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Best Books for Camping Europe

June 21, 2010

Camping Europe road trip best books

Camping is one of the best and cheapest ways to see Europe and a fantastic way to meet Europeans. Hostels and hotels can be quite expensive in Europe for families and unlike apartment rentals, there are usually lots of amenities like pools, health clubs and kids clubs included, which can make them ideal for traveling families. We see singles, couples, retirees, young folks and families, so there appears to be something for everyone and they almost always have rentals so you don't even need a tent or motor home.  There is not a city or tourist site in Europe that doesn't have a camping site nearby and I've written about a few of our favorite campsites in Europe.

  Camping Europe road trip Barcelona beach resort soultravelers3

This is our campsite in one of our favorite places  at a Beach Resort in Barcelona.

Here are the camping books that have helped us the most ( please buy them through our shopping link if you are going to purchase them or click through to Amazon from here or use our easy amazon link to the left):

1) Europe by Van Motorhome  -Before you go, read this book by David Shore and Patty Campbell. We found it to be the best "how-to" guide from a couple who has been camping Europe every year for decades. The author, David,  was very helpful to us before we left and he tells you all the possibilities on where and how to rent or buy an RV. You don't need it with you, but it is a great prep book. 

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2) Travelers Guide to European Camping-  This book by Mike & Terri Church is the best book by far for camping in Europe and you can see by it's worn out state that it has been our "bible" for the road. It is the easiest to use and gives the best detailed information about campsites and countries. Every campsite listing has a GPS code, map and good directions. The only draw back is that it is dated now, so a few campsites have closed. but even with that drawback, almost 100% are still there as campgrounds don't change that often, so still a superior guide. You can counter the downside if you are going to a far off the beaten track area and arriving late, by just calling ahead to make sure they are open and have room. Something that is easily done from the office of any campsite when you check out and they will do it for you if you do not speak the language.  This book is very useful whether one is camping by car and tent or motorhome as the Church's have done both in Europe. You could also use it or the next two if you want to "camp" by staying in bungalows, cottages or various rentals as almost all campsites in Europe have such.

3) Camping Europe- Carol Mickelsen has car camped in Europe for 25 years, so is a big fan of it and demonstrates how it can easily be done on just 50 to 60 dollars a day. Lots of good tips on various areas around Europe, including Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and ways to make the most of your trip inexpensively,  but not a whole lot of information about individual campsites. 

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4) Alan Rogers Europe-
I prefer the first three American authored books that I named above since I am an American and coming from that perspective, but this is the best European camping book in my opinion. Like Church's book, he picks good campsites and gives good details. This is my number two book if I'm looking for a campsite. It is more geared to the European perspective, so many of the campsites are for "holidays" and some of that type are too commercial for us, but I've also found some small gems. It is not organized as well as Church's book, doesn't give as much information, doesn't always have GPS and it is harder to find things in it. I didn't buy this book or Mickelsen's, but picked them up for free when we bought/leased our motorhome (from people who had left them for others to use when their trip was done. ). Still, I'm really glad that I have had this book with us. We've used the 2006 version and have never run into any problems with that. Although, again, it is always a good idea to call ahead when you leave a campsite, especially in high season, just to make sure that the next one is open and has room. We never book ahead and have never had a problem not getting into a campsite even in high season, but it's good to arrive early and call ahead when ever in doubt.

5) Caravan Club Caravan Europe 1 and 2- These books were highly recommended, but we have hardly used them and frankly, I hate them and find them almost useless because they are so hard to use. The British really love to camp ( especially by caravan)  and many rave about camping in the UK, but we didn't care for most of the camping in the British Isles and enjoy it much more "on the continent". They do have a lot of campsites in these two books and I have used them on occasion when I was desperate, but they use so many abbreviations that they are more trouble than they are worth. The only really useful thing in these books is there detailed maps and information about mountains in Europe. No one else seems to cover that topic at all and we have found it to be an extremely important one!  Our scariest drives in Europe have been on very steep and dangerous mountain roads and highways ( in our old and very heavy motorhome) so having any information on that topic is essential. 

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6) Travel Atlas- Even though we have a GPS, it is very handy to have this travel atlas. A GPS is not infallible, so there will be times that you want to make sure you are headed in the right direction or just need a map to make the best choice. we find the GPS works best if we are leading it a bit, instead of being totally dependent on it. By chance, I just picked this up second hand for free when we bought our motorhome and it is not even in English, but it has really come in handy. It has every country in it and easy to use.  I'm linking to an English version as that would have been my first choice if I had  bought it.

