Van Life Travels: An update and reminder during uncertain times surrounding the Coronavirus

A reminder that travel is a privilege and we have a responsibility to be put others first and pay attention.

These are uncertain times. ⁣

Where should we go?⁣
What will the government do next?⁣
Will borders close?⁣
Will we have enough food and water? ⁣
How will people respond and react to the unknown?⁣
Will our parents & grandparents be ok?
Our family who work in police, hospitals and as emergency responders, are they safe?⁣

In this season of our lives, we are privileged to have choices. We do not have jobs and children to consider. We have the ability to self isolate in our van sure, but we still need food and gas…⁣

I am torn about what to post and what to say, I hope your social media is staying a positive place through all this. We don’t feel panic but we feel a heavy sense of responsibility right now.⁣

In being good neighbors, good citizens of the world, we have a responsibility to listen to legitimate sources like the WHO and protect ourselves and protect others. A big message has been limit unnecessary travel…and for most of us on the road, in the van life and rvlife community…

listen up that’s us…

Stay put, this might seem like a great time for a trip to wherever…it’s not. Your travels are not more important than the communities you touch along the way.⁣

This is an inconvenience to us, we’re missing out sure, but it’s so much more to so many others. Our hearts go out to everyone, people are being impacted physically, emotionally and financially, and we owe it to them to behave responsibly. ⁣

Traveling is a luxury and a privilege, as part of the travel and van life communities I don’t want to spread fear, this serves no one, I want to spread the idea that, if this all amounts to nothing, you have lost very little by staying still and paying attention right now. ⁣

You can use this time to catch up, rest, save money, learn something new, call your grandparents. It doesn’t matter what side of this you are on, hopefully, this all blows over and the decisions were overkill but in the meantime friends. Slow down, lay low, wash your hands and remember this isn’t just about you.⁣

Our family pretty much unanimously agrees that they want us back in Canada, and we are on board for that. So instead of finishing up our time in the south with epic adventures, we are finishing up with long driving days.

We will also self isolate for 14 days when we get back as recommended by health authorities in Canada.

Sending Love from the road,

Kira, Logan & Holly🐾

Follow us on Instagram for updates

The Realities of #Vanlife Chapter 3: Summit Of Freedom

Our friends Orry, Carroll Marie, and Etta Rose have been on the road since 2018! We have known them since before they started their van build, not only are they full time they also built out their first rig all on their own! These three are our favorite full time family and share great inspiration and resources for traveling and living in a van with a little one!

IG @summitoffreedom

summit of freedom 2

Living in a van full time as a family is full of the good, the bad, and the ugly, but to us it couldn’t be any more glamourous. Our biggest motivation to quit our “9 to 5” lives and hit the road full time was getting to spend more time together as a family. The thing about van life is, the positives are often also the negatives. For example, we get to spend every day together traveling and exploring new places; however, it is hard to get alone time and impossible to have a date night while traveling full time. Our house is super tiny and takes approximately 15 minutes to clean the whole thing; however, put one thing on the countertops and the place looks like a wreck because it is so small.

Luckily for us, the cons don’t really bother us at all. We’ve always been a “better together” type of family, so the more time together, the happier we are. Our ever changing front porch view and seeing the world through the eyes of our daughter has brought more happiness and joy to our lives than any date night or dream house could. The biggest tip for traveling full time with a kid? It’s cliche, but have a good attitude. The same negative/positive principle applies. Kids are going to get upset, have a melt down, throw up, take a nap, or be hungry; however, they will also make you smile bigger, adventure more, love better, and remind you that even the smallest things (including a tiny home) can really be the best.

summit of freedom

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 4: Drifter Journey

Chapter 4 in our Series The Realities Of #vanlife features our friends Jess & Greg who have been full time since 2018!

Our friends Jess and Greg have been on the road fulltime since 2018! They balance working and freedom and have been sharing realities in Vanlife since the get go! We have included links back to a couple of great articles they have written. Be sure to check them out and go follow their journey:

IG@Drifter.Journey

www.drifterjourney.com

When it all started, we wanted to live in a van so that we could travel and do more things. We wanted to hike and bike new trails, soak in new hot springs, eat more tacos, check out new National Parks, you get the idea. Being able to do all of those things, and more, is definitely one of our favorite things about vanlife. In the last year, we’ve been all over the United States, and several other countries as well. We finally visited several places on our bucket list including New Zealand and we couldn’t be more thrilled about our adventures to come.
But there’s so much more to it than that. Living in a van and traveling has given us the opportunity to join a family of nomads that we didn’t even know existed. When we struck out on the open road, we had no idea that we would meet so many amazing people and end up with lifelong friends and travel partners.

