Vanlifer's Guide to Living on the Road: Van Life Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Vanlifer's Guide to Living on the Road: Van Life Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration

Aug 21, 2023

Are you ready to hit the open road, leave the conventional behind, and embark on an extraordinary adventure like no other? Welcome to Vanlifer's Guide to Living on the Road!

If you've ever dreamed of waking up to breathtaking views, exploring hidden gems, and experiencing the ultimate freedom, then van life might just be your ticket to a life of boundless exploration. Van life has captured the hearts of countless individuals seeking to break free from the constraints of conventional living and embark on a journey like no other.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through every aspect of van life, providing you with valuable tips, clever tricks, and endless inspiration. Whether you're a seasoned van lifer looking to enhance your journey or someone considering taking the leap, we've got you covered.

So, are you ready to unlock the door to a world of unforgettable moments and endless possibilities? Let's roll!

Introduction to Van Life

Van life is a captivating lifestyle centered around the idea of living and traveling in a converted van. It's an alternative way of embracing adventure, freedom, and simplicity while leaving behind the conventional norms of stationary living. With a growing community of van dwellers, van life has become a movement that encourages individuals to break away from the traditional and discover a world of endless possibilities.

What is Van Life?

At its core, van life involves converting a van into a mobile home, complete with essential amenities for daily living. From compact campervans to spacious custom-built vans, the possibilities are as diverse as the individuals who embark on this journey. Van lifers often seek to downsize their possessions, focusing on the essentials and shedding the unnecessary, to fully embrace a minimalist and nomadic lifestyle.

The allure of van life lies in the freedom it offers. Van dwellers have the flexibility to explore new places, beautiful landscapes, and vibrant cultures at their own pace.

Whether it's waking up to breathtaking sunrises in the mountains, spending the day at serene beaches, or stargazing under clear night skies, van living allows for immersive experiences that traditional life may not offer.

Furthermore, van life opens the door to self-discovery and a deeper connection with nature and oneself. Being constantly on the move fosters a sense of adaptability, resourcefulness, and resilience as van lifers navigate through various challenges, discovering hidden gems, and meeting like-minded souls along the way.

How Van Life Transforms Your Perspective?

Van life is more than just a lifestyle; it's a transformative journey that can profoundly impact one's outlook on life. Living on the road encourages individuals to cherish moments over material possessions, to value experiences over possessions, and to appreciate the simple joys that surround them.

Breaking away from the constraints of a stationary existence allows van lifers to escape the daily routines and experience a heightened sense of presence and mindfulness. It opens the door to living in a van authentically, following passions, and embracing the unknown with a sense of excitement and curiosity.

Choosing the Right Van

The question of what's the best van to live in has no right or wrong answer – it's all about your needs, priorities, and budget. Selecting the perfect van is one of the most critical decisions for embarking on a van life adventure. It will serve as your home on wheels, providing comfort, security, and mobility as you explore the world.

Types of Vans for Van Life

  • Camper Vans: Explore the world in a fully-equipped home with built-in amenities like beds, kitchenettes, and storage space.
  • Cargo Vans: These are popular for conversions due to their availability. The Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, and Mercedes Sprinter are popular choices in this category.
  • Conversion Vans: These vans come pre-converted with living necessities such as a bed, kitchenette, and sometimes a bathroom.
  • Passenger Vans: These vans have additional windows, which can provide more light inside the van. However, they may lack the stealth of a cargo van.
  • Mini Vans: These are smaller and more fuel-efficient, making them a cost-effective choice for solo travelers or couples.
  • Camper Van: These are purpose-built for camping or living and often come with all the amenities needed for comfortable living on the road.
  • Vintage Vans: For the nostalgia enthusiast, restoring a vintage van can be a rewarding project. But be prepared for potentially high maintenance costs.

