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Why is campervan travel so popular? Here’s a hint + some eco-friendly RV travel tips

I can remember the first time my family did a road trip by campervan in 2007.

We had flown across the Tasman Sea to visit our neighbouring country of New Zealand. Starting at the picturesque alpine area of Queenstown, we rented an campervan/RV and spend two weeks driving around the country, stopping in at various holiday parks with all four of us sleeping in the van.

At the time we had two adults + two teens in one mid-size campervan/RV. It was a tight squeeze which I found to be slightly uncomfortable, but travelling this way allowed us to experience New Zealand independently with a flexible itinerary that we could adjust to our needs.

My parents must have enjoyed the experience, because a few years later, they purchased a caravan of their own to do extensive road trips around Australia. They now spend a few months of every year living in their caravan, and without my brother and I tagging along, they have much more space in their mobile home to feel comfortable on the road.

I’ll admit that campervan/RV travel has its perks and is an undeniable upgrade from camping. They offer most of the charm of a campsite but without the inconveniences of sleeping in an uninsulated, flimsy material structure where you can hear noisy neighbours and possums rummaging around. These vehicles offer the ability to be close to nature while having the conveniences of a private, comfortable space with heating, cooking facilities, and sometimes even bathing facilities (meaning you don’t have to endure the cold every time you need to pee throughout the night).

My family travelling in New Zealand via campervan in 2007
My family travelling in New Zealand via campervan

Why is campervan/RV travel so popular?

Caravan parks are less expensive than hotels.

There’s no denying it – travelling by campervan/RV is a cheaper way to travel, especially for longer trips. I’ve heard that some people who are planning big itineraries of a few months or more will even discover new and pre-owned RVs at their destination to re-sell at the end of their trip. This is obviously a big upfront cost, but hopefully most of the purchase cost is recuperated afterwards.

The initial investment in a campervan/RV is significant, but the ongoing cost of travel is generally lower compared to traditional methods of booking accommodation and transportation.

Hitting the road offers a sense of adventure

As with any road trip, there’s something inherently adventurous about hitting the open road in a campervan/RV. Whether it’s navigating winding mountain roads or cruising along coastal highways, this style of travel appeals to those seeking excitement, spontaneity, and new experiences.

It gets you closer to the natural world

Campervan/RV travel usually means staying at holiday parks/caravan parks, which are often situated in wilderness areas (or at least in a spot with more trees and grass than you’d find at most hotels). Increasing our exposure to nature is one of the ways that we can improve our mental health, so travelling via campervan/RV can result in a more enjoyable trip by spending more time outdoors.

It has a tight-knit community

The people that travel by campervan/RV are part of a tight-knit community who are bonded by shared interests and experiences. They swap stories around campfires, swap tips on campervan/RV living, and exchange details on all the best holiday parks and destinations to stay at. This sense of community can be appealing to those who are travelling for long periods of time and are interested in making friends throughout their journey.

Travelling by road is greener than by air

While air travel remains a convenient option for long-distance trips, particularly across continents or oceans, flights leave a hefty carbon footprint in their wake (which is why I always use carbon offsets). Travelling by road can be a more sustainable approach to exploration and adventure if the distances aren’t too great. Campervans/RVs typically have lower emissions per person when considering the total distance travelled.

A vehicle towing a caravan at a holiday park in Tasmania, Australia
My parents’ caravan at a holiday park in Tasmania

Eco-friendly RV travel tips:

If you’re looking to plan a campervan/RV vacation that has minimal impact on the environment, here’s a few tips on making sure your travels leave a light footprint.

Find an eco-friendly ride

First things first: snagging the perfect campervan/RV. Whether you’re shopping for a purchase or to rent, opt for a rig with modern eco-friendly features such as solar panels, energy-efficient appliances, and water-saving fixtures. Newer campervan/RV models often come equipped with fuel-efficient engines, can accept alternative fuels like biodiesel, or there are even electric or hybrid options. Shop around.

Pick greener campsites

Once you’ve acquired your eco-haven on wheels, it’s time to park it somewhere equally green. Seek out campgrounds or holiday parks that prioritise sustainability. Look for sites with recycling programs, renewable energy initiatives, and a commitment to preserving the natural surroundings.

Plan an effective route

Campervan/RV travel allows for greater flexibility in route planning and custom itineraries. This means travellers can choose shorter distances, more direct routes, and even incorporate eco-friendly stops along the way, such as national parks or sustainable campgrounds.

Slow down

In the whirlwind of travel, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush from one destination to the next. But here’s a thought: why not slow down and savor the journey? Embrace the leisurely pace of RV life, stopping to admire roadside attractions, chat with locals, and indulge in impromptu picnics. After all, it’s not just about the destination—it’s about the unforgettable moments along the way.

Embrace local produce

One of the joys of RV travel is the freedom to cook up delicious meals on the go. Take advantage of local farmers’ markets and roadside stands to stock up on fresh, seasonal produce. Whip up farm-to-table feasts in your mobile kitchen, savouring the flavors of each region you visit. Bonus points for reducing your carbon footprint by supporting local farmers and minimizing packaging waste.

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