Suzie Prince offers hard won, practical tips on travelling long-term in the confined spaces of a campervan
My boyfriend and I recently spent five weeks travelling around New Zealand in a very small and very basic campervan. After spending any amount of time in a campervan you quickly learn a few things about how to make the most of your experience. Here are a few tips we picked up along the way:
Really try to think about what you bring. There isn’t much space in a campervan and sleeping among your dirty laundry isn’t fun. Keep it simple and you’ll have a much better time.
You should find somewhere to keep your belongings, especially important items, as soon as possible. For example, we used the space under seats for less-used items like books, our laptop computer and spare shoes. We kept our food near the cooking area at the back and our important documents upfront in the glove compartment.
Giving your belongings a home serves two purposes. The first is that you feel like you are at home so you don’t have that living-out-of-a-bag feeling. Secondly, it’s much easier to find something in a cramped van if things have a their place.
Like the concept of finding a place for your belongings, it is also a good idea to treat your van like home. That means taking the time to keep it clean. Indeed, with the amount of time you're going to be spending in your van – driving, sleeping and eating – it's essential. You’ll be surprised at the dust and muck you’ll accumulate after just one day at the beach or a hike or even preparing dinner, so have a dustpan and a brush at hand to give it a once-over each day.
Campervans are small and it doesn't take long for them to resemble a teenager's bedroom. But on the upside, that also means that it doesn't take too long to keep things tidy, either.
We found it helps to use containers such as boxes and bags to store items and keep them organised. Ziplock bags were great for small items such as electronics cables, and recycled boxes – often available for free at supermarkets and grocery stores – helped us keep bigger items like plates and cups neat.
Your bedclothes will be safely tucked away in their 'home' during the day so you can use the van for seating and eating and so on. But each night you’ll need to make up your bed, and it’s likely that, once made, the 'home' for your bedding will not be accessible. So always remember to retrieve the bed clothes from their home before you make up the bed.
Your van will have curtains for use at night or when it’s very sunny. They should not be used when driving, so always remember to open them before you set off each day. Reverse parking will be so much easier.
The simplest vans, like ours, don't have an auxiliary power source, So any lights you use when the engine is off will be using the battery. That’s the same battery that starts the van. Be conservative with your use, otherwise you’ll be pushing the van in the morning!
Most rental vans come with a small gas cooker, but these camping stoves give off harmful gases. Make sure you ventilate your van if you use it inside, or (better yet) take it outside to use.
Do you have any common sense tips for people considering campervanning? Tell us about them in the comments section below...
Suzie Prince is currently enjoying a six-month trip around the southern hemisphere. You can follow here adventures on her blog, Somewhere About There.