5 Tips for First Time Vanlifers - Native Campervans

5 Tips for First Time Vanlifers

Tips Vanlifers

It’s finally time. You’ve dreamed of this moment for months if not years. You’ve seen countless movies, tik-toks, and Instagram feeds from friends, family, and influencers taking to the road to explore breathtaking landscapes in a camper van. It’s finally your time! If you’re renting a van for a week or weekend or taking the leap to start a full-time van life adventure, it’s difficult to know exactly how to prepare for your first trip. A first-time van trip comes with a little bit of a learning curve. Let’s face it – you don’t know what you don’t know. We’ve put together the five tips that first-time vanlifers need to know to have a successful trip! So, let’s get into it.

  1. Packing Smart
  2. Plan Your Itinerary Ahead of Time
  3. Reserve Your Camp Spots Before You Go. Or Find New Ones on the Fly
  4. Grocery List Planning
  5. Enjoy!!

vanlifer tips
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1. How to Pack for Your Camper Van Rental

Starting off with one of the first tips for vanlifers is packing. Part of an awesome camper van experience is packing smart. You don’t have a ton of space in the van, and you don’t have the luxury of multiple pieces of large luggage (even though our Biggie Campervan has a massive garage!). Hard-shell luggage is also a big no-no when renting a campervan because it is hard to store and isn’t as flexible as a duffle bag or backpack.

First, packing smart is to seriously consider the activities you have planned. Will you be doing a lot of hiking? If so, think about packing your clothes and necessities into a backpacking pack. You can use the pack to transport your clothing while traveling. When at your van, you can unpack and take your bag out on your hike.

Everything you pack should have multiple uses. For example, pack long pants that you could wear through brush dense areas or throw on at night to keep you warm. A long jacket or sweatshirt could keep you warm around the campfire and act as insulation or an extra covering as you sleep. 

Packing appropriately also includes packing necessities like hydration tools, sunscreen, and more. If you are traveling in the summer, you’ll want to read our article “7 Tips to Keep Cool in Your Campervan.” Make sure you’ve packed or plan to rent sunshades, fans, water bottles, and more summertime necessities.

Something to remember

If you’ve purchased one of our campervan rentals in Denver, Salt Lake City, or Las Vegas, you don’t have to worry about packing basics like a coffee maker, blankets, or pillows. However, if you’ve recently purchased a van, you may need some items to set yourself up for success. We’ve compiled a list of necessities every vanlifer needs to make the most of their time on the road.

A few items that aren’t included in your rental but are available as an add-on would take your trip to the next level include:

Before you complete your packing completely, make sure you check out our article “10 Mistakes to Avoid on Your Next Road Trip” to make sure you avoid common packing mistakes!


2. Plan Your Itinerary Ahead of Time

More tips for vanlifers is the itinerary! You don’t want to spend your precious vacation time planning your itinerary while you’re on the road. We suggest planning out your route ahead of time so you know how much time it will take you to get to each place on your list.

Spending a few hours before your trip looking at maps and plotting your route will save you countless hours while out on the road. Also, you never know when or where you won’t have cell phone service. The last thing you want to do is drive for hours in the wrong direction!  

In addition, more and more National Parks are requiring reservations or a permit to access. Researching and planning your itinerary ahead of time will ensure you can access all the parks and hiking trails on your list.

If you’re not too keen on planning your own itinerary, we’ve got you covered!

If you’re picking up in our Colorado location, check out:

Our Las Vegas pickups can choose from:

Salt Lake City adventurers have a multitude of itineraries to pick from:

Those are just a few of the itineraries that we’ve compiled for our renters. Whether you need winter campsites, summer go-to’s, or fully built itineraries take a look through our itineraries page.


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3. Reserve Your Camp Spots Before You Go

Depending on the time of year you plan to rent your campervan, campsites may fill up six months in advance of your trip. Summer is the most popular month for campervan travelers, and without a reservation, you may not be able to camp at well-known or service-heavy campgrounds.

Not sure where to start in planning your trip? Check out “5 Ultimate Camping Apps for a 2022 Vanlife Road Trip.”

Camp reservation issues can be avoided if made in advance OR if you are comfortable searching out dispersed campsites. Dispersed campsites don’t have the services that well-known campsites have such as toilets or showers. The upside of dispersed campsites is that you don’t need a reservation and you can come and go as you please. We’ve put together everything you need to know about dispersed camping. Many dispersed campsites can be found on popular camp reservation apps as well! The vanlifers tips don’t stop there.


4. Grocery List Planning

After you pick up your van and before you head off on the road, you’ll want to stop at a grocery store to stock up on your food essentials. You may not know what you’ll want to eat each day or what is feasible to cook in your campervan. We’ve compiled the top 5 meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner to start you thinking in the right direction.

Planning your grocery list ahead will help you breeze through the grocery store and get on the road to start your adventure.

And remember, you can never have enough water!


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5. Enjoy!!

Finally, ENJOY! You are on vacation after all! Connect your phone to Bluetooth, play your road trip tunes, and have fun! It can be tempting to stay connected to your work, friends, family, and responsibilities back home. Our last suggestion for you is to read our article on Digital Detoxing to help you get in the right mindset. We hope these tips help you feel like real vanlifers.

We can’t wait to hear all about your trip when you return!


If you’re looking for a high-quality campervan rental make sure to check out our van options for your next trip. Availability is scarce in our peak months, so don’t wait to reserve your camper.

Additional Resources for First-Time Vanlifers:

Check Out Some Awesome Vanlife Itinerary Inspiration:

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