It’s a liberating thought, cruising down open roads in a faraway place, free to explore without being bound to the parameters of your accommodation.
Pairing your home and transport into one, campervans make traveling abroad cheaper compared to booking a hotel and rental car, while allowing you to explore your surroundings more freely.
So, what do you need to know to help you plan your campervan holiday?
First things first, if you’re looking to rent a campervan then there’s a few points you’ll need to consider. Have a shop around to get an idea of the different prices and packages rental firms offer, you’ll find some include discount for ferries, and free European insurance cover in your package which can really make a difference.
If you’re travelling to mainland Europe, then a more convenient option may be to rent abroad, fees are often cheaper and it saves the need for a ferry. Some rental companies also offer drop-offs in different countries for an extra fee, which is handy if you don’t want to do a round trip.
It might be better opting for unlimited mileage for a campervan holiday. Plans are always subject to change when you’re travelling, and you don’t want to be restricted to a mile count, it’s an unnecessary niggle in the back of your mind (or the front if you’re well over your packaged miles and paying an eye-watering surplus fee).
Most rental companies will fully-equip the campervan with everything you need for your journey. This includes outdoor furniture, cooking equipment, toilet equipment, a sat nav, generator, bedding and linen. They are usually included in your rental price as a deal or will need to be purchased separately as an add-on. If it’s the latter, you may be better off bringing your own since rental firms will often charge per night of use which can add up if you’re planning a long holiday.
Ensure the campervan you decide to rent has the necessary set-up for child seats if required. They must be secured with a three-point belt system, a lap belt won’t cut it.
All children under the age of 12 or under 1.35m (1.5m in Germany, Portugal, Ireland and Italy) need a child seat.
The toilet situation
Toilets are usually only available in the bigger campervans, which have chemical toilets and requires manually emptying it. A thought that may conjure fear and disgust in many, but there’s really nothing to worry about.
Rental companies will typically provide the chemicals required to maintain the toilet with instructions on how to use them correctly and most campsites are equipped with chemical disposal points where you can empty the toilet hygienically.
Do I need to book a campsite?
Depending where you go, wild camping may not be permitted and you can’t just park anywhere for the night, so you’ll need to book somewhere to stay. Campsites give you the time to recharge and replenish supplies before getting back on the road. They are typically equipped with toilets, showers, laundry rooms, cleaning facilities and a chemical disposal point.
It’s best to decide at least a few of the campsites you’ll be visiting in advance, or if you’re going to opt for a more laid-back approach without a particular route to follow, then bear in mind that turning up to a campsite and booking on the day can be difficult, especially during holiday season.
How to book a campsite
When booking a campsite, always check what pitch types are available. Touring pitches will usually include electric hook-ups and are suitable for campervans and motorhomes. Ensure the amenities on site meet your requirements and double check the permitted arrival/departure times as these can vary.
Utilise sites like Pitchup, a well-known campsite booking website with over 9000 listings in the UK, Europe and America. It’s also an easy way to see what campsites are available around the world at a glance with useful information about each site including capacity, languages spoken and tourist board rating.
Always check the law of the country you’re visiting to ensure you’re not breaking it by parking overnight. There are stringent rules on wild camping in some countries, for instance it’s not allowed in the valleys, inhabited areas and forests in Switzerland and you could be facing a 10,000 euro fine if you’re caught.
For places where wild camping is legal, it’s always important to be considerate, camp out of the way and ensure you’re not disturbing anyone, don’t stay for more than one night and don’t camp in a nature reserve.
There are some different laws you need to be aware of when driving in Europe, including items you need to bring, such as a universal bulb kit or high-vis jacket which are required for most European countries. To get a bundle of all the commonly needed items, we recommend you purchase a European travel kit, which is widely available at online retailers.
For more information regarding EU driving laws, see our guide to driving in Europe.
There’s no shortage of beautiful road trip routes to take in Europe, the continent is home to some of the most jaw-dropping UNESCO world heritage sites out there, with countries like Italy which has the most in the world, at 54 and closely followed by Spain, France and Germany. See below some of the most raved-about road trip routes in Europe:
An incredibly popular route is the Amalfi Coast, one of Italy’s plethora of UNESCO sites and home to some of the most stunning vistas in the world. It’s the quintessential Mediterranean landscape, with medieval towns etched into the mountains, overlooking cobalt-blue seas.
Ring of Kerry
A 200km route around the beautiful coastline of Kerry in Ireland. The trip includes some of the best beaches in the country, panoramic mountain views and deep green forests of Killarney park, Ireland’s oldest and most renowned national park.
Paris to Berlin
A 1000km route which takes roughly 10 hours to cover, with plenty to see along the way. Places on-route include Trier, Luxembourg, Heidelberg and Leipzig, to name a few. If you’re into European architecture and experiencing new cultures then this is the trip for you. With so much to see we’d recommend 2 – 3 weeks for this trip to get the most out of it.
Verdon Gorge, France
The Gorges du Verdon in the Regional National Park of the Verdon Provence, France is a campervan hotspot, the 185km route meanders around the magnificent Verdon Gorge, coined the ‘Grand Canyon of Europe’, offering panoramic views of the rocky canyon surrounding the turquoise-blue river Verdon 2,000 feet below.
Route One, Iceland
Route One also known as the ring road of Iceland is a 1300km journey starting at Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik that circles around the whole island. You’ll be travelling through some of Iceland’s most beautiful landscape including volcanoes, lava fields, waterfalls, mountains, hot springs, ash fields and beaches.