Today we’re sharing our Top Apps for Motorhome Stopovers, which have made touring so much easier to all our lives.
Do you remember when there wasn’t even an English book of Aires? Gosh, it’s hard to believe now! It seemed so exciting buying that first publication, the first of many.
So with technology now at our fingertips, let’s first have a look at the background to Apps and how they evolved. Next, we’ll look at options available to find that perfect motorhome stopover, whether it be an Aire, campsite or alternative scheme.
Rewind to 2005 when the only way to find Aires, other than just coming across them, was to buy a book. These would come in French or German etc, so weren’t ideal if you didn’t know the language.
Initially, you could only buy these in country or by sending away for them. Then came the first English published book of Aires in France – how exciting! So much so, that I remember taking photos of Aires and sending them off on a disc for the next years publication!
Although the book was really thin in those early days, it wasn’t long before it grew. Then, the amount of content it contained expanded too.
Eventually, “All The Aires” books became the Bible to finding Motorhome Stopovers. Not only in France but for many other countries too.
These books educated us, at the same time as providing locations for parking overnight. Not forgetting, they only listed legitimate, authorised parking areas – so you knew you wouldn’t wake to a fine!
One other advantage was the fact that they gave detailed information on the rules of Aires, such as ‘No Camping” and being Self-Contained. As well as showing photographs of types of service points, how to use them and much more.
Of course, you can still buy books from Vicarious Books in the UK and there’s nothing wrong with that, especially for those new to motorhome travel.
Advances in technology and the arrival of smart phones brought changes to how we searched for somewhere to stop. It wasn’t long before Apps entered the scene when mobile data roaming began in earnest.
Next, mobile service providers began changing the rules on using data in Europe. So, we could roam without extra charges – what a difference this made. It’s worth remembering that data is still capped abroad. Check each country, but most often it’s 20GB although it can be lower.
Soon, Apps already on the market would change the way we searched for stopovers forever. Finally, more App businesses began tapping into the scene, bringing more choice than ever before.
More recently again, Apps for motorhome stopovers gave options to download data on to a Sat Nav, you could also buy a Sat Nav with the data already built in.
Finally, the option of browsing offline made things even easier.
Well today is the first day of life after leaving the Eu. So as yet, we’re unsure what this entails for data roaming in Europe, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. All official advice states to check with your own service provider on their new rules on limits and charges if any.
One App that was early on in the motorhome stopover trend was Campercontact.
Campercontact started out in 2003 as a book, before being published on DVD. It then embraced the technological era and new products available. The App has been a valued accessory to our own travels for some years now.
It’s roots are with the Camper Club of The Netherlands and it basically lists 3 types of facilities:
Campsites; Dedicated Motorhome Stopovers and Motorhome service/dump areas.
There aren’t many “Wild Camping’ spots listed, because it’s never really been their philosophy to promote this side to parking overnight.
Having said that, it’s often the public that submit details of parking locations, therefore, some may slip through the net. With that in mind it’s best to check overnight parking, incase it’s not an authorised place.
For example, this local search shows one car park with overnight parking prohibited, however, it’s still on the App.
When it came to searching for campsites, there were only a few options – to buy books and join organisations or drive and look!
One things for certain, if a campervan isn’t Self-Contained then a campsite will usually be needed. In addition, in some countries a Campsite or similar stays are the only legal option. So, sometimes a campsite type stay is the only way to go.
Sometimes, it’s just so nice to book into a campsite, have a proper pitch and set up camp, it’s also more sociable in many ways. Last but not least, there’s nothing better than have a proper shower block from time to time!
Thankfully, websites makes searching easier, but in the early days, some were very basic and not all offered online booking facilities or showed availability.
Nowadays, most campsite providers have moved on. Offering excellent websites and those organisations which involve membership, will also have an App, in addition to a website and a book.
Here’s a selection of Campsites guides:
We’ve been members of The Caravan and Motorhome Club since 1997 and to be honest we love it!
Our early days of caravanning and motorhoming were nurtured in the safety of the club sites network and their overseas travel service.
For UK trips, the Club provides that reassurance we need of a first class site, yet without all the bells and whistles of larger sites.
It provides all the settings of adventure without the draw backs and within a range of excellent locations. Above all, the sites are immaculately presented, specious and evolving to bring ever more sustainable amenities.
They have an excellent App and website, making searching and booking direct easy. By joining the Club, you’re also gaining access to their CL or Certified Location network. This is small sites, which take up to 5 vans at a variety of privately run locations, making it ideal for a low-key stay.
Early on in our motorhome “career” a scheme which had actually started in 1993 – France Passion was becoming more popular. Once again, the earlier books were thin on the ground for places to stop, but we joined all the same.
Thankfully, in 2020, they finally launched an App, making the joining fee of €30 per year even more inviting.
France Passion is a scheme enabling Self-Contained Motorhomes – e.g those with on-board toilets & water tanks etc to stay overnight at various producers.
This could be a Vineyard, an Orchard or a farm amongst others and provide a great alternative for those wanting a more rural, laid-back feel.
