There's nothing like planning your next big road trip and the last few years have given me a real taste for the open road. Last summer saw me working to convert a van into an awesome camper for an epic three week road trip around Europe and while I've shared a few posts on where we visited, I wanted to explain the route we chose. It can be so intimidating to plan a big trip, especially when you have to think about camping spots, food, fuel and lots of other factors. But honestly, taking a road trip is one of my favourite ways to travel and it's super cost effective if you're traveling on a budget. I've taken road trips all over the world and I've found it to be one of the most fun, and affordable, ways to travel.
When it comes to traveling Europe, it's a perfect way to explore when so many countries are so easily accessible. At the time of my trip, I was living in Germany, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to take our van on an epic trip to lots of new countries and cities we had never visited before. We wanted to choose a blend of city and countryside, of lakes and mountains, to ensure we had the best possible experience. It still remains one of the best road trips I've ever done and I can't recommend the route we took enough. We ended up traveling just under 3,600km in a loop through Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, even spending a night in France along the way.
This stretch was one of my favourites but also included a lot of driving. We drove seven hours overnight from Hamburg to Saxon Switzerland National Park and arrived there for sunrise, after a kip in the van, we headed out exploring and spent a day in the park. We found a place to park up for the night and slept at the park, before spending some time hiking and exploring. Once we had seen everything, we headed to Dresden. An afternoon was a perfect amount of time to see all the sights in Dresden and to catch some afternoon sunshine before driving to Prague.
We spent a full and busy day exploring Prague and while we could have easily spent longer there, it was enough time to see the sights and enjoy the city. We spent another night at a campsite just south of the city, but enjoyed cocktails with friends who were also visiting there. The next day, we took a lazy drive to Vienna, stopping off to see some sights in the Czech countryside. Then we spent the next day walking around beautiful Vienna in the sunshine and gorging ourselves on Viennese desserts and pastries. After a lazy afternoon by the river, we hit the road and arrived late at night in Attersee where we camped out by a lake and spent much of the next day sunbathing and picnicking by the water. A slow afternoon drive to Salzburg to check out the city before heading on to Munich.
It was a packed itinerary until now, but our goal was to get to Munich where we were visiting family and had a place to stay for a few days. Cue parking up the van and heading out on bikes exploring the city of Munich from the gardens and the architecture, to the breweries and food markets. After that, we headed on our way towards the border of Germany, Austria and Switzerland where the mountain ranges stood, and we visited Zugspitze. Taking cable cars up into the mountains where there was snow at the top, but it was 30 degrees down at the base. We spent an afternoon there before camping for the night and heading the next morning to Neuschwanstein Castle – best to get here early to beat the crowds.
Leaving behind the beautiful castle, it was time to take an unplanned detour through Liechtenstein which turned out to be the best part of our trip! A tiny country and easy to road trip in a day, it's perfect to add to your itinerary. We drove to Vaduz and then through the winding mountain roads (read about our day in Liechtenstein here). Then we headed on to Zurich where we spent an afternoon walking the lakes and city, trying delicious hot chocolate and cheese fondue.
From Zurich, it was a few hours to Basel and well worth planning this charming city into your trip. Plus you can easily head over the border and into France from here, we actually spent a night in France on our trip. Just a few hours is plenty to see Basel and indulge in a few treats from the various chocolate shops around. We camped for the night at a beautiful lakeside campsite – definitely look out for these and try to book in advance as they get very booked up during the summer months. The next day, after a few hours by the lake, we drove to the Black Forest where we headed to Triberg for the waterfalls and some Black Forest Gateaux. We spent the night camping at another lovely campsite before starting our drive to Frankfurt the next day, taking a slow drive and stopping off at lakes to swim along the way. Our final day was spent driving the long stretch back up to Hamburg – this could easily be broken up by stopping along the Fairytale Road to see castles along the way.
The beauty of this road trip itinerary is that it can so easily be changed and modified to suit you. In our case, we had a fast paced journey at the beginning with lots of driving so we could spend more time relaxing in southern Germany. But you could easily spend more time in Prague and Vienna, and spend just a day or two in Munich before heading to Switzerland. You could even skip one of the countries to spend more time in the ones that you're most excited to explore.
