Traveling around in a campervan used to be a fairly fringe thing to do. After all, it wasn’t everyday you saw holiday-makers living out of a van/motorhome for a week or two. These days, however, it is extremely popular, and even the preferred mode of travel for many. So, why are campervan trips trending exactly?
The standard model of hotel stays has certainly not vanished, but it is competing more now with accommodation on wheels. Let’s look at why campervan trips are becoming so popular, and how you can get the most out of yours.
What is a Camper Trip?
A campervan trip is one in which you are travelling in and living out of a campervan while on holiday. Vans generally contain a bed fit for two adults and storage space for both personal items and supplies. These trips instill a sense of freedom in travelers that cannot be found in hotel stays: the freedom of mobile accommodation.
However, it’s important to consider that the level of freedom will directly depend on the country. For example, in some places it is permissible to park at a rest stop and spend the night for free. In others, like Iceland, free camping is illegal and travelers must stay at a registered campsite. Do your research, so you know the local laws before arriving, and make sure you check our guide to camping in Iceland if you're considering a trip to the Land of Ice and Fire.
The overnight stops vary massively when it comes to their facilities. Some rest stops and car parks in New Zealand are free for overnight stays, but only have a toilet. Established campsites may have kitchens and other amenities, such as hot tubs and restaurants. Some of the simpler campsites have a dry outhouse and no running water.
Additionally, in some countries, a distinction is made between self-contained and non-self-contained vehicles. A self-contained vehicle has to meet certain requirements to be classified as such; for instance, a portable toilet. Then there are places where parking is free and only self-contained vehicles are permitted.
Now, let’s look at some of the pros you can expect from taking a campervan trip.
Campervan Trips: The Pros
• Cheap/free accommodation. Campsites will always be cheaper than hotels or hostels. This frees up money for other activities, such as whale watching, ice caving and snorkeling. In addition to being budget-friendly, cheap and free campsites in Iceland and other popular camping destinations are often located near sites of interest, such as the beginning of hiking trails or popular natural features.
• Less time limits. Because your transportation doubles as your accommodation, you don’t have to rush back to a hotel or hostel. Instead, you can stay out and soak up nature for as long as you like; your bed’s waiting for you in the car park.
• Close to nature. In a hotel or hostel, you’re much more cut off from nature’s sounds and movements. A campervan allows you to experience it all up close, whether it’s the pitter-patter of raindrops or the cooing sounds of animals or insects. Some of the best campsites in Iceland offer a view on astonishing landscapes that you could not witness if you stayed in a hotel and that will be part of your memories for ever.
• Removal from modern comforts. This might sound like a con, but it can be a blessing. Most of us are so caught up in our warm houses, surrounded by technology, we forget what the pure wilderness can be like. Campervan trips remind us to be grateful for modern amenities, without throwing us into the jungle with only a knife
At the same time, these trips open our eyes to the fact that maybe we don’t need all the comforts we surround ourselves with everyday. Without these things, we are reminded of the value of minimalism. That’s not to say you can’t have a few gadgets to enhance your camper trip, but you won’t need as much as you may think.
• A more intimate setting. In the close confines of a camper, you’ll be as close as you can get to the person or people you’re travelling with. You might get sick of them, or you might find out more about them than you ever did before. Either way, relationships will be strengthened on a campervan holiday.
When is the Best Time for a Campervan Trip?
Although this depends on the destination, generally the summer of whatever country you’re visiting is best, as you’ll have a greater likelihood of encountering good weather, and less snow and ice to contend with while driving. And because many campsites only open in the summer months, you’ll maximize your options of where to stop.
In addition, many countries hold their biggest festivals and events in the summer months. So, if your plan is to attend live music and cultural events during your road trip, the summer is for you.
Another factor to ponder is whether you enjoy hot weather. When taking a campervan trip in Australia in summer, you’ll be exposed to temperatures of up to 40°C. This is enough to make most people uncomfortable (and doused in sweat!), so travelling in the spring or autumn instead might be worth considering.
When it comes to road trippin’ around Iceland, fortunately you won’t have to worry about the summer heat. The average temperature in Reykjavík in July is 13 °C, but it can hit 20 °C on a really good day. If this is too warm for you, the consistently cold ocean and numerous ice cream shops will cool you off in no time.
