Imagine the feeling waking up each day, grabbing your morning coffee and looking out across the lake/mountain/beach you parked next to the night before.
You take a look at the map, plot a course and make your way to the next destination. In your own time, on your own schedule, in your own home on wheels. This is life when traveling Europe by campervan.
It is a steep learning curve once you decide to campervan in Europe for the first time, particularly if you are not from Europe.
We are here to fast track you past the initial planning stages and help you plan your trip by campervan around Europe. In this Guide to Europe by Campervan we have listed all of our best campervan travel tips.
There is A LOT of information here so don’t forget to save or share the article to refer to later.
- 1 How To Plan Your Europe By Campervan Itinerary
- 2 To Buy Or Rent a Campervan In Europe?
- 3 The Best Campervan Layouts
- 4 Get To Know Your Campervan
- 5 LPG Gas Bottles
- 6 Best Campervan Gadgets
- 7 Essentials Apps for Campervan Life
- 8 Connectivity Tips
- 9 Navigation Tips for Campervanning in Europe
- 10 Toll Roads
- 11 Using Ferries in Europe
- 12 Campervan Camping In Europe Guide
- 13 Campervan Security
- 14 Campervan Meals
- 15 Tracking your Europe Road Trip Costs
- 16 Important Documents to Carry
- 17 Ready To Plan Your Trip?
- 18 Final Travel Europe By Campervan Advice
How To Plan Your Europe By Campervan Itinerary
We explored Europe by campervan for 5 months on a family gap year and it was an incredible experience. The region is well set up for touring by campervan.
The ease of travel between countries and the cultural and natural diversity of Europe make it the perfect road trip destination.
The natural thing to do first when planning to campervan around Europe is plan the itinerary.
There are millions of different campervan routes in Europe and it can be hard to whittle it down to a manageable list.
We suggest you start with this list of questions to help you narrow your planning efforts:
- How much time do I have
- Where will we start and end the road trip
- How much driving am I prepared to do each week
- What time of year will I be in Europe (the weather is an important consideration)
- Do I want to travel slow or do I want to tick off as many places as I can.
Next we suggest you pull out your Europe bucket list, a spreadsheet, a map of Europe, Google Maps and your Weather App and start planning.
We love using Lonely Planet Guide Books when we first start planning a new trip.
They give a good overview of a country or region, the key sights, and best time to go. They are a helpful way to come up with your Europe bucket list in order to start planning.
Click here for the latest prices for Lonely Planet Europe.
As you start to form your high level itinerary, my best piece of advice is don’t lock it all in!
The beauty of travelling Europe in a campervan is that you can also make it up as you go along. Prioritise the countries and sights you want to see and adjust your Europe itinerary as you go.
Europe Itinerary Planner
If you would like more guidance to plan your Europe itinerary, we recommend this Europe Motorhoming Travel Toolkit by motorhome experts, Wandering Bird.
The toolkit includes a Europe travel ebook, printables, video tutorials and guides to route planning, camping, motorhome security and much, much more.
It is an invaluable resource full of tips and ideas and so helpful for first time motorhome Europe travellers.
>> Click here to check the price and find out more
To Buy Or Rent a Campervan In Europe?
Buy or rent? This is one of the most difficult decisions and unfortunately there is no right answer to this question. It really depends on your situation.
So to help you choose here we guide you through a couple of key questions to help you make this important decision.
In short, renting is the simplest and easiest option and the best choice for short trips (less than 8 weeks).
There are many European motorhome rental agencies, but we recommend Motorhome Republic. They have a huge network of vans across Europe and offer discounts for longer bookings.
Click here for a no obligation quote from Motorhome Republic.
Renting an RV in Europe makes sense for short trips, but will cost more if you are travelling around Europe for a longer period.
Considerations for renting or buying a motorhome in Europe
Here are some things to consider when weighing up whether to buy or rent an RV in Europe.
Length of trip in the campervan
The longer your trip the more sensible it is buy. On our calculations it was worth buying a camper van if the trip was longer than 2.5 months.
Less time than that and it was probably easier to hire a campervan in Europe.
The time of year
Off season rentals are typically much cheaper as loads of campervans are returned at the end of summer.
If you are brave enough to start your trip in winter and are prepared to negotiate, you should be able to get a much better price on a Europe RV rental for the off season.
Are you prepared to take responsibility for fixing the van, should things go wrong? When renting a campervan in Europe, if anything goes wrong, the rental company will resolve the issue.
If you buy the van you are going to have to work it out yourself.
We met a couple in Montenegro who had been holed up in the campsite for a month waiting for a part for their van to be shipped from the UK.
Thankfully we had no major issues with our van over the 5 months.
