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So, You Wanna Go On a Road Trip?
Researching and planning motorhome trips can take a lot of work, or none at all depending on how you want to travel.
Find out how to plan an epic motorhome road trip in our ultimate guide complete with step by step road trip planner.
How Do You Like to Travel?
It sounds obvious, but where do you want to go in your motorhome or campervan and how will you be travelling?
- are you touring Europe, UK or further afield?
- do you like sun, sea and sand or mountains and skiing?
- do you want towns, cities and nightlife
- or solitude and wide open spaces?
- do you like full-on road trips or do you prefer getting there? Do you want to travel hell for leather down the auto routes to have as much time at your destinations as possible or will you mosey around slow travelling and long distance driving?
- with or without kids? (if its with, don’t forget to take some road trip games!)
- how you want to overnight? Are you wild camper or do you want to be on a site, able to pitch up and relax for a few days?
- how long do you have? Are you full-timing or is this a motorhome holiday with an end date? This will naturally dictate how far you can go and whether you can take a more circuitous route.
- what is your budget? 5* campsites or village car-park freebies?
- is this a once in a lifetime longer trip or a holiday?
- are you a motorhome beginner looking to take your first trip or are you planning on living in a motorhome in Europe?
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Once you understand the answers to these questions, then you will have a good idea of how your motorhome road trip is going to look; all you have to do now is agree the finer details to ensure you nail your motorhome road trip planning!
Where, When & How Are You Taking Your Motorhome Road Trip?
Where Are You Going?
The biggest question of all when planning a motorhome trip! There are so many variables here which will affect your choice; time, money, likes and dislikes. Hopefully by this point you know where you’re going, but if you don’t, you can find inspiration and ideas below.
When Are You Going?
You may be tied by school holidays or work commitments, but ideally you need at least a few weeks (longer if possible) to plan ahead. If you’re retired you can be a bit more spontaneous but the earlier you can plan, the cheaper ferries and sites will be.
Look up the national holidays of countries you are visiting, it can be difficult to get an ad-hoc pitch on a campsite or aire during these times, so be prepared. Book in advance or get there a few days before the national holiday to secure your place.
If you need to, you can always find somewhere to free camp or park for the night using these resources.
How Are You Getting There?
There are so many routes out of the UK on a boat when taking a motorhome to Europe that I’m not going to attempt to list them here! Needless to say, book your ferry as soon as you can to get the best price.
How to travel in a motorhome will depend on how much time and money you have! If you use the motorways be prepared for some hefty toll fees (dependent on size and weight) particularly in France.
There are a number of numberplate recognition schemes which mean you can go through the toll without a barrier and the linked credit card will be charged monthly, or you can pay by card or cash at the booth. Emovis, Eurowag and Eurotoll are amongst the biggest auto-pay providers, they make motorhome travel in Europe a bit simpler.
We try not to use toll roads and usually set our san nav to avoid them. But if time is tight and you prefer to use easier motorhome routes through Europe then it is worth some research if you intend to travel this way.
A top tip to use in France is if charged as Class 3 at the booth, click the communication button and say “Je suis une camping car” in your best French, chances are they will make you a Class 2 and save you a few euros.
Check our our country specific motorhome touring guides for more information on tolls in specific countries.
Motorhome Route Planner Europe & UK
Step One – The Big Picture
For driving routes across large geographical areas, such as motorhome routes through Europe, use a fold-out paper trip planner map like this one with post-it notes to mark the destinations we are interested in. You can see the whole route laid out in this way although yo do need a big table!
For smaller routes, such as motorhome routes in UK, we use Google Maps Maps on a tablet (you could also do this on a laptop but a phone might be too small) to start plotting and planning.
Either way, it’s about starting with some suggestions and refining from there. See our favourite motorhome road trip planning tools below, and if you happen to be planning your epic motorhome road trip in the US, then check out these RV trip planner tools.
Step Two – Anchor Dates & Places
Agree a few ‘anchor’ dates and places. This may be a particular mountain you want to climb, a boat to catch, a site you’re booked in to or an attraction you have tickets for. You should always have two anchor places and dates; your start and finish points!
