The Ultimate Vanlife Guide: How to Live on the Road in Style
Are you tired of the traditional 9-to-5 lifestyle? Do you dream of exploring new places, meeting new people, and living life on your terms? If so, then vanlife might be the perfect solution for you. Imagine waking up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach or birds chirping in the forest, with endless possibilities on your agenda for the day.
Living in a van is like having your turtle shell you can take wherever you go. It's a feeling of freedom, independence, and adventure that is hard to match. In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need about vanlife. From choosing the right van to budgeting for your travels and designing your dream van.
We'll also provide tips on connecting with the vanlife community and exploring the best places. Read on to learn how you can start living the vanlife dream today!
Getting Started With Vanlife
Getting started as a vanlifer is easy and exciting. Before you hit the road, it's essential to understand what vanlife is all about and choose the right van for your travels. If you're beginning your vanlife journey, here are some tips to get you started.
What Is Vanlife? Understanding the Lifestyle
Vanlife has gained tremendous popularity recently, with many people seeking adventure and a simpler way of life. The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in the rise of vanlife, as more people seek ways to travel safely and avoid crowded spaces.
The vanlife community is diverse and thriving, with millions worldwide living and traveling in vans. According to Statista, the estimated number of Vanlifers in the United States was over 3 million in mid-2022. This number is expected to grow as more people discover the freedom and adventure that vanlife offers.
Vanlife is also a way to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle. Many vanlifers use solar panels and other green technologies to power their vans. They often prioritize living simply and minimizing their environmental impact.
Choosing the Right Van: Different Models
When choosing the right van for your travels, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
What's your budget?
How much space do you need?
Do you plan on camping or staying in RV parks?
Do you want a small van that is easy to maneuver and park or a larger one with more storage room?
Are you looking to buy a new or used van?
Once you have answered these questions, you can determine the best van for your needs and budget. Here are some of the most popular types of vans for vanlife:
Class B RVs: These are generally small and easy to maneuver. They often have a built-in kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping facilities.
Conversion Vans: These are vans that have been converted into campervans. They come in various sizes and styles, so you can find one that suits your needs.
Camper Vans: These are usually smaller than other vans explicitly designed for camping. They often have built-in cooking, sleeping, and bathroom facilities.
Sprinter Vans: These are larger vans that offer lots of storage space. They're great for long trips and extended stays in one place but can be more challenging to drive and park.
Pros and Cons of Vanlife
Just like with any lifestyle, vanlife has its pros and cons. Before you commit to living on the road in a van, consider the advantages and disadvantages.
Freedom and independence: Vanlife offers the freedom to explore and travel wherever you want.
Convenience: Vans are easier to maneuver and park than larger RVs.
Cost-effectiveness: Vans are cheaper to buy than trucks and SUVs.
Environmentally friendly: Vans often run on solar power and use less fuel.
Flexibility: Vanlife offers the flexibility to move around quickly and easily. It allows you to adapt to changing circumstances.
Limited space: Vans can be cramped and unsuitable for large families.
Lack of amenities: Some vans don't have built-in kitchens or bathrooms.
Lack of privacy: Vans may lack the privacy of larger RVs.
Maintenance and repairs: Vans require regular maintenance and can be costly.
Lonely: You may sometimes feel isolated if you're a solo vanlifer.
Vanlife Customs and Culture: What To Expect on the Road
Vanlife customs and culture are a vital part of the vanlife experience. While vanlife is all about freedom and adventure, there are also some unwritten rules and customs that vanlifers should be aware of.
Here are some common customs and culture of vanlife:
Parking etiquette: One of the most critical aspects of vanlife is finding a safe and legal place to park your van. Vanlifers often park in remote areas, such as national forests. However, respecting other campers and following park rules and regulations are essential. In urban areas, vanlifers often park on residential streets. Still, it's necessary to be mindful of local parking regulations and not overstay your welcome.
Community building: Vanlife is more than just living in a van; it's also about building a community of like-minded individuals. Vanlifers often connect through social media, online forums, and in-person meetups. These gatherings offer a chance to share advice, stories, and experiences and to form lasting friendships.
