You’ve booked your ferry, you’ve planned your goodbye party, but there’s a niggling feeling in the back of your mind that you might have forgotten something important.
I know what you’re going through because I’ve been there myself
To help you out, here are 15 vanlife tips that I’ve been ticking off before we set off on our global adventure. You might have thought of some of them already, but there might be a few that prove crucial when you’re on the road.
Best Vanlife Tips to Help You Prepare for the Adventure
1. Weigh Your Van
You might have tried to keep count of the individual weight of the items that you’ve used to build your off grid home, but do you know how much your van weighs? If you have a UK category B driving license, then you’re able to drive a vehicle that weighs up to 3.5 tonnes and not a gram over. If you’re caught being over your limit in a different country, then the only way you’re setting off again is by dumping bits of your beloved home until you reach the right weight. Don’t risk losing bits of your hard work, weigh before you set off.
2. Measure How High And Wide Your Van Is
“How high is that bridge?”
“I don’t know. You reckon we can fit under it?”
“Yeah. Get a good run up, and we’ll be fine.”
Now for everyone new to living the van life, that’s not a conversation that you ever want to be having. Nine times out of ten it will end in tears, with you losing your solar panels if you’re lucky or the entire roof of your van if you’re not. Measure everything, and then stick your parameters into a sat nav like the TomTom Go Camper. The Go Camper takes into account your vans height and width and chooses the best roads for you, leaving you to get on with the drive and not worry about decapitating your tiny home.
3. Pack The Necessary Safety Equipment
Do you have the mandatory equipment in your van that you need for the country that you’re visiting? Do you have your reflective jackets and headlamp deflectors that you’re required by law to have while driving through France, or the fire extinguisher that you need for driving in Poland? Read up about the places that you’re visiting and don’t leave anything to chance.
Having a good understanding of where you’re going means that you will be prepared for every eventuality; that’s what these van life tips are here for. Follow this link to get your own AA Euro Driving Kit.
4. Stock Up On Snacks
Driving hungry is the worst, and nobody wants to get ‘hangry’ on roads that they don’t know very well! Do yourself a favour and take this most important of vanlife tips on board; make sure that you have plenty of nutritious snacks/unhealthy chocolate bars on board before you set off (I’d favour the latter option).
5. Pack The Propper Tools
Don’t leave yourself in a position where you’re in the middle of nowhere without the means to carry on adventuring. With YouTube and your vehicles Haynes manual you should be able to fix most little problems at the roadside, providing you’ve got the right kit stored away. Pack some axle stands and a jack so you can change your tyre at the side of the road. What happens if you’re spare breaks? Get an Emergency Puncture Repair kit to be on the safe side.
6. Power Banks Are Your Best Friends.
One of the UK Van Life Hardest Bits that we’ve encountered is when the sun runs off behind clouds or chooses not to appear altogether. That’s where power banks can be your best friends. This is one of our most important vanlife tips so listen up.
Take two or three on your trip with you and charge them up from your solar on sunny days, then save them for when your batteries are looking pretty low or when you’re in the middle of a forest, etc. Use the sun wisely and stock up on energy every chance that you get. Check out our list of the best power banks for some purchase inspiration
7. Get Van Life Travel Insurance
Van Life Insurance exists, and it can be yours for just $37 a month. SafetyWing insurance doesn’t require you to have a static base, so it’s perfect for the digital nomad that works on the road or is in the middle of a long-term travel trip with no specific end date. It’s a rolling contract, and you can cancel or extend any time that you want. Check our SafetyWing to get your policy set up today.
8. Protect Your Gadgets
If you’re a digital nomad, then your gadgets are how you make your income on the road. Whether you’re a YouTuber with a nice camera or a writer with an expensive laptop, you’re going to want to protect your items if you have a break in or you accidentally damage them.
Protect Your Bubble is number eight in vanlife tips list, and they are the only gadget protection company that does 365 cover out of the country that you live in, so it’s worth getting a policy with them to protect the items that you care about the most. We racked up four items for about £17 a month, including accidental loss. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind!
