Have you ever been curious about the greatest free motorhome camping locations in the UK and Europe but had no idea where to begin looking?
In this post, we'll go over all the tools you'll require, from selecting the ideal campground to motorhome parking advice for a night of cost-free camping.
Is it possible to camp for free in a motorhome?
Of course, camping for free in a motorhome is possible!
You just need to be wary of the rules depending on where you are in the UK or Europe, so independent research is advised in order to stay safe out there and to avoid any unwanted fines.
However, as long as you’re respectful of the environment around you, being careful to leave the location as you found it, as well as adhere to the signs around you, it is absolutely possible to camp for no additional cost!
Where can you camp for free in a motorhome?
All over the place! There are many places you can camp for free in a motorhome, you just have to know where to find the gems!
Although you might not necessarily think of it as a serene, go-to camping spot, supermarkets are actually a great place to set up for the night in your motorhome.
Most importantly, though, they are relatively safe, which is not something to be taken lightly when you’re either travelling on the road and/or are in a foreign place.
If it’s all new territory, you’ll be less concerned about the setting and you’ll just be glad to have somewhere safe to sleep for the night.
Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco provide parking spaces specifically with motorhomes in mind, however, it’s always worth doing a quick internet search to figure out the best plan of action. Although having watched some youtubers do some steath camping, we advise caution.
Woodland car parks, lay-bys, park and ride facilities, and patches of unused ground are also popular options. Some of these locations will be less idyllic than others, but if you’re on a tight budget, then you can’t really turn your nose up at a free camping spot. Always make sure you check the signs when you park in places to make sure you don't end up with a fine.
Check out our article about Brit Stops, which we think is a great idea. It is a one off fee, you get the book of contacts of places such as farm shops, pubs and we even stopped over at a brewery one night who were even kind enough to lend us there power at no cost! there are so many places happy to have you use their spare space to park up for the night. Not all have power or facilities While your there it is always nice to show your support by buying a meal or in our case a few bottles of beer from them.
Do free motorhome camping spots have facilities?
Generally speaking, no - free motorhome camping spots don’t tend to have facilities, though there are obviously exceptions depending on where you are. That’s usually why they’re free!
In the UK, you can occasionally pay a small fee to a campsite to dispose of your waste properly, use the toilet, and can replenish your water supplies. Depending on where you are, there is also likely to also be local amenities nearby if you do a quick internet search.
Alternatively, you could try to find one of the rare motorhome service points provided by the local authorities, however, these tend to be few and far between so make sure that you do your research before.
In Europe, on the other hand, service points are common and can be found at aires, supermarkets, and garages along the road, so be sure to look out for them.
We have found however it's sometimes best to come prepared and we always have our Thetford just in case
JUST IN CASE
The Thetford Porta Potti 365 has a pump flush and a waste collecting tank at the bottom that you can empty in a loo. A bulky one, but the same height as a regular toilet. Weighs 4kg. It's worth checking out the slightly smaller 345 too!
Do you need to be careful of motorhome and campervan parking laws?
Yes - you do need to be careful, as every country in Europe has different rules that you’ll need to research yourself and abide by. They have been known to change from year to year, as we found when investigating a trip to Portugal.
When it comes to finding free motorhome camping spots, you always run the risk that you might be moved on or receive a fine from the local authorities, especially in a national park or beach car park.
Your best chance of avoiding a fine is to abide by the signs around you, be discreet, and make sure that you never park on someone’s private property. If you follow these tips, the chances are you won’t have too many problems when it comes to camping in your motorhome.
It is also important to note that just because you’re using a free camping spot, doesn’t mean you can leave anything behind.
You shouldn’t leave any traces of rubbish that will damage the environment, and treat the location and the people in it with the respect that you’d expect yourself, there are many places like supermarkets that have recycle bins you could use.
Free motorhome camping spots are a privilege, not a right, so always make sure that you take your rubbish away with you and dispose of it properly. After all, you want to make sure that these spots remain free, right?
Don’t ruin it for everyone else who is making the effort to abide by the rules, and make the effort, too.
We recently watched this video from the very enjoyable Those Happy Days on youtube.
Is camping for free in a motorhome the same as wild camping?
Camping for free in a motorhome is similar to wild camping. However, it depends on what your definition of wild camping is, as camping for free in a motorhome isn’t always as idyllic as you might think.
The majority of people consider motorhome wild camping as when you find a remote spot without other people or vans around, whereas free overnight motorhome parking in the UK and Europe (like in Italy) is more about finding somewhere safe to sleep without it costing anything.
Even if that means sleeping in a designated area in a supermarket car park, it’s still free, despite not being the prettiest of locations. Hopefully this summarises the distinct difference between wild camping and camping for free in a motorhome.
