The location is planned (see our guide here on How to plan a Road Trip), the dates are booked and you’re ready to start your Motorhome adventures…. but what on earth do you pack?
It’s an excellent question- let me know if you have the answer! 🙂
I jest. Read on- here’s a list of basics and some ideas to help you decide what to pack for your first adventure!
Kitchen (or galley, as us boat dwellers call it!)
I assume that you already have the basic utensils and crockery onboard your van. If you don’t you need:
Plates, bowls, mugs, glasses, cutlery, condiments, utensils, TIN OPENER, BOTTLE OPENER, tea towels, washing up stuff, bin bags (doesn’t have to be the big black ones- we find the smaller pedal bin size are often better), kitchen roll, frying pan, saucepan, kettle, teaspoons. (Full list of Road trip essentials can be found here.)
Those are what I would consider basics (though obviously your list may well differ.) We also find the following useful onboard:
- Poachpods (have I mentioned I’m addicted to poached eggs? These things are a brilliant invention and I use them pretty much daily)
- Plastic boxes in the fridge to hold things in place
- Bottle bag (one of the wine carrying ones from a supermarket- these hold bottles and stop them clinking)
- Oven mitt
- Dishdrying matt (we don’t use a rack- takes up too much space)
- Tea, coffee, sugar, hot chocolate etc
- Vitamins or any tablets you require
- Spray oil for frying- personal preference but it’s easier to dispose of a little excess oil than a whole lot!
- Chopping boards
- Sharp knives, including steak knives if you’re partial to red meat
- Soup spoons (if you eat (drink?) soup!)
We try and have at least a few meals which can come out of tins, in case we arrive somewhere and there are limited food options or we just can’t be bothered to cook. Obviously, your preferences and dietary requirements will differ from ours, but as an example some of the food we carry are:
- tinned steak with tinned potatoes,
- tinned pie (we like Fray Bentos but I’m aware that it’s a ‘marmite’ thing!),
- Spam or cured ham (talking of ‘marmite’ food!)
- Part-baked bread
Give yourself a break- if you’ve been travelling all day, very few people are going to want to spend a long time in the kitchen cooking something fancy. Make it easy on yourself and you’ll find the whole experience much more enjoyable. Also, don’t go and buy a load of fresh/ perishable food if you’re going on a ferry (unless you’re happy to leave the gas on all night and risk the flame going out.) We turn our fridge off for safety reasons, which means we can’t buy fresh food until we’ve arrived at the other side.
For the bathroom:
- Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, blades, face wash etc etc)
- body spray,
- makeup (if wanted!),
- dry shampoo (seriously- this stuff is so useful. My favourite is Aussie but any will do and saves having to wash your hair for another day.),
- wet wipes/ face wipes- again, really useful,
- TOILET ROLL,
- Toilet chemicals for your toilet
- handwash/ handtowel (I always forget a hand towel. Always. I’ve just added it to my list to remember for tomorrow!)
- Girly necessities (and don’t forget the pill if you take it!)
- Sun protection
Think about how you’re going to keep things dry if you have a shower room. We store things as high as we can in our bathroom, and then the rest is stored out in the living area. We have to remember to move coats/ shoes which have been stored in the shower before we turn it on!
- Games/ cards or whatever you choose to do to relax
- Chargers for phones/ laptops/ ipads/ wifi/ bike headsets/ portable radios… you get the idea! We use a mixture of 12v chargers (for use while we’re driving) and other chargers which we use on an inverter if necessary, but we try to avoid this. Annoyingly, I’ve just upgraded to a Macbook Pro, which is amazing but my 12v charger for my old laptop doesn’t fit! I’ll have to wait for them to release one for mine.
- Placemats/ table cloth if you wish. We don’t use these indoors, but we do use a table cloth if we’re setting up a table outside. Not really sure why- it’s just something we’ve always done! 🙂
- Cleaning gear- we keep cloths, duster, wet wipes and vanish spray all easily accessible. I believe there’s also a 12v hoover in a cupboard somewhere…. not seen that since the day we bought it! 🙂 We also carry an iron and an ironing board as Mr WB is terrified that he might be called into an urgent meeting and need to get on a plane straight away…. it’s not happened yet but I just know the time I take it off the van will be the time we need it! So it’s staying (for now).
Again, this is going to vary wildly from person to person and also because of the area you are visiting. But to get you started, here’s some ideas:
- Hat/ gloves/ scarf (warm)
- Scarf (light- for sun protection/ sarong)
- Other glasses
- Swimming costumes (beware in Europe- most pools insist on trunks for men!)
- Beach towels
- Walking shoes (for either walking up big hills or walking around town)
- Beach shoes (that you don’t mind getting sandy)
- One smart outfit
- Jeans/ long trousers
- Jumper (even if you’re going to Spain or further south. Nights get cool unexpectedly or you might find yourself up a mountain when you thought you were going to Italy!)
- Sleeping gear
- Earplugs (a necessity for me- I struggle hearing other people breathe. Weird, I know!)
Whilst I think about it, don’t forget bedding! Pillows, duvet, bedsheets etc. We have proper bedsheets for our dropdown bed but Baby Bird uses a sleeping bag as she ‘can’t be bothered’ to make a bed up every night. Fair enough.
- Proof of van insurance
- Driving licence
- Toll pass if required
- Travel documents for tunnel/ ferry
- The form which you fill in if you have an accident in a foreign country
- Breakdown cover details
- E111 cards
- Travel insurance
- Paperwork needed for pet, including note of any medications needed
Things we try not to forget:
- Big camera and lenses
- SD cards
- Mini tripod & microphone for vlogging (see our travel videos here)
- Laptop/ ipads/ phones
- Wifi dongle
- Medical box- basic necessities like plasters, nurofen, diarrhea tablets, water purification tablets etc. (Don’t drink tap water in Europe- buy bottled.)
- Laundry stuff. Most laundrettes across Europe require you to provide your own detergent etc. We bring a small amount of ours so it’s ready if we need it.
- COINS in the local currency. For parking, tips, tolls- you’ll always need them!
- Gas bottles- we carry two 6kg ones. We tried the ‘lighter’ bottles and we’re convinced that we get less gas out of them, so we switched back to regular ones. Beware the issues with gas bottles in Europe. More on that in a separate post coming soon.
- Hose pipe for filling fresh water.
I asked this question on Facebook to get some ideas from other travellers. Many mentioned the same things as above but here are a few other ideas:
- The wife! (Matt)
- A big smile & a sense of humour- very important!! (Pamela)
- A journal (Annette)
- Audiobooks (Katie)
- A big metal shovel! (Hannah)
- Car/ van keys- ESSENTIAL!! (Cathryn)
- Homemade curry (Mandy)- anyone else want to go exploring with Mandy??!!
- Many other suggestions of food & teabags! Pizza and sausage rolls got a particular mention.
If you’d like to join the next Facebook discussion, just follow Wandering Bird Adventures (or use the link in sidebar). The more the merrier!
I know as soon as I post this I’ll think of something else really obvious that should be on the list! If you have anything you ALWAYS pack, let us know below so others can benefit too.
But most of all, don’t panic. As long as you have the paperwork, keys and a credit/ debit card, pretty much everything else can be bought en route if you need to. Unless you’re going somewhere really off-grid. In which case, maybe panic (and please send me photos!!) 🙂
And if you want to know how to start Wild Camping in the UK- click here for our guide!