Van Life FAQ’s: The Most Commonly Asked Questions About Van Life & RV Life

Van Life and RV Living are becoming more and more popular, we all crave the freedom. We love hearing about people journeys into this lifestyle, and we know starting out can be scary.

To help out, we thought we would compile 5 of the most commonly asked questions we get asked about traveling fulltime and vanlife.

🔸️How is it living together in a tiny space?

Vanlife FAQ's

The positives here far outweigh the negatives for us. We have definitely adapted to being together in a small space. There have been adjustments to how we move around, the “van shuffle” often includes the dog. Cooking is a one person job. We have our family cuddles in the back on the king size bed. When we need our own space we have the rotating captain chairs at the front of the van, and Logan loves to sit up there and read. Really though, we live out of the van, not in it. So when we need space we are grateful to be parked somewhere beautiful with all the wide open spaces we could ask for.

🔸️How do you budget for life on the road?

van life realities

We set a budget for ourselves before we left home. Our monthly budget of $3000 includes our van payments, insurance for the vehicle as well as our travel and health insurance, pet insurance, cell phones, groceries, gas, camping fees, and spending money. We know several people who live this lifestyle on bigger budgets, and many who are comfortably living on smaller budgets. Setting a budget is a personal choice, but we think it’s important to be realistic. We have always agreed that if we can no longer support this lifestyle then it’s time to change it.

🔸️How do you earn money?

van life freedom

Logan and I (Kira) both quit our “9-5” jobs before we hit the road. I was an office manager at a dental office, and Logan was a brewer at a busy craft brewpub. It was a priority for us to pay off our debts before making the leap to traveling so we did!! The first step was selling our home in October 2017, it happened very fast as the real estate market in our hometown was booming, and very overinflated.

Logan has been interested in the markets, real estate, and trading, so we decided to invest our money from the sale of our home, and manage our budget with the profits. Because we were just starting out, we started with mutual funds in RRSP and TFSA accounts, and have moved into self-directed investments. We also decided to finance our van, so that money could be invested instead of being locked up in the van. We considered finance rates carefully against the realistic rates of return we could achieve on our investments.

Since hitting the road we have also joined in affiliate marketing programs, and brand partnerships. To be clear, we don’t make this a main focus, because our goal is time freedom. Affiliate marketing and brand partnerships allow us to monetize our social media. It earns small commissions from products we use, and allows us to share those resources and brands we love with our community.

This is a very very common way for folks who work as digital nomads to earn income. It should be noted that it does take work and time. There are really no ways to earn money for doing nothing, so if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

🔸️What do you need to take with you when you hit the road?

This is tough to answer, and in all honesty, I roll my eyes when I read a lot of peoples suggestions for “things YOU need for your RV” or “Gear You Need For Van Life” . In reality, you need so much less than you think. We have never really been minimalists, so it was hard for us to downsize. We felt like we needed so much to ensure we would be comfortable…

The reality is that the more stuff you bring, the more stuff you have in your small space. We have downsized multiple times since hitting the road.

Our suggestion is use what you have, you don’t need to rush out and buy RV specific things. There are definetely things you will pick up along the way, we have some favorite van life gear we suggest too…BUT, Don’t buy something because someone told you you need it, everyones living situation is different. You will be the one to decide what you need or want to make your RV feel like home.

We know people who love to cook. Instapots, camp stoves even a Vitamix you name it. If those items serve you, then great! Consider your space, I would love a Berkey water filtration system but have nowhere practical to store it. What will you actually use? We have bought a few little gizmos that ended up being donated, we thought they would be useful, but they were not daily use items.

When it comes to appliances remember your power source…the first time we made a pot of coffee in our van with our big fancy brewer from home, we blew the circuit and everything in the van shut off….we prefer boondocking to being plugged in, so we have to consider what our battery system can handle.

The things you really need and that we recommend researching are a little less sexy… Things like insurance, updated travel documents (ie. visas, passports) cellular coverage, first aid items (don’t forget your furry travel companions), basic tools (also think of flat tires, or boosting a dead battery) these are all pretty essential.

