Travelling in an RV or van is a big part of North American culture. It is arguably one of the most affordable and exciting ways to travel long distances and explore large portions of a country. It’s become an appealing lifestyle choice among those who value freedom, adventure and want to save more. With the right van life tips, it can become easier than you think.
We experienced this lifestyle shift by buying a 1991 Chevrolet G20 Van. 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 travelling, 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. With a level of planning, preparation, and a few useful tips this can be an easier process than you think.
Some immediate questions that may come to your mind – Where am I going to shower? Where am I going to sleep? What about the internet and water? What happens if my 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. By utilizing the app iOverlander or WikiCamps you can discover a variety of options that have been vetted by other van life and RV goers. It makes it much easier to plan out your trip and find a spot 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. 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.
2. An alternative to campsites, have you heard about Harvest Hosts?
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 which is equivalent to staying approx 3 nights at a regular campsite. It’s worth the money as it allows you access to some incredible spaces and people. We enjoyed wine tasting in Oregon on our road trip to California. By using this link you can receive a 15% discount off your membership.
3. Showers on the go
If your van or Rv is not equipped with a shower it can be a challenging task to find one on the road. Here are some useful suggestions that we have used to keep fresh!
- iOverlander – Our absolute favourite app when it comes to van life. 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 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. Some of them to consider in the USA: Anytime Fitness, Snap Fitness, Planet Fitness, 24h 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!
Check the coverage plans for your cell provider. If you are in the USA, rvmobileinternet goes into detail to help. 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 one spray bottle that is diluted 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.
7. Roadside assistance
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 best cover.
A lot of 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. By using GasBuddy you can make wiser choices on where to fuel up. For more info on this, visit our Fuel Saving Strategies post.
Outdoorsy is a great platform to test the waters of van life! It offers a wide range of vans for hire in North America – basically, it’s the Airbnb for van rentals. With this link you get $50 off your first booking!
That wraps up our 9 essential van life tips!
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