For those of you who have been following us since the beginning of the blog, we have been traveling around the world for a year in a backpack with Matthieu. Two years after our return to France, we made the decision to leave again, we really missed the life of travelers. Then the arrival of our daughter and Coco 19 at the beginning of 2020, has somewhat disrupted our plans, as it did for all of you!
Thus, we had time to prepare our departure, to test and find a motorhome and to realize all the administrative formalities.
In this article, we explain in detail how we organized a tour of Europe in a converted vehicle (motorhome, truck or van). We answer all the questions we asked ourselves, when to leave, with which health and travel insurance… we detail our budget, our itinerary and our results.
- How to organize a tour of Europe in a motorhome or van?
- What should you think about when planning your itinerary?
- Our route: 9 countries and 14,600 kilometers
- Which vehicle for a European tour?
- Where to sleep for free, our tips?
- What is the budget for a European tour?
- What is it like to travel with a young child + our advice?
- What to think about before leaving?
How to organize a tour of Europe in a motorhome or van?
Prepare without preparing!
Oh lala what does that mean? For our first long trip around the world, we had a very precise itinerary before leaving. We had opted for a round-the-world ticket, with plane tickets and dates to respect. For this second long trip, we no longer wanted to be“constrained” by a set itinerary. We wanted to feel free as a bird!
Then the Coco was invited during the year 2020, a year and a half before our departure and to crown it all we became parents at the same time.
First, COVID taught us not to plan because when we left, there were still many restrictions, for example, we could not spend thewinter in Morocco as it was initially planned in our heads. The country opened its borders after our trip.
Secondly, taking care of a young child, plus managing our respective jobs, takes time and energy, obviously, we are not teaching you anything. So we had very (very) little time to prepare our trip.
We focused more onbuying and preparing our motorhome and our equipment. Also note that we were leaving for our second trip, we are (almost) experts of long trips (or not).
As we will explain later, we spend a lot of time every day consulting all kinds of travel content, so we had several itinerary ideas in mind!
Blogs, Youtube channels and travel books
Indeed, we read a lot of travel blogs, we watch a lot of travel videos on You Tube and we also read a lot of travel books.
So all these contents gave us a lot ofideas to travel in Europe and also in other parts of the world. It also allowed us to learn about life on the road! We give you our references at the end of the article.
What should you think about when planning your itinerary?
To the weather!
Obviously in a motorhome or van, you will be living in a small space mainly outside, so it was important for us to keep up with the heat. For this reason, for example, we spent 3 months in Greece, because after Spain, it is the country with the mildest temperatures in Europe in winter.
For this, we advise you to look at websites such as “When to go” to have an idea of the temperatures month by month.
Finding a balance
Europe is very big, if you don’t want to drive for hours and hours every day, we advise you to limit yourself to a part of the country. We drove on average 1 to 2 hours every other day because we did not want to drive every day.
It is important to note that driving every day leads to fatigue, higher fuel costs and it requires to store the motorhome or van every day before driving.
We had to ride several times several days in a row, for example when we were in Sicily and wanted to go quickly to Greece or when we traveled withother families having a different rhythm than ours (like with our hyperactive friends Amandine and PA, we love you like that!). This was still an exception.
We advise you to listen to yourself, we were also driving more at the beginning of the trip because we were in great shape!
Our route: 9 countries and 14,600 kilometers
August : Portugal, Porto and the Algarve
We left on August 01 from Périgueux, for this beginning of trip, we mainly drove, because we had appointment on August 10 in Porto for the wedding of our friends Caroline and Ludovic. We took the opportunity to visit the beautiful Douro region, we started to get the hang of these winding and narrow roads.
We learned once we arrived in Portugal that wild bivouac was forbidden since the beginning of the year 2021, we could not afford to sleep in paying places every night, so we took the decision, as soon as we arrived, with regret, to shorten our stay.
So we drove to theAlgarve to meet my sister who was on vacation there for a few days. We loved this area and its beautiful coastal scenery.
Seven. and Oct. The Spanish coast from Malaga to Barcelona
From Malaga to Almeria, the first dream spots
We then headed for the Spanish border. We first crossed Andalusia without stopping there, because we had already visited this region a few years ago, we strongly recommend it. We drove towards Malaga, on the southern Spanish coast.
Then from there, we went along the Spanish coast to enjoy its beautiful beaches and the Mediterranean Sea which was between 26 and 27 degrees at this time of the year.
Our days were mainly punctuated by walks along the coast and swimming in the late afternoon after our daughter’s nap.
So we quietly went up the coast to Valencia. We had a big crush on the natural park of Cabo de Gata, located east of Almeria.
