So, you bought a van and are ready to hit the road, but now you’re faced with the daunting question of where you’ll sleep once you’ve left the comfort of your permanent home.
Whether you’re travelling through, visiting a vast region, or searching for a longer-term stay, the search for the best overnight motorhome parking can be a bit tricky but there are a few ways to make it easier. Many people find it difficult to locate the right place to park their motorhome or camper at night, especially if they’re new to the area, or if they’re travelling to a place where there is not much overnight parking available.
We’ll look at some of the favourite options for camping in your van in this article. We discuss free and paid camping as well as our top tips for finding those spectacular campsites you’ve always wanted, including ones with phone service.
If you’re planning to travel with your motorhome or camper soon, here are some great tips on how to find the best overnight motorhome parking.
What is Overnight Motorhome Parking?
Overnight motorhome parking is a place where you can park your camper or motorhome at night. Usually, these are motorhome parks, Aires as they are sometimes known in Europe, or campsites that allow overnight stays. In some cases, you might need to get permission from a homeowner to park overnight on their property and in some cases, you may be parking overnight in a car park that allows overnight parking.
Overnight parking may include access to services such as water and electric hook up, or it may not.
Overnight parking will be all dependant on what you are looking for, whether you’re looking for somewhere to stay for free and rest to break up your journey, or whether you’re looking for a campsite where you plan to stay for at least a few days.
How to Find a Great Overnight Motorhome Parking Spot
If you want to find a great overnight motorhome parking spot, there are a few things you can do. First, you should start by researching the area in which you’ll be traveling. Google maps is a great resource for finding information about places such as where the motorhome parks or campsites are, if there are any rest areas nearby, and if there are any places you can stay with permission from homeowners.
You can also get information about the area by talking to people who live there. You can ask questions on forums and groups online or you can talk to people in person when you’re traveling. Another way to find a great spot to park your motorhome or campervan at night is to use apps.
There are several apps available that list places you can park your motorhome. One such app is Park4night. This app lists thousands of places where you can park and stay overnight. It shows campsites that you have to pay for and also free spots. You are able to filter the results by several options such as the rating, the height limit of your vehicle and the services available.
Users of the site are able to leave a star rating on a location and also leave a review, which is super helpful for other users of the app and allows you to see whether the place you are wanting to go is good or not.
We use Park4night on a daily basis to find our overnight park-ups and we rate this app very highly. Van life would be much more difficult for us without Park4night.
You can also use apps such as Camper Contact and Stay Free to find places to park. You can also find a place to park by contacting travel and tourism organisations in the places you’re travelling to. They might have lists of places where you can park.
Things to Look for When Choosing a Good Parking Spot
There are a few things you should look for when choosing a good parking spot. Ideally, you’ll want to find a place where you can park for free. While there are plenty of paid motorhome parks and campsites, it’s usually difficult to find places to park for free. If you can’t find any free places, you should look for the cheapest spots if you are looking to save money or are travelling on a budget.
You will want to look for somewhere that has good reviews on Park4night or the other apps that we have mentioned above. If you require services such as water or electric hook-up, then you will want to look for a spot that provides these. You should also look for a place that is relatively quiet and has low traffic. You also want to find a place that has good Wi-Fi and phone service, especially if like us you need to work remotely in your van.
Free Overnight Motorhome Parking and Camping.
The ability to travel for less money and save money on housing costs are two main advantages of van life. And, for the most part, camping for free is the best way to do both.
In the UK, finding one of these free nature spots is almost impossible. Wild camping is becoming less and less tolerated all across the UK unfortunately, and so you will most likely end up staying on a campsite if you want to stay somewhere legal and safe.
In Europe, wild camping is much more tolerated, and some countries, such as France, provide the most excellent free motorhome stops, a lot of the time including services!
If you’d like to know more about motorhome stopovers in France, you can read more here – The Ultimate Guide To Motorhome Stopovers In France
Free camping and overnight parking are available for every scenario, including extended stays in the wilderness, fast stops off the roads, and parking in towns and cities.
Here are the most excellent free sleeping choices for van life, ranging from magnificent wilderness camp locations to the unpleasant but often necessary reality of car park sleeping.
Parking on Public Lands.
Free camping (or wild camping) is available in many public nature spots (not so much in the UK, but across Europe there are plenty). These locations are free, accessible and have few to no neighbours, and provide excellent stargazing, wildlife encounters, and the feeling of being out in the middle of nowhere.
Always ensure to keep your eyes open and follow the signs that may show the rules of camping in these nature spots.
