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Vanlife: the ultimate tips and destinations

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Are you ready for your camper experience?

It's a question that lingers on the minds of many travellers: how do I experience complete freedom while travelling? It's this challenge that makes us travel off the beaten path and look up the most remote and undiscovered places on the planet. What better way to travel to the outskirts of the known world than by climbing behind the wheel of a campervan and setting out into the unkown? Your trip can last as long as the roads you drive on; forever! You choose where you go, where you sleep, what you do. Travelling in a campervan is your ticket to travelling in complete freedom. Ready to go? Make sure to check these ultimate tips and travel destionations  

Campervan On Road
Vanlife: the Travel Festival webinar
Michel, our Dutch travel advisor, is an experienced campervan traveler. At our travel festival a few weeks back we asked him to talk about his experiences and highlights. You can re-listen to Michel's talk by following the link below.
Watch the sessions here!

Why you should consider the vanlife!

Still not convinced whether or not the vanlife is for you? Let's start of with some insider secrets as to why travelling by camper is a great idea: 

  • Ultimate freedom: Plans? What plans? You create your own plan. You can set out an itinerary as a general guideline but once you are on the road you'll be tempted numerous times to make a small detour to check out this or that hidden gem. And why shouldn't you? You have everything you need close by so whether you make a short or long detour, you have absolutely nothing to worry about. One of the nicest things is that you are also driving your bed around. You can stop for the night wherever you want!
  • Cheaper in the long run: The price of a campervan can seem quite high, but if you do the math you'll end up saving money in the long run. No hotels, no public transportation, no need to eat out every night as you have your kitchen with you, and don't forget how much time you save (maybe the most valuable currency when you are travelling).
  • World at your feet (or wheels): Once you wrap your mind around the fact that you can literally go wherever you want with a campervan you will have trouble travelling any other way. Any little backroad can be explored, every national park is available and you don't have to miss any sunset or sunrise. No better way to really connect with a place than by exploring it with a campervan. 

   

Before you leave...

Eager to go? Great! But don't just start packing straight away. Go over this checklist and see if you have everything in order to start your camper trip. 

  • International driver's license: Check online if you need one for your destination and don't forget to apply for one in advance.  
  • Rough planning: Yes, ultimate freedom, but you need to plan some things: where to go, which part of that country (e.g. Canada is nice but gigantic), how many weeks do you rent the van
  • Credit card: Wherever you go, you'll need a credit card to rent a camper. 
  • Visa: Do you need a visa for the country you go to? Apply in advance!
  • Pack light: You might think that you can pack whatever because you just put everything in the van. Don't forget you have a bed, kitchen and maybe bathroom in there. The storage spaces are always limited. 
  • Book in advance: Campervans are like flight tickets, the longer you wait the more expensive they get. Book your van 6-10 months in advance if you want the lowest price. 
  • Check local laws and rules: Always do some research on the place you are going. Do they drive on the right or left side of the road? Can you go free camping? Do I need a visa or international driver's license?
  • Check your insurance: Normally when you book a camper you automatically pay for insurance. Double check this to be sure. Scary legal talk: keep in mind that insurance does not cover anything if you are driving under influence of alcohol or any other illegal substance. 

Types of campers

When you think of a campervan you might imagine those giant trucks on wheels you see in American movies. Fortunately, campers come in all shapes and sizes. No matter your budget or driving experience, there are trucks for everyone: 

  • Basic: Not much bigger than a station wagon. Buy a matrass, throw it in the back and you have a place to sleep. Eating, cooking and everything else happens outside.
  • In-betweeners: The most popular option. Small kitchen with fridge and bedroom. Sometimes even a tiny bathroom. Allows you to travel in all comfort without worrying about where you can park. 
  • Go all the way: Not so common in Europa or Australia but when you travel to Canada or the USA you'll see those giant campervans that have multiple bathrooms and a fully equiped kitchen and bathroom. The Canadian and American roads are ideal for those buses as they are really wide and sometimes endlessly long.  