But it is a big consideration. For this reason, before purchasing a van we strongly recommend you have it checked out by a mechanically minded person.
Your country of origin makes a difference
As a non-European it is a little more complicated to purchase and insure a van in Europe.
It makes a private sale with an individual buyer very complicated unless you have friends or relatives in Europe who are prepared to purchase insurance on your behalf.
But the good news is that it is possible to purchase a campervan as a non-resident through a number of smaller European campervan companies.
If you are interested in buying a European camper van, contact us and we can put you in contact with our preferred company, a small family run business.
Look at campervan buy back schemes
If you don’t want the hassle of selling the campervan privately at the end of your trip, there are companies who will offer a guaranteed buy back. This will cost you more than purchasing and selling privately, but it is cheaper than renting.
You are assured of selling the van and it simplifies the process at the end of your trip. It is a good compromise between renting and buying privately. We opted for this option and we very happy with our decision.
If you would like to get a quote for buying a camper van in Europe through a buy back scheme, contact us and we can put you in contact with our preferred supplier.
So in summary, buying a van requires a large financial outlay but will most likely save you more over the long term.
But if you don’t want the hassle, motorhome hire for European travel is easy and worry free.
Get a campervan rental quote today and start planning your road trip!
The Best Campervan Layouts
Before you choose to purchase or rent a van, you should spend some time thinking about the best campervan layout to suit your needs.
There are literally thousands of different van configurations. It is hard to know what will work if you haven’t been RVing in Europe before.
Questions to help you find the best van layout
To simplify your van search, use these questions to prioritise what is important before you start looking.
How new do you want the van to be? What modern features does it need to have?
Are you prepared to accept an older van with older furnishings, no air conditioning, fewer mod cons. Older vans are generally much cheaper to buy or rent.
Or are these things important to you? For example, if you are considering Europe campervan routes in the south through Summer, air conditioning will make your trip much more comfortable.
Van size is a big consideration and will depend on how many people are traveling, but also the style of trip you want to take.
Do you want to go offroad on your camper van Europe trip? Do you want to free camp in out of the way places? Do you want to be able to drive the van into major cities? A smaller van is better for these types of European road trips.
Do you have kids? Do you want them to have a separate sleeping area and/or their own beds?
What size van are you comfortable driving? There are pros and cons to both. A small van is easier to drive and park and is easier to take to out of the way places.
But a larger van usually has a toilet and kitchen onboard, provides more comfort inside when traveling to colder countries and allows you to take more stuff.
It is worth noting that European camper vans on average tend to be smaller than what you find in Northern America, but are perfectly suited to RV through Europe.
Right or Left Hand Drive
Do you want a right or left hand drive? If you are going to spend most of your time on the continent, it makes more sense to buy a left hand drive vehicle.
Many vans for sale in the UK are right hand drive, so always check when enquiring if it is a left hand or right hand drive.
Are you prepared to convert a table into a bed each night or do you want permanently set up beds when you RV Europe?
If you are on a long term road trip, converting a bed each day can become pretty tiresome, but it means you can take a smaller van.
We took this compromise on our US month long road trip, but didn’t want to for a longer Europe tour.
If you have kids and they are still in car seats or booster seats this needs to be factored in to your decision.
Do you want to carry bikes or other large sporting equipment like kayaks or paddle boards that will need to be stored in or on the van?
Can you cook everything in your campervan kitchen on a gas cook top? Can you live without an oven and grill in the van?
Camper Van Amenities
Do you want to be able to free camp for days at a time off the grid with sufficient power and amenities to do so?
A van with a fridge that runs on gas, lights that run on a dual battery and a toilet onboard will help you achieve this.
Heating and Cooling
Will you be traveling through hot climates on your campervan Europe trip?
If you don’t have air conditioning you will need a van with plenty of opening windows (preferably with insect screens).
Will you be travelling Europe in the winter? If so you will need a campervan heater.
Get To Know Your Campervan
Once you have chosen your van, it is really important to familiarise yourself with the vehicle before you set off campervanning around Europe.
We cannot stress the importance of this enough: get to know your new home before you go too far from where you rent or buy it.
Travelling Van Pre-Travel Checklist
- Check the campervan is mechanically okay. Ask when was it last serviced. Check the tyres.
- Do all the windows and blinds open and close correctly?
- Do all doors open, close and lock properly?
- If there is an alarm, does it work and how does it function?
- Confirm the appliances (fridge, heater, 12V outlets, AC outlets, air con if you are so lucky) are working and you know how to use them.
- Have the company/seller show you how to fill the LPG tank. Have they provided the necessary attachments for the countries you are visiting?
- Check you know how to open and close the campervan awnings.
