We asked some of our favourite vanlifers to share their tips for vanlife. From full-timers to part-timers who rent out their quirky campers, these experienced vanlifers share their tips for everything from building your van to finding the best wild park up to finding a home on the road. Thinking about van life for yourself? Maybe just for a holiday or maybe you’re going to convert a van and give full-time vanlife a go? Read the tips from these vanlifers first.
When searching for a wild park up, never be put off by a dead end road; these often reveal the best treasures, with the added benefit that with no through road, there is likely to be very little traffic.
After living on the road for 5 years, I still say at least once everyday how much “I love our home.” Just hearing myself say it out loud makes me feel so grateful and puts a smile on both our faces 🙂
Life on the road may seem like a permanent vacation but relocating every day can take a lot out of you. Our tip is to make a mini “home base” every so often to catch up on house work, work-work or just some good old fashioned R&R.
Perseverance is key. Sometimes, the perfect parkup does not exist. Sometimes, it requires dual motivation not to give in and go to a campsite, even if you’re hangry and tired. A free and wild camping vanlife can mostly always be achieved if you’re prepared to try a couple of spots and drive a little longer than you’d ideally want to. It’s totally true that the best views are free, but, listen to your instincts and trust your gut on whether you’re happy to stay where you’ve found overnight or not.
Our tip would be to not be afraid of what other people think of your travel dreams. If it feels right for you then enjoy it; don’t miss out on opportunities because people tell you that what you’re doing is a stupid or crazy idea, and don’t worry about what strangers might think (most of them are probably wanting to do something similar).
Have an idea in mind for the layout but don’t get hung up on the specifics. The build process will throw you curveballs and your ideas and plans will inevitably change. Start with one thing you definitely want and let the van evolve naturally from there.
Ignore all the fear mongering, people will project onto you what they are too scared to do. If you want to build a van, travel around, even go around the world you can, you’ll love it and you’ll find the world is full of amazing people.
Once you’ve built your van and take it out for adventures, make sure to pack any handy back-up equipment such as quality rope and tools just in case you face any issues. One Friday evening after work we set off and drove 4 hours away and parked up in the middle of an open field in Yorkshire. It was extremely windy and our back door swung off the hinge. As a result, we were unable to close the door properly and had to call out breakdown cover at 12am, of which they were able to do a temporary fix since shoelaces and curtain netting didn’t work!
Our number one tip has to be… take your opportunities! If there’s still half a tank of gas and you spot an LPG station… fill her up. You spy an inviting shower at a European service station… grab your towel. Scouring the map and you find a bucket list destination but it involves an 8 hour diversion… change your plans! Remember the beauty of being flexible in your campervan; take these opportunities, you never know when the next one will come along!
Camp out in pub carparks to break up long journeys. Many pubs will allow you to park your campervan overnight as long as you ask permission, introduce yourself, buy some food or drinks from them and are generally respectful. This can be a great way of breaking up long journeys, with a secluded, free and legal park-up where you can also get dinner and a few drinks!
Our top tip for UK van lifers is to always have a filtered water bottle on you. It comes in handy for those times you need to put your best ninja outfit on and rely on petrol station ‘screen wash’ water, or for when you are topping up at an outdoor water source! Tip 2: Avoid petrol stations with screen wash in the water! We found Asda to always supply clean water but we would only drink it through our filtered bottle!
Be friendly and say hi to your neighbours whether they are locals or other vanlifers. You might have an interesting conversation, make a new friend or get a chance to share great tips for upcoming adventures.
My biggest piece of van life advice is to avoid making too many specific travel plans. You’ll love some places more than you expect and others less than you might’ve thought. Allow yourself to slow down when you want to explore more and leave when you want to get outta there. Always go with the flow.
Folding bikes that fit under the bed have been a game changer for us. In cities you can park up in cheaper/safer areas and travel in by bike and in more rural locations it’s the perfect way to get into nature, explore your surroundings and pop to the shop for groceries!
It’s not about the size of the van in the adventure, it’s about the size of the adventure in the van.
