Mike and Kim together with their Border Terrier, Harry, have travelled around most of Europe in their motor home. Harry, who recently celebrated his second birthday, notched up his 17th country when they arrived in Hungary.


 We think the whole ethos of motor homing is about freedom. However, when Kim and I speak to other MoHo owners about our travels a common theme often pops up.  “We would love to do that, but the thought of not having anywhere booked in a foreign country worries us too much. Suppose we end up on the roadside at midnight with nowhere to stay, what then? ‘

 Now, there’s nothing wrong with booking ahead and if that works for you then do it. The upside is you will always have somewhere to stay each night and that will allay any fears you might have, especially on your first trip into Europe. I will admit that when we embarked across the channel in our first MoHo we experienced similar concerns, but we soon discovered there is a great deal to be gained from simply pointing your nose into wind and seeing where you end up.

 The downside of booking a series of sites can be summed up in one word. Commitment. With deposits at risk, you need to arrive at a prescribed site on a prescribed date and worse, that relaxing leg of the journey you planned by the winter fireside doesn’t always go to plan. Traffic hold-ups, bad weather or other unforeseen events can push the day’s travel from four hours to six or even longer. Suddenly it’s all rush, rush, rush. On the flip side of the coin, you are also committed to moving on, even if you want to stay for an extra day. Your planned schedule has you moving on to the next stop.

 Our experience has shown that freewheeling is great fun and much more relaxing so, if you’re a first timer and fancy a bit of an adventure, then here are a few tips we’ve picked up on our travels that make it a pleasure not a trauma.

First, remain flexible and don’t be tempted to simply rush out of the channel port and tear down the autoroute for several hours before looking for somewhere to stop. Travelling is tiring and you don’t want to add-in the stress factor that will turn your motorhome into ‘Instant divorce in a tin box’ on the first night. Instead, look for a site not too far from the port, even if you arrive in the early afternoon. Book it if you feel more comfortable. Lots of Brits stay on these sites as they travel to and fro, and they’re great places to chat and glean tips regarding places to stay and sights to see further on. As an example, we often use Château de la Bien-Assise at Guines, just a 15-minute hop from the tunnel, but there are many good choices close to all the main ports. Wherever you choose, the following morning you are fresh, ready to go and have the whole day ahead.

 Once on a site we usually work out roughly where to aim for the next leg. To help there are a range of guides and phone apps that list what’s available right across Europe. Park4night is a good choice; as is Camperstop and ACSI. With ACSI membership you also get a fair discount on low season stays plus the app provides direct email access to literally thousands of sites.  Some apps also offer reviews posted by previous users which we find especially helpful.


We like to use a 3/200 rule when travelling and, if we can, avoid driving for more than three hours or 200kms in a day. We normally set off between nine and ten and aim to pitch up somewhere by early afternoon. This gives us time to choose a spot then take Harry for wander, perhaps along a lakeside or around the local sights.


Another useful phone tool is the Google Translate app, a real gift to freewheelers. Not only will it read and translate text, such as menus and directions, it enables you to email ahead in the relevant language and translate any replies you receive. Despite English now being commonly spoken throughout most of Europe people do seem to appreciate an initial email enquiry in their native language and will often reply quickly. If you do email ahead include your name and contact number, the number of people and dimensions of your MoHo and if you have a dog or other pet that’s worth mentioning too.

 Motor homing around Europe is far more relaxed, with many more camp sites available than back in Blighty. Some provide passes for free bus, train and even cable car travel. One site even included a full breakfast!

 Another option we don’t have in the U.K. are small parking areas, specifically for motorhomes, known as an ‘Aire du Camping Car’ in France or a ‘Stellplatz’ in Germany. These are common right across the E.U. Many such parking areas are situated in towns and villages and operated by local councils to support commerce, such as shops, restaurants and visitor attractions. We stayed on one in the Black Forest, in the grounds of a winery, which had a vending machine that dispensed chilled bottles of top quality Reisling for €6, now where would you get that in the UK? 

A few of the app’s list these ‘Aires’, as they are commonly known, with many providing full services, such as water, electric and chemical disposal. Payment is made either to a nearby business, like a bakery or café, or via an on-site ticket machine. Quite a lot now have an internet booking facility, like the Floreal Camping Park in Blankenberg, Belgium. The secret is to arrive early rather than late as most tend to fill up quite quickly after about 3pm. While a positive element of freewheeling is not being committed to stay for a set period, some Aires do limit stays to 48 or 72 hours.

We try and avoid the height of the summer season and find the shoulder months more relaxing when it comes to freewheeling and finding sites. Last year we stopped off at Venice in October, staying on a rural site, recommended by friends. Located on the far side of the lagoon we made the short hop to St. Mark’s Square by scheduled water bus. The weather was perfect, and the anticipated crowds conspicuous by their absence. The statutory Gondola trip still cost an arm and a leg, but you can’t have everything, and Harry enjoyed himself as he howled along with our singing Gondolier.

 If you can’t avoid peak times, then try searching out the route less travelled. We never cease to be surprised by what small towns and villages offer and it’s great to simply bimble along empty backroads and enjoy the scenery. In France a guide called France Passion (www.france-passion.com) lists rural pitches on farms or vineyards. These are offered simply in return for purchasing produce, such as bread, cheese, honey or wine. It also lists restaurants that allow the overnight use of their car park for the price of a delicious meal. How good is that? In other countries some of the apps show similar opportunities, often denoted by a small tractor icon. In Sweden, when we enquired about local campsites, a very accommodating café owner let us spend the night in her car park. Deep in the forest, it was a tranquil stopover. 

 A few final points. It’s worth making a note of holiday dates in the countries you plan to travel through. There are a lot of ‘National’ days or religious holidays such as ‘All Saint’s Day’ which are often extended into long weekends and obviously at these times the more popular sites tend to fill up.

 Try and plan a few stops ahead and always have one or two reserve options. If a site is full there are usually others nearby. In Norway the receptionist at one booked-out site even phoned around on our behalf and reserved a place for us a few miles up the road.

 If you do feel the need to book a site on the move, and don’t fancy phoning or emailing direct, you can always go through one of the UK club websites if you are a member. They will normally need a few days’ notice, but we have done this several times when heading for popular locations. Also, UK booking sites like PitchUp are worth considering too, especially as their booking process is more or less instant.

 We are confident that once you give freewheeling a go you will enjoy it as much as we do.

Happy travels

 Mike, Kim and Harry