What are aires?
The open roads of Europe meander through different cultures and landscapes. A campervan road trip allows you to travel where you want, when you want - and to stay for free, believe it or not. France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Benelux and Scandinavia all have forms of motorhome stopovers. These motorhome stopovers, known as Aires, are car parks and farms that allow campervans to stop overnight, often for free. The term campervan or motorhome also refers to Dormobiles, Winnebagos, American RVs, and motorcaravans.
Motorhome stopovers exist across Europe as a way of attracting tourism to places where no other tourism exists, or where motorhomes turn up anyway and are in need of somewhere to go. There are terms and conditions for the use of motorhome Aires as the campervan must actually be a campervan, not just a van with a mattress in the back, and must be 'self sufficient'. Camping is strictly prohibited, which means no tables and chairs outside and absolutely no tents.
How do you find aires?
The best way to find the motorhome stopovers is to use a guidebook. The All the Aires guidebooks cover 6 countries in four guides: All the Aires France, All the Aires Spain & Portugal and All the Aires Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The All the Aires guides are written entirely in English. The motorhome Aires have been inspected and photographed with GPS co-ordinates taken onsite, and Aires suitable for large motorhomes and RVs have been identified.
Why call them aires?
There are several names you may have heard of: Aire, Borne, Stellplatze, Aree de Sosta, stopover or camperstop. The name Aires comes from the French 'Aire de Service Camping Car', their term for motorhome stopovers. British motorhomers and press refer to them as 'Aires', which technically just means 'area' in French. Therefore people have been confused with other signs using the word 'Aire', as it is commonly used on signs for motorway services and rest areas, children's play areas and activity areas to name a few. Although motorhome stop overs are referred to as Aires, you are very unlikely to see a sign for a motorhome Aire using the word Aire, usually they use a motorhome symbol instead.
Motorhome stopovers are not confined to France and every country that has motorhome Aires has its own name for them. In Germany there are at least 3,000 motorhome stopovers called Stellplatze. In Italy the over 2,300 motorhome Aires are called Aree de Sosta. There are also two generic words that refer to these motorhome service areas. In the UK they are known as motorhome stopovers and in Europe they can be referred to as Camper Stops. So whether you stay on an Aire, Stellplatze, Aree di Sosta, stopover or camperstop, it is all the same thing. What they are not is wild camping or free camping areas.
Aires symbolise the freedom of motorhoming. You are welcomed into local communities, where you can stay overnight at unique locations only available to motorhome travellers. These are a luxury, not a right, so park your campervan sympathetically to your neighbours, use the service point and facilities responsibly and always abide by the RESPECT rules:
- Respect the environment
- Elect to use uncrowded Aires
- Shop Locally
- Park responsibly
- Exercise courteous behaviour
- Communicate with others
- Totally abide by these rules
Responsible use of campervan Aires is vital so that local mayors keep them open; use them, but don't abuse them. Municipal motorhome Aires are paid for by the local community, so repay this service by spending freely in the local shops, restaurants or garages. Rules vary slightly from country to country, but predominantly only motorhomes can use the motorhome stopovers. The law only permits 'Self Contained' motorhomes to be parked responsibly and their users to cook and sleep within them. A self-contained motorhome needs to have a toilet, water container for both fresh and waste water attached to or inside the vehicle, and you must be able to cook and sleep inside the vehicle. The law does not allow for camping, for example winding out awnings and putting out tables and chairs, or erecting a tent. If you want to camp, use a campsite.
Motorhome Aires operate on a first come, first served basis. It is not possible to reserve a space for your motorhome. Always park in designated bays if provided and never obstruct roadways or motorhome service points. If the motorhome Aire is full, find another one.
The term service point simply refers to the area which provides water and waste water disposal for the visiting motorhomes. There are several types of motorhome service point, professionally manufactured brands include Flot Bleu, Euro Relais and Aire Services. Around half the motorhome service points in France are custom made. Service points normally facilitate 3 vital functions:
Drinking Water: Thoughtless users are known to contaminate taps when rinsing toilet cassettes. Using disinfectant wipes or spray before drawing water will improve hygiene. Taps are normally threaded to assist connection of hoses. Flot Bleu Euro and Pacific Service Points have all the facilities located in one enclosed space increasing the risk of cross contamination. In addition, we have found the drinking water hose down the toilet emptying point on several occasions, so consider disinfection essential.
Waste Water: Though very variable, often a metal drive over grid will be set in concrete near the service point. Some drains are so badly designed or located that it is necessary to use a length of flexible pipe to direct waste water accurately. Some Service Points do not have a drain, but it is often possible to direct a pipe to the toilet emptying point. Flot Bleu Euro and Pacific Service Points often have a short flexible pipe instead of a drive over drain.
Toilet disposal: Only use the designated facility, removing any grids before emptying. Do not rush this operation as spillage will occur. Often a tap is located above the drain for rinsing toilet cassettes; this tends to flow even if tokens or payment are required for other services. There are very few service points suitable for emptying fixed tank toilet systems. We strongly recommend you have a macerator fitted and travel with a long length of pipe.
At Vicarious Media we want our guides to be the best they can, so feedback is very important.
Customer submissions help to improve the guides and all comments, both good and bad, are read and where possible acted upon.
You can submit entries by emailing us at email@example.com as our official online submission form is currently unavailable.
It is possible to print off more submissions forms for campsite and Aire submissions by clicking here.
If you wish to send us general comments please Click Here or write to:
Submissions, Vicarious Media, Unit 1 North Close Business Centre, Shorncliffe Industrial Estate, Folkestone, Kent, CT20 3UH
Become an Aires Inspector:
To be an inspector you must have the following skills:
- To write vibrantly, with authority and grammatical accuracy
- Proven ability for excellent research and fact checking
- Be an experienced traveller
- Have excellent time management and organisational skills
- Ability to work independently
- Great resilience and tenacity
You must also have the following equipment:
- Your own motorhome/caravan/tent
- The 'Tools of the trade', (eg laptop computer and good digital camera)
It's a bonus if you also have:
- Professional writing experience
- Travel writing experience
- Written or spoken foreign language skills
Inspectors are appointed once they have proven they have the required skills. Before applying to become an inspector you must have submitted at least 5 site submissions using the online submission form over a period of a year. Once you have submitted five sites fill in the Becoming an Inspector for Vicarious Media questionnaire.
Don't call us, we'll call you! Projects don't happen overnight and it may be some time before a suitable project is available. If we like what we see we will contact you when we have a proposal.
Submit a manuscript to Vicarious Media
If you have an idea for a book relating to motorhoming, campsites, or camping holidays or have already written one on this subject please send us the following:
- Details of content, chapter by chapter
- The introduction and first chapter if you have written it or a short sample piece of writing as if extracted from your proposed book
- How your book would be different and better than the other guides currently available
- Some details about yourself and why you would be the best person to write such a guide
Once we have evaluated your submission we will contact you if we have a proposal.