Overnight with camping van, what are the options?

Hello! My husband and I are renting a camper van this July and visiting Marseille to Narbonne. Does anyone have suggestions on where to overnight, charge electronics, dump grey water and sewage, etc? I was looking into aires but are they safe?
:blush: thanks!

Have you considered taking a look at Park4night?

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Most aires are completely fine, others are a bit dodgy. Use your gut instinct.

Or France Passion

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Another literary recommendation for campervanning is Autonauts of the Cosmoroute Autonauts of the Cosmoroute par Julio Cortazar | Occasion | 9781846590481 | World of Books

Lovely story of two poets, both dying of leukaemia(!) who went to the Med via every aire. Might not sound barrel of laughs, but it’s a joyous read.

Thanks all! Great info and I will look up the book.

A helpful read regarding French aires, they also recommend a book called All the Aires by Vicarious Publishing which list every aire in France if you want to do some pre-planning.

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Quite an expensive but excellent, believe there are now several phone apps that do the same

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Almost every village around here has an “aire de camping-car” run by the mairie, together with the usual borne for water and waste disposal. I can’t imagine that an aire in a little village would pose much in the way of safety problems…

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I was thinking of aires on biggish roads. We stopped at one in the Charente to walk the dog and have a picnic. And a person popped out a parked van and asked us to move as we would put off his/her customers.

And some motoresy aires used by trucks are frequented by undesirable people.

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There’s one on the way to Bordeaux where I used occasionally to stop for a pee and to walk the dog. I prefer not to these days as it’s become a place where rather shady looking men emerge from the bushes.

LOL I’v never seen any come out of bushes but plenty going into the bushes. Was a park near Brest well known bandit country and we had no idea until we were politely informed by friend that the police made regular visits most days. Wondered why so many cars were parked but no one walking about, I have lead a sheltered life and only ever read about such places. :open_mouth:

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Consider getting the Camping Card (ACSI). You’ll get a directory of campsites and an app and some discounts for the same. Organised campsites might not be your cup of tea, but they come in all shapes and sizes and are at least a good fall back if less formal options don’t work out. Park4night is very helpful. We rented a motorhome to try and found some good spots this way. I never tried any of the aires near big roads as a) the thought of parking next to a busy road/autoroute is not my idea of a holiday and b) you hear stories (although I stress that I have no idea how much is real and how much is the usual rumour mill etc). As others have said, France is the dream country for this since there is a small village aire with at least some facilities round every corner. You’re welcomed rather than spurned as you often would be in the UK.

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Oh dear! That sounds creepy.

Awesome resource! Thank you!

It was! :roll_eyes:

If in a camping car/motor home then Camping Carpark is the go to app for France. Sorry I cannot attach a direct link but look it up from the following screenshot.
We are currently overnighting at Caussade in department 82, check out the price which includes electric hook up, waste disposal and fresh water with a vibrant town 500 metre walk, what’s not to like!



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I use Camper contact. Put up by those inveterate van and caravan folk, the Dutch. Camping stops worldwide!

There’s aires and aires. I’d be wary of any on m/ways or trunk roads for overnight

But as @AngelaR mentions, there are designated spots in towns and villages all over FR provided by the Mairie. They vary, in my experience, from a patch of cinders in an ex-rail station coal yard to the carpark of a salle polyvalent to the parking around a church 5 mins from Dieppe docks - very useful for the 4am arrival.

There are 1000s of these free local authority aires. Then there’s all the commercial sites with bells whistles and lekky.

In FR one is spoiled for choice.

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In our camping-car we have spent just under 900 nights in 16 years and the vast majority in France. I’m not saying that to boast, just to indicate that there is some experience behind what I say. Some thoughts :

  1. The biggest word in your question is “July”. We would not dream now of trying to compete for Campsite or Aire space in July/August, but I fully understand the plight of those who have no choice because of family life, children at school, or other reason. But it does mean your planning has to be dominated by being able to book ahead, and by being willing to tolerate crowding that does not exist in many months of the year. From TV news reports on people’s holiday planning, and from my own observation of occupation, this factor looks like being aggravated this summer.

  2. One essential plank in your strategy should be CCP (Camping Car Park), which we have been using for at least 10 years. Their 400 or so Aires are well maintained, always with fill and empty and wifi and most with electric hook-up. Very low price even in summer. The really big plus is that you can book in advance -provided you pay a once a year supplement of 29€, which is well worth it. Apart from that, there is no “membership fee” you just pay by the night. Indeed , you can acquire your entry card from the machine on your arrival at your very first aire. But in your case I would be wanting to order it in advance, so you could pay the booking supplement and so you could make full use of their helpful site and phone app. These resources are live, so that you can see on your phone at 15h00 that your target Aire has, say, only 5 pitches left out of 40, and act accordingly.

  3. ACSI is a good site handbook for campsites. BUT … the ACSI model is based on the premise that many campsites have low occupancy out of season, and will therefore offer special deals for camping-caristes. These will not apply to you. On the subject of price, CCP will cost about 15€ per night. To illustrate the “July factor” I can quote being on a pitch on a very good site in the SW, paying about 20€ in May, and when I looked at their July tarif it was 75€.

  4. I would recommend that you get a copy of “Guide National des Aires de Service Camping-Cars 2023”. This covers most of the Aires run by local authorities. Quality variable when compared to CCP, although some are excellent? BUT … almost never is it possible to book in advance. Many will be full in July, you just don’t know at what time in the day they will become full. Many have only 5 or 10 pitches although there are big ones. Narbonne Plage, for example, is a great municipal site, but no booking.

  5. You must do as you please, and I know many people want to be free spirits, but I would not recommend wild camping, especially in season. Nor do I recommend “semi-wild” such as Park4night, more aimed at truck drivers. Camping-caristes are a friendly and close community - if you have any difficulty, and you are on a proper Aire, you will be helped, I guarantee.

  6. Depending on what you enjoy, check out “France Passion” website. They publish a guide to Vineyards and duck farms etc where you can park for the night … free of charge, but doing the decent thing and buying some of their produce.

  7. You mention Marseille to Narbonne. If you want to message me your e-mail address I could pass to you several pages I put together for another newcomer, on sites between the Spanish border and the Camargue. Some might be relevant. And please feel free to message if you have specific questions.

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Thank you Arthur! Great info! I will message you. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: :smiley: