This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)
Some people like to spend their holidays in a house by the sea or in the mountains, other people – like us before leaving for this long journey – have ventured into the conversion of a car, a van, or a truck because they did not see the ‘time to spend whole days going around remote areas and without tourism. If you are part of this type of people then we would like to share with you some tips to make the best use of the space that you have available on your vehicle, which as we shall see, it will never be enough. First of all, we want to remember how important it is not to underestimate the comfort that you also enjoy. Many interpret life or four-wheeled travel as the need to reduce everything to the minimum terms, but for us it is not so. A functional, long-lasting set-up that makes the journey something different that suffering must be designed to guarantee the comfort on board as much as possible.
Evaluate your needs, avoid buying a vehicle just because you like it!
On the road there are the same basic needs that you have when you are at home: food, water, sleep. Before making other decisions it is necessary to ensure that the basic needs are met. Life can be fun when you are traveling and living in a four-wheeled vehicle for a long time, but it can be fun too. During months of travel, exciting events can happen, while others can make you uncomfortable, not to mention that sometimes you can even get bored. In short, traveling will need to be prepared for many different situations. In this period the vanlife has brought the lifestyle of four wheels to the knowledge of many potential interested or simply the curious and so it can happen to feel intimidated by all the fanciful conversions of vans that you can admire especially on Instagram.
What we can tell you right away is that you will not need a new 4×4 van with luxurious, cutting-edge interiors to start your journey. Any truck that works well and is properly maintained will do its job well.
By following the advice below, you can start your journey in no time
The starting point is the following: evaluate well your real needs, then purchased. Do not be fooled by appearance, more than half of the vehicles that seem equipped to survive a nuclear disaster are actually only flashy tools, not suitable for anyone’s needs. The aesthetics right now is in the background, we are not choosing a car or a motorcycle, but rather the basis for building a vehicle where you will have to spend a lot of time. So it’s not a question of choosing the vehicle we like the most and then finding the best compromise on it. We repeat it once again so that the concept is clear, once you understand your needs matched with the search for your vehicle, you will see that you will not find yourself in the middle of a sea of possibilities, indeed far from it.
So, rule number one, never buy before you have clear ideas about the equipment you need.
Rule number two: think more about how to spend money on the road rather than how to waste money on unnecessary options.
50 Advice points to think about before choosing the vehicle to live on
Basic preparation of the vehicle on which to live your journey
1. Give your vehicle a name. You will be amazed to experience the feeling of treating your four wheels better when you call them by name. Our truck, for example, is called Valentino.
2. Build a large bed, do not minimize its size, otherwise you may regret it.
3. Think of storerooms to store the clothes you use most often. This will avoid having to dig every morning between the drawers or the closet. Forget containers like suitcases or similar, they are too uncomfortable. Try to make room for clothes hangers, this is the best way to stow towels and jackets.
4. If you are traveling as a couple, please provide separate spaces for each.
5. A small series of drawers will be a great addition if you have space. Drawers are always the best choice, comfortable, quick and space-saving.
6. Install a mirror, at least large enough to hold your face. Avoid limiting yourself to small portable mirrors.
7. Install LED lights that do not depend on the vehicle’s main battery. Nothing must depend on the starter battery, never ever!
A Unimog set up by Unicat. It is a vehicle really ready for any kind of situation, since it does not belong to the most common series of unimog but rather to the heavy line with a capacity of 12 TON.
8. Make sure your windows have blackout blinds and screens. The most important thing to sleep well in a vehicle is to feel safe and away from prying eyes. This is why you should also evaluate the height of the vehicle, as this also helps to make the interior of the vehicle less visible.
9. Buy a good inverter and provide enough plugs for your phone and computer; double if you are traveling with someone. Do not think that you will not need electricity while traveling, otherwise you’ll always find yourself at Mc Donald’s.
