Is Traveling in a Camper Van Worth It?

If you’ve been paying attention to social media, blogs, and YouTube for the last few years, then you’ve most likely heard about people living and traveling in a van. (If you haven’t: Hi! We’re out here doing it! Join us!)

After seeing so many people take to the road to pursue their van life adventure, you may be wondering if traveling in a van is worth it for you. Full-time van life certainly isn’t for everyone, and it can be difficult to figure out if van living is something you will truly enjoy.

In this article, we’ll talk about the pros and cons of not only van life but of road trips in general and whether a campervan road trip is worth it for you.

Table of Contents

female traveling in van eating lunch

The Perks of Van Life and Traveling by Van (the Pros)

There are many upsides to traveling by van and even living in your van. Van lifers will tell you that the lifestyle is a great way to save money and that it includes endless possibilities for adventure and fun. Let’s explore those perks in depth.

couple travels and lives in van full-time

Cost of Living and Travel

The cost of living in a van is certainly lower than the cost of living in a house. In today’s real estate market, purchasing a home may not be a realistic option for many people. Not only is the upfront cost of the van less than the cost of a home (especially if you do your own DIY van conversion), but the cost of maintenance on a vehicle is much lower than the cost of maintaining a home.

What if you don’t want to live in your van full time but are simply considering doing some longer road trips or extended travel? Again, van travel is much cheaper than travel by plane or nearly any other kind of travel. Campervan hire and RV rental are fairly inexpensive compared to the cost of a plane ticket, and if you purchase your own van, it will pay for itself within a couple of road trips.

couple enjoys coffee in back of travel van

Freedom to Roam

Compared to air travel, van life and traveling by van gives you access to places that you may not be able to get to by plane. Unless you rent a car or other form of transport once you arrive at your destination, plane travel can actually be very limiting. You will be confined to the city you landed in and nearby areas. You might fly into San Francisco and never leave San Francisco.

Van life, on the other hand, gives you access to entire continents. You can go anywhere there is a road! San Francisco could be your jumping-off point to get to the Grand Canyon or any other national park in the US. Sure, it will take a little longer to get there but think of all the amazing things you’ll see along the way.

Memories That Will Last a Lifetime

There’s no doubt that traveling by van is a more memorable experience than traveling by plane. And if you live in your van for any extended period of time, you’ll also be making memories that will stay with you forever. RV life is a unique experience that you’ll never forget.

You’re more likely to look back fondly on a weekend trip with your partner or kids than you are to look back fondly on struggling through a crowded airport with them, sitting on a plane for 8 hours, and losing your luggage.

girl sits on beach by van with dog
mercedes sprinter van traveling down highway

Things to Consider When Planning Your Campervan Travel (the Cons)

That being said, there are definitely downsides to van travel and van living. From the small space to difficulty finding overnight parking, van life comes with its own unique set of challenges. Let’s take a look at those as well.

Living Space

This is the concern that people voice most frequently when they think about living in their vans. And it’s absolutely true: a van is a tiny space, and not everyone is cut out to live in one. If you have kids or pets, the space becomes even smaller.

You’ll need to consider storage space and pare down your life to the bare essentials. Take only what you need, and be ruthless about letting go of the rest. Many people actually see this as a perk of van life. It forces you to simplify and de-clutter, and many people find this enlightening or eye-opening.

Personal space also becomes an issue when you share your van with others. You will need to establish firm boundaries with your partner and kids and do your best to separate daytime and work time activities from free time and relaxing. Make sure you all have places you can go to be alone: whether that’s taking a walk in nature, going out to run errands for a couple of hours, or simply having some alone time in the van.

Parking, Gas Stations, Internet Access

This is the nitty-gritty, day-to-day stuff you’ll be dealing with when you road trip or van life. It can feel overwhelming trying to plan all this stuff and stay on top of it. Fortunately, there are tons of apps out there these days that can help you with all of these logistics.

Apps like Google Maps, Gas Buddy, and Upside are invaluable for locating gas stations, groceries, and more. Gas Buddy and Upside will even tell you which ones are the cheapest. 

