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European road trip in a campervan or motorhome
If you are planning to visit and tour Europe, then a European road trip is one of the best ways to do it. On a road trip you are not confined by public transport, there's no waiting around for the next bus or train and you're not limited by where and when they depart and arrive. You have your own transport and you can go anywhere, anytime you want. The open road is waiting.
Driving around Europe is relatively easy. Outside of the UK every country drives on the right, and many of the borders no longer exist so there is no waiting or visa checks. Not only is a vehicle one of the best tools for independent travel, but a road trip can also prove to be a cheaper way to travel.
The best way to travel around Europe is by motorhome or campervan. More and more people are enjoying campervan road trips around Europe every year. A campervan might not be your first choice, but campers offer a freedom unparalleled by any other vehicle. A car can get you around, but in a campervan you can also eat and sleep. Think of all those coffees and teas you don't have to buy in cafes. Looking for hotels and hostels can be a pain. Camping works out much cheaper and makes it much easier to travel spontaneously. Why stay in someone else's bed when you can take yours with you? You might think, “Well I’ll just take a car and chuck a tent in the back so I can still stay in campsites.” And you could. But campervans have one more benefit that you can take advantage of. Across Europe there are special places called Aires where campervans and motorhomes can park overnight for free. Suddenly your road trip has just got a lot cheaper, and with only fuel and food costs you have a few more tourist euros to spend.
When buying your chosen camper you need to think carefully about fuel efficiency and comfort. You will only need a 4x4 if you intend to off-road. In Europe it is surprisingly difficult to drive off-road as most land is private, so a standard vehicle is adequate; a 4x4 will just add to your fuel bill. In Morocco there are roads to most of the tourist destinations, though there are also some roads only for 4x4 vehicles. If Morocco is the only African country you intend to visit in your campervan, then there is no need to have a 4x4 vehicle. If you wish to travel through more African countries it would be worth joining an expedition. Some overlanding expeditions take individuals without their own transport, whilst other groups lead expeditions and provide support to groups driving their own vehicles. For more advice and information on buying a motorhome, read Go Motorhoming and Campervanning.
No road trip is complete without guidebooks and maps. Once you're on the road a good guide book will enable you to find a good place to stay wherever you end up. Most people undertaking a road trip of Europe use Michelin maps, especially in France, Spain and Portugal. Even if you have a Satellite Navigation system you should have a map of Europe to help plan your trip. For help deciding what map or atlas is best, read our blog post on navigating with maps. For European campsites the essential guide is the ACSI Camping Card which gives discounts at 3,330 participating campsites across 21 European countries. For motorhome stopovers, or Aires, the best guides are in the All the Aires series, which includes guidebooks for France, Spain and Portugal, and Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. With these maps and guides you are sure to have the best road trip possible.
Road Trip Tours of Europe
With so much to see and do anywhere you go in Europe, you'll have a great time.
The Great War and More - This is the first in the Vicarious Media series of Road Trip Europe driving tours. This tour encompasses five cities, four countries and two world wars. On this tour you will go to the highest point in the Netherlands and below the streets of Arras visiting the most important sites from WWI and WWII.
Go Dutch - This is the second in the Vicarious Media series of Road Trip Europe driving tours. This tour takes you on a discovering tour of the Netherlands, visiting North and South Holland, Friesland and Gelderland and seeing some of the best, and some of the most unexpected, highlights of the Netherlands. Combine the two Road Trip Europe driving tours for an even longer adventure.
Other tour ideas include:
L'Europe en Camping-Car - A Michelin guide with 75 tours across 25 countries in Europe. Written in French, but fantastic inspiration for a short or longer European road trip.
Van Tour - There is an unofficial road trip tour of Europe known as Van Tour. Every year numerous campervans depart the UK and party their way around Europe from July to October. First they head through France to the first stop - Pamplona, Spain, for the Running of the Bulls in early July. From here many Van Tour campervans head south to Lagos in Portugal where there are sandy beaches and surf waves. From here the more adventurous head to Morocco. Most campervans then drive around the Mediterranean to Italy and Croatia before heading north to the final stop on the Van Tour trip - Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany in October. There is no set itinerary on Van Tour and people detour to wherever they choose between the two major events taking their campervans to other festivals and locations. To join Van Tour simply book in at a campsite near Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls and you'll meet likeminded Van Tourers.
Italy - With so much to see and do - and eat! - with a good guide book Italy makes an excellent road trip destination. You can camp beside the lakes of Garda and Como. Visit the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome, and drive through the Tuscan hills. Not to mention the food! The Italians are camper mad, so you can't fail to have an excellent campervan road trip in Italy.
The Grand Tour - Anyone with more time on their hands should attempt the ultimate road trip, a European 'Grand Tour'. Traditionally the route took travellers through France and Italy in search of art, culture and the roots of Western civilisation. Whilst some travellers made it as far as Greece or Sicily, most travelled north after Rome heading for the Alps before returning home. Whilst France and Italy still feature in most modern- day Grand Tours, the countries travelled have become more extensive. The four compass points of mainland Europe are a popular option where road trippers drive north to Norway, east to Turkey, south to Sicily, and southwest to Spain and Portugal.