Van life is sweet.
I regularly travel with my two daughters: Harper, 11, and Gem, four, in our motorhome, which we have affectionally named Frankie Dean.
We love our adventures, and if one thing has become clear, it’s this: You definitely learn from experience.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share with you my top 10 motorhome and campervan tips and tricks to make van life even sweeter.
The adage ‘less is more’ really is true when you’re living out of a small space. With that in mind, I suggest you pack only the bare essentials.
Opt for lightweight options and gear that packs down small. I couldn’t live without our collapsible bucket and kettle and lightweight camping gear.
I recommend you have a ‘trial pack’ and then go back through the van and ask yourself “do I really need that?”. It’s a great way to cull unnecessary items before heading off. We learned the pitfalls of overpacking the hard way and carted around lots of gear we didn’t need for the first two months of travelling.
We carried extra linen and way too many clothes we never used, as we tend to wash and dry on the same day. We also packed excessive books and craft projects.
Make sure you have a good understanding of the vehicle you’re driving and living in. There are obvious things like how to use gas bottles and how to empty waste water and the toilet to finer details like popping the bonnet and checking the oil.
It’s really important to know your vehicle’s height, length and weight, too. You don’t want to end up in the news being that motorhome driver who was stuck under a bridge. I saw this a month into my trip, and I have been extra careful since.
It pays to have a trial run before embarking on a big adventure to help with any teething issues and gain confidence. It’s also beneficial for peace of mind.
We have found this to be a really efficient motorhome tip. Having a set-up and pack-up routine makes life easier for all.
A departure checklist is particularly handy for safety as well as comfort. It acts as a reminder for important tasks such as shutting drawers, turning off gas bottles, etc.
And if you are travelling with others, including kids, a checklist helps create ownership of particular tasks.
We have a task list to keep Frankie clean and tidy (or tidy-ish), and now four-year-old Gem even shakes the rugs as part of her ‘job description’.
There is lots to learn when you begin motorhome travel, and this hack is an easy way to remove stress.
Initially, I was nervous reversing Frankie in and around other vans and in tight spots (fortunately, I’m not now). So, at the first few holiday parks we stayed at, I requested a drive-through site, and it helped grow my confidence.
Locals and holiday park staff are full of handy info. I always ask about the next leg of the trip, road conditions, best route, must-see places, and great coffee tips.
Better yet, other park guests will almost always offer to help guide you into your site and assist with other bits and pieces. Don’t be stubborn or too proud – accept the help!
Driving a motorhome or campervan is slower going than car travel and more demanding, as the level of concentration required is higher.
I suggest finding a comfortable number of kilometres that you enjoy driving within a day that don’t leave you feeling exhausted. A trial run combined with experience will help to determine the ‘magic number’.
Being able to stop at will, spend time in towns, or follow random signs that take your fancy is all part of the journey. It’s so nice not to have to rush.
It pays to have days where you don’t have to drive anywhere and can just potter around and spend time at your home away from home.
These days are long and lovely and refresh all travellers, and often they leave you ready to explore again the next day.
This is one for your future self to enjoy and applies to all forms of travel: Keep track of the places you go, the people you meet, and the things you did.
Travelling often squeezes so many adventures and connections into a small amount of time, which can blend in with each other, so it’s nice to be able to look back on it all.
I get my eldest daughter, Harper, to write a journal, while I use Instagram and Facebook to document. I love that Harper will have a hard copy account of our travels to look back on in years to come.
I’m loving this one, as I’m not a shopping kinda gal. We swing into boutique supermarkets and roadside stalls to avoid the big shopping centres, as they often are trickier to park in with height limits and can take much longer to shop at.
Also, try to buy groceries with minimal packaging. If items do come with packaging, take it off and put food into storage containers, as they pack better into the van.
Add a few home touches before you set off as well as along the way. We took special pillows and fairy lights, and these little touches make Frankie feel like home for us all. On our trip, we have added paintings and posters and were even given a calendar.
Obviously, I’m mindful of contradicting tip number one, but these little touches can go a long way to creating a homely environment.
The biggest tip of all is to just do it! Before you head off it can all seem daunting, but once you’re on the road it feels great.
Holiday parks are amazing these days with all their amenities and facilities, and people are so supportive along the way. Happy travels!