After three years of sleeping with two adults and 3 dogs in a tiny little van, it is safe to say we have gotten quite good at it! We know not only how to scout out the best campsite but also how to get the best sleep once parked and ready.
We decided to pass on some words of wisdom for new vanpeople or to those who simply suffer from insomnia. These are our recommendations for those wondering how to fall asleep easily in a different city every night. Let’s face it, sleep deprivation can negatively affect every single aspect of your life. Sleep is something we take seriously. A lack of sleep can be a dangerous thing when living van life. When you are in close quarters with anyone for an extended period of time, a good night’s sleep will make it much smoother.
1. Don’t Fight Mother Nature
Your usual routine of staying up as late at night and sleeping in even later the next morning won’t fly in your camper. Instead, .you will find yourself adjusting to mother nature’s schedule. The best time to sleep may have been closer to midnight for you before, but when living in a camper, you will feel far more rested if you stick to the sun’s schedule.
Whether you are a full time RVer or are just going on a short camping trip, you are sure to find yourself running out of things to do when the sun goes down and being woken up early by the sun peeking through your windows.
This new sleeping schedule can be a bit of an adjustment and one you may not be willing to make – but trust us, going with it is much better than fighting it. Getting your body in tune with nature will help to make it so you have a good night’s rest. It will also help you to make the most of your day.
2. Find Flat Land
Finding even ground is likely something you have never thought about when in a car – that is until you are considering sleeping in your vehicle. You will know you are a true vanlifer when you find yourself always looking for the most even terrain to park on. You can cheat the system by bringing along a couple of short pieces of wood. If you find an ideal campsite but it’s not flat, you can drive up on the wood to level your rig.
Pro tip: If you are prone to snoring, finding level ground will do even more for your night’s sleep as you will be more comfortable inside and stomach sleeping.
While finding flat land is the dream, it isn’t always realistic. While you will want to aim to find as flat as possible, it is also important to consider the side where you are putting your head. If you can’t find perfectly flat ground, which you commonly can’t, you will want to make sure that the area where you put your head is at the slight incline. Having your head slightly higher will likely not bother you as much if you even notice a difference.
It is important to never find a position where your feet are higher. This will cause the blood in your body to pool in your head as you sleep and can be incredibly uncomfortable. If you are sleeping with another person in the car as we do, tilting to one side at an angle is also not ideal. With this, you will find yourself rolling into each other (and not in a good way) all night long.
We always keep a couple extra throw pillows in our van too so we can correct any problems we may feel. If we aren’t quite flat, a few strategically placed pillows can leave us much more comfortable.
3. Outfitting Your Van
To me, it is very important to get comfortable wherever I go. Whether I am staying in a hotel for a night or moving into a new home, I make sure to fully unpack all of my stuff to make myself feel as homey as possible. I think almost everyone can agree that they get the best sleep when they are at home so why not bring home with you wherever you go?
This is important no matter how long you are staying in your RV for. Bring your socks, duvet, pillows, throw pillows, sleep masks, essential oils, slippers, comfy pajamas, or anything else you enjoy using along with you. Make your camper feel just as cozy as your home does.
Being comfortable is important whether this is your home for a night or your home for life.
We see so many RVers using scratchy blankets or even sleeping bags as their bedding and we just don’t get it. There are so many things we bring with us to make it as comfortable as possible. We have our nice fleece sheets lining the bottom, a fluffy duvet on top and a whole whack of pillows everywhere. We drink our tea out of nice homey mugs and make sure to bring all of our creature comforts with us.
Check On Your Curtains
Darkness is very important for getting a good night’s sleep. This is especially important when you’re in a camper as you will have much more exposure to external light sources. No one wants to be woken up by headlights shining through your windows. If you have to sleep in a parking lot you’ll want to be able to park directly under lights without them shining into your eyes.
We would like you to learn from our mistakes and NOT outfit your van with super cute but thin blush curtains. Instead, go for something either a bit darker in color to block out the bright lights or line your curtains so that you can keep the sun (and the heat) out longer. If you have to have lighter curtains sew a thicker material onto the back so they have a better chance at blocking out unwanted light.
Invest In Screens
If there is one piece of advice we could scream from the rooftops it’s to invest in some screens for your tiny home! No matter what season you are traveling in, vans get HOT and even being able to crack your windows a tiny bit can do wonders for increasing your comfort levels. Being able to do this without being swarmed by bugs will give you a much better sleep.
In the hot summer months, we sleep with all our windows completely opened and the air flow between them is so welcomed. We do this even on cooler nights because with three dogs and two people, having some new fresh air be able to come in is always welcomed.
4. Bedtime Routines
We take bedtime routines seriously, probably due to our increase in age. Gone are the day’s where we launch ourselves into bed in yesterday’s clothes and makeup still on. Today’s nighttime routines have evolved into a much lengthier process of self care and home cleaning.
While this may seem obvious, too many people struggle to get to sleep for the fact that they simply aren’t tired. It is no secret that time moves quite a bit slower when you are camping and living out in the bush, so much so that you may find yourself too relaxedand in turn not tired by the end of the day.
Never underestimate the power of a good hike, brisk yoga, or a long swim. While it may seem counterintuitive to get your heart racing before bed, it can help put you to sleep. There is no better sleep than when you are physically, and mentally, exhausted. While it is best to do this during the day as you will not be left with a sudden burst of endorphins, we have found evening strolls to be effective as well. Get outside and run, walk, bike, paddle, or hike. Whatever you decide, this is the best natural sleep aid we have yet to come across.
We often get questions about which essential oils are best and why we use them. We rely heavily on essential oils in every aspect of our life and couldn’t be happier with the effect we have found from them.
While there are more and more companies popping up selling these products, we have always really liked using Sage products. The sleep well blend as well as the tranquility spray is something we use almost every single night. We bought a mask from them as well that we regularly add some essential oils to in order to get the best night’s sleep.
Meditating is a nightly routine for both Myles and I that we take part in almost every single night. This looks a bit different for everyone but whether you are clearing your mind while lying in bed or intently seeking out a spot to do some mindful meditation, it can have great positive effects on your sleep cycle.
We have a Spotify playlist full of meditation music that we fall asleep to quite often. We now associate the music with sleeping and no matter what we are doing we start to feel sleepy the moment we hear the tunes. I combine this with some mindfulness exercises like stretching or light bed yoga. Nothing puts me to sleep quite as well as warm and stretched out muscles.
You may be wondering how to meditate but worry less about how to and just do what feels right for you.
I like focusing on awareness and fall asleep every single night analyzing every inch of my body from the hair on my head to the tips of my toe. I visualize the body part and consciously think of it melting in relaxation. Most nights I don’t get through my body before I drift into a calm and deep sleep. Others I know can’t meditate with anyone else around as they find it too distracting and instead go to seek out a quiet private spot.
If you have decked out your rig for long term use, chances are you have thought ahead and have some energy efficient LED lights for indoor use. While these are great options, they don’t provide the best lighting for inducing a deep sleep. Light can play a big role in making you tired which is why we bought some warm fairy lights that run on rechargeable batteries. This causes less strain on our eyes while still allowing us to navigate our way through the van.
While ideally, you should not be using your cell phone or computer right before bed, it isn’t necessarily the most realistic thing. Whether you are setting your alarm, planning your next days route or simply checking up on your Instagram feed, the reality is our generation uses their phone up until the moment they fall asleep.
To help make this a bit better, we make sure that our screens brightness setting is always turned way down and that we have a blue light filter on, a setting called eye comfort on our phones. All of these things help make us still able to fall asleep even after using our devices.
How do you ensure a good night’s sleep in your camper? Do you incorporate any of these tips into your nighttime routine?
It is no secret nowadays that cell phones have turned into our lifelines. You will rarely find anyone, let alone a millennial, without their cell phone with them at all times. Most people, us included, even sleep with our cell phones just inches from our bed so that we are always within reach.
But this is especially true when you’re traveling. More than likely, you’re only going to travel to a place once in your life. This makes the decision of the device you choose extremely important. Nobody wants to look at their pictures after their trip only to find out they look like potatoes.
While it’s a romantic idea to be away from your phone and be so caught up in your travels you don’t even know where your mobile phone is, it isn’t really reality for most people. The truth is our phones have even more of a role to play when we travel. From a mere a way to check our social media when you’re home, when traveling smart phones turn into video recorders, cameras, travel agents, GPS guides and even in-case-of-emergency lifeline. This means travelers require the best smartphone you can get.
The best travel smartphone is one that is rugged enough to handle your travels (Samara is known to be hard on her technology), is reliable and perhaps most important of all Not only does it need to be reliable but also fast enough to respond to your every demand (trust us on this, you will not believe how many photo opportunities have been missed due to slow technology).
What do you look for in the best travel phone? Is it a camera quality, battery life, screen size, worldwide bands? If you are anything like us your answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. After careful consideration and a ton of research we opted for the Huawei Mate 20 pro.
One of the biggest issues people have with aging phones is the limited storage space. Just a few years ago 32 GB’s of storage came standard on most phones. Nowadays though, that is simply not enough.
Smartphone applications are constantly increasing. Instagram, for example, is 116 megabytes. This means an older phone with smaller storage won’t be able to have access to as many crucial applications.
In a given day we use: google maps (saving maps for offline use), Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Messenger, WhatsApp, Spotify, Snapchat, GMail, Google Photos, Trello, One Drive, Planoly, Lightroom and LensDistortion.
