Travel On a Budget: How To Travel And Work In A Campervan
Traveling (and working) in a campervan may seem intimidating/ inconvenient/ challenging/ too-hippie-like for some people. When we rented our first campervan last year, we definitely had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had never traveled, or lived in a campervan, and we definitely had never worked out of one. Today, with two campervan trips to Iceland under our belts, we can say with outright certainty that we absolutely LOVE this type of travel. We are hooked and are currently planning our next trip.
At first glance, renting a campervan may appear to not be the best option to travel on a budget (after all, renting a regular car is cheaper). But traveling in a campervan will save you money on accommodation and food (which you would have to spend on top of renting a car). Depending on which country you are going to (Iceland, we are looking at you), both hotel rooms and eating out can be very expensive. Plus, if you need to work while traveling, the campervan travel experience is simply invaluable.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind when planning a campervan trip, especially if you are planning to do some work while traveling. Keep reading to see what we have learned from our travels and hopefully it will help you plan a campervan trip of a lifetime and get you hooked on the whole #vanlife idea too (and we're sure it will).
1. Pick The Right Campervan
Before you even start looking at booking your campervan, you need to have a clear picture in mind of what it is exactly you will need your campervan for.
Where And When Are You Going?
Are you planning a week-long road trip to Portugal in July? Are you spending a few days exploring Iceland in the winter? Or are you lucky enough to have the time and the means to travel all along Norway's coast over 3 weeks?
For example, when we went to Iceland in March, we knew it would be too cold to cook outside. So, when booking our campervan, we only looked at ones with a table or counter space in the back to allow us to cook on our camping stove out of the elements. If you are traveling in warmer months, this might not be the issue for you since you'll be able to comfortably set up a kitchen outside. We also only looked at campervans with a bed that could be converted into a couch. Iceland in the winter is COLD (like bone-chilling cold), so we needed somewhere to hang out and warm up in between our hikes. Similarly, if you are going on a longer trip, it might be nice to have a space to just chill and have a drink or two with your travel buddy while planning your next day's adventures.
What Are You Planning On Doing In Your Campervan?
Are you planning to work while traveling in your campervan? If that's the case, then you will probably want to focus on finding a van with a convertible bed and some sort of a table surface. Depending on how much time you'll spend working while on the road, you might need a work space that's a bit more comfortable than the front seat with the laptop in your lap.
Are you planning on staying at campgrounds for the night or wild camping (where it is legally allowed)? This will help you decide what to look for in terms of the cooking space set up, cooking and eating utensils that are included in your rental, and whether having a sink with running water is a necessity for you. On our 10 day trip around Iceland we stayed at campsites since wild camping is illegal. Almost all campgrounds in Iceland have a kitchen with shared cooking utilities and toilet/shower facilities. Therefore, having a sink was not essential for us. Our campervan rental came with a propane camping stove, pots, cups, plates and cutlery (even a corkscrew!). We ended up doing both: cooking on our camping stove and using campgrounds' kitchens depending on the weather, the state of the facilities, how crowded they were, and our mood.
2. Establish a Routine
This is especially important if you're renting a smaller budget-friendly campervan with lack of storage space. One of the main challenges we were faced with on our first campervan trip around Iceland was figuring out our nighttime and morning routines. We were driving around during the day with the bed in the couch position and the suitcase on top of it. Every night, before going to sleep, we had to go through the same sequence of tasks: change out of our hiking clothes; move our suitcase to the front seat (good thing we only had one!); move the folding outside table to the front seat; tuck away grocery bags full of food that got shifted around while driving; get the linen storage bags from under the couch; unfold the couch into a bed; make the bed; then crawl in while trying not to get dirt everywhere from our muddy boots. It sounds overwhelming, and it was. Especially on the first night. But by our second night we started to get the hang of it. It became a routine that, once we got used to, took us only a few minutes and zero stress to go through.
Our point here is this: Decide what works for you, make it into a routine and stick to it. It might be hard the first couple of nights, but we promise, it will eventually become second nature and you'll feel like a real van-dweller :)
3. Keep Your Campervan Clean
This may seem obvious and you might dismiss this point as irrelevant because you always keep your home spotless. However, it is a whole different beast when it comes to keeping your campervan clean. Depending on where you are, you might be driving for a day or two without a single garbage bin around, which means you'll have no choice but to travel with trash in the back of your camper for extended periods of time. Depending on the weather, it might not be an option to leave your muddy boots outside. There will be minimal or no storage space in your campervan and keeping your things organized might be a challenge.
Just like we talked about the importance of establishing a routine in our previous point, it will make your campervan trip that much more enjoyable if you set up the rules for keeping your home on wheels clean and stick to them for the duration of your trip. Have a designated bag for trash (a plastic grocery bag from your recent shopping trip works perfectly) and resist the temptation to just tuck an empty bag of chips under your seat to dispose of later. Put your clothes back into your suitcase after changing instead of leaving them lying around. Decide on how and where you are going to store your non-perishable food (you can put some of it in the cooler if you have space left inside to save room).
After all, your campervan is going to be your home and/or office for the duration of your trip and keeping it clean and organized will make your traveling experience way more enjoyable and less stressful.
4. Stick To Your Work Schedule
It can be challenging to plan your work schedule when combining work and travel. But that's where traveling in a campervan gives you an advantage: you don't need to plan your working hours around your hotel check-in/check-out times. But, as much freedom as getting around in a campervan allows, or maybe because of it, it is extremely important that you still plan your itinerary ahead of time and set aside chunks of time for work. It will be easy to get lost in the excitement of seeing new places. You will want to drive to just one more destination. Just to look for a more picturesque spot to park and work. Don't let your sense of wanderlust put your work obligations on the back burner. Plan when and how you will fit your work hours into your travel itinerary. Make sure you make time for both.
If you've never traveled in a campervan or if you are planning a trip where you would like to satisfy your sense of wander while still getting some work done, we highly recommend you give the idea of campervan travel a try. There is no better way to explore a place (or an entire country!) than not being tied down to prearranged hotel reservations and expensive restaurant meals. A campervan, when chosen wisely, will become your true home/office on wheels. Campervans are amazing and we dare you not to get hooked on traveling in one once you try.