Caravanning with other nomads is a really fun way to travel and we enjoy spending time with other people that have a similar take on life. We finally found a community that “gets us.” Not only do we have a nomad family, but we’ve also found a ton of people to mountain bike, climb, hike, and camp with!
The absolute freedom that we experience while living in a van is, by far, our favorite thing about this lifestyle. Since our living expenses are minimal, we don’t have the financial burdens that we used to have. Without a mortgage or a stationary job, we have the freedom to travel and do as we please. Being able to make choices for our own happiness rather than our obligations is something that we’re incredibly grateful for. It’s a characteristic of this lifestyle that we didn’t expect, but has become very important to us.

On the other hand, vanlife isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. We’ve written an entire post about the Real Worst Things About Vanlife. The short answer to that question varies by the day. It depends on the challenge we’re up against that feels insurmountable at the time. For us, there’s not one thing that bothers us all of the time, but there are a few things that tend to come up often.

One of the worst things that happens regardless of where we are is clutter. Keeping the van tidy is usually a lower priority than adventuring, so it can get out of control quickly if we don’t stay on top of it. The unfortunate nature of living in such a small space with two people and all of our gear is that sometimes there isn’t a place for everything. As much as we wish we could keep the van clean all of the time, it’s just not realistic. There are times when the clutter causes us anxiety and frustration. Mostly because we have a pile of stuff that gets shuffled all over the van throughout the day because it’s in the way. A tidy home is a happy home!

In addition to that, finding a level camping spot can be a chore. Just when we’ve found a good camp site, it will take us another 10 minutes to find a level spot. Even worse, sometimes we have to break out the leveling blocks and try to level the van manually. We know it sounds like a petty thing to be annoyed with, but we’re usually tired and hungry when we’re looking for camp. We both need shirts that say, “I’m sorry for the things I said when we were setting up camp!”

In the end, there’s so much more to vanlife than this short list. Vanlife is a lifestyle. Nomadic, minimalism is a movement. It’s a way to choose your own path and experience the freedom and happiness that comes with it. There are highs and lows, both of which feel extreme compared to the spectrum of “normal” life. The best experiences always outweigh the worst and we are more resilient for it. We’ve put together some Advice for Couples New to Vanlife for Go-Van that will help any couples who are looking to vanlife together.
Our advice for aspiring vanlifers is to get used to spontaneity and lack of control. Finding a routine might be difficult, but that’s part of the journey. You will be challenged, but you will grow. It’s true that vanlife or nomadic living isn’t for everyone. It requires sacrifice and hard work to maintain. But for those that are drawn to it, it can be the most rewarding life imaginable.

Looking for more tips and tales from real full time vanlifers get the here!

Renting A Car In Ireland ~ Resources For Planning Your Trip

Renting a car for your visit to Ireland? We share our experiences based on our travels in 2019 to help make it easier for you!

Renting a car in Ireland and Tips for planning your trip!

Car rentals are a whole other process in the Republic of Ireland. We had a really hard time finding up to date information online when we were planning our trip. The general consensus seemed to be the insurance is expensive, and the roads are narrow. We also had a tough time getting accurate information from the rental companies themselves. Calling their customer service often lead to someone in North America who knew as much or less than we did.

Why am I sharing this?

If you are anything like me arriving jetlagged in a new country on no sleep doesn’t prepare you for the car rental line-ups. The general confusion and being inundated with questions and options at the counter. There is enough to focus on, like driving on the left hand side in a manual transmission. Showing up with your license and credit card and getting the hell out of there and finding caffeine and a warm shower is more ideal. So I have put together information from my experiences and research as of 2019.

Lets start with the lingo:

CDW

Collision Damage Waiver is the basic insurance that is required for car rentals in Ireland (covers the car in an accident, not the driver), the cost varies from about €7/day and up in to the €20 range on typical rentals.

Excess

Excess is essentially a deductible for the CDW insurance and is held in the form of a deposit. With basic CDW the excess deposit was around €2000.

To lower this Excess deposit you can chose to pay non refundable amounts to ‘Reduce your Excess’.

This is pricey for sure, and there is really only one work around.
Rental companies will not accept third party insurance in lieu of the CDW. However you can purchase third party to get reimbursed if you end up making a claim. The car rental company won’t deal with them for you. They will accept letters confirming insurance through your major credit card. This letter has to clearly state that you have coverage in the Republic of Ireland. After confirming with the insurance department at Visa I had no problems getting this letter.

