Travelling in a van is a great way to see the world on a shoestring budget, so it’s no wonder that living the van life has taken off and become such a popular lifestyle choice. The booming number of vandwellers has been helped along the way by many vanlife blogs and van life influencers. However, living in a compact camper van isn’t always going to be as straightforward or as perfect as it looks on Instagram, so we’re here to give you ten camper life tips to help you on your way before hitting the road full time in your tiny home.
Van life travel is a fantastic experience; it’s incredible to be able to take your tiny house with you wherever you go and wake up in a new place every day but living in a van can be an adjustment. Living in small campers takes practise, but there are things that make travel in a van easier and more enjoyable, so read on if you want to get the best experience possible when you embark on your off grid adventure.
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1. Fully Service Your Van
First up on our list of ten camper tips to consider before hitting the road is to give your van a full service. A comprehensive service is something we did not do, and we wish we had, after all, we might not have needed to shell out for two different repairs if we had gone for a full service before leaving the UK. When I say full service, I don’t just mean a compulsory MOT (or equivalent engine servicing) as this checks that your camper works at the time of service. Pay the extra to have a mechanic change the oil and filters and to check that everything looks good for a long journey; it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Looking after your vehicle can be one of the most expensive van life costs, but it is essential not to let vehicle care fall by the wayside. After all, when your van doubles as your off grid home, it’s worth looking after. If you have an older, more affordable camper, then I would expect to pay a little bit more on repairs and servicing than someone who owns a brand new sprinter camper conversion. However, this doesn’t mean that your vehicle won’t take you around the world, just that it might need a little more love to do so.
2. Pack For All Weathers
Second, on our list of camper life tips is to remember to pack for all weather conditions. The joy of vanlife travel is that you have complete freedom of movement. You can wake up one morning and decide to travel to a different country, without needing to look for the best flights or train tickets. For a lot of people, this means they live an eternal summer, always driving to where the sun is. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend all year living in shorts and a T-shirt?
However, it is a good idea to pack for all weathers, setting off on your adventure with only shorts and T-shirts would be a mistake. The weather can change without a moments notice, especially when you’re moving from place to place all the time and, when you live in a van, you notice the weather much more than you would in a house. You don’t want to have to stay inside just because you didn’t pack enough jumpers or a waterproof jacket, especially if you are an outdoorsy person. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.
3. Remember To Pack The Fun Stuff
At number three on our list of camper life tips, we have: remember to pack the fun stuff! When people pack for a long trip in their camper van, many people will pack the van life essentials– clothes, cooking utensils, a solar shower etc. However, it is important to remember to pack things that will make your trip even more fun. Most people remember the big stuff such as surfboards, paddleboards, climbing equipment, hiking gear, but often people leave other hobbies that they would have usually done at home.
Here, I’m talking about board games, a deck of cards, your sketchbook, guitar or knitting. Anything you would have done on the weekend at home, then bring it with you because there are some days when you’re going to want to tone the adventure down and chill out. There will also be times when the weather won’t allow you to get outside or that you’re ill and need some more relaxing entertainment than a surf session. Then you would wish you hadn’t left everything at home.
4. Check The Law In Different Countries
Next up on or list of camper life tips we have: check the law in each country you will be travelling to. As van life travel becomes more popular and common many countries are implementing new requirements for campers to follow. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on these laws so that you know what is allowed and what isn’t. For example, in Norway, it is entirely legal to camp anywhere you like for the night, as long as it is 150metres away from the nearest house or cabin. Whereas in Switzerland, wild camping is illegal.
As well as learning parking and camping laws for each country you plan on visiting it is also a good idea to find out what each countries toll system is. Many countries choose to charge tolls to drive on the motorway but how this is charged is not the same everywhere. Some countries, such as France and Italy, have toll booths, where you can pay as you drive. For these, it is a good idea to carry cash as we have found that many toll booths do not accept foreign bank cards. However, to drive on the motorway in other countries, such as Slovenia and Austria, a vignette is required which you must purchase before entering the country in question.
5. Talk To Other Vanlifers
We’re halfway through our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road and up next we have: talk to other vanlifers. This is a tip that applies both before you set off and while you are on your journey. Meeting new people who are also travelling in their tiny homes is one of the most fantastic parts of van life. People travelling a similar path to you are usually easy to get on with, and it is great to spend a few days hanging out with new people- never be afraid to knock on a door and say hi, you never know who you might meet!