On the other hand, before Almeria, we were astonished and saddened to see quantities of greenhouses clumped together for many kilometers. This part of Spain is called “the sea of plastic”, an unflattering nickname. It is the largest expanse of greenhouses in the world (35,000 hectares), the region lives mainly fromintensive agriculture.
Outside of this area, thanks to Park4night, we were able to find bivouacs by the water or with a beautiful view of the sea.
From Cartagena to Barcelona, our first visits
We also visited the cities of Cartagena, Alicante and Valencia and its region which we loved.
Then, after Valencia, the natural spots on the coast became rarer, even non-existent. In Catalonia, parking bans are numerous. We did not visit Barcelona because again we had already been there many times.
We made a detour to France to pick up some packages, and go shopping to buy cheese, yes it is a product that travelers quickly miss!
We have, for example, recovered a skylightOur biggest roof window turned over and broke on the beach in Almeria, although there was no more wind than that, and we took the opportunity to change the battery cells of our camping car in order to gain in autonomy.
Nov. and Dec. : Southern Italy
Naples and its region
We took a boat from Barcelona to Rome (with the Grimaldi company) for a 24 hour crossing (ticket price about 400€ for the 3 of us in a cabin). We then headed to Naples, to visit its region. We loved the archaeological sites of Pompeii andHerculaneum.
The Apulia region for us alone
And then we headed south to get some warmth and sunshine in the Puglia region, which we were eager to discover.
We loved the cities of Matera, Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Alberobello and Lecce. We also loved all the wild spots we could find. It is a region that can be visited by motorhome or van at this time of year, because few tourists venture there because the weather is not always good. We had, for example, 1 week of non-stop rain.
But we were able to find very nice bivouacs just for us because all the campsites are closed in this period.
Sicily for the holidays
We took the direction of Sicily, we had read on blogs that this region was very nice to visit by motorhome. We took the opportunity to meet up with my sister and my mother to celebrate Christmas a little early around Catania. We had a wonderful walk aroundEtna, we loved this part of Italy.
After only ten days in Sicily, we decided to leave Italy to reach Greece more quickly.
We had, until then, come across very few families traveling in a camper. We joined the Facebook group of Families Around the World at that time, we realized that many families were traveling to Greece and that gatherings were planned for the holidays, so we decided to go to Greece!
The departure from Italy and the difficulties (according to us) to travel in camping car in Italy
So we quickly left Sicily, because we found everything we don’t like in Italy:
- We were very surprised by the“traffic rules” in Southern Italy, the driving is not always safe according to us, after 2 months on the Italian roads we had simply enough…
- Insecurity: we have repeatedly read comments on Park 4 night about recent break-ins. We even met travelers who had a break-in north of Bari. Even though we were extremely careful, we were tired of always having a little apprehension before finding our vehicle. Knowing that during our 3 months in Greece we never once had this feeling.
- We were also disappointed by Sicily, especially by the beaches which were very dirty. On some of them, we couldn’t even let our daughter play outside, at the risk of her falling on a piece of glass or other waste….
In short, it was time for us to leave, as this mode of travel offers great flexibility, we could decide to change country almost overnight, what a freedom!
It is a country that we love, we spent 2 months there. In our opinion, the motorhome is perhaps not the best way to visit this country for the reasons that we surprised above.
We still loved the coastal landscapes, the archaeological sites and the picturesque Italian villages. We also appreciated the kindness of the Italians as well as all the Italian culinary specialties (the real mozarella, the smoked scamorza, the burrata, the pizza…).
Jan., Feb. and March : Greece, the ideal country for campers
We did not follow the ideal route (meaning the shortest one) because our families and friends joined us during this period, we naturally modified our route to be at the different meeting points!
Peloponnese our favorite of the trip
After a long crossing of 10 hours, with the company Grimaldi (about 200€), we arrive in Igoumenitsa in the north-east, we discover the beauty of the Greek coastal landscapes. We quickly take the road to the south, making a short stop on the beautiful island of Lefkada.
We spend the holidays in Gythios, one of the most beautiful bivouacs of the Peloponnese, by the sea with a beautiful shipwreck in the background, in the company of a dozen families in van and camper. We exchanged a lot about the different vehicles, our respective itineraries and laughed a lot, which allowed us to spend nice holidays even far from our families.
Then we go back to Athens to meet Matthew’s parents with whom we will visit the main sites of the capital, as well as all the sites to see and do in the Peloponnese, the city of Mystra, the ruins of Mycenae, Epidaurus and its magnificent theater and the beautiful city of Nafplio.