Use Google My Maps to create a route you can save and share. You need to have a Google account to use My Maps, which you can open from any Google home page.
Open Google My Maps in a browser (you can’t do this in the app) and click the three stacked buttons on the top left of the page. Select ‘create a new map’. Click the ‘legend’ tab on the top left of your new map and use the three dots to rename your map.
Use the search bar to type in your chosen destination or drop a pin (hold your finger or click your mouse on the place in the map and a pin will appear). A section will appear on the screen with details of the place. Click ‘add to map’ – at this stage you can also edit and add information about the place if you wish. Continue to input your anchor places in this way.
Once they are inputted, including your first and last destinations, under the search bar, click the arrow button, to add directions. a new layer will open in the side bar and you can then start typing in the names of the destinations you added to the map.
Type them in in the order in which you’ll be visiting and My Maps will create the route. Your map is automatically saved when you leave the My Maps site.
You now have a really visual way of seeing clusters of places you want to go and will help identify the places that are maybe a bit out of the way and those that can be visited in a day.
This will help you rationalise and plot your campervan road trip with enough time to cover all your anchors. Use our road trip planner to help you keep track of everything.
Step Three – Add the Finer Detail
Now that you have an idea of your route, pick up a travel guide book, check out our destinations and incredible wild camping spots or use the internet to research where you want to go and what you want to see on your UK or European motorhome tour.
Add these new ideas to your Google My Map using the steps above and start to see how it looks in detail. Short hops give you time to travel in the morning and enjoy your destination in the afternoon. Remember to factor in time for both. By now, your route is almost complete.
One thing to remember…leave some fudge factor so that if you fall in love with somewhere you can stay longer…after all, chilling is what it’s all about!
Step Four – Save & Share Your Route
Your My Map is already saved and will be available on all your synced devices (unfortunately, right now Google My Maps cannot be used to navigate). If you want to share your map with someone else, click the share button and Google can share your map by email with a contact or you can copy a link to send however you choose.
Top Motorhome Road Trip Planning Resources
Top Road Trip Stopover Apps
Park4Night is a great free app resource (can be accessed offline but you need to pay for this) listing places to stop from motorhome aires and campsites to free fields and laybys. We started off as seeing this as the last chance saloon but it is now our go to resource when looking for places to wild camp. Pay £10 a year for the ability to use offline.
Campercontact is a similar concept to Park4Night which can also be set up as an app. This will help you to find free campsites and aires as well as wild camping spots. Easy to navigate and our second go-to if Park4Night does not play ball!
Billed as ‘the easy way to find campsites, campervan and motorhome stopovers across Europe’. We find the searchforsites website a bit messy but if you’re looking for a site that isn’t ACSI it’s useful.
Yes, you’ve guessed it! Camperstop is s imilar to those above and our fourth go-to!
ACSI is a a great resource for cheap out of season sites with discounted rates, although generally these sites cannot be booked in advance if you want to take advantage of the ACSI CampingCard rate. The pack comes with books and an app which makes for a handy camping route planner to help manage your overnight stops.
All The Aires
All the Aires are helpful and informative books for motorhome travel in Europe. You have to deploy a little imagination sometimes as the pictures don’t always do the aire justice. Some are free and some you pay for and the quality can vary from absolutely dire to 5 star and they cannot be pre-booked.
Brit Stops is a UK based scheme with sites far and wide, from the deep south west to the north of Scotland, which utilised pub car parks for camper van and motorhome overnight parking. There is no fee and no obligation but most people will have a drink or eat a meal in the pub. Services are usually limited although fresh water is often available. Many Brit Stop sites can also be found on other generic motorhome sites such as Park4Night.
France Passion is a fantastic scheme that allows you to stay with farmers, wine produces, cheese makers and so on, on their land and free of charge.
A new-comer to Portugal and a great alternative to wild camping in a motorhome, Portugal EasyCamp is similar to France Passion but operates in a slightly different way (no app). You go online and buy a product before heading to the farm or vineyard where you can then stay for 24 hours. The scheme is in its’ infancy with 48 vineyards signed up and certainly worth a try if you are heading to Portugal. Read our review of Portugal EasyCamp here.