How do you find the best spots to camp?
There are multiple ways to find the best spots to camp. There are a copious number of apps, all of which have mapping and navigation services covering the UK and Europe.
These apps know where you are using GPS functionality and, as a result, will show you what is available to you in that area.
Whether you prefer to do your research on websites or through an app, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten resources to aid your research.
Although it might seem somewhat strange to pay for an app to find a free camping spot, there really are some gems out there that are fantastic, so we thought we’d include a combination of free apps as well as apps you can purchase alongside in-app purchases.
Check out the following websites and apps that are free and can be bought to find the best camping spots below!
Park4night is an excellent motorhome parking app that is free, that includes multiple nearby places to stop from campsites to supermarket car parks, fields, and also lay-bys. All the locations are added by fellow app users so you can add ones you find too, you can search by places near by or by a specific area. Once you find a place you like the look of, you can click in to take a closer look, see facilities they have and a list of fellow users reviews of the place.
Alternatively to the free version, for €9.99 a year you can use the Park4Night app offline, too! This option is perfect for individuals that prefer wild camping or generally being off the grid!
Here are some shots from the Park4night app
If you’re on a tight budget, both the website and app for Campy are entirely free, keeping in line with the free theme!
Conveniently explore over 30,000 campsites in your pocket, free of charge. The options are truly endless. Find the best motorhome stops with Campy!
We like this app as it shows you places in the area, what it is suitable for tents, campers etc and an idea of price if any and how many spots they have on site. Once you click in to look at a site there are photos, reviews and a handy button for directions which allows you to choose your preferred map app like google maps or waze. This app shows you mostly campsites. We like it when you click on the map the detail comes up at the bottom rather than across the middle of the map so you can reselect another spot easily to look at if you like. You can also easily filter to match the area and budget you are looking for including a FREE option to check out the sites you can stay at for absolutely nothing.
Finding the ideal Motorhome stop is quite simple thanks to the search and filter functions. There are 40,810 excellent, highly rated places. The best part is that Campy is totally free.
Of course there is a paid option which will give you offline mode, favourites, satellite maps and filter by rating for about £7.49 per year and this will get rid of the adverts too.
Here are some shots from the Campy app
Stayfree is a relatively new app to discover the best camping spots nearby. The app is free to download and is fairly easy to use, so is great if you’re on a strict budget.
Unlike some others this app you have to sign in with your email or facebook to access it. There is a premium option which give you unlimited spot lists, no ads and more than 50,000 spots, this is about £6.99 per year. This app covers the uk and europe which is really handy too.
When we tried the app it could not pick up our location though... there didn't seem to be as many spots as some of the other apps above however these are specifically for vanlife so that makes sense. Slightly annoyingly it pops up trying to sell you premium the first 3 or so sites you click on before you start being able to see the detail for the sites. Details of the sites show up with photos people have contributed and a rating. You can see who contributed on here and make "friends" with them too if you into that kind of thing.
However, it is worth mentioning that the app is reliant on community input and feedback, which might account for its small size in comparison to a few of the other alternatives that we provide in this article. They encourage their community to collect peoples left rubbish when they find it at certain spots and to photo and share it which we think is nice to promote a cleaner planet!
As they put it "Pick up the trash, take a photo, post it in StayFree- motivate thousands of other users to do the same.
Together we change the world for the better."
Here are some shots from the StayFree app
For inspiration on your next motorhome trip, Camperstop is a great option!
The difference between Camperstop to the other apps we’ve suggested so far is that you’ll need to purchase the hard copy guide for €26.50 before you can get an annual subscription to the app for only €5.49! You can however get a free short trial when you first download it.
There are some handy icon pictures that give you an idea of the kind of spot it is like pub car park etc, it tells you the price and there are ratings too. There's not a huge amount of listings on here. There are also moving ads at the bottom the whole time on the trial which could slow your experience down. When you click into the listing you have an option to navigate using your chosen map provider, very obvious buttons to add your thoughts on the spot from reviews, to photos and a very handy weather forecast drop down for that area which we like as if your planning ahead in a few days time to visit the area you can see when the best day weather wise is to go. There is also a drop down for the nearest supermarkets, pubs etc from that location which is also handy if that is something you need at your next stop.
Alongside this, Camperstop provides you with the option to download handy data sets to your sat nav from €3.25.
If you’re looking to plan a European road trip on a tight budget, Camperstop is a perfect way to reduce or eliminate your accommodation costs.
Here are some shots from the Camperstop app
Free to download or standing at the price of £5.99 for full offline use, the Campercontact app is easy to navigate featuring over 33,000 excellent camping spots to choose from.
The website and app list motorhome parking spots throughout Europe, with nearly 700 in the UK, and claims to be Europe’s biggest.