Minimalism: Living in a van requires a certain level of minimalism, as space is limited. Vanlifers often prioritize simplicity and minimalism. They focus on experiences and relationships rather than material possessions.
Sustainable living: Many vanlifers are environmentally conscious and prioritize living sustainably. This often means using solar panels, composting toilets, and other green technologies to reduce environmental impact.
Creativity: Vanlife often attracts creative individuals who seek inspiration and freedom. Many vanlifers pursue creative passions such as art, music, and writing, using the open road as inspiration.
Flexibility: Vanlife requires certain flexibility, as plans and schedules can change quickly. Vanlifers must be prepared for unexpected weather, breakdowns, and other challenges with life on the road.
Top Vanlife Influencers to Follow on Social Media
Vanlife influencers have gained a lot of popularity recently. It is thanks to social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube. They offer a glimpse into the world of vanlife and provide inspiration for those who dream of living on the road.
Here are some of the top vanlife influencers you should consider following on social media:
Vanlife Diaries (@vanlifediaries)
Vanlife Diaries is a community-driven account that shares photos and stories from vanlifers around the world. They feature a diverse range of vanlifers, from solo travelers to families with kids.
Their account also offers a comprehensive guide to vanlife on their website, including tips on building a van and finding free campsites. By following Vanlife Diaries, you can get a sense of the global vanlife community and discover vanlifers who inspire you.
The Indie Projects (@theindieprojects)
The Indie Projects is a couple from the UK who have been living on the road since 2015. They offer a behind-the-scenes look at vanlife, including the ups and downs of living in a small space.
Their account shares tips on van conversion, sustainable living, and working remotely from the road. They also have a YouTube channel with in-depth tours of their van and interviews with other vanlifers. By following The Indie Projects, you can learn about the realities of vanlife and get practical advice for living on the road.
Exploring Alternatives (@exploringalternatives)
Exploring Alternatives is a Canadian couple who document their travels in a self-converted van and tiny house. They share advice on minimalism, eco-friendly living, and alternative lifestyles.
Their YouTube channel offers in-depth tours of their van and tiny house, as well as interviews with other alternative living enthusiasts. By following Exploring Alternatives, you can learn about different ways of living sustainably and discover creative solutions for vanlife.
The Rolling Home (@therollinghome)
The Rolling Home is a UK-based couple who converted a vintage van into a cozy home on wheels. Their account offers a visual feast for design enthusiasts, with beautiful photos of their van and the places they visit.
They also share tips on van conversion, creative projects, and the importance of slow travel. By following The Rolling Home, you can get inspired by their aesthetic and learn about the joys of taking things slow on the road.
Budgeting for Vanlife
Living on the road in a van can be expensive, but it doesn't have to break the bank. With careful budgeting, vanlife can be a surprisingly affordable way to travel.
Here are some tips for budgeting for vanlife:
Create a budget: Make a budget and stick to it. Consider costs such as fuel, regular maintenance, insurance, food, and camping fees.
Research van types: Different van types come with different costs, so research each type's purchase and maintenance costs before committing to one.
Shop around for deals: Look for deals on vans and gear online. There are often discounts available on sites like Craigslist and eBay.
Go small: Consider getting a smaller van, which is usually cheaper to purchase and maintain.
Minimize costs: Look for free camping spots, use public transportation when possible, cook your meals, and do repairs yourself to minimize expenses.
Consider a side hustle: A side hustle can be a great way to supplement your vanlife budget. Consider freelancing, selling crafts, or working on the road to increase your income.
Cost of Van Life Breakdown: Expenses To Consider Before Hitting the Road
The cost of van life can vary greatly depending on how you choose to live. Here is a breakdown of potential expenses before embarking on a vanlife adventure.
Van purchase: The cost of purchasing a van can vary significantly depending on the type and condition of the van.
Insurance: Whether you purchase a new or used van, insurance is essential.
Gas and maintenance: Gas and vehicle maintenance are unavoidable costs of living on the road.
Camping fees: Camping fees may be necessary depending on where you go.
Food: Food is inevitable, but you can save money by cooking at home or buying food in bulk.
Gear and supplies: Gear and supplies such as a mattress, solar panels, and other equipment are necessary for vanlife.
