In Europe, hotel charges bite far deeper into budgets than you would sometimes expect. In Britain there is the inexpensive alterative of bed and breakfast. This does not exist to such an extent in the rest of Europe.
One way of getting around this, particularly for friends planning to travel together around the Continent, is hiring a car and, in summer, staying at camp sites.
Europeans are fond of the outdoors and there are camp sites wherever people holiday. There are, perhaps, three types of camping: luxury, pretty snazzy and bring your own tent. Which you select is up to your budget and style. But note most carefully that if you are taking your own tent you MUST camp in a proper listed camp site. You cannot pull into a field and hope for the best. It is illegal and strongly discouraged.
The three classes
Luxury first: Eurocamp, http://www.eurocamp.com, a subsidiary of the Next group of clothing stores, has well over 100 sites in France, West Germany, Spain, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Austria. Many are away from the population centres in the Swiss Alps, the French Riviera, Tuscany, Innsbruck and the German Black Forest, but Eurocamp also has sites in Florence, Paris and Munich.
Eurocamp is primarily intended for motoring holidays and is particularly suited to a group travelling around Europe by car. Eurocamp provides a choice of six-berth tents or six-berth caravillas, which appear to be of a very high standard.
The caravillas – 9.5 m long by 2.5 m wide -– and tents -– 5.2 m by 4.9 m – come with cooking facilities, pots, pans, crockery and cutlery. The caravillas have showers and toilets. Both forms of accommodation include a double bed and four single beds.
The campsites come with a variety of amenities -– most have restaurants, bars and either a swimming pool, lake or beach. All campsites have running hot and cold water, modern washing facilities and fresh water taps close to the tents. For some this will be paradise. For others, perhaps, a form of hell.
Many of the sites are in France, in the Loire Valley, Dordogne, Riviera, Provence, Pyrenees, Brittany, Normandy and Picardy. Free child care is provided at about half the camp sites.
Self-Drive motoring holidays in Europe (http://www.drive-alive.co.uk/) for the independent motorist. These are camping and mobile homes in France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The minimum stay is three nights. The cost of your camping is included in the package price. To check out prices I invented a family, parents and two kids, with a saloon car coming from Britain in May and spending five nights camping. The answer came back: The price of your holiday is €404 ($US508) including accommodation and crossing, but excluding insurance and maps.
Bring your own tent in true camping style
Interhike, http://www.interhike.com, covers UK, Ireland, Spain including the Canary Islands, Germany, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg which is pretty well most of Europe.
Note that this is both a listing of camping sites and a booking centre. It does not guarantee the quality of the sites although, from experience, outside of the annual European holiday in August they are generally quite splendid and civilised. In almost every case you have to take your own tent and gear.
This is just a brief sampling. You can explore the Internet until your eyes grow dim. Use a Google search and just type in camping Europe. Then pick and chose.
Gareth Powell is the author of several travel books, has been the travel editor of two metropolitan newspapers and has a travel website - http://www.travelhopefully.com