Top Tips for Campervan Travel (AKA #Vanlife)
As country borders remain closed and travel restrictions show very few signs of lifting, many people are turning to domestic travel alternatives. Instead of flying to far-flung places, tourists are taking to campervan travel. While campervanning is nothing new to tourists in destinations like New Zealand or Australia, there has been a major upswing in people getting around this way since COVID hit. People across the U.S. and the U.K. are converting or renting vans to explore their own backyards in style.
Why a campervan?
The simple truth is that campervan adventures are a step up from sleeping in a tent. There’s very little set up required and at the end of the day you can lay down in a real bed. These converted vans also require a lot less driving skill than a king-size RV. A campervan is right in the middle of it all. You’re still getting to experience the best parts of camping without the extra planning or fear of the elements (no one wants to camp in a soggy tent). Because campervans have become such a travel trend, there are also many cool, unique vans to select from for rent. To get a better understanding about whether van travel is for you, read our tips and items to consider. You never know; #vanlife may be exactly your cup of tea.
Renting a van
Most people feel daunted by campervanning because they aren’t sure where to start. Do you buy a van and convert it yourself? Do you buy one already converted that suits your camping needs? The simple truth is, you don’t have to commit to buying a campervan right away. Instead, consider hiring one! There are many companies that rent campervans to travelers looking for less of a long-term investment. It’s important to do your research when looking at hiring a campervan. What some refer to as ‘campervans’ are actually motorhomes or RVs.
Some of the highly-praised campervan rental companies from around the globe include:
(Driving) confidence is key
It takes confidence to steer a large vehicle anywhere on the road. Now imagine navigating your way to a hike through windy, narrow roads with little-to-no reception. It’s not an impossible task by any means, but it requires some real confidence behind the wheel. It’s also helpful to get a full tutorial of how to drive the van you’ve rented. Many companies actually require that owners of the rented vans put together videos so that renters can reference back if they get into any trouble. Before pulling out onto the open road, just make sure you feel comfortable in the driver’s seat.
Keep it clean
Perhaps the golden rule of campervan travel is this: a tidy campervan is a happy campervan! Much like a tent, a van that’s clean and dry is much more pleasant than one that’s filled with dirt from your hiking boots.
If your campervan doesn’t already have a dustpan, mini broom, or some variety of mop, then it may be a good idea to pack one. Whether you go trekking in a sandy desert or summit a misty mountaintop, tracking remnants of your adventures back into the place you’ll be sleeping and eating isn’t ideal.
Navigation tools are essential
Driving through national parks and forest reserves means finding yourself in places of indescribable beauty… where there is no cell phone reception or internet connection. The downside to this disconnect is that navigation can be tricky. Downloading hiking trails and road routes to be saved offline is a necessary safety precaution for those seeking off-the-beaten-path escapes.
Minimalism is the golden ticket for van travel! There isn’t much room in most campervans. Typically, converted vans are designed so that every bit of space is multi-functional. Calculate any hiking gear, groceries, and outdoor recreational equipment you are going to be needing and using during your trip. Then, add to that list the clothing you’ll need: pajamas, extra warm and dry layers in case of inclement weather, everyday outfits, etc. Cut out the extraneous and live simple while you’re vanning. It will make your life a whole lot easier when you have to pack up or store everything before the next time you move.
Meals on wheels
The final thing to consider is your grocery list! People tend to overthink van food simply because, with a campervan, they have access to a kitchenette. Just because your amenities have gotten an upgrade doesn’t mean your culinary abilities have to. Stick to meals that are easy to make, require few ingredients, and don’t make any extra mess. You’ll have countertop space, but it will be limited. Dishes that are quick to whip up with straightforward instructions make campervan van dining fun and stress-free.
Having made all these considerations and taken our advice on board, you’re ready to ride off into the sunset towards your next destination. Travel may look different these days, but that doesn’t mean it has to be any less exciting.
Tara Tadlock is a travel writer + blogger documenting her slow, adventure travels across 42 countries (and counting) on SillyLittleKiwi.com. Growing up in a military family, she’s always lived life with a boarding pass in one hand and a camera in the other. Tara loves finding the best coffee and vegetarian food anywhere she goes, learning about culture and customs straight from locals, and cuddling any dog within reach.