There are free campsite/overnight stay options all over Europe ready to be used by you and your motorhome/campervan.
Firstly, check out some great resources all ready available to you.
Aires by Vicarious Media – This will be your main go to whilst you tour we would say. It is a fantastic resource that points you to a free ‘Aire’ park up all over France, Spain and Portugal. Each ‘Aire’ usually has resources available to you, mostly drainage and water, either waste or fresh or both. They are mostly situated just outside a village, town or city, with either walking distance or a short bus ride to the centre. Aires feel safe as you are usually surrounded by a few other motorhomers, however there are a few suspect Aires that you must be wary of, which we’ve found out the hard way.
Campercontact – This site has some great stops, also some random stops too. We’ve rocked up at parking lots, with little to no-one else around and haven’t felt comfortable. Nevertheless, there are some great inner-city options on this site and they are posted by other motorhomers and campers which is great as its a personal recommendation. Check out the reviews first, if there are any, as they usually give you an idea if it is a good option. There is also a great app, and it’s free!
Wildcamping – Wildcamping is a membership based application, and has some great links to wildcamping stopovers. They have a great forum for you to post for any advice too. You can view the app and its functions etc before purchasing, but to find a site, you have to buy the membership. We’ve met quite a few people who only use this app and they really recommend it.
Searchforsites – We regularly use searchforsites. It’s another fantastic resource, and is camper/motorhomer led. You can add stops and review stops on here. They also have fantastic GPS coordinates so it’s easier to find each location. It has over 27,000 sites across Europe, ready and waiting to be used.
Before settling in at a new site/location:
- Go with your gut instincts. If you pull up somewhere that is free to overnight and you don’t feel quite right about it, go with you gut. You wont get a good night sleep and you never want to risk a location with a baby (in our case).
- If you need fresh water, fill up at the local petrol station. In Spain, the water is free from petrol stations. It takes a while to fill up but it’s a great source. It’ll be up to you to make the call as to whether its ‘potable’ or not but we always use sterilizer tablets in our water to kill any bacteria etc so we can use it for cooking (which would be boiled too) and washing.
- If you need water and you are on an Aires site, make sure there is a separate water source from the drainage. Other motorhomers wash out their poop tanks above the drain and you don’t want any contaminated water in your tank. Again, to be on the safe side, wherever you get your water from, be sure to use a sterilizing tablet.
- Check you are level. If you try and have a shower on the slant, you will soon see puddles in your bathroom and further afield in the motorhome. Water and motorhomes are not friends!
- If it is windy, try and find some shelter against a wall. It’s quite scary when your motorhome rocks in the middle of the night! Be as selective as possible when you choose where to set up, to ensure a good nights sleep.
- Ensure you have enough gas if you have either an LPG conversion (Gaslow) or have separate tanks that you have to fill up. Keep a check on your gas levels as it’s not nice to wake up to a warm fridge in the morning! With Gaslow, its so cheap to fill up, we usually get about 10 days worth for roughly 12 euros!
- Speak to other motorhomers. They are a fantastic resource, and many of them will have already stayed at the overnight location. Many of them are worth their weight in gold, especially if you’re quite new to motorhoming, as we are!
- Be tidy and respectful on the site. Seems obvious, but use the provided bins for your rubbish and dont let your ‘grey’ water out in unauthorised places. You never know which motorhomers you’re going to see along the way, so best not to upset anyone where possible. And secondly, there are usually signs up that are police/mayor enforced and we regularly see local police patrolling sites – which is great for a bit of peace of mind, but I would also imagine so they can see if anyone is breaking any rules and needs fining.
- Watch your height and width! Again, seems obvious, but its not as you always have about a million things to think about when in a new location/village/town/city/route, and its easy to overlook the fact that you may take a wrong turn down a height/width restricted road! We’ve had a few near misses. Especially in car parks for local supermarkets when stocking up too!
- Have some cash on you. Sometimes the Aire will charge 2 or 3 euros to use the waste/fresh water facilities, and you even have to pay at a local bar or restaurant, having a bit of cash on you at all times resolves this. We tend to mostly use our card all over the world called “Revolut”, would highly recommend this, but will talk about it on another blog.
- Above all else, enjoy them and enjoy your time there! Especially if they’re free. The views are usually awesome and the local people very friendly and receptive to motorhomers/campervanners!
Check out where we stayed in Europe, our recommendations and how safe we felt in these locations with a baby.