This app requires you to set up a log in and confirm your email address to get into, you can use a free version with display ads. Once you get in, you can search by location, nearby or have it search an area that you move the map to. There are filters for campsites, motorhome stopovers and has a map view at the top with list view at the bottom so you don't have to click on each one you can scroll through the list at the bottom, handy. You can then filter by rating and price if you wanted. Once you look into a site you can see the photos, reviews and price. There is a button to navigate/show route however this requires you to upgrade to £8.49 per year or £1.69 per month.
There are a good few free layover places on there too, we like the layout and usability of the app, shame you can't navigate using your chosen map provider.
What we like about this app also is the user real reviews of the sites, they claim to have over 600,000 reviews across all the sites on there which is really handy.
The app includes features such as the best spots in each country, to provide you with inspirational things to check out along the road as well as potential route ideas.
Here are some shots from the Campercontact app
Searchforsites is a huge database that you can scour for all types of stopovers imaginable on an app and website, depending on whichever you prefer.
With over 100k members providing and updating information daily, you are sure to find the best free motorhome camping spot recommendations on there.
Although it is free to use, if you’re willing to pay a fee it is also possible to download their data onto your Garmin or TomTom sat-nav.
However, if you’re on a budget, the website or app is easy enough to navigate entirely free of charge!
You need to sign up to access the app and it takes a bit to download so we think it could take up a bit of space on your memory, the search for sites are picked up as you move the map around as well as a regular search by location at the top. You can do map view or list view. Once you tap on a chosen site it brings up the photos, information, quick buttons for call and email the site. There are reviews on here too and a handy section for unit types so if you have a big camper or tent you can see if they can accommodate you. This one does have navigation options too using your chosen map provider. We like this app and the way there is a quick snap shot of the site with icons for facilities and when they are open. It would be better if you could filter by price.
Here are some shots from the Searchforsites app
Download the CampingCard ACSI app to find your perfect campsite or motorhome pitch!
You will need to purchase an ACSI discount card from them first which is from around €12.95, this card is accepted in many campsites and will give you upto 60% discount on pitches in low season. If you like something more tangible than an app they also do a book (2022 actually is over 2 books) where you can flick through by country where each country has a very handy guide for that coutry like things such as traffic regulations, speed limits and other useful info. The book itself has allot of informatio with a foldout with the keys for what each code stands for telling you what that site has facility wise which can be abit of a faff but I guess thats what is needed otherwise it would be over several books.
It's also possible to purchase motorhome pitch information by country with your ACSI discount card which you can then use online or offline.
You can filter by more than 150 amenities, and see where you can spend the night nearby at a glance. Why not give it a whirl?
Advertised as Find Wildcamping Spots, the Instagram page and app, Vanlifelocation, helps you find and share the best camping spots across Europe!
Browse the idyllic pictures that all have their location attached for inspiration and join the community! It doesn’t get more accessible and easy.
When you open the app right at the top there are spots nearby, great idea if your often looking for your next spot right now. On map view you can move around and see the spots as you do, theres definitely not as many spots on here as some of the other apps. As these listings are uploaded by the community they don't always have photos of the spot and when they do they are not always the best quality, same goes for the information like amenities they wont all be filled in. When you go into the listing you have the details, mainly location including what3words which is handy for more off the grid locations. There is also the reviews tab on there to see others and easily add your own. This app is a really nice idea but I think will improve the more people use it and hopefully they will add more photos and reviews to make it even better. This app is free and does need a log in. We think this app is more set up in Europe at the moment so if you are travelling over there definitely one to have.
Here are some shots from the Vanlifelocation app
Although this is a private Facebook group until you request to join it, the Campervan Overnight Parking Facebook group has nearly 114,000 members.
The group full of like-minded individuals all looking for overnight camping spots is ideal if you’re looking for recommendations.
Although this is the largest group on Facebook, there are many others that you can join if you prefer! Who knows, you might even meet some friends!
Sometimes, some of the most beautiful camping spots on the road are found when you’re completely lost.
However, this isn’t always the most suitable option, especially if you’re with the whole family.
Maps.me is a fantastic app that you can use offline when there’s minimal to no signal, for those of you that prefer finding a camping spot the good old fashioned way.
A great advantage of Maps.me is that you can also download the map of a whole country before your departure.
This is ideal, especially when you’re abroad, as it means that you won’t need to use potentially expensive data roaming once you hit the road.
You only need to know the best places to look for them to find the greatest free Motorhome camping spots along the journey that are the best option for you!
Why not consider one of the ideas in this post the next time you're organizing a lengthy road trip with your motorhome?
You'll question why you didn't look into recommendations earlier if you locate a favourite!
The purpose of the world is exploration. Enjoy yourself while staying safe!