Here is where is gets interesting

Most of the rental companies will accept this letter. However, even with this letter they require a refundable deposit of €5000 to decline the CDW they are selling. The deposit of €5000 held on that same credit card that has the letter, and is paying in full for the rental. That seems to be the going rate after checking with a several rental companies. If you go this route make sure you have enough space on that credit card to cover: the full cost of the rental, extra deposits, and the €5000 hold.

A note about reducing your Excess:

We chose this route with our campervan rental, and it seemed like a good idea. We paid €600 to reduce our excess deposit to €2000.. great right? Stay with me here… so now I have paid €600 non-refundable to lower my deposit. In the event of an accident the rental company will still keep the necessary funds up to the total excess deposit. So if there was €600 damage (say a windshield) they keep that from your excess deposit….at this point I would be out €1200 for €600 in damage.

So if you have the room on your credit card or can have your limit increased for your trip…it actually costs you less in the long run even if the worst should happen and you have to make a claim.

What about your insurance back home?

I went back in forth with ICBC who I will say is not the best, I also contacted other private insurers. It was like I was speaking another language when asking about insurance to drive in the Republic of Ireland….
In the instance of the camper van rental, a rental agent tried to tell me not to worry. If the there were any damage costs, I could always claim back that money with my own insurance back home….not the case. Also that “rental insurance” on your credit card needs to be understood clearly, Visa’s coverage does not include RVs, large passenger vans, cargo vans, or luxury vehicles. So ask those questions very specifically when you are inquiring about insurance.

Since our experience was different with 4 vehicles and three rental companies, let’s recap. The two cheapest options we found at the time of our trip: Easyrent, and Budget Rentals.

Budget Car Rentals

We had a €2000 excess deposit held on my Mastercard. This did not show up as a payment so no conversion fees were applied…and over the course of 21 day rental the funds were still accessible on my card. The shuttle service from the airport was simple and direct. The checkout was quick (though they do to try to sell you more insurance at the time of rental, the basic CDW does not cover windshields, mirrors or tires, and even some of the higher tiers didn’t include them)

The Experience:

There was no walk through, we were given a carbon slip with markings of existing issues with the car, and told to go check it out on our own and just take pictures of any other issues….our page had three issues marked to start, we took about 40 pictures and a walk around video just in case. We had two vehicles from Budget and the normal state seems to be scratches on the sides, hubcaps, and mirrors. (Chalk it up to alot of first time left hand drivers on Irelands very very narrow roads).

The return process was equally easy. We showed up they did a walk through and we were on the shuttle in minutes. They were never really clear on what kind of damage they look for (so I documented every little scuff just in case)

Our second vehicle with Budget was an easy exchange. We were in Dublin (and flew to Scotland for three days) the little hatch back we received was basic, and making alot rattling noises. I called budget, and asked about exchanging the vehicle, they were happy to oblige. I also asked if I could keep the vehicle parked in their secured lot over the weekend as it wouldn’t be in use (saved me doing two separate rentals with two deposits, also saved me parking costs).

Upon pick up the process was the same, a self guided walk around, pictures of all the scuffs and scratches, and we were on our way in a small s.u.v. The return was just as smooth the second time, a quick walk through and they called us a cab to our next destination.

Easyrent

We booked this through carrentals.ie and learned a couple of good though annoying lessons. When we arrived at the offsite pickup/drop off location the office was full and every customer had the same issue….”I bought Excess Reduction when I booked online, but now at the counter Easyrent is still taking the €2000euro hold.” We took a chance and bought the excess reduction when we booked as this was just for one day it seemed simple, we were flying out the next day and wouldn’t leave with a huge hold in our credit card. We were wrong.

If you are booking with a travel site (think carrentals.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com), you are not buying ‘their’ insurance. You are buying third party, and that means if you need it, you have to claim any incidentals back through this other company….this does NOT lower any of the fees or deposits with the actual rental company, it actually has nothing to do with the rental company.

The deposit they held at Easyrent went through as a charge on my card and I was told it could take up to 6 weeks to reverse it after I returned the rental. The girl at the counter was not friendly and her response to my concerns as “you should read more clearly next time”. This hole process was never communicated clearly, and not just to us as was obvious from the crowd of stressed out renters pleading with their credit card companies and reservation companies to help them….