9. Switch To A Bank That’s Built For Roaming
Number nine in our vanlife tips list is about Monzo, a bank that was built for travel and living in a van. With no caps on how many countries you roam through and no charges for drawing money out on the road, it’s the perfect bank for anyone who’s planning on spending a lot of time on the road. Monzo is a bank that’s built around an app, not a bank that’s made a crappy app to fit in with the crowd.
It’s super intuitive and allows you to track your spending and budget using money pots for individual services. There’s no paperwork either; it’s all done from your phone! Check out Monzo today and see for yourself!
10. Think about your heating
It’s been pretty warm in the UK up until recently, and now we’re blasting the diesel heater most mornings when we wake up and in an evening to keep our toes nice and toasty. Just because a country is usually warm doesn’t mean that it won’t be cold when you get there. Deserts are notoriously chilly at night times, and if you’re visiting somewhere that gets a lot of rainfall, then it’s nice to get warm and dry when you get back to your respective tiny homes.
11. Plan Where To Park
Apps like Park4Night are great if you’re not sure where you can get free overnight parking in new places. Van Life is all about exploring and finding hidden gems, but sometimes you want to find a safe place to get a bit of kip for a while, and that’s why Number 11 in our vanlife tips article is such an important one. Plan ahead where you can and try to park up before nightfall, so you don’t end up blocking a farmers gate or parking in gangland territory (I’ve watched too many cop films).
12. You’re Going To Have Sick Days
Just because you’re travelling in a van doesn’t mean that your body is going to change miraculously and make you immune to everything. Your campers are your homes, which means that you should stock them up with medicine and first aid kits just like any other home.
You might try something that doesn’t agree with you or forget that you shouldn’t drink the water etc., so be prepared for the times when you might be out of action for a few days. If you’re travelling with a partner, then make sure that they know how to say ‘Where can I buy toilet roll?” in every possible language.
13. Just Because You’re On The Road Doesn’t Mean You Cant Eat Well
If you love your food, then Number 13 in our vanlife tips list will be of interest. Pack some of our top cooking accessories and practice cooking up some of your favourite meals before you head out on the road. We’ve been full-time vandwellers for thirteen months now, and we cook pizza, lasagne, burgers and more using our XL Ridgemonkey.
Try the fresh produce from market stalls, give local businesses a chance and ask people about local delicacies. Don’t survive on pot noodles; get out there and take your taste buds on an adventure.
14. Is Your Phone Contract Ready For Roaming?
We’re both with VOXI — a Vodafone based sim that gives you unlimited social data (Instagram, Messenger, Facebook, Whatsapp etc.) and 45GB of internet + unlimited calls and texts for £20 a month. We tether to our laptops from our phones to watch TV, send files and to check emails etc., and our plans work all over Europe.
If you’re under 30, then this is a lifesaver (sadly if you’re over 30 they think that you don’t use your phone as much…) Check out your phone plan and get yourself the best deal possible.
15. Life Isn’t A Race – Take It Slow
This point might be the most obvious entry into our vanlife tips list, but it’s one that a lot of people forget when they hit the road. We spend so much of our lives rushing from one place to another that we don’t get to enjoy the ride and see the scenery along the way.
Stay in places an extra day so that you can explore, set off when you feel like it and not because you think you should, take time on the roads and don’t be afraid to take a detour to check out interesting things. You make your own time now, and you’re only answerable to yourself. Live your life without restraint!
Bonus Point – Enjoy Yourself!
We thought we’d end our vanlife tips article on a high! If you prepare for all of the points above before you set off, then you can spend the remainder of your trip just enjoying yourself and living life to the full. Your journey is about discovering the world and possibly making a little bit of money along the way, but whatever you do make sure that you enjoy yourself and don’t end your trip with any regrets…in fact just make sure that you trip never finishes (that’s what we’re planning on doing at any rate!).