A Guide to a European Road Trip in a Campervan
Posted on September 27, 2019
Whether this is your first time travelling or your tenth, travelling requires planning, especially when you are taking a road trip around Europe in a campervan.
You might have been saving for a long time to experience this journey or you might be doing it on a whim and want to make sure that you’re fully prepared.
So many questions are probably circulating around your mind and as the leaving date draws in, it can seem very complicated and terrifying. The first bit of advice that we can give is just to sit down, relax and breathe. Think about all the beautiful places you’re going to explore and the activities you’re going to experience, nothing should get in the way of that. Now, we’re here to help you prepare for your road trip with all the essential advice…
Your Tips for a European Road Trip in your Campervan
Get your Campervan Ready
Stating the obvious, but you’re going to need a campervan to take a European road trip in a campervan. As you’ll be relying on this campervan for a long duration, it’s important that you get to know your campervan and form a close bond with it. Whether you hire a campervan or purchase your very own campervan is up to you as there are pros and cons to both, but you’ll have a much closer relationship with your very own camper. Learn how all the mechanisms work and take it for many test drives to ensure that you are familiar with the way it works and that you’re confident driving it.
Plan your Itinerary
How many days do you have available for your road trip? You need to think about your start and end date first before you can start planning your itinerary. Are there any countries that you’re desperate to visit? Do your research around Europe and write down a list of countries that you’re begging to explore. You need to think about how much driving you’re willing to do and if you want to cram in as many places as possible or get to know each country on a personal level.
Now, we advise that you bring your bucket list, create a spreadsheet, pull out a map of Europe and get to searching on Google Maps. This will take some time so be patient and try to accurately plan how long you will stay in each destination for. As a top tip, we advise that you multiply each journey on Google Maps by 1.5 to get a realistic time due to campervans being slower and time to stop and view your gorgeous surroundings. So, if Google Maps says a stretch of road will take you 2 hours to travel, factor in 3 hours for it.
Once this is completed, don’t set out with the mindset that you have to follow your itinerary exactly. The beauty of owning a campervan is spontaneity; this makes the trip much more exciting and you never know what you might come across along the way.
Where are You Going to Stay?
Do you want to stay in a camping site with lots of facilities, stay in an Aire which is an approved overnight stop for campervans, or do you want to go wild? Staying in a recognised camping site is great as you know there’s plenty of facilities and usually some activities to experience too. However, these options are more expensive and confine you to going down certain routes on your itinerary. Next is Aire camping which is a super cheap place that you’re allowed to just park up, but these sites don’t have any facilities at all. Finally, there’s the wild! Literally just park up your campervan wherever you like; you can choose some stunning places that allow you to wake up to a breath-taking view or an abundance of animals around you, completely free of charge. The issue with this is that some countries such as Italy, it’s illegal to go wild camping and you could get interrupted by the local forces...
Finding the Best Places to Stay
If you’re opting for the camping site or the Aires route, then planning every place you’re going to stay is too restricting and quite frankly stressful. There are sites that you can use such as park4night.com and campercontact.com/en that will help you along the way. When the evening is closing in and you’re thinking about parking up, open one of these websites and punch in the area. If you use the map feature on these sites, then you will be given the locations of many Aires and camping sites around you that you can utilise.
Speaking of using the internet though, it brings us to our next point.
Wi-Fi and Power
How are you going to go on your mobile phone or laptop to know where you’re going? Wi-Fi is essential, not just so you can connect to GPS maps and navigate, but how else are you supposed to keep everyone back home up-to-date with your travels? Going on a road trip around Europe is a great experience but you don’t have to be cut off from modern technology! There are Wi-Fi dongles, prepaid data sims and monthly data contacts that you can choose from; decide the best device for you.
Now, you’ve got to think about your source of power. Smartphone batteries just aren’t built to last these days and then you’ve got your hairdryer, straighteners and TV’s to think about and you can’t rely on finding cafes with plug sockets, not to mention the cost of this and the number of adapters that you would need. We highly recommend you have a way to receive power in your campervan. If you’re someone who relies heavily on electricity for many devices (which most of us are), then we recommend that you get an inverter connected directly to your battery to allow you to use electricity on the go.
For when you’re parked up, you can use the power that you’ve harnessed from solar panels that can be installed on your campervan. As an extra precaution for emergencies (and we mean emergencies as these things are noisy and you can make a lot of enemies early on into your trip), we advise that you have a generator with you. These can help you get out of a sticky situation if you’ve run out of power in the middle of nowhere.
A List of the Essentials You Need
Now your campervan and your journey are prepared, you’ve got to make sure that you bring all the essentials with you, including a long list of documents that you will need:
- Campervan Insurance
- Campervan Logbook
- Valid MOT
- Drivers License
- Travel Insurance
- Details of Ferry/Trains Bookings
- European Health Insurance Cards
- Paperwork for any Pets with You
By forgetting any of these important documents, your European road trip in a campervan will be very short-lived. Complete the relevant paperwork and compile this information and safely tuck it away in your glove box.
