9 Insider Road Trip Tips VanTokers Can’t Live Without

published Jul 13, 2023
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Whether you’re embarking on a road trip or taking to the skies, we have ideas for making your vacation as stress-free as possible. This content is presented in partnership with Hampton by Hilton; it was created independently by our editorial team.

Even if you fancy yourself a road-trip pro, it never hurts to take advice from experts. VanTok, the section of TikTok filled with videos from people who live out of their vans, is the perfect place for the road trip tips you didn’t know you needed.

Quick Overview

The Best Road Trip Tips, According to VanTokers

  • Plan where you’ll sleep each night.
  • Use overlanding apps.
  • Make your rest stops more fun.
  • Ensure your accommodations allow pets if necessary.
  • Get creative with your playlists.
  • Download your maps and entertainment.
  • Add a few hours to your trip when traveling with kids.
  • Park near other vans and RVs overnight.
  • Bring ear plugs and a sleep mask for optimal rest.

Planning to head out on your own trip in the near future? Before you stock up on snacks and put the finishing touches on your playlist, take inspiration from some VanTokers who know all about life on wheels. Seattle-based Marissa Lada (@honeylunehivery) and Northern Utah-based Rachel Sanchez, (@beboldlittleones) both started their #vanlife journeys in 2020. , while Sanchez takes hers out for trips with her husband and their four children. Bend, Oregon-based Katie Diederichs (@twowanderingsoles) and Ojai, California-based Jessica Reynaud (@jessicareynauddesign) also have husbands and little ones coming along for the ride. Diederichs and her husband got their first van in 2017, and Reynaud built out hers with her husband in 2016. 

Whether you’re traveling solo, with a partner, with friends, or with kiddos in tow, these VanToker pointers will have you ready to drive off into the sunset. 

Plan (some of) your stops. 

Yes, part of the appeal of the open road is going with the flow to see where the journey takes you, but a loose itinerary can be helpful. It’s not necessary to map out every stop on your road trip, but Lada suggests at least planning where you’ll sleep each night. “You don’t want to be driving around looking for a parking spot at 9 at night when you’re exhausted,” she says. 

Check out overlanding apps for multi-day trips. 

To help you build a general game plan, use apps geared toward overlanding, a type of off-road travel to remote locations. Both Diederichs and Lada recommend iOverlander to find campsites and other facilities. “That has helped me out so many times in finding free parking spots, places to take a shower, water-filling stations, things like that,” says Lada. 

Seek out fun stops. 

Road trips give you the opportunity to discover interesting locales on the way to your . And as Sanchez points out, those can be a great way to break up long drives with her husband and four kids. “We make sure we research rest stops or towns we can stop in that have a fun or unique playground, or something like that where we can take the kids out,” she says. For example, Sanchez has scoped out two awesome Utah-based stops in her travels: Saint George’s Thunder Junction All Abilities Park for an activity-filled stop catered to kids of all abilities and ages, and Meadow Hot Springs, which is situated in the middle of a cow field just south of Fillmore, for a mini spa break. But wherever you’re headed, a quick Google search for special stops along the way will help spice up your itinerary. 

If you have kids in the car, plan on adding a few hours to your drive. 

“Regardless of what the map says, with kids you can always add at least two hours to that,” says Sanchez. “More, depending on how long the day is. But for every couple hours of driving, we plan on a half hour of stopping.” 

Got pets? Double check with your accommodations.

This tip goes for campgrounds and hotels. “A lot of national parks don’t allow camping with dogs, or only dogs on leash,” explains Reynaud. “Most of the time the surrounding areas of national parks will have Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas that are free, still beautiful, and you can camp with your dogs.”

Share the AUX. 

After hours and hours on the road, driving can get dull. If you’re traveling with a partner or close friends, Diederichs suggests keeping things lively by having everyone create a playlist, and then take turns playing them for each other. 

Download online music and maps. 

“Before taking a trip, I always download the offline version of maps because I will undoubtedly be out of cell service at some point,” says Diederichs. This also means you might lose access to any streamed music or podcasts you plan to play in the car, so make sure everything you need is downloaded to your device before you hit the road.

If you plan to sleep in your vehicle, look for parking spots near other campers. 

Lada lives in her van solo and notes it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut when you’re on the road alone. If you’re looking for a place to park your vehicle, particularly if you’ll be staying in it overnight, she recommends keeping an eye out for locations where other RVs and vans are parked. “It’s very reaffirming,” she says. “It is a community, the RV and van life community, so if I find another RV or something parked in that area, I feel 10 times more safe.” 

Don’t forget ear plugs and eye masks. 

Another thing Lada notes about sleeping in a van: It can be noisy! “Even if you insulate a van amazingly, it’s still not a single story house, so you will hear noises more like rain, passing cars, etc.,” she says. If you’re a light sleeper or otherwise concerned about tossing and turning through the night, she recommends ear plugs, eye masks, and even stabilizing blocks if you want to prevent your vehicle from rocking.