If you’re struggling to find a campsite, apps like iOverlander, Sekr, and Boondocker’s Welcome & Harvest Hosts can help you with that.

When it comes to the internet, if you plan to work and need good, reliable access, we recommend checking out Starlink. If that’s not an option, apps like FreeRoam and Open Signal can help you find decent cell service, while the previously mentioned apps can help you find WiFi spots, coffee shops, and internet cafes.


The weather becomes a very real issue when you start traveling by van, particularly if you live in a part of the world where it snows. You must always be prepared for inclement weather. 

Check the forecast daily and make sure you have the necessary tools to manage in less-than-ideal conditions.

For snow, this means snow tires, chains, road salt, a shovel, and vehicle recovery tracks. Inclement weather means you should also be planning ahead for your overnight stays: don’t get stuck somewhere remote in a snowstorm or caught in a flash flood.

Van Lifer Success Stories

So how are people making it work? We looked at a few van life accounts on Instagram to see what great tips these full-time adventurers had to offer about living and traveling in your van.

Traveling Chef, Wife, Founder of Vanlife Pride

Nikki[Nat] of @letsplayrideandseek has been traveling full-time for over four years now with her wife, Abby. She’s not only a traveling chef (seriously, go watch her video, and you’ll be hungry within 3 seconds!) but also a soon-to-be-published author and is the co-founder of Vanlife Pride (@vanlifepride)

She and her wife create beautiful art together in the form of photography, videography, and writing. They share all of their successes and vulnerabilities as humans, partners, travelers, and entrepreneurs who inspire all of those who follow them.

Couple Traveling in a Cargo Trailer with a Dog and Cat

Bekah and her partner, Sawyer, have been traveling for over 4 years with their dog Yukon and cat Snoop Cat. Bekah has a great blog, Treks with Beks, that provides tips on eco-friendly travel and hiking guides across the country, geared towards both the full-time traveler and weekend warrior. 

She and Sawyer built their home-on-wheels in 2019 out of a cargo trailer and have been hiking, mountain biking, and skiing throughout the country ever since. Bekah speaks to her challenges with depression openly on her blog, sharing her personal journey and about how their nomadic lifestyle helped, and how it didn’t.

Part-Time Van Life with a Toddler

Dave and Janine used to travel full-time in a campervan until they welcomed Summit into the world. They decided to transition to part-time van life to help balance work, play, and parenting, but they still get out on a part-time basis to ensure Summit gets to experience some of the amazing places they had the privilege to explore before his arrival. 

Traveling with a toddler isn’t always easy, but Dave and Janine wouldn’t have it any other way. They’ve even tackled potty training while traveling! 

Full-Time Travelers with 3 Kids and a Golden Retriever

This family of 5 (+1 Golden Retriever named Wilf) travels through the UK in their campervan, Otis. If you’ve ever wondered how to travel with a family, their blog Otis and Us has all sorts of helpful info about van life with kids, traveling with a dog, and tips on camping through the UK and Europe. 

Solo Female Business Owner

Sierra has been traveling in her campervan full-time since 2020 with her rescue mutt, Snow. She hit the road while working a full-time corporate job, but in 2022 she decided to quit the corporate grind and start her own copywriting business, Boondock Consulting

Balancing travel, trail running, and building a business from scratch isn’t easy, but Sierra says it’s worth the challenges. You can follow her and Snow’s adventures on Instagram

Is Campervan Life Right for You?

One of the best ways to decide if RV life is something you or your family will enjoy is to rent a campervan and take an extended road trip. Make your next family vacation a camping trip in a national park.

The best way to get a feel is to spend at least two weeks traveling in a van. This will give you an idea of the realities of daily life: meal prep, showering, parking lots, gas mileage, and more. And remember: like any lifestyle, you’re going to burn out sometimes. Not every day will be an amazing adventure – some days are just not great days. Try to keep things in perspective and roll with the punches.

Van life and RV travel is not for everyone, but with a little planning and attention to detail, you can make it work for you!



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