Then we continued to explore this part of Greece by motorhome with snow (yes even on the Greek coast it is possible). We had a real crush on the city of Monemvasia, where we celebrated Lison’s 2nd birthday. Then we went to the southernmost point of the Greek mainland and finally we explored the most arid and unspoiled region of mass tourism, the coast of the Magne.
We went to one of the sites we wanted to see the most in Greece: Meteora, with a stop at the beautiful Delphi archaeological zone, located south of Mount Parnassus, in the heart of the mountains, offering a beautiful view on the valley and the Gulf of Corinth.
We loved the site of Meteora, big rocks with monasteries perched on these promontories (what an idea to settle here!), we were accompanied by our friends Laura and Pierre who joined us for a few days.
Thessaloniki and its heavenly beaches
We end our exploration of Greece with a bang, discovering with surprise the beauty of the clear water beaches of the Thessaloniki region and all this accompanied by my mother. In short, we already have in mind to come back with milder temperatures to fully enjoy its dream beaches.
The ideal country for living in a converted vehicle (van or motor home)
We almost always found a bivouac by the sea or with a view of the sea, the sites were always very clean and quiet, even if often accompanied by croaking, meowing, barking dogs, and even lynx.
On the other hand, the campsites and service areas were almost all closed, which requires a little more research to find places where it is possible to do the services.
Last point for which we loved this country, it is for all the numerous meetings of travelers in camper and van, it is simple, in Greece we were always accompanied by another vehicle, it is always nice to exchange with other travelers and the children are delighted to have friends of travel.
April : Bulgaria in co-working
We’ll talk about it below, for this second long trip, as we still haven’t won the lottery (should we start playing yet), we had to travel and work at the same time.
Juggling both requires a lot of energy, so we decided to put our bags in Bansko, a ski resort 2 hours south of Sofia. We rented a bright apartment on the 5th floor with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains at FourLeafClover (270€ for a T2 + 100€ electricity). We chose to come here to take advantage of the many coworking spaces. We had heard about it thanks to Fabienne and Benoit from the blog Novo Monde. If you are interested, you can read their report after 1 month in Bansko here. We also wanted to test this way of life for a month.
We took the opportunity to rest in a beautiful environment. Yes, life in a motor home is not always a vacation. We no longer had to search daily for a place to sleep, a place to do our services… And we worked a lot in good conditions, with comfortable chairs and no children around (we took turns).
We were able to exchange with other digital nomads, even if there were few families at that time. This allows you to meet people quickly.
Please note that in winter (from December to March), a community of nomadic families has created a program called Worldschooling-Bansko (you can find all the important information there, planning, prices…), which offers daily activities for children and adults. When we were in Bansko, the program was closed since the ski season was over, we found the concept great for nomadic families, we had positive feedback from other families so it’s an interesting concept we would like to try. We will be able to make a more complete assessment, do not hesitate to tell us if you are interested.
May: Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany
Then, we met my sister in Sofia to visit the Bulgarian capital. It was a nice surprise even if “Sofia is not one of those that dazzle at first sight” as it was written in the Routard, looking closer some pretty colored facades stand out. A Free Walking Tour allowed us to explore and enjoy the city. And the cost of living is really low so we were able to enjoy ourselves.
We were delighted to meet up with the Doudou-Passe-Partout: Amandine, PA and Augustin (the same age as Lison), our friends we met in Greece with whom we had a lot in common, to explore Romania and return all together to Alsace.
We had only one less trip left so we decided to devote 2 weeks to visit Romania and then 2 weeks to return. Romania is a beautiful country with many natural parks. We started with the beautiful Iron Gates region in the southwest, which runs along the Danube and marks the border between Romania and Serbia.
Then we explored Transylvania, a region known for its fortified cities and castles. We had a big crush on the city of Sibiu. A pedestrian historic center with large squares and a beautiful cathedral.
Then we headed northwest to explore an old salt mine in Turda now turned into a museum. The volumes inside are impressive.
We then arrived in Hungary where we were immediately impressed by the quality of the road network and the cleanliness of the country. We can finally get the bikes out since the infrastructure is designed for cyclists. We visit Budapest where everything is beautiful.
Then we go to Austria to visit Vienna, which we think is one of the most beautiful European capitals. The city is full of beautiful buildings and large parks with flowers. On the other hand, we find the prices of Western Europe, everything seems to us out of price.
We crossedGermany stopping only to stretch our legs, enjoy the last moments with our friends and to sleep.
June : France
We spend a few days in the east of France that we knew very little, we take the opportunity to explore Strasbourg where we robbed a bakery. We were in need of French pastries. After leaving our adventure friends, we visit several Alsatian villages (Obernai, Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr…)
Then, we headed to Lyon, to meet our friends Anaïs and Julien, whom we had met in 2016 onEaster Island, during our Backpacking World Tour.
