An outdoor enthusiast has a different concept of camping than a family out for a few days of roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories. But either way, the idea of a few days spent in the great outdoors appeals to a vast number of us. Whether our choice is a fully stocked RV, a $100 tent from Wal-Mart, or a sleeping bag under the stars, it just feels good to be among nature. Plus, camping is a heck of a lot cheaper than any resort or tourist trap. It can give the old bank account a bit more breathing room without sacrificing a vacation all together.
Thousands upon thousands of vacationers head to our nation’s campgrounds during the summer months. But this favorite recreational past time is not uniquely American by any means. Families and outdoor enthusiasts around the world enjoy being outdoors as much as we do, but none more so than in Europe, which according to the latest estimate has over 10,000 campgrounds.
Europeans take a different view of camping and their reasons for doing so often have little to do with nature. The majority of Europe’s campgrounds are designed for middle-class income families who wish to travel but have to be considerate of their oftentimes straining budgets. With these folks in mind, functionality and amenities have been incorporated into many campgrounds.
Some are located in rural country settings, such as Eco Glamping Lambertiere in France, or Glampotel in Spain, but there are houses nearby so it’s sort of like camping in a neighborhood. At Le Chateau de Monfreville, also in France, campers pitch tents in the chateaus backyard garden. The chateau was commissioned by William the Conqueror, and previous guests have included Walt Disney and the invading German army in WWII.
None of these will feel like an Americans idea of camping, but this is typical in Europe. Though these sites are seldom crowded, the amenities have not been short-changed. They include refrigerators, gas stoves, hot showers, and neatly manicured grounds.
Other camps are located just on the outskirts of major cities and offer bus transportation between the two locations. Some have already driven stakes in the ground so visitors don’t have to bother with pitching their own tent. Just pick one. Or. Pay a little extra and pick an already parked and set up RV. It may not run but who cares? Of course, If someone prefers bringing their own tent or driving their own RV there are usually empty spaces set aside for both.
If a campground does not have their own tents or sleeping gear, it’s less expensive to buy these things at a large European super-store then it is a specialty sporting goods store. Besides. Why lug all this heavy gear on an airplane when you can buy it there? If a traveler from the states knows they will be camping in the same location for a week or so, buying the gear and renting the campsite will still be far less than the cost of a hotel room in town, especially if the campsite is just outside of a major city like the popular campground, Oktoberfest Camping Munich Riem. Since no one will really be “roughing it”, and the gear will be left behind when they leave, buying the best of the best won’t be necessary and would be a foolish waste of the money they’re trying to save.
A good number of European campgrounds are all-out vacation extravaganzas with their own cafes, water-parks, and individual shower stalls, such as CampingIN Park Umag in Croatia, and Camping Terme 3000 in Slovenia. Familiecamping De MolenHoek in the Netherlands has a full multisport field. These type camps resemble mini-cities. As a word of caution, hot showers are usually attached to metered devices so scrub quickly and carry enough coins. Eating meals in one of the cafes, or the only cafe in some instances, is a great way to mingle with travelers of different cultures for the full European experience in a casual laidback atmosphere.
Depending on where in Europe someone travels often has everything to do with how crowded or chaotic a campground will be. The entire country of Austria is sleepy and laid-back, thus, so are the campgrounds. Camping on the outskirts of Munich or Brussels will render an entirely different experience. No matter where the location, there is one commonality between all European campgrounds. Open fires are expressly forbidden, which for American’s will take some adjusting. They’ll be no s’mores on this trip.
If a campground’s sign indicates they are “full”, this usually only means all of the RV spots have been taken. Since privacy in Europe is not viewed as such a valued commodity as it is in the U.S., campgrounds are always willing to squeeze in a tent wherever they can find space, no matter how small that space might be. Anyone backpacking their way through Europe with their own tent is always assured of a patch of ground.
Some campgrounds rent long-term weekend spaces for those wanting to get out of town or closer to it, depending on where they live. These particular campgrounds stay full and don’t allow “stop and go” campers, as they are referred to. Since there is probably another campground right down the road which is not of this type, this seldom causes a problem. Fortunately, the age in which we live allows future travelers to learn which campgrounds will be most suitable for them based on proximity, whether they need their own gear or not, and which ones are open to the general public. Once the right one is determined, advanced reservations can be made to avoid problems upon arrival.
The cost of European campgrounds are going to vary depending on many variables such as featured amenities and locations, but the average per night cost per person is between $13 – $16. Some campgrounds charge per person, while others charge per tent or per RV, so it’s always best to do an internet search in advance when determining a travel budget.
Based on the information provided, and if you don’t mind an unorthodox approach to finally affording the European vacation you never thought possible, your bucket list dream trip may be closer than imagined. Wouldn’t it be better to sleep in a tent in Europe then to never sleep in Europe at all?