- Check if the awning comes with tie down ropes. If it doesn’t we recommend you buy them to secure the awning. Click here to see the tie downs we recommend.
Know the van dimensions
It is also really important to know the height, length and width of your van!
Unlike rving in the US, there were MANY occasions heading down a country road or under a small bridge we would notice a road sign indicating the maximum width or height.
We would have to stop and find another way around because we wouldn’t fit in our large motorhome. It is VERY important to know this!
Navigating into campsites and getting out of carparks is often tricky and we saw a few other drivers hitting light posts and fence posts in their attempts to reverse their RVs!
Our van didn’t have parking sensors or a reversing camera and it was impossible to see what was behind you.
We suggest that if you are traveling with other people, one of you always get out and direct the driver into or out of the spot as you campervan through Europe.
Agree on a method for helping the driver with reverse parking. We found that hand signals worked better than voice commands.
Supermarket carparks are a good place to find large spots to park when in visiting towns in Europe.
They had more space and we could take up a few spots. Much less stressful than trying to park on a busy street!
Managing Waste Water
Larger campervans come equipped with grey water tanks. This collects all the used water – from the kitchen and bathroom sinks.
The older the van, the more likely it is this tank is going to have a unique and not so great odour.
If you rent or buy an older van our recommendation is to empty the grey water tank before setting off on long driving days.
When we didn’t empty the grey water tank we would be driving along with our sleeves held over our noses! The smell of grey water wafting through the van is terrible and was much worse in hotter weather.
We tried everything to improve the situation. From special tank cleaner to dishwashing liquid to putting ice cubes into the tank. Nothing got rid of the smell. The best solution was to have an empty grey water tank whilst driving.
If your van has a toilet we suggest you use toilet chemicals. Carry spare bottles of toilet chemicals as they were not always easy to find in smaller towns.
Thetford Aqua-Kem is a popular holding tank chemical and the one we used on our trip around Europe. Click here to check the latest prices.
LPG Gas Bottles
If your campervan has a refillable LPG bottle, monitor the gas level and don’t let it get too low. In some countries such as Portugal and Austria it was difficult to find LPG so we tried to keep it above half full.
Having said that, we used the gas for cooking, heating and cooling the fridge when off the grid and it really didn’t use much gas at all. We probably could have only filled it once or twice in 5 months.
Note also that there are four of different types of LPG gas bottle fittings used across Europe. Our campervan came with all of them and we could screw on the one we needed when we refilled.
The website mylpg.eu/adapters explains which fitting type is used in each country and also has a listing of LPG filling stations.
Also, if you were like us and had no idea how to use an LPG pump, have a look on YouTube for some guidance!
Best Campervan Gadgets
There is additional equipment and motorhome accessories you will use all the time and we recommend you purchase for travelling in Europe by campervan.
1. 12V USB Port Adaptor
You will need to buy a 12V USB port adaptor to charge your phones and tablets. Make sure you get a good quality one with a high current output to enable fast charging of your phone.
It will need to be dual USB like this one so you can power the GPS at the same time as charging a phone.
2. Voltage Inverter
If you have electronic devices such as a laptop or camera battery charger that are powered by AC voltage then see if you can find a 12V charger for them.
Alternatively, we recommend buying a voltage inverter which allows you to run an AC device from a 12V port.
When choosing an inverter you need to check that the inverter output is the correct AC voltage and is rated at a significantly higher power than the device you are powering.
For example, I needed to run my laptop power supply which was 220V at 180W so I bought a 500W Car Power Inverter. Click to check the latest prices on the Inverter.
If you are coming from the US you need a 12v to 110v inverter for US voltage electronics like this one.
We also recommend you purchase bicycles when touring Europe in a campervan.
Campsites are often located a little out of town and the bikes give you more flexibility to get out and explore the local area without having to drive the van everywhere.
You can easily purchase them secondhand on ebay like we did, or look for a good deal on a new bike that you can sell at the end of your trip.
The large supermarket chains like Carrefour and Aldi often had new bikes for sale and Decathlon is a cheap sportstore found in Europe with affordable bikes.
Many campervans have a bike rack on the rear to carry bikes. If not, ask your rental agency or seller if one can be added.
An adaptor, inverter and bikes are our top three campervan products for motorhome travel to Europe.
For more of our favorite travel accessories see our list of 14 Travel Essentials here.
Essentials Apps for Campervan Life
It is easy to stay connected on a campervan trip around Europe. We travel with a laptop, a tablet, 2 kindles and 4 mobile phones.
The kids have a mobile device and headphones each because it was the cheapest way for them to have access to music and audio books.
We talk more about this in our article on road trip activities for kids. Click here to read it.
