With COVID-19, a lot more people are thinking of starting their life on the road. Getting off the grid and starting your adventure is what most people dream about. If you don’t have any idea on where to start, having some tips and tricks on van life traveling may be necessary. Living life on the road is not a walk in the park, and you would have to consider a lot of factors to ensure that you have a comfortable and peaceful vanlife.
I have had my fair share of living in a van, and it is just the tip of the iceberg. The things that you are able to see while you are on the road are where the excitement will be. This article will talk about the different tips that you should follow when living the vanlife, from choosing the right van to the challenges that you may face while you are on the road.
Choosing the Right Van For Your Travels
One of the most challenging choices that you need to make when starting your life on the road is choosing the right van. You need to ensure that you are comfortable and make your van feel as homey as possible. There are plenty of things to consider when buying a van, from choosing high top or low top to getting a van with windows or not.
The Type of Van For Your Needs
If you plan to travel in an area with seasonal changes and snow, it is best to buy a van that is AWD or 4WD. However, if you are planning to stay in places with warm seasons, 2WD is perfect since it can handle the road conditions that are usually in warm areas.
Choosing a van that’s high top vs. low top is crucial. High tops are great for people who are tall and want to stand inside their van. The thing with high-top vans is they can hit trees, and they tend to not fit into parking structures. With this hindrance, most van lifers choose to go with low-top vans for convenience. It is also best for those who love to move from places to places a lot.
Now, choosing to buy an old van or a new van is also where some people have trouble deciding. Old vans are perfect if you don’t plan to drive them as much and stay on campgrounds as much as possible. These types of a van usually have a lot of issues, and you might spend more money than you want to on the van itself.
You also might get stuck in the middle of nowhere with no replacement parts for whatever broke down in your van. However, if you don’t have the budget, choosing an old van is the best way to go. If the budget permits, you might as well buy a new van instead.
There are two popular vans that van lifers choose, and they are the Sprinter Vans and the Dodge Promaster. Sprinter vans are great when they are new, and they tend to have more issues when they get older. On the other hand, Dodge Promaster is not as appealing as Sprinters on the outside but more spacious on the inside. They also have fewer mechanical issues than Sprinter vans.
When it comes to windows, make sure you keep them. It will make you feel less claustrophobic and look less creepy. If you are stealth camping, windowless tend to be suspicious rather than having windows on your van.
Preparation for VanLife
When transitioning into the van life, you have to keep everything at a minimum. Make sure to pack only the minimal basics with you. Remember that your living space will be small, so you need to minimize your living situation as much as possible. A set of silverware, two cups, two plates, etc., is enough.
It is best to get yourself used to being in a small space before moving into your tiny van home. You can do this by using the minimum only. It is easy to overpack your van, which is why you have to keep in mind, the more stuff you bring, it may be harder to find anything in your van.
When it comes to clothing, bring clothes that are appropriate for different weather conditions. Plan your destination and see the weather conditions. You can buy clothes along the way, but it is still best to bring along proper clothes.
Know Your Must-Haves When it Comes to Your Van
When living in a van, you are constricted in a small space. You would need to build your van as comfortably as possible. There are some items that you would need to live comfortably in your van.
When adding your bed, the main thing that you need to decide is whether it is a foldout couch or a permanent bed. In my opinion, it is best to install a foldout couch because it is a space saver. In the morning, it serves as a work table or dining table, while at night you can sleep in a spacious bed. I think the extra time to make your bed is worth it in the end.
Most van lifers have built-in refrigerators or a portable refrigerator and freezer in their vans. The Dometic portable refrigerator and freezer is the perfect item that you can purchase for your van. It is only 25lbs, making it easy to carry, plus you don’t need to have a supply of ice to keep your food cold. You can set the temperature between 3°F to 50°F. The Dometic portable refrigerator and freezer cost $499.99.
You would also need to have a permanent stovetop where you can cook your favorite meals. It is best to use a permanent stovetop because it takes time to have removable stove tops before and after meals. The best stovetop that you can get is Atwood Stainless Steel. It is lightweight and stylish, which is perfect for tight spaces.
The two burners feature one 7200 BTU, and the other has 5200 BTU with a standard circular grate. It also has a cover with wind guards, which is available as a special order. The cost of this permanent stove top is $117.72.
Lastly, it would be best if you considered adding a sink with running water which is the perfect addition to a complete van kitchen. It would help if you had at least a seven-gallon water storage jug, which is ideal for washing the dishes and having a few days to a week without refilling the water in your sink. Now, if there are no showers around, you can wash your hair in the sink and wash your body with a wet bath towel. This is if you are comfortable enough to do so.
Organization is the Key!
When living in a tiny space, a small mess can be a big deal. Knowing where everything goes is crucial, which is why the organization is the key! Storing your belongings in Tupperware bins will help you stay organized when ready-made drawers or cabinets are not available in your van. Make sure to buy clear Tupperware bins so that it is easy to see what’s inside. It is also weather-proof and will keep critters out.
