Living in a van and cruising around the great American West can be the adventure of a lifetime, but to make the most of it, it’s important to know what you’re doing. Even if you’re just spending a week in the van, that week will be much better if it’s spent enjoying the sights and experiences, and not learning things the hard way.

Take a few Vanlife tips from the pros, and you can dodge those mishaps and make the most of your time on the road!

Keep Things in Order

In many ways, keeping your space clean and tidy is even more important in a van than it is in normal tent-camping. While it may not sound like fun to clean and organize on your vacation, it actually doesn’t take very much time at all, and believe me, you will be much happier if you do.

Toward that end, it’s best to have several containers and/or organizers with you, to prevent all those odds and ends from rolling around and making things feel chaotic. A good guide is that whatever tidiness level you normally can live with, in the close quarters of a campervan, it’s best to go just beyond that, and be slightly cleaner than you normally would.

Park Like a Pro

When you’re camping in a van, knowing where to park is very important. Some aspects of this are very similar to tent camping, such as the camping rules of national parks. If you want to save money, you may want to plan on visiting parks which allow dispersed camping.

On the other hand, you will sometimes require facilities such as showers, bathrooms, and fresh water, at least every few days. For those times, you may want to utilize the paid/KOA camping that’s available at most state and national parks. Needless to say, you should figure this part out before the sun goes down.

If you’re adventure is taking you outside the bounds of parks, then where you park your van is to some extent determined by your own safety concerns. It’s never a good idea to blatantly park on private property, but sometimes there are odd road-side spots that can work for an 8-hour rest. There’s always a chance you may be asked to move, but if you’re polite, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

If all else fails, your fall-back should probably be a Wal-Mart parking lot; it may not feel like the romantic campervan life you imagined, but it’s relatively safe, and if you need it, it will only be for a good night’s sleep.

Always Be Prepared

Of course this is a general rule for camping, but when using a campervan, there are a few extra factors to take into consideration.

For instance, you’ll want to make sure that your gas tank always stays above a half-tank full. This is especially true in places like Nevada, where some long stretches of desert roads are extremely sparse, when it comes to gas stations.

A few other good things to have, which aren’t necessarily essential for campervan living, but can improve the quality of your experience, are a small USB powered air filter, rags or sponges for cleaning up when showers aren’t available, & a small propane stove, for when campfires aren’t possible.

Follow these general guidelines, and you’re sure to have a much better time out there. Thanks for reading, and enjoy your stint in the vanlife, my friends!