Traveling in a camper van is something I have gained a lot of experience in during the last few years and I have come to appreciate the benefits of doing so. Even when I am just traveling and not using the van to live in, it serves a purpose and makes the trip more pleasant. Once you have experienced traveling in a small home on wheels like this, it’s hard not to appreciate the benefits of it.
While the intended use for a camper van is to travel on adventurous camping trips, it doesn’t have to end there. There is no need for it to sit in your driveway only to be used on the next summer vacation. Unlike a larger RV, the size of a van allows you to make use of it in many other ways.
I’d like to share some ways I use my van for travel and some of the benefits I have found over the years. Some of these may not be so obvious unless you are a seasoned van lifer yourself.
The number one reason for camper van travel has to be the conveniences associated with it. When compared to other RV types, it provides an experience that is extremely convenient to the point that it doesn’t seem like you are even in an RV. Instead, it seems that you are traveling in your personal vehicle–with extra perks.
The convenience of traveling in a camper van is mostly due to its small size.
When you compare the class B RV to a class A motorhome, for example, you can see how convenient it is when driving and maneuvering around as well as parking in small locations. Although the class A will provide a more roomy interior and luxurious sleeping arrangement, one has to weigh the pros and cons of each to determine the best option for their use.
Convenience generally tops the list in the pros column for camper vans and makes them an ideal choice for those who want to travel with less hassle.
Even outside the realm of camping, a camper van can also be used as a daily driver. It doesn’t need to simply sit in a driveway and wait for the next RV trip. Instead, since a van is small, it can be driven for additional purposes beyond the yearly camping trip.
A van makes a perfect solution for full-timers which is why van life has taken off in recent years. It can provide a great living environment with such a small footprint that it can be driven anywhere without much trouble.
2. Less Travel Stress
If you have ever driven a large RV or towed a travel trailer of some type, you may be aware of some of the stressors involved in doing this. Well-seasoned campers may have no issue with it but for the less experienced, it can be a bit overwhelming.
With a large RV, there is always the added stress of being able to find a place large enough to park, turn around, or just get through traffic safely.
With a van, this type of stress is almost non-existent. You can simply hop in the vehicle and head out without much planning. There is no need to worry about a trailer being towed behind you or whether or not your rig will fit into your next RV spot.
3. Ability To Stop & Rest in Comfort
Traveling in a van gives you the opportunity to stop and rest as needed. Of course, you can do this when traveling in anything but the van makes it MUCH easier. The ability to pull into a rest stop or store parking lot and park in any normal parking spot gives you the flexibility to be able to stop no matter where you are.
Even when we are not on a camping trip, we generally drive our van for this purpose alone. It makes for an easier way to stop, get something to eat, take a short nap, fix coffee or food, use the toilet, or do any other thing we might need to do. All of this while parked in a standard parking space.
We have done this many times as we have stopped at grocery stores or restaurants and eaten our food in the comfort of our own van dining area. If you get tired on a long trip, having a camper van with a bed and other comforts gives you the opportunity to pull into locations like this and get some shut-eye. In my opinion, it’s a safer way to travel even if you are using it for other purposes beyond camping adventures.
Even on trips where a hotel or other living arrangement was the end goal, the camper van has served as a great way to travel and offers us lots of comfort and amenities while on the journey.
4. Easy to Park and Blend In
Once you have stopped and settled into your desired location, you will have no problems being parked in an area where other cars are coming and going. Rather than taking up additional parking spaces as a larger RV might do, you’ll be nestled in tightly amongst other vehicles. With a bigger RV, you may not have enough space to even park or could be asked to move if you are in the way of others. You won’t have this issue in a van.
Not only that but you will also blend in with your surroundings easier. Rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, you look as though you’re just another vehicle parked in a parking spot. Some people may not even know whether it is a camper or just a work van.
5. A Camper Van Can Be Used For Multiple Purposes
Unlike a standard RV, a class B van could have multiple uses. I use my van for all kinds of purposes beyond adventure excursions. I am often using my van to haul lumber or larger items that might not fit in other vehicles. It makes it handy when I need to pick up something from a hardware store and it’s raining outside. The van can be used to easily load a larger item and keep it out of the weather while I drive it back home.
Of course, this will depend on the layout of the van inside. Some vans may not be flexible enough to provide an open area for hauling loads. However, many RV manufacturers of class B vans have considered this and often include beds and other areas that convert or can be folded up out of the way.
As an example, the Storyteller Overland van has a rear bed that can be stowed out of the way to make room for a passthrough area. This area can be used for storing large items or simply making it easier to walk through. Check out the van below in the video to see this feature.
Some vans have access space for you to haul a motorcycle or bicycle inside. I have often hauled my bicycle inside my van just to take it on a bike ride somewhere. The van makes it easy to store the bike inside and take it out when needed and I don’t have to worry as much about it getting stolen while I’m out on the road.
Try this in a larger RV and you won’t be able to do it. It’s not likely that you’ll drive your class A RV to Home Depot so that you can pick up some lumber. It wouldn’t be ideal with nearly any other type of RV or motorhome. The van stands out among the crowd of RV types as something that can be used for camping and traveling but also can handle other uses without a problem.
6. A Camper Van Gets Great Fuel Mileage
One of the best benefits of a camper van is the money-saving benefit that it has with lower fuel mileage. You’ll be able to drive further per gallon of gas which, in the end, will add up to a lower-cost trip in the long run. I have often been very surprised at the fuel economy of my van. Even when up and down mountain roads and hilly terrain, my Promaster van gets great fuel mileage for a gasoline engine.
The RAM Promaster 2500 that I have with its V6 engine, generally averages between 15 – 20 miles per gallon.
This is the type of fuel mileage that you might expect from any full-size vehicle which makes it similar to driving a personal vehicle around. When compared to larger motorhomes, you’ll find that a class B is going to give you the best bang for your buck in terms of fuel mileage.
7. Easier Maintenance
Another great benefit of owning and traveling in a class B van is that you can generally take them anywhere for service. Rather than finding an RV dealership, these can generally be taken to any dealership or mechanic that can do the job. Oil changes are easy no matter where you are. The only problem that I have run into with my camper van is the high roof. I have taken my van to one dealership that didn’t have a high enough bay to service it.
This usually isn’t a problem as most dealerships have at least a few tall bay doors to accommodate higher roof vehicles like this.
Otherwise, the standard maintenance items that you would expect on any type of RV are easy to maintain on a camper van. Since they have a smaller footprint, there is less maintenance required and the roof is easy to reach, systems are generally small and easy to work with.
Beyond maintenance, washing a van is considerably less work than washing a large RV.
There are many benefits to owning and traveling in a camper van. It’s a no-brainer if you are interested in adventure travel and want a small home to carry along on the journey with you. Having a larger one presents some issues that many people don’t consider.
Anything larger than a class B RV will often require you to tow another vehicle so that you can have a drivable car when you get to your destination. With a van, you have the benefit of being able to drive away in your van at any given time which eliminates the need for a towable car.
If you are looking for convenience and a way to travel lightly while reducing travel stress, a van may be perfect for you. It has been an amazing journey as I have traveled in my van and often feel grateful that I do not have the struggles that come along with driving a large RV or towing a large camper trailer.
It’s nice to be able to have the convenience of a motorhome in the small footprint that a van provides. Because of this convenience, many have been able to enjoy van life and the ability to travel freely to destinations all over the globe.