Van Life for Beginners: 15 Pro Tips to Get You Started

When I started full-time van life last year with my husband and dog, I felt excited and anxious at the same time. I couldn’t wait…

When I started full-time van life last year with my husband and dog, I felt excited and anxious at the same time. I couldn’t wait for our adventures together on the road and to wake up in new, beautiful places. At the same time, I wondered how we’d adapt to this new lifestyle. Would we be happy? Here are 15 tips for van life beginners to help you get started that I wish someone had told me.

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1. Figure out your plan for work ASAP

Photo Credit: Brooke Alexander

When I started van life, I was overly optimistic about finding remote work and took time applying for jobs. I was picky and applied for my dream positions instead of casting a wider net. This backfired as the job market was more competitive than I thought, and it took me about six months of applying to jobs before I finally landed a few steady positions. 

If you are planning to switch careers or jobs and need a remote gig (or several) for the road, start applying as soon as possible.

2. Establish a morning routine

A man and a woman with a black dog inside the door entryway of a camper van.
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen.

Waking up somewhere new in your van each morning is exciting, but it can also make it difficult to establish a consistent routine if you’re not intentional about it. You may also be tempted to sleep in if you don’t have a purpose for waking up. 

I recommend setting a few non-negotiables for yourself and doing them in the same order each day (i.e., journaling for 10 minutes, taking your dog for a walk, reading for 10 minutes, etc.). This will help you establish a sense of normalcy and routine on the road (which you might crave).

3. Set aside time each week for chores

Photo Credit: Two Wandering Soles

Devote some time on a specific day each week for your chores. These include refilling the water tank, doing laundry, organizing your van, getting groceries, and possibly dumping your waste or showering (depending on your set-up). 

These tasks take more time than you may think, especially when you’re visiting a new area and need to spend additional time researching where to go to do all of these.

4. Prioritize quality time

Photo Credit: Winnebago

If you’re living on the road with a partner, you spend pretty much 24/7 together. If it’s a romantic relationship, you need to continue to prioritize quality time and dates to do fun things together and enjoy one another’s company. 

There are many stressful moments on the road that you’ll face together, so it’s important to make time to create positive memories with each other!

5. Research easy recipes

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Sometimes, you’ll pull into a campsite late and not want to make an intricate meal. Make a list of about 1-2 weeks’ worth of simple, healthy meal ideas you can whip up quickly. 

Trust me, if you make beans and rice for every meal, you’ll start to dread it!

6. Maintain a budget 

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Calculate how much you spend on monthly necessities (fuel, groceries, insurance, van payment, internet, subscriptions, etc.). Set aside an emergency savings fund in case something unexpected happens to your van (or yourself) on the road. 

If you stick to your budget and maintain emergency savings, you’ll have financial stability, allowing you to continue to live on the road without worrying about running out of money.

7. Downsize as much as possible

Photo Credit: The Wayward Home

If you don’t use or wear something frequently now, you won’t once you’re in your van. Decide which items are necessities to keep, and either sell, donate, or store the rest. You’ll probably continue to downsize as you live on the road once you realize how little you need!

8. Be spontaneous

Photo Credit The Wayward Home

If you are a type A planner, it can be tempting to map out a plan for your entire week, month, or year on the road. One of the best parts of van life is being spontaneous. 

Stay flexible, adaptable, and open when plans change or new opportunities arise!

9. Take safety precautions

Image Credits: Deposit Photos

It is important to think about safety before you hit the road. Check that your van has a fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, smoke alarm, first aid kit, and locked storage for your valuable items. Decide if you want to invest in security systems like cameras, take self-defense classes, or purchase a weapon to protect yourself. 

10. Seek community and connection

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Life on the road can be lonely if you don’t intentionally seek out connections and build a community. I recommend connecting with other travelers online, attending van festivals, and getting to know your campground neighbors. It’s helpful (and fun) to swap stories, tips, resources, and recommendations with other travelers!

11. Keep in touch with family and friends

Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Although it may require more effort to maintain a relationship with your friends and family when you’re not seeing them in person, it’s worth it to continue to invest in these relationships. Make a plan for when you’ll talk to family and friends. Consider investing in a mobile hotspot or portable internet device (like Starlink) so you can keep in touch.

12. Slow down to avoid burnout

Photo Credit: Thor

When you first start traveling in your van, it’s tempting to cram in as much as possible and visit all of your bucket list destinations quickly. Avoid this urge to rush from place to place because it can lead to quicker burnout. 

There is beauty found in the journey, not just the destination!

13. Research and plan

Photo Credit: @van.there

Although this may seem contradictory to my tip about being spontaneous, figure out how you’ll find places to sleep each night. Download helpful van life apps (like iOverlander) to help you find campsites, showers, and laundromats on the road. 

Also, research local laws and parking regulations for areas you plan to visit to ensure it’s legal to park somewhere before you go.

14. Take care of yourself

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

When you’re constantly traveling, it can be easy to disregard the importance of eating healthy, exercising regularly, and scheduling medical and dental appointments. Don’t forget to make time to take care of yourself each day to avoid unanticipated health issues or illness down the line. 

15. Respect the land

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Follow Leave No Trace principles as you travel and try to leave each place better than you found it. Picking up after yourself (and others), disposing of your waste properly, and minimizing your water usage will help to reduce your environmental footprint.

17 Off-Road Vans for Epic Overlanding Adventures

Photo Credit: Winnebago Industries

Do you dream of exploring dirt roads and off-road trails in your campervan? Some of the best campsites are out in the middle of nowhere. You’ll want one of these off-road vans to get you there.

13 Reasons I Chose Van Life over House Life

Woman in a flannel standing in the doorway of a Sprinter van.
Photo Credit: Kaylin Zittergruen

Choosing van life over house life has been one of the best decisions I have made in my adult life. Here are the top reasons I did not follow the traditional path of purchasing a home and chose a life of adventure on the road instead.

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