The most incredible thing about camping in a van is that it’s much cheaper so you don’t have to spend a bunch of money to get you one. If you don’t have the funds to buy a small RV, camping in a van is a great alternative and you can have equally the same amount of fun.
Try my simple van camping tips below and make your next journey a wonderful one, especially now that you have more money to travel 🙂
How To Choose A Van
I’m guessing you want to go cruising the country with you, your spouse or a friend, then there’s no need to go all out and buy something big or even flash.
Your best choice will be to get a van that’s in your price range, with hardly any faults or damage to the van. If you have a friend that knows a lot about vehicles I’d recommend you take him along to have a look at it.
There’s some dodgy people/salesman out there.
Keep Contact With Family And Friends
The days of taking photos and waiting to get home to show your friends are completely over. With the powerful use of social media you can take snapshots of your trip and post to your profile page, letting everyone know how much fun you’re having, while keeping contact with friends and family in the process.
A text/call or 2 won’t hurt to let them hear your voice either, especially for your family.
Take A Companion
What’s a better way to bond with your dog? By taking him along for the ride you are able to make him/her a lot happier and he will always have your back no matter what.
Of course this is a great idea if you plan on going alone, a dog will keep you sane so you have someone to talk to.
Consider Solar Power
Solar power is a good way to power up your appliances rather than using a generator or hook-up, however this is only if you have the money to get it. Definitely something worth considering if you plan on going off the grid.
When set up, can power any appliance that usually runs off your vans batteries.
Think of it as an investment, because in the long run you’ll be saving costs on RV campgrounds and fuel costs.
Drive Slowly And Safely
Driving a van is a lot different than driving a car, a van is heavier and with all the added equipment makes the camping van a bigger hazard on the road.
Avoid potential hazards by:
- Driving under the speed limit
- Letting people pass
- Don’t try to overtake cars
- Be more wary of corners
We live in a fast-paced world, where modern society has us speeding to work and home lightning fast. Change your mind-set, you’re on vacation now so take your time.
Try to stay at a campground/area for a week at a time, rather than changing your location every 3 days. This doesn’t apply to weekend campers but of course it’s best if you learn to slow down also.
Summer time is the most crowded when it comes to campgrounds and parks. The best way to avoid booking in too late and finding out every space is taken is by checking in early, not a week early, I’m talking a month or 2 months if you want to make sure you definitely get a spot.
If all else fails, find a remote location and camp there.
Take Advantage Of Walmart
Most Walmart’s will let RV/Campers sleep in the parking lot for the night. Why? Because it’s extra potential customers they will gain, those campers will most likely do some shopping in the morning.
For the Walmart’s that are open all night, this will make the parking lot look fuller.
Here’s a few notes to consider:
- It’s the managers call to let you park there or not
- Make sure it’s safe before staying there overnight
- The safest are suburban stores
- Walmart Super Centers have all night security patrols
- Look for other overnighters
- Keep a low profile – Don’t put out your awning or sit in a chair sun-bathing. Shade your windows and stay inside
If you don’t have any window shades you should get some.
Welcome Centers are a great place to rest, they have 24 hour security patrols, AND you’re allowed to rest there overnight. Security will let you sleep there so don’t worry about them.
Traffic safety demands you take a rest if you’re tired, you will also see other campers and truckers parked up.
Pro Tip: Avoid parking in rest areas close to towns/cities, these often attract teenagers that come to park up and party and they are rarely patrolled. Do a quick search on your smartphone to find out where the nearest rest area is.
The Last Resort (Illegal Camping)
Sometimes you have no choice, nowhere to park, campgrounds are overloaded and there’s no rest areas near you while being too tired to drive.
The best possible solution is to park out of site. Your aim is to get out of the way from heavily traveled roads.
A rule of thumb: Always hide your van by driving off-road and hiding in trees, go across grass stretches avoiding boulders and other obstacles.
Now that you are hidden. shade your windows, keep your key in the ignition just in case you need a fast getaway.