To satisfy everyone’s need for music, we purchased a Spotify family membership for access to music online.
Spotify is a great app. Everyone had their own playlists and could access unlimited new music throughout the trip.
It is also possible to save playlists to listen to when offline.
Download Spotify for free. Click for:
Apple Store free download (iOS)
Google Store free download (Android)
Another option for access to tunes is Amazon Music. They also offer a family membership plan and have the option to play music when offline, similar to Spotify.
Click here for a 30 day free unlimited trial of Amazon Music.
We also signed up with our local public library to borrow ebooks and audio books for free. This was one of the best decisions we made for RV travel in Europe.
It has saved us hundreds of dollars and also helped entertain the kids on long drives.
Check with your local public library whether they are set up. Our library used the Borrowbox app.
The kids would listen to audiobooks on their phones as we were driving and we could download ebooks to the tablet.
Download BorrowBox for free. Click for
Apple Store free download (iOS)
Google Store free download (Android)
The only limitation with the Borrowbox app is that often new releases were not available, and popular books were constantly on loan.
So the other option is to sign up for an Audible account. Audible gives you access to a huge range of new release audiobooks, podcasts and originals as part of a monthly membership. Click here to sign up for a free trial on Audible.
A podcast app is another way to download content for both kids an adults. We use Castbox.
Book exchanges seem to be a thing of the past and we very rarely found somewhere to exchange English books, especially kids books, so the kindles were essential.
We traveled with two kindles which were shared between all 4 of us.
Our family bought us an Amazon voucher as a farewell gift. We made very good use of this during the year when we couldn’t find books to borrow from the library.
Click here to see the latest Kindle and price
If you plan to work or homeschool while travelling Europe by motorhome, a laptop is essential.
We love our Microsoft Surface Pro as it is lightweight, a fully functioning laptop that can also be converted to a tablet for use by the kids.
It was well used not only for work but also for watching movies, planning our Europe trip along the way and for the kids to do login to online learning sites for homeschooling.
Click here to see the latest prices for the Surface Pro
WiFi vs Mobile Data
One of our top campervan tips is not to rely on camp ground WiFi when you travel Europe in a campervan.
I was very surprised in Europe to find WiFi connectivity generally pretty poor. We found camp grounds almost always promised WiFi but in reality it was slow and unreliable and sometimes expensive.
Like most people these days, internet connections are an important part of travel.
Plus as we didn’t book any of our trip in advance we were planning most nights once the kids were in bed.
To reduce frustration levels with WiFi we recommend you purchase local prepaid data plans.
In 2017 the EU introduced a new law forcing mobile data roaming costs to be the same across Europe as in the country where you purchased the SIM.
This means you can get a SIM in your first country and know it will work practically everywhere at the same rate.
While there are still huge variations in the plans on offer, it is much easier than before when it often made sense to get a new prepaid SIM in each country.
The Prepaid Data SIM Card Wiki is an amazing source of information that we used to determine the best deal.
Use a VPN
If you are using free WiFi it is important to protect your data by using a VPN when travelling Europe in a van.
A VPN (virtual private network) allows you to use public and open WiFi connections without the risk of your data being compromised.
We use NordVPN all around the world when we travel. Just switch it on when you connect to WiFi and know your information is safe.
Click here to see the latest deals with NordVPN.
We highly recommend that you have a number of different navigation tools on hand to help plan your journeys.
There was never one tool that met all of our needs and we used all of these methods most days.
1. Road Atlas
For high-level planning, our first point of call was our Philip's Big Road Atlas Europe.
This may seem a little old school, but we regularly referred to this map to give us a good overview of distances for itinerary planning.
Our son also loved highlighting our Europe road trip in the atlas to track our journey and it is a great memento of the trip.
>> Click here to check the price for the Philip's Europe Road Atlas.
A dedicated GPS/Sat Nav with up-to-date maps is essential for a few reasons:
- It doesn’t rely on mobile connectivity
- It keeps your mobile free for other purposes when driving
- The GPS shows you the speed limit when you are driving and just how sharp that upcoming bend is.
There are many different types of GPS, but you are best to look at sat navs for motorhomes with European road maps included.
We had an entry level TomTom GPS and found it simple and reliable to use plus we liked the Australian voice option who would tell us “mate, if those back seat drivers don’t keep it down, ditch them at the next servo”.
However it didn’t have settings specifically for large vehicles which would have been helpful considering the number of small roads and villages we navigated.
>> Click here to check the price for TomTom GPS for motorhomes
3. Google Maps
The only problem with a GPS is that sometimes it might suggest tiny roads or routes through village centres that our 7m/3.5 tonne van could not pass through.
Unfortunately there was no option to filter out roads not suitable for oversized campervans.
