Van Life

Pros and cons of traveling by camper van

For several months I have been considering the purchase of a camper van. It seems like a wonderful way to travel. You have all the freedom, live like a minimalist and discover many new places. However, there will undoubtedly be some drawbacks. In this article I will explore and list the pros and cons of traveling by camper van.

It’s a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle

With just enough food, electricity, and water to get by, a basic wardrobe, crucial cooking setup, and essential storage for everything else; it would be safe to admit van life falls into minimalism. It’s about living simply and having only what you need to go about your daily life. Van life is kind of like one long Sunday afternoon. You can do what you want, when you want to.

When you travel by camper van, you will always leave a carbon footprint behind. However, with limited usage of water, electricity, and food (packages), you still live quite sustainable. Throw in a bike and you’ll be able to explore more without any carbon footprint attached.

All your stuff is onboard

While it’s convenient to not pack and unpack your belongings at every stop, traveling by camper van also means you’ve got to haul everything everywhere. You literally drive with your bed, kitchen, and beyond in the backseat. There’s a need for enjoying driving since long hours will be spent on the road. The good thing is that you can actually put things away, instead of piling stuff up and sitting on your suitcase to get it to squish in.

It’s tight and you have limited privacy

It can be hard to not have room to stretch your arms out. Camper vans are usually tight and you won’t have much room to cook, change clothes, or use the bathroom, like you would have anywhere else. With less living space than in a motor home or apartment, you sometimes might feel a little tight in a camper van. Next to this, your camper van is probably most of the time parked in a public space, so you have limited privacy. While you can park in isolated places, you still could be in the public eye and that gets annoying pretty quickly.

Photo by Brina Blum

Travel costs are lower

If you own a camper van or can borrow one from someone for free or cheap, there’s little up-front cost involved. On the other hand, if you don’t own a camper van, you’ll have to rent one and this can be quite expensive.

Your travel costs are low because you don’t have to pay for accommodation, transportation, and expensive meals from restaurants. There are also many places you can camp for free. The costs you make are mostly for fuel, toll roads, parking and campervan or motorhome insurance.These things can add up quickly. Depending on how much time you have and how fast you want to travel, these costs will add up. Obviously, the more distance you cover in a shorter period of time the higher your daily costs will be. Another thing to consider are maintenance costs. If you have spare seats, you can consider giving travelers/hitchhikers a ride for a small refund.

The hygiene aspect of camper van-ing

If your van has a toilet onboard, the hygiene aspect of camper van-ing isn’t a huge problem. You can just pull off the side of the road and use it anytime. The drawback to this is you’ll also need to empty it at some point. For that, you’ll have to navigate to a spot with a dump station designated for such waste. This can be hard. If you don’t have a portable toilet, you must always find a public toilet. This can be super inconvenient and probably means a lot of extra driving.

Another hygiene aspect is showering. Some vans do have portable showers, but not all (and these are not the most convenient to use). In a van, you probably won’t have a shower. This actually might be the hardest part of van life. You probably have to search for aquatic centers or public swimming pools. Here you can pay a few dollars to go for a swim and use the shower facilities. You can also stay in holiday parks or paid campsites with showers. Another option is to use wet wipes or to shower in lakes or at the beach.

Photo by Nicole Geri

Food is super affordable and accessible

You can load up on groceries anywhere along the way, wherever items are cheapest or freshest. This is a huge advantage! Most camper vans have a kitchen where you can prepare your own dishes. This makes dining super affordable. At the same time, you also need to refill your kitchen water tanks, top off propane or other fuel sources, and ensure backup power so the food in your mini-fridge doesn’t go bad. This takes time and planning. Oh, and cooking in a camper van can make your van smell bad and also requires some creativity as you probably won’t have an oven or microwave. You probably also can’t store all of the condiments, meats, and snacks you’d have back home.

You can park almost anywhere

I love the fact that you can park your van almost anywhere you would like to. You can just stop at that beautiful beach or amazing mountain range and enjoy the incredible views. 

It also takes a bit of planning and work being always on the move and finding places to park.  Make sure to read up on wild camping tips and overnight parking rules before going, being prepared is the best tactic. Laws may vary among countries but mostly it’s allowed to park your van at a number of public and private places. Nonetheless, when restrictions apply and staying anywhere overnight is impossible, you have to search for a private camping ground. There you can park your vehicle at an acceptable price. And, while you’re at it, empty the gray water, recharge the battery and fill the water tanks.

Photo by Alice Hartrick

Ability to work remotely

When living in a camper van all you need is a decent internet connection, laptop, a comfy seat, and bam! You are ready to get your work done completely remotely on the open roads. Even Though this sounds amazing, just keep in mind that it won’t always be easy to find good cell service, internet access, and electricity to charge all of your devices.

Meet like-minded people

When you’re traveling by camper van, you’re probably going to meet many like-minded people and make good friends. However in places where very few other people are traveling the same way it can become isolating for very social people!

Photo by Balkan Campers

It’s the best way to travel with pets

For whatever reason, the vast majority of tourist establishments today do not allow pets and that makes owners find themselves in the dilemma of having to choose between not traveling or having to pay large sums of money for the care of their pets while traveling. Traveling in a van makes it possible for you to bring your pet along anywhere you go. Especially if you own the vehicle.

Traveling by camper van with a partner

Traveling by camper van with your partner can be tough. It definitely will test your patience and relationship. Be sure if you plan on traveling by a camper van with your partner that you are prepared for the challenges. Take a deep breath, communicate, and remember why you wanted to travel in a camper van to start with.

Photo by Balkan Campers

For me, van-life sounds like an incredible way to travel. In my opinion the pros far out way the cons, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. 

I think I will buy a van soon and convert it into a camper van!

Author: Daphne

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