Imagine a caravan, whether bought or rented, parked outside your house, looking forward to your first trip. How to plan such a camping trip? Is it the same as a hotel? No way, because it's much freer and often cheaper
Mobile apps are the key to success. There are popular apps on the market with a map and descriptions of the places inside, where you can find lots of information, amenities, comments, and photos of classic campsites and parking on a sea cliff or by a mountain stream. You just have to be careful about where it's legal to be camping overnight – the apps themselves don't really address that, which is why I and other travelers are creating the Camperguru app, which will only feature legal and safe places.
Petr Holeček will tell you more about caravan security in our next journal entry. But what is important not to underestimate is the inspection of the place where you are going to spend the night. There's nothing to worry about at campsites, they tend to be safe, but if you're parking at a winery or restaurant, you'll have to watch your own security. The best thing to do is to arrive during daylight, don't show off your expensive laptop, and watch what's going on for a few hours.
Another key to a great trip is choosing a departure date. The summer season in July and August tends to be wild at the campsites. All of Europe is on holiday and heading south, so you can probably imagine that it won't be much for meditation and quiet evenings. Especially camping by the water, it's often a long party. The solution is to go to Spain in the winter, for example, or take a spring or autumn break in Croatia. There it's very relaxing the rest of the year and the campsites and restaurants are 30% occupied or less.
And what if you have a dog and a cat? Don't worry about it. We didn't get our cat until about our third camping trip. We were scared, too. But in the end, the only thing we have to watch is the area around where we sleep so that there's no busy road, snake-infested deck, or other animal hazards in sight.
We like to let our cat loose. In fact, once, within sight of Gibraltar, we let our Zrza run around at 6 in the morning. And made plans to leave in the morning, restock, and meet up with fellow vanlifer Kuba. We had everything packed before 9 and Zrza was nowhere to be found. We wait, we call, we walk around the neighborhood, and the scene of a cat and snake fight flashes through our minds. Around lunchtime we cook something to eat from our leftovers. Around three in the afternoon, we wonder when the breaking point will come and leave Zrza behind. In the evening we go to bed and hope that the morning will be wiser. And then, the foreman shows up at the van door at 8 p.m. as if nothing has happened. Just freedom!
Many of us may still think of camping as an emergency holiday. But that's changed a lot in the last ten years. You're not nearly as close to peace and nature in a hotel. Amazing campgrounds are popping up, but there are farms, wineries, restaurants, marinas, and golf courses that welcome campers with open arms. It's no longer just about overnight stays, but about other experiences. These are exactly the kind of places we're looking for in Camperguru. In the Czech Republic, they are also spreading like water – for example, the stellplatz at the Mádl winery in South Moravia, the cute country house in Tisá, the quiet resort of owners Věra and Petr in Radslavice near Olomouc, or the stunning garden at the Buliro residence in Prague, are all sought-after and wonderful “new age” places.
But there are many more places where you can lay your head. Spanish and French cities are even building car parks dedicated to RVs, where you have a water connection, sink, and a toilet. Lots of natural places, like by the ski slopes, are open in winter. And finally, you can sleep overnight at highway rest areas and other places completely free of charge. But we'll talk about free camping some other time.
The most widely used camping apps in Europe:
Park4night – the most used app in Europe, a bit of a hodgepodge
StayFree – the most clear app of places in Europe, often with better photos
Campercontact – the oldest in Europe, contains time-tested places
iOverlander – campervan sites from all over the world, outdated but functional
Stellplatz – a new collection of stellplatz sites from Europe, but also the Czech Republic