This list then increases with banking apps, travel apps, loyalty apps and Netflix. Needless to say, we require a lot of storage. Most travelers will agree that having enough storage space to not have to worry about snapping too many photos is so important. We have been in situations where we weren’t able to capture a special moment because of a lack of space on our phone.
The Mate 20 pro comes with 128 GB’s standard. This allows us to not only have as many apps as we want but also take thousands of photos and back all those photos up. We don’t always have the time to transfer the files off our phone to our computers or we are off traveling abroad without our computers with us.
32 gb = 6,250 photographs
64 gb = 12,500 photographs
128 gb = 25,000 photographs
256 gb = 50,000 photographs
Having the ability to download full length movies or 12 episodes of our favourite showa makes long flights or extended buss hauls so much easier. Trust us, you’ll love being able to store your top 2000 Spotify songs directly to your device.
Random Access Memory (RAM)
Just like a laptop computer, smartphones have RAM. This is similar to the actual storage of the device but allows you to have multiple applications open at one time without them closing. RAM also plays a massive role in the speed of your device. The Mate20 pro comes with 6 GB’s of RAM which is excellent by today’s standards.
Our previous smartphone only had 4 GB’s which means it is more susceptible to slowing down over time. A higher amount will ensure the device is future-proofed (ie, won’t be considered old technology in a matter of months). This will give you the longevity you need out of a $1000+ device.
This should really be at the top of our list as it has proved to be one of the most important things to us. Camera quality is one of those things that you don’t know what you’re missing until you have the best and then think to yourself “how did I ever go any other way”. If you read our 2018 Smartphone review you know we were impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus cameras quality. Well, upon trying out the Mate 20 pro camera we quickly realized it doesn’t even compare.
Nowadays, the need for bringing along your big bulky DSLR camera is diminishing as smartphone cameras are becoming real rivals in delivering photo quality.
Especially when it comes to traveling, you have one shot to take that great photo. You don’t know when, if ever, you will be zooming down a backroad of Thailand on a scooter so it is important that get your perfect shot the first time.
This phone has a set of 3 rear facing lenses that work together to take the perfect photo. All of these work together to make some of the best photos we have ever seen from a phone. We aren’t kidding when we say the quality of this phone is unlike anything we have experienced. There’s also data to back this up!
There is an 8 megapixel (MP) telephoto (zoom), a 20 MP ultra wide angle, and a 40 MP main lens. Yes, that is a higher count than our Nikon d5200 DSLR shooter.
What we like the most is that the smartphone seamlessly switches between the lenses. If you are in the camera app and slide the zoom the camera will transition between the lenses without issue. This is a stark difference from a DSLR setup which requires you to manually remove each lens. Not only is it a pain to switch the lenses, it means you have to carry each one individually – not ideal for travelers.
We love having a built in wide angle lens. This gives us the freedom of being able to take shots without having to backup too far.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This is one of the most powerful cameras when it comes to scene detection. Huawei touts the camera is able to detect more than 1500 scenarios and 25 categories. What this means for you is when you’re in a snowy environment it’ll automatically switch scenes, and thus all the settings, to optimize the photo. The camera auto-detects faces and automatically switches to portrait mode.
At first we didn’t give this feature as much thought as we should have. We knew it was cool but didn’t recognize how much it would transform our photo quality. Our blue skies are enhanced, photos of our dogs are crisper, the snow is whiter… it is honestly one of the main reasons we are such advocates of this phone.
We know that it can be hard to take photos of yourself on your trip. This is why the front camera of a smartphone is so important. Yes, we know it can be embarrassing using a selfie stick but trust us, you’ll be thankful you did 6 months down the road.
The front facing camera on the Huawei Mate20 pro is 23 MP. It takes stunning photos but we definitely recommend turning off, or at least down, the phones beauty mode.
All of this doesn’t matter if the smartphone dies halfway into your day. This is why we picked a phone that has one of the best batteries on the market. It is rated at 4200 maH which is high for such a small device.
This is so nice as we often have really long days traveling without access to a plug in. We rented a car in Bali and drove around the island and by the end of the 12 hour day both of our phones were completely dead with the amount of photos we had taken.
Huawei has coupled the battery with software that learns your usage patterns and tailors your experience accordingly. For example, if you use Instagram, maps, and WhatsApp regularly the phone will keep those apps open in the background. This makes it easy to switch between apps without having to wait for them to reload. It also means that the device uses less power (and thus less battery) throughout the day.
If you are a super heavy user and find yourself with a low battery you’ll be happy to know that you have a device that has built in fast charging. This has to do with the charging cable and brick setup you use. In fact, this is one of the fastest charging phones on the market. A 30 minute charge will give you 70% battery. We always travel with a portable battery bank which gives us nearly 5x our battery life.
Reverse wireless charging
One of the coolest features about this phone is that it was the first phone to have reverse wireless charging. This means you’ll be able to charge another phone (with Qi capabilities) with this phone wirelessly. This may seem silly, but it can really help out in a pinch. It’s not the world’s fastest charging (less than 5W), but it will give you enough for a couple hours while you eat dinner.
High resolution screen
The screen on this smartphone is pretty special. It can be bumped up to 3120 x 1440 for when you’re editing photos or watching movies. But out of the box it comes set to 2340 x 1080 and the Smart Resolution feature is turned on. This increases or decreases the screen resolution based on what you’re doing. So, if you’re watching a movie it’ll increase to 3120 x 1440 but if you’re just browsing the web it’ll decrease it. You should care about this because the screen is one of the biggest factors in determining battery life; The higher the resolution, the worse the battery life.
It is also made with OLED technology. This is usually found in high end televisions and smartphones. What’s great about this type of screen is that the blacks are actually the pixels of the screen being turned off. This makes it have true blacks instead of the panel trying to imitate black. None of this you will notice a difference on but will contribute to a longer battery life.
Not only can it be a super high resolution, it also features a curved display. While some people don’t like it we are not part of this group. It seems to fit in your hand more comfortably. Overall, it makes the devices feel much more premium than its competition. It seems like all of the best rated cell phones have this type of screen.
It seems like there’s a race to a bezel-less phone, including this one. Yes, there is a notch but it houses some important features (more on this later). The curved edges give the feeling that there is no bezel along the sides. There is a slight chin at the bottom of the screen but that’s the only wasted space you’ll find. It actually makes it easier to hold in landscape (aka watching movies).
There are many ways this device keeps your information safe. It has an in screen fingerprint sensor that works surprisingly well. This one is an optical sensor meaning it takes a photo of your fingerprint. The only drawback of this is that it has to shine a bright light onto your finger. You’ll only truly notice this at night or in dark environments. The cool thing about this feature is that you can set the home screen to be different based on a different fingerprint. So if you use certain apps more frequently than your wife, you can simply set it up to show a different home screen when it detects her fingerprint.
The notch is where the high tech 3D Face Unlock is located. Unlike other Android smartphones which simply use a photo to recognize your face the Mate 20 pro shoots over 30 000 little dots onto your face. This makes it much more secure as it “reads” the contours of your face. In fact, it can recognize you even if you’re wearing glasses or a hat. In our time using the phone the face unlock has worked so well that we’ve actually forgot we had it enabled.
Most phones these days come with some sort of water resistant rating. This device is IP68 rated. The “IP” stands for Ingress Protection meaning it fights against debris entering the device. The first number refers to solids – 6 meaning it is “dust tight”, while the second number is talking about liquids – 8 meaning it is able to be submerged in water for a period of time.
When this is put together, Huawei says this phone can handle up to a 1.5 meters (5 feet) depth for up to 30 minutes. While we don’t recommend swimming with the device we do regularly bring ours out into rain storms or kayaking with us on a lake. Just keep in mind also that this doesn’t include salt or chlorinated water. Both of these can damage the gaskets that keep the phone water tight.
Trust us, this is more than a feature you should overlook. While traveling in Bali one of our phones got a little wet and started malfunctioning. This wouldn’t be an issue if we were somewhere we could get it repaired, but we were in a remote area. The phone stopped working the next day, meaning we lost a way of capturing photos.
Travelers will appreciate the long list of available bands this device can connect to. For those not familiar with this term “bands” refers to the frequencies a device can connect to. Each country, region, and cellular company uses different bands. This means that no matter if you’re road tripping through Canada, or backpacking Thailand, you’ll be able to stay in touch with your friends and family.
Even though this phone’s storage can be expanded it’s not entirely needed, and can be expensive. This is because Huawei have strayed from the industry’s standard of micro SD cards. Instead, they use something called Nano Memory. It’s quite similar to micro SD cards except it’ll be much thinner. You can get 64 GB, 128 GB, all the way up to 256 GB.
Comes with a case
Most top of the line smartphones these days come with the bare minimum in the box: a charger, the device and headphones (if you’re lucky). You’ll find a fast charger, headphones, a 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter and a case. It may not be the most durable but it keeps the device from scratching. Every time you place your device on a surface it has the chance to scratch so even the thinnest cases will ensure it stays in pristine condition for as long as possible.
Addressing the controversy
Huawei has been in the news a lot in the past few months, especially in Canada. This has tainted their name a little when it comes to their products. Some people have brought up that the company may be spying on it’s customers. Most people don’t realize that Huawei manufacturers nearly all of the cellular communication towers (at least here in Canada) so if they really wanted to take your data they’d simply siphon it from the towers. In other words, they wouldn’t need to produce a physical device in order to spy on you.