🔸️What’s the best place we have visited?

van life destinations

Oh man, another tough one!! This adventure has surprised us constantly. I think unanimously we were both blown away by southern Utah, the Mighty Five parks are really something everyone should see. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

We fell in love with Palm Springs and Southern California (though the coast and Redwoods are pretty amazing) the dry heat of the desert was a welcomed treat after being in the Pacific Northwest. The boondocking in the South West is also top notch making van life easy and budget friendly.

The Northwest Territories ended up being a place we spent the second most cumulative time on our whole trip…weeks of unpaved roads, seeing towns and villages only accessible by winter roads and tiny ferries, and the truly wild and untouched land was magic. Seeing the Arctic Ocean via the new road to Tuktoyaktuk was an epic adventure.

van life northwest territories

So there wasn’t one place, there were many….and the biggest reward in this experience is finding new places to fall in love with.

If you are thinking about full timing in an RV or Van, we highly recommend it! Also a great way to dip your toes in the van life experience would be to rent and take road trip to see how it feels for you.

If you have any questions let us know! And don’t forget to check out our post on Moving Saving Apps for van life travel.

Email us: lifeasweroamit@gmail.com

Or comment below👇

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

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 ~ A series of honest feedback from real full time travelers

There is a movement happening. It has become both trendy and for some folks necessary to leave behind the confines of the 9-5 and hit the road #vanlife style. Why the hashtag? Because up until the last few years this term wasn’t a thing. Though people have been traveling and even living in vans for years, but thanks to social media (mostly Instagram) it now has a name, and a massive following.

RV travel has been around since the ’50s but used to be more for people in retirement, or families on the weekends. But now more and younger people and us “in-betweeners” are stepping out of societal norms and creating a little taste of freedom.

Rising housing prices and more and more work being done remotely are big factors for many. Also, the accessibility to travel and travel inspiration again thanks to social media has made anything seem possible.

We chose this lifestyle because traveling was our biggest shared passion. We worked conflicting schedules but we had good jobs. We bought the house, filled it with the things and thought we were following “the steps”. We rarely saw each other and a week of holidays here or there was difficult and left us in debt every time.

So we sold it all (well most of it, some sits in storage) picked out our van and have been on the road since 2017. We made a big decision to take control of time, and create the freedom to live the life we were dreaming of.

We are constantly learning more about how to exist in this tiny space, and how to navigate the challenges of life on the road. There is a learning curve no matter how prepared you think you are.

I worry that there is a side to this life that isn’t always clearly reflected. I don’t just mean where to shower or where to do your “business” when you live in a van. There’s so much more to consider. Because social media is often about the beautiful shot or a way to grab attention, and now that everyone throws the word ‘authentic’ around so much it’s almost lost its meaning. We sometimes miss out on the real why’s and the real lessons.

We love this lifestyle with all its ups and downs. I have written about some of our favorite aspects of van life before. But I wanted to start a conversation, so I reached out to some of our friends who also travel fulltime and are living #vanlife. I asked each of them to share the good and the bad of living this way.

Their responses are personal and honest. They are reflections of different people from different places, with different backgrounds and very different lives. What started as a question inspired a little series to help share a true picture of this lifestyle, and a useful resource for anyone considering it.

Chapter 1 will be posted tomorrow and features our friend Amanda, who has been on the road for over 6 years.

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 1: Tideline To Alpine

The first guest in our series on the realities of van life from full time travelers is an old friend from before life on the road.

Amanda has been living this lifestyle for over 6 years. She is an avid through hiker and inspiring solo female traveler.

Follow her journey:
IG: @tidelinetoalpine

Website/Blog: www.tidelinetoalpine.com

Reminiscing on many years of living in a van with my dog Frank it has become clear that the common perception of #vanlife often misses the truly best thing about it. As much as I enjoy the travel and gorgeous places I call home, the interesting community, and independence of it there is something even better. Free Time. By choosing to live a simple, low cost lifestyle I have the freedom to choose to keep my time for myself instead of trading it for a wage. Having more free time than I always know what to do with means I can focus on personal growth, creative pursuits, and spend ample time with loves ones. For me this is far better than the pretty views and open roads (which are also great).

