Like anything in life, campervans have a learning curve. Figuring out what to take on a campervan trip, where to park, how to empty the toilet and other fun stuff can take a while to figure out. I’ve been learning from square one when I got Mabel about 6 weeks ago, so I hope that these campervan tips will help you get a head start!
Practise if You Can
Once you have got your van (or even before you take the plunge to buy one), have a practice for a few days. When I got Mabel, we were still in lockdown, so that gave me the chance to spend about 3 weeks living in her on the driveway.
Practising sleeping, cooking and doing everything else in your campervan will help you figure out what you need to enjoy your camping trip, what goes where and how everything works. Practise makes perfect as they say, so a test at home in a safe environment is a great way to start.
I tried out different ways of making the bed, realised what campervan essentials I was missing, and learned how to empty the toilet, fill up the water tank and fill up with diesel for the first time.
Practise driving somewhere close to home too, even if it is just for a day trip. You’ll get to learn how to drive the van, get a feel for how it handles and if you manage parking! Reversing is still a challenge for me, but I’m learning to use the mirrors and am improving every time.
Write a List
I have lists for everything, but by far the most important is the list of things to do before I actually set off in the van. For me, that list includes:
Turn off the gas, turn off the fridge, make sure all the doors are locked, close all of the windows, tie back the curtains, secure everything that might move during transit, empty the grey water tank, turn off the electric and unplug the hook-up. I also like to have a walk around the campervan before I set off to make sure I have picked up the step, I have the levelling blocks and I haven’t forgotten anything else!
That may become 2nd nature to me, but until then I keep checking my list so I don’t make any mistakes!
READ MORE: Campervan Essentials for your Next Road Trip
You Will Make Mistakes
Despite all of my lists, mistakes are inevitable. On my first trip, I forgot to lock the fridge so my ketchup was rolling around the cabin (luckily nothing more serious!). On my second trip, I was so proud of myself for getting pitched up and level that I forgot to fill up the water tank. I’ve also reversed into a bush which covered my bike rack and snapped the brake off my bike brake.
Mistakes will happen, but hopefully, they won’t be too serious! Just chalk it down to a learning experience and try not to do it again. Nothing is perfect first time around, and that is part of the joy of trying new things! I am sure I will keep making mistakes, but that is what we do as people. Don’t worry about it.
This is actually the hardest one for me as I am usually a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. I find planning any more than a day or two ahead really challenging, but as I have found to my cost, these days planning is essential.
Many campsites are already booked up for weekends. A lot of attractions require pre-booking to be able to comply with social-distancing regulations. And a lot of public toilets are closed, so having to plan when I can go to the loo is another new challenge I’ve had to deal with!
The other thing I’m having to plan is parking. I love having the freedom to take day trips in the van but making sure there will be space for me to park (and reverse!) can be tough.
I am also trying to plan when to do laundry (as most laundry facilities on campsites are closed), and when to get the shopping in, which I usually do when I’m on my way to a new campsite.
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One of the best ways to learn is to ask others. I’ve found that campervan groups on Facebook have been really useful for me, in particular, the Women with Campervans group (for ladies only) whose members share tips without being patronising or mansplaining everything! There are plenty of mixed groups too where you can get useful information and share tips for campsites, equipment and more, such as Motorhome and Campervan UK Owners Advice.
You can find other groups for your area too, such as RVing Women in the USA.
Chatting with other motorhome and campervan owners you meet on the road is also really handy – not just pleasant being sociable, but they’ll have all sorts of tips for the area and for campervanning in general if you need a hand.
There are lots of campervan blogs too, especially if you are looking to convert your own van there is a ton of practical and useful advice on blogs and vlogs to help you. I’m working on more useful tips for beginners too! Books are another great source of advice, for practical tips and for advice on where to go. These are some of my favourites:
5 More Practical Campervan Tips
- If you’re using an electric hook up, avoid plugging into or out of your van with a live wire. So that means plugging into your van first before plugging into the mains, then unplugging from the mains first before unplugging the van.
- Empty the toilet and grey water tank before you drive, so the van is lighter and easier to handle. And you don’t have your toilet contents sloshing around all over the place which may make it smell a bit stinky!
- Avoid cooking smelly food in the van, as it will linger! Fish, curry, anything particularly strong will still smell afterwards, unless you have the windows and doors fully open. As much as I love a stinky camembert at home, I did not enjoy the whole van smelling of cheese.
- If you have anything smelly in the rubbish, empty it before you go to bed and do the washing up as you will be getting a whiff of everything in your van!
- Use your driving area wisely. By that I mean the front seats and dashboard. I use them for storage so my living space is clear, and for drying my towels and wet clothes. My microfibre towels are light enough to hang from the sun visors in the front, which is often the hottest place in the van! They dry quickly and provide some shade for the interior too.
I hope this post was helpful, and you aren’t worried about taking your first campervan trip! I’m sure you will love it!
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Just to let you know, this post may contain paid or affiliate links, which help to maintain Tales of a Backpacker and give me the chance to keep travelling, and to keep creating awesome content for you! I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: August 22, 2020