#VanLife: 10 Road Trip Tips

Dreaming of going off the grid in a camper van? Travel photographer Alison Turner shares the reality of life on the road and the best and worst parts of traveling by van. Get inspired to hit the road on your own adventure with these helpful planning tips.

Photo By: Alison Turner

Photo By: Alison Turner

Photo By: Alison Turner

Photo By: Alison Turner

Photo By: Alison Turner

Photo By: Alison Turner

Take Advantage of Public Lands

My dog Max and I stumbled across a huge amount of public lands in Utah near Coral Reef National Park. Here we are enjoying the sunset on top of Campy, our camper van, in the Factory Buttes.

Take Time to Unwind

Besides coffee in the morning, one of my favorite moments on the road is at the end of each day when I stop driving and Max and I unwind at camp. Sometimes I just recline on the hood and watch the sunset. Max prefers the comfort of the pop top.

Use the Van for Photos

I like to use the van as a tripod or frame for photos. I always try to find a unique angle. Here’s the famous highway heading into Monument Valley with Campy’s passenger window framing the landscape.

Get Away From Light Pollution

For $10 a night, you can camp on the edge in Gooseneck State Park in Utah. The skies are so clear at night and not a city light in sight. Max and I had the park all to ourselves this visit.

It's Not a Pretty Instagram All the Time

Traveling by van isn’t always glamourous. There are times where you get messy, dirty and completely exhausted. I try to save money where I can and the parking lot at Walmart is one of those places. Here’s Max and I relaxing in Campy in a Walmart parking lot overnight for free. It’s a good way to regroup for the next leg of the adventure.

Be Spontaneous

Often times, I don’t plan on where I will end up for the night...sometimes for good reason. I took a chance here off the road at Dirty Devil Camp near Lake Powell. It was dark when I settled in for the night and what a view it was to wake up to!

But Keep Some Structure

Max and I have a daily routine on the road. We get up and take care of business, then it’s coffee and writing time before breakfast. Then more walking afterward. After our walk, we decide on the direction the day will take us. Here we are in the coffee stage of the morning.

Relax in Hot Springs

Hot springs are great way to relax after driving for hours. There are many in Northern California and some National Parks have hot springs open to the public. Or if you drive about thirty minutes on an unpaved road near the Alvord Desert in Oregon, you’ll come across this secret hot springs. Max and I had it to ourselves for the time we were there.

Pull Off From Time to Time

It’s always a good idea to slow down and notice the little things. There is so much beauty around if you stop and look. Here, Max and I are soaking up the sunny California coast. 

Plan Routes With Free Camping

If you're traveling to National Parks, research free camp areas nearby. You may not find anything inside the park but usually there's something close by. Here we are taking a moment to soak in the silence and watch the sun at Joshua Tree Lake RV and Campground near Joshua Tree National Park. The campground offers free camping all along the dry bed lake.

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Road Trip Guide