Key Features to Look for in a Van

  • Interior Space: Assess the interior layout and dimensions to ensure sufficient space for comfortable living and sleeping arrangements.
  • Roof Height: Choose between high-roof and low-roof vans, considering standing room, ventilation, and storage possibilities.
  • Mobility and Maneuverability: Factor in the van's size and turning radius to ensure ease of driving and parking, especially in urban areas.
  • Fuel Efficiency: Consider the van's fuel consumption for cost-effective and eco-friendly travels.
  • Safety Features: Prioritize safety with features like airbags, stability control, and anti-lock brakes for worry-free journeys.
  • Insulation and Climate Control: Look for adequate insulation to regulate temperatures inside the van during varying weather conditions.
  • Power Source: Assess electrical systems, solar panels, and battery options to power appliances and devices.
  • Water and Plumbing: Check for water storage capacity and plumbing options for convenient access to fresh water on the road.
  • Storage Solutions: Ample storage space is essential for organizing belongings and keeping your living area clutter-free.
  • Off-Road Capability: If you plan on venturing off the beaten path, consider vans with off-road capabilities for added adventure.

Budgeting and Financing Your Van Purchase

  • Set a Realistic Budget: Determine your budget for purchasing and converting the van, factoring in additional costs for modifications.
  • New vs. Used Vans: Compare the benefits of buying a new van with warranty coverage and the potential cost savings of a used van.
  • Financing Options: Explore financing options, loans, or leasing agreements to make van ownership more affordable.
  • DIY vs. Professional Conversions: Consider the cost savings of a DIY van conversion versus hiring professional conversion services.
  • Pre-Purchase Inspection: If buying a used van, arrange for a thorough inspection to identify any potential issues or repairs needed.
  • Insurance and Registration: Research insurance rates and registration fees for the own van model you choose to ensure they fit your budget.

Remember, finding the right van is an essential step in creating a comfortable and enjoyable van life experience in such a small space. Take your time to research and weigh your options, and don't hesitate to seek advice from experienced van lifers or experts in the field.

Essential Van Life Gear 



Van life, the contemporary embodiment of nomadic living, necessitates its own unique set of gear to ensure comfort, functionality, and efficiency on the road. This equipment ranges from compact, multi-use kitchen appliances for whipping up meals, to solar panels and portable power stations for off-grid energy needs. Ingenious storage solutions, outdoor leisure gear, and even simple yet essential items like a quality first-aid kit all contribute to a smooth and enjoyable van life experience.

Must-Have Gear for Comfort and Safety

  • A great toilet! When it comes to the best, we really do sell the best toilet for Van Life right here on this website so check it out.
  • Bedding: A comfortable mattress or sleeping pad, warm blankets, and quality pillows for restful nights on the road.
  • Cooking Equipment: Portable stove, cookware, utensils, and a cooler or fridge for preparing and storing meals.
  • First Aid Kit: Essential medical supplies and medications to handle minor injuries and health issues.
  • Fire Safety: Fire extinguisher and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors to ensure a safe living environment.
  • Camping Chairs and Table: Foldable chairs and a table for enjoying meals and relaxing outside the van.
  • Lighting: Headlamps, lanterns, and interior lights to illuminate your van during the night.
  • Tool Kit: Basic tools for minor repairs and maintenance tasks on the road.
  • Emergency Gear: Emergency roadside kit, portable tire inflator, and jumper cables for unexpected situations.
  • Communication Devices: Mobile phone with a reliable service plan and a portable charger for staying connected.
  • Personal Security: Locks for doors and windows to enhance security during stops and camping.

The toilet...

The purpose of this post is not just to promote our toilets, butfor those of you that haven't seen it yet, watch this review for a Van Lifer.

It's pretty awesome.

Space-Saving Solutions for a Cozy Home on Wheels
  • Collapsible Kitchenware: Invest in foldable or stackable kitchen items to save space in the kitchen area.
  • Multi-Purpose Furniture: Opt for convertible furniture that serves multiple functions, such as a sofa bed or storage ottoman, this can make a huge difference in your van life experience.
  • Hanging Storage Solutions: Use hooks, organizers, and hanging storage racks to make the most of vertical space.
  • Nesting Cookware: Utilize nesting pots and pans to minimize storage space in the kitchen.
  • Foldable Table: Choose a foldable dining table that can be tucked away when not in use.
  • Storage Containers: Use stackable and modular storage containers to keep items organized and easily accessible.
  • Under-Bed Storage: Utilize the space under the bed for storing larger items or outdoor gear.
  • Magnetic Spice Containers: Magnetic spice containers attached to the kitchen wall save cabinet space and keep spices within reach.
  • Collapsible Water Containers: Save space by using collapsible water containers for drinking and washing.
  • Overhead Storage Nets: Install overhead storage nets to secure lightweight items while traveling.
Van Maintenance Tips for Smooth Travels
  • Maintaining your van for smooth travels is crucial for any journey. Here are a few tips:
  • Regularly check your tires: Ensuring your tires are correctly inflated and have adequate tread depth can prevent unexpected breakdowns.
  • Keep up with oil changes: Regular oil changes are essential for the longevity of your van's engine.
  • Inspect your brakes: For safe travels, make sure your brakes are functioning properly.
  • Test your lights: Regularly checking your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals can prevent accidents and potential fines.
  • Clean and check your battery: A clean battery with tight connections can save you from unexpected power issues.

