Traveling Europe by Campervan: Our Tips for “Van Life Europe”

Are you tired of the typical touristy Euro trip? Do you want to explore the hidden gems of Europe that are off the beaten path? Well, look no further because traveling Europe by campervan might just be the adventure you’re seeking. In this article, we will share our essential tips for making the most out of “Van Life Europe”. But before we dive into that, let’s discuss why you should consider this unique way of exploring the continent.

Why Should You Consider Traveling Europe by Campervan?

If you’ve ever been on a Euro trip, you probably visited the popular destinations like Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Prague. These cities are undeniably beautiful, but they can also be quite expensive. The cost of train transportation, especially in Western Europe, can add up quickly. So, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative that allows you to venture into lesser-known places, then traveling Europe by campervan is the perfect solution.

One of the greatest advantages of traveling in a campervan is the freedom to go wherever you want. You no longer have to worry about expensive train tickets or rigid schedules. With a campervan, your itinerary becomes incredibly flexible, and you can discover hidden treasures that are inaccessible by conventional means of transportation. Additionally, Europe’s easy border crossing makes it an ideal continent for road trips. You can drive from one country to another within a matter of hours, without even realizing you’ve crossed a border.

To summarize, here are the key benefits of exploring Europe by campervan:

  • Cost-effective compared to public transport
  • Super easy border crossing
  • Flexible itinerary
  • Access to smaller towns, natural sites, and offbeat areas

Now that you’re intrigued by the idea of “Van Life Europe”, let’s move on to the practical aspects of choosing the right van for your adventure.

Camper Van vs Normal Van vs Caravan

Before embarking on your campervan journey, it’s important to understand the distinction between a camper van, a normal van, and a caravan. A camper van is specifically designed for camping, with a sleeping space and, ideally, a cooking area. It can be a van that’s already outfitted for camping or a regular van that has been converted into a camper. On the other hand, a caravan is a separate wagon that needs to be attached to a car in order to move.

When it comes to selecting the right van for your needs, it depends on factors such as your budget and the size of your travel party. If you’re a couple on a budget who loves adventure, a small campervan would be ideal. Smaller vans have the advantage of maneuvering through narrow lanes and offer lower camping, toll, and parking costs. However, if you’re a family with multiple children, a larger campervan with more space and amenities would be a better fit. These larger vans, known as RVs (Recreational Vehicles), are commonly seen on European roads.

Ultimately, the choice between a campervan, a normal van, or a caravan depends on your personal preferences and travel requirements.

Renting a Van in Europe vs Buying

Now that you know what type of van you need, the next decision to make is whether to rent or buy. The answer to this question depends on various factors, including the duration of your trip and your budget.

If you’re planning to explore Europe for a few weeks or months, it makes more sense to rent a campervan. Renting allows you to avoid the upfront costs of buying a van and dealing with the paperwork involved. You can easily find rental vans through car rental search engines.

On the other hand, if you’re embarking on a long-term journey, such as six months or a year, buying a campervan might be a more cost-effective option. While buying a van comes with its own set of considerations, such as the initial investment and insurance and repair costs, it can ultimately be more economical if you’re confident that you’ll make good use of it and have the possibility of selling it later.

If you’re new to the world of vans and want to get a taste of “Van Life” before committing, renting is a great way to dip your toes in the water. It allows you to experience the freedom of campervan travel and helps you determine what kind of van best suits your needs.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 1: Sleeping in the Van

One of the most enjoyable aspects of “Van Life” is the ability to sleep in your own cozy home on wheels and wake up to breathtaking views. While not every day will offer a stunning vista, you can still make the most of your sleeping arrangements.

When it comes to sleeping in your van, investing in a comfortable mattress is crucial. After all, a good night’s sleep sets the tone for the entire day. Opt for a compact mattress that fits your van’s dimensions or consider using a mattress topper if space is limited. Additionally, bring pillows and blankets suitable for different weather conditions, as European summers can be unpredictable.

To ensure a comfortable sleeping environment, use insulated covers to prevent condensation on the windows during colder months and to keep the van cool in warmer weather. A silver thermal insulated window screen serves a dual purpose as a blackout curtain, allowing you to sleep peacefully even when the sun rises early. If your van lacks an air conditioner, consider investing in a battery-operated fan to beat the summer heat, and don’t forget to protect yourself from pesky mosquitoes with natural repellent stickers.

In summary, here are the essentials for a comfortable sleep in your campervan:

  • Mattress or mattress topper
  • Pillows, blankets, and bedsheets
  • Insulated window covers/silver thermal window screen
  • Battery-operated fan
  • Citronella mosquito repellent stickers

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 2: Cooking in a Campervan

Another exciting aspect of campervan travel is the freedom to cook your own meals on the road. While you can’t cook while driving, there are several options for preparing delicious meals at your parking or camping spots. Let’s explore the essentials for cooking in a campervan.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily need a full kitchen inside your van. With a travel stove and a small cylinder, you can easily cook outside. However, if you prefer the convenience of a built-in kitchen, consider equipping your campervan with a small countertop stove, a cylinder slot within the kitchen cabinets, a sink, a compact refrigerator, and multiple storage cabinets for your kitchen essentials.

