10 Things You Need to Know Before Living in a Campervan

Written By: Katie Diederichs

Imagine exploring a new place with open road ahead and your home at your back. If the thought of traveling in a campervan brings a surge of wanderlust and makes your hands itch to be at the steering wheel, living in a campervan may be your next perfect adventure!

My husband and I have spent the past 3 months living in a 6-by-13-foot camper van.

It has been one of the greatest adventures of our marriage.

We are huge advocates of campervan life but can tell you firsthand that it isn’t always s’mores around a campfire and skinny-dipping in hot springs.

All About Living in a Camper Van

living in a campervan dining outdoors
Romantic dining outdoors

We’ve traveled around the world to more than 40 countries, yet exploring in a campervan is different than any other type of travel we’ve experienced. 

There are challenges and joys unique to this type of tiny living in a camper.

Before you go ahead and trade in your jet-setting ways for a home on wheels, know that you may need to make some drastic changes to your travel style.

Whether you’re traveling in an RV or a campervan, there are some very important things you should consider before you hit the road.

Packing gets more complicated in a Camper Van

travel by campervan
hitting the open road

When you’re packing for a trip and have just one suitcase or backpack in which to fit everything, it can be a hair-pulling, nail-biting puzzle with no right answer.

It might seem that all your problems would be solved when you upgrade from a 50-liter backpack to an 80-square-foot campervan.

But that’s hardly the case. Sure, you have more space, but it gets a bit more complicated than that.

You’ll need to pack enough to make your campervan a fully-functioning home – kitchen, sleeping area, living space and all – with just a fraction of the room of your actual home.

So yeah, you can pack more. But it also opens up a whole new slew of decisions.

The tradeoff for a more complicated packing list is that you’re able to travel with some of your favorite comforts, like a French press and a fluffy pillow.

Personal space is no longer personal

living in a campervan relaxing on the beach
It’s cozy in a campervan

If you’re traveling with a companion – whether it’s a partner, children, pets, or all of the above – you’re going to have to get comfy with your newfound lack of space.

Your personal bubble will be popped several times a day. (Scratch that. Several times each minute.)

When you’re living in a tiny space, you sacrifice privacy. You give up the ability to, say, pass gas without anyone knowing.

You might have to get creative about finding time alone.

But the beautiful part of giving up your personal space is you will be rewarded with quality time with your favorite people or furry friends. Hopefully your companion is someone you actually enjoy spending time with!

Before you even consider moving into a campervan with your partner, be sure to ask each other these 20 questions.

You’ll thank me when you realize how many arguments you’ve avoided by asking your travel buddy these important questions.

Your consumption will be visible

consumption dishes while camping

When you stay in hotels, it’s easy to take a 20-minute shower without noticing how much water goes down the drain because when it disappears down those tiny holes it is out of your mind.

And when someone else is emptying the bins you throw your trash into, the amount of waste you produce may seem small.

But when you transition into traveling in a small space, your consumption is magnified.

You will suddenly see the exact amount of water it takes to do dishes because you have to physically empty your wastewater instead of letting it disappear into a drain underground.

When you live in a tiny space, your eyes will be seriously opened to how much you consume because it’s not something you can simply ignore.

Normal things become luxuries

camping in a campervan

There’s nothing like living in a campervan to make little, everyday things seem like luxuries.

When you aren’t showering daily, it feels oh so good when you do (especially when the pressure is high and the water is hot). And don’t get me started on ice.

Lukewarm water just doesn’t quite give you the same satisfaction as an icy glass of H2O on a hot day!

It’s quite humbling actually when you start noticing all those little things you typically take for granted.

Many people around the world live their lives without these luxuries, and it’s good for the soul to take notice of our privilege every once in a while.

You’ll have more control over your budget

Traveling in an RV or campervan allows you to really control your budget. That’s not to say that it’s cheap, but you suddenly have the option of cooking your own dinner instead of eating out for every meal.

You can forgo Starbucks and brew your own cup o’ Joe instead. And forget about paying ridiculous rates for a hotel room.

You’re in a traveling home, after all!

All that said, gas ain’t cheap when you’re towing a small home behind you, and sometimes you’ll want to splurge after roughing it for a bit. It all balances out, but RV travel puts the control in your hands.

You’ll grow as a person

Traveling in a campervan or RV means you’ll run into some bumps in the road, both literally and figuratively.

Sometimes when you’re traveling, other people take care of those bumps for you, like a guesthouse owner who moves you to a different room because the air-conditioning isn’t working quite right.

When you’re traveling in an RV however, you’ll need to take ownership of any hiccups, like fixing the AC yourself. You’ll feel empowered when you solve problems and forge your way all by yourself.

Even if you don’t intend to live in an RV long-term, you’ll grow as a person and learn the world around you. And that’s a pretty powerful thing.

You’ll travel slow and deep

travel in a campervan feet on the dash

Traveling with your home will make you realize you can’t hop around as fast as you would with just a suitcase. It’s exhausting!

When you’re the one behind the wheel instead of a bus driver, you’ll reconsider an itinerary that includes hopping around 8 cities in 8 days.

When you’re in the driver’s seat, you have the opportunity not just to see your destination cities, but also the “in-between”.

You know, the small towns and hole-in-the-wall cafes that you’d never venture to had you been traveling by plane, train or taxi.

You’ll drive on small roads and get glimpses into people’s lives as you pass by, giving you a more complete, more authentic experience than if you skip the “in-between”.

