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Low Stress Campervan Driving: Top Ten Tips

Does a 600 mile drive sound about as fun as a day in the dentist chair?

If so, you may be a victim of high stress driving habits.

Like many vanlifers, you bought a van to get away from the rat race commute of doom, not to dread the miles between campsites!

Well I’ve got some very good news for you: Not only can driving your campervan be low stress, it can actually be something you look forward to!

Please enjoy our Top Ten Tips for Low Stress Campervan Driving. 

1. Plan your routes with intent and care

As we mentioned in our Top Ten Van Travel Mistakes post, “Spontaneity requires careful planning”.

One gigantic source of stress is being unsure of where you’ll spend the night. Or being unsure of your route on the way to the next camp site.

Taking a relaxed 30 minutes in the morning to carefully plan your route for the day will allow you to relax and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Of course we all have those moments of panic when we’re unsure about an exit… That’s the time to safely pull over, take a deep breath and get acquainted with the next phase of our journey.  It’s also where your co-pilot comes in handy, if you have one (see tip #9 for more on this).

2. Time on the road

Most of us put our emphasis into the destination rather than the journey, but drive time is an important part of the campervan lifestyle as well.

Sometimes the desire to get to the next picturesque campsite can cause us to make decisions that take the fun out of driving.

We set unrealistic goals regarding travel time and cause ourselves unnecessary stress.

Lofty driving goals can not only become boring or frustrating, but they can also lead to unsafe situations like navigating dirt roads in the dark. 

If possible, try not to drive more than 5 or 6 hours per day, at the most. 

I personally aim for 3 to 4 hours a day, so I still have time to fill my day with things besides driving, like sight-seeing, hiking, and making sure my dog is well cared for. 

This also forces me to spend time in places that I might otherwise skip over and has led me to some amazing hidden gems across the country, like visiting national parks where dogs are allowed

To keep stress at a minimum, get the driving out of the way early and get set up at your campsite during daylight hours.

Relax and enjoy your afternoon and evening at camp. 

Low Stress Campervan Driving vansage

3. Driving is work and you need to take breaks

Sprinkle in breaks every one to two hours. I know, that seems like a lot of rest time, but a 10 minute breather every one to two hours will result in a sharp mind on the road. 

This is your chance to get your mind off the road and reset a bit.

Move your body, stretch, do some squats or take a walk around a park, use the restroom, grab a snack, hydrate, or sight see.

4. Noise: The hidden source of stress

Another contributing factor to stressful driving that most of us don’t think about is noise. News, loud radio ads and other background noise can create stress, even if you’re not conscious of it.

When you find yourself in dense traffic or making your way through complex navigation periods, it’s best to turn all the extra noise off.

Listening to podcasts, engaging in conversations, or enjoying calm but upbeat music is best for staying alert without adding stress.

Like many vanlifers, you bought a van to get away from the rat race commute of doom, not to dread the miles between campsites!

5. Plan ahead to avoid heavy traffic

Avoid traffic jams by planning around rush hour. While planning your route in the morning or night before departure (see tip #1), pay attention to areas of high traffic and work around them whenever possible. 

But we can’t always avoid it and when we find ourselves in gridlock, It’s tempting to “tough it out” and inch along with the masses of commuters.

Don’t give in. If you find yourself heading into dense traffic, find a place to pull over and relax. 

Use that time to have a meal, check out a book store, find the best coffee in a nearby small town… then continue driving when the traffic clears up. 

6. Sleepy driving is risky driving

When we spend so much time behind the wheel, safety on the road is incredibly important. No matter what, don’t drive tired.

Drowsy driving is a top cause of accidents and your risk of being involved in a crash increases with the less sleep you get.

If you find your eyelids getting heavy, find a place to pull over and take a nap. A quick 10-20-minute power nap will give you the boost you need.

A huge perk to traveling in your campervan is that you’ve got your bed with you, so you can nap in luxury!

This article on the CDC website has more great tips for avoiding this very serious problem. 

7. Snack strategically

Many people love stocking up on gas station snacks for a long drive, but it’s important to choose your snacks strategically.

Avoid high carbohydrate foods like candy, cookies and sugary drinks that can cause drowsiness.

Snacks that are high in protein and healthy fats like nuts are great options for staying fueled and mentally alert.

Carrot sticks are also great guilt-free options because they’re easy to eat while driving and you can snack on them for a while to help pass the miles.

8. Van maintenance for peace of mind

Another aspect of safety is staying on top of camper van maintenance. Before heading out for a long drive or during a break, do a quick walk around the van, check your fluids, inspect tires…

While driving, if something sounds or feels wrong, stop and check it instead of ignoring it.

You can’t prevent every campervan mechanical issue but staying on top of routine maintenance and paying close attention to your vans over all condition can really help. 

9. Campervan co-pilots

Whether or not your travel partners drive, they play an important role in trip success.

A good co-pilot should help with navigating, keeping you alert, providing you with snacks and water, playing music that will help you stay alert, and anything else you might need so you can focus on driving.

If your co-pilot is someone that needs your care (my co-pilot has 4 paws), like a pet or a child, do what you can to make sure they don’t add to your distractions.

10. Pets and kids

Pets should ride in a spot where they won’t move around while you’re driving.

If you travel with kids, make sure the things they might need (snacks, toys) are within reach and plan more frequent stops to keep everyone happy.

Low Stress Campervan Driving Recap

  1. Plan your routes with intent and care
  2. Time on the road
  3. Driving is work and you need to take breaks
  4. Noise: The hidden source of stress
  5. Plan ahead to avoid heavy traffic
  6. Sleepy driving is risky driving
  7. Snack strategically 
  8. Van maintenance for peace of mind
  9. Campervan co-pilots
  10. Pets and kids

Thanks for reading! Please comment below

While some people love long drives, most vanlifers would rather be enjoying their epic destinations.

Following these tips will help ensure that your time between incredible vanlife adventures is low-stress and safe.


Jenny has been traveling on the road full-time with her dog, Dakota, since September 2018.

She lives in her self-converted 2006 Dodge Sprinter and spends her days hiking, camping, mountain biking, and writing about her adventures.

She’s attempting to visit all 50 states and see all the National Parks.

You can read about her adventures on her site, here.

Check out Jenny’s Instagram, and her Facebook page about her travels.

Vansage.com author Jenny Leveille

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