Vanlife has become more than just a way to travel, with more people choosing to live full-time in their campervans and motorhomes. The vanlife lifestyle allows people to travel the UK, Europe, and further afield with all the comforts and familiarities of a standard home in the back. But it’s so much more than what you see in the Instagram posts – vanlife offers location independence, a way to cut costs in a cost of living crisis and a way to live slower and more purposefully.

What’s the ultimate guide to vanlife?

My ultimate guide for vanlife considers everything there is to know about the lifestyle from where to go to the toilet, keeping warm, showering, obtaining water, doing laundry, living with pets, meeting other vanlifers, and overall safety when living full-time on the road in a campervan or motorhome.

Here I answer all your burning questions about the reality of vanlife. Vanlife is the perfect lifestyle for those who love travelling and getting close to nature, as long as you don’t mind living in a small space. The lifestyle has countless considerations worth looking at before diving into a camper van purchase. Hopefully, my vanlife guide can provide clarity for some of the most asked questions you might have!

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The Ultimate Guide To Vanlife 

Researching various aspects of vanlife is wise as it allows beginners and newbies to assess if the lifestyle is the right for them, and the adjustments worth making to ensure a positive experience on the road. 

Where Do You Go To The Toilet Living In A Van?

Where I go to the toilet in my campervan is probably my most asked question, and it’s an easy one to answer - I use a toilet! Campervan toilets differ from standard household toilets as they aren’t plumbed in and connected to a sewer. There are many different types of campervan toilets with cassette, composting, and macerating toilets being a few. I’ve found the most success with toilets that separate solid and liquid waste, as the mixing of both is what tends to cause a foul smell. 

Purchasing or building a toilet in your campervan isn’t a must, however, and many choose not to do so. Including me! When I bought my camper van it came with a toilet, but to this day I have never bothered to use it, instead opting for nature wees, campsites or public toilets. If you’re parked in a built-up area, it may be possible to rely on public toilets, and when parked at a campsite, facilities are on your doorstep so you don’t necessarily need a toilet in your campervan build. 

How Do You Keep Warm Living In A Van?

Keeping warm when living in a van is another hot topic, and it’s essential for staying healthy and comfortable while travelling. Installing a diesel heater is arguably the easiest, low-effort form of campervan heating. It entails connecting the diesel heater to your campervan’s power, and either tapping into your diesel tank or using a separate jerrycan to fuel the heater.

Log burners are a preferred form of campervan heating for many, but they do require more effort when installing than a diesel heater. It’s also worth mentioning you’ll need to get wood to burn and this can be expensive to buy from shops. It’s possible to forage wood though this isn’t always tolerated so it’s best to proceed with caution or ask permission from the landowner. 

How Do You Shower Living In A Van?

Showering when living in a van is fairly simple, with some vanlifers choosing to include a shower in their build, and others preferring portable options. A shower built-in to a campervan will either have its own water tank or will be plumbed into the main fresh and grey water tanks you have on board. There are numerous considerations when installing a shower in a campervan such as making sure the water is contained and won’t leak, and fitting a water heater for hot showers.

Portable, rechargeable showers are a great option if you’re unable to install a shower in your campervan. Portable showers are generally similar in function, with a submersible water pump able to bring water from a bucket or container up to a shower head so you can enjoy an outdoor shower, taking in views of nature. 

Read: 10 Vanlife Essentials You Need For Your Campervan

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Where Do You Get Water Living In A Van?

Vanlifers tend to get water either from campsites or petrol stations in the UK. When travelling Europe, especially countries like France, it’s easy to get water from specific campervan-only areas called aires, but we don’t typically have these here in the UK. Public taps are generally a favoured option for vanlifers who aren’t staying on a campsite, as these taps are free and can be found all over the country. 

How Do You Do Laundry As A Vanlifer?

Although it requires sufficient power, water, and space, it’s possible to install a washing machine in a campervan, though most use public laundrettes, Revolution Laundry, or Wash Me machines. The hardest part about doing laundry in a van is getting everything dry enough if there aren’t any dryers available! Having a quality heating source helps considerably with this, and thankfully clothes dry fast in such a small space.

Can I Live In A Campervan With A Dog Or Cat?

Living in a campervan with a dog or cat is achievable with countless travellers on the road living with furry companions. Vanlife can be an ideal lifestyle for cats and dogs as you can be around them for substantial lengths of time, they are safe and warm in your home on wheels, and every time you move they are introduced into a new environment which can be great for confidence.  

How Do You Find And Meet Other Vanlifers On The Road?

Vanlife festivals are one of the best ways of finding and meeting other vanlifers on the road. Knowing you’re part of a community is wholesome, and gives solo travellers the chance to integrate into a like-minded community, engage with others, and share stories and tips. 

Parking at known vanlife spots is also a way of meeting other vanlifers, but be mindful of parking in a large group in a non-designated campervan area as this can be intimidating for locals. Aside from meeting people in person, social media and various online vanlife groups can be used for getting to know others and making new friends. 

Read: Wild Camping For Campervans In The UK (2024 Guide)

wild camping for camper vans in the UK

Is Vanlife Safe? 

Vanlife is safe provided you take the precautions necessary to stay safe and secure as much as possible. Installing an alarm, upgrading locks, and making sure you can reach the driver’s seat from inside your campervan are just a few ways of keeping safe on the road. As a solo female traveller, I also like to keep close friends and family up to date with my travels and when I am likely to be in touch. Sharing my journey on Instagram is a passion of mine, but I’m always cautious about the information I’m giving away such as my live location. 

How Do You Make Money Living In A Campervan?

Making money while living in a camper van involves either having a remote role and being a digital nomad, or completing seasonal work such as fruit picking, campsite stewarding, or festival work. Working on the road means you can support your vanlife adventures, take your van to a garage if it breaks down, and generally have back-up funds in case of an emergency.

Read: How To Get Wifi For Your Campervan

Is It Realistic To Live In A Van?

As vanlife is an alternative lifestyle, it’s not surprising to learn some people are baffled and confused at the idea of living in a van! Although house prices in the UK have decreased, it’s hard for many people to jump onto the property ladder, especially young individuals. Living in a campervan provides a fully functional home with a bed, kitchen, bathroom, water tanks, and heating, therefore making vanlife a realistic lifestyle.  

Read: Choosing The Right Campervan Insurance