Our first foray into van life was road-tripping for three weeks through the stunning landscapes of New Zealand. Not only did we fall for the country, but we came to love our cosy camper too. Here are our top tips, things we learnt and what we came to love about van life.
- Minimalism is your friend
Campervans are basically backpacks on wheels and it’s tempting to load them up to the brim with everything you can think of, but unless you want to be wading through your dirty laundry every morning, it pays to be organised. Luckily, we had a sofa-cum-bed that lifted up and down on our first van trip, so we could tuck our bags away and fill a tote bag with a few days’ worth of clothes and other essentials for day-to-day use. That way, we could get up and get on our way in record time every morning (seriously, we were pros of the speed-packy up by the end of the three-week road trip across New Zealand).
- Waking up to a new view every morning is priceless
Sure, high end hotels have deluxe pillows and room service, but you get a different view every morning on a van trip. One morning we were listening to the crashing waves from our beachside van site and then next we were witnessing a stunning lakeside sunrise. Bliss.
- Treat yourself to the creature comforts
Sometimes you just need to get cosy and having a few creature comforts can make all the difference. For us, it was a hot water bottle, warm socks and Netflix. We came to look forward to snuggling up with a glass of red and our boxset of the moment, House of Cards; especially when it was cold and rainy outside.
- Sat Nav is so worth it
For those that aren’t map readers at the best of times (like me), especially on the move when you need to make driving decisions quickly, a Sat Nav is a lifesaver. Not only do they help you navigate the trickier roads, but they also help you keep an eye on your speed and where the cameras are. (That said, we still managed to get a speeding ticket…)
- But you will still get lost…and that’s OK
Sat Navs sometimes get confused, especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere. But this is when a road trip comes into its own and not only will you pat yourself on the back for surviving navigating like in the good old days (i.e reading road signs), sometimes you’ll even discover a place you never knew existed.
- You can make a meal, wherever, whenever
Pasta on the side of the road? Soup by the sea? Dinnertime takes on a whole new meaning when you have a van. The best dinner we had was out of the back of the van: grilled halloumi burgers with tomatoes, ham and spinach on fluffy white bread buns!
- Loo stops are also snack spots
There were many occasions when needing a loo break meant finding a roadside cafe, and more often than not, we they were cute, local and home-run coffee shops and pit-stop that had some of the best cheese scones the world over.
- You’ll fall in love with your van
Not only did our van have a name (Mellifluous, or Mili for short) but we knew her quirks. If she was running slow or struggling up a hill, we could hear it in the engine. If we saw a parking space, we knew we could squeeze into it (I would do most of the parking, Nikki would do the spacial judging). And when it comes time to give your van back, or (the horror!) sell it on to another pair of adventurers, your heart will be broken.
What do you love (or hate!) about van life? Comment below!