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10 Essential Van Life Tips for New Van Lifers

This post was updated on April 4th, 2022

A girl sits in the back of her van with the back doors open near Glacier National Park.

Van life is a very specific way of living. Jumping into it as a new van lifer can be nerve-racking. While you will learn everything as you go, there are some things that might be helpful to know ahead of time. Here are 10 essential van life tips that will help ease you into this new lifestyle!

1. Familiarize yourself with camping apps

There are a ton of apps and websites out there that can help you in many ways. Most importantly, they can show you where to sleep for the night! These resources are updated by other van lifers. They list free campsites in the area and other safe spots to park overnight.

They can also list reviews of these spots with more information like:

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  • What the area is like
  • Cell service levels
  • Any amenities that are there
  • Pictures of the spot to ensure you’re in the right place

While some apps are mostly focused on campsites, others can provide additional vital information. This includes where to find fresh water, dump stations, laundromats, mechanics, propane, and more. This can be extremely helpful for new van lifers who are unsure of where to find these resources and can help you familiarize yourself with locating them!

It’s not just for RVs – check out RV LIFE Trip Wizard for planning your epic van life road trip.

2. Stay in touch with your family and friends from home

A girl lounging in her van with a laptop in front of her to video chat with family. The back doors of the van are open with a park in the background.
Video calls are a great way to stay connected!

While van life is extremely liberating, it can be difficult to adjust to this lifestyle. Leaving a place and people you’ve always known throws you into a new world. Traveling to new and unfamiliar places can bring on feelings of loneliness. Staying in touch with loved ones can help you stay connected to them and ease feelings of anxiety or isolation.

3. Keep an eye on your tank levels

This is a really important van life tip to avoid a very messy situation! Gray and black water tank levels can easily slip your mind, especially if you’re still getting used to all things van life. It can be easy for new van lifers to lose track of when they last emptied their tanks and accidentally overflow them.

Since I doubt you want to be cleaning up your black water from your floor, it’s important to stay cognizant of your tank levels. You can install a tank level sensor or manually check your levels every night. Whatever you do, keeping it in mind can help you avoid a messy situation!

4. Stay updated on the weather

While traveling through different climates, you want to make sure you are prepared for any bad weather you may encounter. You never want to put yourself or your van in danger by driving into a storm that you can’t find shelter from. Staying updated on the weather can help you reroute around any storms or have a backup plan for any emergencies that you can’t avoid.

5. Connect with other van lifers

Looking down on hundreds of vans gathered in a desert for a van life meetup event.
Descend on Bend, 2021

The van life community is larger than it’s ever been, and it will only continue to grow. This means you are never truly alone no matter where you go. Nobody else will understand you or your lifestyle more than other van lifers!

So, reach out to people! Introduce yourself to another van lifer at your campsite, reach out to people online, or even attend a van life meetup. You will not only meet some amazing people, but you’ll also learn some great tips and tricks that will help you get acclimated to this lifestyle and make your experience so much better!

6. Get comfortable being stealthy

There are beautiful campsites… and there are parking lots. There will be a lot of times when you have to sleep in parking lots – sometimes more often than not!

Set your expectations to be prepared for this so you can avoid feelings of frustration that might arise from public camping. It’s also important to ensure that you have proper window covers, curtains, dim lights, and other privacy measures. They will help you stay stealthy and out of sight from people outside.

7. Get comfortable with not showering

Showering every day is a luxury that you will have to let go of when living in a van. If you have a shower in your van, you will need to save water and tank space. If you don’t have an in-van shower, you might not always be in areas that offer public showers.

Be prepared for areas where there might not be showers or water available. Stocking up on baby wipes and dry shampoo can help you feel a little more refreshed in the meantime!

8. Know that there will be bad days

A girl sits in the back of her van with the back doors open, looking out at a lake view with a city across the way.

There will be days where you feel like you just can’t handle it. Maybe your van is breaking down and costing you a chunk of money, or the weather has forced you to stay stuck inside for a week, or everything seems to be going wrong all at once!

It happens. Van life can be really hard, especially for people who are still learning the ropes. Even if it feels like the end of the world, it’s not! Know that these days are inevitable and the storm will eventually pass.

9. Have emergency savings

Constant driving can wear down on your van, so regular maintenance is extremely important for your safety and your van’s longevity. However, this maintenance can sometimes come with a hefty price tag. It’s important to have emergency savings to help you avoid becoming bankrupt on the road.

Extra money can also help you out in any case of an emergency. Stolen wallets, broken-in vans, or simply long-term mechanical fixes are all circumstances where extra money can really come in handy!

10. Take it slow!

Last but not least, one of the most important van life tips.

You’re fresh on the road, you’re excited, and you can’t get to every new place fast enough. Slow down! One of the best parts of van life is the fact that you don’t have to follow any schedule or have any plan.

You don’t want to find yourself feeling van life burnout from trying to do too much when you first hit the road. There is no rush! Take it slow and enjoy each and every moment. These are the best days of your life!

Nissan NV 2500 silver van on the side of the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Snowy peaks are in the background.

I’ll be completely honest – van life is not easy. There is a lot that you have to be constantly thinking about and planning ahead to ensure your safety and well-being. However, with all of these van life tips in mind, you will be one step ahead as you dive into this new lifestyle.

Be confident in yourself, move forward with love, and bask in every moment – good and bad. Welcome to van life!

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1 thought on “10 Essential Van Life Tips for New Van Lifers”

  1. And watch your weight. It’s very easy to overload a van. Get on a scale at least once, so you know how much stuff you’re carrying. You’ll be surprised!

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