On the flip side there are endless little struggles that rarely make their way onto social media. Dealing with moisture, mechanical problems, and bad weather are all less than ideal, but manageable with lots of free time. On the road there is nothing that irritated me more than waiting for late mail to arrive when I want to leave a town. This has happened many times and I can’t stand it. The days or sometimes weeks drag on, and I feel helpless living at the mercy of the postal system.

There is a lot about vanlife both good and bad that I was not expecting when I handed in my last apartment keys, but one thing stands out most. Over the 6 years I have lived in a van I have watched as more, and more places get red listed (meaning you can no longer park there overnight). Each year there are less options, and more newcomers who don’t yet understand the consequences of their actions on the road. So, for those who are entering vanlife please respect the places you call home, respect locals, and always practice Leave No Trace practices. Try to leave spots better than when you arrived, and be very discreet when stealth camping (or if it’s unclear whether or not you can be there). Conduct yourself as if you will be living in a van for the rest of your life, and as if you will return to each place you stay. We will all have a easier time enjoying the good things about vanlife if we are responsible as a community. And remember, it only costs as much as you decide. For me it’s not about the van, it’s about what living in a van allows me to to do.

The Realities Of #Vanlife Chapter 2: Carey On Vagabond

Chapter 2 of The Realities of #Vanlife features our good friends Irene, Dave, and of course their girl Pistol. These three were our biggest inspiration when deciding to hit the road. They have been full time for 3 years and are currently finishing their new van build!

You can check them out for amazing vanlife content and resources

IG @Careyonvagabond

https://www.careyonvagabond.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeM0xEsKuci2uIuK6Vi7fmQ

Vanlife Resources fulltime travel

When people find out we live and travel full time in our van the reactions are varied and so are the questions. Some find it bizarre but more often than not people are intrigued and want to learn more. We should sit down sometime and put together a list of our most commonly asked questions and our answers. When we do we will put that on our website.

Vanlife Resources Realities of #vanlife

One of the most common questions we are asked is what is our favorite and least favorite thing about van life.

There are definitely things we love and don’t love about it but we are happy to report that the things we love far outnumber the things we don’t.

One thing we have to say before we talk about what we like and dislike is that there are many ways to live and travel in a van. None of which are right or wrong. Each of us has to find our own way and live the life that works for us.

The thing we love most about our life is the freedom we have. The freedom to live when and where we want. To travel as little or as far as we want. To chase the weather we like. To find new adventures and see something new nearly every day. Meeting amazing people everywhere we go that often become lifelong friends. Meeting up with these friends again all over the continent, planned or not.

The thing we like least about this life is leaving our family and friends behind in our hometown. We’ve found the best way to deal with this is to not take time with family and friends for granted. When we lived near family we would make plans together and something would often come up and there would “always be tomorrow.” Life’s just to short to live or think this way.

In the end, we had to find a way to balance all the things important to us in life and just do the best we can.

Full time Resources of #vanlife carey on vegabond

It’s hard to give advice to someone considering van life since there are so many ways to approach it and everyone likes something different. I guess I would say be flexible because sometimes things won’t go as planned. We have learned to roll with it and look at each day as a new adventure. Even after three years of full-time van life, we are still learning new things every day.

To Continue The Realities of #vanlife series check out Chapter 3 here!

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

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!

The Best Resources For Finding Free Camping

Two years on the road has given us a fair bit of practice finding the best spots to sleep or better yet camp! We are sharing our favorite resources for finding free camping!

This can look very different depending on where you are, and your budget. But if you’re like us, we opt for free spots, wide-open spaces, and we try to save paying to camp for when it’s somewhere that we really want to be!