The beauty of a road trip is that the world is your oyster, you can chop and change your route, you can plan it out completely, you can make it up as you go along. It's up to you! We planned out a lot of our route before we went, we had names saved for campsites just in case, but we also changed a lot of our route along the way. We ended up staying at totally different campsites, we even sneakily free camped in a few spots, and we added in a few extra places along the way.
If you fancy combining the open road with a boat holiday or yacht charter, you could extend your trip and book Zizoo boat rental across several European destinations, including Croatia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy and many more. It could be the perfect way to take a break from driving, while still enjoying a relaxing holiday.
For those who work while traveling and require safe browsing whether they're on the road, or staying in hotels, I'd suggest using a virtual private network (VPN). Nobody wants their banking info or credit card numbers to get stolen by hackers when they're on holiday, so protect yourself against risk. For more information about how VPNs work and which one is the best one for you, check out this beginner's guide: https://proprivacy.com/
Have you been on a road trip around Europe? Which countries would you like to visit? What are your best road trip tips?
Vanlife has exploded across the travel scene over recent years. The phenomenon has become one of the most sought-after travel experiences for young wanderlusters. Perhaps it's the endless freedom or the return to a simpler lifestyle that appeals. Or perhaps many have just realised that living in a van can give you a way of travelling long-term on low costs – it sounds pretty appealing right? I hear it all the time, from people who have travelled a lot, to those who have barely seen outside their home town. So many have this beautiful dream of converting a vehicle into a home and of taking off and seeing the world. Whether it's driving across outback Australia, travelling across Europe or even just driving around the UK. It's a great way to see a country in a new light and to experience a level of freedom you can't even imagine.
I've always loved road trips, but I never really experienced living in a van until I met my boyfriend. He had previously spent years driving and travelling around in his own van across New Zealand and Australia. I joined him on an epic road trip just a week after we met. We travelled over 4,000km together on that trip and have since had more amazing road trips across Australia and Europe. Our most recent was a few months ago when we spent 3 weeks driving across Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and France in our newly converted Sprinter. You can read all about the plans for that trip here. It was an amazing trip and I'll be writing more about it over the coming weeks/months. But first I wanted to start off with a post about the 5 things you should focus on when planning a road trip or converting a van. It's an exciting and daunting task, but one that could pay off hugely if it gives you the freedom to travel.
SUCH an important thing to remember when planning your Vanlife travels. By investing in both of these you will make your life so much better once on the road. Consider whether you will need to weather-proof your van and need to make it suitable for winter as well as summer. You may need insulation for the colder months. Make sure you spend time on making your bed and don't just go for a cheaper/easier option. We had an old slatted bed frame donated by a neighbour which we cut to fit the wooden bed frame we built. This gave extra support and a bit of suspension so it wasn't just a hard box. We used a big section of foam and cut it to size for the mattress. Then filled our bed with pillows and warm duvets. Don't forget, no matter how warm it is during the summer, it does get chilly at night and is always better to have too many layers than not enough. We also made our bed frame removable so we could have more floor space in the van if necessary by removing the end section.
When it comes to storage, more is always better. Plan your van design around storage, it's great to build it into the frame and design so everything remains compact and tidy. There's nothing worse than living in a tiny van that is just a mess of stuff. At the end of the day you want to be able to crawl into bed without having to move everything. We created so much storage that we actually never had to store things on the bed. We had a massive section under the bed with big boxes where we stored food and cooking equipment, then along the side of the bed we had a big section for camping gear which we could also use as a bedside table. Behind the drivers' seat, we also used smaller crates stacked on top of each other which we picked up in IKEA and screwed together and into the floor. These we used for clothes, toiletries and other bits and bobs which meant we didn't have to leave things lying around for security. Plan well and you'll never find your van crowded or too small, trust me, it will change your whole vanlife experience!
