The new year is almost here, and that means it’s time to start thinking about how you will celebrate. As a van lifer, you have the unique opportunity to choose where you want to be to ring in New Year’s on the road. You’ll also be able to pick from some awesome van life new year celebrations, and your New Year’s resolutions might look a bit different from those you would have made when living in a sticks-and-bricks house.
We’ll use this article to take a look at some of the unique and adventurous ways van lifers can enjoy New Year’s on the road and share some of our best vanlife holiday tips so you can start the new year off on the right foot.
Selecting Your New Year’s Eve Spot
First things first, you will want to pick the perfect spot to welcome the new year. The perfect New Year’s Eve spot will look different for different people. Some of the things you might want to consider include:
Safety always comes first, even on New Year’s Eve. Therefore, it is incredibly important that you keep safety in mind as you choose a campsite in which to celebrate New Year’s on the road. Always make sure loved ones know where you will be. If you will be camping off-grid, try to stay somewhere with a cell signal or Starlink connection, and never stay anywhere that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Nobody wants to celebrate New Year’s on the road in a parking lot. Instead, look for someplace with incredible scenery that can inspire you to continue your travels and adventures into the next year.
Most people prefer to celebrate holidays with others. Finding a location that offers some sort of community is a major bonus. This might mean going to a meetup or event, or it could mean staying near family.
Things to Do
It’s always best to spend time in places that offer ways to fill spare time. Try to find a location with decent weather so you can enjoy outdoor recreation. Otherwise, someplace with plenty of indoor attractions might be in order.
Some of the most popular spots for van lifers to spend the new year include southern locations where they can keep warm, such as Florida, SoCal, Arizona, and south Texas.
Now that you know where you’ll be for your road trip New Year’s Eve, let’s discuss some of the ways you might want to celebrate. The options below are some of our top picks, but feel free to get creative and add your own twist or choose a different option entirely.
Have a small group of friends you’d like to celebrate with? Perhaps a small gathering around the campfire is the right choice for you. Something as simple as enjoying a beer or a glass of wine, telling stories, playing music, and counting down to midnight together can be a fun and memorable way to spend the holiday. In fact, this is how my family spent our favorite New Year’s Eve ever!
Perhaps you can’t avoid being alone on New Year’s Eve. In this case, you might want to look for alternative ways to connect with those you love. This is where virtual gatherings can be helpful. Plan a time to meet with friends and family on a Zoom call, or use FaceTime to have a chat about your plans for the year. No matter how you go about it, you’re sure to appreciate the connection.
Pretty much every town and city in the US has something special going on on New Year’s Eve. If you don’t want to plan your own van life New Year celebrations, consider taking advantage of the many New Year’s Eve events that are already happening. You can find out about local events by checking out bulletin boards at libraries or coffee shops, looking at local papers, or even just asking those who live in the area.
As mentioned above, some nomadic communities host special events to celebrate the new year. This is probably the best way to connect with like-minded individuals and make travel plans for the new year together, especially if you aren’t already part of a van life community. We always enjoy making friends at these sorts of events.
To find a community of van lifers to spend the new year with, look for events such as the Xcapers New Year’s Eve Meetup 2024 in Quartzite, AZ.
Check out our recent Quartzite Vanlifers post here.
Incorporating New Year Traditions
There are tons of different New Year traditions out there, and honestly, there is absolutely no reason you can’t incorporate these into your New Year’s on-the-road lifestyle.
Cleaning Your Van
Cleaning the house is a very common New Year’s tradition, making the new year a great reason to pull everything out of the van and give it a deep cleaning, including purging unneeded items. This is sure to leave you feeling ready to tackle the new year!
The most popular New Year’s tradition here in the States? Making resolutions! You can absolutely do this yourself, and you might even find that you have more aspirations now that you’re out on the road.