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Apps and Resources for Finding Free Camping

Ioverlander (U.S.A &Canada)

This free app is user fed and has one of the biggest user-bases of them all. Find free campsites, rest stops, boondocking, Walmarts, propane, water, dump stations, and even showers. It’s usually the first app we check, open the map, search your area, chose a spot and link directions straight from the app. There is also space for users to include pictures.

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**Huge plus this is an app we can use when we are offline. This means we don’t need a cell signal to see a spot on the map or read the reviews.

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The downside:
Being user fed, it doesn’t include everything only places other users have been and contributed the information.

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Also, there is no criteria for information so you may not get the best intel every time.
Use your judgment: we have NEVER had a knock on the door, and this is because we don’t presume to bend the rules. If it’s posted no, if someone has previously been asked to leave, or some other issue, we don’t stay there. No judgment to those who do, but that’s what has worked for us.

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BLM/ National Forests /Wildlife Management/ LTVA (U.S.A).

These are a few of our favorite things! Public lands are one of the best ideas ever! These options are:
-typically free
-often do not require a permit

-can vary from established campgrounds to truly wild places
-usually have a limit of 14 days

LTVA- Long Term Visitor Areas are part of BLM but are more established, do require a permit, but will allow longer stays. Please remember as with any campgrounds to practice Leave No Trace Principles

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Click Here for BLM

For National Forests Click Here

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Crown Land/ Forestry and Recreation Land in Canada

In Canada, over 80% of the land is Crown Land which is federally designated for public use. This includes National Parks, Provincial Parks, Forestry land and waterways. Camping and land-use rules vary though from province to province on public lands so you can click on a province below to link to their resources.

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BC AB SK MB ON QC NB PEI NS NL YK

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Walmart/Cracker Barrel/Cabellas/Bass Pro Shop

These big retailers have a history of being RV friendly. Many allow overnight parking in relatively safe, well lit, even occasionally patrolled lots. Some even offer potable water, and dump stations!!

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The downside: None really, it is important to understand that this isn’t just inherently allowed at all locations see a No Stay List Of Walmarts here. It may or may not be quiet or busy. If it is posted no overnight parking, then yes, that means you too. If you are unsure best practice is to ask in-store. It’s usually ok, but some areas have bylaws and ordinances that don’t allow it. Some stores have also changed their policies as these locations are easily abused. If you’re staying, don’t set up camp, don’t pull out your BBQs and lawn chairs its a business parking lot, you’re not camping! It’s a spot to sleep. Early in, early out and try to be discrete.

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**Parking Tip: we always either back in to protect the area of the van where we sleep, also try to get next to concrete meridians for some added protection, in quiet areas of the lot, not next to a main entrance.

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We woke up to a nasty accident in a Walmart parking lot once, it happened about 10 feet from where we were sleeping (not to our van, but too close for comfort).

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Freecampsites.net

This website provides a user fed database that provides pretty clear details on a variety of free spots. Users can include pictures and review the sites. This again includes everything from wild camping to parking lot options.

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Park Advisor

We like this app for the combination of program and user fed database. It lists gas stations, Costco’s, Walmarts, Cabellas, and other retailers. You also see established RV parks, state parks, national parks, public and private campgrounds.

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Campendium

This user fed site offers well-structured feedback on everything from free spots to RV parks. The review structure provides details on the site, fees, access and even cell service which is a biggy for all you digital nomads.

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Memberships We Use

After 2 years on the road, we have tried a few things, here are the programs we use.

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Passport America

This program is $49/year and offers 50% off at thousands of RV parks all over the U.S. and Canada. We don’t stay in RV parks often, but when we do it’s almost always a P.A park. We have stayed in some great parks with all the amenities for about $22.50/night (sometimes more, sometimes less). Use our referral code R-0301705 when you register here

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Boondockers Welcome

Admittedly it took us a while to wise up and get in on this program. The membership is $50/ year and allows you access to locations all over the U.S and Canada. Mostly these are properties of fellow travelers, so it could be anything from a driveway to a church parking lot, to a farm.