Aside from adding bins in your van, make sure to label everything. This will ensure that your gears are sorted. It will provide you easy access to your belongings and will be grouped accordingly. Make sure to have separate containers for your ‘dry goods,’ ‘beddings,’ ‘clothing,’ etc. You can organize those that you open often and are easy to get.
Get Ready for the Unexpected on the Road
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Expect the unexpected when it comes to living on the road. Things can definitely go wrong at some point, and it is an unavoidable fact. Make sure to keep essential things in your van in case of emergencies. You should bring basic tools for changing out several small parts of your van.
The best tool kit to have in your van is the Stanley Mechanics Tool Kits. It comes with chrome vanadium forged body for torque, strength, and durability. It has a polished chrome finish for anti-corrosion protection. This tool kit is easy to store and carry where it has a tri-fold case with a twist lock for improved mobility.
The Stanley Mechanics Tool Kits comes with 210 tool pieces and costs $129.97. Aside from this kit, you should also bring along a headlamp, duct tape, spare electrical connectors, wire strippers, and fuses.
Emergency items are also essential and usually required by the law. You will get a ticket when you don’t have fire extinguishers and emergency kits in your campervan. Make sure to check the necessary items of every state, just to be safe.
Where to Sleep — VanLifer’s Challenges
The place where you will rest and sleep would depend on the length of your trip as well as the amenities that you need. Campsites, for instance, are great for showers, load water, or discharge grey or black water. It is also great to get some peaceful sleep when staying at a campsite. If you want to find the best campsites in your area, you can download apps on your phone to help you.
Some popular apps that van lifers use are iOverlander and The Dyrt. Make sure that you find a place before sundown and ask your targeted place what time they usually close the barriers. However, if you have the app, you can find all of this information there. Now, campsites may have specific fees and may be out of your budget.
There are other places where you can stay, such as 24-hour retail stores like Walmart, rest stops, truck stops, and gas stations.
Keep Your Health at Its Peak
With the pandemic going on, it is best to keep your health at its peak. It is best to have a basic kitchen set up when it comes to your van because it can lead to better habits. Fast food may seem to be the easier way to get food, but it may not be healthy. It is easy to go down the rabbit hole and hard to come back. Cooking more nutritious meals and going on frequent grocery shopping will ensure that you stay healthy.
Aside from proper food intake, make sure you take the time to exercise. Though it may be challenging to find a gym that offers day passes, there are some that provide memberships that you can take advantage of in all of their locations across the country. If you don’t have the luxury to spend extra on a gym membership, take a run or a walk outside at least an hour a day to keep you going.
Just make sure to wear a mask when you plan to go out! If you don’t feel like taking a run or a walk or a hike, simple squats, lunges, sit-ups, and push-ups are also a great help. Purchasing resistance bands is also a great addition to your workout gear, and it doesn’t take too much space in your van.
Keeping Up With Your Hygiene While on the Road
You may think that hygiene can be tricky when you live in van life. There are a couple of places and things that you can do yourself to take your daily showers. If you have the skill, you build your own solar shower, which might be the best solution to your hygiene needs. Now, if you don’t have the building skills, you can buy portable showers that can hold a certain amount of water.
There are also some campgrounds that offer the use of their showers, but you may have to pay a fee to use their amenities. Make sure to ask them ahead of time so that you are aware of how much it costs. Gyms also have showers available, so right after your workout, you can take advantage of feeling refreshed.
If you have no choice and are out camping in the middle of nowhere, wipes are your saving glory. You may not feel refreshed when taking a shower, but it will help you clean a bit. Just keep your wipes for emergency purposes.
Now, when it comes to your laundry, it’s never a good idea to put it off. You don’t want to wear the same dirty shorts or shirts when you run out of clean ones. Make sure to do laundry periodically before it gets out of hand.
For the ladies, having a GoGirl Female Urination Device can be a huge benefit. When you are in remote areas and can’t find a bathroom, you can use this device if you need to do the number one. It is discreet, reusable, moisture, and germ resistant, which is very hygienic. It is small and can fit anywhere, your purse or your pocket.
All you need to do is simply hold the GoGirl Female Urination Device against your body, form a seal, and go. When you are done, wash the device with soap and water. Then wipe it clean, dry, and it will be ready to use again. The cost of the GoGirl Female Urination Device is $12.99.
You may also want to keep doggie bags in your van because it is excellent for disposing of any feminine products that you may have used.
Making a Living While on the Road
If you want to make a living while you are on the road, you need to have a stable internet connection. However, it may not be available at all times, which can decrease your productivity at work. You can use different apps to find free WiFi spots, which can be very handy. You can get apps like WiFi Finder and OpenSignal.
When you don’t have the apps on hand, you can go to coffee shops to get some of your work done. The speed may not be reliable, so make sure to go through the following checklist before you order anything. First, ask for the WiFi password, then check the speed, and lastly, check the walls for plugins to charge your laptop. Some coffee shops may have them sealed off, which can be a big problem.