If you’re looking for the best smartphone for travel in 2019 you’ll want to check out the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. When it came time for us to upgrade our phones, we did a lot of research in order to find which one was going to fit into our busy rough lifestyle the best.
We are so happy with our choice to go for the Huawei, mostly for the impressive photo quality it gives us as well as the waterproofing technology.The entire device has built in Artificial Intelligence which tailors everything from the apps that stay open to the battery to the automatic selection of the cameras.
The Huawei Mate 20 Pro specs speak for themself. Having 6 GBs of ram allow you to multitask without apps force closing, 128 GBs of storage gives you the ability to take photos for months without having to transfer them to a computer.
Until next year…
What unlocked smartphone do you use for travelling? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means we may get a commission if you make a purchase at no extra charge to you. Our opinions are our own and we only share what we believe you’ll find helpful. We also use all the products that we have links to. You can even see them in the photos we post.
Ahhh Kelowna – the Hawaii of Canada! In 2019, after travelling quite extensively, we made the calculated decision to make Kelowna our home base. After thoroughly exploring North America on our three-year road trip it is safe to say we knew exactly what we wanted in the place we decided to call home: tons of hiking trails, long hot summers with mild winters, slow good vibes and friendly people. You need to visit Kelowna now!
Kelowna checked all of these boxes off with flying colours! We could go on and on about why we love this city (and often do) so we decided to do just that by listing the top reasons that Kelowna needs to be at the top of your must-visit travel list.
If there is one thing that Kelowna excels at it’s outdoor living. Everywhere you look you will see patios, parks, people on their bikes and at the beach. Kelowna is great for those looking for short milder winters and long hot summers.
Wondering what the best way to spend a summer day in Kelowna is? Packing a cooler and relaxing aboard a private pontoon boat cruise on Okanagan Lake is the way to do it! This cruise will take up to 11 people to spend the afternoon on the lake for $960 CAD ($715.99 USD). Split that cost 11 ways and this becomes super affordable!
All the sunshine in Kelowna makes the spring and fall months feel like an extension of summer. In fact, many locals will start their outdoor living as early as late March when the snow has melted and the sun is in full force. By April, patios are in full swing and it seems every single house has a BBQ going for dinner. The many surrounding lakes help to break the heat you may be experiencing as summer temperatures are known to sit around the mid-30s (in the 90s Fahrenheit).
Tucked amongst the mountains, Kelowna continues to be a playground even through the winter months. Big White in Kelowna is a popular option amongst locals for skiing and snowboarding but there are many in the area including Apex mountain in Hedley and Silverstar mountain in nearby Vernon. A great place to experience all 4 seasons, Kelowna winters drop just below freezing to around -5℃ (around 25℉) allowing for white winters that aren’t too chilly.
Kelowna, and most of the people living here, place a great priority on shopping locally. With a dominating farming industry, sourcing produce and meat fresh from local farms are the norms.
From the budding local farmers’ market to the many small markets selling locally produced goods, you have endless farm-to-table options. Even big corporations such as Save On Foods have entire sections of their stores that highlight all locally crafted items.
Walking down Bernard Ave. or Pandosy St., the two streets that are most dedicated to “downtown shopping”. A majority of these stores are all local boutique-style businesses. The top cafes and restaurants in Kelowna are all smaller family-owned businesses that serve local craft beers and wines.
If you’re wanting to take part in the shop local eat local trend, this 3 hour private downtown foodie tour will take you to some of the best downtown local restaurants that are exclusive to Kelowna. The tour costs $120 CAD ($89.50 USD) and includes all food and drinks at the different independent restaurants.
If you are looking to get on board with this trend there are many farms in the city where you can go directly to buy all your produce, meats, cheeses, honey, and more.
Looking for more of a one-stop shop? The farmers market in Kelowna is large and bustling with great local finds and runs every Saturday and Wednesday morning in the summer months. You can find everything from fresh locally grown vegetables to homemade clothes and dreamcatchers.
3. There are over 100 wineries in the Okanagan
The Okanagan is BC’s little Napa Valley – full of stunning wineries. Summerhill Pyramid Winery is one of our favourites with lake and city views that are sure to take your breath away. Sandhill Wines is right downtown Kelowna making it a super popular destination. With every winery having its own spin on things you can even find some great niche wines, such as the honey wine found at Meadow Vista.
If you don’t have a designated driver, booking an afternoon Kelowna wine tour is a great option. You can choose between either an east Kelowna or West Kelowna wine tour here visiting 4 of the best wineries in the city. All tasting fees and transportation from your hotel is included in the cost. The price varies based on the number of people in your group with 2 people costing $250 CAD ($186.46 USD) each and a group of 6 costing $179 CAD ($133.50 USD) per person.
Wine isn’t your thing? There are TONS of small craft breweries and cideries in the city and surrounding area. If you want it all in one place visiting any number of the local pubs around town will give you local options.
If you’d be more into checking out the craft beer scene, this Kelowna brewery tour will take you to 3 of the best breweries in the city: Tree Brewing, BNA Brewing, and Kettle River Brewing. Flights of beer from each brewery and transportation are included in the $110 CAD ($82.04 USD) per person price tag.
Downtown Kelowna has developed a brewery district with a bunch of craft breweries opening close together. The best way to see this is with a walking self guided Kelowna brewery tour that takes you to the best Kelowna breweries. Our top recommendations are BNA, Red Bird and Bad Tattoo Brewing (all located within a few blocks of each other).
4. Kelowna’s Okanagan Lake is full of activities
We LOVE the water and that is a massive positive for the city – it’s surrounded by huge lakes. Okanagan Lake runs North to South between West Kelowna and Kelowna. Kalamalka Lake and Wood Lake also run vertically but are northeast of the city.
Kelowna’s waterways are beautiful providing gorgeous views both in and out of the water.
The lakes here are BIG and offer warm clear waters that are perfect for boating, kayaking and even scuba diving. Kelowna’s main lake is called the Okanagan Lake and is famous for having the friendly Ogopogo monster living inside, similar to Scotland’s Loch Ness monster.
This lake is lined with beaches every few hundred meters making it so there is plenty of access in the summertime. As a general rule, the farther away from downtown you go, the better your chances are of finding a great spot.
The most popular beaches in Kelowna are Boyce-Gyro Beach, Hot Sand Beach at City Park, Tugboat Beach and Rotary Beach Beach. If you are looking for less busy Kelowna beaches to visit, we recommend driving down Lakeshore Rd/Abbott Rd to find some smaller beach access points.
Venturing into West Kelowna is another great option for finding quieter beaches.
If you want a bit more luxury, another great way to enjoy the lake is by sailing on it. This private sailing cruise is a great way for your group to see the city. The price of this cruise varies on the number of people in your group with 2 people costing $160 CAD ($119.33 USD) each and groups of 6 costing $130 CAD ($96.96 USD) each. My favorite part about this tour is your captain will even let you take the wheel giving you a quick sailing lesson as you go.
If you are looking beyond just Kelowna, there are 50 lakes in the Okanagan area so you have plenty of options and may even find some secluded havens. Heading down some local FSRs (forest service roads) will take you to smaller, less crowded lakes such as Chute Lake, Lambly Lake, Hydraulic Lake, Postill Lake and Beaver Lake.
One of our favourite things to do is to hike in or kayak along the coastline to find our own private beaches. We often pack our dogs into our kayaks and paddle up the lake to find some great secret spots along the water. If you don’t have a kayak, try exploring on foot.
Knox Mountain is a great hiking spot that is located right downtown Kelowna and if you are brave enough to bushwack a bit you can find some great water access spots. A popular one to hike to is Paul’s Tomb – the walk is easy and the views are priceless. Another great hike-in-only beach is Rose Valley Lake on Kelowna’s Westside.
5. You get to enjoy the best restaurants in Kelowna
The amount of high-quality restaurant options in Kelowna is enough to make your head spin. We HIGHLY recommend skipping the big-name chains and opting for one of the many local restaurants in the area.
In the downtown core, higher-end restaurants such as Oak & Cru and Micro Bar & Bites combine with eclectic must-visit places such as BNA brewing, Leopold’s Tavern and Curious Cafe.
If you are looking to soak up the sunshine with a great patio and lake views check out King Taps or Cactus Club downtown or head to a winery such as Quails Gate in West Kelowna.
A great way to taste the city is to book this downtown Kelowna walking food tour. You can eat your way through 7 different places in the city. This tour costs $83 CAD ($61.90 USD) and includes all food and drink tastings along the way. Your guide will teach you about the city and the food as you spend 3 hours touring downtown.
If you’re looking for a meal with a ton of nightlife head to Craft Beer Market or Social 242 Lounge (bonus: Tuesday is Ladies Night where ladies get $20 off of a $40 or higher bill INCLUDING drinks!). Kelowna is fairly vegan-friendly with restaurants like Central Kitchen, the Naked Cafe, Frankie We Salute You and KB &Co offering many plant-based options.
6. The perfect mix of fresh fruit & local farms
Kelowna has a delicate balance of city life mixed with gorgeous farms and orchards. Okanagan fruit is definitely something to write home about – the cherries.. the peaches!!! You can expect the streets to be lined with fresh fruit stands in the summertime that are all well worth a visit.