Taking care of your van and having the right gear ensures a safe and comfortable van life experience. Regular maintenance and thoughtful space-saving solutions will enhance your journey on the road.

Planning Your Route

Planning the route for your van life adventure is an exhilarating process that lays the foundation for unforgettable experiences on the road.

Researching Destinations and Routes

Before hitting the road, take the time to research potential destinations and routes that align with your interests and preferences. Consider the type of scenery you wish to experience, whether it's mountains, beaches, forests, or vibrant cities.

Online travel resources, van life blogs, and social media platforms can provide valuable insights and recommendations from fellow van lifers who have explored those areas.

Study maps, guidebooks, and tourism websites to identify attractions, national parks, camping sites, and other points of interest along your journey. Factor in the distance and time required to travel between destinations to ensure a well-balanced and enjoyable route.

Finding Free and Safe Places to Park Overnight

Finding suitable places to park and spend the night is crucial for a smooth van life experience. While some campgrounds and RV parks offer amenities, they may come with a cost.

To save on accommodation expenses, consider free or low-cost options such as national park campgrounds, national forests, and dispersed camping areas. Numerous mobile apps and websites like Park hound, Parkopedia and more cater specifically to van lifers, providing detailed maps and reviews of overnight parking spots.

Always prioritize safety when choosing a place to park, opting for well-lit and populated areas or seeking permission from property owners when needed.

Creating a Flexible Itinerary for Adventurous Exploration

One of the joys of van life is the freedom to embrace spontaneity and adventure. While having a rough plan can provide direction, keep your itinerary flexible to seize unexpected opportunities and change course as you please.

Embrace detours and unplanned stops to explore hidden gems and meet fellow travelers along the way. Allow for ample downtime to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of your surroundings or to fully experience the culture and charm of a new city.

Keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances, weather changes, or chance encounters can lead to the most memorable moments during your van life journey.

As you embark on planning your route, remember that balance is key. Striking a harmonious blend between pre-planned destinations and open-ended exploration will allow you to fully embrace the freedom and wonder of van life.

Stay open to the possibilities, be adaptable, and let your journey unfold in ways you could have never imagined.

Whether you're seeking solitude in nature, pursuing adrenaline fueled adventures, or immersing yourself in diverse cultures, planning your route with care will set the stage for an incredible and life-changing van life experience. 

Staying Connected on the Road

Maintaining connectivity while living the van life is essential for remote work, communication with loved ones, and accessing important information on the road.

Internet Options for Remote Work and Communication

For van lifers who work remotely or require internet access, several options cater to life on the road. Mobile hotspots, offered by cellular providers, enable internet connectivity using cellular data. Research coverage maps and choose a provider with reliable coverage along your planned routes.

Additionally, consider portable Wi-Fi routers that can connect to public Wi-Fi networks in urban areas or campgrounds. Satellite internet is a more robust option for staying connected in remote regions, but it comes with higher costs and may require specialized equipment.

Choose the option that best aligns with your internet needs and budget while ensuring you can maintain productivity and communication while on the road.

If you're interested in learning more about making money on the road, here's a full blog post that we wrote just about that.

Staying in Touch with Loved Ones While Traveling

Van life often involves long stretches away from family and friends, making staying in touch even more crucial. Utilize communication apps like WhatsApp, FaceTime, or Zoom to make video calls and share experiences with loved ones.

Social media platforms offer a convenient way to share updates and photos of your journey, keeping friends and family informed about your van life adventures. It's also a good idea to set a regular schedule for check-ins to maintain close connections and reassure loved ones of your well-being.

Embracing Offline Time and Disconnecting

While staying connected is valuable for work and maintaining relationships, embracing offline time is equally important for the van life experience. Dedicate moments of your journey to disconnect from technology and immerse yourself fully in the present moment.

