How to plan epic Motorhome trips- 10 essential tips to make it easier

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Planning a Campervan or Motorhome trip? Confused about route planning, how to choose where to go and all the other things you need to know/ organise? Here's everything you need to know to make your motorhome trips a success.


Travelling in a motorhome, RV or camper is one of my absolutely favourite things- and I LOVE planning our next motorhome trips. There are so many incredible places to go, see and explore.

Planning Motorhome Trips

I know everyone reading this has different requirements. Some of you can only travel in school holidays (man, I do NOT miss those days).

Many of you have only a few weeks holiday from work and want to make the most of them. And some of you have as much time as you like- but can't decide where to go or how to plan a route.

Yet, despite these obvious differences in situation, there are MANY similarities on the steps you need to take when you plan a road trip with a motorhome or camper. And that's what we're going to walk through today.

Before we start, be sure to grab your FREE printable road trip planner– you'll find it incredibly useful so you can start organising your trip and keeping everything in one easy-to-find place. Also, if you don't already have your own vehicle, why not book a camper, RV or motorhome rental for the trip.

Best free road trip planner- printable pdf travel planner

Want help planning your road trip?

Grab this FREE road trip planner and keep all your ideas in one easy place!

Use it to organise places to visit, plan your route. keep track of stopovers, GPS co-ordinates & more!


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Planning a Motorhome Road Trip – where to start?

Believe it or not, I get asked this question a LOT. You are not alone in your overwhelm. Just the basic question of WHERE to go can be too complicated for many, especially if they've never planned a motorhome trip before.

NOTE: For the ease of writing, I'm going to pretend you're planning a trip from the UK to Europe, BUT these steps can easily be applied to any and ALL motorhome trips, anywhere in the world.

Getting Started

So, here's a little guide/ checklist to help you figure out where to start your planning:

  • Are you happy to go to a foreign country? Driving on the wrong side, speaking a foreign language, eating foreign foods? Not everyone is, and that's ok. Better to figure that out now, rather than later!
  • How long do you have for your trip?
  • How long do you want to drive for?
  • Are you happy to drive on motorways/ toll roads (ie- you can go further, faster) or do you only want to drive on smaller/ free roads (or a mix of the two?!)
  • Do you want to see/ do something specific?
  • What sort of weather do you hope to enjoy? (Warmer or colder)

Once you've answered those questions, you should have a rough idea on the radius of the area you can reach in your time frame- assuming you have a timeframe of course!

Example destination route planning in Europe

As an example, let’s pretend we’re planning a trip to Germany for next April. We have two weeks (Easter School Holidays) and we are happy to drive on motorways/ toll roads and then take back roads to explore the area once we arrive. 

We want to see castles, ruins and some waterfalls. And we most definitely want to go to a foreign country.

With these parameters, most of Western Europe is open to us. One other criteria (criterion??) we have is we want to go somewhere we haven't been to before 

So we assess our options, have a good look on Instagram and Pinterest and decide to take go to Germany, with specific focus on the Black Forest and Bavaria in Southern Germany. 

It could easily have been Holland, France, Austria, Northern Germany, Belgium or Denmark… all of those fit within our parameters. In the end, sometimes you just have to pick one!

If you ARE planning a motorhome trip to Europe, don't forget to grab your FREE Europe travel checklist– it contains EVERYTHING you need to bring!

Europe Motorhome travel- free checklists

Want to head to Europe with your motorhome?

Grab your FREE (printable) checklist and discover 25 things you NEED to take with you when you travel in Europe. Make your life easier today.


Motorhome Trips planning- narrow the options

Ok, so you've picked a rough area or country. Awesome! Now let's narrow it down a little for you.

Once we've decided on a rough area/ destination, we start researching specific things to do/ see once we're there. Literally, I Google “Best things to do in_______ (in this case, Southern Germany)” 

Invariably 100 million results will be returned, but everything you need will normally be on the first page of Google. Something like a Tripadvisor ‘Best of' Board or a Tourist Information website is perfect to get you started. 

The other place to look is Pinterest. Seriously, it's BRILLIANT for finding itineraries, ideas and cool places to see. (You can follow us on Pinterest here)

This will give you a list of places you want to visit on your trip. They could be famous, like these incredible historical sites in France, beautiful (like the Dolomites- totally worth a trip to the Dolomites with a motorhome, FYI) or you might want to find the warmest places in Spain to visit in the winter.

Whatever your goal, keep that in mind whilst you're looking for places to visit. There's no specific number of places you need to find- just educate yourself on the best things to do in that region so you don't miss out AND so we can start planning a route very soon.

Motorhome trips and route planning - step by step guide for beginners with motorhomes or campervans
Personally, we prefer our motorhome trips to involve mountains, but we also love enjoying national parks and beaches when they're not crowded

WHY are you visiting?