We love a tidy van, it’s our home so want it to feel like a home not a cramped untidy space. Build in useful storage and only take essentials, every item must have its place and put it straight back after use! A tidy van is a happy van.
Always park your rear doors towards the sunset. That way in the morning the front of the van will be facing the sunrise. The sun will quickly warm up the cab and clear any overnight condensation.
My main tip is just go for it. We meet a lot of people that say if they were only 10 years younger. There is no time like the present, it’s the best decision I have made and it’s changed my life in ways I would never have anticipated.
We really recommend getting adequate solar panels to ensure you can be fully self sufficient for all your electrics on the road. Consistent preventative maintenance of the van is essential too, especially with an older van like ours (1988 vintage) and be familiar with basic engine mechanics so you can monitor and avoid lengthy/expensive breakdowns (YouTube is a fantastic resource!). Finally, do not be afraid to go off the beaten track and wild camp even in winter!
Always be flexible. Things might go wrong, plans might change or you might just find a perfect park up and want to stay for another few nights so always be prepared to be flexible, after all there’s no rush when it comes to vanlife!
One of the biggest things that’s made a big difference for us in a small space is cleaning up as you go. It’s easy to cook dinner and leave all the pots and pans for the morning, or get changed and leave clothes laying around everywhere, but when you’re in such a confined area, it can get so messy really quickly. And besides, who wants to be cleaning up first thing in the morning when you just want to get on with your day?!
Don’t be afraid to build your van exactly how you want it! Cutting up this antique dresser meant we created our dream kitchen.
The best part of van life is that your view changes every day (if you want it to!) but constantly being around new scenes, new food, new people, new languages can be hard at times so don’t feel guilty if you need a day in the van, watching your favourite TV show on Netflix, talking to no one. Full-time vanlife is your real life after all – you don’t have to be an intrepid explorer every day! On the flip side, make sure you get out for a walk every single day – even if it’s pouring with rain!
When travelling in a van as a couple you tend to spend 99.9% of your time together, from cooking to toileting! So ensure you have your alone time, whether it’s reading a book or taking a walk by yourself. This is especially important if you are interested in different activities or hobbies, or in our case have different abilities. It gives you a break from each other so you can enjoy your time together more!
Wild Camping! Never fear wild camping, enjoy the freedom of your camper! Find a spot, take nothing but photos, leave nothing but tyre tracks. Respect your surroundings and those around you.
It was hard for us to make the leap from a 9-5 to vanlife, but it has been one of the best decisions we ever made. We have met dozens of other van lifers in the last few years and still haven’t met someone who regrets their decision to hit the road. Don’t be afraid to go for it!
Levelling chocks!!! A level van gives you not just a level bed and a good nights sleep but also lets the shower water drain away properly (if you have a shower in your van).
Choose the right van for you and your needs! Try to research all vehicle options and we strongly recommend hiring one before you commit. If you’re going to be living in your van or travelling for long periods you need to be comfortable with what you have and what you’re willing to compromise on – living in a space that doesn’t work for you will be no fun at all. We absolutely love vanlife and we know that has a lot to do with having so much space inside our lovely Luton conversion Ludo.
No plan is sometimes the best plan! In a van you can go wherever you want, whenever you want… so explore everywhere and everything. Go to places you’ve never heard of; they’ll be full of surprises!
Fill up the kettle the night before ready for the morning. Then (layout dependent) you can get the tea on without opening your eyes and by the time it’s boiled the van will have warmed up a bit too.
We always carry plenty of extra hot chocolate! If travelling with little ones make sure they have plenty of snacks , audio books and colouring books too. Leave some free space to bring treats from places that you visit, normally food. Campsites on low season are normally not busy and really enjoyable and calm. Prepare lots of music for long trips.
If you don’t want to wildcamp, go the next best thing and use small CS sites. Often for 8-10 at most and can be in lovely often deserted fields . Park4Night app is a must and is pre-loaded in “Sylvester” I have had a few hirers go completely wild! Also Sylvester has a folding German army spade for burying waste. Leave nothing but footprints.
Ready to give vanlife a go for yourself?