Enjoying a Special Meal
Many people like to eat certain foods on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day for good luck. Whether you’re one who eats 12 grapes or a southerner who requires black eyed peas, you can totally still enjoy your special meal while enjoying the new year on the road.
This Easy Hoppin’ John recipe can be made in a tiny van kitchen without a problem.
Watching the Ball Drop
You’ll probably want to watch the ball drop with the people you are spending the holiday with. For this, we recommend setting up a TV or projector outside of your van. After all, you can’t exactly fit everyone inside your tiny home.
Ringing in the New Year
Many people like to make some noise when the clock strikes midnight. This is great if you’re parked in the middle of the wilderness with no neighbors nearby. However, if you’re in a campground, make sure to be aware of quiet hours. In this case, you might be better off ringing in the new year early (before quiet hours begin) or having a silent celebration with bubbles, glow sticks, and a New Year’s kiss.
As mentioned above, safety is the most important thing of all. While it’s not too hard to stay safe while enjoying van life New Year’s celebrations, you will want to keep a few things in mind.
Make sure you are legally allowed to camp wherever you’re parked. The BLM website provides excellent info for camping on their land. The Forest Service is not quite so clear about where you can camp, but it does offer some guidelines. You can usually find campsites on both BLM and Forest Service land using websites like RV Life Campgrounds.
Follow Fire Safety Rules
Some fire safety rules are always in place and should always be followed. For instance, you always want to keep water nearby in case the fire should get out of hand. That said, regulations regarding fires can change from place to place and will depend on the time of year and current conditions. Make sure there is no fire ban wherever you are before you start a New Year’s Eve campfire.
Carry a First Aid Kit
It is always important to carry a first aid kit wherever you travel. This will ensure you can take care of minor injuries and issues on your own.
Maintain Cell Signal
As we mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to stick to spots where you can use your phone to make an emergency phone call should that be necessary. If you have Starlink, this will be pretty easy to do. If not, make sure you have a cell signal.
Know Where the Nearest Hospital Is
As we travel, it can be easy to forget to keep track of where the nearest hospital is. Unfortunately, failing to do so could literally be life-threatening. Always, always know where the closest emergency room is.
As a van lifer, you’ve likely seen much of the natural beauty our country has to offer. I know I definitely don’t want to see that disappear, and I think all vanners would agree. Fortunately, there is no reason van life New Year’s celebrations can’t be friendly to the environment.
Put Up Solar Lights
No nighttime party is complete without some fun lighting. We highly recommend these solar-powered string lights to set the mood.
Tinsel is problematic for a number of reasons. It is plastic so it takes years and years to break down, and try as you might, you won’t be able to remove it all from any tree you put it on. On top of that, it can be dangerous to animals who might try to eat it. We recommend skipping the tinsel and glitter and opting for eco-friendly confetti instead.
Skip Disposable Party Favors
Disposable party favors are a pretty pointless use of valuable resources, and depending on what the favors are made of, they might spend a very long time in landfills. Skip disposable favors for the aforementioned eco-friendly confetti, fun hats and accessories from your own closet, and pots and pans from your kitchen for noise-making purposes.
Look for Alternatives to Fireworks
Fireworks are notoriously bad for the environment. This is a shame because they are lovely, but fortunately, there are some alternatives out there.
Eco-Friendly Glow Sticks
Glow sticks are a fun way to light up the night. Just be sure they are the eco-friendly reusable LED version.
We love these eco-friendly confetti cannons for creating a fun and colorful bang while keeping it green.
These bamboo sparklers are eco-friendly and allow you to enjoy a tiny fireworks show that you hold in your hand.
If you want to watch a big, colorful show in the sky, try to find a laser show in your area. This provides all the fun of a fireworks show without so much pollution.
As you can see, there are tons of amazing ways to welcome the new year on the road. Hopefully, these van life holiday tips inspire you to create a fun and memorable New Year’s Eve celebration for yourself.
Have you enjoyed New Year’s on the road before? What did you do? Share your experiences in the comments below!