So we would also use the Google Maps app on our phone to see what route it suggested because it tended to be better at avoiding small roads.
We strongly recommend when you have WiFi you download Google Maps for use in offline mode to avoid being reliant on mobile data.
The other great thing we used Google Maps for (if you have an internet connection) is to use satellite view or street view to check just how wide a road is.
If you can see lines in the middle of the road you are good to go. If not, you may need to think twice in a large van.
4. Other Tools
We also occasionally used an app (or website) called Via Michelin which was able to give estimates for toll costs and more realistic travel times compared to Google maps.
Also ensure you research different country rules in relation to things such as driving laws, low emission zones, how tolls are charged and child restraint requirements.
The rules differ a lot between countries. We had to change our plans in and around London due to restrictions on older vehicles entering greater London.
Our Philip’s Big Road Atlas Europe had an excellent country section in the front that summarised the basic rules and regulations for each country.
>> Click here to check the price for the Philip's Europe Road Atlas.
Toll roads are common in Europe (except Germany and the Netherlands) and they can be very expensive to travel on in a motorhome.
We recommend you do your research on the cost of toll roads in each country, how much time they will save you on the journey and how they have to be paid. It differs country by country.
The Via Michelin site was useful for estimating tolls on different routes.
France was super expensive because our campervan was over 3m tall and classified as a bus.
We spent 30 Euros ($35 USD) on one 5 hour drive down the west coast of France. Italy and Spain were much more reasonably priced and had fewer tolls.
How to pay Tolls in Europe
In most cases you can pay the toll using cash or a credit card at a toll booth.
One exception is Portugal which has no toll booths, just toll points with cameras that scan your number plate.
In Portugal you must register a credit card against your number plate at the Welcome Points just over the border on their main motorways.
Then your card is automatically charged when you pass a toll point. More information on the process can be found here.
Another variation is the vignette. This is a prepaid motorway toll in the form of a sticker which you typically purchase from petrol stations near the border and display on your windscreen.
Vignettes are required in Switzerland, Austria & Slovenia and some other Eastern European countries. They come with varying length validity. Being caught out will result in a hefty fine.
If you want to avoid tolls, you can set your GPS/Sat Nav and Google Maps to do this.
As a rule of thumb, if we weren’t in a hurry we would avoid toll roads. If we were traveling a long distance we generally took the toll roads to maintain the sanity of both parents and kids.
Using Ferries in Europe
It is possible to move between countries by ferry in your campervan instead of by road.
There are a number of transport ferries that operate between Spain, Italy, France, Montenegro, Greece and even Africa.
This is worth considering if you want to get to South Eastern Europe quickly to save time or if you want to extend your trip touring Europe in a motorhome into Africa.
We share our experience taking two transport ferries to get from Spain to Montenegro here.
Campervan Camping In Europe Guide
When camping through Europe you have three main options for camp sites:
- Paid campgrounds
- Cheap Aires
- Free or wild camping
Paid Camping across Europe
If you plan to use camp grounds in Europe my best recommendation is to purchase an ACSI camping card.
ACSI is a non-peak season discount program containing over 3000 campsites around Europe.
We saved hundreds of dollars camping through Europe in the low and shoulder seasons over the 5 months with our ACSI card.
You need to order this before you arrive in Europe (unless you have a friend who is local) and make sure you allow plenty of time to receive the membership card and guides.
We bought them directly from ACSI and had them sent to a UK address. They took about 6 weeks to arrive.
It was worth paying a little extra for access to their mobile app as it was a good way to search for campsites in the general direction we were heading in.
We also suggest you don’t rely too much on camp site reviews. Also, don’t believe bigger is always better.
Often in the larger campgrounds the actual sites were small and expensive. Look for smaller, locally run campsites, or look for free campsites.
Cheap Camping in Europe
One of the best ways to save money when touring in Europe by campervan is to stay at Aires. Aires are simple sites set up specifically for people travelling Europe in a motorhome.
Three great resources to find these sites are:
Europe has an extensive network of Aires and they are perfect for RV camping in Europe.
They cannot be booked in advance and typically have a waste dump point, fresh water and toilets. Sometimes they have electricity hookups and showers.
The sites fill up quickly in summer so make sure you arrive by early afternoon to have a chance at a spot.
We occasionally used these but found them not to be ideal for stops of more than one night with the kids.
We also strongly recommend checking out memberships such as France Passion.
They offer free overnight camping in wineries and farms for members. A similar system was operating in Portugal too.
Free Camping in Europe
We found the park4night app to be an excellent resource for finding free or wild camping sites in Europe.
Download park4night. Click for
Apple Store download (iOS)
Google Store download (Android)
This app lists free (and fee based) camping sites all over Europe.