Aside from using public WiFi, you can also invest in WiFi antenna boosters. When these boosters pick up a close WiFi signal, it will enhance it, providing you with the speed you need to get your work done.
Lastly, make sure you get a sim that you can tether, which is excellent for laptop and tablet use. With this type of sim, you can ensure that you are connected while on the road. However, you do need to take note of dead spots and stay clear away from them. Find a plan that has a lot of internet capacity because you don’t want to run out while you are working.
Using a sim that you can tether is great for sending files that you may need for work. It is also great for browsing the web and watching through streaming apps or sites. It beats going to coffee shops or using public WiFi where it won’t be as secure as using a sim or WiFi boosters.
Budgeting While Living Life on the Road
Budgeting is one of the most important parts of living your life on the road. Now, it may be easy to eat out every day and buy lots of pointless things. With this said, you need to create a budget and make sure that you stick to it. Also, you should put aside gas money so that you never find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with no gas.
You should note that bills don’t stop when you transition to van life. You still have insurances, taxes, etc., to pay. Aside from gas money, you should also put aside money for emergencies. Like I’ve said before, expect the unexpected when living on the road. Make sure to keep these three thoughts in your mind when you are buying something; think if you need it, is it useful, and will it benefit your life in any way.
Keeping Yourself Entertained While on the Road
Keeping yourself entertained may not be as hard when you are on the road. You have great outdoors to enjoy. However, with the pandemic, it may be ideal to stay indoors. Downloading podcasts and audiobooks can keep you company when you are driving. Listening to them can keep you going and awake during long drives.
If you like reading, it is best to get a Kindle rather than buying actual books. Real books can take up too much space, and you don’t need that in your van. You can download the Overdrive app, where you can borrow and read books from local libraries for free.
When it comes to movie night, you can binge-watch Netflix and other streaming apps. Whether you are in a stationary home or on the road, this is the best entertainment. You can download shows or movies in case you can’t find a place that has a stable signal.
You can also pick up a hobby, especially when you have a more free time living in a van. Hobbies like painting or hiking are the best way to go. It is best for both your physical and mental health.
Van living is a chance for you to make new friends. You can download apps where you meet people in the van life community. Also, you can meet different people who are also living in a van full time. Aside from that, you can meet new and different people in campsites. It’s exciting meeting new people and learning from their experiences. You might pick up a couple of tips and tricks here and there.
Struggles and Challenges with VanLife
Image Source: “Huggy Lessons” by Halcyon is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
You can never avoid challenges when you are living on the road. When things go wrong, always stay calm because it will eventually get better. Don’t make the small stuff be a more significant matter. You will experience your van breaking down, campsites being closed due to the pandemic, and you may also run out of water or gas. When this happens, all you need to do is take a deep breath and think that you are not the only that goes through these problems.
Other van lifers may have experienced these struggles at some point. Remember, anything can be fixed and dealt with. When you are stuck, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can ask other travelers, friends, and family for advice.
Always make sure that you stay connected with friends and family. New friends may be fun to have around, but your family and friends at home are the ones that feel your absence more. Keep in touch with them through social media channels and let them know how you are doing. Also, catch up on some events that are happening at home.
Being on the road for too long can get pretty draining. Having said this, taking a break once in a while is fine. You can rent a room, book a hotel room, or rent through Airbnb. Make sure to take the time to enjoy the ordinary things in life. When you are ready, hit the road again and enjoy your adventures on the road.
Remember, deep breaths are the key! Tell yourself that everything will be okay whenever things don’t go your way. Some situations may be more stressful than others, so keep in mind that everything will always be okay in the end.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Vanlife
Now, when it comes to van life, there are a lot of advantages that you can have. The number one benefit is you get the chance to travel the country. You can explore different cultures in the comfort of your home. Also, you will have the ability to travel long distances at a fraction of the cost. You will have traditional tourism, which is the best thing about living in a van.
If you are studying or saving up to buy a house, living in a van is the best way to save money. It provides you the freedom and opportunity to explore the great wonders of the world. Lastly, it can also offer a balanced life with more time to pursue whatever your passion will be.
One of the disadvantages while living in a van is it can be tiring. This is especially if you are moving from one place to another. To avoid this, you can resort to stealth camping while trying to keep your vehicle safe and secure. Also, a lot of things can go wrong because your home is your vehicle.
Keeping your van clean may require a bit of creativity as well. You will also occasionally miss the convenience and comfort of warm showers. If you don’t have a toilet in your van, peeing in the middle of the night is no walk in the park.
Even with these disadvantages, it can never beat the experience that you have in enjoying what nature has to offer.
Before you start your life on the road, it is nice to research and know some information about it. Now, I understand that it is easy to hop in a van and begin your life on the road. It is best to pause and know some of the tips that you need to consider before hitting the road and start your adventure. Van life has its ups and downs, but the adventures that you will experience are worth it. Happy travels, van lifers!