So what’s a traveller to do?

Price compare for sure, talk to your insurance and credit card providers but there’s more…

This is a sneaky little tip:

When searching online, search the “.ie” sites.

Budget.ie

Enterprise.ie

Europcar.ie

sixt.ie

thrifty.ie

avis.ie

The .ie sites are the Ireland domains and they price differently. They build the CDW into the cost of the rental automatically and it is less expensive.

Here is our example:

When we rented through Budget our rental cost ended up being under €400 for 21 days (our Excess deposit was €2000, + €100 for a fuel deposit). After hours on the phone and online, this was a pretty great deal!

My parents rental was booked using Aeroplan points, their options were to buy CDW from the rental company, decline it and leave the €5000 Excess deposit, or pay to reduce…..they paid over €400 to have full coverage on their car, their rental was for a week!

When calling, find the toll free number for their Ireland customer service or at minimum a European customer service. The most accurate information for renting a car in Ireland is from the location directly. (Speaking with a 1-800 agent from more than one company actually led to even more confusion as they don’t always actually know the policies for Ireland)

All in all the rental costs in Ireland were actually very reasonable (probably cheaper than home). Preparing for the deposits and holds is important, and unavoidable without buying insurance right from the rental company, so plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard at the counter. Decide what kind of coverage feels right for you.

One more suggestion is to use Ebates/Rakuten when booking your tip whenever you can. We earned hundreds of dollars in cashback when we booked our trip. Check out Rakuten/Ebates and other money-saving programs for travel here.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for renting a car in Ireland? Please share your experience with us!

Finding Free Camping In Junction, Texas

So excited to share this free camping in Junction, Texas!

We have now made the journey across southern U.S several times. We have taken different routes but often find ourselves at some point on Interstate 10 in Texas. It is a long stretch from San Antonio to El Paso or from the Guadalupe Mountains to the Gulf coast, and finding free spots along the interstate can be a little underwhelming.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Fort Stockton Walmart & Dominos Again…

Most of the spots you find along the way come in the form of rest stops, picnic areas, truck stops and Walmarts. We have stayed at the Walmart in Fort Stockton on 3 separate occasions now. Rest stops in Texas are also really nice and well maintained. We appreciate these types of stopovers to break up a long driving day and rest our heads for a night. But they aren’t really the places we hope to camp along the way.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life

Our most recent trip from the Guadalupe Mountains along I-10 heading East brought us to the little town of Junction, Texas. This sleepy little town lies on the shores of the Llano River.

Free Camping in Junction Texas Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip,

We were fortunate to make it to Junction and have a few quieter days to enjoy our free campsite and explore the town.

There are several options for camping around Junction. These included Llano River State Park and a few RV parks. We were stoked to find a super picturesque free spot right on the river.

Free Camping in Junction Texas

Schreiner Park is a county park located on the west bank of the South Llano River. The park allows 3 days of free dry camping!

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking, Junction Texas, Traveling with pets

The park offers: an outdoor community pool, the home of the women’s softball team, beach volleyball courts, playgrounds, a huge picnic area, and a massive community smoker.

This area was devastated earlier this year by flooding, and we did see some of the aftermath. The city park across the river as well as the RV Park were being repaired.

But as far as free camping in Texas goes this spot was pretty perfect.

When we arrived most of the pull-through spaces with covered picnic tables and barbecues were actually being used by locals. So we opted to pull right along the bank of the river. I think the park is actually more dedicated to day use, but no one seemed to be spending time in the area we parked.

We enjoyed hot Sunny days with the park basically all to ourselves. Got to take a few dips in the river to cool off. Long walks with Holly, and she loved swimming in the river. Park workers, as well as police randomly made rounds throughout the day so we always felt safe. Every time a local drove by they smiled and waved.

Van Life, Texas, Roadtrip, Fulltime Travel, Living in A Van, Free Camping, Boondocking

The park is clean and well kept. There are restroom facilities that leave a little to be desired, but if you need a free washroom this park has it. Covered picnic tables and BBQs are scattered through the park.

The pool was not open while we were here but if the timing worked out it’s $2 to use the public outdoor pool and I would assume that there are showers available here.

While you’re here pop into town grab a bite at the local diner, visit quaint local shops, take a scenic drive, grab an ice cream cone and slow down. Don’t forget to take your camp chair over and cheer on the Eagles Ladies Softball Team!

If you enjoyed this info on Free Camping in Junction, Texas check out our visitor guide to Big Bend National Park