Van Life: What To Know Before You Go

The hashtag #vanlife has become increasingly popular over recent years, amassing more than 1.5 million tags.

People are keen to show their journey via their social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, or their personal blog.

What many people fail to realise is that just like the majority of what we view on social media, these are the airbrushed, life-is-just-peachy version of events.

When making a decision as big as hitting the road in a camper van, it’s important to be in the know about what to expect – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Here are some useful tips on what to know before you get behind the wheel, and embark on your van life adventure.

Start Simple


Image Source: Daniel Gabriel

There’s nothing more exciting than planning a new adventure. It is the dream for many people to buy or hire a retro camper van and go exploring. However, it is very easy to get carried away with planning everything.

Although it is important to plan cleverly, it’s also worth not getting ahead of yourself – so start simple.

You are likely to have a more enjoyable experience if you leave yourself some wriggle room. If you are enjoying somewhere then let yourself stay for a day or two longer, and don’t exhaust yourself so you don’t enjoy the next location or activity.

Pack Light


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Living in such a confined space can make your belongings feel big and the space may become claustrophobic. This in turn can make finding things you need extremely difficult.

At first you may believe you need to take everything, including the kitchen sink, with you on your journey. However, very quickly you will understand that the more stuff you have with you, the bigger the burden in a van.

Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of some things which may be useful for you pack for your journey:

  • Bowls x 2 (you can eat anything out of a bowl)
  • Mugs x 2 (for hot tea and beer)
  • Forks x 2 (drink things you may need a spoon for)
  • 1 sharp knife
  • 1 frying pan & 1 saucepan
  • A spatula or wooden spoon (using a fork can ruin your pans)
  • 2 fold up chairs
  • wet wipes (can use these for everything)
  • Plenty of teabags
  • A couple of extra blankets.

Don’t pack too many clothes – most campsites have a laundry room, so if you do get changed there is always somewhere to wash your clothes.

Join A Gym


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Long hours on the road and on the beach (it’s a hard life) can wreak havoc on your body, so getting out to have a shower can be a real luxury after a long day on the road.

There are of course showers at campsites, however they can often be over crowded and not particularly pleasant. It is perhaps worth checking before your trip on whether there is a chain of cheap gyms on the route you intend on taking, and taking out a membership. Alternatively, you can do this on a pay-as-you-go basis, treating them as a luxury!

Stock Up When You Can


If you’re a picky eater then you’ll probably have a few issues whilst you’re on the road. It’s a good idea to buy exactly what you know you need and not what you want. You only need enough to get you from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

This may mean popping to local shops more often than normal, but ensures there will be less waste and therefore less money spent.

It can be a challenge cooking in such a small space, but can also be diverse and fun. The amazing dishes you are able to make using so little will amaze you.

Map Your Fuel


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While driving long distances, small differences in price will soon add up. Fuel costs vary significantly from place to place.

It never hurts to be a little more frugal when it comes to finding somewhere to buy fuel, considering the miles on the clock.

There are a few different apps available now which can tell you where the nearest and cheapest fuel stations are. These are worth making use of, as two stations just a few miles apart can have very different prices.

Know Where To Sleep


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It is generally a good idea to have an idea of where you might be sleeping by around 4pm (depending on the season). It can be stressful trying to figure out whether you are going to stay at a local campsite or somewhere wild.

If you are in a city then you will have to think this through a little more thoroughly, as the authorities can be hot on people sleeping in their vehicles in built up areas.

You will also have to think about the logistics of where you’re planning on sleeping, i.e the bathroom situation. You are likely to be much more comfortable paying a small amount to park on a campsite and this way you can make use of their facilities.



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