Being a gal who never travels without her phone, camera, iPad/laptop and music, I need access to power to charge items and I never want to worry about running out of juice. On our Europe trip, I loved being able to practice more photography and to edit photos in the evenings. There are lots of ways to make sure vanlife doesn't mean living with your battery on red. One thing I wish I'd had when we were in Western Australia was a solar-powered battery pack. It was 40 degrees daily and constant sunshine so it would have been a great way to recharge. For our Europe trip, we invested in a power pack for the van which would recharge as we drove using power from the van's engine. We could choose when to recharge and once fully charged, it would run for days depending on how much power you used. It was expensive at around €500, but an investment for us because we knew we would be using the van long-term.
Looking for a more budget fix – why not invest in some really good portable power packs? I was sent the Juice Extreme, a fast charge power bank which is designed for life on-the-go and works perfect for road trips. It stores 2.5 full charges for an iPhone 8, Samsung S8 or Android phone and is great for a day of exploring a new city. It proved a lifesaver for me when exploring Vienna and Prague this summer, or for long afternoons of driving and needing a quick boost for directions. With a strong rubber coating, it's dust and waterproof which is great for travellers like me who love the beach, and it even protects against impact damage. Finally, it has a tiny LED torch which is handy when you're trying to find your camp spot in the dark! Retailing at £24.99, it's a great investment and I never leave home without it in my handbag.
One benefit of living in a van is that you can prepare all your meals yourself and don't have to waste money on eating out. It's worth stocking up before you travel on basics like pasta, rice, beans, and breakfast items like muesli. Having a good basic store of these things mean no matter where you are. Or even if you break down in the middle of nowhere, you won't go hungry. The same applies for things like water and toilet roll, it's worth getting a tank of water with a tap for your van. We never travel without one and it means we have lots of water for cooking/drinking. Going prepared will also mean that you don't get caught out with expensive shops. In Western Australia, shopping was expensive so we always waited until the bigger towns to pick up essentials at larger supermarkets. Likewise, in Switzerland, we avoided the shops altogether because of the extra expense. Instead we stocked up beforehand in Austria.
Insurance is an obvious one, but be sure that yours is comprehensive, covers all your drivers and third party damage. Also be sure you know what your breakdown cover includes so if the worst happens, you know what to do and who to call for the best support. Always make sure you take the vehicle for a service or do all appropriate checks before a big trip. Read this post for a list of top checks to perform. When it comes to permits, be sure to check if you are driving through several countries, which permits are required. For example, when we were driving through Austria and Switzerland. We had to get special permits from petrol stations along the road but they were tricky to get. Be prepared, it's always better to do a little vanlife research before you travel, than to get a huge fine when you return home.
For us, this was a huge part of making the van our own. We were so proud of the building work and the bed frame. But it was the decorating that really got us excited and started to make it a home. I wanted it to be as cosy as possible, our own little cave to escape into. We visited some of the vintage and Indian shops here in the city, where we picked up some great Vanlife decorations. I found a colourful chakra tapestry which we used to cover the roof of the van. With some huge black pashminas to add some great little storage pockets and tassles hanging down by the windows. My boyfriend picked out some Nepalese flags for a little travel inspiration and some more colour, and we picked up lots of fairy lights from IKEA and Primark to make it cosy. And I picked up a few extra pillows with nomad-style prints to make it extra comfy. I still love everything about our van. It's a colourful mish-mash of our personalities and the places we've been, it tells a story. And even better, we had so many compliments on our epic ride as we travelled around Europe. I already can't wait for the next vanlife experience!
Have you converted a van – how was your vanlife experience? Have you always dreamed of travelling in a van across the country?
I've been desperately trying to hold myself back from posting this one until now, but now it's finally time to share our exciting travel plans with you all! I've hinted on social media but held back the final itinerary while we finalised our plans, but now it's official, I have left Hamburg on a three week road trip across Europe and I couldn't be more excited to share this with you all. Those of you who follow this blog will have seen the renovation of our Sprinter van into a camper van for road tripping. Now I can tell you the reason we worked on it so quickly was because we were already planning this amazing trip!
The plan is to drive around 3,000km during the three weeks and to see as many new places as possible and we really wanted to make sure to really take in the amazing German countryside along the way. It will be the first time I have ever visited any of these places, and I'm excited to be taking in a real mixture of stunning European countryside and beautiful old cities. I love culture, heritage and history and it's something I've really missed after spending so long in Australia. While Oz has it's own kind of history and heritage, it doesn't compare to the beauty of Europe's old charm, winding streets and beautiful architecture. By having Hamburg as a home base, it really has opened opportunities to travel while keeping things budget and time-friendly.
