Embrace the Freedom: Why a Road Trip in a Van Camper Outshines a Typical Car Journey

There’s something inherently captivating about the open road—the thrill of exploration, the freedom to venture wherever your heart desires. When embarking on a road trip, the choice of vehicle can significantly enhance the experience. While a typical car may suffice for many journeys, nothing quite compares to the allure and versatility of a road trip in a van.

Table of Contents

open road trip in van

Unparalleled Flexibility

Camper vans offer unparalleled flexibility, allowing you to change your itinerary on a dime. It doesn’t matter if you drive an old VW or a kitted-out new Mercedes Sprinter; van life is meant to be spontaneous, off the beaten path, and full of adventure.

See a random roadside attraction? Stop and check it out!

Notice a lake on your satellite map that looks like a prime camp spot? Go find it!

Meet new friends heading in a different direction than your planned route? Switch course and join them for a caravan!

Take advantage of the freedom to be flexible and open to the possibilities of the road.

perspective looking out van dashboard road trip

Comfort and Convenience

A converted camper van gives you more space to store belongings and more room to stretch out on long road trips than a car.

Besides the added space, one of the most significant advantages of a camper van is its convenience for long road trips. Traveling in a van is like driving your tiny home around with you everywhere. Everything you need is in one room, often within arm’s reach.

Depending on the layout and features of your camper van, you’ll have some comforts that you can’t have on a traditional car road trip, such as a sink and running water, a fixed bed to sleep on each night, and a cooking surface to make your favorite foods no matter where in the country you find yourself.

High-roof camper vans also allow you to stand up and stretch inside, which is nothing like the claustrophobic feel in a small car on long road trips!

If you get stuck in traffic, just pull over, make a snack, and relax until it lightens up. If it starts raining on the day you arrive at a national park, park for a while, watch a movie, read a book, or take a cozy rainy day nap while you wait it out in the comforts of your camper van.

rear van doors open on road trip

Cost-Effective Travel

Although the initial cost of a camper van may seem higher than that of a typical car, it can be more cost-effective in the long run. Even if you can’t swing the upfront cost of your own camper van, you can rent one from a private owner or find a rental company. Depending on how long you rent for and how many people split the cost, a camper van rental will still save you money over traditional types of travel.

With your own bed and kitchen on board, you’ll save money by not staying in costly hotels and eating at restaurants. Park and camp for free on public lands like national forests, wildlife management areas, or BLM land. Cook your own meals for a fraction of what it costs to eat out. Even if you splurge for a fun restaurant here or there, you’ll still be spending less than if you had to go out every night.

Camper van life will help you savor the simple life and realize how much you really don’t need to spend to enjoy road trips!

boondock camping during road trip in van
female driver embraces the freedom

Connect with Nature Without Giving Up Luxury

Road-tripping in a converted camper van offers a unique opportunity to establish a deeper connection with nature while still having luxurious amenities close at hand.

Post up in a national forest for a week or two, knowing you’ll have coffee, a refrigerator, and a comfortable bed to retreat to at night. Visit bucket list destinations, like the Grand Canyon or the beaches of Baja, with your own space to decompress and rest.

Running water, electricity, and satellite internet are all van life luxuries that not all road trippers experience!

Adventure Awaits

If adventure is your thing, a major benefit of camper van road trips is the ability to go off-roading. Many camper vans have higher clearance than cars, so you can better maneuver the bumpy forest road terrain to get to the best camp spots.

Adrenaline junkies love camper vans for road trips because they can hike, climb, and do water or snow sports, with a warm respite to come home to each evening.

Remember, you can always add a roof rack or outdoor storage boxes to your rig to store your adventure gear!

Social Interaction and Community

Camper van travel often fosters a strong sense of community among fellow road trippers. There’s a shared value amongst van campers who have decided that a life full of experiences is meaningful. Swapping stories, cooking for one another, and sitting around a campfire are just some of the ways travelers connect on long road trips.

If you’re hitting some popular bucket list spots, such as national parks, you’re guaranteed to see other vans on the road and nearby camping spots. Van campers often post about their favorite camping spots, hiking trails, and van life tips on social media, and it’s common to connect online before eventually meeting up in person when you cross paths with folks you feel like you’ve known forever.

group of vanlifers hangout at gathering

Adapt to the Weather

The beauty of camper vans is that they aren’t tied to a specific place. With everything you need on wheels, you can chase adventure and the weather at the same time.

In the summer months, when it’s brutally hot in most places, take a road trip to the mountains and cool off in an alpine lake. When it’s snowy and cold in the winter, head south to warmer weather. Wait for the prime leaf-peeping window in New England in the fall or the wildflower superblooms of the West Coast in spring.

6 Top Tips for Camper Van Road Trips

With a bit of planning, you can ensure you have the epic road trip of your dreams. These pointers will help you plan the best camper van road trip and avoid other van lifers’ mistakes!

1. Make a Playlist

There will be long stretches without cell service, and you’ll want something to listen to! Download podcasts, curate the perfect road trip playlists, or save audiobooks to keep you entertained while traveling between each location.

2. Pack All the Snacks

Nothing good can happen once you cross the line from hungry to hangry! Be sure to stock the camper van with easy-to-reach food, drinks, and treats. Snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and protein bars are quick and easy and will keep you sane and satisfied en route to your destination.

mercedes sprinter parked on side of road

3. Take Breaks

You might want to get from one place to the next as fast as possible, but the journey is the best part of a road trip. Stopping at random kitschy shops and odd monuments is a great way to give your body a stretch and keep your blood flowing. Know your limits and remember rest areas are there for a reason; use them!

4. Maintain a Routine

With access to your own products and other creature comforts like water, following a daily routine is much easier in a camper van than in a car or even a hotel. Whether it’s a skincare maintenance routine, a morning coffee ritual, or yoga in the great outdoors, keeping a routine will help you feel balanced during your road trips.

5. Drive with the Daylight

Driving at night can be difficult for several reasons: the glare of other vehicle headlights, difficulty seeing what kind of terrain is up ahead, and struggling to navigate unfamiliar territory in the dark. Wildlife tends to be out at night feeding and moving about which can be hazardous. Do your best to drive during the daylight hours and save your nights for campfires and stargazing.

6. Keep an Eye on Your Fuel Gauge

It can be a long way between gas stations. Fill up regularly; don’t wait for a low fuel warning and risk running out of gas. If you’ll be off-roading for long distances, carry a gas can just in case.

camper van road trip through desert

Where Will Your Campervan Road Trip Take You?

With so many options available to you, from renting camper vans to building your own, it’s time to get into a van and onto the road! Grab some friends (or set out solo!), download music and a map, and explore the backroads and wide open spaces like only camper vans can.



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