Have you ever imagined rolling out of bed to see the sight of the sun rising over a sparkling lake surrounded by verdant hills, stretching as far as the eye can see? Well, you may have heard of the craze #vanlife, and that’s exactly what those who live it up in their 4 wheels on the road are experiencing on a daily basis – crazy right?
It’s been trending – I’m sure you’ve seen the incredible posts on your social media feeds every once in a while, or, if you’re an avid fan of life on the road like me, make that every day.
There’s something about the freedom to go where you want to go when you want to go and having the world at your fingertips that is truly exciting, although I may be slightly biased by the fact that I’m currently sitting at my desk, coffee in hand, half way through the working week whilst I’m writing this post, which may be the reason why I’m daydreaming about just getting away from it all – picking up, buying a van, and driving without stopping.
Not only is it the spontaneity and freedom of van life that is enticing, but also, if you’re really committed to living life in your 4 wheeled home, it’s a more financially affordable way of living. What’s not to love – an unconstrained, adventurous and cheaper way of life, it seems like a no brainer!
But even though you may think van life is suited for you after my hyping it up so much, it’s important to consider, are you really suited for van life? And if you are, how are you supposed to make sure you’re making the most of your van life experience? That’s where I come in. This post is to help you figure out whether you’re the perfect van-dweller and to give you the top 5 hacks you need to know if you’re considering life on the road. Come on – time waits for no van-life lover!
Organisation is key!
As you can probably imagine, shifting from living in a house with multiple rooms and sometimes a garden to living in a 1 room, 4-wheeled vehicle is a bit of an adjustment to make, and a rather cramped one at first. As a result, it’s probably within your best interest to make the most of every last inch of space you have. So, if you’re not the most organised of sorts, maybe it’s high time you start opting for the more organised route if you’re serious about starting your van life.
Magnetic spice racks
Rather than finding space within things, why not find space outside of things. A van life essential would most definitely be a fridge in my opinion, so would you not consider switching out your decorative fridge magnets for something far more useful – herb and spice bottles with magnetic lids that you can attach to the exterior of your fridge. Have those spices just an inch closer for convenience when you’re cooking up those camping concoctions – whilst conserving your space at the same time!
Hanging fruit and vegetable bags
Instead of wasting precious space in your fridge or cupboards, why not save a shelf or two by placing your fresh produce in mesh bags – reusable and space-saving, you can hang your produce in the bags from hooks you can install underneath or on the side of your kitchen cupboards. This would save plenty of room for your arguably tastier options (like that bar of chocolate you could be eyeing up during your next trip to the supermarket).
Shoe racks and packing cubes are your new best friends!
The easier access you have to the things you need, the better! Why not organise your clothes and shoes based on seasons? I doubt you’ll be needing that winter parka in the summer months (unless you live in England, in which case ignore that entirely!)
But seriously, it may be easier for you to arrange your clothing in packing cubes based on seasons: those summer tank tops won’t be needed in the depths of winter, and those winter wellies shouldn’t be required in the midst of August – so, the more you keep on top of organising your clothes, the better, easier and more space conserving it is for you! Make sure the packing cubes you need are in your more accessible cupboards, and your less needed ones out of sight under beds or seats and away until you next need them.
Better yet, stack your shoes in one of those shoe hangers with separate pockets over the back of the driver or passenger seats to grab and go when you’re off on your next adventure. Or, on the flip side, why not use them for your toiletries – for your sprays, sun-tan lotions and smelly-stuff, skip the routing through your toiletry bags and opt for a more organised approach to sprucing up!
Clamp down on single-use items
Being at one with nature means you’ll probably be interested in minimising your environmental impact as much as possible, and with this, reducing your single-use disposable items. Not to mention you’re doing all of your living in one small space, which doesn’t leave much room for anything single-use. So, if you’re usually found using single-use items, maybe switch it up a little and make a more environmentally conscious and van-life conscious decision.
