50 Van Life Tips For Living On The Road
Gallery Of 50 Van Life Tips For Living On The Road
50 Van Life Tips For Living On The Road
Thinking of joining van life and living in a campervan? We spent 2 years traveling in our van across two continents and learned so much along the way. Here are 50 useful tips that every new van lifer should know.
Picking the right campervan is one of the toughest choices when you’re new to van life. From our personal experiences and struggles of living in a van full time, here are some tips to help you decide what type of van you should choose.
1. Getting a 4WD vs 2WD. If you live in an area with seasonal changes and snow, an AWD or 4WD is highly recommended. If you plan to travel only during warm seasons or to countries like Mexico that don’t go through seasonal changes, a 2WD is perfectly capable of handling those types of road conditions.
2. High top vs low top. While having a high top is nice for standing up, a high top van is more likely to hit trees and not fit into parking structures. Besides cooking, you normally don’t spend that much time standing up in a van so a low top van is better if you plan to travel around a lot.
Our standard-height Promaster campervan
3. Old van vs new van. Don’t get an old van unless you don’t plan to drive that much. Old vans come with tons of issues and there is nothing more frustrating than getting stuck in a foreign place with no replacement parts.
4. Sprinters vans vs Dodge Promaster vans. Sprinter vans are super popular right now and run great when they are new but as they get older, they start getting tons of issues.
Our first van was an older Sprinter model and it was having lots of problems right off the bat. After having it in a shop for 6 months we sold it and got a newer Dodge Promaster van for the same price. Promaster vans are not as “cute” on the outside but on the inside, they are super spacious and generally have less mechanical issues than older Sprinter vans.
5. Buy a van with windows . Windows will make you feel less claustrophobic and look less creepy for stealth camping than a windowless looking work van.
Installing windows in our Promaster van for extra light
Must Haves For Living In a Campervan
When it comes to small spaces, comfort is everything. These are some must-have items to comfortably live and travel in your campervan.
6. Bed vs couch. When it comes to building a bed, one of the biggest choices is whether it should be a foldout couch or a permanent bed. In our case, we chose to go for a stationary bed because we didn’t want to deal with making a foldout bed every morning and night. Some of our friends have foldout beds and they are perfectly happy with their choice although it does take extra time to make it every day.
7. Install a fan. Having a good fan like is a must especially in summer time. Vans get pretty stuffy unless you have a fan that can circulate the air inside.
8. Hook up a fridge. Most full-time van lifers have a built-in fridge in their campervan like A is also a common choice.
9. Get a stovetop. Having a is one of my favorite parts of our van. We have traveled in vans with removable stove tops before and they work great, but it does add an extra 10 minutes of set up and break down with every meal. And since we’re all about making things as easy as possible every day for us, we chose to go with a permanent stove top with our conversion.
Permanent kitchen set up in our camper van
10. Hook up a sink. Having a sink with running water is the perfect addition to have a complete campervan kitchen. In our kitchen, we hooked up and to a basic sink that we got at Ikea. It’s enough water to wash dishes and produce for a few days to a week without refilling the sink water.
11. Get deep-cycle batteries. If you plan to travel long distances, having one or two deep cycle batteries is a must because all of the amenities mentioned above draw a ton of power. Trojan is a well known and respected brand that sells deep cycle batteries that you can’t go wrong with.
Before you start packing your van, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you prep for life on the road.
12. Keep it to a minimum. When the time comes to start packing your van, only bring the minimal basics with you. We have been living in our van for a year now and we have been perfectly fine with 1 set of silverware each, 1 cup, 1 plate, etc. It’s so easy to overpack your van but the more stuff you bring, the harder it will be to find anything at all in your van.
13. Bring the right weather clothing. Before we left for our journey through Central America I didn’t do much research on the weather and I ended up bringing the wrong type of clothing. I told myself that I would just buy whatever I needed on the road but oh man I was wrong!
Finding clothing that fits well, looks good and is made of decent materials in a foreign country is like mission impossible. When it comes to clothing, just buy whatever you will need before leaving, it’s just so much easier!
Things will go wrong on the road, it’s just an unavoidable fact. Here are a few essentials things to keep in your campervan for emergency situations.
14. Bring along basic tools. This year alone we crushed our exhaust crossing a river, changed out numerous small parts, and rebuilt our solar panels in a mall parking lot. A toolbox like comes with most of the essentials needed to repair things on the road.
Along with a toolbox make sure to bring along a , , spare , , and .
Redoing our solar panels in a mall parking lot
15. Emergency Items. Beyond the practical needs of keeping an emergency kit in a van, some countries require it by law and will ticket you if you don’t have the required emergency items like a and an in your van.
To check requirement for each country, go to the , select the country you’re traveling to and scroll down to the section named “Mandatory Items In Vehicle”. This will list any emergency items you are required to keep in your van by law.
Finding Free Spots To Sleep At Night
Finding a free or cheap place to sleep is one of the biggest daily challenges traveling in a van. If you find yourself at night time with no place to camp, these are some of our go-to places and tips to find a free spot to sleep at night.
