An Overview of Camper Van Travel


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.

9 thoughts on “An Overview of Camper Van Travel

  • June 17, 2020 at 9:15 am

    I love the idea of converting cheap old cars into a camper van. I still would prefer the roominess of an RV though – specially when I travel with family. It’s a dream to do this one day!

  • June 16, 2020 at 7:55 pm

    This is a very informative article. I’ll have to confess that I had no idea there is a difference between a camper van and an RV. The camper van seems to be easier to park, but not as comfortable as an RV, especially if you have a big family. On the other hand, from what you are describing, a camper van can be turned into a regular car if add the seats back. Parking is always a problem for camper vans here in the States. You re only allowed to park overnight in designated areas.

  • June 16, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    Love the idea of a camper van, feel like it will be all the more fun to just get away after all this pandemic and just spend a month or so driving around in a camper van. Never thought that this could be my travel style or if I would ever do it, but after reading this I actually am intrigued to try this.
    NZ has been on my list and with it’s stunning landscapes all around driving and staying out in a camper van wouldn’t be too bad. The only problem is I am not too knowledgeable about cars so might need help with it and be super cautious in my purchase.

  • June 15, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    What a very informative article. A camper van is one of the best things that a traveler can get. I wish to have this one day. I believe this is definitely useful and convenient to get around the town or city. Woah. I got more excited when I read your article. Thank you for this!

  • June 15, 2020 at 7:56 pm

    Great article! One of my dreams is to buy and old Volkswagen caravan and travel with it… hopefully one day! I think caravans make for fabulous adventures on the road. I’ve never thought of converting my old car into a camper van, I should seriously think about doing that!

  • June 15, 2020 at 3:48 pm

    I must admit that I might be more eager to go camping if I had access to a camper van. We have had large RVs before. But they were so big to move around. I like the idea of a smaller camper van so we can have a vehicle to visit places with too. Parking for the night was always a challenge. Good to know there are countries like Australia or New Zealand where you can easily park. We once parked in a Wallmart parking lot with a whole bunch of other RVs. Not a real fun option. With travel these days so risky, a camper van might be the best way to get back on the road.

  • June 15, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Love that I came across this post. I have been debating purchasing a camper van. I think an RV would be too much for me and I would likely hit things. My cousin went all out and converted a van that is gorgeous, but a bit big for me. I think a normal van size would be perfect. Hadn’t thought about pulling into a rest area to sleep overnight for free, the nearby restroom is a bonus

  • June 15, 2020 at 3:52 am

    Many people come to tour New Zealand and campervans are a popular way to do this. They give you access to amazing views and staying in areas where lodging may be limited. As long as the freedom camping rules are followed, Kiwis are generally happy to share.

  • June 15, 2020 at 2:55 am

    I feel that traveling the country in a camper van has always been a daydream of mine! I never realized or thought of a car being converted into a camper van. Or how easy it would be to take the back seat out and do this!


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