If you are up for the adventure, there are MANY u-pick farms that you can visit to pick your own fruit straight from the source — it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
If you are up for the adventure, there are MANY u-pick farms that you can visit to pick your own fruit straight from the source — it doesn’t get any fresher than this!
There are even great sanctuaries that allow hands-on experience with some rescued farm animals. The Arion therapeutic farm is a favourite of ours and a great place to get in touch with nature.
7. There are so many things to do in Kelowna
If you are lucky enough to visit the Okanagan in the summertime you will be left with no shortage of amazing things to do around the city. With all the wineries, farms, and patios you will have no shortage of ways to enjoy all the beautiful sunshine that comes in this area.
If you enjoy the outdoors, we recommend exploring the Kettle Valley Railroad. This offers endless stunning views and is great for hiking, biking or even cross-country skiing in the wintertime. There are a couple of different access points, our favourite of which is located here.
If you’re wanting to try biking this trail, the Kettle Valley Railway tour from Myra Canyon to Penticton is a great way to do it. While the whole trail is either flat or downhill, you will be traveling long distances so make sure you’re physically fit. You will be biking all the way to Penticton crossing the trestle bridges and going through tunnels. The tour is great for groups of 4 or more and includes your bike rental and round trip transportation for $225 CAD ($167.81 USD) per person.
Expect a bit of a drive from the city and a dirt road climb up a forest service road but trust us it is well worth it.
If you are coming in the winter months, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the relatively mild temperatures in the area. Winter makes a short and sweet appearance in Kelowna perfectly dusting the city with some snow to make all your winter wonderland dreams come true. This gives the local mountains some great fresh powder while allowing the city to put on their FREE annual outdoor skating rink.
From local craft breweries to hipster cafes this city has an artsy vibe that rivals San Francisco. Everyone here has their own unique style and it seems most have found their own ways to combine their passions with their business.
The downtown core is full of life and diverse hotspots sure to light your fire whether you’re a foodie or fashionista. With a buzzing arts and culture district, there is something new to do and see every night of the week.
9. There are SO MANY places to camp!
It is no surprise that we LOVE to camp. If you’re anything like us and love to find private FREE campsites, Kelowna and the surrounding area have plenty to keep you busy. As Kelowna is nestled between mountains, forests and lakes you will find that there are a ton of great spots to camp.
Less than half an hour from the downtown core in practically any direction you will find yourself in the middle of the outback with endless free campsites to enjoy.
10. It’s dog friendly
With three dogs, this should really be at the top of our list as it is one of the first things we look for in a new city. To be honest, we were nervous to move to Kelowna as we previously had found Kelowna incredibly not dog friendly but it turns out we just didn’t know where to go.
Minutes from downtown you will find Mushroom Beach (also called Lake Ave Dog Off-leash beach), another great dog-friendly beach spot. There are also lots of great trails around that allow your furry friend to come along.
If you are wanting more of a city vibe you can walk your pup downtown along the water. Bernard Street offers up a plethora of restaurants some of which have patios with water dishes for your pup.
If you are wanting more of a city vibe you can walk your pup downtown along the water. Bernard Street offers up a plethora of restaurants some of which have patios with water dishes for your pup.
Where to stay in Kelowna
Delta Hotels by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort – If waking up to stunning lake views sounds great to you, the Delta Hotel is one of the best hotels in Kelowna. Choose to soak in either their indoor or outdoor pool, enjoy the on-site restaurant Oak + Cru, or take a trip to their on-site wine cellar to do the most Kelowna-y thing you can do – enjoy a wine tasting. Located right downtown Kelowna, this hotel is within walking distance to the best beaches, restaurants and shopping in the city.
Hotel Zed – This quirky colorful downtown Kelowna hotel has a young and hip vibe with tons of cool extras to offer. With a pool, hot tub, outdoor firepit and sauna on site, there is tons to do. This is a great place to meet people whether you’re enjoying a cold beer on their rooftop patio taking in views of Okanagan Lake, raving at their mini-disco on site or having fun at their Ping Pong lounge complete with a Wii station. You can get around on their free bikes and rollerscates offered. Best of all, the hotel is pet friendly!
Hotel Eldorado at Eldorado Resort – This stunning boutique-style hotel is located in the southern Mission area of Kelowna. This lakefront resort has a stunning indoor pool and a whole lot of character. With a charming restaurant on site, this resort is close by the top beaches in Kelowna including Rotary Beach.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Kelowna – A great option for families traveling to the Okanagan, Fairfield Inn has a giant waterslide that is great for keeping the family happy. Rooms are spacious and breakfast is included at this hotel. A great location sandwiched between downtown Kelowna and Kelowa’s airport, this hotel is within walking distance to many great restaurants and Orchard Park Mall.
Thanks for stopping by!
All in all, Kelowna is the ultimate destination offering something for everyone. Whether you are looking to set down some roots or planning the ultimate road trip through BC Kelowna has so much to offer!
Ever been to Kelowna? What was your favourite part of the city?
British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places in all of Canada. We’re not just saying this because both of us grew up here, we did some thorough exploring before giving this title. After travelling around all of North America we have come to appreciate this part of the world even more than before. A road trip through BC offers some of the most scenic drives in the entire country.
An adventure lovers paradise, this province has everything from stunning coastlines, tall mountains, lush forests and a whole lot of wildlife. Where else can you scuba dive the depths of the ocean in the morning and go skiing in the afternoon? I mean, don’t actually do this because you are sure to get some altitude sickness… but, like, you COULD.
As BC natives and globe travellers, we’ve undoubtedly spent more time in this province than anywhere else and now consider ourselves experts. Below we have put together our favourite road trip through southern BC. This ultimate road trip guide is designed for people who are looking to get away for about a week.
All in all this road trip adds up to about 1,000 km of pure joy and the open road. We recommend allowing 5-10 days for this trip in order to be able to really soak in all the sights.
Best time to ROAD TRIP: Summers are known to be road trip season – and for good reason. This specific route is much better in the summertime. With many lakes, fresh fruit stands, hot summer sun and the best access to wineries, the months of June – mid-September are the best for this kind of trip.
The roads are MUCH safer at this time as you will be climbing some steep mountains. Make sure you have a reliable vehicle to take you on the trip. While you can plan a BC road trip in the winter months, it becomes a lot more dangerous with icy, snow-covered roads. Be aware that BC roads mandate winter tires on most highways between October 1st and April 30th.
While the best road trip through BC is in the summer months, be sure to consider the many natural effects that happen in these months. May – June typically experiences a fair amount of flooding. Late July – September typically sees wild forest fires. Be sure to check out what’s going on before you leave as there may be some changes needed to your route. These restrictions often lead to fire bans as well.
Starting Point: Vancouver
As most people are coming from Kelowna, let’s start our trip there. If you are coming from out of the province, you will be likely flying into Vancouver’s main airport: YVR (Vancouver International Airport). There are many places you can rent a car or motorhome for this trip.
If you are not interested in renting a car (you really should, it will be MUCH cheaper) there are buses that will take you this route as well but these routes aren’t as affordable and flexible as other parts of the world.
Pro Tip: Skip the expensive and long cab ride from the airport to the city and instead jump on the Skytrain. The Canada Line will take you right from Richmond (the city YVR airport is in) and drop you right downtown for a fraction of the price.
This is a small town nestled in the mountains located about 100 kilometres east of Vancouver. After leaving the hustle and bustle of the lower mainland, Chilliwack will be a welcomed introduction to the huge farmlands and gorgeous mountain views you can expect from the rest of BC.
Chilliwack has one major draw to it: an amazing resort community called Cultus Lake. This area has so much to offer and is a great vacation spot for families. Here you will find BC’s best waterpark: Cultus Lake Waterslides. As the name suggests, there is also a beautiful and warm lake that is a must-visit. Provincial campgrounds and privately owned lakefront cabins, many of which offer AirBNB, are in the area.
Take the Vedder Road exit off of Highway 1 to get to the last rest stop before Hope (another half hour away). You can use this time to stretch your legs, grab some snacks and fill your gas tank. Chilliwack is often home to the cheapest gas in the lower mainland so we recommend taking advantage. For those who aren’t Canadian, you will need to take this time to grab a Tim Hortons coffee. You can’t do a Canadian road trip WITHOUT Timmy’s.
Pro Tip: When driving through the Hope area, be sure to stop at the Othello Tunnels. Some old railway trestles weaving into the rocky landscape have been repurposed into some stunning hiking trails.
Manning Park (PAID)
Distance From Vancouver: 218 km
Just following Hope the road forks allowing you to veer off Highway 1 and get onto Highway 3 which cuts east across the province. Taking this will get you to Manning Park – a small mountain community in BC that sits inside a protected provincial park.
You can find accommodations for the night at Manning Park. This is a popular area for cross country and downhill skiing in winter and a beautifully scenic stop in the summer. Here you will find a mixture of campgrounds, airBNBs, cabins and hotels to choose from. While you may be able to snag something last minute, we recommend booking these in advance as things fill up quickly. Tucked into the mountains, be sure to pack layers no matter when you visit as temperatures can stick quite cool year-round.
The best way to see this area is to get out of your car and explore on foot (or ski). Extensive hiking trails allow you to get deep into the wilderness to explore. Bring your bike along, or rent some cross-country skis, and make the most of this beautiful landscape.