7) Take your RV to Europe- We bought this book before we left because we weren't sure whether we should buy one in the US and ship it over or buy/lease a motorhome in Europe. It is filled with useful and detailed information for anyone who wants to ship a RV or van to Europe. Shipping and storing is easier than most people realize and is ideal for people who want to do several years of six month jaunts in Europe like this retired couple did with a 23 year old motorhome. We didn't bring this book with us, but it helped greatly in making our decision as it has lots of details about costs.

For us, it made more sense to buy/lease our motorhome in Europe since we didn't already have one. They did it with quite a large motorhome, but as much as I'd like the bigger room inside sometimes, I highly recommend not going bigger than 18 feet long in Europe as it will be much more  limiting.

I plan to write an ebook about RVing and camping  in Europe based on our extensive experience, but we are busy traveling, so it will take me a while to get that done, thus in the meantime these should serve you well. Do you have any questions or something else that you would like covered on this topic?

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Susan

The post gave me an excellent idea of what to do and what to expect.

Susan

The post gave me an excellent idea of what to do and what to expect.

soultravelers3

Susan- Thanks for letting me know...so glad to hear that!

Melissa Read

We too used the Church book before we left, and as a general reference when we were there, but found it did not list enough campgrounds for our travel. We got into trouble traveling in late fall when most Cgs were closed. We found the Caravan club "bible" much like Trailer Life, great as a general reference and to look up sites when we were contemplating visiting an area. I wish more would publish as an Ebook or on CD, can't wait to buy yours when you get it done! Hope you will include some pictures!!

Rick

I have been enjoying your blog and hope to camp Europe as I did many years ago after completing college.
I read somewhere that purchasing a vehicle in EU is no long legal for a non resident.
Can you give us some information on this?
Rick

soultravelers3

Melissa- Thanks for your kind words & input! Late fall can be a challenging time for sure if one is up north. It is really helpful to have several sources as sometimes it takes all of them and some internet help as well. If we have any doubt we call ahead from the campsite we are leaving just to make sure. Pictures are a good idea!

soultravelers3

Rick- I'm not an expert on this but have known lots of people who have done it in several ways through several countries ( UK, Netherlands. Germany mostly). I think they get around it by calling it a "lease"and having a "buy back" so you are not really buying it and it is kind of a glorified long rental. The books above ( David Shores and Church's) go into greater detail. Best to talk to the places that are doing it as each may have their own way of doing it. Or you can ship one from the US if you find that easier.

Lucia

Perfect post since we are just starting to jump on the European camping bandwagon. We have done two trips in the past few weeks and love it. You are so right about it being a great family to travel in Europe especially with kids. I have requested several of the books you mentioned from our library so hoping to get my hands on them soon. One quick question. Have you come across issues with late night Disco music or is that primarily just in Italy? We were warned about it but it didn't experience it until this past weekend. Wasn't at our campground but at the beach across the street. We just wish we had known to ask because it only happens on Friday nights at this particular spot. Also, what is the policy on fires in campgrounds? We haven't seen any with fire pits but we have only just started and all of our European experiences have been in Sicily. Can't wait to read your book and to keep reading similar posts to this one. Thank you!

soultravelers3

Lucia - Glad that it was perfect for you! Camping really is perfect for families and our daughter is having a ball with all her friends here in Barcelona.

Disco music and fires will vary at every campsite. It is not uncommon in the resort ones to have week end disco and entertainment, but usually it ends at midnight. Usually it is family friendly fare. DO ask before you go and also it makes a difference on where you are camped at the site. Obviously the farther away you are from the disco, the quieter it will be. Ear plugs are always good especially for high season, but we have never used them yet.

Not usually fire pits, but we and many have a little BBQ that we are allowed to use.

It's quite a different kind of camping than North America.

Enjoy!

Outrigger Vacation Club

I was going to make reference to how well loved and used those books were! You obviously have been there, done that a few times. I was just wondering, how the accuracy of these books are after a few years. In a world of changing information, where you can constantly change and update on the internet, are books on travel still as effective as they once were? Thanks for the great post, as usual!

soultravelers3

Outrigger- Actually, as I mentioned in the post, it's worked out really well, despite not having the latest book as campsites just don't change that much.