Miscellaneous: Additional expenses such as Wi-Fi and parking permits should be factored in.
Van Life Cost vs. Traditional Living: Is It Worth It?
Van life cost can vary widely depending on factors such as the type of van, the level of customization, and the amount of time spent on the road.
However, here are some general expenses to consider:
Van purchase: The van can range from a few thousand dollars for an older, used model to tens of thousands for a newer, customized van.
Van conversion: If starting with a basic cargo van, you'll need to convert it into a livable space. This can range from DIY van life builds that costs a few thousand dollars to a professionally done conversion that can cost upwards of $50,000.
Maintenance and repairs: Vans require regular maintenance like any other vehicle. These costs can add up quickly, especially if you're doing a lot of driving.
Campsite fees: While some vanlifers park in free or low-cost areas, others prefer to stay in established campsites, ranging from $10 to $50 per night.
Traditional Living Cost
Traditional living also comes with its own set of expenses, including:
Mortgage or rent payments: One of the biggest expenses of conventional living is the cost of housing. Depending on where you live, this can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month.
Utilities: Besides rent or mortgage payments, traditional living comes with utility bills such as electricity, water, and gas.
Transportation: While you may not be driving a van, traditional living still requires transportation, whether it's a car, bike, or public transport. These costs can add up over time.
Entertainment and travel: Just like vanlife, traditional living also includes entertainment and travel expenses such as dining out, going to movies, and taking vacations.
Is It Worth It?
When it comes to the cost of van life and whether it’s worth it, it depends on your priorities and lifestyle. While vanlife can be more affordable in some ways, it's also essential to consider the sacrifices and challenges of living on the road.
Vanlife requires a certain level of flexibility and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. It may not be the best fit for everyone. Ultimately, whether to pursue vanlife comes down to personal preference and values.
If you value adventure, freedom, and the opportunity to explore the world on your terms, vanlife may be worth the cost. However, traditional living may be better if you prioritize stability, routine, and a traditional home base.
Van Life Van Essentials
Living on the road in a campervan requires more than just a vehicle – it also requires some essential items to make life easier. From kitchen essentials to organization solutions, here are some essential things to consider for your campervan.
Organization: Keeping organized is vital when living in a small space. Investing in shelves, dividers, and wall organizers will help keep your van neat and organized.
Kitchen Supplies: You'll need a small stove, pots and pans, dishes, and utensils. If you have the space and budget, you can invest in a small refrigerator and cooler.
Lighting: LED lights are a great way to brighten up your van and give it a cozy feel without using too much electricity.
Foldable Chairs: Some folding camping chairs can be a great addition to your van. They're perfect for sitting around the campfire or watching the stars at night.
Solar Power: If you plan on spending a lot of time off the grid, consider investing in a solar power system.
Van Life Art: Incorporating Your Style Into Your Home on Wheels
Personalizing the interior with van life art is a great way to add character and make it feel like a vanlife sanctuary. Here are some ideas for adding personal touches to your van interior:
Curtains and rugs: Hanging curtains and colorful rugs can add a homey feel to a small space.
Wall art: Hang artwork or photos that reflect your style and make the interior unique.
Fairy Lights: String lights can brighten up any space and add a touch of magic.
Soft furnishings: Add cushions, throws, and other soft furnishings to make the interior more inviting.
Mirrors: Mirrors help to make the interior feel bigger and can be a fun way to express your style.
Top Scandanavian Destinations for Living the Vanlife Dream
The world is your oyster when it comes to vanlife. However, before selecting any destination, it is essential to remember that each country has varying regulations regarding free camping.
In a few countries, not having a fixed address can present specific issues when expecting letters and packages.
In addition, it's important to note that while camping may be free in certain countries. However, there are places where it is illegal, making designated campsites a necessary option.
Iceland can be an incredible country to live in and an epic campervan holiday destination. It has stunning landscapes, dramatic coastlines, and a vibrant culture. Iceland is generally quite tolerant of people camping in their vans - as long as you leave no trace and respect the environment.