If you have been approached by someone, 99% of the time it’s the land owner and more often than not if you just tell them you’re lost and tired with nowhere to park and you’ll leave first thing in the morning, they will usually let you stay.
Campers are like a smaller community (alright, a big one), talk to nearby campers, or if they approach you first its a good idea to chat with them back.
I’ve encountered passerby’s that have offered me a place to park outside their house, this is completely legit and allowed because you are these peoples guests, they sometimes let you park in the driveway.
This is why it’s good to expand your network throughout the country, so when you’re passing through that town again you have a place to stay.
Less Is Better
Realize that you don’t need half the junk that you’ll be taking. After my first trip I got home and realized I hadn’t even worn half the close I had taken. Try to minimize all equipment/items and you’ll love the extra room in your van.
Plan Your Trip
The more idea of where you’re going the better your trip will be.
- Figure out where you’ll be sleeping
- What towns you will visit
- Different activities you want to do
A little planning on your part will make your camping trip that much easier and a better success.
Store your unwanted plastic bags
Store those plastic bags from your late night trips to Walmart to use later on. Trust me, the amount of times I have wanted a plastic bag for rubbish/trash not long after I had thrown some out was ridiculous.
There’s a lot of crazies in this world, avoid conflict with anyone by shading your windows and keeping your keys in the ignition with the drivers seat clear of all items just in case you need a quick getaway.
Of course you need to make sure no one can see the keys are in the ignition by looking in from the outside. If thieves see this it’s only a smashed window away from being stolen and you being held hostage or even kicked out of your own van!
Don’t let this worry you though, there’s probably a 0.0001% chance of this happening, just be prepared and stay safe.
Organize Your Inventory
Living in close-quarters without proper organization skills can leave you with minimal space. Plastic tub containers will soon become your best friend when you realize how useful they are.
One for gear/random stuff, and one to keep all your cooking supplies.
I like to get the clear containers so you can see where everything is without digging around.
At the end of the day you’re going to meet a lot of other travelers and if you take full advantage of this, can be beneficial in many ways including an extra driveway to park and sleep in.
For safety purposes I recommend taking a friend/spouse or a companion to scare the crazies away, lol.
Camping in a van is extremely fun and highly affordable, even if you buy a run-down van and fix it up can be an amazing achievement especially if it gets you halfway across the country and back.
If you found these camping tips helpful then please let me know by leaving a comment below 🙂
8 thoughts on “Camping Tips For Your Van I Wish I Knew Earlier”
Great tips, I’ll definitely book mark your site for the future…could have done with some of these tips years ago when I did the Kombi trip around Europe.
Hi Murray, go ahead and do that friend because this site is updated almost daily and I don’t want you to miss out on any new content. Thanks for stopping by, hope to talk more with you soon.
This is so cool. I always dreamed about buying one of those old Volkswagen vans and fixing it up so that I can drive across the country in it. Maybe instead ill just go camping in it lol.
There are some very helpful and informative tips on this page and I want to thank you for taking the time to do this because it has really helped me.
I don’t see why not, if it’s what you want to do then go for it 🙂 And I’m glad you learned a thing or 2 because you never know when you’ll need to use some of these tips.
These are some great tips Brandon. I especially like the ideas of taking advantage of Wal-Mart or rest areas to take a break for the night. For FREE! I’m actually planning a longer camping trip soon, I will bookmark this page for future use.
Thank you Jeremy, yes – that is an awesome idea especially because they’re free to use 🙂 And that’s great, be sure to check back here to recap on your van camping tips!
I love seeing the VW vans like you have in the picture for this post always wanted on of them. I recently was gifted a 1972 winnebago that is in surprisingly good condition for its age. While I won’t take it camping my plan is to use it tailgating which I guess is sort of like camping. The tips you have in this article as well as on your website in general are very useful and I will take advantage of them where I can. Keep up the good work I will check back often.
I know right, I LOVE these vans, I don’t have one yet but I wouldn’t mind travelling in one. The Winnebagos aren’t actually that bad tbh, very old school and probably gets all the nearby eyes! Lol
Thanks for stopping by buddy,