How it works: You request to stay directly with the host, and once approved, they contact you with details for your arrival. You get a safe and unique place to park up. We have done this a few different ways: arrived late in the evening(with approval from the host) and basically went straight to sleep, we have also sat and visited with and shared a coffee or a meal with hosts! It is a great way to meet fellow travel enthusiasts, and hosts have the best inside scoop on their areas and love to help you plan your visit! Sign up here

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Harvest Host

We are still fairly new to this program but we love it! For $79/year you gain access to hundreds of locations in the U.S and Canada. Harvest hosts are categorized as Vineyards, Farms, Breweries, Museums and more.

How it Works: Request a stay directly with a host, you get a cool, safe place to campout, and it’s always a bonus to do a wine tasting. Furthermore this program asks that you purchase something from your hosts in exchange for your stay. So you can stock up on wine, beer, do a tasting or buy local fresh produce! Save 15% off when you sign up here!

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We hope these resources for finding free camping help you plan your next trip!

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If you’re interested in wild camping we wrote about our Epic Trip in the True North to the Arctic Ocean here

The Best Money-Saving Apps For Life On The Road

Here are some of the best money-saving apps and cash back programs we use while traveling full-time!

Definitely use them whether you travel or not these money-saving apps are useful for everyone

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Gas Buddy:

This app provides current fuel prices at gas stations in Canada and the U.S. so you can plan ahead and avoid paying top dollar. American users are also eligible for discounts and free fuel offers!

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Get Upside

Fuel is one of our biggest expenses after 2 years on the road and 90,000kms (almost 56,000 miles). Every penny we can save in fuel adds up! Get Upside offers cash back that can be deposited to your PayPal account. The app is user-friendly and allows you to chose between different stations and different fuel grades. Just chose an offer, fill your tank, and snap a picture of your receipt! Earn an extra $0.15/gallon bonus when you sign up with our referral code: A2KEH

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Shell Fuel Rewards

This one’s a no brainer! Shell isn’t always the cheapest station, but we have come to rely on them. They are found from coast to coast, so it takes the guesswork out of finding fuel. The rewards program starts you off at $0.05/gallon discount at all Shell stations. You don’t need to carry a card you can use your phone number! Their app is also straight forward and easy to use, it also makes tracking your fuel spending easy. You can also earn extra fuel discounts when you make in-store purchases (if it’s a snack and fuel stop you could easily triple your savings!) Sign up here and Never Pay Full Price For Fuel again!

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Rakuten/Ebates

We use the American and Canadian versions of this cash back program. Hello online shoppers, this app is for you! Cash back offers on everything you buy online! From your favorite housewares stores, to shops like Sephora, save money planning your next trip, flight deals, hotels, car rentals ( we cleaned up booking our Ireland trip in 2019!) and of course Amazon !! If you are traveling or building out a van you are likely doing a lot of your shopping on Amazon so start earning cash back on the stuff you are buying anyway! Easy to use just head over to the app, find your store and you will be linked directly to their site (your purchases are still from the store, this program just tracks the purchase and gets you cash back! They have also started offering some instore offers, so honestly, there’s money to be saved any time you shop.
You can get a $10 bonus cash back for signing up when you use our affiliate links!

U.S.A shoppers click here

Canadian shoppers click here

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Fetch Rewards

This user-friendly app offers a super simple rewards program! Scan receipts from grocery purchases to earn reward points. Then redeem your points for great stuff like gift cards and prepaid credit cards!! Earn 2000 bonus reward points when you use our referral code: 3WURW

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Ibotta
We use this cashback app for groceries, but they have offers on a lot of different stores and branded items. Easy to use just check the app for offers before you shop, scan your receipt and start earning cashback! Get started by clicking here!

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Thanks for checking out these money-saving apps, never leave money on the table, happy savings to you!!!

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We also wrote about ways to Stick To Your Budget While On The Road click here to check it out!

Renting A Car In Ireland ~ Resources For Planning Your Trip

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!