Engage in activities like hiking, stargazing, or reading a book without the distractions of screens. This intentional disconnection allows you to connect with nature, appreciate the beauty of your surroundings, and foster a sense of inner peace and reflection.

Embracing offline time also reduces dependency on technology and encourages authentic connections with others during your travels.

Budgeting and Financial Tips


Maintaining a solid financial foundation is crucial for a successful and sustainable van life journey.

Managing Finances while Living a Nomadic Life

Creating and sticking to a budget is essential for van life. Start by assessing your income sources, whether through remote work, freelancing, or savings.

Calculate your monthly expenses, including food, fuel, insurance, campsite fees, and any other essential costs. Consider setting up automatic transfers to separate accounts for different expenses to avoid overspending.

Keep detailed records of your spending to monitor your financial health and make adjustments as needed. Building an emergency fund is crucial to handle unexpected costs or emergencies during your journey.

Ways to Save Money on the Road

Van life offers ample opportunities to save money compared to traditional living. Consider free camping options like BLM lands, national forests, and dispersed camping to avoid campground fees.

Cook meals in your van using affordable ingredients instead of eating out regularly.

Utilize discount programs and memberships for fuel, groceries, and other essentials.

Take advantage of free or low-cost activities like hiking, exploring nature, and attending local events to enrich your experience without breaking the bank.

Embrace a minimalist lifestyle, reducing unnecessary purchases and focusing on experiences rather than material possessions.

Balancing Expenses for Sustainable Van Life

Maintaining a sustainable van life experience involves striking a balance between enjoying your travels and managing expenses responsibly. Avoid overspending on non-essential items and prioritize investments in long-term sustainability, such as solar panels or fuel-efficient upgrades.

Plan your route carefully to minimize unnecessary travel costs and optimize your experiences. Be mindful of your environmental impact, choosing eco-friendly practices that can also save money in the long run.

Regularly review your budget to ensure you're staying on track and adjust as needed to maintain a sustainable financial outlook. Adopting a mindful and sustainable approach to your finances allows you to focus on the true essence of van life—freedom, adventure, and a deeper connection with the world around you.

Embracing Minimalism and Sustainability


Embracing minimalism and sustainability is at the core of the van life lifestyle, offering a path to greater freedom, environmental responsibility, and a deeper connection with the world.

Downsizing and Decluttering for Van Life

Transitioning to van life necessitates a significant downsizing effort. Evaluate your possessions and prioritize items that add genuine value to your life. Donate, sell, or repurpose belongings that no longer serve a purpose.

We have written a whole post on planning your van and maximising your space too.

Create a functional and organized living space in your van, focusing on essentials and multi-purpose items. By shedding material possessions, you'll free yourself from the burden of excess, creating room for more meaningful experiences and connections.

Reducing Waste and Practicing Eco-Friendly Habits

Van life Australia provides an opportunity to adopt eco-friendly habits and reduce your environmental footprint. Practice Leave No Trace principles while camping and hiking, ensuring nature remains pristine for future generations.

Embrace reusable alternatives such as water bottles, shopping bags, and food containers to minimize single-use plastic waste.

Compost organic waste and recycle whenever possible. Invest in solar panels and energy-efficient appliances to decrease reliance on non-renewable energy sources. Strive to live in harmony with the environment, making conscious choices that support the preservation of nature.

Van life encourages a return to simplicity and mindfulness. Slow down and savor each moment, whether it's a breathtaking sunset or the serenity of a quiet morning in nature. Disconnect from technology periodically to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of your surroundings.

Engage in activities that foster a deeper appreciation for nature, like hiking, photography, or simply observing wildlife. Embrace gratitude for the simple pleasures that van life provides, recognizing the value of present experiences over material possessions.

Staying Safe and Responsible

Prioritizing safety and responsibility is essential for a successful and enjoyable van life journey. For solo van lifers, personal safety is of utmost importance. Stay aware of your surroundings, especially in unfamiliar areas, and trust your instincts.

Park in well-lit and populated areas to enhance security during overnight stays. Keep doors locked, and install additional security measures such as window alarms or motion-activated lights. Establish a network of friends or fellow van lifers who can check in on you periodically.

Share your travel plans with trusted individuals and maintain communication whenever possible. Be cautious when meeting new people and avoid sharing personal information with strangers.

