Van life in Canada has been booming in recent years.
Traveling in an RV or van is a big part of the culture in Canada.
It is arguably one of the most affordable and exciting ways to travel long distances and explore large portions of a country.
The increasing housing prices and the possibility to work online made many Canadians ditch their houses and start the whole van life movement.
Van life has become an appealing lifestyle choice among those who value freedom, adventure and want to save more.
We experienced Canadian van life and this lifestyle shift by buying a 1991 Chevrolet G20 Van, a.k.a ‘spaceship’.
Unlike anything you will find in Europe, Africa or Asia, this van is classically North American. Old school in character, it’s large, high from the ground and hums along the road with enough power to take you off the beaten track.
We absolutely love it and spent our Summer traveling, working and living in it.
In 3 months, we were able to explore Alberta, British Columbia and 9 states in the US.
Imagine waking up and spending your day driving along the Californian coast, finding secluded beaches to swim and a place to enjoy a cup of tea for sunset.
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Van Life Canada Tips
With a level of planning, preparation, and a few valuable tips, transitioning into van life in Canada can be a more straightforward process than you think.
Some immediate questions that may come to your mind:
Where do you shower when you live in the van?
Where do you find overnight parking spots?
What about the internet and water?
What happens if your van breaks down? Etc, etc.
Below we provide our top 9 van life tips to help you with some of these unanswered questions.
A lot of places restrict overnight camping or parking. With this being said, there’s always an option available.
So whether you’re living in a van in BC, Toronto, or simply venturing all over Canada, you’ll find epic overnight parking spots.
It makes it much easier to plan your trip and find a place to sleep after a long day of driving by relying on the discoveries of others.
The beauty of these apps is that they include many options that are free and often have beautiful views and surroundings.
If you’re passing through a city, another backup option is to stay overnight in Walmart parking lots. Not all of them allow it, but most of them do. Just keep an eye open for any signs in the lot.
Harvest Hosts – an Alternative to Campsites
Harvest Hosts is a network of breweries, wineries, cideries, and farms that provide space on their land for you to stay free overnight with a membership.
A basic yearly membership costs $79, equivalent to staying 2-3 nights at a regular campsite.
It’s worth the money because it allows you access to incredible spaces and people.
We enjoyed wine tasting in Oregon on our road trip to California. You can receive a 15% discount on your membership by using this link.
Showers on the Go
If your van or RV is not equipped with a shower, finding one on the road can be challenging. Here are some valuable suggestions that we have used to keep fresh!
- iOverlander – Our absolute favorite app for van life in Canada or the US. Besides overnight parking stops, there are also places marked on the app for shower facilities, usually indicated with a small blue star icon.
- Truck stops – Some truck stops have showers. The option we utilized was Husky travel centers. They offer a shower in exchange for points. You only need 50 points for a shower or 100 for a shower and towel. If you register for the myHusky Reward program as a new user you automatically gain 200 points, if you subscribe to their mail list, you can get another extra 200 points. That means 8 free showers!
- Coin showers in campgrounds
- Some cities offer free access to outdoor pools in the Summer
- Recreational centers – Almost every town in Canada has one. The entrance fees are reasonable and it can be a fun activity for a day to hang in the pool, hot tub, and sauna.
- Gym – Make use of free trials on gyms or YMCAs. Alternatively, buy a year’s gym membership that has numerous branches across the country. The best gyms for van life in Canada that offer showers and have multiple branches across Canada are: Anytime Fitness, Planet Fitness, Gold’s gym. In Canada, the largest health club company is GoodLife Fitness.
- Find hot springs along your route – something a little bit different but a fun way to relax and freshen up!
Unless you plan on urban van life dwelling, the chances are that you’ll be roaming around some pretty remote locations. An Internet connection is essential, especially if you have an online job.
Bells and Rogers have pretty good coverage for van life internet in Canada. You might even get data plans with two different cell providers as a backup.
The exciting news for digital nomads and van lifers is that satellite internet service is becoming more accessible and efficient.
For more info, you can look into Starlink RV plan.
The satellite internet connection can only be established when your van is still. Monthly plans are available for $170.
If you are in the USA, Verizon or T-mobile are your best bet. Rvmobileinternet goes into detail to help choose the suitable carrier. When you’re in cities, visit libraries or pop into a Starbucks.
Get a big water tank and fill it up whenever you get a chance.
In addition to this, get a 1L water bottle per person – this will be easier to fill up on the road to keep you hydrated.
To reduce water consumption when washing dishes, utilize wet wipes, kitchen towels, and spray bottles.
For washing plates and cutlery, use a diluted spray bottle with water and castile soap. For rinsing and sanitizing, use another spray bottle diluted with water and a small amount of bleach.
There’s a variety of coin-operated laundromats across North America.
With some of the things that may go wrong on the road, we opted to take out a roadside assistance program with CAA to give us peace of mind.
Their memberships will cover you for towing, flat batteries or flat tires. We chose the premier option, which costs approx 15$ per month and offers you the most comprehensive cover.
Many people don’t realize the level of expense you can spare when planning out where to refuel. Gas prices vary from station to station depending on location and Province.
With GasBuddy app, you can search for gas stations with the best prices in your area and make wiser choices on where to fuel up. For more info on saving on fuel, visit our Fuel Saving Strategies post.
Outdoorsy is a great platform to test the waters of van life in Canada! It offers a wide range of vans for rent in North America – basically, it’s the Airbnb for van rentals.
With this link you get $50 off your first booking!
Another van life Canada rental option is RVezy.
Van Life Canada FB Groups
To learn more about the reality of van life, different conversion hacks and van life tips, you can join FB groups or Youtube channels. Many people share their experience and know-how to speed up your learning curve.
Van Life Canada for Sale FB Groups
Worldwide Van Life FB Groups
Van Life Canada FAQ
Is it possible to live in a van in Canada?
You can live in a van in Canada, as there is no law prohibiting it, but you’ll need to make some level of preparation. Where will you find unrestricted overnight parking for the van at night, and for how long? Where can you shower? etc.
Can you live in a van in Canada in winter?
Yes, you can live in a van in Canada in winter as long as you insulate your van and get a proper heater. Van life in Canada isn’t easy, especially in the winter. That’s why you must be well prepared if you plan on living in your van full time.
Using the van for ski road trips and winter camping can be great fun.
There are a few things that you can get to spend nights in a van at -25°C and stay comfortable.
How much does it cost to convert to van life?
Professional van conversion outfitted for all seasons can cost roughly from $30,000 to upwards of $200,000. If you can do van conversion yourself, it will cost you a lot less, plus you’ll learn some new skills.
You’ll need to invest or borrow the right tools, have a workshop and spend some time learning all the know-how but it’ll be much more rewarding.
Can you save money doing van life?
Full time van living can be a great way to save money and travel on a budget. If you can do your job online and handle some of the challenges of real van life, you can save money on rent and explore simultaneously.
How do van lifers make money?
Many van lifers are seasonal workers, living outside or in the summer camps in the warmer months and traveling to work in ski resorts in winter.
Some van lifers also do seasonal harvesting on a farm or online jobs.
You can work online as long as you have a solar panel to charge your laptop or work in different cafes along your way.
To get more ideas on how to make extra money, check:
How do I start van life?
- Have no expectations.
- Test drive the van lifestyle with Outdoorsy.
- Buy a van in great mechanical shape.
- Learn how to convert your van.
- Prepare all the van life essentials.
- Think of ways to earn income on the go.
- Take advantage of free campsites with iOverlander.
- Have a van life routine and keep your van clean.
- Plan your road trips.
That wraps up our 9 essential tips for van life Canada!