Another thing to bear in mind is WHY are you visiting Europe (or wherever you're heading)?

In our example, we're going to Germany to explore and see some history, some incredible German castles and ride our motorbikes in the Black Forest

For you, it might simply be as easy as “I've never been there before” or “I like the wine/ food/ weather and I want to go back.” 

There doesn't need to be a serious and impressive reason to go anywhere. After all, it (hopefully!) isn't going to be your last motorhome or campervan trip to Europe– there'll be many more to enjoy!


WHEN are you planning your campervan or motorhome trip?

Being forced to travel during school holidays is tough and far from ideal.  If you can avoid that time period, I highly recommend it.

However, I know many people are stuck within these constraints, so think about your WHEN and consider that you may need to book things in advance and have a little less flexibility than you might outside high season.

HOW do you want your Motorhome holiday to go?

If you are going in the heart of August, it will be useful for you to decide at this stage how you want your motorhome holiday to go. 

Do you want to stay at a campsite which has loads of activities for the kids to do, or a beach/ playground/ kids club? 

Do you want an adult only campsite with a restaurant so you can relax and don’t need to cook?

Do you want to wild camp in your motorhome and stay at a new place each night? Do you want to use aires/ free overnight parking spots in Europe and stay 2/3 nights in a place?

Do you want to explore some incredible cities in Europe, or would you rather spend time in nature??


Europe Motorhome travel- free checklists

Want to head to Europe with your motorhome?

Grab your FREE (printable) checklist and discover 25 things you NEED to take with you when you travel in Europe. Make your life easier today.

Motorhome campsites in Europe

The reason this is important to decide early is the motorhome campsites in Europe get busy! They can get booked up VERY early- especially the ones with a beach/ pool/ kids club/ surf school. 

If you want to stay on one of these campsites for a week/ two-week European break, you need to pick your dates, pick your place and book it asap. 

Then figure out how long it will take you to drive your motorhome to the campsite from the ferry/ tunnel, and book that up too. (Not sure if the ferry or tunnel is best? See below)

That's you (nearly!) done. Lucky you- and that is one of the reasons campsites are SO popular- they're easy, everything is laid on for you and it doesn't take much planning as long as it's done well in advance.

However, if you don't have kids or want to use aires and move locations regularly, things can still be looking a bit more complicated.


Route Planning for a Europe motorhome or camper trip

Hopefully, your Google search will have created a list of places you want to visit. I like to plot these into a Google Map, either on a laptop or my phone.

I add all the Places of Interest in as I find them, and then I start to see a rough route and itinerary developing.

I like Google Maps because it's easy and it keeps all my ideas organised so I can find them again, but you can just as easily use a paper map, a printout or even a list on the back of an envelope! Whatever works for you.

Using Google Maps for route planning a European motorhome trip

I use the map to show me how far apart places are. From there, I can estimate how long it might take us to drive between them. I try to give us no more than 4/5 hours driving per day (unless we agree to do some long driving days to get to an area, such as when we visited Norway with our motorhome.)

One thing I will say is that although we try to make a plan, we are pretty flexible in our timeline too. 

Which is good, as we often end up in places that we didn't mean to, like the time we set off to Norfolk and ended up road tripping in Cornwall

We allow ourselves time for chilling in the van on a rainy day, or finding a place that we didn't even know existed and going to visit that- such as Tre Cime di Laveredo in the Dolomites (totally worth a visit if you're passing- it's one of the most spectacular places we have ever stayed with our motorhome.)

At least every 3/4 days we have a ‘no driving the motorhome' day. Mr WB currently does all the driving (his choice!) and it's not fair for him to constantly be at the wheel, so we make sure to allocate a day or two for relaxing (or catching up on his work!)

Route planning for campervan and motorhome trips to Europe from the UK
Finding a quiet spot to park up for a day or two is one of the best bits about planning a flexible motorhome trip

Taking a Motorhome to Europe from the UK

 If you live in the UK or on some other island, you need to find a way off it!

From the UK, there are two main options to take your Motorhome to Europe from the UK- a ferry and the Channel Tunnel. Both have their pros and cons but it mainly comes down to cost, time and pets. (Of course, if you're flying somewhere to hire a motorhome in Europe, then, of course, you'll fly!) 

  • If you don't want to leave your pet in the motorhome for hours on their own as you undertake a ferry crossing, then the tunnel is the only option (unless you get some of the ferries where pets are allowed in the cabins, like the Portsmouth to Caen ferry.)
  • If you don't want to drive all the way to the Tunnel from wherever you live, the ferry is the only option.
  • The tunnel is often MUCH cheaper- especially in summer. You can also use Tesco club card vouchers to reduce the cost further, or buy a frequent traveller pack which is well worth the money if you’re going to do 3/4 trips a year.