When you’re ready to leave you will want to keep driving east on Highway 3. This road is long, windy and often single-laned but incredibly worth it as you will be immersed in some breathtaking beauty.
Note: If you are wanting a free night of camping try using this area as a place to get out and stretch your legs. Hike the trails and go play outside for a bit before continuing another 50 minutes for a FREE site in Princeton.
For those of you who are looking to cut some costs and still get a great camping spot on the river, try heading to Princeton for some free camping! This spot has half a dozen campsites all sitting right on the water. You will find fire pits, picnic tables and even outhouses in this area. You can even drive your vehicle practically right on the beach making this spot perfect!
Note: Free camping spots all work on a first come first serve basis so you can not make reservations. Don’t worry though as there are many PAID campsites in this area that are just as beautiful so if you can’t score a free site you will have no problem still finding a place to park your RV.
Be warned, the town of Princeton doesn’t offer a ton in terms of city needs – it has a couple of gas stations, a booster juice and a Save On Foods (grocery store) to gather supplies. The real draw here is the outback that you are submerged in, the free camping sites and the many amazing biking trails close by.
On your way out of town, be sure to keep an eye out when driving through the tiny town of Keremeos as you will be wanting to take a turn south to head towards Osoyoos rather than directly towards Penticton.
Pro Tip: If you are looking to make this trip a bit shorter, skip over Osoyoos and head straight to Penticton.
Osoyoos is a popular beach town located close to the USA-Canada border. From a wine drinker’s point of view, this town is a MUST SEE. Osoyoos weather is desert-like (read: hot and dry) making it GREAT for growing wine crops.
In Osoyoos and the slightly northern town of Oliver, you will find countless wineries where you can sip on your favourite wines for CHEAP. This area is a great place to gain some flexibility with your road trip as most of the wineries in the area don’t require appointments or reservations and welcome drop-ins. Just keep in mind most are only open from 10 am-2 pm.
Note: Osoyoos isn’t a very dog-friendly city. Most of the beaches don’t allow dogs, there aren’t any dog off-leash beaches and most local restaurants don’t allow your furry friend to join you on the patio. With that being said, there are many great hiking and biking trails in the area for you to bring your pups.
If you are visiting through the summer months be sure to hit up the MANY fruit stands in the area. Fresh, delicious fruits, veggies and honey are in abundance in the whole Okanagan region. For this reason, buy for the day and then keep driving to the many other fruit stands or U-picks along the way. There are also many campsites around this area if you don’t want to stay in Osoyoos hotels.
One of our favourite cities in the Okanagan, Penticton has that quaint picturesque small-town feel with all the big city conveniences you could need. You’ll find big parks, tons of greenery, off-leash dog beaches and two big beautiful lakes. There is WiFi just about everywhere in this town if you are like us and working nomadically. (Look for the one named Shaw Go rather than Shaw Open).
This town is most famous for its lazy tubing down rivers. While there are many places on this trip where you will have the opportunity to laze on a river, this is by far the most popular place to do so. Bring a floaty and jump into the Penticton canal and join the river floating fun. Penticton weather in the summertime makes for floating heaven. You can even rent tubes and get shuttle buses to return you upstream taking all the guesswork out of your experience. They really make it easy to have a great day.
This town is built in between two lakes. The north lake, Okanagan Lake, is a much more sophisticated area. With beachside bars and million-dollar houses, this is the site where you will find expensive 5-star Okanagan resort hotels. At the south end of the city, you will find Skaha Lake which offers a large park and a much more laid-back young beach vibe. You will find more bed & breakfast style accommodations here and places to rent paddleboards, windsurf boards and kayaks.
Get your camera ready and be prepared to make A LOT of stops on the road between here and Kelowna. Your whole ride will be driving alongside one big beautiful lake: Okanagan Lake. There are plenty of spots to pull over along this drive to take lots of photos or stop for a picnic along the water.
While this is mostly a drive-through town you will want to drive REAL slow. This area is absolutely stunning. There are many pull-offs here for you to get the best selfies. Tons of fruit stands give this small town a lazy beach bum vibe that you are sure to love.
Another small drive-through town, Peachland is located a few minutes outside of Kelowna, the next big city. Worth a stop, this small town is small and lazy making it a great spot to stop on your road trip. Rent some paddle boards and head to the beach or lace up your shoes to a secret waterfall, Hardy Falls. We really do love summertime on the water.
There are some great off roading trails in this area up Brenda Mines Road that can take you to some great lakes and free camping sites. Our favourite in the area is heading to Headwaters Lakes or. Silver lake campground. If you’d rather adventure on foot than by vehicle, head to Pincushion Mountain. This short 3.4km hike starts off with a bang as you climb steep slopes and staircases to tread up the mountain. Keep with it as the steep climb levels off pretty well along the way and delivers some world class views once you get to the top.
Kelowna, our hometown, has turned into a mini Vancouver with all the conveniences you get with a big city, and yet a Hawaii-like tropical feel. Kelowna has the best of every world and is the best summer destination in BC. This lakeside city offers the longest summers in Canada and so much to do.
The city is so full of life and has an unbeatable outdoorsy vibe. Kelowna’s population is growing as many people are moving away from Vancouver’s buzz and Alberta’s flatlands. Think lakeside living, delicious wineries and excellent boutiques… oh and a CHEAPER PRICE TAG.
Soak in Okanagan Lake while searching for the Ogopogo, hike the beautiful hills, indulge in some lakeside dining and take on a wine tour. We specifically loved Quails Gate Winery in West Kelowna. This place is quite upscale and you can taste it in the wines. We also loved Meadow Vista winery. This is a really small winery with honey-infused wines!
This is a great place to visit for bachelorette parties or for fun nights out. Packing your days with tours through the vineyards and your evenings with lakeside restaurants is easy in this area. For those who like some entertainment, Kelowna offers some great nightlife at local hotspots like King Taps, Craft Beer Market, Social 242 and even Gotham nightclub. I had my bachelorette party in the city and there was tons to do!
In between Kelowna and Vernon you will find yourself driving through a city called Lake Country. As the name suggests you’re in store for stunning water views every way you look. This town doesn’t offer much in terms of city life as you will find only a few restaurants that aren’t associated with a vineyard. It does, however, offer some amazing lake country wineries all with their own stunning views. If you are in this area you do not want to miss a trip to Gray Monk Winery. Sitting perched on a cliff-side this winery offers delicious wine and views you won’t want to miss.
When driving through Lake Country the highway takes you past Wood Lake and Kalamalka Lake. When the weather is clear, these lakes glisten with turquoise waters that will have you thinking you’re in paradise. If you have time on your trip, we recommend crossing the hill to the west side of Lake Country where you will find access to Okanagan Lake. Driving down Cars Landing Road will reward you with amazing views and many white sandy beaches.
Vernon keeps with the Okanagan trend of offering a ton of sunshine, lakes and laid back vibes. Kalamalka Lake is an absolute must-see when coming to this area. Point your car straight to Kalamalka beach and thank me later! While here, rent some paddle boards or go for a hike through the rocks to find some great cliff jumping. You don’t have to travel far for lunch as you will find some lakeside restaurants and convenience stores to give you fuel. If you have a dog along with you, instead head towards Okanagan Lake’s Kin Beach. They have a dog-friendly section of their beach that your pup will love. O’Keeffe Ranch is a great local farm that offers a ton of activities for the whole family.
For those that are looking to soak in some luxury, we recommend the beautiful hilltop spa of Sparkling Hill. This is a great luxury destination in the Okanagan where you will find steam rooms, saunas, and even an igloo room. If your itinerary allows, we recommend staying at least 2 nights here to be able to fully enjoy the experience and make the most of all the activities on site. They even have dog-friendly rooms!
Heading north from Vernon you will drive past the small town of Armstrong to get to the town of Enderby. While this may look like just another small town, it packs a punch with tons of things to do. The drive to Enderby will take you past the Log Farm which is a great place to stop, especially for those travelling with kids. This eclectic farm is filled with fun activities your whole family will love. On arrival, you will be greeted by some massive dinosaur statues and a whole array of fun figures. There is also a mini petting zoo on-site with animals that you can pet and feed. The most iconic animals are the goats that have a bridge they can walk over that you drive under as you enter the site. Inside you will find a farmer’s market-style store that sells all sorts of goodies (try the pie!!!).
This tiny town may not look like there is a lot to do, but looks can be deceiving. The town is home to a quaint outdoor flea market where locals sell homemade goods. If you like hiking be sure to check out the Enderby Cliffs. While this hike is longer in duration it offers a good amount of tree coverage and switchbacks help to make it not feel as steep. This is one of our favourite hikes in the Okanagan. Not only are the views from the top of the cliff unlike anything else in the area, the path on the way up makes you feel like you’re trekking through a tropical paradise.
One of the greatest draws to the area for locals is the Enderby river. While Penticton offers a city float, the Enderby river offers a more remote float as you weave leisurely through expansive farmlands on your way into town. If you have to pick just one spot to float down a river on this list, Enderby should definitely be the one! As soon as it turns dark, head to the must-visit Starlight Drive-In Theatre. This is also a great place to do some stargazing on a clear night.
If you like wide-open spaces and large lush farmlands this area will not disappoint. Located a short drive from Armstrong, another small town in the area.