First I'll be driving from Hamburg to Saxon-Switzerland National Park on the border of the Czech Republic where I plan to spend two days exploring the stunning park. I will then drive on to visit Prague, a city I have always wanted to visit especially since my trip to Budapest. Then from Prague to Vienna, we'll spend a few days in each city before heading into the countryside. Driving through Austria, I'm also hoping to stop off in some beautiful places outside of the cities, taking in some of the gorgeous Austrian countryside. After this, we will drive to Munich where I'll be based for around a week. Time will be spent taking day trips to nearby Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria and the Austrian lakes.
Around this time I also plan to travel to Switzerland for two days to hopefully see Zurich and some of the countryside – I've always wanted to see Switzerland so I'm really excited for this – and possibly to Liechtenstein as well. The final week of the trip will see me driving back up towards Hamburg via The Black Forest and the legendary Fairytale Road which I can't wait to see after a magical trip to the forests on Rügen Island in May. I even studied fairytales as part of my literature course at university, so seeing the places that inspired such stories will be amazing. I'll be stopping in Frankfurt on the way back up to Hamburg before I start work.
As you read this, I will already be on the road and hopefully somewhere near Prague or Vienna! Naturally I'll be capturing every moment on camera and will be sharing it all with you later on, but you can keep up to date with our adventures by following me on social media – Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – where I will still be posting updates from every step of the journey. I will still be posting twice-weekly on this blog while we are away – thanks to being super organised and managing to put together lots of lovely posts for you all – so be sure to keep checking on here for all the latest from my travels. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a few weeks on the road with no laptop – sometimes it's so necessary to just switch off for a while and to enjoy the world around you. So that's exactly what I'm going to do. Out of office on. Engage holiday mode. See you in three weeks!
For road trippers, car checks are a vital part of ensuring your vehicle survives the trip. And yet they can often be the one bit of preparation that is forgotten. Eager to get on the road, many are quick to head out without looking under the hood. But if there's one thing I've learned from over five years of solo travel and vanlife, it's to always be prepared. Travel is a learning curve and the best way to become a good traveller is to learn quickly from your mistakes. That means wising up when things go wrong and seeing what you could have done to prevent it.
We've all had our fair share of travel calamities and I've definitely had quite a few when it comes to road trips. But the most important thing is to keep your sense of humour when these things happen. Accept that things can always go wrong and you can only be so prepared. The more you can adapt and pick up skills you can use the next time you travel – the better. So because I know I'm just as guilty of doing this. I wanted to share this post on the simple car checks you can do before a road trip.
Driving Australia's West Coast with a group of travellers, from Perth to Darwin. It was no small road trip with over 4,000km to cover. My friend had taken her car for a service and check-up before the trip to ensure it was safe. But the garage must have forgotten to screw on one of the bolts for the wheel. We were driving along the highway when she noticed something was wrong. Then suddenly the wheel fell off and the whole car was lop-sided. Thankfully they had been pulling over to park at the time so no-one was hurt. But it could have been very dangerous, and it was expensive to get towed and fixed.
An ex-boyfriend was driving up the West Coast to meet me in his van so we could drive the rest of the way together. But spookily, around the same area where the wheel fell off for my friend, his van suddenly broke down. He was stuck on the highway with the engine billowing black smoke. Now only did he have to get towed back to the town. But he ended up having to trade his van for a car! We still finished the road trip and loved that car.
I planned a road trip across Bulgaria with some friends and we had just picked up the hire car, parking it on the street. We went to get a bite to eat and returned five minutes later to see our vehicle was clamped. Luckily the fine wasn't too bad but we did end up wasting a lot of time.
Read: 15 reasons you should road trip across Bulgaria
This one was hilarious but a total pain in the arse. I had just spent a weekend in Brighton with an ex-boyfriend and we were on our way home. It was a hot day, and we had the top down in his convertible as we cruised down the M25. We couldn't hear the noise at first but after a while we noticed the grinding, scraping sound of metal and we had to pull over. When I looked under the car, the entire exhaust had fallen down and was dragging under the car. It was a mess, a long wait for recovery, very expensive and still three hours from home on a bank holiday. Not ideal.