Organize your kitchen space by dedicating a drawer for cutlery, using a hanging bag for plates, and installing small hooks for hanging utensils. Keep your cookware minimal with a small non-stick pan, a cutting board, a spatula, soup bowls, plates, and cutlery. If your van doesn’t have a built-in refrigerator, a small cooling box can serve as a makeshift solution.

For those who enjoy hot beverages, an electric kettle can simplify your life. Additionally, consider investing in an outdoor camping grill for a wider range of cooking options.

When it comes to meal ideas, simplicity is key. Opt for easy-to-make dishes like pasta with pre-made sauces or fresh vegetables, daal and rice combos, stuffed wraps or burritos, toasts with various toppings, and sautéed vegetables. Don’t forget to explore local markets for fresh produce to enhance your meals.

To summarize, here are the essentials for a campervan kitchen:

  • Travel stove or countertop stove
  • Cylinder for cooking fuel
  • Sink
  • Compact refrigerator or cooling box
  • Multiple kitchen cabinets for storage
  • Drawer for cutlery
  • Hanging bag for plates
  • Cutting board
  • Spatula
  • Soup bowls, plates, and cutlery
  • Electric kettle (if applicable)
  • Outdoor camping grill (optional)

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 3: Making Your Life Simpler on the Road

Now that you’ve set up your van and kitchen, it’s time to consider the apps and tools that can enhance your campervan journey. These resources will help you navigate, plan your itinerary, and find useful information on the road.

Investing in a decent GPS navigation system is essential for seamless travel. Look for one that covers most European countries, such as TomTom, to minimize reliance on your smartphone. It’s worth noting that Google Maps can also serve as a reliable navigation tool, allowing you to modify your route on the go.

Speaking of Google Maps, this app is a versatile tool for planning your road trip. Besides providing directions, it can help you find camping spots, restaurants, gas stations, and even scenic spots, such as waterfalls, along your route. By customizing the navigation settings, you can avoid tolls and highways, resulting in more affordable and scenic routes.

Additionally, apps like CamperContact and ParkMe can assist you in finding suitable camping spots and parking areas. CamperContact, in particular, provides a comprehensive database of camping spots across Europe, enabling you to read reviews and view detailed information about each location. ParkMe, on the other hand, helps you find parking spots near your destination and provides pricing information.

Lastly, consider obtaining an ADAC membership. ADAC is the largest automotive club in Europe, offering roadside assistance and additional services to its members. Having this membership can provide peace of mind in case of emergencies or unexpected incidents during your journey.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 4: Finding Camping Spots

Finding suitable camping spots is essential for a successful campervan trip. In Europe, you’ll come across three types of camping spots: paid, free, and wild camping. Let’s discuss each category in more detail.

Paid camping spots are widely available throughout Europe and are specifically designed for motorhomes and tents. These spots typically provide shared facilities such as toilets, kitchens, bars, restaurants, and small supermarkets. They offer convenience and comfort, making them a popular choice among campervan travelers.

Free camping spots do exist in Europe, but they are usually less picturesque. You can occasionally find free spots at gas stations or, in rare cases, supermarkets. These resting spots along the highways often offer basic amenities such as fast food restaurants, paid toilets, and children’s play areas. While they may not be the most scenic options, they can serve as convenient places to rest and park.

Wild camping, also known as free camping in nature, is generally prohibited in most European countries. It’s essential to be aware of the local laws and regulations regarding camping before setting up camp in a remote area. While a few countries like Spain, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Estonia, and Latvia allow wild camping on state-owned land, it can still be challenging to find suitable spots that are not privately owned. It’s advisable to avoid wild camping to prevent any legal complications.

To find the best camping spots, utilize a combination of Google Maps, CamperContact, and Google Maps allows you to search for camping spots based on your location, read reviews, and view pictures. CamperContact provides a comprehensive database of camping spots, while offers a selection of camping options. By using these resources, you can ensure a memorable camping experience in Europe.

VAN LIFE TIPS SECTION 5: Avoiding Costs – How to Make Your Van Life Affordable

While “Van Life” offers countless opportunities for adventure and freedom, it’s important to be mindful of costs to make your journey more affordable. Here are some tips to help you stay within your budget.

One significant cost to consider is toll fees. In some European countries, tolls can be quite steep, especially in France. To avoid excessive toll expenses, adjust the settings on your GPS navigation system or Google Maps to avoid tolls and highways. This may result in longer but more scenic routes that save you money.

Another cost-saving measure is obtaining vignettes in countries like Austria, Slovenia, and Switzerland. Vignettes are prepaid road tax stickers, which are mandatory for driving on certain highways. Purchase a vignette based on the number of days you plan to spend in each country to ensure compliance with local regulations.

Lastly, consider traveling during the low season to save money. While this can be a great strategy in terms of avoiding crowds, it’s important to note that many campgrounds in Europe close during the low season. It’s advisable to call ahead and confirm the availability of campgrounds before arriving at your destination.

By implementing these cost-saving measures, you can make your “Van Life” adventure more budget-friendly without compromising on the experience.

In conclusion, “Van Life Europe” offers a unique and exhilarating way to explore the continent. By following our tips and recommendations, you can embark on an unforgettable campervan journey, immersing yourself in the beauty and diversity of Europe. So, start planning your own “Van Life Europe” adventure today and get ready for the road trip of a lifetime!

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