Traveling long-term in a van is a dream for many, but it requires meticulous preparation to ensure a smooth journey. At The Van Conversion Guide, we’re experts in getting your van ready for the road. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you prepare your van for long-term travel.

Cleaning Your Van

Why Cleanliness Matters

A clean van isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s about ensuring your vehicle is in top condition. Dirt and grime can hide potential issues. Regular cleaning can help you spot problems before they become major concerns.

Detailing and Buffing

Giving your van a thorough detailing can make it look brand new. Consider:

  • Exterior Wash: Remove dirt and road grime.
  • Interior Clean: Vacuum and wipe down all surfaces.
  • Buffing: This can remove minor scratches and give your van a polished look.

Preparing Your Bed

Choosing the Right Mattress

Your bed is where you’ll recharge after a day of adventures. Consider:

  • Size: Ensure it fits comfortably within your van.
  • Material: Memory foam can offer good support.
  • Protection: Use a mattress protector to prevent damage.

Linens and Pillows

  • Material: Opt for breathable fabrics.
  • Storage: Have a dedicated space for your bedding.

Storage Solutions

Why Organization is Essential

A well-organized van can make your life on the road much easier. Knowing where everything is can save you time and reduce stress.

Shelving and Compartments

  • Custom Shelves: Tailor them to fit your belongings.
  • Hooks and Nets: Great for hanging items or storing things you need to access quickly.
Item Storage Solution
Clothes Drawers or hanging organizers
Food Supplies Sealed containers on dedicated shelves
Camping Gear Storage bins or under-bed storage

Packing Essentials


Less is more when living in a van. Only pack what you truly need. Consider:

  • Clothing: Opt for versatile pieces.
  • Kitchenware: Multi-use items can save space.
  • Entertainment: Digital options can reduce clutter.

Packing for Easy Access

  • Frequently Used Items: Store them within arm’s reach.
  • Emergency Supplies: Always know where they are.
  • Seasonal Items: Store them away when not in use.

Climate Control

Staying Cool in the Heat

  • Ventilation: Ensure good airflow.
  • Shade: Park in shaded areas or use window covers.
  • Fans: Battery-operated fans can be a lifesaver.

Warming Up in the Cold

  • Insulation: Proper insulation can keep the cold out.
  • Heaters: Portable heaters can be used with caution.
  • Warm Bedding: Invest in a good sleeping bag or blankets.

Maintenance and Upkeep

Regular Check-ups

Routine maintenance can prevent major issues down the road. Regularly check:

  • Oil and Fluids: Keep them topped up.
  • Tires: Ensure they’re in good condition and properly inflated.
  • Brakes: Check for wear and tear.

Addressing Minor Issues

Small problems can become big ones if ignored. Address them promptly. Consider:

  • Scratches: Use a touch-up pen or get them professionally fixed.
  • Dents: Some can be popped out; others might need professional attention.
  • Interior Wear: Seat covers or mats can protect against wear and tear.

Money Matters

Handling Debt

Before you hit the road, ensure your finances are in order. Consider:

  • Budgeting: Know where your money is going.
  • Debt Management: Try to pay off debts or ensure you can manage them on the road.
  • Emergency Fund: Always have some money set aside for unexpected expenses.

Banking on the Road

  • Online Banking: Manage your finances from anywhere.
  • Mobile Apps: Many banks offer apps that allow you to deposit checks, pay bills, and more.
  • Cash: Always have some on hand for places that don’t accept cards.

Legal Considerations

Traveling in a van offers unparalleled freedom, but it’s essential to be aware of the legal aspects to ensure a hassle-free journey. From parking regulations to local laws, staying informed can help you navigate the challenges of van life confidently.

Parking and Overnight Camping

Understanding where you can legally park and camp overnight is crucial. Many cities have specific regulations about where vans and RVs can be parked, especially overnight.

  • City Regulations: Some cities prohibit overnight parking in certain areas. Always check local ordinances.
  • Private Property: Always get permission before parking on private property.
  • National and State Parks: Some parks allow overnight camping, while others don’t. Always check in advance.
Location Overnight Parking Allowed? Notes
City Streets Varies by city Check local regulations
Walmart Parking Lots Often, but not always Store manager discretion
National Parks Some, with a permit Campground often required
Rest Stops Some allow, with time limits Varies by state

More on Navigating Legal Aspects for Van Life

Local Laws and Regulations

Different regions have different laws concerning van life. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with local regulations, especially if you’re traveling across state or country borders.

  • Window Tinting: Some states have regulations about how dark your windows can be tinted.
  • Emissions: Emission standards can vary, and your van might need to be tested.
  • Insurance: Ensure your insurance is valid in all areas you’ll be traveling.


Before embarking on your journey, it’s essential to ensure you have access to healthcare while on the road.

Last-Minute Health Appointments

  • Dental: Schedule a check-up to address any potential issues.
  • Vision: Ensure your prescription is up-to-date.
  • Primary Care: A general check-up can help identify any health concerns.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance can cover unexpected health emergencies, especially if you’re traveling internationally.

  • Coverage: Ensure it covers the regions you’re traveling to.
  • Medical Evacuation: In case of severe emergencies, this ensures you can be transported to a suitable medical facility.

Travel Visas and Documentation

If you’re planning to travel internationally in your van, you’ll need to be aware of visa requirements.

Visa Requirements

Different countries have different visa requirements. Always check in advance to ensure you have the necessary documentation.

Country Visa Required for US Citizens? Stay Duration
Canada No, for stays up to 180 days 180 days
Mexico Yes, tourist card required Up to 180 days
European Schengen Area Yes, for stays over 90 days 90 days in a 180-day period

Changing Visa Rules

Visa rules can change. Always check the latest regulations before traveling.

Staying Connected

Staying connected while on the road is more comfortable than ever, thanks to modern technology.

Phone and Communication Solutions

  • International Plans: If traveling abroad, ensure your phone plan covers international roaming.
  • Wi-Fi Boosters: These can enhance weak Wi-Fi signals, ensuring you stay connected.

Data Plans and Wi-Fi

  • Unlimited Data: Ideal for those who work on the road.
  • Public Wi-Fi: Cafes, libraries, and some campgrounds offer free Wi-Fi.