Vanlife Tips and Advice (for Beginners)


Living out of a van with the freedom to travel whenever and wherever you want is the new 21st-century dream. More and more wanderlusters have realized they don’t want to be tied down to a 9-5 job by an oversized mortgage. Still, packing up your life into a suitcase and throwing it into a vehicle is a different kind of scary and daunting prospect.

But don’t let fear keep you from pursuing your adventure! Keep reading for some tips and advice on how to begin your very own #vanlife journey.

Decide on a Vehicle

Your vehicle will determine your lifestyle, so choosing your method of travel is the most important step. Some people hire a professional to convert a large van or minibus into a living space, complete with bathroom, kitchen, and even a shower! This option is expensive and can run over $200,000, but will ensure you all the comfortable amenities you’re already used to.

If you have the construction know-how, you can do your own conversion, knowing it will likely take a few months to complete. Still, you can save tons of money by completing the conversion yourself.

But maybe giant vans aren’t for you. And that’s fine! You can choose a minivan, a station wagon or even a hatchback as your vehicle. Depending on how much stuff you have and where you want to sleep, smaller vehicles can accommodate all your needs and are easier to drive, park, and maintain. In either case, you will have to downsize.

Where Will You Park for the Night?

Living the vanlife means being able to find parking every night. Before you head out on your journey, you’ll want to research camping or RV parks, National Park passes, and parking lots in cities that allow people to stay overnight. Instagram makes it look like everyone is camping out in front of a gorgeous deserted beach every night, but of course that’s not true. In reality, there will be many days when you’re far away from anything beautiful, but that shouldn’t stop you! What’s most important is to find accommodations that are safe and feasible.

Where’s the Bathroom?

Going to the bathroom when you’re living the vanlife can mean different things. A completely souped-up, converted van can offer the feel of a real toilet or shower. But you’ll have to monitor your water consumption, and be on the lookout for appropriate places to dump your gray water and sewage.

On the other hand, if you’re fine releasing your fluids the old-fashioned way, then all you really need is a little trowel, a plastic bag, and some biodegradable toilet paper. Many RV sites and campsites have bathroom access, but in a pinch, a wet sponge or moist towel is sufficient for self-cleansing.

How are you going to deal with the weather?

Not everyone has the money to heat or air-condition their entire van, and you certainly don’t want to leave your vehicle running on-end. This means that you’ll be at the mercy of Mother Nature most days. If it’s raining, you’ll be inside, waiting it out. If it’s snowing, better have a few extra layers on. If it’s hot and sunny, make sure you can find a shady spot to park. 

100% Vanlife, or…?

There are no rules to vanlife. If you want a hot shower, indoor plumbing, and some sort of weather-resistant shelter, there’s nothing that says you can’t do vanlife part-time. Instead of being on the road year-round, find little towns or villages to stay in for a few weeks. If the weather starts to get nice, then head out for a little two-week road trip before settling into a different town. Remember, the point of vanlife is to simplify your life and free you from the shackles of “tradition.” It’s up to you to blaze your own trail.