Simple Tips for Long Van Drives

Long drives are probably the least enjoyable part of van touring, especially long motorway slogs, but if you want to explore the world in your camper they are a necessary evil.  Avoiding them will seriously limit your potential #vanlife adventures so the best thing to do is to come up with a number of coping strategies.

I appear to have an unusually high tolerance for driving, able to keep pushing on for vast distances across Europe’s road networks; it is one of my superpowers!  Which is useful as most years I complete 3-4 trips across Europe, covering thousands of miles in each, and often driving solo.  So here are my top tips for making long drives bearable…

1.  Stop stopping… I know that driving is boring and the temptation is there to take a break, but every minute you spend stopped you are extending the total journey time.  So, I discipline myself to drive at least 3hrs and ideally 4hrs between stops and only allow myself a short functional break (nip to the loo, top up fuel) unless it is a mealtime.  This might sound relentless, but if the satnav says the drive is 10 hrs, and you stop for 20mins every couple of hours, you are going to take closer to 12hrs to get there and, in my experience, taking those stops are not going to make you arrive feeling any more rested…

…if the satnav says the drive is 10 hrs, and you stop for 20mins every couple of hours, you are going to take closer to 12hrs to get there…

2. Entertain me…  Driving is often incredibly dull, so the key is to do something else which is more interesting.  My preferred distraction is audiobooks, but podcasts work too or even engrossing radio shows.  I find music doesn’t work as well because generally it is too passive, unless you are singing along at the top of your voice!  It is an individual thing, but find something that keeps you engaged enough to retain your interest but not so much it distracts you from actually controlling the vehicle!

3.  Cruising along…  It may not be an option for your vehicle, but I now consider cruise control an essential in a campervan.  I managed to get it retrofitted in my VW T5.1, The Dub, for a fairly reasonable £170 and it has been worth every penny.  The ability to fidget, move your feet into different positions and in general do one less thing whilst cruising along makes the whole process less physically uncomfortable.

It is not always good news, but Satnav’s are getting ever more accurate…

4.  Which way now?  The last thing you need on a 12 hour drive is navigation related stress, or even worse, a wrong turn that extends your journey.  I make sure that before I set off I have my satnav programmed and, if there are a choice of routes, set to my preferred option, and then follow it faithfully.  I personally use the TomTom app on my phone, but often back it up with GoogleMaps so if I have reason to question the directions from TomTom I can toggle across to Google to see if it agrees.  Gone are the days where I try to drive across Europe with a road atlas open on the passenger seat beside me!

5.  Preparation is everything…  We all know that you are unlikely to find anything healthy in a service station, and even if you do you are going to pay through the nose for it.  But it’s ok because we have campervans!  So stock up on drinks and snacks at home before you leave or a supermarket and use the power of the campervan, especially with a fridge, to save yourself money and keep energy levels up for all that driving…

Fresh and tasty!
Preparing your own meals is cheaper, and pretty tasty too!

I hope you’ve found this blog useful and maybe it has empowered you to explore a little further in your van.  I put together some general tips for happy #vanlife in a past blog here, and if you are curious about The Dub, our adventure sports camper then there is a series of blogs on its metamorphosis starting with this one.

Wherever your #vanlife travels take you have fun!

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