So how can you prevent this from happening on your next road trip? Be smart, be organised and follow this checklist I've created. It features all the things you should check on your vehicle before any long journey. Spend a bit of time doing this before each trip. It could save you hours of standing by a windy motorway waiting for the AA man to show up after his Sunday roast.
Car checks don't all have to be done by you. Get a second opinion if you don't know enough about cars. Schedule regular check-ups for your car or van. Make sure you get any concerns looked at. Don't like the sound of that noise? Have it checked before you go.
Top up the fuel, the oil and even things like brake fluid and window washing liquid. Make sure your brake pads are still okay. Check the tyres have enough tread and if they need topping up.
You'd be amazed how many people are driving on the roads without insurance. So make sure you have a comprehensive insurance that covers you for all situations. This includes third party damage, and if you're doing any off-roading or parking in unusual spots.
Don't leave your lights on! This can run the battery down very quickly so be careful to check the inside lights when loading or unloading the car. If you leave the doors or windows open because of the heat then turn all lights off. Always make sure the engine is fully off and don't let your battery run down.
Check the rubber for any bulges or tears, drive carefully and avoid broken glass. Also, make sure the tread is still within the legal requirement. If you're planning on off-roading, be sure your tyres can handle it! Pack chains if you're driving in the snow.
Always pack for emergencies. On long trips it is smart to pack a torch, first-aid kit, blanket and some basic tools. Plus water and extra snacks in case you get stuck somewhere. Whether you break down, crash or simply get stuck in a mega traffic jam, it's always good to have supplies.
If you're planning a long trip, it can be helpful to have a navigation system. Don't just rely on your phone unless you're sure you'll have coverage everywhere. Garmin are good if you're looking at getting a Sat-Nav. But it does help to keep a back-up map in the car in case of emergencies.
Extra weight of overpacking places extra strain on the vehicle and can use a lot more fuel. Pack smart and find ways to reduce the amount you take. If you're road tripping long-term and have a roof rack full of stuff - arrange it carefully to be as streamlined as possible. Trust me, it makes a HUGE difference to how much fuel you consume.
Be smart about your travel times. Avoid hitting traffic or rush hour and you could save a lot of fuel and wasted time. Travelling late at night or early in the morning is great, open roads and not a soul in sight.
Here’s the deal if your car isn’t up to par then you’re either going to have to get it fixed up (which can potentially cost a lot of money) or you should sell it and upgrade to something better. IF you happen to take the route of selling your car one option to consider is Junk That Car, they state that they typically pay $500 or more in cash for junk cars. So, if you are thinking of selling it could be a smart choice.
Most importantly, once all the checks are done. Relax and really enjoy every second of your trip! Make it the trip of a lifetime. Even if things do go wrong, it isn't the end of the world. It just means another funny story to tell afterwards. The most important thing you can pack when things do go wrong is perspective. Take a deep breath, take care of it and then sit back until you're on your way again.
What was your worst road trip experience? Can you think of any other important car checks before a road trip? What was the best road trip you ever did?
Happy WA Day! Just a short post today as I'm just having one last breakfast at my favourite Fremantle cafe before heading back to the hostel to finish packing and get on the road. Yes, that's right, we're finally setting off on our West Coast adventure after weeks of organising and waiting. It seems only right that we should set out on this amazing trip on the day that is all about celebrating what is great about Western Australia. I'm excited for that feeling of freedom that you only get from living on the road, camping out under the stars every night and spending your days on the beaches.
I can't wait to not have a care in the world, after working so much for so long, I'm more than overdue for a holiday! You may laugh but I work a heck of a lot when I travel, if I'm not working crazy hours in a bar to save money, I'm working to tight deadlines for articles and posts as a journalist/blogger. It never stops, this feeling that I should be working, and yes I've admitted before I'm a bit of a workaholic but I also know when I need a good break from it all. So I'm taking the next few weeks for me - I'm focusing on having fun, exploring the world and having lots of adventures to tell you all about in my upcoming blog posts.
