Whether you’re a meticulous planner, or you prefer to go with the flow when touring with your motorhome, campervan or caravan, there is no doubt that the days of struggling over paper maps and hoping for the best when looking for your next camping spot are close to being a thing of the past. Touring Magazine learns about searchforsites.
How did you get into motorcaravanning? What do you love about it?
The main reason we have a motorhome, and previously a caravan, was simply so that we could take our dogs to the continent with us.
We got our first motorhome over 10 years ago, after previously owning a caravan and tents before that, so we’re long time campers.
We first thought about a motorhome after arriving at a site in France with our caravan, struggling to reverse it onto a pitch, spending the next two hours unpacking everything, fighting with the awning etc. Then when we had finally finished, we sat exhausted and watched as a motorhome pulled up onto the pitch opposite; they simply turned off the engine and they were pitched and kettle on within five minutes.
So when we got home, we went to the next available motorhome show (at Shepton Mallet) with the intention of just looking, definitely not buying and definitely nothing new. We came away with a brand new Auto-Trail motorhome and the adventures began!
We love the freedom a motorhome gives – the ability to travel around without having to pre-plan everything like a military operation. We now just get a ticket for the Eurotunnel and that’s it; nothing else planned.
How and why did you set up searchforsites?
The first time we travelled to France in our motorhome we had also joined the France Passion scheme, which promotes stopovers at private properties usually at vineyards, but we found the book difficult to use as, at the time, it didn’t include co-ordinates and only had basic notes for directions. This usually created a lot of ’tension’ between navigator and driver. So I decided to see if there was a better way of finding stopovers.
searchforsites first started in 2013 as a hobby site. I was keen on learning how to build websites and thought this would be a great project to start. My wife Jill – and she will be the first to admit this – is useless at reading maps and we found it difficult to find the idyllic stopovers that we had seen in glossy magazines. So I decided to try and map the locations in an easy to use format.
How has the site grown over the years?
searchforsites has grown from being just a simple website to a complete integrated solution with the offline app and downloads for satnav devices all synced to the same database. We currently have nearly 150,000 registered members and the website has been viewed over 16 million times. In June 2018 we launched the first version of the iOS and Android apps and these have been a great success with over 120,000 downloads.
It’s community-based – so how does it work?
When a user registers, which is free for the website, any user can either:
1. Add their review of a location
2. Add photos to a location
3. Submit a new location
4. Edit an existing location
5. Create lists of locations (ie favourites, places to stay, places they have stayed etc)
We also encourage users to add extra value to their added content by completing their User Profile showing the type of campervan or motorhome they drive (a site that suits a campervan may not be suitable for large A-class motorhomes) and also complete a traveller profile (i.e. are they a young family with children or a senior couple). This detail can been viewed against each review they leave.
What’s your favourite country to visit in a motorhome?
This changes regularly but our current favourite country is Germany for its diversity of landscape, friendliness of the people and the sheer amount of very affordable dedicated motorhome Stellplatz stopovers that are available, usually in great locations.
Do you have a favourite campsite or motorhome stopover you like to visit?
This is so hard to decide and we could list favourites for each country and type of site whether it’s a motorhome stopover or a campsite. But the one we both agree on is one of the few sites we have visited more than once and is in Liechtenstein, at a rural mountain village called Steg. It is a simple car park but in a beautiful location with a view across a crystal clear lake towards snow-capped mountains and fantastic walking right from the doorstep of your motorhome. If you are lucky, you will spot or hear a marmot or two as they bark their warning calls as you approach.