Several years after we switched from touring caravans to motorhome travel, another familiar British company also began a scheme – Brit Stops.
These have established links with various establishments across the UK from pubs to farm shops. Once again, the scheme is for Self-Contained motorhomes only, with on-board toilet, water & waste tanks etc.
It’s not for camping in any form but allows a convenient, free 24-hour stop in exchange for the hopeful purchase of food or drink or produce etc from the landowner.
Finally, there’s no App yet, but we’re listing it anyway.
Our introduction to finding “Wild Camping” spots by using technology, used to be on a wild camping website. Actually, it was a forum with an annual fee. Most significantly, it had maps and people could submit a location of a place where they’d parked overnight – Wow, this was so new at the time.
Back then, the nearest to portable internet was a laptop with a dongle for wi-fi. To be honest, it wasn’t even worth the effort of carrying round with us in the motorhome, as it was pretty useless! So the research had to be done before leaving the house.
Unfortunately, our “Wild Camping” days weren’t to last much longer, because times were changing. More rules came in to stop overnight parking in many parts of Europe and often height barriers were erected to stop high vehicles. In many places signs displaying the rules and detailing fines to those breaking them appeared.
For us, our “Wild Camping” days were left behind some years ago!
First, it’s important to remember when “Wild Camping”, that each country has its own rules. Secondly, just because it’s on an App, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an authorised place to park the night.
For example, in most parts of the UK, those wanting to “Wild Camp” should have the permission of the landowner.
Most Apps allow the public to submit a location to the App provider. Often, this is without gaining permission of the land owner and may simply be “Joe Blogs” posting a picture, writing a few words and pressing send.
For example, imagine a shady woodland setting, an idyllic campervan parked under the trees and a quote saying something like ” I had a quiet night sleep without any bother”.
Occasionally, someone will state they’ve stayed, despite a sign saying “no overnight camping” or “no motorhomes”. I always think, just because one person has got away with it, it doesn’t make it right for the next person to do the same!
When searching locally, a number of areas came up which I know are not overnight parking areas, so caution should be had.
There are several of their locations which I know have signs the same as the one shown below, yet these locations are still listed on some Apps.
Here’s a screenshot from the Natural Resources Wales website, who maintain and operate various locations across Wales. It shows details of a court case from October 2020, the fines imposed are not for the faint hearted!
This is a French company that used to be more for “Wild Camping” locations.
It’s one that we’ve had on our phone since it first emerged but personally, I could never take to it. Thankfully, the App owners seem to be taking more of a commitment to promoting “Responisble parking”, something that has lacked in the past in our opinion.
Here’s a snapshot of their new, more responsible promotion supposedly to be endorsed by those who use the App.
There are also now more campsites and Aires listed on Park4Night, along with service/dump areas. Although there are “Wild Camping” locations still included, it does make us wonder if these will be reduced further as time goes on.
It’s worth noting that once again, locations aren’t necessarily regulated or legal places to park overnight. For example, here’s a screenshot from their website.
Interestingly, when I searched for places I know locally, once again it showed some overnight parking at locations which do not allow overnight parking!
This is one of the more popular campsite schemes which began in 1965. It’s a Netherlands operated business which also have an office in India.
In order to join ACSI you need to pay a yearly fee, in return you have access to their member campsites which are all listed in a book. Along with the book comes a card and also access to the App (subject to correct subscription).
Basically all this gives discount to the selected campsites at various rates. However, when we joined we were told by other travellers that it’s sometimes cheaper to book without ACSI at a campsite!
Initially we thought this was a bit strange, but soon found the advice given to be correct! Yes, despite paying for the ACSI scheme, before paying at campsites, when we asked what the non-ACSI prices were, they were often cheaper!
This App and website lists pretty much everything you can think of! From campsites and Aires to CL’s and CS’s and stopovers to “wild camping” spots, there doesn’t seem to be much it doesn’t offer.
Once again, some “wild camping” type locations are listed on our local check search, which may not necessarily be authorised places to park overnight!
If anything, this App lists a bit too much information, but this may suit some people.
The other big club in the UK also has an excellent App and website. We’ve been members for a number of years and the choice of sites makes it an ideal way to tour within the UK and abroad.
By joining this club you’re also accessing their CS network of Certified Sites which can take up to 5 vans. These are ideal for low-key stays in a variety of locations, giving a more intimate feel.
This super new scheme allows fully self-contained motorhomes to stay for up to 24 hours, in a variety of host locations throughout Portugal. There’s no book or annual joining fee, so it’s fuss-free to use!
The principal is simple – choose a location or host from the website. https://portugaleasycamp.com/en/
This could be a vineyard or any kind of local producer such as fruit, cheese, honey etc. Next pay online using either PayPal or credit card – then when you arrive at the host, you will receive a welcome pack of produce!
So there is no fee as such for the parking place, as you buy the local produce instead. You should book beforehand (up to 24 hours before) and as usual with these type of schemes, there won’t be waste/water service areas.
The authorities in Portugal are extremely keen with rules on not allowing “Wild Camping”. So, this scheme is a welcome and safe alternative to those wanting a more relaxed place to stop the night – perfect!