Have you taken the first steps to full time van life and now wondering what you need to do?
Whether this transition is one you have been dreaming about for years or perhaps a sudden impulse to live in your vehicle, we are here to help you out and ensure you have covered all of your bases. Full time van life is often a cheaper option than living in a house but it isn’t for everyone.
By now, you likely have the van already and are almost finished with the conversation. (I say that but a van conversion is never really finished!). You have made the decision and thought about how wonderful your new life will be. A simpler, more minimalist life. You look around your home and all you can see is ‘STUFF!’
Fret not. Here is a list of what you need to do.
CANCEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN.
1 Cancel your council tax. This could take a month to arrange and new bills/refunds to calculate. You need every penny so make sure you do the boring council tax bit! Some councils allow you to do this notification online so you don’t even have to talk to anyone. A cheque may be sent to your address so it’s helpful to be there or have your post redirected! (More on that later).
2 Cancel TV licence. It can be tempting to just cancelled your direct debit however you can be paid up to 6 months ahead. You may be entitled to a refund. Whilst we are talking about the TV licence, by UK law even if you have no fixed abode but a TV in your motor-caravan (or tablet /phone where you can stream the TV) you should still have a TV licence – if you have a home with a TV licence and that TV is not being used at the same time you can technically use your home TV licence to cover you. There is a lot of talk about how anyone would know and whether you could get away without having a licence. Please do your own research and make your own decision, I’m just here to tell you the facts associated with full time van life transition!
3 TV/phone/internet cancel all of these again giving your last day at the address. Be prepared for some charges, depending on your contract.
4 Gas, electric and water. Make sure you get the meter readings and report these to the utility companies. Take a picture if you need proof but don’t end up paying for someone else’s use!
5 Extra bin collection. We pay extra at our address for a garden waste bin. This needs to be cancelled or again, someone else will benefit financially. These are often on auto renewal set ups so cancel that direct debit!
6 Home and contents insurance. So easy to overlook when packing but anything related to the house needs to be notified of your exit from the property.
7 Mail. Options include leaving a forwarding address, redirecting your mail, a company such as boatmail who will scan and email or forward your mail to a destination as required. You may wish to also change you address with as many places as possible as you may not want your Dr’s letters being opened by the next occupant.
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL MY STUFF?
1 Sort out what you NEED first. Space is an issue in a van. Make a list of the bare necessities, essential items and keepsakes. Once you have those items sorted you can start to look at what room you have left.
2 Sell some stuff! More money and less hoarding. You can use apps such as ebay, gumtree and shpock to sell things without leaving the house or hold a car boot sale. This will enable you to convert belongings to travel funds and boost your finances.
3 Recycle or upcycle. Upcycling is big at the moment and bulky furniture can be a blank canvas for a facelift. Why not try to find a local furniture upcycling group who may take that old chest of draws off your hands. We found a recycling waste company that delivered a skip and will recycle our items for us. This means less waste to landfill.
4 Storage is another option. Whether you have a friend with an empty garage or look at renting a unit, this option means your belongings should be safe in case you need them again.
WHAT YOU NEED TO ARRANGE
1 Photocopy documents. Take photos/ scans of important documents such as driving licence, bank cards and passports. This way you have all the details should they get lost or stolen.
2 Breakdown cover. If you haven’t already organised it you need to sort out cover. Don’t forget that you may need to confirm with the company that they can take the size of your vehicle. You don’t want to have a break down and then find out that the company you are paying wont help you due to size. Often this needs to be in place for 24-48 hours before it is active so give yourself time..
3 Emergency back up plans. Should something go wrong with the van you need to ensure that you have a back up plan, financially and with regards to accommodation.
4 Spare parts. Bulbs, fuses and fuel filters are a good idea to carry as well as using YouTube, Haynes manuals and ask on forums to see if you can fix a job yourself. Get recommendations from the van life community on trusted tradespeople.
5 Bright torch. either for dodging the frogs by the lake or being able to see under the vehicle, you need a really bright and reliable torch!
6 Always have a bag of change ready for car parking or public toilets!
THE FIRST 24 HOURS – WHAT TO EXPECT
Emotions will be high. you will be anxious and excited. You know that this isn’t going to be a walk in the park but you feel you have everything sorted out. Then you realise you still have possessions in the house that you haven’t decided what to do with. You have no choice but to throw them in the van. THIS ISNT PINTEREST. This is the reality of van life. It gets messy quickly. You are constantly battling for space and shifting things from one place to another.
It took us a full week of packing and unpacking, re-boxing, re-evaluating and ultimately getting rid of loads of stuff that we brought along with us.
1 It’s not uncommon to get ratty with each other when living in a confined space.
2 You will be busier than when you were at work and wonder where all of your time is going.
3 Plan ahead for water refills and toilet cassette emptying points.
4 If one of you is not feeling comfortable about sleeping in a certain location, you need to move. Listen to each other and respect their opinions. It is too small a space to argue!
5 Get comfortable with different smells, and quickly. Bodily functions happen, even if they are all glitter and sparkles! Respect when someone needs to use the toilet and go for a walk!
6 Top up your fuel tank when you pass somewhere with cheaper fuel. it may not be much that you add, but the money you could save will add up over the month! See how you could save money when travelling
7 Dry shampoo – buy it in bulk! Use it outside as it makes the van dusty however if you don’t have access to a daily shower it will be your best friend.