This marks the end of our trip and we were thrilled to finalize it with our friends, who totally understood our conflicting emotions. We were both sad that the trip was over and eager to get back to our families and friends.
Which vehicle for a European tour?
We advise you to rent a camper, van, fitted out van… which unfortunately, we could not do.
It was on the agenda, but my early pregnancy was not as relaxing as we had imagined so we had to cancel many weekends and getaways.
Instead, we consulted many blogs and sites of motorhome owners, attended shows to visit as many vehicles as possible. TheItineo SB 720, ticked all our requirements and was the vehicle that Jill and Clem from Raised On The Road, had at the time (more about them below). We were clearly influenced. It is a very spacious motorhome with a real living room, a large kitchen (L-shaped) and bunk beds in the back. We did not regret our choice at all, we really felt at home.
Where to sleep for free, our tips?
Finding places to sleep and spaces to do services is clearly time consuming. In most of the countries we visited, bivouacking was tolerated outside of natural parks and protected areas, except in Portugal where camping outside of the infrastructure was forbidden. We found free and authorized bivouacs for motorhomes or vans 90% of the time.
For our spot searches, we used the famous Park4night application. With the paying option (about 2€/month or 10€/year) we can add filters to our search, “rating higher than 4/5”, “free CC stat. area”, “playground” ideal to keep our daughter busy and meet other children.
We also complete our research by trying to locate parking lots far from any civilization on Google maps and by asking obviously the other travelers.
To summarize, to park for free, you have several options:
- The communal areas (many town halls play the game), indeed we are often squeezed like sardines, it is not at all instagrammable, for one night, it is largely sufficient. We found them mainly in France, Spain, Austria and Germany. The services are generally free and since parking is allowed, we could sleep without fear of being disturbed or woken up in the middle of the night, what more could we ask for?
- The parking lots authorized to cars or in the middle of nature, on those clearly, we try to remain as discreet as possible. We avoid parking lots too close to the road (we like quietness to sleep.), restaurants especially on weekends and busy places so as not to disturb other motorists and especially the locals. We advise you to read the latest Park4night reviews carefully as the permissions change regularly. We found beautiful places, by the sea or in the middle of nature in Greece and Romania. The most complicated country in terms of bivouacs was Italy, we slept many nights on not very glamorous parking lots.
Our last tips for sleeping in a wilderness bivouac, we advise you to prefer sites far from the main points of interest, traveling out of season and asking locals if it is possible to park for a night!
We managed to find nice spots by searching well, we even managed to have many spots with sea views especially in winter, away from cities or very touristy places!
We also slept on parking lots in the city center, places that are not always very clean, nor very beautiful… the advantage of the camper is that once inside, you can close the shutters and feel almost alone in the world, until a car comes to park right next to you with the music blasting. There are also disadvantages linked to this nomadic life, nothing is ever perfect!
What is the budget for a European tour?
We started with a budget of 1 500€ per month, which was the average budget of many families. Finally, for our part, we were rather at 2 000€ per month, after exchanges with other travelers, this difference is mainly explained in the way of counting the global budget.
That is to say that we take all the expenses related to the trip. Even the small jobs we did on our camper, the health insurance we had paid before leaving as well as our Netflix, phone subscriptions that we kept during this trip.
Moreover, as we were working at the same time, we certainly wanted to indulge ourselves more in outings and restaurants.
For our part we spent about 20 000€ for 10 months of travel. You will find below our main expenses and especially the expenses that we do not necessarily think of (such as those related to the camping car)
Obviously, this budget can vary greatly from one project to another. If you only want to visit the northern European countries, you will need to plan a larger budget. In short, there are almost as many budgets as there are travelers.
|Our detailed budget for our 10 month European tour for a family of 2 adults and 1 baby|
|Daily expenses (shopping, restaurants, visits, camping, clothes…)||16 488 €|
|Camper expenses (batteries, skylight, solar panels and mattress)||1 365 €|
|Cap Aventure Health Insurance||1 000 €|
|Vehicle insurance||380 €|
|Subscriptions (Netflix, Spotify and phones)||770 €|
|OVERALL BUDGET||20 000 €|
|Monthly budget||2 000 €|
What is it like to travel with a young child + our advice?
This is a question that comes up regularly. Our daughter, who was one and a half years old when we left, adapted to our new life rather quickly. In our opinion, traveling by motorhome is the ideal way to travel with small children. Even if the child’s environment changes almost every day, once in the vehicle, he or she finds his or her environment and landmarks. In case of unforeseen events, for example a 6 hour boat delay when it is raining, having a place to wait is a real luxury.