The sites and ratings are all user-generated. The sites range from supermarket car parks to gorgeous spots along the coastline.
It is available offline if you pay the small monthly fee and we recommend paying for this option.
TBH we thought we would free camp way more than we did. It is a great money saver and was much easier in some countries and places than others.
I wish we had found this guide to wild camping before our trip, as it gives a great overview of what you can and can’t do, plus recommends hundreds of good stops based on personal experience.
But in reality we had a 7 metre, 3.5 tonne, 2 wheel drive van that couldn’t sneak down little dirt tracks.
We found we stressed more when stopping in a carpark with the kids as they couldn’t go off and explore.
If I am honest, sometimes the effort to search for a free camp was beyond me at the end of a long day driving with the kids.
But, there are many people who travel all over Europe and rarely pay for a campsite. It is definitely worth doing.
Note that free camping is illegal in some countries (such as Croatia) and in others they make it hard to find a place to stop (such as Italy).
Some countries allow it in the off season but not through summer. Take a look, give it a go and see what works for you.
If you want to know more about wild camping in Europe, this wild camping guide is a fantastic resource.
It outlines how to stay legal, how to choose the best places to camp and much, much more. Click here to find out more.
Booking Camp sites
Our best tip when you are planning your road trip by campervan in Europe is not to book too much. Resist the temptation to book anything in advance!
We had a very high level view of the countries we wanted to visit and in what order, but did not book anything before we started. We decided every couple of days where we would go next.
This approach gives you so much freedom to be flexible, to stay longer at places you like, to take up recommendations you receive along the way, or choose a place based on how everyone is feeling at the time.
We found that if we arrived at a campground by mid-afternoon we always found a site.
However, the summer school holiday periods do require a little planning.
Camp sites get very busy over the school breaks, especially those on the coast or on lakes.
While most campsites have a percentage of their sites that cannot be booked, in order to claim one you will need to arrive very early during the summer.
We dealt with this challenge by heading inland to the mountains during summer where we had no trouble finding accommodation.
So look at visiting less popular places away from the coast during these busy times or be prepared to arrive very early at your destination and cross your fingers.
It is important to plan how to keep your campervan and valuables secure.
Thankfully we were never broken into during our trip but it is worth taking measures to have peace of mind that your stuff is going to stay with you.
Our van was pretty old so we figured it was unlikely to be stolen (there were much better ones around!), but we were more worried about a break in.
Being an older van there was no alarm, no deadlocks and windows that were pretty easy to pull open.
In cities we always stayed either in camp sites or in secure parking stations. We always pulled the blinds down when leaving the van in a car park or on the street.
Often one of us would stay with the campervan when doing grocery shopping if the area didn’t have a good vibe.
We didn’t come across many other travellers who had experienced a break in so there is no need to be overly concerned.
I just really didn’t want the hassle of losing our most important things, so were happy to take precautions.
Pacsafe Portable Safe
One of the things that gave us the most peace of mind was our Pacsafe Portable Safe.
It is a theft proof bag that can be used to store valuables in your van. We used the Pacsafe Travelsafe Portable Safe to lock our passports, documents and devices in when we weren’t in the campervan.
The bag was secured under one of the seats to lock it to the van. If we were free camping we would also secure it at night.
This bag has been one of our best travel purchases. We take it on every trip and use it everywhere we stay.
>> Click here to check the price and size options for the Pacsafe Portable safe.
In a past life eating out and experiencing the local food was a key part of any trip.
However, when you are feeding 4 people every day for 5 months in Europe, eating out quickly becomes a huge expense!
So if you are keen to save money, plan to cook most meals in the van.
To try and stay on budget we rarely ate out, but we still found ways to experience the local food.
Browsing the aisles at the supermarket for local treats and buying smaller snacks/treats when we were out sightseeing became our cheaper way of experiencing the local food.
We recommend purchasing a camping recipe cookbook.
In the book we purchased every recipe could be cooked on a gas top. This ultimate RV cookbook was a great resource and we used it every day during our trip.
>> Click here to check the price for the camp cookbook.
Other essential kitchen items were:
- A stove top coffee maker for great coffee every day. We love our little Bialetti Moka Pot and it comes with us whenever we travel by camper van. Click here to check the price.
- A gas stove toast maker.
- Unbreakable wine glasses. Tumblers work just fine too, but these just add a little extra!
It is a good idea to do your grocery shop on route between destinations.
Campgrounds are often not close to the shops and it is annoying to pack the van up to go to the supermarket once you arrive and set up camp.
Look for large supermarket chains to spend less, buy in bulk and shop less frequently.