If you want to uncover the most excellent public camping places, you’ll have to be willing to take some risks. There are places closer to essential roads that are simpler to get to but generally busier. Motorhome enthusiasts have discovered that the fewer neighbours you desire, the deeper you must travel.
Park4night is a great way to find these free nature spots to camp as you can use this term to filter the results in the area that you want to camp in.
On long travel days or when you go into town for a jam-packed “errand day,” van-lifers frequently sleep in car parks. Sometimes they are just the most convenient place to park.
You’re effectively camping in a car park, which isn’t ideal, but it’s occasionally required. You can probably expect more noise and more activity in a car park than you may in a nature spot, so this type of camping is not for everyone.
Stealth Camping in Urban Areas
In cities, covert parking is not advised. Motorhome lovers, on the other hand, tend to avoid cities as much as possible. They can be overcrowded, have too many restrictions, and make driving a misery. A tranquil area in the middle of nowhere trumps a metropolis any day for motorhome owners.
However, you can sleep on the street in some cities.
If you want to camp in a city, be sure you know the local rules regarding sleeping in a vehicle. It is not recommended to sleep where you aren’t supposed to, especially in residential areas where you could be unwanted. However, it is acknowledged that it may occur from time to time. Make an effort to blend in, be courteous, and clean up after yourselves.
Don’t be surprised if you get “the knock” if you’re camping where you shouldn’t be. When you go stealth camping, you assume that risk, and most of the time, you’ll just be advised to go somewhere else. Consider yourself to be a good ambassador of the nomad community at all times. Otherwise, you’ll make things more difficult for the following individual.
Paid Camping and Campsites
People like to camp for free whenever feasible but paying for camping is not a bad idea.
When you need access to facilities that you don’t always get in free nature spots or free car parks, such as showers, access to drinking water, somewhere to empty your toilet etc, or you just want a fast and straightforward site to camp for the night before looking for a free area, then you can pay for a campsite. Paid campsites generally provide water, electricity, bathrooms, toilets, and laundry and WiFi, which are pretty helpful after a long duration in the wild.
Unless you have money saved to spend, paying for camping too regularly may rapidly eat up all of the money you’re saving by living in a van — thus, it is recommended to try to camp for free as much as possible, but a campsite may sometimes be necessary.
Some people feel more safe and secure when staying in campsites rather than free spots too, so it really depends on your preferences.
Tips for overnight off-grid motorhome parking
- Leave no trace – this is a popular term in the van life world, and it basically means leave the place that you’re staying just as you found it – respect where you’re staying, so that everyone can continue to enjoy the wonderful free spots on offer.
- Clean up after yourselves – leave no waste behind.
- Do not park in illegal spots – follow the rules.
- If you are going to park on private land, seek permission from the owner first.
- Do not use an off-grid parking spot as a campsite. Use it as a place to stop and rest before continuing your journey, so do not overstay your welcome and don’t get out camping tables and chairs, or set fires or use BBQ’s.
- Make sure that you keep your van safe and secure. Off-grid parking can sometimes be riskier than staying on a campsite. You need to make sure that your windows and doors are locked, and that you’ve taken all the security measures that you need to.
If you’d like to know more about going off-grid in your motorhome, then you can find out more here – Motorhome Off Grid – Everything You Need To Know
Finding a place to sleep at night is one of the things that makes van living so exciting daily. Campers come to like the sensation of uncertainty since it keeps them on their toes and makes living more enjoyable.
However, by planning ahead of time, finding someplace to sleep at night may be very simple – even remote ones in breath-taking wilderness regions where you might end up staying for a week.
By following these tips, you can make it easier to find a great spot to park your motorhome or camper at night.
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You can take a look at some of our other van life posts which include lots and lots of hints and tips on all things van life here – Van Life – Travel Information, Hints, Tips and Advice (threeasabird.com)
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I have always wanted to travel and luckily I always got to travel to some amazing countries while I was growing up with my family and this really encouraged me to continue this and get out into the world on my own when I was older.
My goal growing up was really to see as much of the world as I could, but then I started going to work and really concentrating on my career and travel took a back seat. I still tried to get away a few times a year but I always knew there was an end goal which was to travel as much as possible.
So I got my head down and worked as hard as I could as an e-commerce manager. I have always been techy, I love computers and websites, so that’s where it gave me the idea to start this blog and also have my own web design agency. If you want to check it out or need any help then please take a look rrwebdesign.co.uk (shameless plug there)
But after covid, we both knew this was now the right time to take the leap and go and see the world after being trapped inside our house and working from home for a couple of years. We realised more than ever that you only get one life and you really need to make the most of it and do what you love!