You’ll come to appreciate slow travel and the beauty of a day that doesn’t move too fast.

You have to seek out interactions with locals

When you stay at hotels and take public transportation, you are likely to interact with locals and other travelers on a regular basis.

One of the more challenging parts about traveling in a campervan is that you have to work a little harder to seek out interaction and get the lowdown on local hotspots.

You’ll definitely have people who are curious about your home along the way, so use this as an opportunity to ask about their favorite things in the area.

You’ll need to make sacrifices

campervan hire interior

If you’re used to business class flights, plush hotel rooms and fine dining, seeing the sights in an RV will mean you’ll have to make some adjustments to the way you travel.

Even if you’re an experienced backpacker and are no stranger to “roughing it,” there are some certain differences between sleeping in hostels and parking on the side of a road for the night.

You won’t always have Internet access while traveling in an RV, and you may not be able to shower as often as you’d like. Y

ou’ll need to get creative with meals, and the air-conditioning might not be the strongest you’ve ever had.

But in exchange for all these sacrifices comes a beautiful reward.

You will feel the wind blowing through your hair on the open road with endless possibilities ahead. Too corny? Okay, let’s just say that you’ll get to experience an adventure that many only dream about.

You’ll realize that the best parts of travel don’t necessarily come with a butler or an eye-watering price tag. You will learn to appreciate little things and come to value simplicity over extravagance.

Freedom is a tangible thing

RV life means you have nearly endless freedom. Want to sleep in the mountains tonight and next to the ocean tomorrow? No problem.

You’ll start to seek out detours that you wouldn’t be able to take otherwise. The world seems more accessible when your home has wheels.

And there’s something so strangely satisfying about having all your necessary belongings in 80 square feet of space.

It may sound cliché, but campervan life gives freedom an entirely new meaning.

Enjoy this post? Save it to Pinterest for travel planning

10 campervan hire tips
10 Tips to Travel in a Campervan

Check out these other great driving experiences.

No post found!

Read Next:

16 of the Best Road Trips in the World

Explore New Zealand by Campervan

Drive the Arctic Highway

20 Essential Tips for Driving the Mongol Rally

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About Katie Diederichs

In 2014, Katie and her husband, Ben, quit their full-time jobs and set off on a 3-month adventure in South America that never really ended. Along the way, they taught English in South Korea, worked on a remote farm in the Ecuadorian Andes, trekked to Everest Base Camp and traveled the US in a campervan named "Vinny" Follow the adventure at: TwoWanderingSoles / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

Leave a Comment

17 thoughts on “10 Things You Need to Know Before Living in a Campervan”

  1. Current situation makes me think more and more about living in a campervan. Maybe it´s the best time now. I just experienced renting a campervan to travel Norway last summer. Omg it was the biggest amount of freedom I ´ve experienced in life <3

    Reply
  2. Great Adventure Experience! May you have a great experience during travel in campervan. Great post thanks. We are just thinking to explore Norway with campervan. Thinking to cover all most places in a month. May our experience make this trip unforgettable

    Reply
  3. Some excellent tips here – it sounds like the sacrifices of space are worth it for the freedom and cheaper travel. One to think about for the future,

    Reply
  4. Nice article, and perfect timing! We are thinking about hiring a van to explore the Pacific Northwest this summer. We love the idea of slow and deep travel for sure! Meeting locals is always fun and one of the things we enjoy about travel. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Reply
  5. Wow what an incredible … I feel like having an experience of traveling through europe in a campervan with my girlfriend and also spending in australia which is an amazing place. I liked the post.

    Reply
  6. Just got a 1969 VW Bus that I’m traveling around the world in and I love the lifestyle change. I’ve been traveling full-time for the past 5 years and it is so much slower, cheaper and more fun.

    Reply
  7. Australia is a great place to travel around in a campervan. My friends and I rented Wicked vans and drove from Brisbane to Cairns. It was a lot of fun!

    Reply
  8. I love the idea of a campervan for a vacation but I’m not sure I could do it as a lifestyle. Although it’s not trendy to say so, I do like my physical things. I <3 my shoes and bubble baths.

    Reply
  9. Having just come back from a month long camper trip from Australia, I found myself nodding vigorously to these points. Oh how I miss it!

    Thanks for posting!

    Reply
  10. Lovely and very interesting post, Katie & Ben!

    I always tend to go for hotels because I like the convenience, but this sounds so intriguing. Unfortunately, I will have to find someone to go with me if I choose to go for this… I can’t imagine driving a campervan for 8 hours straight by myself hahaha! Oh gosh, I want to get out my comfort zone because your pictures are amazing and I want to experience that too! I can imagine that driving through Canada with a campervan is fantastic.

    Great great post and very helpful tips. Looking forward to more posts from you!

    Reply
  11. Great post! Your pictures are absolutely stunning and sounds like a wonderful trip. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Reply
  12. I absolutely loved this post – I would have loved to travel around with a campervan – perhaps on my next trip to Australia. Nice photos.

    Reply
  13. Thanks so much for the kind words, Ephesus! Hope you come check out our website, Two Wandering Soles, to see more of our tips and photos 🙂

    Katie, Two Wandering Soles

    Reply
  14. It seems wonderful to get around with a campervan. Truly inspiring blog post and inspiring photos for the travellers. It is very obvious from the photos that you had great time around.

    Reply