How to find cheap campsites

Camping Municipal de la Baie St Michel

Camping Municipal de la Baie St Michel, Hautes Alpes, France.

If you intend to travel around the UK quite a lot with a motorhome, caravan or even a tent, you may be able to save money by joining one of the camping clubs. There are really only two choices and these are: ‘The Caravan Club‘and ‘The Camping and Caravanning Club‘.

There isn’t really much to choose from between them. As you might have guessed The Caravan Club does tend towards the use of caravans rather than  motorhomes, but in reality it’s only a few of the very small sites that allow caravans but not motorhomes.

The real benefit both of these clubs is the very small sites which only have five pitches. In The Caravan Club these are called Certified Locations or more commonly just CL. In the The Camping and Caravanning Club the equivalent sites are called Certified Sites or CS. Typically you can stay at these sites with a motorhome, two adults and two children for somewhere between £10 and £15 per night and quite often that will include electricity too.

If you’re travelling in France it is always worth trying to find the municipale campsites which generally tend to be near any sort of sportsground or football pitch in the smaller towns. Unfortunately in more recent years many of these municipale campsites have become privately owned and consequently aren’t as cheap as they once were. In France the high season is always July and August and sometimes June too, so if you can try and stay out of these months then you will be able to get cheaper sites.

Do also bear in mind that in France and many other European countries there are the Aires de Camping car or equivalent. In France in particular these are all over the place and once again can be found in very public places such as near swimming pools and ski lifts. These provide an excellent and sometimes free service for motorhome stopovers. You can sometimes get electricity and you can almost always find somewhere empty your chemical toilet and waste water. You can easily spend two weeks in a motorhome in France without ever having to go to a real campsite.

There is also a new website that sprang up recently which has a mobile phone app that will show you places where you can stay for free or very cheap cheaply. The service was started up in France and is spreading throughout the rest of Europe, but at the moment most of the locations it refers to our in France.

As you move into Spain you would tend to think that the cheaper sites would be inland, which to some extent is true. But quite often you can find cheap campsites that are actually quite near the coast that are real bargains. In fact if you haven’t got anything booked, this might be the way to go anyway as sometimes finding campsites inland in Spain can be a bit hit and miss.

If you feel adventurous then try wild camping, but do be careful. Generally we found that in the UK there aren’t that many places where somebody will complain, especially if you’re near a town. However there are lots of out of the way picnic areas in the countryside where it is perfectly possible to stay at least overnight, for free. If you don’t mind staying in a pub car park then it is always worth asking the landlord of the pub if you can stop overnight. More often than not, particularly out of the country, pub landlords are very grateful for any trade they get that if you have a few drinks and maybe meal then quite often they will let you stop overnight.

If you would like to enjoy the deep countryside of Scotland and Wales you will find plenty of places where you can tuck your motorhome away for the night, without anybody noticing.

In the UK there is a scheme called Motorhome Stopovers when you pay an annual fee of about £30 and this entitles you to stay in any of the pub car parks that are in the motorhome stopover scheme. The stopover is free on the condition that you do make a purchase from the pub, on their website it says this can be a Coca-Cola, but hey you don’t need to drive anywhere and you are on private land so why not have a real drink?

It is a very common site, especially in Europe to see motorhomes parked overnight in large out-of-town supermarket car parks. Although I guess this isn’t strictly what the supermarkets would like you to do, it is very probable that the motorhome owners would do a fair amount of shopping at supermarket and will also probably feel up with diesel there too. So I guess a blind eye is turned as they assume that the occupants will probably spend a few hundred euros at least.

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