16. Get the iOverlander app. is our number one tool that we use to find camping spots on the go. All of the camping spots in this app are added by other overlanders along with detailed reviews on cost and experiences.
The camp spots in this app range from free camp spots to super nice “$20 bucks a night” spots with electricity hookups, WIFI, and showers.
Awesome cheap camp spot in Colombia with our friends
17. 24-hour stores like Walmarts. Oh how much I have grown to appreciate Walmart stores as a full-time van lifer! Before I started traveling, I would avoid going to a Walmart at all cost but now seeing one on the road brings me tears of joy. Not only you can restock everything you need at a Walmart, but you can also often sleep in their parking lots. It’s not a glamorous camp spot, but nothing that a bottle of wine can’t fix !
18. Rest stops and truck stops. During our travels around the US, we slept most of the nights in free rest stops or truck stops. But while some are well taken and clean, some can be a bit run down. As a female, I would always use rest stop bathrooms with caution and often would have my husband accompany me and wait outside while I use the restroom and shower.
19. Gas stations. In towns without any camp spots or 24-hour stores, we usually resort to sleeping at a gas station. Out of respect we first fill up on gas and always ask the attendant on duty. In 9/10 times they are usually ok with us sleeping there.
Tips For Staying Healthy On The Road
Don’t slip into bad habits on the road by following these van life tips to stay healthy.
20. Have a basic kitchen set up. Building a kitchen in your campervan will help you keep better habits by cooking healthier meals.
21. Skip the fast food. Although fast food is usually the faster and more tempting choice, it’s easy to go down that rabbit hole and hard to bounce back. Keep up healthy eating habits by doing frequent grocery shopping and making your own meals.
Our friend enjoying some junk food in Nicaragua
22. Workout frequently. Finding a gym on the go is one of the hardest parts of van life. Although there are gyms that offer day passes, not every gym offers one and they can cost anywhere from $5 to $15 for a day use.
Balance gym day passes with frequent outdoors workouts like running, hiking, squats, lunges, sit-ups, pushups and taking stairs. can also be a great addition to your workout and don’t take much space in the van.
Tips For Keeping Up With Personal Hygiene In a Van
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “How do you take a shower and stay clean in a van?”. These are our tips to staying up with personal cleanliness by living in a van without a shower.
23. Get a solar shower. There is nothing worse than going to bed dirty from a few days or camping or hiking. Most campsites don’t come with showers but you can either get or make your own solar shower from a PVC pipe from Home Depot.
If you want to read more on how we created a PVC pipe solar shower for our .
24. Keep a set of wet wipes. are a live saver when a solar shower is not an option like in cities. We always keep a set of wet wipes in the van for emergencies.
25. Keep up with your laundry. It’s so easy to put off doing laundry on the road but before you know it you’ll have crossed 5 countries wearing the same dirty shorts until you find yourself doing your laundry in a bucket at a gas station. Learn from us and do your laundry periodically before that monster gets out of hand.
Washing some emergency laundry at a gas station parking lot
As a woman, you’ll be faced with additional hygiene challenges when living in a van full time. Here are a few helpful tips to make things a bit easier on the road.
26. Get a or . I didn’t know that these feminine products existed until I started traveling full time and I found out that just about every female traveling in a van has one. I immediately ordered a and it’s been a lifesaver. It basically lets you pee standing up so you can go to the restroom outdoors more discreetly.
27. Doggie bags. are great for disposing of feminine products in a van.
Staying Organized In a Campervan
Keep your things in order with these tips to help you stay organized in your campervan.
28. Get clear storage bins. Storage bins are the best to keep things organized in a van. I use a variety of bin sizes from extra-large for my winter clothes to smaller ones for toiletries and electronics to keep things separated. I especially love the because they let you see exactly what’s in each bin without taking everything out.
29. Use over the door organizers. In addition to plastic bins, we use a few for smaller things. We attached them on the inside of our main storage doors to hide them out of sight.
30. Divide and conquer. If you are traveling with a partner, split up your daily tasks to be more efficient and get them done faster.
Stay on track in van life by keeping a routine with these tips.
31. Set your alarm. Living in a van full time it’s so easy to let things go. Before you know it you’ll be waking up at 10 am and wasting a whole day doing nothing . Instead, treat van life like you would a job. Set your alarm, get your chores done and then you can enjoy the rest of your day.
32. Clean your dishes and sweep. Your van is your home and you’ll be spending the majority of your time in it so you’ll want to take care of it. We always do our dishes and sweep the floors with our after every meal to keep a routine and to keep things tidy.
33. Make your bed. It’s the little things like making your bed every day that make your van feel like a home.
34. Set realistic goals for the day. Every morning I write down a few goals for the day whether it’s getting certain things done for my blog, doing chores or planning a driving route for the week. Unlike a job where your boss might give you tasks to complete, in van life you’re on your own. Writing down a daily to-do list helps me keep myself in check and to stay on track with my goals.
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