Despite careful planning, challenging situations may arise during van life. It's crucial to stay adaptable and prepared for the unexpected. Familiarize yourself with basic vehicle maintenance and have a well-stocked emergency kit with essentials like first aid supplies, tools, and spare parts.

Be aware of weather conditions and plan accordingly to avoid hazardous driving conditions. In case of breakdowns or emergencies, remain calm and assess your situation before seeking help or contacting roadside assistance.


As you embark on your van life adventure, remember that it's not just a journey of miles; it's a journey of self-discovery, freedom, and connection with the world around you. Embrace the simplicity of minimalism, the beauty of sustainability, and the joy of living in the present moment.

Stay connected with loved ones, but also relish the moments of disconnection, allowing nature's splendor to envelop your soul. In the vast landscapes and quiet corners of the world, you'll find the most profound experiences and the purest sense of freedom.

Cherish the sense of community among fellow van lifers, learn from van life pros, and draw strength from the knowledge that you are part of a supportive and adventurous tribe. As you navigate the open road, be mindful of safety and responsibility, keeping a watchful eye on your well-being and surroundings.

Frequently Asked Questions about Van Life

What is van life, and how does it work?

Van life is a lifestyle in which individuals or couples choose to live and travel in a converted van. It involves transforming the van into a mobile home with essential amenities like a bed, kitchen, and storage space. Van lifers often travel from place to place, exploring new destinations and embracing a more minimalist and nomadic way of living.

How much does van life cost?

The cost of starting van life can vary depending on factors such as the type of van, its condition, and the extent of the conversion. A used van suitable for conversion may cost anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.

The cost of the conversion itself can range from a few thousand to several tens of thousands, depending on the features and customization desired. In most cases, you will pay a premium price to purchase a van that has already been converted, so you might find it more cost-effective if you buy an empty van to convert.

Is van life safe?

While van life can be a safe and rewarding experience, it's essential to take precautions and be aware of potential risks. Staying in well-lit and populated areas, having reliable communication, and investing in security measures can enhance safety on the road. Solo travellers should be particularly vigilant and follow safety guidelines to ensure their well-being.

How do van lifers make money on the road?

Many van lifers work remotely, allowing them to sustain their lifestyle while traveling. Remote jobs, freelancing, and online businesses are popular ways to generate income while on the road. Some van lifers also save money before starting their journey and opt for part-time work or seasonal jobs along their route.

Where can I park and sleep overnight in my van?

Van lifers have several options for overnight parking, ranging from campgrounds and RV parks to free or low-cost options. National park campgrounds, national forests, and dispersed camping areas often permit free or low-cost camping. Additionally, some businesses and parking lots allow overnight stays, but it's essential to respect local regulations and obtain permission when needed.

What challenges should I be prepared for in van life?

Van life comes with its unique set of challenges, such as limited space, maintenance tasks, and adapting to changing weather conditions. Access to amenities like showers and bathrooms may require planning. However, overcoming these challenges fosters resilience, resourcefulness, and a deeper appreciation for the journey.

Can I live in a van full-time?

Yes, many people choose to full time van life and embrace van life as a permanent lifestyle. However, it's essential to consider factors such as personal preferences, finances, and the ability to adapt to a nomadic lifestyle before committing to van life full-time.

How do I stay connected and find community while on the road?

Staying connected while on the road is possible through various means, such as mobile hotspots, public Wi-Fi, and communication apps. Social media platforms and online van life communities provide opportunities to connect with other van lifers, share experiences, and find support and camaraderie on your journey.

What are some must-have items for van life?

Obviously, we sell toilets for Van Life and this is a CRITICAL piece of the Van Life puzzle.

Here's a quick demo of how ours work.

You can buy them here.

Aside from the best toilet, essential items for van life include a comfortable bed or sleeping arrangement, a portable stove and cooking utensils, a first aid kit, and basic tools for vehicle maintenance.
Other useful items include storage solutions, camping gear, and solar panels for sustainable energy.

Is van life suitable for families or couples?

Van life can be suitable for families or couples, but it requires careful planning and consideration of individual needs. Larger vans with more sleeping and living space may be preferred for families, while couples can opt for cozier setups. Open communication and a shared sense of adventure are essential for successful van life experiences as a family or couple.