alfresco dining and laughing the night away.
Soon enough, the show opened and it was time to get stuck in! To get there, there are regular buses that go back and forth from the campsite throughout the day, but for people with disabilities there was a specific (and thankfully air conditioned) shuttle bus with really friendly drivers who we got to know throughout the week.
Although we were pre-warned about the scale of the show, we were still blown away when we arrived in the main lobby, and didn’t know where to begin! Starting with an aimless stroll we wandered around the 13 huge halls full of caravans, motorhomes and accessories, then headed out to the courtyard to find even more! With food stands and entertainment on offer, from bratwurst and pommes to bouncy castles and bike stunt demonstrations, we knew it was going to take at least a week to get around it all.
The Caravan Salon is one of the best places to see all of the brand new vehicles and interesting innovations, and one of the most anticipated launches this year was the Adria Astella. With it being so popular it was difficult to get close, but eventually we managed to catch a glimpse, and wow, what a caravan it is! Although it is too big for the average car to tow along these British roads, with its sleek and spacious interior and patio-style doors it resembles nothing less than a luxury apartment, and would make a beautiful static caravan.
As you can imagine, it comes with a bit of a price tag, but it was nothing compared to what we saw in Hall 5- the aptly named “Hall of Dreams”. In there we were towered over by rows and rows of the most luxurious A-class motorhomes that Europe has to offer, with some of them costing up to 1 million euros! They have every piece of technology you could wish for, and some of them even boast garages big enough to fit your Porche into. If you have a million euros spare then why not?
Seeing all of the extravagant vehicles was a lot of fun, but our main reason for attending the show was to seek out anything that makes travelling more accessible to people with disabilities- and we weren’t disappointed.
The two main companies we met with were Across Car and HRZ Reisemobile, and they both make wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Across Car are based in Spain but supply throughout Europe, including to Brook Miller Mobility here in the UK. They specialise in adapting caravans and motorhomes, and had a few on display for us to look around, all with hydraulic lifts for wheelchair entry. The inside of the vans we went in had more adaptations than I have in my own home! Including grab handles, profiling beds, ceiling track hoists and wet rooms. With a huge number of base layouts available it seems there is a vehicle to suit everyones needs.
Where Across Car adapt more caravans and motorhomes, HRZ Reisemobile focus on panel van conversions. Although their business isn’t solely specialising in wheelchair accessible vans, the way they design them bespoke for each customer means that they are easily adaptable, and within their range of modifications they also offer devices to assist people with disabilities, like a hydraulic lift for wheelchair entry. Having their own carpenters at their workshop in south Germany means that all of the internal fixtures can be made to virtually any specification. Whether you want a special compartment for your sports gear or cupboards that don’t intrude on your wheelchairs turning circle, it seems the possibilities are endless.
On display were just a few examples of what they can do.
So we saw some companies who intentionally make accessible vehicles, but what we didn’t expect to find was manufacturers who made them UNintentionally.
As we wandered around the show Karina noticed a sign on some of the Burstner motorhome doors saying “XL”, so we went in for a closer look. As far as we could tell, it was definitely wider than your average motorhome door, but we returned the following day armed with a tape measure to see if it would be wide enough for a wheelchair like mine. And to our delight, it was! 65cm is the magic number, and once we had this in mind caravans and motorhomes with wide doors kept jumping out at us. From the Knaus Sport and Fun with the huge rear door, to the less obvious Dethleffs motorhomes and Coco caravan with a wider-than-average side door.
But perhaps my personal favourite was the Tabbert Cellini caravan with a wide door AND a slide out section. Again, it wasn’t designed to be wheelchair friendly but with the door being wider than average and the spaciousness that a slide out provides, it makes a fantastic option for accessible adventures.
It looks great from the outside but the interior is just stunning. The dark wood and feature lighting adds a real feel of luxury and resembles that of a 5* hotel. Not to mention the amount of space inside, I wouldn’t just have enough room for a turning circle, I’d have enough room to do doughnuts!
Whether it’s a conscious decision or not, it’s great to see some European brands fitting wider doors as standard. Not only does it make life easier for many people, but it could save people with disabilities thousands of pounds in adaption costs, and literally open up new doors to a whole world of adventures!
We were having an amazing time, but sadly all good things must come to an end. Düsseldorf completely exceeded our expectations and we would highly recommend going if you get the opportunity. We saw some fantastic innovations, met some wonderful people, experienced new things, had lot of laughs and we can’t wait to do it all again.
Thank you to “Team GB” and the other YouTubers and subscribers that we met along the way, you all played the biggest part in making it so special.
Same time next year?