Equally, if you have questions that you want to ask before you set off on your camper life journey, then don’t hesitate to reach out to other travellers online. Instagram is a great way to find people with more experience in life on the road who you can learn from. You can also join our new Facebook Group to meet other like-minded people!
6. Choose Good Insurance And Breakdown Cover
Next up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is a serious one: insurance and breakdown cover. It is very important to find suitable insurance and breakdown cover for your road trip. No matter how much you plan, something might go wrong, but having good coverage for your van and belongings can help a stressful situation feel a little bit easier.
Being broken down is not fun but knowing you have help on your side is a comforting feeling. Breakdown cover will not only come out to do minor repairs at the roadside but can also tow you to a garage if needs be. Good camper van insurance will tow you home if the repair proves to be a big job or if you are nearing the end of your trip. The best insurance will even cover the cost of accommodation and onward travel expenses while your campervan is being fixed, which is a massive weight off your shoulders if you have a long wait time for your repair.
Insurance on your van is not only a legal requirement to cover yourself if you are involved in an accident but also great peace of mind in the case of a break-in. You may also want to consider insurance for your gadgets as these may not be covered in your motorhome insurance. This means you can seek compensation or a replacement if any of your devices are lost, stolen or broken while on the road.
7. Carry A Tool Kit
Next up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is to carry a tool kit. Having a tool kit on board is not only helpful if you get into vehicle trouble- there is no point in carrying a spare wheel if you don’t have the tools to change it- but also for the inside of your camper van. This especially applies if your van is one of the beautiful DIY campervan conversions out there. It’s good to have a basic tool kit on board just in case you need to fix anything or want to alter anything in your tiny home while you’re on the road.
If you have a roof vent or skylight in the van, whether it’s a DIY conversion or not, it’s a good idea to carry a tube of sealant in your tool kit. There is nothing more annoying than a drip through the roof of your tiny home, especially if you have a skylight over your bed. It’s not the end of the world if this happens as the sealant can crack and flex as the weather and temperature fluctuate, but it is great to know you can quickly fix it if it does happen.
8. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
The next tip we have for those just starting on their camper life journey is not to be afraid to live outside your comfort zone. Even while living an alternative lifestyle, it can be easy to fall into a comfortable pattern or routine. Choosing a campsite over wild camping or taking the motorway instead of the scenic route. But the best nights will be those where you’ve stepped away from your routine and tried something a little bit different.
Go for that wild camping spot and enjoy the views that come with it. Or take that dirt road, as you never know what will be at the end of it. Don’t forget why you set out on your adventure, sometimes the best experiences and memories are born when you step outside of your comfort zone. After all, what can go wrong when you have your home on your back?
9. Think About How You Will Charge On The Go
Before you set up on your camper life adventure, it is important to consider how you are going to charge your gadgets while you’re on the road. For example, there is no point in packing a drone if you are unable to charge its batteries from your campervan. There are two main ways to charge your campervan batteries while on the go: solar panels, often paired with a split charge relay to charge while you drive, and by plugging into the mains electricity source. From here you need to think about what inverter would suit you best.
An inverter converts 12v electricity, that is stored in your vans leisure batteries, into 240v power. You need to make sure you choose an inverter that has a high enough watt rating to deal with the products you will be plugging into it. If this is something you’re concerned about, then there’s more information on how to choose the right electrical system for you in our how to build a campervan E-book.
10. Live Life To The Full For Less
Last up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is that you can live life to the full for less. Yes, budgeting while on the ultimate road trip may seem tedious, but is it boring if it means you can travel for longer? No, I didn’t think so. Just because you’re travelling, it doesn’t mean that you have to go out for a meal every night. Choose to spend your money on things you will remember not just any old tourist trap. Avoid those toll roads and find a free camping area instead of paying for a campsite if you can.
By choosing to save on some of these unnecessary expenses, you can have more money to extend your travel or to fill it with more adventures. By saving on campsites and meals out, you could go canyoning, scuba diving or give sky diving a go instead. Save your pennies and fill your life with adventure!