5 Tips for Traveling with Friends by Campervan
By Carly Eisley
Camper van trips are an amazing way to explore wild and beautiful places. Who doesn’t love a good road trip? There are plenty of articles and tips out there for traveling solo. Lots of info on romantic trips. A plethora of ideas for traveling with kids. But what about stuffing 4 adults into tight quarters and hitting the road? With the right mix of planning and personalities, traveling with friends might just be the best vacation(s) you’ve ever had!
1. Choose Wisely
I have a lot of wonderful people in my life. They are not all cut out for sleeping, cooking, eating, losing shoes, finding dirty socks, etc, etc, etc. in a van with me. If you’re thinking about a campervan vacation with some friends, FABULOUS. Just…. choose wisely. You’ll be in tight quarters for multiple days, with no escape. Your travel partners should be flexible, fun-loving, and all of a (somewhat, at least) similar disposition. Think easygoing, roll with the punches, changing plans on the fly. Laughing until your stomach hurts multiple times a day required. Ideally, you’ve traveled together in some capacity before because… well…. not everyone travels well. Just saying.
The group’s idea of fun should fit together like puzzle pieces. Decide what kind of trip everyone wants to take. Music festival? Hiking and running? Strictly sightseeing? Beach days? Everyone needs to be on the same page, and ideally of *roughly* the same physical ability level. This isn’t the time to try to stuff the square peg in the round hole. If Susan doesn’t want to do (or physically can’t manage) a mega hike in the Grand Canyon and you do, don’t take her there and try to get her to change her mind. Disaster will ensue.
2. Know Your Role
Inevitably, everyone will fall into a bit of a routine. If you’re lucky, it just happens naturally. In our traveling foursome, I’m the planner…. the destination research, route planning, campsite reservations, and navigating are my forte. The two guys rotate the driving duties. One person is the head chef while the rest of us help with meal prep (i.e. drink beers). One person is in charge of morning coffee (a VERY important position). Dishwashing duty gets shared (ish…. I avoid it whenever possible, sorry). We just sort of ended up that way, and it works great. If you need a bit more structure to your group, assign roles pre-trip so that everyone knows what piece they are responsible for. Share the wealth and the work.
3. Pack Smart
This is not the trip for your giant hard-sided suitcase. Pack light and use duffel bags that can easily be tossed around and smooshed into different areas of the van. Storage is a premium so be wise. Think about what you will be doing and pack for that. Planning on running/hiking/camping every day? Skimp on the “regular” clothes. Be prepared to re-wear things. Except for your underpants. Pack plenty of those, please.
4. Shop Smart
Agreeing on some general meal ideas and creating a grocery list before you get to the store is a HUGE help in getting through the aisles and on the road quickly. Divvy up your list among the group so everyone is responsible for filling a cart and getting out the door.
Agreeing on how you will eat is important as well. 3/4 of our gang is vegetarian, and I only occasionally eat meat. This makes it super easy for us – its veggie all the way while in the van. This makes food storage easy too… no worrying about spoiling the meat.
Besides the food, there are some things you will want to upgrade in the van kitchen when cooking for 4 adults.
- We bring our Hydro Flask cups, which serve as coffee mugs in the morning and beer glasses at night. Everything stays hot/cold…. perfect!
- The pots and pans that come with the van are a little small when trying to cook a pasta meal or stir fry (some of our favorite “dump everything in the pan and enjoy” kind of meals after a long day of hiking). We upgraded the pan situation with a cheap wok (literally $5), a cheap stock pot, a colander, and a big plastic bowl. An extra $20 or so went a long way to making mealtime WAY easier.
- Another addition you’ll want to make is a cooler for drinks and food overflow. I’d recommend bringing a high quality big soft-sided cooler bag (take it as your airplane carry on!) if you have a nice one, or picking up a cheap styrofoam cooler at the store when you’re loading up. The styrofoam ones kept things cooler much longer than the cheapie plastic one we bought on our first group trip and worked perfectly for beers and the rogue vegetables, etc. that couldn’t fit in the refrigerator drawer (I’m looking at you broccoli and cauliflower).
Check out the “stuff for sharing” boxes at the depot at pickup to look for this kind of stuff, and leave your additions there when you drop off…. sharing is caring, and your fellow van travelers will thank you!
5. Get Organized
Four adults heading off on an adventure vacation can end up with a LOT of stuff. Get familiar with the nooks and crannies of the van and figure out where you are going to store things right off the bat, to avoid losing something like your shoes (or your mind). If you can get your hands on the Big Sur model, this is the way to go for sure. No worrying about packing up the bed up every single day for driving, and then back down at night (this may have caused a slight meltdown at a campsite one night…. just a slight one).
Agree on which cubbies will house food, gear, your bags, etc. and try to stick with that throughout the trip. It will end up in some level of organized chaos (I mean really…. how well can you really organize eight filthy stinky sneakers and 12 pounds of salty crunchy snacks. Please pass the Chex mix), but at least you’ll probably remember where everything is at the end of the day.
So there you have it. A brief guide to enjoying van life with your buddies. Because enjoying the outdoors, braving scary hikes, seeing the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen, laughing until you can barely breathe, and driving around in a rad, brightly colored van is ALWAYS better with your best friends.