10. Invest in a good battery bank, do not underestimate your daily use, vice versa you may have problems very soon.
11. Buy a good kitchen and consequently a good feeding system. Think about the problems that are encountered when using gas in different countries, since the cylinder attacks are practically everywhere different from each other.
12. It is important to have a grill to store dishes to dry.
13. Provide opposing windows to ventilate, however in well insulated vehicles not exaggerated since the windows themselves are the first source of entry and exit of the heat due to their poor thermal efficiency. Consider buying double-glazed windows in larger vehicles. Sometimes you see around vehicles covered with windows, these are the same vehicles whose owners complain about internal air conditioning problems.
14. Install ventilation fans, in the bathroom you should also have one for the humidity. Do not overdo the holes on the roof though.
The interior of the vehicle, a four-wheeled home life
15. Install a sink, do not be minimalist in this too.
16. Provide a place to put the trash and its differentiation. Remember that it will be something you will have to empty often.
17. Provide storage rooms also in the driver’s cabin where you can store the things you use most often when you are moving the vehicle. Avoid accumulating objects on the dashboard or seats as they could become a source of interest for potential petty thieves.
18. Keep rags handy, they are always useful in case you have to quickly clean up something.
19. Do the cleaning every morning and tidy up the things that can be broken while driving.
20. Each object must provide for its fixed accommodation, do not make up for storage during the trip because it may not work and cause damage.
21. If possible we recommend using a fixed bed that is always ready and separate from the living area. This makes life easier and last but not least allows you to take advantage of different spaces during the day on board.
22. Provide a mat to be placed in front of the entrance door as it is very useful to avoid bringing dirt or even pebbles into it that could ruin the floor. Leave your shoes at the entrance.
23. Clean regularly. Wash the outside, vacuum, clean the surfaces, just as you would to clean your home. The van quickly becomes dirty when neglected.
24. To compartmentalize everything. We have different lockers where we arrange different things: tools, camping material, liquids, etc.etc.
25. Do not bring things you do not need with you. Optimize the available space.
During the trip
26. Traveling off-season is better. There are many places in the world where it is warm enough to live in a van, a camper or a truck when the rest of the world is busy with school or work schedules. Prices are lower, parking areas are more free and nights are generally quieter.
27. We recommend going out of the beaten track. The secondary roads are almost always able to reward the effort with far more interesting views than those visible from the main arteries. Think of a cartographic navigation system, for example some APP on the mobile phone that works even when you are off-line.
28. It is not the style of travel we are following at this time, but we realize that for shorter experiences it is important, namely: Plan ahead. Sometimes planning can create a feeling of anxiety, but being able to make the most of the moment of preparation will serve both to save time and to better enjoy the moments of travel.
29. Especially when you are near cities: If you happen to not find a place to park near an area of your interest do not despair. Look for a parking space where you least expect to find it. For example, there are parking lots that are free during the night due to the fact that during the day they are occupied by commuters or daytime users of parks or fun areas for children. But it can sometimes get frustrating not to find the right place, and that’s why a vehicle suitable for an emergency stop can make the difference.
30. As far as we are concerned, we prefer places to stay that are not paid. Fuel dispensers, truck parking areas, friends’ homes, supermarket parking lots, cinema parking lots, parks. Some hotels could also help, and in this case by making arrangements with the owners of the accommodation facilities, those without a shower could ask for permission to use the bathroom of a room.
31. Although you are hard and pure you will often find places to park that are not flat, needless to think that you are so ready for anything. Plan to bring wedges or wedges with you to level the vehicle before going to sleep.
32. Try to protect the windshield with reflectors when you park under the sun. This is for a fact of privacy that to avoid heating the interior of the passenger compartment before night. It is important to use the same reflectors even in winter, as they help keep the heat inside.
33. On really hot days if your vehicle is not equipped with adequate insulation you can think of going to a car wash to cool the whole car before going to sleep. Using token washes the result is excellent and it is also economical.