Read our indepth guide into Ferry vs EuroTunnel here


Things to bring

Before you leave, make sure you have the appropriate kit.

You need your :


Europe motorhome trip planning- more things to consider

So, you're doing well!

You've decided on where, when, for how long and how you're going to get there. 

The weather/ time of year

The next thing we look at is the weather. For example, it would be pointless doing the trip we want to do in Germany in the middle of winter when they experience high snowfall- many roads are closed in the mountains during winter. You also need additional kit, like snowchains and winter tyres.

One of our favourite times to explore popular places is Autumn- there are so many areas where Autumn in Europe is magical– changing leaves, stunning scenery, fewer people but still warm. Europe in October is definitely one of the best times to explore, but then we've also enjoyed some wonderful trips in winter- especially when trying to find the Northern Lights or visiting some of the biggest Christmas markets in Europe.

Also, make sure you check the weather a week or so before you go and bring appropriate clothing. I always recommend taking something warm even if you're going on a sunny holiday- or when you end up climbing Mont Blanc, you'll freeze just like we did!


Finding overnight places as you go

There are a couple of options for overnight stops for motorhomes in Europe. We usually use aires or wild camping spots. Some countries in Europe make wild camping very difficult (like Italy and Slovenia), while others are much more tolerant. 

A lot also depends on WHERE you are within the country- the French Riviera is one of the worst places for wild camping in France, but there are plenty of campsites in the area, whereas taking a motorhome to the French Alps is wild camping heaven.

French Aires

Couple of things to remember about aires:

  • Europeans LOVE motorhoming. Europe WANTS you to bring your motorhome there. Europe ENCOURAGES motorhome parking and motorhome travel.
  • They make room for them and often provide dedicated parking areas that ARE NEAR PLACES you actually want to visit. I'm serious. No more being stuck miles away from the nearest town and made to feel utterly unwanted wherever you go (I love the UK, but seriously, we can do SOOOOO much better in this regard) 
  • These places are called aires and most don't cost more than a few pounds a night.
  • We prefer to use aires like this, as they often have services like fresh water and waste disposal, but are cheaper than proper campsites. 
  • They are first-come, first-served, but we've hardly ever had a problem finding a space for the night- even in the middle of August at the Italian lakes.

Read more about how we find aires in France and Europe and how to use them best.


Motorhome trips- final tips to make life easier

CONGRATULATIONS!

I hope you're feeling much happier with yourself and your upcoming camper or motorhome trips.

A couple of final things to remember to check/ sort out before you go:

  • Is your vehicle road legal? Do you have insurance, MOT and your driving licence/ paperwork? Remember to take all the essential paperwork with you, along with your passports.
  • Do you have the safety equipment required by each country you will be DRIVING THROUGH, not just the final one you are visiting?
  • Make sure you have gas and possibly an adaptor for your gas bottle if it's refillable. (Do NOT forget this like we did!! If you need to, this is how to find motorhome gas in Europe)
  • If you have a drone, check the rules and requirements for each country you might fly in. Ideally, print them out so you can remember.
  • Pack some easy food to prepare for the first night. I'm a big believer in eating local food. It's one of my favourite parts about travelling. BUT, when you've been driving all day and all you've seen are service stations, something easy, hearty and familiar is a great comfort as you settle in to your epic motorhome adventure. Here are some great easy road trip meal ideas.
  • Whilst we're on the subject of food, be prepared for kids who don't share your excitement for the local cuisine. Most kids, including ours, like something familiar. Our daughter used to be a particularly fussy eater and, unfortunately, she would rather not eat than eat something she doesn't really like. So, in order to make life easier and less stressful, I tried to make sure there was food on board I know that she will eat. Little things like this make a motorhome road trip far more fun – for all the family!
Europe Motorhome travel- free checklists

Want to head to Europe with your motorhome?

Grab your FREE (printable) checklist and discover 25 things you NEED to take with you when you travel in Europe. Make your life easier today.


And that's it. Nothing difficult but the first (second, third, seventh and eleventh) motorhome trip (to anywhere!) can take a lot of planning and you can easily feel out of your comfort zone.

Remember, it's supposed to be fun. You're supposed to look forward to it. If you find yourself dreading it, figure out ways to make things easier for yourself – or change the plan entirely. 

Also, it's normal to be nervous- even after all this time touring Europe in our motorhome, I'm often nervous as we set out, wondering where we'll end up and what I've forgotten. That's why this Europe motorhome trip checklist is so useful- it allows you to remember those silly things you'd otherwise have forgotten!

To make sure your roadtrip goes as well as possible, here is also a list of things NOT to do on your roadtrip.

How else can I help you today?

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