I'll still have a few blogs posts to come that I've had time to organise before now, but I'm not going to think too much about pressuring myself to write when on the road. The thing about travel is that you have to live it, to throw yourself into every moment, experience and exciting opportunity that presents itself. I plan to do exactly that because travel comes first. Keep up with my adventures via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Now that the new year is well and truly underway, it's about time I gave you a little life update. This blog has been a little infrequent the last few months and I know that means many of you actually have no idea where I am right now. Well, after a month of flat-hunting and staying with friends as I job searched, I can now officially say I am all settled in my amazing new flat right in the middle of Melbourne city, I have an awesome job working in a rooftop bar, and life feels pretty damn incredible. Once again, Melbourne feels like the home I've been waiting for and I couldn't be happier to be back surrounded by all my amazing friends, and a whole heap of new ones. I know the blog posts have been few and far between since I left England again, but between Bali, Cairns, road tripping through Tasmania and now Melbourne - it's been pretty hectic. Life just got in the way and I won't apologise for that, because life is exactly what this blog is about - living every second to the max. And I can assure you I've been doing just that.
Yesterday was officially my two year travel anniversary, just two months ago I hit my 30th country, and I'm already making plans for the next exciting year of travel. I'm still the same girl who left home two years ago, I still have the same best friends at home, the same family and I'm still happily single and independent. But I'm also an amazing new version of myself - happier, brighter, bolder, crazier and ready to take on the world with every step. I'm capable, I'm knowledgeable and quite frankly, I know exactly what I'm doing, I don't second guess myself. It's the best version of myself I've ever been and I plan to keep taking steps to evolve and grow myself in this direction, I can't see any reason why not to. So for all the people who have asked when I'm coming home, or when I'm going to stop travelling. My answer is who knows, whenever I get bored of growing as a person, learning, changing and being happy - but it won't be anytime soon.
If you haven't seen my post from just before New Years, check it out here to read about my travelling highlights from 2016. It was a year of serious highs, and one serious low, but you can't live the highs without having the lows to compare them with. I use the lows to add fuel to my fire and make plans for the future, it's the one thing that pushes me to make snap decisions and to book the trip, or take the plunge. So for all those girls out there who message me almost daily to ask about their relationship problems, or choosing between love and travel. Two years on, I will still say that choosing travel over love was the best decision of my life, that we remain the best of friends but both say this was the best thing to ever happen to us. That choosing to keep travelling and forget the love that I found on the road was also the best decision I could have made, because I know otherwise I would have regretted it and been let down. It wasn't so much choosing travel over love, but choosing myself over people who would just let me down. That's not a selfish decision, it's a smart one and because I chose well, I have no regrets.
So what are the big travelling plans for 2017?
I'll now be settling in Melbourne for a few months to work and save money for my big West Coast road trip - hopefully happening around March/April - when myself and a friend will drive from Melbourne up to Darwin over a few months. I've been looking forward to this trip since arriving in Australia and I know it's going to be the best yet. Then up in Darwin, we'll be taking in all the National Parks as I work and save for my last few months in Australia - gotta make the most of these $$$.
After my visa runs out, I'll be having a month-long holiday somewhere in Asia - possibly the Philippines as I've been desperate to visit since I arrived in Asia. I'll be craving huge untouched beaches by then and a chance to relax and detox after Darwin. Then I'm hoping to be joined by one of my best travelling friends for a huge trip to South America where I'd love to spend a few months travelling as much as possible.
It's all just a vague plan at the moment and it may all change at the drop of a hat, but it's exciting to have goals for the year. So this year will be less countries ticked off, but I'll be crossing at least three continents and should hopefully get at least another five countries ticked off my list which is far more than many people around the globe. I'd say I'm a lucky girl, but I made all this happen by investing in myself and my trip. You can make it happen too, it's very easy, just make a decision to do it and you'll get there.
My New Year's resolution?
Forget all this "New Year, New Me" bullshit, I've been doing awesome the last two years so if anything, I'm planning to keep up my attitude to life and following my own bliss - the rest all falls into place as a result. Stop worrying about the small negative things and the rest suddenly becomes the everything you've been searching for.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Where do you plan to travel in 2017?