Early booking or camping without an itinerary?

February, 21 2022

So many campers, so many styles. Whereas one person books a pitch for next year straight after a lovely holiday, the other doesn’t plan a thing and travels around for a few weeks with no set itinerary. And that’s completely fine. Whether you are still debating between the security of early booking or the freedom of a spontaneous camping holiday, we have made a list of the pros and cons for you.

Why you should book early

If you would you like to go camping with your whole family in the high season and on top of that, at a popular campsite, then we advise you to book in time. And simply because others do the same and those campsites soon fill up. That is true for the summer months of July and August but also for popular holiday periods such as the May holidays and Pentecost. You may think this mainly applies to large family campsites with leisure pools, playgrounds or private sanitary facilities, but even if you want to go to a great little campsite with your children in the summer, you would be smart to book a pitch in time.

Campsite with swimming pool

Campsites with a lovely swimming pool are extremely popular in the high season.

If you would you rather go on holiday in the low season, you can usually take your time when it comes to booking. But if you want an affordable camping holiday using    CampingCard ACSI, it is advisable to book in time. Some campsites have a maximum number of pitches available for users of this camping card, meaning you could miss out on a pitch in the low season too.

Grab yourself a great spot

If you want a lengthy stay or a spacious spot in the shade or even in the sun with a lovely view, close to the pool or perhaps as far away as possible from the playground, these are all reasons to book your pitch at a campsite in time. Don’t forget to let the campsite staff know your preferences when you book a pitch or accommodation.

In some popular regions, there is almost no avoiding booking early for the high season. Consider   Istria, Lake Garda, or even the Dutch Wadden Islands. And certainly if you would like to camp on the waterfront. However, you can take a chance on a last minute or a vacant pitch at a little campsite further inland. 

hiking routes from the camping

Mark out a few great hiking routes in advance.

Booked? You can start planning! Check out what activities there are at the campsite and in the area. Find out what lovely beaches, towns, sights, museums and restaurants are in the vicinity. You will be able to find a lot of information on the campsite website, under the campsite reviews or on travel blogs. Or you could even buy a regional hiking or cycling map in advance and select a few nice routes.

Early booking gives peace of mind

Campers increasingly want the assurance of getting their favourite pitch at their favourite destination and are booking even earlier compared with previous years. When booking, pay attention to the campsite’s cancellation terms and conditions. By now, most campsites keep in mind the possibility of cancellations due to the corona crisis.

A viable alternative is booking your pitch or accommodation via a booking site. 

Why you shouldn’t book early

Although the cancellation terms and conditions are generally more favourable than before the corona crisis, you are still setting your holiday in stone as it were when you book early. If you reserve a pitch for three weeks in July at a campsite in the Ardèche, it’s tricky to spontaneously change plans. If you don’t like the campsite or the weather is against you, then there’s a big chance you will just have to make the most of it.

Bonus tip: If you don’t like the camping pitch or encounter another practical problem at the campsite, try and solve it with the staff or campsite manager first. Many campsite owners are very accommodating. 

Camping reception

If something is bothering you, don’t hesitate to inform reception.

If your definition of camping is freedom, following your nose and making unexpected discoveries, then an early booking is probably not your thing.

Camping without an itinerary: The pros

Camping without an itinerary gives a sense of freedom. You decide how long you drive on any given day, where you will spend the night and how long you’ll stay. It’s easy to follow the nice weather or even your new camping friends. 

You decide how free you make it. You could choose to book some overnight spots in advance and see how the holiday pans out in the meantime. It can be reassuring to know that you won’t have to sleep on the side of the motorway. It can therefore be handy to book in advance if you want to camp near a popular location or tourist spot and you want the assurance of a pitch.

spontaneous camping

Don’t want to drive any more but you do want to make a campfire? That’s not a problem.

If you like the campsite, you can often spontaneously book additional overnight stays, certainly in the low season. With a bit of luck, they may upgrade you to a better camping pitch. If it’s not your ideal place, then it’s only for one night and you can travel on the next day. You may even discover places off the beaten path, which can result in wonderful experiences and meetings.

Use a camping app

Mobile phone, smartphones and camping apps have made it much easier to go camping without an itinerary. If you have done enough driving for one day and are looking for a campsite nearby, then a camping app shows you what’s available in the region. And you can call the campsite at the touch of a button. If your French, Spanish or German leaves something to be desired, a translation app will help you on your way.

Looking for a camping via app

If you are unsure whether camping without an itinerary is for you, read the experiences of tent camper Tom and campers Michèle and Sanne.

Camping without an itinerary: The cons

In the high season, it can be hard to find a spot at popular campsites or in favourite camping regions. That can even apply to places with ACSI CampingCard discounts in the low season. You can often find a place for a small tent or motorhome for the night, but if it’s busy, they are not always the best pitches. 

beautiful camping pitches

Spontaneously discover the best camping pitches.

Early booking discount or last-minute discount?

Is it cheaper to book early in the year using a special offer to get the most favourable pitch at a campsite? Or will you take a chance and wait for a last-minute offer at a sunny holiday destination? We can’t give you a definitive answer either way and, on top of that, you need a bit of luck. Just pick the deal that best suits your holiday style and budget and enjoy your camping holiday.

How do you prefer to camp?

Do you like to plan your holiday in advance, or do you choose your destination at the last minute? Or do you combine both camping styles? We are interested to hear your reactions and tips!

  • Author: Marieke Krämer
  • I grew up camping. The tent was pitched every year in beautiful places in the Netherlands and Belgium. I like active or relaxing holidays in the countryside best. Preferably at a campsite by a lake or river with a view of the mountains. For me, a day in the city is always part of a holiday.

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