When it comes to planning the duration of your trip, you’ll first need to nail down your preferred driving route. A week is a fitting amount of time to relax into the campervan lifestyle, but with more than seven days, you’ll give yourself the opportunity to develop a routine in which van living becomes truly enriching.
Where are the Best Places for a Campervan Trip?
This small Nordic island has some of the most incredible opportunities for those wanting to complete an epic road trip. An Iceland campervan trip gives you volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, natural rock formations and more, all in one holiday.
The country’s main highway, Route 1, is a Ring Road which covers the majority of the island’s landscape. It passes through most main towns and gives easy access to some of the nation’s beloved natural features. You’ll have no problem finding accommodation very close to the Ring Road, and there are multiple rest stops for convenient breaks.
With the help of bridges and tunnels, the Ring Road cuts across most of the bigger fjords. You’ll still be close to the coastline most of the way, but you might like to take detours onto fjords. The Westfjords, Iceland’s north-western region, is one of the least visited areas and is not serviced by the Ring Road. Head there to avoid the crowds.
Access to the country’s biggest glaciers and three national parks lies in the south and west. Most national parks of Iceland have big campsites at their edge, where travelers can stay with their campervans, and multiple hiking trails to enjoy. Visiting and exploring at least one of them is a must-do while in Iceland.
Iceland’s natural features also include multiple black sand beaches, geothermal hot springs and geysers. In many cases, you can drive your car right up to the car parks that sit next to these sites.
Route 1 is only two lanes wide, and there’s no hard shoulder, so please don’t stop on the roadside. Wait for a designated stopping area to stretch your legs and take pictures. Additionally, be ready to meet lots of single-lane bridges. With these, it’s best to approach slowly and give way if the other vehicle was first.
The two islands of New Zealand have perhaps the best hiking trail and campsite organization. The well-structured Department of Conservation puts up detailed signage so travellers can easily reach points of interest and popular hikes. For a rural area, they are very well-priced and simple, providing great access to the best trails.s.
With numerous apps which help you find cheap or free places to park, New Zealand is a campervan Eden. Like Iceland, this country also has several glaciers, dormant volcanoes, and natural hot springs. With an average temperature of 20-25 °C in summer, be sure to pack plenty of shorts.
Not to mention New Zealand was the location for the filming of both The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Those fans who wish to see the filming sites could look into a self-drive tour to relive the films themselves. You can even hike up Mount Doom, which in reality is a dormant volcano known as Mount Ngauruhoe.
The hike to the volcano is part of one of New Zealand’s ten “Great Walks”, or famous hiking trails. These trails can take anything from one day to five days to complete, and all have campsites/car parks at their starting points. If you want to, you can avoid staying in a town or city completely during your time in New Zealand.
Like Campervan Iceland, several companies in New Zealand also rent campervans and motorhomes for a reasonable price. Therefore, you’ll have no trouble getting your hands on a well-kitted out campervan to live out of during your time there. The country is not huge, but a week on each island is the least you’ll need to explore them.
If you want to go bigger, Canada is the place to explore. As the second-largest country in the world, with a low population density, you’ll never run out of adventure stops. Canada is split into ten provinces and three territories, each decked out with a unique character and landscape. From huge mountains to empty deserts to swamp regions, Canada has it all.
If you like driving through forests decorated with gigantic trees, you’ll love life in the Great White North. You can go hours without seeing another car in the quieter areas, and campsites may be very remotely located. Free camping is legal here, but do your research first as some provinces require drivers to have a permit on hand.
British Columbia, Canada’s most western province, is renowned for its beautiful long drives and incredible scenery. The Sea to Sky Highway, a road which travels north from Vancouver, is highly recommended. And if you end up close to the border, why not cross over and experience a campervan trip in the US?
Traveling around the world in a camper
When embarking on a campervan trip, please follow some simple rules so everyone after you can live the full experience just like you have. Leave no trace, take only what you brought, and stick to the roads when driving. In Iceland, for example, driving off-road is illegal, as the plant life is too fragile to deal with cars.
After reading all that, there’s no doubt you’re in the mood for a thrilling campervan trip! Are you ready to commit? Book your cheap campervan today and jumpstart the first step in your adventure on wheels!