From here you are faced with two options. You can drive north for another beautiful city: Salmon Arm or you can drive west and have a more rural experience in the hills of Falkland.
Option 1: Highway 1 Through Salmon Arm
If you are wanting to stick to the small cities and lake vibes then heading north towards Salmon Arm and driving Highway 1 is the way to go. Once reaching the small green town of Salmon Arm you will be greeted by yet another large lazy lake, the Shuswap Lake. There is a lot to do in this area for adventurers. Some of our favourites are white water rafting, zip-lining or renting some kayaks and paddleboards for a lazy day on the water. In fact, this is one of the more popular spots locals like to hang out.
Option 2: Highway 97 Through Falkland
If you’d rather wind your way through farmlands and have a more rustic nature-filled experience, taking Highway 97 through Falkland and Monte Lake is a great route. There are tons of places to camp in the area as you drive through a couple of small farm communities.
The town of Falkland is known in the area for the annual Falkland Stampede that draws in a fairly big crowd every spring. You will know you have reached the town when you can see their iconic Canada flag displayed up on the mountainside. Hiking up to this flag will lead to some rewarding views. Heading north up Falkland Chase Road will take you to some great outback areas where you can set up camp. On your way, you will pass Pillar Lake, a popular fishing lake.
Further north you will pass through Westwold where you will find the Westwold General Store – try their donuts and thank me later! A little ways further you will find an area called Monte Lake. This area draws a crowd of rock collectors who frequently dig near the lake for precious rocks and gems.
Another great place to float down the river, Kamloops is a town that is almost guaranteed to have sunny weather and a whole lot of wind. There are tons of hiking spots in this area including treks to Kenna Cartwright Park and Peterson Creek. Dog owners will enjoy a trip to Pioneer Park, a large off-leash dog park that even has an off-leash beach.
Note: If you have some time to spare, driving an hour and a half north to Clearwater will take you to Wells Gray Park. This is one of the best-kept secret places in BC’s interior which we consider a much see! There are so many impressive waterfalls in the area. With camping nearby, rafting and some great places to canoe on the lake, this is a must-see spot for those that can afford the time.
A sharp turn south along the Coquihalla highway will take you to the city of Merritt. This will be the last stop on your travels. While the town of Merritt isn’t packed with entertainment, the surrounding area offers some great backwoods camping.
When heading back to Vancouver, be sure to take advantage of Chilliwack’s cheaper gas on your drive-through – this often saves us about 10 cents a litre compared to prices in the city.
If the sudden and crippling burst of traffic hasn’t already shown you, you’re back in the city once again. Be sure to use this time to look over your vehicle as this was a long road trip.
Have you wanted to take a road trip across BC? Tell us your favourite areas in the comment section below.
Remember when you were younger and your body allowed you to do so much more? Maybe it wasn’t your body, but your mind…? Regardless, you didn’t watch your footing when running on a rocky shore, there was no careful consideration of where to put your bad knee … you were lighter on your feet and could bounce back with a little scrape.
At what point did I start carefully placing my footing? At what point did I start to worry about falling. I remember NEVER thinking about these sorts of things when I was younger. I know, I know I sound like I am ready for retirement with all this “back in my day” talk… I mean I am only 26.
Somehow over the years I have become more cautious. Maybe it is something that comes with age or maturity… whatever it is I DON’T LIKE IT!! I take pride in acting as young as possible and living by the general thought of just because you age, doesn’t mean you have to grow up. I honestly love the process of aging. I love LIVING. But why does living have to mean getting more fearful of being hurt?
When we tell people we are full time nomadic travelers who work as we explore and try to have as much freedom and as little responsibility as possible, we generally hear one of two things. Either “That’s great do it while you’re young, before you settle down and have kids…” or the very opposite “You’re supposed to save this time of your life for retirement. Go to work and earn money now so you can do this when you retire.”
The truth is, I hate both of these sayings.
The first, while I understand is incredibly well intentioned, makes both Myles and I never want to have kids. I HATE when people say your life is over when you have kids. Why? Sure, you have more expenses but why does this little bitty life form that you get to raise mean you no longer get to matter? Why can’t you both matter?
Wouldn’t raising a child who is gaining life experiences by traveling all over the world and meeting everyone along the way become a better person? Doesn’t it sound better to learn abou
t World War II in Germany rather than in a cold classroom? I don’t know if we will have kids (we will probably adopt), or if we will home school them if we do but I certainly don’t want my life to be over.
The other saying is a notion I understand more. I completely get that every generation before mine had to live this way. But the beauty of our modern day is I don’t have to. As long as I have a computer, I can work from anywhere. This is one of the more beautiful progressions humans have made and I plan to take FULL advantage of it.
I can’t imagine doing this while I am old.
So many of the things Myles and I do, the places we go, the way we live our life, I couldn’t imagine doing it when we are older. Learning to surf in Bali likely would NOT have happened if we were 68. Jumping into an ice-cold river in the middle of the day for a refreshing bath, we probably would have had a heart attack if we were past retirement. Staying in questionable
hotels and meeting some of the best people in Thailand getting food poisoning and dancing on the beach until the sun came up – nope not that either. (well, maybe that one.. I hope we are that cool when we are older).
While I hope I get the opportunity to live long enough for retirement, and I hope that I will still be living a life I love, I am pretty sure that my concern for falling or hurting myself will only increase. I am quite positive my ability to run up mountains, dive deep below the waters surface and spend long hours dancing in a thunder storm will become less and less as I filter through those years.
This is why I don’t wait for retirement. Instead, I will love today and dream endlessly for tomorrow.
What do you think? Are we young kids being beautiful rebellions or are we actually on to something?
These last two hectic weeks have been the ride of a lifetime. I find that it is easier going into van life blindly your first time rather than living it for a year and a half, leaving it and then coming back. That is for one reason: EXPECTATION.
Selling our SUV marked the last thing on our To-Do list before finalizing our Spanish visa and jumping on an airplane to a life of more unknown than either of us realize. While we couldn’t be more excited, we find ourselves clinging to every single second of this van life to a point of feeling disappointed when it isn’t going the way we imagined.
You see moving to a slower paced life on wheels is more of an adjustment than you may realize.
Sure, there’s the space constraints and the lack of a toilet (which is most people’s concern). In reality, that stuff is nothing. You learn that quickly with some organization and indoor/outdoor living. The hard stuff may not be what you think.
These are the top 5 things that you wouldn’t expect to be an adjustment when living van life:
1. Slowing your BRAIN
Our first night back at life in a van Myles looked at me and said “well, now what”. We laughed because this is not the first time we have felt that way. Unwinding can be a difficult thing to master. But once you get it, it’s hard to go back. So hard in fact that most of our friends get frustrated that we are late for EVERYTHING. (Sorry everyone!)
No longer do you have this beautifully taken advantage gift of overhead lighting. Well, you do, but far less than ever before. While nighttime can turn into meaning fire time, generally speaking you begin to wind down as the sun does. In turn, you also wake up a great deal earlier to take advantage of all the beauty the sunlight brings. This change in sleeping patterns takes some adjusting but really becomes the most wonderful thing.
Waking up with no more alarm clocks: YES PLEASE!
3. Getting used to being on display
While we intentionally put ourselves on display on occasion, as with our various social media handles, we are on display for more than just that. We live in a van that gets A LOT of attention. It also is surrounded with windows and to top it all off it looks a bit like a clowns car when the two of us and 3 dogs all jump out.
Just about every single time we stop, be it for gas or in a “secluded spot” we have at least one person come to talk to us. Something we love, but oftentimes it’s done when we have a mouthful of toothpaste, are feeding our dogs, or changing our clothes.
4. Being a slave to mother nature
When you live in a big house, if you don’t like what is going on outside of you simply don’t look out the window. How many times have people gone about their day without even noticing what the weather outside looks like? Well, NOT IN A VAN. With so many windows, dogs and only so much square footage you learn to get outside.
Needless to say, tarps become our friend. If you find yourself waiting for those picture perfect sunny days, chances are you are not going to like living in a camper. Instead, learning to embrace no matter what mother nature throws your way will take you to new highs.
5. Understanding that where you are is not where other people are
Once you’ve gotten used to living a camper lifestyle it can be really quite hard to go back. While you are not in a rush and perfectly happy driving in the slow lane, taking naps in the middle of the day, reading for hours on end and just being, you will find this is a concept most people don’t understand and won’t like. We aren’t in a rush.
So many times WE ARE THOSE PEOPLE that you’re honking at for driving too slow, yelling at for making conversation with the barista at Starbucks, holding up a parking spot because we are in absolutely NO RUSH. Time slows down but realizing that everyone else’s time doesn’t can be a challenge.
The problem is, we know our time is limited. We know we have only 5 short weeks to enjoy this lifestyle and we so badly want to skip past steps 1-4 and jump straight to 5. Well, here’s to ENJOYING our next few weeks living van life with as minimal expectation as possible.
Did our list surprise you? Or unlike us, did you expect to have these challenges when living a camp-based lifestyle? We’d love to hear if anyone else experiences this when they take extended camping trips and how you turned into vandwellers.
Summer is just around the corner which means one thing… CAMPING SEASON!!! If you are anything like us, you are counting the seconds until May long weekend where it is finally acceptable to start camping. Just kidding, we are camping in April in the middle of a snowstorm.
