An Overview of Camper Van Travel

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There is a lot to love about camper van travel.

By Shazia Chiu

Imagine if your car was good for more than getting you from point A to point B. Imagine if, in addition to being a mode of transportation, your car was your kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Camper van travel is just that: an all-in-one package that appeals to one-time and perpetual campers alike.

“Camper van” is a term that is often used to refer to any and all vehicles that have been altered to serve as a living space. An old van with a mattress in the back or a hatchback laden with couch cushions could both be classified as “camper vans”. Converting cheap, old cars into camper vans is a popular past time for long-term travellers, especially in “driveable” countries like Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and parts of Europe.

 

Is a camper van the same as an RV?

Although camper vans and RV s have a lot of similarities, RV s are designed for camping from the get-go. If you plan to take road trips often, you might want to look into purchasing an RV. Most RV s already come with all the fixings necessary to be a home away from home: a bed, a kitchenette, storage space, and in some cases, a bathroom. RV s come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and layouts. Some people like buying an old RV and giving it a facelift, while others opt for something brand new.

It’s important to remember that RV s can be expensive to purchase initially and hard to maintain. Gas mileage in RV s usually isn’t great, either. This is why many travellers are drawn toward camper vans.

Camper vans are a great option for travellers who instead to stay in a particular area for an extended amount of time. In many first-world countries, it’s possible to buy an old car, travel in it for the duration of your trip, and then resell the car before you head home. Camper vans give RVs a run for their money since they’re often smaller, cheaper, and more fuel-efficient.

 

Buying your camper van

van1It’s important to shop for a camper van like you would any other car, even if you intend to sell it back before you head home. However, it’s likely that your camper van will endure much more wear and tear during a short amount of time than your everyday vehicle. As you shop for a van, be sure to do your research and to test-drive prospective vehicles before making any decisions. If you spot things that concern you, be open with the seller, and don’t be afraid to ask for discounts.

Thoroughly research the laws and requirements of car ownership in the country where you’re making your purchase. It is possible for travellers to buy vehicles in most countries, but it may be more complicated in certain areas than others. Don’t forget to account for insurance and registration costs. You can find out a lot about these expenses and car ownership in general by befriending locals or doing your own online research.

Getting your camper van ready for the road

Aside from the crucial step of making sure your vehicle is road-worthy, you’ll want to make some changes to the interior to make sure that it is comfortable. This process usually involves:

-Cleaning the car thoroughly (assuming it’s old and dirty!)

-Removing the back seats of the car and adding in a mattress with sufficient bedding

-Hanging drapes (or towels) on the windows for privacy

-Designating an area for luggage

-Figuring out where to store food and cooking supplies

This can be converted into a camper van
This can be converted into a camper van

For the last point regarding food, some camper van owners take things to the next level by installing a mini-kitchen in the back of the van. They’ll create a space for hanging utensils and build in shelves to hold food and supplies and bring coolers along to store perishable foods. Your kitchen setup can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. In any case, it is helpful to have some sort of space set aside for food and cooking.

 

Where do I park at night?

Figuring out where to hunker down each evening can be a bit of a chore. In camper van friendly countries, like Australia or New Zealand, it’s easy to find rest areas where you can safely and legally park your car for the night. An online search of the general area where you plan to camp will also reveal freedom camping sites, or spots where you can park your camper van overnight without having to worry about fines. These areas aren’t hard to find since they’re usually packed to the brim with cars, RVs, and people in tents. The most important thing to remember with freedom camping sites is that they need to be kept clean. These sites are increasingly at risk of being shut down because of careless camping.

In other countries, you may need to pay a small fine to park at a general campsite. Unlike your freedom camping counterparts, you’ll probably enjoy access to a bathroom, running water, and showers!

Camper van travel is an exhilarating way to explore and live life on the road. Whether you car camp for a week or months on end, you’ll come away from your camper van trip with plenty of memorable experiences, and enough driving practice to feel comfortable on any road that comes your way.

 

Camper vans by a lake

 

Blogger & Multiple Contributor at | Website

Shazia Chiu is a freelance writer and a recent public relations graduate. As a Utah native, outdoor adventure and travel are central parts of her life. She and her husband are in the midst of a year-long trip that includes stops in South America, Oceania, Southeast Asia and Europe.

Shazia is passionate about inspiring women of all ages to explore the world and to embrace foreign cultures and languages. Shazia also loves to camp, whether that involves sleeping in a campervan on the edge of a lake, a tent in the middle of the desert, or a hammock high in the trees. Her other outdoor interests include rock climbing, horseback riding, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, and SCUBA diving.

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