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So you want to be a van lifer – here’s what to consider first

AD| I have a confession to make – I am addicted to the idea of van life. Instagram’s algorithm knows this and I’m constantly bombarded…

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AD| I have a confession to make – I am addicted to the idea of van life. Instagram’s algorithm knows this and I’m constantly bombarded with van builds of beautiful motorhomes all around the world.

It’s just so dreamy, isn’t it? The idea of getting rid of most of your material things and having a cosy home on wheels. Being able to go anywhere, but always being at home and sleeping in your own bed. That simple life where you’re self-sufficient and free.

So you want to be a van lifer

The reality is a bit different though, for one I have a toddler who loves and needs space. And I have a husband, we do like our own space and alone time! The idea of us all living in a van together isn’t a pleasant one. But it’s something I wish I did before I had my family.

But with that in mind, I still dream of a motorhome for going on holiday in. I love the idea of having all my belongings there, ready to go where my heart desires. I’d love to tour around Scotland, Ireland and Europe. My husband wants to go to Silverstone and watch the F1 with Leo one year. He usually camps in the car but I said we will be getting a motorhome for that! Even if we rent one for the weekend.

As per my cancer star sign, I’m a homebody. I love being at home more than anywhere else. I hate sleeping at other people’s houses and I look forward to coming home when we are away from it. I like my home comforts. I like my things and it makes me feel calm and relaxed to be in my space. So a motorhome is very appealing to me as it would be familiar and have our things inside it.

So if you have decided you want to join the nomad trend and live in a van, or just want one for holidays and adventures, here are some things to consider.

motorhome vanlife

Full-time or trips only?

First, you need to decide if you are going to go van-life full time or just get a van for trips. Going full-time will require much more planning as you will need to figure out how to downsize all your belongings so they will fit in a van, plus how to make it safe, sustainable and comfortable for long-term use.

For trips, you need to decide what is essential and what you could go without to keep costs down. You can always upgrade later but you don’t need to be as prepared and have the luxury of going on a few weekend trips to try your kit out and fine-tune your needs.

What are your power needs?

Again, this will depend on if you are going full-time or not. You will need a solar panel system and a top-of-the-range power system if you are going full-time. If it’s just for trips, you may get by with a power bank that can be charged at home to keep your phone and lights on.

Solar panels on the roof are a good idea to keep your power banks charged up!

Storage

Storage is so important in these small places and everything needs to have a place. To avoid a lot of hassle, your storage needs to withstand the movement of the van during travel and be secure.

I used to watch a vlogger on YouTube and she had a wardrobe in her van. She tied the handles together with string before she drove anywhere, but she often forgot to do this and the doors used to open and he things would fall out. She later upgraded to a latch that securely shut automatically.

Making money on the road

One of the most attractive things about van life is that it’s cheap. Once you have your van ready and your solar panel system, all you need is food and fuel.

But don’t forget to have some money behind you for emergencies. Your van may break down, you will need to replace clothes and other things at some point and may even want to spend the odd night in a hotel.

If you do plan on making money on the road, make sure you already have this income. Many people would like to start a YouTube channel and Instagram of their journey, making money from that. But it takes time to build this up. There’s lots of competition and you may not even make money at all.

What’s the Wi-Fi situation?

If you already work remotely or are self-employed and will be able to do this – Internet access is a must so you need to research mobile broadband or hotspot from your phone with a reliable network which has good coverage. Otherwise, you might find yourself searching for free wifi in Mcdonald’s when you urgently need to get online.

For someone who works online, getting internet access can be one of the most stressful and frustrating things and it may limit how off-grid you can actually go.

A toilet and bathroom?

I’d have to have a toilet and shower if I had a van. There’s no way I’m searching for public toilets whenever I need to go. You can get lots of different types of toilets, self-composting ones and all sorts. But the ones I think are the best are ones that you put a liner in, use the toilet and tie the bag up and discard. This is because from what I’ve read, other toilets tend to be quite high-maintenence!

Some people do go without a toilet or shower in their van and park at campsites with public facilities. Getting a gym membership for somewhere like PureGym which offers full access to all gyms in the UK for a monthly fee is also a good idea as you can use their showers and toilets. As well as do a workout, of course.

Extreme weather

Whether in the UK is mild but we do have the occasional heatwave and cold weather. So fully insulating your van is key, as well as being able to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter.

If you have a good network of friends, you may be able to stay at their homes during extreme weather or spend a night in a cheap hotel. I wouldn’t like to spend a day and night in a van during 40c heat!

Learn basic maintenance

Make sure you know the basics of van maintenance so you can solve problems yourself. Know how to inspect your van before long trips and how to resolve minor problems. This will save you both time and money should you come into problems.

Get insurance.

We legally need insurance for our vehicles in the UK. Do your research to make sure you get both cheap and reliable motorhome insurance by comparing quotes from different insurers.

Self-build or not?

Are you up for the challenge of building your own van? There are so many people that document their journey online and it’s great to see what they have in their van and the problems they’ve come across on the way, but it can be a long project. You can buy a motorhome that’s already done, or even get a company to custom build one for you if you’re not up to the task.

If money wasn’t an issue, I’d invest in a custom-built one for sure!

So van life, is it a yay or nay for you?

7 comments

  1. We hired a campervan the year before last and did a tour of the North Coast 500 in Scotland. It’s one of the best things we did. We’re hoping once our car is paid off next year that we can get our own camper! Although the logistics of two children in a camper feels a bit iffy at the moment, I’m sure we’ll be able to find a way to work with it all.

    Claire. X

  2. Instagram makes van life look so dreamy! I’d definitely have to have my own toilet too haha, can’t be getting up in the middle of the night and making the trek to public ones in the dark!
    Amy x
    callmeamy.co.uk

  3. I’ve always said if I won the lottery I’d buy a super nice motor-home, almost something like the one from the film We’re The Millers lol! I don’t think I’d want to ‘forever’ live in it tho, but definitely a lot of road trips! I see quite a lot of videos on Tik Tok of people living in their vans and they make it look so much fun haha!

    Courtney x
    c0urtinthemagic.blogspot.com/

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