Lidl and Aldi were by far the cheapest supermarkets in Europe.
We would look them up in Google maps while driving and make a detour to shop there on the way to our next camp site.
They may not have the best range of products but they saved us HUGE amounts of money.
We can highly recommend that you buy beer, wine and spirits at the discount supermarkets.
We found many drinkable wines in the 2-4 euro price bracket and even found a decent bottle of gin at Aldi for 7 euros.
Admittedly our standards are lower when on a campervan road trip, but we still want to enjoy a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day!
Tracking your Europe Road Trip Costs
We recommend you set a budget and track your spending. I know if sounds boring, but it is not much fun if you plan to travel for 6 months and run out of cash in 3.
Costs can easily get out of hand, especially if you are doing a lot of activities, staying at camp sites and eating out.
We researched costs a lot before starting our trip. It is pretty difficult to find this information for a family of 4 and we just had to go with our gut a bit.
We set a budget by country, tracked it each day and reviewed it on a monthly basis.
Having a budget helped us make adjustments to our trip when we needed to in order to stay on track.
There are a number of mobile apps out there to track your travel spending once you are on the road.
The one we love and use is Trabee Pocket. It allows you to easily track all your spending by country and category in the local and home currency on the go.
Download Trabee Pocket. Click for
Apple Store download (iOS)
Google Store download (Android)
You can also export your costs to other applications such as excel where you can track your overall travel budget. We highly recommend this app.
If you decide to purchase a van in Europe and need to transfer funds internationally, we use and recommend Wise.
Wise offer competitive exchange rates without the huge fees charged by the banks and make international money transfers so simple.
Set up is quick and money can be transferred quickly and easily. Click here find out more about Wise.
Important Documents to Carry
Ensure you have a printed copy of the insurance papers and rental agreement/proof of ownership handy. Old school I know, but trust me, it is required!
We made the mistake of only having a soft copy of our camper insurance papers available on our mobile phone.
On crossing the border from Montenegro to Bosnia, we had to deal with a very irate Bosnian border officer who insisted that only a paper copy would do.
We were in the middle of nowhere and were forced to purchase additional van insurance at the border. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good day.
Also take originals of everyone’s birth certificates and marriage certificate.
You never know if and when you may need them and it is almost impossible to get them once you are touring Europe and moving regularly.
Ready To Plan Your Trip?
We have shared a bunch of information here for you to get started.
But if you are ready to get into the detail of trip planning, we highly recommend you take a look at the Europe Motorhoming Travel Toolkit by motorhome experts, Wandering Bird.
They have been exploring Europe fulltime for the best part of 3 years and share all their best tips and experience with you in one handy toolkit that offers outstanding value.
So what’s inside? The toolkit includes:
- Detailed Europe motorhome travel ebook
- Printable checklists
- Video tutorials
- In depth guide to off-grid camping in Europe
- Motorhome security guide, log book and MORE!
If you have started planning your first motorhome trip to Europe, this toolkit is hands down the best purchase you can make for stress free trip planning.
>> Click here to check the price and find out more
Final Travel Europe By Campervan Advice
Last but not least try and get off the beaten path on your tour of Europe.
While Western Europe offers many beautiful destinations, some of our favourite places were small towns in Eastern Europe. These countries are also significantly cheaper to travel in.
The beauty of traveling Europe in a motorhome is that you aren’t constrained by train or bus lines or hotels. You can travel anywhere!
This style of travel presents you with a great deal of freedom that you can’t achieve when traveling any other way.
Our Europe campervan trip was one of the highlights of our family gap year.
We heartily recommend it as a family friendly way to travel and cannot wait to plan another trip.
If you are planning to RV through Europe and you have questions, please let us know in the comments below or contact us – we are happy to help.
Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Have we missed anything in our Motorhome in Europe guide? Leave your best tips for touring Europe in a campervan!
Read more about travel to Europe
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- The best campervan accessories to buy
- Family Cycling Trip along the Danube River
- How to travel the world with kids
- Montenegro in pictures
- Triglav National Park, Slovenia
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17 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Europe by Campervan”
Rachel: THANK YOU so much for the comprehensive info! This one post answered 99% of my What About questions.
Hi Jodi, That’s great – there is a lot to learn when planning a Europe campervan trip. I’m glad we could help you out.
I loved reading up on your advice .
I am planning a 6 to 12 month trip around Europe.
Just my wife and myself.
Age 55 to 60 .
We are pretty seasonal van travelers around Aus .
Seeing your comments about the road access in off road camps answered my question regarding the size of van .
I will be taking 2 x bikes .
Is it worth getting an electric bike for my wife ?
She hates hills .
Also is there opportunities to tour across country a little by bikes .
