PAGE UPDATED: 15.5.2022
If you’re just starting out in van life you’ll know that every journey in your RV feels like an adventure, even if it’s just a Sunday afternoon drive somewhere local.
But the real joy of van life comes with the longer road trips to places you won’t have been to before.
However, going on serious road trips requires some planning, so here we’re going to look at…
- Prepping your van for the journey – the checks you need to make before going on extended trips
- Planning a road trip – top tips and ideas to help you take the stress out of your road trips
- What you’ll need to take with you – essential gear you need to carry in your motorhome or campervan
- Some great travel books – if you love reading check out our favourite holiday books
- Plus the stories of our 10 best road trips and stunning drives throughout the UK
Let’s get ready to hit the road…
Is your RV ready for a serious road trip?
We got our van back in 2017 and after a few local jaunts we soon headed off on our first road trip – without any proper preparation!
We jumped in at the deep end on our first major road trip (through the Peak District) when we came up against a hill far steeper than the van was designed for! The engine screamed its way to the top – just!
So, our first tip here is to get to know your van before going on a proper road trip. Familiarise yourself with how it feels to drive, the sounds it makes – and its smells! Then you’ll know if something is wrong.
The thing is that before you even think about planning the trip itself, you need to make sure your van is up to the task.
Our old VW is 30 years old and nowadays, before any lengthy trip, we always do basic checks, such as making sure the tyres are in good condition and correctly inflated. We’ll also check oil and other fluid levels and make sure our leisure battery is fully topped up.
Our solar panel keeps the battery charged but before fitting solar we would plug in to the mains at home to give the battery a boost before each trip.
RELATED CONTENT: See the German solar panel set up we now use
Other things to check on your motorhome before a road trip…
- When was the last time your RV had a habitation check? (To make sure all the appliances work and are safe to use; you don’t want gas leaking into the van!)
- When was the water system last purified? (You don’t want to get legionnaire’s disease on your trip of a life-time: it can kill you!)
- Do you know how to change the gas bottle if you need to? (We didn’t!)
Check out our blog post for all the things you need to inspect on your RV before a long road trip…
Road trip planning – tips and ideas to get the most from your adventures
Once you’ve got your vehicle fit for the journey you can really get focused on planning the road trip.
We’ve sometimes jumped in the van, eager to get going but with only a rough idea of how to get to our destination. Big mistake!
God knows how much time and diesel we’ve wasted going the wrong way or around in circles! Not much fun when you’re already tired after driving for miles.
So even though a road trip really is more about the journey, we’ve decided that it’s best to have a planned route and an itinerary.
Of course, there will be detours you have to make along the way but get your maps out or use your satnav and choose the best, most enjoyable, and perhaps most scenic route – which won’t necessarily be the fastest.
Van life road trips should never be about speed, especially if you have an older motorhome like ours.
Our top road trip planning tips will help keep everyone happy – including the kids on even the longest of journeys.
Road trip essentials – what you must take with you in your RV
Unlike travelling to your holiday destination by car (where you just throw a suitcase or rucksack in the back) a road trip in a campervan or motorhome requires more gear. Think about things like an electric hook-up cable (if you’re planning on staying at campsites on the trip).
As well as the EHU cable and extension lead we always carry…
- Levelling chocks – some campsites have uneven pitches
- A power inverter to charge our gadgets
- All the safety equipment we need such as fire extinguisher and fire blanket
- Florescent jackets – in case of a breakdown
- A good quality torch
- Steering wheel lock – some places you stay on a road trip might feel unsafe
- Spare fuses – always carry these!
- A quality first aid kit
Having all the safety equipment and essentials in your RV should be a given. Even if you’re hiring a motorhome for a road trip your vehicle should be well equipped.
But if you’re taking your own campervan – and you’re new to all of this – you don’t want to be leaving anything behind!
Top 10 road trips in the UK
So, you’ve prepared your motorhome, made some plans for the journey, and got the essentials you need for the trip. You’re just about ready!
But where to go exactly? There are so many amazing places to visit and scenic routes in the UK that you’re spoilt for choice.
Although we’ve not driven the NC500 yet (which, we’re told, is best avoided in peak season), we did cover much of the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye on our 1800-mile honeymoon road trip.
We love the hills of the Peak District and on one occasion met a road too steep for our van; we had to reverse all the way back down! Read the story in our best road trips below…
Our van would much prefer the flatlands of the North Norfolk Coast, another of our favourite road trips. Then there is the desolation of the North York Moors.
But most of all, we love heading to Wales and Anglesey where we have covered thousands of miles amongst the hills, mountains, and valleys, taking in some spectacular scenery en route.
Best books for holiday reading
For our longer road trips, a good book is as essential to us as an electric hook-up cable!
Hobo Gav fills one of our van’s overhead cupboards with some of his favourite reads whilst Trudi, sensibly, uses her Kindle to save space (and to cut down on the motorhome’s payload).
If you love reading as much as we do, you’ll need a few books (or a Kindle) in your van to while away the time when the weather’s not great outside or if you just want to chill out after a long day’s driving.
We’ve written some short reviews and synopses of our favourite vanlife and travel-writing books that will whet your appetite for some great holiday reading.
There’s a mixture of contemporary travel books and some all-time classics, perfect for those lazy days when you just want to sit back in your van and lose yourself for a while.
Remember to check out our Top 10 UK Road Trips.
And if you are thinking of hiring a motorhome for a road trip in the UK or Europe make sure you read our top tips about RV rental.
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