But what about everything else? We highly recommend that you have refillable gas bottles as sometimes, it can be hard to buy more gas and you never want to be caught without it. You should also take important note not to forget:
- Any Medication You Take
- First Aid Kit
- Replacement Light Bulbs
- Hi-vis Jackets
- Clothes for all Occasions
- Emergency Food Stashes
- Plenty of Water
- Warning Triangle
It’s illegal in many European countries to not have a warning triangle, first aid kits and hi-vis jackets; you don’t want to be caught on the spot with a hefty fine. Did you know that it’s also illegal to not stop at an accident in France? Your first aid kit can come in real handy if you’re in that situation…
The Cost of your Journey
This is what stops most people from travelling and it can take years of saving to achieve your dream road trip around Europe. Whilst you’ve got the obvious costs of campsite stays, fuel and food, there are other costs that you must consider, including:
- European Road Tolls – Most European countries have road tolls in large congestion areas and the price increases with the size of your vehicle (unfortunate for campervans). Do your research on which toll roads affect your journey and if it’s better to go around them. GPS’s will be able to tell you if there is a toll road coming up.
- European Vignettes – The same rules apply to vignettes as road tolls. There are periods that a vehicle will stay on a vignette which will incur a cost and in many road trip itineraries that explore the cities of Europe, these are unavoidable.
- Gas Bottle Refills – Having gas available at all times is essential. Factor in to pay for a lot more gas than you plan to use.
- Laundrette Costs – There’s always a river or your sink that you could try and wash your clothes in but if you want to look fresh, it’s always a good idea to visit the laundrette with as much washing as you can fit and these aren’t free.
- Admission Fees – Is there any attraction you’re wanting to see or an event that you want to experience? Look up the costs to everywhere you want to go to and keep this money to one side.
- Local Transport – You can’t expect to get through bustling towns and cities with your campervan. To really get to know the culture of some of the European countries, public transport will be unavoidable.
- Van Repairs – The unfortunate can happen at any time and it’s always best practice to have a fund that’s designated for any unforeseen costs with your campervan.
If you’ve got more money than you can imagine then by all means just go with the flow and see where the trip takes you. But if you want to stretch your budget as far as possible, then consider these tips:
- Take the scenic routes as the cost of fuel is often lower than toll costs and you get to view some spectacular sights.
- Try wild camping as it’s free if you don’t get fined.
- Eat in rather than eating out as eating out is one of the fastest ways to drain your budget.
- Bulk buy food, especially when you’re at a cheap supermarket as you never know when you’ll come across one again.
- Bring some bicycles with you. Parking up your campervan and taking a leisurely cycle around the countryside and even the city is a great way to cut down fuel and public transport costs.
- If you’re in a place where you’re allowed to light campfires, utilise this and cook some of your food over the fire.
Remember that you’re in a Different Country
Again, we’re stating the obvious but you’re leaving the comfort of your own UK home and heading into the unknown in Europe. One of the scariest parts is driving on the right side of the road. It may seem daunting but don’t forget we’re the odd ones out with left side driving (and our cousins in Australia) and all the roundabout turns will be easy once you’re already on the right side.
When you’re planning the itinerary of your journey, look up all the laws in each country you’re planning to visit as you don’t want your road trip spoilt by unnecessary fines and stays in a jail cell.
Think About the Weather
What time of year are you planning to take your European road trip? If you’re travelling in the winter, then it’s compulsory in many European countries to have snow chains fitted on your campervan tyres; these rules are usually in effect between the 1st November and 15th April. Plan your activities accordingly and make sure you bring the appropriate equipment and clothing for the weather.
A Few Last Tips
You’ve already got a lot of information to digest and much to consider before you take a European road trip in your campervan, but just a few last tips to help make your trip the best it can be:
- Learn a bit of the language – You’re the foreigner and whilst much of Europe know English, don’t expect them to all know your native tongue. Just learning how to speak hello and thank you is polite.
- Exchange your money beforehand – It’s much cheaper to change your money into euros before you leave. However, not all of Europe uses Euros, so make sure you know what money you need before heading off.
- Take as little valuables as possible – You don’t want your sentimental jewellery being lost or stolen and when you park up your campervan, do your best to hide anything of value.
- Take your time – As much as it may be exciting to reach your next destination, part of the experience of your road trip is the journey in the campervan.
- Remember you’re a tourist – Everything is going to be new to you and it’s ok to ask for help and suggestions from the natives of the country.
- You will make mistakes – It’s bound to happen; you take a wrong time or miss an event or get lost, it’s only natural and remember that it’s ok, it’s all part of the experience.
- Take lots of pictures – This might be your only chance to see these countries, so make sure to take a snap at every opportunity.
But, most importantly, have fun! Most people will never get the opportunity to go on a European road trip with a campervan therefore you’re incredibly lucky to do so.
If you want a campervan that you can trust to take you on this once in a lifetime adventure, then visit Danbury Campervans. We have a huge selection of new and used campervans just begging to explore Europe with you.