Maybe stay is B and Bs .
One more thing did you see many travelers who carried a small boat and motor?
I fond this a terrific part of my trips around Aus.
Hope you can put a bit of light on these subjects.
Central coast NSW
Thanks for your message. We saw plenty of people with electric bikes in Europe – they are popular, so worth considering. There are plenty of opportunities to tour by bike in France, Germany and Austria. You can read about our bike tour along the Danube in this article https://www.adventureandsunshine.com/4-day-family-cycling-trip-danube-austria/ We didn’t see many campervans towing boats – but I am sure it is possible. It really depends where you want to travel. The challenge with Europe compared to Australia and the US is the size of many roads is small and narrow, which makes it especially challenging with long or wide vans, particularly in towns and mountain areas. Good luck planning your trip!
Just want to say thank you for your answer. Much appreciated.
We already made a budget (was around 200AUD$ per day) which then seems realistic since we are traveling without kids.
Kind regards Christian
Hi Rachel, thanks for a great guide. We are looking at Rving in europe for 3 months (maybe longer) from Dec 20/21 winter with 2 kids who will be 8. We want to do some skiing in Austria and Italy and also want to take advantage of school holidays and low work commitments during those months in AUS. Hence the time of year. When i was a kid my parents took us on a 12 month trip through europe in an RV, mainly free camping with no heating when off grid and we survived, but that was the 70’s and we spent the winter mainly in southern europe.
Im interested in what months you travelled and whether you think winter in and around the alps in a heated RV is a good idea. We could go a bit later and still ski through to easter, but im thinking that even if we do push the trip ending out to April, we may as well still go in Dec or Jan because work is slow and kids are on holdiays.
Hi Tony, we traveled over the summer months from May through September, so I can’t give specific advice for RVing in winter. However, our van had a great heater and we were always warm when inside the van. My biggest concerns would be where to put all the ski gear (and where to dry it) and the fact you may need to spend a lot of time inside the van together. If you were skiing for just a short period that would probably be fine if you could find a campsite open where you could hang and dry your gear. Heading to southern europe over Dec/Jan is a great idea – it will still be cool, so not beach weather, but will be much quieter. Note however that many smaller areas all but close down over winter so consider where you want to go and check how much will be open over that time.
Sounds like a really good trip.
My girlfriend and i are thinking about taking a campervan Europe tour for +6 months…so we are ofcause interested in your trip.
Is your budget to find here on this site?
If not, can you share it?
if yes, some level of details would be nice so that we can adjust it to our needs.
really nice site you have here. Thanks 🙂
Kind regards Christian
and are spec
Hi Christian, we haven’t shared our costs on the blog, yet. Costs will vary enormously from person to person dependent on a lot of factors. Number of people, countries you visit, the size of van, whether you free camp or pay for campgrounds and how many paid activities you do. We traveled for 20 weeks with 2 adults and 2 school aged children. We mostly paid for campgrounds. Our average cost per day was $250 AUD. That includes the van, petrol and gas, laundry, campsites, food, sightseeing and activities, visas, public transport, equipment we bought for the van etc. Hopefully that is helpful! It is possible to travel much cheaper than that for 2 people who free camp more often and are able to buy and sell the van independently.
I know that Full time traveling is really hard for those who never tried any dare in normal life but peoples like you are real-life heroes. who never step back from any problem and fight with this. and your adventure always gives you great memories…. I like to read it and would like to read more n more about your van life…. Keep it up…. love all of you…
Great guide. We are at the beginning of considering a camping trip in Europe so glad to find your guide. Thanks for sharing
What great tips. We plan to travel Europe by camper van in summer next year and are just going through the shall we buy or rent scenarios. Previously rented for a month in NZ #FarawayFiles
It is a tough decision and depends on a lot of factors, with time being the biggest one. It is a fab place to visit by camper though! We would love to explore NZ by camper – one day!
What great tips Rachel. I think my favourites are – use a physical map and know the dimensions of your vehicle. We learned about those (again!) the hard way in Sicily and we only had a medium sized car. Google maps is certainly not your friend in some situations. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles
Agreed, Katy. In a world full of online content, the physical map was still well used. I can’t recall how many times we cursed our Sat Nav or google maps! In a camper you definitely need to do a little research before you set off.
Great info here! I hope to one day go on a RV trip closer to home (across Canada, at least for my first taste of RV travel!), and even though that isn’t Europe, I think the pointers you’ve shared here are relevant! I had no clue that guaranteed buy-back ‘programs’ existed!
Thanks Bryna. The buy back schemes are a great compromise between buying and renting. Not sure of any companies in Canada who offer it. Let me know if you find one – we would love to do an RV trip across Canada!