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We have been to France caravanning previously and have always booked the sites throught the caravan club prior to departure. Having seen the way the French treat their "Camping Car" users we decided to change our outfit at the beginning of this year and give it a go.
Having had quite a few trips away in the UK and one trip to the Netherlands to visit the Keukenhoff (highly recommended!) we are now starting to plan our last minute trip to France.
However nerves have set in about setting off on a holiday that we have not booked any sites for. Is it easy to find decent Aires or are there ones that should be avoided.
We plan to travel down to the Vendee region or maybe further, however we don't want to be travelling everyday and would rather be able to park up and use our bikes to get around locally. Our boys are old enough and sensible enough to cycle on the quieter roads but obviously not on any main or heavy trafficed routes.
Outside the main holiday period, approx July 7th to Aug 15th there should be plenty of space available on most sites however in the high season spaces may be tight though spaces are often available for those staying one or two nights and arriving early.
If you are going to the popular camping areas in the high season and wishing to stay several days or more then booking may be advisable.
Many campsite guides have websites that link to the website for the campsite making booking easier.
For example with a selection of campsites in most of Europe.
Hi Andrew, we have motorhomed in France a few times and have never pre-booked a campsite yet. As you state, France is very motorhome friendly and there always seems to be a campsite "just around the corner". We very often use the Camping de Municipal, which most towns and large villages seem to have. They vary from being very good to being very basic, but they are usually fairly cheap and are fine if passing through the area. When we use the aires, we never stay in the ones on the autoroutes or near large built up areas. If there are other motorhomes or lorries already parked up, so much the better. Safety in numbers? By the way, we have never had any securiety issues. If you can, why not purchase the Allan Rogers campsite guide for France?,very informative. Also you can purchase from this site I believe, the definitive guide to Aires de Service.
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Hi Andrew, I went in August last year and only booked one site near Paris for a family wedding. Other than that we just toured and managed with a variety of aires, and other campsites, some basic some more elaborate with swimming pools etc. Never booked any of them and as long as you arrive before about five-ish should have no problems. I had been informed that the coastal areas are busy so I avoided them as it was high season. Toured parts of France, Belguim, Luxemborg and Germany for three weeks.
Go for it and enjoy
We are new to motorhoming too having started out 2 years ago.Have been to France 3 times now and found our confidence growing about where to stay(it probably helps that my wife is French).The french are very relaxed about motorhomes even to the point of letting you park up overnight in town squares if you want a nice blow out in a good restaurant.Best to check first with locals but ususally no probelm providing you dont cause inconvenience. Many aires are very good. Can recommend one in Arcais in the Vendee.Vendee a great area and the kids would probably love the Puy Du Fou theme park(They allow motorhomes to overnight free in an adjacent field could think of a lot of places in this country that ought to do similar!) If going to La Rochelle get there reasonably early as spaces to park up go early but there is a municapa site right next to the marina and within easy reach of town centre.
Have a good holiday
The first week we did some long journeys and whilst we attempted to find Aires we weren't that successful, we stayed on a few municipal sites which were inexpensive but had good facilities. We stayed at a site in Ebruil (near Clermont Ferrand) run by an English family that I can highly recommend, there was a service point just down the lane from their site which was the first one we used and it was free, a wonderful French village to see.
Towards the end of the first week we stayed on some mainstream sites with pools etc which the kids enjoyed, but I decided that we really ought to try the Aire system in the second week.
We travelled up to the region surrounding Dol de Bretagne (where we had holidayed last year with the car and caravan) but could not find the local Aire that we thought we had found last year, so we moved on to a spot near the beach were we had seen Motorhomes parked last year. We parked up next to a couple from the Netherlands and found that they had stayed on this spot for the last three years and experienced no problems, so that was it, our first "Wild Camping" night. We awaoke in the morning after a very quiet night, however at five to nine there was a knock on the door from a couple of French Officials who very politely told us that it was prohibited to camp overnight here (whilst all the time holding his right hand over his pistol holster), no problem was my reply as we rapidly packed everything away and moved on in less than 15 minutes from the knock on the door - just try that in a caravan!.
The following night was again spent on a site (with a pool) after some pressure from the kids. The following three nights were all spent in Aires which were very good and I can highly recommend them.
Courseilles sur Mer (Juno Beach) 5:90 Euros. Etretat 5 Euros. Le Touquet 6 Euros.
The only bad bit to report was the Aire at Sains (near Pontorson) that we eventually found had had the service point vandalised so that nothing worked apart from the grey and wc waste point.
Would we do it again, certainly without question. We would however attempt to get hold of the French Aire book so we could find all the off the track ones that we had seen the previous year.
I'm off again in the MH on Thursday, this time back through Calais and on to Zandvoort in Holland where I'm racing my MG, so if anyone sees a MH towing a Midget, give it a wave it may be me!
We've just recently returned from a 2 week trip, getting down to near Bordeaux, chasing the sun and escaping the wind and rain, until it was time to turn around.
We did a couple of France Passion sites (great, until a puncture at one put us off ), and the rest of the time it was mostly Camping Municipales, which were varied, but always at least good enough. When I get chance, I'll put them into the campsite directory on here.
We never pre-booked. We used a big map (to find an area which might be within our reach), the Caravan Club guide (book 1 - to find a reasonable-sounding site), and then the TomTom to test the exact time / distance, and plot the route. Because I'm a wimp, I didn't want to arrive too late, so we generally left camp by 9am, and arrived between 11.30 and 2pm. Never any problems with space, although we did keep clear of the more popular coastal areas.
And for next year, we're planning a bigger trip down to Italy. Can't wait!
We would however attempt to get hold of the French Aire book so we could find all the off the track ones that we had seen the previous year.
"The Book" should be available in most French book stores and in the larger outlets of the big supermarket chains. There are in fact two guides to French aires from competiting publishers, but there is not much difference between them.
If you don't get hold of a copy there is always the web site
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. Here you can not only search aires on the net, but also download or print out lists by departements. Or even order a CD with the complete data. Only in French, but even my French is good enough to understand that.
When I go on tour to France I always print out the lists from the departements I intend to go to.
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Well we've just returned from our main holidays in France and this year we did two and a half weeks touring around France (chasing the sun) and we only stopped on one main stream site to give the kids some time in a pool. That site was only used as we were at Bayeaux on the aire there and just did not feel comfortable, so it was a case of a last minute up sticks and go.
Can't wait to get back, it was one of our best holidays ever. The Dune de Pyla(t) was unforgettable, surfing at Biscarosse Plage equally so. Drinking wine and conversing with the French and the welcome they gave us dispels the myths that they don't like the us Brits.
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