There have been a few minor problems...that is why if we have any doubt we have them call first or we email, just to make sure, but it's almost never a problem.

We do use the internet too, but having the books has been really important and much easier to use often than the internet ( as it's not always available on the road and often is slow and problematic).

We just follow our bliss, so we often change our mind while driving, so then I just use the books to switch to plan B while in route. ;) They sit in a side compartment by my side or up front with snacks, so always easily accessible.

Leah

I know that this is late, but I just want to say thanks for the list!! Bought 2 of the books as we are off on our adventures in Europe from the State with our 2 little guys in the fall!! I was just wondering if you are still using your GPS, and if so, which one do you have? Trying to figure if to get one or not?! Also, I know you had mentioned the car seat vest you had for Mozart, and I was wondering if that was still working out too? Thanks guys....you really are an inspiration!

soultravelers3

Leah- Thanks! So glad to hear that we have been a help and inspiration for you!

We wrote about both the GPS and car seat vest in this post about our top 10:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2008/05/top-10-family-t.html?cid=116669598

Yes, we still love them and use them both, although we use the vest much less now that Mozart is getting bigger as she is not required to use it now. DEFINITELY get the GPS ( also make sure it is hidden from site when you arrive).

It is important to have a map handy as once in a while the GPS leads you on a wild goose chase, but most of the time it is STUPENDOUS!

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2006/09/nuvi-to-new-cou.html#more

Also be VERY aware of weather and distances in the fall. Northern Europe gets cold and rainy quickly...remember we ran into snow in Florence in Oct! Following the weather is KEY to enjoying it as rain and cold makes things miserable quickly.

We bought our GPS in Europe because it was cheaper like that & came with the maps ( we did not need for the US).

Jo

Hi Jeanne, I've got a quick question or two. You wrote that "I highly recommend not going bigger than 18 feet long in Europe as it will be much more limiting." In what way are you limited? (Sorry if that's a dumb question)

I've got a large family with 2 tall teenagers so we would need an rv that sleeps 4 adults and 3 kids. Is it harder to find camping spots for a big RV? And can you take them on ferries?

Thanks for all the work you put into your blog. It has been a blessing to me. Keep up the good work!

soultravelers3

Jo - It's VERY limiting after that size because size is different in Europe, they think small partly because many of the cities and roads are ancient and sized for horses, not cars.

There is a reason why the tiny smart car is so popular in Europe.

Yes, you CAN go bigger, but it will limit you in many ways. The bigger you go, the more the limits.

I would go as small as you can possibly go. One adapts to less space easier than you imagine.

In theory, one could sleep that in our RV, but it would be very tight, so you will probably have to go bigger.

There ARE bigger campers in Europe, but most stay smaller. The family that traveled with 8 kids and a grandpa, used 2 RVs our size. ( they had adult sized, large teen sons too).

The more people you have, the more complicated it will be.

It will be MUCH harder to find a place to camp with a bigger camper ( most campsites do not have any or very few large pitches).

Shouldn't be a problem on ferries, but will cost more as they charge by size.

It gets hard on the smaller roads and it is impossible to avoid ALL small roads. We've had some thrills even with ours...once some boys had to lift it up in a city!

Parking will be more difficult everywhere, including stores to shop for groceries that you will need to do regularly ( camp stores are too expensive to use other than emergencies and have limited supplies).

You will ALL have to adjust to much less space in every way while in Europe. Think tiny. Even going to the bathroom in McDonalds or a restaurant will be a thrill as often you will barely fit. Stair wells tend to be teensy, eensy, usually with no hand rails. etc. etc

Space is on a different level in Europe. I'm 5.8 and it is often very annoying to me, but one adjusts and I hear it is even worse in Asia.

Sometimes we rent cars because even as small as ours is, a little car makes things MUCH easier.

We'd love to have more room inside ( although we have adjusted) but would not want it ANY bigger while driving it. We regularly have to pull in our side view mirrors and and barely squeeze by on a road or turn.

Go for the smallest that you can live with or get use to many limitations in camping and driving to different locations.

How about a private tent for the teen boys?

Aline Batistuti

Hello!
Your blog is greath.
Me and my family, who consiste of me, my husband and a 4years old son, are planing to go to europe, for the fist time.
We are from Brazil, and already a camping family.
Loved your tips, and looking foward to travel as you and your famili.
Xo,
Aline

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