Enjoy life on the road
34. Do not think that you will move every day on your journey. Sometimes you need to stand still for different reasons and then you will need to be as independent as possible (this concept applies to many topics including energy, drinking water, bathroom, etc. etc.). These are the typical situations in which the preparation of the vehicle makes the difference between living the days of “homeless” to be free to spend great days full of fun and exploration of the territory.
35. Exercise! We are increasingly realizing how important it is. Swimming, hiking, yoga, fitness classes. Anything is healthy for the body since living for a long time in confined spaces can become a problem for the body.
36. This concept derives a bit from our experience of motorcycle travel. Try to hear street noises when you drive, it’s nice to listen to music, but it’s also nice to start thinking while traveling.
37. Document your travels. At the beginning you will think that you will be able to do everything when you return home, however it is almost never like that and in any case it would be different. Keep a record of the places you visit, if you do not like writing you can also simply mark a route on the map, buy postcards, take pictures and tag them on social media, write notes on your cell phone, in short, just do it. You will be happy.
38. As far as we are concerned we can make many friends on the street, but this is really subjective. We have known people much more closed than us, some around for years but with experiences of meetings that are counted on the fingers of one hand. Everyone lives the journey in their own way. However, we think it’s easy to start feeling lonely after months of traveling, so if you try to keep close ties with friends, reach them, try to visit people.
39. Traveling in pairs is important to be able to maintain your space, if you are preparing a long-term journey do not underestimate this aspect. Even in this case the vehicle can make its small difference.
40. Give yourself goals. Regardless of whether you want to start a working life at Fulltimer or more simply, you are temporarily detaching yourself from work, try to take advantage of the moment as it is great for understanding what you really want from life.
Safety on travel
41. Always keep your documents in order and make copies. Try to respect the highway code in an obsequious way. Especially in certain countries of the world it is good to don become an easy target for policemen. Avoid being too flashy and try not to use icons or badges on your vehicle that can be misinterpreted.
42. Keep the vehicle tidy. In order to travel you must be self-sufficient and therefore the last thing you have to try to do is to get stuck by simple negligence.
43. Always make sure that someone knows where you are. Social media is a great way to let people know where you are and in this way your loved ones will be more relaxed.
44. Do not forget to bring a first aid kit and an easily accessible fire extinguisher with you.
45. If you need to park in rest areas near a big city pay attention. In case you do not have an alternative try not to let you see too much around before going to sleep. For example, if your vehicle is not self-sufficient and you need to use a public bathroom, you should use that of a service area and then move to the area where you want to park for the night without having to leave. In these cases, follow the instinct, if you do not like a place go away.
46. If you are about to face a long journey, think about different situations, even the most unexpected ones. For example take snow chains with you, maybe you will never use them, but who knows, instead they could save you from an unpleasant situation (not to mention that at worst you can also use chains to try to get out of the mud).
47. Never travel without enough water, food and warm clothing to spend a couple of nights. In case you have problems in a remote area you may be forced to get stuck without help, in cases like this it is good to have something to eat and drink to spend the night. Let’s not forget that it’s much easier to think calmly in a difficult situation when you know you have food, water and heat.
48. Bring a good hydraulic jack with you, preferably two. The vans are heavy and when you drill, you are almost never in a comfortable situation. When you are in a difficult situation you will not want to leave out details like safety and tools. Bring with you also tools for signaling, wedges, wooden boards to thicken the crick and a good key (avoid the X-welded in the middle, they are very dangerous).
49. Take extra engine oil, radiator fluid and jumpers with you. Bring spare parts for light bulbs, tape, wire and other hardware that can be useful for emergency repairs.
50. Especially when traveling to remote areas, remember to keep cash with you. One of the best ways to avoid getting stuck somewhere is to make sure you have enough money to pay someone who can help you out. Not all over the world accept credit cards, let alone a lorry driver to whom you ask for pleasure to tow for tens of kilometers.