Keep reusable shopping bags
Back to square one, possibly the most obvious of all the rules to be more environmentally aware, make sure you keep (and remember to use!) your reusable shopping bags. This’ll help reduce your plastic waste and stop plastic bags from peeking out of every nook and cranny in your camper (because they’ll definitely find their way there somehow!)
Whilst we’re on the subject of bags, what are you currently using to store your half-chopped veggies and fruits, your breads and your cheeses? If your answer was plastic or ziplock bags, ditch that damaging habit for something more eco-friendly and save more plastic pollution from clogging up your van. Why not try beeswax wrappers to wrap those veggies, or a reusable silicone ziplock baggy to keep that cheese fresh? It’s definitely the way to go, and will save you the space that packaging takes up at the same time.
Likewise, why not grab yourself some tupperwares to store your snacks and meals, give them a wash and they’re ready to be reused! Less hassle and less waste. And when you’re next off shopping, try taking these tupperwares along with you – you can save on packaging on a lot of your favourite items and ingredients if you buy them loose and place them in your own storage containers. Just another tip to make your life even easier (and not to mention eco-friendly!)
Scrub a dub-dub?
Now, you may be thinking, after those probably long, tiring adventures that you’ll most definitely be having whilst living life on the road, where are you going to have that much-needed hot shower you’ll be longing for at the end of the day? Well, fear not, I have all of the answers you need to suit all preferences.
If you’re thinking of investing a bit of extra cash into living van life in luxury by having a shower inside your van, then I’m sure a lot of us are very envious. But, there are alternative options for those who want a little bit of extra space or are wanting to embrace van life on a budget.
Why not have a portable shower that you can use outside? Solar shower bags are cheap and cheerful – leave the bag filled with water in the sun, and within a few hours you’ll have a hot shower ready for you to use. A lot are fitted with nozzles and you can use gravity by hanging the bag up to give you the full shower experience. Pretty nifty if you ask me!
Or, if you’re wanting the full shower experience whilst on the road, here’s an option you may prefer. Why not invest in a national gym membership. Different countries have their own national gyms that have various locations you can visit whilst on your travels, so, if you happen to be hanging near one of their spots, or on your way to your next location, you can use your membership to have yourself a hot shower, and maybe even pump some iron whilst you’re at it.
Finding your base – made easy
There are several great apps you can use to find your base, either for the day or night when you’re discovering a new place on your travels. But you’ll need an open mind, you’ll probably be staying in some pretty secluded and off-grid spots on your travels, so being aware of your surroundings and being ready to experience something new is definitely an aspect of van life you have to consider.
Pitch Up is an online site helping you to locate different campsites near you. It also gives you descriptions of what’s available at each campsite, and is available in the UK, Europe and America. Also in the UK and Europe, you can use search for sites, which lists a variety of locations you can bunker down in whilst you’re on the road.
Similarly, iOverlander is a more popular app that helps you find campsites and overnight parking on a map based on your location, giving you details of spots as well as their amenities. In the UK specifically, why not try Parkopedia, which is particularly useful if you’re looking to park up somewhere more central. It’ll give you all of the car parks and car parking spaces near you, their availability and their pricing, and is super easy to use (speaking from experience!)
If you’re wanting the ultimate Vanlife bible at the touch of your fingers, try the Vanlife App. It’ll list you free camp sites, areas to refill your water, showers and more. The equivalent of this in the UK and Europe is Park4Night. You can even connect to other vanlife travellers on the Vanlife app, if you opt to have this service, so you can meet fellow van-lifers on the road!
Keep yourself covered
You’d cover your home by buying home insurance, so why should your van be any different? There are lots of van and campervan conversion insurance offers you can get to make sure your home on wheels is protected come rain or shine.
For the same reason, you’ll want to protect everything inside your home as well, so it’s probably best to opt for insurance for your contents and valuables also – your phones, laptops and more will be covered whilst you’re living your best life on the open road.
There you have it. All of the best hacks if you’re considering life on the road, to help you embrace and enjoy van life to the full. So, whether you’re a step closer now to buying that van and setting off on your adventures or if you’re still toying with the idea, use this as reference and let us know what it is about van life that you love so much in the comments below!