1. Converted or Not
Do you buy a van that's already converted or an ex-work van that you can renovate yourself? In most cases, the van that's already converted will cost you more so buying the ex-work van may be the cheaper option. However, there are all the hidden costs of converting it yourself. The main benefit of converting it yourself is you get exactly what you want and where you want it. For example, do you have a bed going longways so you can sleep without being cramped then loose room space? Or do you have it running perpendicular to the van to increase room within the van and sleep with your knees bent a little?
2. Summer or Winter Travel Plans
If you are planning to road trip during both winter and summer, then proper insulation will be key to controlling the climate of your van. We have had several problems with condensation in our van - the first time lead to us unnecessarily removing the roof vent and resealing it. Another thing to consider is that the cold will influence your batteries 'current capacity'. For every 1°C drop below 25°C, you will lose 1% in amp - hour (Ah) capacity. So at 15°C a 110 Ah battery will drop to ~100 Ah and at 5°C it will drop to ~90 Ah.
For summer road trips alone you can get by with minimal insulation if you have a well ventilated van i.e roof vent, fans and the height of your van will all assist with this.
3. Tall or Short Van
Both tall and short vans have their advantages and disadvantages. Taller vans will allow you to stand inside the van making general day to day things easier. It will also make your van feel like less of a 'hot box' during summer nights.
Shorter vans have a huge benefit when it comes to parking as a lot of parking complexes have height restrictions from 1.9 - 2.3 meters, making it impossible for taller vans. In the smaller van however, you will likely have to forgo having things like roof racks or the storage pod on top. The negative of the shorter van is that because the roof is closer to your bed, you will get a good feel of the outside heat if the van isn't insulated properly.
4. Leisure power or Alternator
It is possible to road trip only using the standard 12-volt port in the car. You will just need to buy a USB adapter and possibly a some kind of inverter if you need to power something above 12-volts. Although, if you have the cash to spend, there are a few options for adding additional electricity so you're not likely to run your battery dead.
The first option is connecting a leisure battery to the alternator via a split charge relay. It charges the battery whenever you drive and stores the power so you can use it later when the engine is off. Depending on the size of the battery, it is likely you can get at least a days worth of power without turning the engine on. A great use when you decide to go off-grid! This what we used and the only time it would go completely flat was if we tried to run the electric esky for 24-hours. Below is a video of our set-up.
The second option is to use 'shore power'. This involves installing an outlet on the exterior of your van so that you can plug into an external outlet (primarily at camp sites) and store that power in the leisure battery. We have something similar, but ours connects to a 240-volt system instead of the leisure battery. That way if there is an external power source we can charge our electronics without running out the battery. We can also use the inverter to power this system so we have more 240-volt outlets. Again, below I have attached a video of our set-up.
The last option is to attach solar panels to the roof of the van. This can be used to trickle charge the leisure battery during the day. Because we don't have solar panels on our van yet, I can't really comment on whether it is worth the money or not. Make sure you keep in mind about the desired height of your van if you are considering installing solar panels.
5. Fridge or 'Esky' (Cool box)
Unless you're willing to buy fresh meat or milk everyday, you will need to consider getting a fridge or esky for your van. In most cases this decision will be made for you if you don't have the appropriate leisure power set-up to run a fridge/freezer. For those who already have the power capacity, having a fridge or an electric esky will surely save you from throwing away food every couple of days.
6. Indoor or Outdoor Cooking
Again this may be controlled strongly by weather conditions. Obviously its easier to cook outdoors on warm sunny days, so if your planning on doing a summer road trip in Southern Europe, then an outdoor option works well. If you're planning to go further North or during the winter, an indoor option may be more favorable.
For cooking, you can decide to use electrical devices such as a stove top, microwave and oven or you can select from a variety of portable or fixed gas stoves. If you have a good solar set-up backed up with a strong battery bank then you could use a microwave or an oven. But for most vans who don't have that kind of set-up, a gas system may be the best option. You will need to consider however whether to use propane or butane gas. While butane will produce a greater energy yield per cubic meter, I have also heard that it is less efficient during low temperatures so it is likely less favorable for outdoor cooking or as a fuel source during winter road trips. For these reasons we selected a portable propane stove. Portable was the best choice for us because we have a short van and little bench space. But when you get views like this its not so bad.
We don’t normally pay for camp sites, but with a view like this, the €25 was worth it to spoil ourselves 💁🏼 ••••••••••• #cheaptravelproject #adventure #cheap #cheaptravel #travel #travelblogger #campervan #campervanlife #vanlife #wanderlust #beach #water #setup #perfection #vacation #holidays #traveller #notallwhowanderarelost #swim #explore #destination #bucketlist #campsite #views #hills #bbq #chillednight