Why Camp Europe?
from Travelers Guide to European Camping
Since you are reading this book, whether examining it in a book store or setting out to read the whole thing at home, we can assume that the idea of camping in Europe intrigues you in some way. There are so many different reasons to camp Europe that the best way to speak directly to your interests may be to talk to each of you individually.
MANY REASONS TO CAMP
You're an experienced RVer. Perhaps you've been RVing for years. The map on the side of your rig shows that you've visited all 48 contiguous states, Alaska, and even Mexico. You've visited the Biggest Mall in America, you've wintered the Florida Keys, camped in the desert outside Quartzsite, Arizona, seen the color in the Northeast in the fall. What now?
Europe is full of hundreds of places and experiences that will please you as much or more than the places and things you have experienced in North America. There is enough to see and do in Europe to fill the RVing season for another ten years. By the time you have had your fill of Europe you will probably be able to head east and explore the roads of Russia.
There is really no reason you can't do it. The costs are very much like those you are accustomed to in North America. The driving is just as easy. Language will not be a problem. You might even be able to use your rig from back home. If not, it is no problem to buy or lease one in Europe.
There will be lots to keep you busy. Europe is full of history. Campgrounds are located near the things that you will want to see. Food will be one of your biggest pleasures. Almost all European countries have great supermarkets and street markets full of new things to cook in your own RV. Bring cookbooks covering European dishes because you'll be able to buy ingredients here that are just not available in the states. You'll also want to take advantage of some of the best restaurants in the world. Bring some language dictionaries too, because although you don't need to know any language but English, this is a golden opportunity to learn a new language or brush up on the French, Spanish, German, or Italian that you learned in high school.
You're a budget traveler. Camping is the traditional way to budget travel in Europe. In the past most budget travelers would travel by train using a Eurailpass and then stay overnight at campgrounds near cities or at hostels. With the ever increasing cost of a Eurailpass it is starting to make more sense to travel in an inexpensive automobile, van or motorcycle and stay in campgrounds.
This type of travel offers flexibility, independence and comfort that train travel doesn't. Traveling by train means that you must necessarily see a lot of cities (usually not the most pleasant parts, either), miss seeing the countryside, live out of a suitcase or backpack, and eat bad food from fast food places and budget food counters.
Think what a tour of North America would be like if you traveled only by train or airplane. You would get to see only the central areas of the big cities. You would miss some pretty important things. To some degree the same thing is true of a train or airplane tour of Europe. Only the most intrepid train tourer gets out of the cities and can report back about the joys of the European countryside. North Americans are accustomed to traveling by highway. It is truly astounding that so few of them tour Europe the same way.
When you travel by car you can keep your own itinerary without regard to train schedules, stay at campgrounds near public transportation when you visit the cities, and enjoy the comfort of your own space throughout your visit. No more packing, unpacking, and lugging that backpack or suitcase. You can carry a lot more with you in a lot more comfort. The campgrounds offer luxuries you will appreciate like hot showers, laundromats, food markets, restaurants, bars, and even lots of fellow English-speaking travelers. The price will be lower than any hotel and even lower than some hostels, especially if there are two or more in your party.
One reason that costs are so low when you camp is that you are living off the local economy. Campgrounds are priced for middle-class Europeans, not business travelers or foreign vacationers willing to drop $5,000 on their annual two-week vacation. Groceries come from stores that must keep prices in line to attract the locals.
You want to travel with children. Your kids are at an age when you can really enjoy traveling with them. They can happily fly on airplanes and really appreciate the new things that they see on a vacation. The problem is that it is sometimes difficult to budget all those tickets and meals, and riding herd on children in a sophisticated hotel or restaurant can be a stressful experience.
Camping is ideal for children, they love it. Foreign campgrounds are even more interesting than those in North America, with all those foreign people camped around you in tents, caravans, and motorhomes. The great outdoors offers lots of opportunities to use up some of that youthful exuberance.
Campgrounds offer facilities that make family camping easy. When camping in Europe you will most likely take advantage of the convenient bathroom facilities provided by the campground rather than trying to run all those bodies through the tiny shower in the RV. Many campgrounds have playgrounds, bike trails, swimming pools, water slides, and even beaches.
Cooking your own meals provides several dividends. Obviously you save a lot of money. You can also choose to cook things that you know everyone will appreciate, something not always possible in a foreign restaurant.
A European vacation, short or extended, offers benefits to children just not available in the states. North Americans do not get exposed to other cultures and languages. Children do not realize that citizens of other countries are often fluent in two or more languages. Europe offers the opportunity to actually see art, architecture, and culture. Even seeing the different way that people live is educational; the different styles, ways of life, public transportation, and many other things.
You want an extended immersion in a foreign culture as a way of life. How would you like to set yourself up in your own English country cottage, Paris apartment, Provençal villa, London flat, or Costa del Sol condominium. Better yet, how would you like to have all of these so that you can use each as the spirit moves you or the seasons dictate. A RV can closely approximate this lifestyle for a reasonable cost. You can live and work in North America and visit your European home whenever you like.
It is entirely possible for you to own a comfortable caravan (camp trailer) and car in Europe, live in it for extended periods in fantastic locations, and store it while you return to the U.S. Many Europeans do just this themselves, there are large RV storage areas located all over the continent.
The cost of traveling to Europe and back is reasonable these days. It is not much more expensive to travel to Europe than to fly across the U.S. or to visit Hawaii. The idea of locating an RV in one area of Europe and leaving it there for an extended period makes financial sense too. Many campgrounds are aimed at this type of use with pleasant areas set aside for semipermanent residents. Most of these areas aren't like the trailer parks you've seen in the states, the residents often even do extensive landscaping. They also pay discounted long-term rates. The caravans are more like summer country cabins than RVs. And since gasoline is probably the biggest expense of European RVing, staying in one place is a definite money-saver.
You want to do the Grand Tour before settling down to a job and family. Doing the tour as a camper has lot of advantages. Follow the example of New Zealanders and Australians. Come to Europe, buy a camping vehicle, and stretch your budget so that you can stay six months or a year and see everything. The campgrounds are full of people from down under doing this. North Americans, for whatever reason, are definitely under-represented.
Even if you don't fall into one of the categories above you will probably still love camping in Europe. It is one of the best ways imaginable to spend a vacation. Different enough from North America to be interesting. Similar enough to not be too challenging or stressful. Safe and as economical as you want to make it, you can travel on foot and sleep in a tent, rent a car and still sleep in a tent, or rent, lease, or buy something larger with all the comforts of home. A camping vacation in Europe can be a week long, a year long, or even last many years. The choices are yours.
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