Campervan destinations: New Zealand

The number one destination for all campervan enthousiasts has always been New Zealand. The beaches, the mountains, the rolling hills, the locals... Driving a campervan here is a truly unique experience. The only downside to New Zealand is that there is so much to do, no matter how many weeks you spend there, there will always be something beautiful you have missed. 

New Zealand consists out of two main islands. For a campervan trip around New Zealand you should at least take out 3-5 weeks. Otherwise you won't have time to visit both islands and believe me, visiting them both is definitely worth it. Both islands have their unique sights and scenery. 

New Zealand camper tips:

  • Department of Conservation: This state run organisation created free camping sites across the country that are just amazing to stay at. Surrounded by beautiful nature, you experience the real vanlife  on these campsites. 
  • Make sure to download the CamperMate app. This app offers the nicest routes and all available campsites. Functions as a GPS. One of the best travel buddies. 
  • Ferry: The ferry service between both islands is pretty expensive. Make sure you only have to take it one way so arrange that you drop off your camper from where you are leaving. 

Definitely stop here: 

  • Hot Water Beach: The name says it all. Take a shovel, dig a shallow hole in the sand and it will fill up with hot water in no time. A unique experience. 
  • Hobbiton: The hobbit village from Lord of the Rings is the number one tourist destination in New Zealand but don't let that scare you off. It's a must do when you are there, especially if you are a fan of the Tolkien trilogy. 
  • Rotorua: steaming hot pools, erupting geysers and mud pools. You can find it all in Rotorua, located in an area with a lot of geothermal activity. A visit to the beautiful city is also a must-do even though the terrible sulfur smell can be quite dominant. 
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Park your campervan and go on a hiking trip for about 3-5 days. Absolutely stunning views and beautiful nature. Not a fan of walking? Hop in a kayak and let the water guide you. 
  • Milford Sound: To many this is the number one most beautiful place on earth. On rainy days (75% of the time) you see thousands of big and small waterfalls. On sunny days you get a spectaculair view of the surrounding mountains. No matter the weather, you're in for a treat.  

Campervan destinations: Australia

Australia is another destionation that is extremely popular with touristis in general. You will definitely meet a lot of people there who embraced the vanlife. The sheer size of the island make Australia the perfect place for a campertrip. However, because of the island's size you have to make some choices. The East Coast is the most popular but of course most crowded. West Coast is also beautiful but offers less highlights, but also less tourists. No matter which side you choose, you'll definitely need 3-5 weeks if you don't want to stress and hurry everywhere. 

Australia camper tips:

  • Department of Conservation: Similar to New Zealand, this department created free camping spaces in the most beautiful places. Keep in mind that there is no accommodation available on these campsites. If you want to take a shower you'll have to go to paid campsite. 
  • Make sure to download the CamperMate app. This app offers the nicest routes and all available campsites. Functions as a GPS. One of the best travel buddies. 
  • Check out this roadtrip that takes you through the entire East coast of Australia

Definitely stop here:

Whether you go East or West, you are simply following the coastline. Stay on this route and you will come across all available highlights. 

Campervan destinations: Canada

In Canada you discover the true meaning of the word 'huge'. Evertyhing is bigger here. Bigger lakes, bigger mountains, bigger roads, denser forests, more wildlife. If you want to travel in the wild, come to Canada. Because the country is so enormous, travelling with a camper is advised. The roads are also designed for it. You will see many giant motorhomes, or even buses, driving down these roads. 

Most people explore West Canada as it contains the most highlights and best roads. Downside to this is that it can become quite busy there as there are not that many roads and everyone wants to see the same highlights. But even when the roads are full, a campervan trip to Canada should be on your bucketlist.  

