Vanlife Hacks in the USA
Our favourite tips and tricks for making your USA roadtrip even better
Bring real maps! Whether that’s a road atlas or a OS map of the National Park you’re visiting, believe us, when you’re in the middle of the Utah desert and you have no GPS or phone signal, you’ll thank us. We are so reliant on technology these days that it can quite a shock when you can’t use it.
Buy Screw top white and rose wine. If you don’t finish your bottle and it has a cork, you can’t lay it down in your fridge drawer! Alternatively, to save space in your fridge you could decant wine into a smaller empty water bottle.
Pack or buy Fairy lights for the inside of your van. When it gets dark outside, the campfire is dying down and it’s time for bed, or if the weather is bad and you want to retreat into your van, battery powered fairy lights are perfect for illuminating the inside of your van so you can see what you’re doing. Plus they make the van look really homey and relaxing.
Attach a bungee across the van at night time and use pegs to hang up your head torches, keys and anything else you might need to find at night time.
Rotate your cold drinks – As soon as you take a beer or coke can out of the fridge, put another one in. It’s a routine you quickly get used to, and you will appreciate it SO MUCH when you get back from a hike and everything is icy cold. We do this with water too - buy a Walmart multi pack of 24 bottles for about $3.50 and rotate them in the fridge. Keep the empties to refill at water stations, which allows you to be less frugal with how much you drink. Trust us, dehydration is a big deal in the US, especially in the summer, and you don’t want to be rationing what you drink. Also be sure to collect any empty bottles you don’t reuse in a carrier bag so that you can recycle them when you see a recycling bin.
Walmart/McDonalds are great for WIFI. Depending on your phone contract, internet data is not guaranteed in the US. We got into a routine of once or twice a week, either when we did our Walmart grocery shop or when we stopped for a coffee in McDonalds, to sit and use the WIFI to send photos to family, check emails etc.
Buy an America the Beautiful pass –This pass covers a car full of people entry to all of the National Parks for a year, and is so worth the initial expense! It’s $80, and considering most National Parks are $25-$30 to go in, if you’re planning on visiting 3 National Parks on your trip, this will save you money. Any more than 3 and you’re laughing! It also enables you to be spontaneous and pop into places that you stumble upon for free – we had some time to kill before our night in the Walmart carpark, in Page, Arizona, so we decided to spend the afternoon swimming and sunbathing at Lone Rock Beach, a reservoir that we happened to drive past on our way out of Utah and just out of Page. It should have been $25 entrance, but because it’s part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (run by NPS) it was covered by our pass! We probably wouldn’t have bothered if we had had to pay.
When you eat in a fast food restaurant, keep the salt and ketchup sachets that come with your meal to use on the road – it saves you buying a whole new ketchup that you won’t even use half of on your trip. We do this with sugar sachets too, no need to buy a whole bag!
Campground showers are often on a timer – you typically get 2 tokens for $1. We would use the first token time to wash your body and face, then when the water cuts out, BEFORE you put the next one in, lather your shampoo, shave etc, THEN put in your second token to rinse off. That way you won’t run out of water and still be soapy!