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I might be camping in France a couple of days this summer, but I don't have any plans regarding the trip and this will happen if am close enough to the park.

Is it ok to just go to the park or is it advisable to book in advance during summer? Can parks be full?

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You do not need to reserve in advance unless you really want a specific camping. Not everyone reserves a spot, as that often costs money. Not reserving is a risk, but a small one.

I often go to France without a reservation, like I did two weeks back. It's relatively easy to find a spot, especially if you are willing to camping-hop. That is not required at all though, I've successfully found spots for two weeks often enough, even in popular destinations, but it may take two or three tries in peak seasons. If a camping is full, it will often have a sign outside saying "complet" (full).

I own a Michelin Camping Guide that will tell you the locations and price ranges of many campings in an area, which is very handy when traveling abroad without the Internet and no reservations. They cost 10-20 euro.

9

Some parks will be full, there are many people in other European countries who book months in advance, to a year in advance, to be sure to be on the one park they prefer. Those parks will likely reserve all places they can for those people who book ahead.

Other parks will have spaces they keep open for people comming in on the day or who make a booking a few days in advance, mostly those are places for just one or just a few nights, unless the park is not popular enough to get fully booked.

Your chances on a place in a good park are bigger in years with poor weather in the area, as many people will either not use their booking or not make a shortly before traveling booking.

It will also depend on which part of France, which set of weeks and the kind of park you prefer. What I hear from people at work is the kind of parks with many options for entertainments while still having modest prices. Of course those that have a less good price to facilities balance will have spaces much longer.

I know this is not really a useful answer, as there are so many options. Your best bet is to call a few of the parks you would be happy to stay and see if they still have spaces for the time you want to be there.

3

A third option which works if you're not very fussy is to book very close to the time you want to stay. Web bookings are often an option but not at the real last minute. Phoning just before setting off (i.e. "have you got a space for tonight?") can be very effective in saving you a wasted journey. At least at the bigger commercial sites the reception staff tend to speak good English if you start trying to get by in French. This is less likely to be the case at the municipal sites, some of which can be very good.

As we're rather demanding about facilities and location, we generally book ahead; we also travel outside the French and English school holidays. In that case most sites we've stayed on have some space available, but I wouldn't bank on arriving without a booking in the school holidays unless the weather was very bad.

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I don't have an extensive experience but so far, I've seen it depend on two factors:

  • if you camp with a tent then that should be fine, in particular if you have no car. The campsites that become unavailable first are those with mobile homes and those for RVs/vans. If you don't particularly care about a specific spot or have no specific vehicle then it will more likely to be fine.

  • if you go to city campings then it is more likely to have spaces. City campings ("camping municipal") are usually less classy, more a public service. This is not as fancy, clean and might not have a swimming pool like 3 or 4 stars campings. But at least it might have vacancies.

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You don't really need to book early but it may be worth considering depending upon where you are planning on going. Camping is an extremely popular pastime in France with many different nationalities going there each year however there are also literally thousands of campsite located in the country. There are plenty of places that you can find great campsites at including CampingFrance.com and GoCampFrance

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    Are you in any way affiliated with either of these sites? – mts Oct 27 '16 at 16:55
  • @mts most likely not. I've used campingfrance before. It's like the booking.com for French campings. – Belle-Sophie Oct 27 '16 at 23:49
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I have been camping in France a number of times and haven't ever booked anything in advance other than the first night, when I have arrived in France early evening and wanted to make sure I knew where I was staying (even that would have had plenty of space). However, my experience is of going in May and June, and in May and even early June many sites were not yet open.

Having said all that there are so many campsites in France that it's hard to see that they would all be booked up at the same time, even in high season. For me it's part of the adventure — "time to move one... I think I'll drive south for a while..."

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