Here are our 5 of the top reasons why you should consider Iceland as a destination:
Stunning natural wonders: Iceland boasts breathtaking landscapes, from towering glaciers to geothermal pools and spectacular waterfalls. Vanlifers can easily park up and explore these natural wonders at their own pace, enjoying the beauty of Iceland's unique geography.
Freedom to roam: even though the right to roam is no longer valid in Iceland, most campsites and designated areas are quite close to nature and not crowded at tall, allowing you to enjoy nature's wild nature.
Safe and welcoming culture: Iceland is consistently ranked as one of the safest and friendliest countries in the world. As a result, vanlifers can explore the country with peace of mind and will likely be welcomed with open arms by friendly locals.
Fun adventure activities: Iceland offers a range of outdoor activities for adventure-seekers, including hiking, glacier trekking, and even whale watching. Vanlifers can easily access these activities and create their own unique experiences.
Unforgettable experiences: Living in a campervan in Iceland offers a unique and memorable experience that few other countries can match. From witnessing the Icelandic Northern Lights to soaking in Iceland’s geothermal hot springs, you can create memories that will last a lifetime.
If you've ever fantasized about living the van life in Iceland, then Campervan Reykjavik is the perfect way to make it happen. We provide the best campervan rentals in Iceland. We provide fully equipped, with all the amenities and features you need to explore the country in style.
Norway is a country of stunning natural beauty, from its fjords and mountains to its vast forests and tundra. Vanlifers can explore the country's breathtaking scenery at their leisure, taking in views of glaciers, waterfalls, and rugged coastlines.
Here are some reasons why Norway is a great place to live in a campervan:
Outdoor adventures: Norway is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, with opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing, and fishing. Vanlifers can take advantage of the country's many national parks and wilderness areas, where they can experience some of the world's most pristine and untouched landscapes.
Northern lights: Norway is one of the best places in the world to see the aurora borealis, or northern lights. Vanlifers can park their campervans in remote areas and enjoy the spectacular light show from the comfort of their own vehicle.
Scenic drives: Norway is home to some of the world's most scenic drives, including the famous Atlantic Road and the Trollstigen mountain road. Vanlifers can take their time exploring the country's winding roads and mountain passes, stopping at scenic overlooks and charming villages along the way.
Sweden is a country of contrasts, from its cosmopolitan cities to its rugged wilderness areas. Vanlifers can enjoy the best of both worlds, exploring the country's vibrant culture and natural beauty.
Here are some reasons why Sweden is a great place to live in a campervan:
Archipelagos: Sweden is home to thousands of islands, many of which are part of the Stockholm archipelago. Vanlifers can take a ferry or kayak between the islands, exploring the rugged coastlines and charming fishing villages along the way.
Midnight sun: In the summer months, parts of Sweden experience the midnight sun, where the sun never fully sets below the horizon. Vanlifers can park their campervans in remote areas and enjoy the surreal experience of the sun shining all night long.
National parks: Sweden has 30 national parks, offering a range of landscapes and outdoor activities. Vanlifers can hike, fish, and camp in some of the country's most beautiful wilderness areas, from the high peaks of Sarek National Park to the tranquil forests of Tiveden National Park.
Tips for Saving Money on the Road
Vanlife can be expensive, but there are ways to save money while living in a van. Here are some tips to help you budget effectively:
Do the speed limit. Not only is this safer, but it also helps conserve fuel and save you money in the long run.
Avoid tolls when possible. Doing so can save you a lot of money, especially if traveling frequently.
Plan your route ahead of time. This will help you avoid getting lost or taking longer routes than necessary, which can add to the time and money spent.
Sign up for gas discount cards. Many gas stations offer loyalty programs or discounts for frequent customers, so take advantage of these offers whenever possible.
Skip the expensive attractions and opt for free activities. You can do plenty of free activities, such as hiking and exploring nature.
Embracing the Vanlife Mentality
Vanlife is a great way to live on the road in style, and with careful planning, it can be an affordable lifestyle. Whether you choose to explore Iceland, the USA, or New Zealand, there are plenty of scenic drives and friendly locals who will make your journey unforgettable.
By following these tips for saving money while living in a van, you'll have more resources available to experience all that each country offers. Don't forget that embracing the vanlife mentality also means being responsible and environmentally conscious at all times!