Obviously, this requires a little adaptation at the beginning, a hike of several kilometers with a difference in altitude is perhaps not the best idea with a baby in a sling under 35 degrees. The visit of archaeological site is not an exciting activity for a young child, so you should go early and limit yourself to 1h30 – 2h on the spot, or the visit with other familiesand then find a playground or integrate a beach session at the end of the visit.
In short, it is necessary to manage the times of rest and games well, then once everyone took their marks, all occurs, almost, like on casters. We are thinking of contacting the Routard to write a travel guide on the most beautiful European playgrounds because we spent a lot of hours there 😉
Traveling with a child makes it much easier to interact with the locals, who were always happy to talk or play with Lison.
One last point, after a few months of travel, she was asking more and more to play with other children of her age, it is to answer her need that we made sure to meet more families from Greece.
We were happy to have our families to take over when we came back from our trip because 10 months non stop with your child, let’s be honest, it’s a bit tiring. Next time, we will go with grandparents as au pair (send your CVs) 😉
Today, she calls herselfa “little traveler“, she loves looking at our travel book and we are so happy to have created all these memories as a family!
What to think about before leaving?
Travel health insurance
For us, leaving with a good health insurance for our trip was an obvious choice. We wanted to be covered in case of a problem or the slightest doubt, we wanted to be able to go to the doctor without hesitation (which is what we did).
We decided to go back to the Cap Aventure formula of Chapka Assurance. In our opinion, this is the most interesting offer on the market. It offers a good ratio/guarantees/price. And the teleconsultation service is included in the package when we travel with children, it is a big advantage to be able to reach a doctor at any time.
We wrote an article about our opinion and feedback with Chapka, detailing when we had to use our insurance and whether or not we were covered. Spoiler alert, we were fully satisfied with the service offered by Chapka.
Rent a vehicle to test drive
We advise you to rent your motorhome, van, van conversion … between individuals, using the platform Yescapa which connects tenants and owners. It’s a French company, from Bordeaux, leader with more than 13’000 vehicles available, you will find your happiness!
The operation is very simple, you select your city of departure then your travel dates, then the platform offers you the available vehicles.
Then, you can sort by price, number of beds, unlimited kilometers, foreign travel possible or not …. And the most important according to us, the comments of the other tenants, to read the various returns will give you full of information (reliability of the advertisement, arranging hirer, available…) and will reassure you!
Our favorite blogs and You Tube channel:
We list below a few of our motorhome / van travel resources:
- You Tube: Jill and Clem from the You Tube channel Raised On The Road, it’s one of our favorite You Tube channels, it’s a family of 6 who share their adventures in camper and now in van in the joy and good humor! Not forgetting the Nesta ‘s another adorable family of 5 who live on the road that we like to follow regularly.
- Les familles Autour du Monde: this is the site to use when traveling to meet other travelers, the“Current trips” section houses an interactive map on which the different families (registered on the site) are positioned. Thanks to this blog, we met many families during our trip.
- Blog : Yoyo and his 4 adventurers, Jonathan, Stéphanie and their adorable children, with whom we shared a beautiful week in slow life mode in Greece. Their blog is very rich in practical advice before travelling, they have made a lot of small and clever arrangements in their motorhome to improve their daily life during their trip“Les inventions de Jo“.
- Blog: Marie and Thimoté, from the blog Objectif Terre with whom we spent the new year and a few days in Bulgaria, their pictures are beautiful and will make you want to leave right away.
- Reading:“Et si on plaquait tout?” the crazy bet of a family on the roads of the world, Audrey de la Family Coste tells their crazy adventure in American caravan from Canada to Mexico. A reading that strongly inspired our year of travel in motorhome.
- Reading: ” The electric odyssey: 20.000 KM, 120 days, an electric Tuktuk ” a travel story in electric tuk-tuk, a very original way of travelling. A refreshing and once again inspiring story!
We loved traveling in Europe and camping with all our stuff without having to carry it, well our few things we didn’t live in a castle either. We always had more stuff than we did in a backpack.
What happens to us? we continue to travel in motorhomes in France, we are addicted now, we visited Brittany in motorhome for 2 weeks in September. We are planning a longer trip in the spring and would like to try co-living again at the end of the year. We already have in mind to go back several years in the next 2 – 3 years!
Thank you for reading all the way to the end, this is an article we loved writing even though we spent many hours on it. We hope to help other travelers in the preparation of their European tour. Please feel free to ask any questions, share and follow us on Instagram.