Even if you don’t have an 80’s van like us there are many things to think about when summarizing your rig. This is especially important if you are starting your camper for the first time after a long winter. It’s much easier to do repairs in your driveway than stranded in a campground.
For those with a camper rather than a trailer, paying attention to the engine is important. Checking that everything is in order before firing her up will save you money and a headache later. Nobody wants a bigger auto repair bill just because they were too eager to get on the road.
The first thing you should do is check your vehicle’s oil level. When you take out the oil dipstick check the colour of the oil. Even though we changed our girls oil before we sat her, we found her oil looked really dark again so we had to change it again when summarizing. We recommend not changing it in the winter when she’s going to sit and instead give her fresh oil once the weather warms.
How Often To Change Oil? Around 3000-5500 kms – depending on your vehicle and oil type. If you use synthetic oil you’ll be on the higher end of this spectrum.
We all know that low oil can cause havoc, but a high level of oil can do the same. It can put added pressure on the gaskets which can cause them to stretch and even blow out. Our old van has a system that burns off excess oil. This is great, but can be scary. We filled our oil too full and were alerted to this by a huge trail of white smoke coming out of our tailpipe. Luckily, my mechanic diagnosed this without charging me anything.
Oh how many horror stories we’ve heard about owners of old campers not checking coolant levels properly and facing a blown gasket because of it. Do yourself (and your wallet) a favor and check your antifreeze levels!! Not just the overflow tank but also the main reservoir. Yes, some cars have two tanks!
What is coolant for?
It essentially allows your car to run hot without it overheating. Coolant fluid has a higher boiling point than water which allows your vehicle to stay cool even when idling in stop and go traffic..
If your van blows some smoke when you first fire her up don’t worry this is normal. Water can accumulate in the tailpipe which will show as white smoke.
Is antifreeze the same as coolant?
Essentially yes. This liquid essentially changes the boiling and freezing point of your engine so you can drive in hot and cold temperatures without ruining your engine.
There are two main types of coolant: concentrate and premixed. The concentrate type requires you to add water when you add it to your car. Most people will just add tap water, but this can add minerals or deposits to your cooling system. It may seem over the top but we have used distilled water instead of tap water. The premixed solution is great if you are on the road and need a top up.
How to check coolant level?
Simply find the right tank in your engine bay and see if the liquid level is in the proper range. This will be indicated on the outside of the tank.
If our van ever starts acting up the first words out of Samara’s mouth are “time to change the spark plugs”.
While it may not be the actual cure all that she thinks, more times than I would like to admit I humor her and change them and she is right – the van fires up perfectly. Even before the spark plug wrench is out of my hands she’s in the drivers seat ready to fire up old Gurt.
It may be because we drive so much, or maybe these old vans just go through spark plugs faster than other vehicles. But it seems that changing spark plugs on our van really is a cure all.
How much are spark plugs?
If your rig is idling rough try changing them. It should cost less than $20 and can do a lot for your van. Spark plugs for our van (a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon)
How to replace spark plugs?
Changing them is easy and only requires a ratchet. All you need to do is unscrew them from their socket. The head of the plugs should be relatively clean without any debris. If you find them to be dirty or black it is time to change them.
When replacing them make sure you don’t tighten them too much as they can break off into the head of the engine. We tighten them by hand and only use the ratchet to snug them up.
When to change spark plugs?
We find we get between 3,000 and 5,000 km out of our spark plugs which is MUCH less than most vehicles on the road. We justify this because she is both old and we ask A LOT from her. Gurt burns a little rich so she uses up spark plugs rather quickly but this is to be expected on a van that’s pushing 35 years.
What do spark plugs do?
Spark plugs are what ensure your cars engine runs smoothly. They create sparks which ignite the gasoline to move the pistons in your engine. When they get dirty they don’t fire properly which can cause your engine to misfire or run poorly. This can significantly reduce your gas mileage and cause issues if left for long term.
It is worth checking the integrity of your timing belt (sometimes called a serpentine belt). After prolonged sitting they may start to deteriorate, something that is relatively easy to fix if you catch it.
Trust us, the worst feeling is having a belt that breaks when you’re miles away from the nearest town, let alone an auto parts store. We now always travel with a spare timing belt after this happened to us.
One of the biggest timing belt symptoms can include timing belt noise. If your camper is making a high pitched squealing noise when it first starts it may be time to check your timing belt health.
A broken belt can also cause more damage than you can imagine. I’ve read horror stories of people’s belts breaking and snapping spark plugs or even fuel lines. Luckily when ours broke we were quick to pull over and shut the engine off.
What is a timing belt?
A timing belt is a band that controls a specific area of your car. On our van it’s job is to keep the alternator running properly. When our belt broke our car battery stopped charging. If we continued to drive like this our battery would have died as it wasn’t charging.
How much does a timing belt cost?
These don’t cost much at all. In total ours costed less than $20. Ever since ours broke we make sure we have an extra one on hand so we can replace it before it gets too worn.
Timing belt replacement
Replacing your timing belt can be as easy as loosening a bolt and moving a wheel. Our van was incredibly easy to replace once we figured out the configuration. It will have to wind around some pulleys in a specific pattern – it’s worth googling if your belt broke.
You may need a timing belt tensioner when you’re replacing yours. This tool essentially helps you loop the engine belt around the pulley and to tighten it when you’re finishing the job.
Going Through Your Campers Interior
If you have an older camper like us, you may have some moisture trapped inside. This can be seen in condensation on inside of windows. You can air it out by opening the doors and windows – and popping your top (if you have one).
How to stop condensation on windows?
The first thing you’ll want to do is seal up the leaks you have. There are also moisture bags you can get that will absorb moisture out the air. This will get rid of moisture before it turns into mold and mildew. Throwing a couple of these in your camper when winterizing it is ideal. You can also use an RV dehumidifier which essentially cleans the air inside your camper.
If you seem to have more moisture that normal you may have a leak. It’s very common for older trailers and campers to have cracks in their roof that let water in. Windows are also a huge weak point. When we first got our van it has a cracked skylight lens cap (among many other rough spots) which was letting water pool and drip onto our carpet. These can be a simple fix if you catch it soon enough.
Since leaks usually happen on the roof you can simply run a bead of outside silicone on the issue. The best part is you don’t have to be too neat or tidy since nobody will likely see it.
If you can’t find any leaks on your roof but still think that is an issue check your window and door seals. This is another common place where water can enter. Older vehicles have old seals that can dry out and crack which can let water in.
First Start of The Season
The first time you fire your vehicle up let her warm up before you rev the engine. The more time that has passed since you started it the longer you should wait. Oil will settle and if you rev her before the oil has a chance to circulate you can cause damage to your pistons.
Ideally, it is best to lift your van up so that it is not sitting on it’s tires throughout the whole winter. We know, more than likely this wasn’t done but keep in mind how harsh prolonged sitting is on your tires.
This can affect not only how your camper drives but also things like fuel economy. It can be common to have to inflate your tires air pressure after it’s been sitting a while. Tires that don’t have enough air in them can wear the tire tread quickly and cause your gas to empty faster than normal.
The brakes on your car is one of the most common auto repair people make. There are many components of your braking system including: calipers, brake drums, disc brakes, brake pads and brake rotors.
You may find your brakes make weird noises when you drive your camper for the first day. This is very common and will likely go away but it is wise to give them a once over (even just a visual inspection). Most brake shops will give your car a free brake inspection.
Make sure you don’t have any rocks or debris between your pads and rotors. If you have the tools you may want to take a tire off to check how much of your pads are left. It’s really not that difficult and can save you from having to pay a shop to do it. Brake pad change cost can be steep if you go to brake service shops around you.
With summer fast approaching (well, not fast enough) we recommend getting a jump on camping season by getting your rig ready. This will save you a lot of time and money down the road and can leave you and your family having a summer you will never forget. If you haven’t already, check out our our post on how to find the best free campsites. We have traveled full time for almost 2 years and have only paid for about 5 nights!
Are you getting your camper ready for its first trip of the year? Let us know your yearly routine in the comment section below!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means we may get a commission if you make a purchase. Our opinions are our own and we only share what we believe you’ll find helpful. We also use all the products that we have links to. You can even see them in the photos we post.
These last few months have been well spent. You may have read our recent post about why we decided to settle down for a bit. As much as our soles need to explore, our bodies needed to catch up. Myles was able to devote the time he needed to rehab his body while we escaped winter. With our heart’s longing for more, our brains knew how important this time was for us.
As the days grow warmer we are spending more and more time outside. We are surprising ourselves at how much we missed living 100% of our life outside. It’s not just us, our dogs feel it too. Despite their daily walks and endless love, they are BORED! We are moving into our van in a couple of days and Myles said to me “I can’t believe how much better I feel, I can’t wait to start actually living again.”
Just like that, I knew we made the right decision. Staying still wasn’t lavish but I am so grateful that our admittedly hectic life gives us enough flexibility to move (or stay) how we need to. As hard as it was to give up our life of mobility, I am so thankful that we were in tune with our bodies enough to know what it is we needed.
As our bodies began to regain their strength we found ourselves turning our talks and dreams into a reality. Lying in bed one night we started with a simple “wouldn’t it be cool to do this extended Euro trip, where we jump from the beaches in Sicily to the islands in Greece?
