How to live in a Van and Travel.   ( what you need to know).

Written by Paul.  Uploaded 15/02/23

How to live in a van and travel is exactly the question I asked myself five years ago. 

It took me a while to figure it out and iron out the bumps. I thought there must be others interested in doing it too, so I did some digging into what`s new and what`s not. I hope this blog will help you overcome some of the obstacles I faced. 

Living in a van is all about compromise and organization, once you have your van set up the way you like it and know how to get your fuel, shopping, laundry and water on the road you're halfway there.

It is essential to take full advantage of fuel stations, apps, and google maps as this will make life a lot easier.

Working from your laptop is nothing new. Using your cell phone as a hotspot is the quickest way to get online. 

Many new and uninformed RV/campervan owners get woken up in the middle of the night and not knowing where to park can make a good night's sleep a difficult thing.  This and a few other reasons are why many people give up van life or RV living. 

In this article.


Instagram and other social media do a great job of making van life look luxurious. Yes there are many beautiful views, even peaceful and quiet spots but the reality is that you still have to cook, clean and work.

Once the novelty wears off you need a solid motivation to keep you going through the mundane and tough times, such as a flexible plan or a destination otherwise you may find yourself metaphorically lost.

Travel budget 

Whether you have savings, remote work, rent out your home or have a pension, money plays a big part in how you live. I started with savings and then got work in different locations. Finally I secured work online which gives me the freedom to be anywhere.

Overnight parking

It may seem odd that you have to think or even plan where you are going to park, just pretend for a moment that you parked and went to sleep only to find in the morning a ticket on your windscreen or even worse your van and you floating away (this has happened, banks next to a stream falling in).

When you have decided where you are going next, think about where you want to park. Campsite? Parking lot? Industrial estate? Layby? Residential street? All have good and bad points.

Campsites are stress-free, they have  showers and flat ground. They are probably quiet too. But also expensive if a regular choice.

A parking lot is a good option. Normally flat sometimes with public restrooms and is not as expensive as a campsite. Although unsavory and anti-social behavior from other people is possible and overnight parking is often not allowed.

Trucks are often seen parked overnight in industrial estates. This is often flat and secluded and free. There may be some noise in the morning as people arrive for work. Outside the UK many countries offer a parking lot for campervans. In Spain they are called Aires. In Germany Stellplatz. In France it is the town parking lot. (You can buy very helpful books that give the location, picture of the spot, the cost (many are free) as well as drop toilet facilities.

Many countries turn a blind eye to wild camping if out of sight and quiet. We prefer wild camping as you are closer to nature. 

Stealth camping is also a good alternative. You are close to the town and cities but also hiding in plain sight. Stealth camping does have  downsides. The noise of traffic and maybe drunk people going home late.


You may prefer to eat at restaurants and have takeaways but most people in campervans cook themselves. There are a few options for cooking, gas, electricity and now diesel.  

You will need a lot of battery capacity and solar if you want to cook using electricity. The more common methods are gas, butane or propane. These also have their issues such as the potential for leaks, constant buying of canisters or bottles and even different regulators for different countries.

The diesel hob is a little expensive but it is very easy to buy diesel fuel all over the world.

Chasing the sun is one way to avoid heating costs whilst traveling.

 Common heating options are a diesel heater (high quality ones are Webasto or Eberspacher) Ebay offers cheap alternative diesel heaters.

Log burners are less common but once installed can be very cheap to run.

Gas heaters such as Truma offer a heating system more suited for cool mornings and chilly evenings.     

For cooling, fans are a good option. Also opening all of the windows. Rain vents which fit on the doors allow you to keep the window open just a bit with no rain coming in.


Some campers prefer a built-in shower in their van. Others like to use gyms or truck stops. I like local leisure centers. The traditional strip wash when needed is good. Wet wipes are also very handy too (but bad for the environment). A national park is an obvious choice but often has restrictions so check in advance. Checking in to the occasional campsite with good facilities makes a nice change.


When you live in a vehicle it is easy to forget that your body doesn't get much exercise especially if you are working. Daily exercise is very important to stop you becoming stiff and immobile.

It is good to meet up with other people to avoid cabin fever and check in with the rest of the world. There is a big presence in the van life community and this is a great support for maintaining a healthy mentality.

The Unexpected

It is not easy to expect the unexpected but having a financial safety net for when something inevitably goes wrong is a responsible thing to do. Breakdown cover is a no-brainer, I recommend having a hidden safe for your debit cards, cash. laptop and other valuables. Many surfers have a key safe under the van to secure a spare key. If you like to go and explore the city, forest, or mountains it's a good idea to drop a pin on google maps so you can find your way back. I know we have spent hours looking for our van.


By now you may have figured out there are some downsides to this lifestyle such as emptying your toilet at a public rest stop, getting a wash on a cold morning or breaking down miles from anywhere as well as the dreaded knock on the door at 3 am. Trust me these things are very small things when compared to what you get in return…Freedom. 

Final thoughts.

Campervan travel is an adventure, you will be envied by many and jealous people will try to put you down because you dare to challenge the status quo.

You will have stories to share. You will have done something that most people only dream about and yes it's worth the effort.


Is it legal to live in a motorhome or campervan full-time?  Yes – there are no UK laws stopping you from living in your motorhome. The only requirement is that your vehicle has passed its MOT and is fully road legal. You and your vehicle must be registered to an address.

How to Get Mail on the Road? Use friends and family, campsites or mailbox companies. 

Is Van Life Safe?  Yes, providing you are sensible, for example, should always keep valuables out of sight and secure your vehicle when you leave it. We don`t publicly post our location until after we leave. 

How to Get Internet/WiFi in your Van 

Internet on the road 

Related blogs.

How to get water on the road, emptying your toilet. (Coming soon)

How to make friends on the road. (Coming soon)

what should you not do when parked? (Coming soon)

How to avoid the knock on the door. (Coming soon)

Additional resources.

All the Aires for Europe.


Van Life Books

Take the slow road England and Wales. Also Scotland NC500. By the same author. (Martin Dorey)  (insert link)

Van conversion guide (Nate Murphy) (insert link)

The van conversion bible ( Charlie Low and Dale Comley )(insert link)


YouTube cheap RV Living (Bob Wells)(insert link)

YouTube Nate Murphy (insert link)

YouTube Will`s (whereabouts)


Park 4Night

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