Travelling with a van can be one of the most enjoyable ways to travel, explore, and see new places.
If you are not properly prepared it can also be a nightmare.
Here are some tips and lessons I have learned while on the road with my van.
The first thing you should do before setting off on your journey is to make sure your Van has all the equipment necessary to change a flat tire.
Double check you have a jack that works and it is the right model for your car. I had a flat tire once in rural Australia, over 100 kilometers from the nearest town, only to find my jack wasn’t tall enough to lift my wheel off the ground. This meant my only option was to wait for several hours for a local farmer to stop and help me out (It also turned out that the spare tire I had was the wrong size, which meant I had to drive very slowly to ensure I actually made it to the nearest mechanic).
It is also important to make sure you fan belts are tight, radiator fluid is high, and you have plenty of oil.
The last thing you want is for your engine to cease or blow a head gasket while you’re in the middle of a forest (or a highway!). Make use of the space in your van – always keep a couple of litres of oil and radiator fluid on board.
I highly recommend installing a set of speakers and a head deck with an AUX input so you can listen to YOUR music! You don’t need to have anything fancy though, simple 6 by 9’s usually doing the trick unless you’re a real music enthusiast. Installing speakers in old vans can be tedious though so I recommend installing them into free-standing boxes. This means you have to less fiddling to fit the speakers into pre-existing spaces, and with enough cord you can place them anywhere in the van for the best sound quality. You can make the boxes yourself or usually buy them online for cheap!
The way you set up your bed will have a huge effect on the usefulness and comfort of your van when travelling.
The more space you have, the easier it will be to store and retrieve essential items such as your gas cooker or esky (portable coolers), and have a comfortable bed. By building a sub-floor for your bed to rest on, you can double the storage space and make your bed more flat and more comfortable. A subfloor can be relatively basic, consisting of several lengths of 4×4 timber and a few sheets of ply wood. You can make it more intricate by adding shelves and sliding draws. A standard bed mattress is often the most comfortable thing to use as a bed, but they often take up too much space, so you are less likely to be comfortable when just chilling in your van and not lying horizontal. A simple foam sheet is often a cheaper option which takes up less room but is just as comfortable.
Constructing simple curtains with a bit of fabric, wire and a few screws will make your sleeping experience much more enjoyable! It will keep to heat and morning sun out in summer, and also provide you with some privacy!
One of the most important things when travelling by van is to remember your car’s limits – it’s (usually) not a 4 wheel drive!
Be sure to check the distance and condition of dirt roads before exploring. Check road conditions on Google before big trips, or get out of the car and walk down the road and have a look about if it’s a spontaneous decision. Just be sure you can reverse out if the road gets too bad. Having a bogged car is fun for no one!