We can sip wine in Nice and get in a massive food fight in Barcelona (it’s a real thing and we couldn’t be more excited for it!)”. Somehow, this transformed into an overwhelming “holy shit we are moving in less than 2 months.”
I can’t confidently tell you how in less than a month we went from an idea to plane tickets and dog vaccinations. But I can confidently tell you one thing: Always marry someone as crazy as you are. Or don’t and save A LOT of money ;).
I am going to be honest here, Europe has never been at the top of my list of places to explore. I know, the history is amazing. The architecture, the food, the castles, the cobblestone streets… the list is endless. I have travelled to Rome and the Netherlands before and loved both trips.
The vastly different day-to-day life experienced in other parts of the world has always been appealing to me. Asia, Central and South America have always been the areas on my radar. Recently, my wanderlust has skyrocketed and you’d be hard-pressed to find a country I don’t want to visit.
There are 195 countries in the world and I want to explore all of them
The beauty of Europe is the range you can see in a shorter time. On our Canadian road trips, we drive for 6 hours and are still in the same province. In Europe, we could be in 3 different countries. Not ready to give up our time in the mountains and forests quite yet, we will be devoting our next two months to nightly campfires and getting lost in the woods (hopefully not literally FRECKLES). Mid-June we will be ON A PLANE TO… well, who knows.
This is how we see our next few months shaping up. Our plan as of today (keep in mind this changes HOURLY):
Throw our pups on a plane
Land in EUROPE – we’re thinking London or Amsterdam.
Hunt through the streets for a van #vanlife FOREVER
Spend the summer driving anywhere and everywhere throughout Europe
*DID YOU KNOW that Sweden has a “Freedom to roam” act. This allows you to camp on ANY land that is not privately owned!! That’s right the stunning mountains, coastlines and archipelagos are all fair game! GO SWEDEN! 🙂
Find an apartment in Barcelona for the winter to act as our home base.
*Their winter months average around 16 degrees, we can live with that!
With a year and a half on the road, we were left with quite a few crazy stories. One even involved a tornado. This is that story..
Gurt had sat in an auto wrecking/repair shop for 8 years before we found and saved her. In this time, she withered away quite a bit. Accumulating some rust, a smashed back window, a lot of mold and a watered down gas tank (which caused the tank to rust).
We got her for a steal of a deal, mainly because she had sat taking up space in this wreckers yard. That low $1,500 price tag doesn’t mean that she was cheap. Any westfalia owner knows how much these little vans end up costing. In total $5,000 was spent getting her engine rebuilt and fuel pipes replaced before we hit the road.
Oh, how the spending didn’t stop there.
About a month and a half into our van-living we started to notice that the gas tank wasn’t working. We thought it may have been the crappy gas we were buying in America so we started fueling with premium (an expensive and virtually useless switch). We would hit the gas pedal and hardly move. I’m not talking our usual 60 km/hr, I am talking we literally didn’t move.
Ok, so we have a car that we KNOW something is wrong, and we are typing our little fingers away so that we can take what we know is going to be an expensive hit at a repair shop. Stuck in middle of nowhere Ohio we decided to head into a bigger city where we can find a mechanic for cheaper. All we needed was a full tank of gas….
After fueling up and hitting the road we noticed the sky start to get angry. Moody weather is my favourite weather – bring on
the thunder and lightning. A couple seconds further of driving and we find ourselves in a cold downpour. As our van has minimal heat we got incredibly cold quickly. So, we decided to stop in at a rest stop for some coffee.
The rest stop was so crowded it was hard to find a parking spot, our first warning (that we completely ignored). I jump out of the van with the dogs for some amazing photos of the lightning not even phased by the downpour of rain (our second warning).
I’m from Vancouver, what’s a bit of rain?
In a matter of seconds Myles is RUNNING back outside (with no coffee in hand) screaming for me to get the dogs in the car. He doesn’t love wet dogs dancing in the rain as much as me for some reason.
I follow him into the incredibly cramped rest stop where I find tons of people gathered around TVs. Apparently we had unknowingly drove right in the middle of a tornado. No not one tornado but three.
It is worth noting that our little van doesn’t have radio so we travel basically everywhere completely blind – something we typically love.
People were huddled in blankets with their dogs everywhere. The coffee lineups were out of this world (of course this is what we were worried about).
Not wanting to stay inside helpless, we realized we had all of our gear in our van, literally everything that mattered most to us, hell it was our home. The mobility the van offered to us was our favorite thing about this lifestyle. We weren’t going to give that up for a simple tornado, or three…
Still not fully convinced of the severity we thought “naw we got this, its a bit of rain.” Oh, how young and stupid we were.
Minutes later we hit the road again ready to speed past this tornado and get to a safe zone. Yes, we thought we could outrun this tornado. About 15 minutes down the road the weather started to get really bad. This is when we started to actually feel nervous, so I got out of my chair to get our portable radio hoping I could tune it to some weather reports. As I get to the backseat Myles pushes the gas and it stops working.
After a couple seconds of pure panic and only a couple choice words I jump out of the now stopped car to see if I can see anything (luckily no tornado in sight). It’s not some light rain at this point, it’s like standing under a waterfall.
So there we are on the side of a busy highway with only a small shoulder in the worst conditions in terms of visibility in a WHITE van. I open the door and our panicked dogs follow me out. I truthfully don’t think I have ever screamed so shrilley for them to get back in the car in my life. Luckily they all listened and hopped back in. They are so comfortable in the van and were completely oblivious to our circumstances.
It took me about 5 seconds to realize the problem. The DOOMING problem….
When we had filled gas up this morning, we must have forgotten to replace the gas cap. Water had been filling in our gas tank this whole time. Lost somewhere on the highway I had to think fast as it was filling more with every second. In the pouring rain I shout for Myles to pass me a ShamWow, yes, the absorbent towel you’ve all seen on the terrible infomercials. I stuff it into the tank to hopefully plug the whole and I climb back in. Problem solved, right?
Myles turns the car on and pushes the gas. With some stroke of luck we are able to get her going.
Every couple seconds the gas stops working and we have to pump it a few times in order to get going again. Moving at probably close to 30 km/hr we were out running a tornado (barely). I honestly think it was dumb luck, but we’ll call it outrunning…
About an hour down the road we pull into a Starbucks to steal their WiFi. Oh yes, it is definitely worth mentioning that at this point we didn’t have an American cell phone plan. Not the best scenario when facing a tornado.
Literally zeroways of contacting anyone.
A quick google search and we found the closest mechanic. Unfortunately for us they weren’t open. So we logically decided to sleep in his parking lot over night so we could see him first thing in the morning.
The next morning we woke up to some guy knocking on our window. We watched as he laughed at our ramblings of all that happened the day before.
A couple hours and many hundreds of dollars later, we drove away with a new gas tank, a new fuel pump and filter and a serious need for a nap. After all the stress we had just experienced we looked up to realize it was a beautifully sunny day. So we got our dogs in the van and did what we do best, headed to the beach.
Have you ever been caught in a bad weather situation? Let us know in the comments below.
We have been going back and forth for a while now about how to start writing on our blog again. Like anything you stop for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things. You see, we don’t live our life in one direction – we never have. We like it that way. Myles said to me not too long ago that one of the things he loves most about our life is how we can be both very happy with where we are and yet always strive for better.
In these last few months, we have had another big uproot in our life. One that we thought would never happen and yet, that’s life. Not really knowing where to start as so much has changed in the last couple months, we thought in honor of Bell’s Let’s Talk celebration, now is as great a time as any.
After Myles’ car crash he got his fifth concussion and struggled every single day as post concussion syndrome infected almost every aspect of his life. Thinking this was something we could just run away from, the common ignore it and it will go away, but even with all our running, we couldn’t get away from it. As the days ticked by his headaches were staying as strong and crippling as ever. No amount of naps was working for him. He was so out of commission it would mean that often our day ends at 5 pm.
It wasn’t until just after our honeymoon when coming back to the van that we noticed how much this was affecting every single aspect of our life.
We were living our dreams, but at 70%.
These early nights weren’t fulfilling us anymore. We didn’t run towards this lifestyle to only live it half way. It was hard to say it, to admit it, but Myles finally said: I think I am heading towards depression and we need to change some things. So, after a long discussion, we decided that our health had to be our top priority. Once we got our health better, we could come back and finally live this life at 100%, or close to.
So, in a split second, we switched directions and drove back up to BC to focus on self-improvement.
It is really hard to decide to focus all your time on improving yourself, but it can be the most important decision of your life.
With the past four months in a rented basement suite in the small town of Kamloops, we have focused all our energy on health. Countless chiropractor, massage, physio and naturopath appointments and we are proud to say that Myles pain has, for the first time in years, become more manageable.
Along with regular health care appointments we have made some drastic lifestyle changes. We have started placing a huge importance on fueling our bodies on the healthiest foods, taking supplements for any vitamins we can’t get naturally (vitamin B12), and exercising in the form of hikes and yoga on a daily basis. The difference… well, stay tuned!
This change has provided us the most unexpected results. We thought our dogs would love the extra space and the consistency of daily life, and while they’re happy, they are incredibly bored. We have both started school again for a semester in an attempt to gradually plug away at finishing our degrees.
This life is by no means permanent, we plan to travel and even return to the road the moment the weather gets warm and our health is stable, but for now we are focusing on what matters most – ourselves.
Our story, much like life, is a messy one. An absolutely beautiful mess.