Canada camper tips:

  • Canada has a short high season because of the weather. In July and August the weather is perfect but everyone knows this so it gets extremely busy. You need to book all your campsites some months in advance. June is actually the perfect time to travel. The weather is ok and the high season starts on the 21st of June so you can get out before the hords arrive. 
  • Buy a national park pass: Cheaper to buy a pass than to pay admission for every park individually. These passes are valid for a year so you can find many that are still valid on Ebay. When you are done travelling you can also sell yours as well. 
  • Gasbuddy app: Find the closest gas station nearby and compare gas prices all on this app. 
  • Renting a giant camper van is fun. It takes some getting used to but you get the hang of it pretty quickly. However, don't try to park these bad boys by yourself. You definitely need a partner to help you navigate. 
  • We already designed two great campertrips in Canada, one takes you East, the other West

Definitely stop here: 

  • Vancouver: One of the greatest cities in the world! Not spending at least a few days here should be considered a travel crime. 
  • Emerald Lake: Another very popular tourist attraction but for a good reason. Emerald Lake is situated within Yoho National Park (a highlight in itself). You can walk around it, take a kayak or dive in but watch out, it is pretty cold. 
  • Road from Banff to Jasper: This 300 km drive will take your breath away. It is one of the most beautiful roads in the world and no matter how crowded it gets, it is definitely worth the drive.

 

Campervan destinations: USA

A campervan trip to the USA requires some extra planning because there is so many types of trips you can take: Big City Trip, National Park Trip, Culture Trip... Combinations are of course also possible. Especially if you go to the West Coast where you can find a lot of highlights in one area. The USA is another giant country so all these highlights can be pretty far apart. Keep that in mind when you plan your trip and make sure to take at least 5 weeks for a large campervan trip to the USA. 

USA camper tips:

  • Buy a national park pass: Cheaper to buy a pass than to pay admission for every park individually. These passes are valid for a year so you can find many that are still valid on Ebay. When you are done travelling you can also sell yours as well. 
  • Gasbuddy app: Find the closest gas station nearby and compare gas prices all on this app. 
  • Driving a big camper through big cities is not a pleasure. Find a hostel a bit outside of the city to sleep in during your short city trip. These have big parking spots for campers. 
  • Freedom Camping is available but not as widespread as Canada or New Zealand. Definitely check the rules and where you can camp. 
  • You can do an amazing roadtrip in nearly every part of the USA. Here you have two amazing examples, one through the Mid-West or Cowboy County and one that takes you through the Southern States

Definitely stop here:

  • National parks: Don't miss out Yellowstone and Yosemite. Two of the most popular and beautiful national parks in the West. 
  • Vegas: After a few weeks in a campervan you probably yearn for some luxury. If you are looking for a fancy resort to relax in, Vegas is the place to be. Sin City is ideal for a visit if you are coming from Monument Valley or the Grand Canyon
  • Highway 101: This beautiful scenic route rungs along the entire West Coast and takes you through cities like Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. While you are driving you constantly have a beautiful view on the ocean. Some great sunsets included!
  • Route 66: Probably the most famous highway in the US takes you from Chicago to Santa Monica in LA. Ideal for those who want to see more of the American inland. 

European campervan destinations: The Balkans

So far we made it look like you have to travel to the other side of the world for a great camper experience. That's definitely not the case. Many people forget that there is still a pretty big part on the European continent that is still relatively unknown to the larger public: The Balkans. If you are looking for an amazing camper experience closer to home you can definitely check out these countries. 

Slovenia is a country made for camper travels and is often called the European New Zealand. 54% of the country is forest and it is one of the greenest countries in Europe. From there you can go to Croatia, which is more popular amongst tourists (thanks a lot Game of Thrones), or more south to Bosnia, Montenegro or Albania. You can do a beautiful trip through all these countries in just a few weeks so if you don't have to time to go far, you should definitely consider a Balkan Roadtrip.

Balkan Camper Trip: 

  • Use Interrail to get to your starting point. Leaving from Slovenia and want to get there easily? Take the train. It can be cheaper than flying and you see something on the way there! 
  • Check out these two roadtrips: A Slovenian Roadtrip and one that takes you through the entire Balkans

Ready to go on adventure?

Now that's a lot of information. We understand this might seem overwhelming but rest assure, we are here to help you. We can help plan your trip from A to Z and give you tips of locations you should definitely visit. Most importantly, we can rent the camper of your dreams and make sure you just have to pick it up when you land. Come talk to us if you are looking for a worry-free campertrip!

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Eager to get going on your camper adventure? Still have some questions or need some help with planning? We are here to help you out! Get in touch and we make sure you hit the open road in no time!

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