It was April 26 when we jet-setted off from Almaty, Kazakhstan and landed 7 hours later in the UK’s capital, London. Our mission? To go in search of a second hand van/new home to travel Europe in, meeting inspirational individuals and sharing their valuable stories, as well as our own, along the way.
1 month and 6 days later, I can gladly say we are on our way to achieving our mission. On day 5 of our European adventure we bought our 2002 Ford Transit LWB van with MOT for a bargain of £1,100 from a seller on Gumtree in London.
Since then, we have filled our van with a number of things to make travelling through Europe much more efficient as well as sustainable. If you are thinking about doing something similar to us, I have created a list of important items we have purchased with descriptions below to help you get started. Number 4 is very important!
Budget Things To Have In Your Van
1. Gas Cooker with 7.5 KG Bottle
If you’re travelling by van you’ve probably made the decision to travel on a budget. So, the number 1 thing you can do to reduce your travel costs is to prepare and cook your own food. Trust me, food in Europe is expensive, ESPECIALLY if you are eating out every day. Before we bought our gas cooker we were spending an average of £20 per day between us on food. It adds up!
So, to save yourself some money and keep yourself away from junk food go to your nearest camp store and purchase a gas cooker. You can get the one’s that take a small clip in gas can or you can just buy a regular camping cooker that fits a hose and gas bottle. We picked up ours for about £16 and then we hired a gas bottle for £23 from a local garden centre which cost £17 to fill with gas. This investment is important if you are travelling for a long time, plus you can have home cooked meals just like your mother’s every day… Yum!
2. Cooking Appliances/Utensils
You’ll find it all for a cheap price in a Sunday car boot sale or market. When we first arrived in England, we found a fondue kit for about £2 at the Brighton car boot sale. The fondue kit is designed to melt cheese or chocolate in a pot above a flame and then use the metal sticks to dip food into it. We’re not that fancy though so we’re just using the pot on top of the gas cooker at the moment. For £3 we also picked up a camping kettle from a camping store for our green tea fix!
At the beginning we were just using plastic cutlery given to us at road service centre’s and take-away shops but we were feeling very guilty about the impact we were making on the environment. Now we’ve got our own set of camping knives, forks and spoons which we bought for £1.95 from a local kitchen/camping utensil store. We also picked up a wooden cooking spoon for £1 from the same shop.
Instead of spending your money on plates and bowls, you’re better off going to the supermarket and buying a pack of 4 containers with lids (£3). You’ll find them a lot more versatile and unexpectedly handy throughout your trip.
3. Swiss Army Knife
While this would be one of your more expensive purchases, Swiss Army Knives are so handy and are a must if you’re going to be roughing it. Designed with a high quality blade and a number of various tools to help you survive in tough situations, you can use this thing for nearly everything. We bought ours in Hong Kong for about US$65 and it has helped us a lot so far. It’s our kitchen knife, fruit and veg peeler, can opener, rope cutter, screwdriver, tweezers, beard and moustache trimmer, nail cutter, among many others! Just remember, if you’re going to buy a Swiss Army Knife before you leave your country, pack it into your paid luggage, not your hand luggage. Also, make sure that it is NOT a flick knife, otherwise it will be taken off you at the airport.
4. A BICYCLE
If you are planning on travelling on the road for a while, it’s time to think about purchasing a bicycle as soon as you arrive. Why? Because parking in Europe is expensive! There is no such thing as free parking in the UK/Europe so this is something you’re going to struggle with while you are travelling on a budget, unless you have a bicycle.
Making this investment means that you can park outside the cities you want to see where there is cheaper if not, free parking and then ride in. The benefits? Save money on parking, get your daily exercise, see more, experience more, meet more people, get places faster, go down roads you normally cannot and have more fun in general!
We purchased our bicycles second hand, local to where we were staying in Devon. One was from a seller on Shpock (£60) and the other from a seller on Gumtree (£100, almost brand new), both in fine condition. They fit nicely in the back of the van with us but if you need the space, you can find second hand bicycle racks on either of those 2 websites. So far, we’ve had a great time with our bicycles and we’ve been able to see a lot more than what we usually would. HIGHLY recommended!
5. Blankets/Throws and Cushions (lot’s of them)
If you are thinking about travelling Europe by van, put £10 aside to do some major car boot sale shopping for blankets and cushions when you get there, no need to bring them from home. Remember, Europe is cold and regular van’s aren’t insulated, so stock up. Even if you are travelling in the summertime, nights still get cold and the floor still needs something on it, so throw some blankets down and spread out some cushions to add cosiness and keep your feet warm. We have 7 blankets/throws in total which we use on the floor of the van, under our bedding and on top of us for extra warmth while we sleep (these were bought new from a supermarket). Cushions you can pick up for around a pound each from a car boot sale.
While you can get sheets, pillowcases etc, from car boot sales, I think you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and hygienic if you buy your own cheap bedding from a supermarket or discount warehouse type shop. We managed to pick up a duvet, 2 pillows, a sheet set and a soft blanket for about £40 from a Tesco superstore which is really keeping us nice and toasty in the van!
When you’re living in a van, let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of space around you to store all your bits and pieces. When we found this out we were straight down the car boot sale picking up a cool box for £2 to store all of our food in and taking advantage of the crates the fruit and veg stalls had left behind. We’ve stacked these crates on top of each other and we store all of our toiletries, phone chargers, plastic bags, cutlery, etc in them.
Our backpacks go behind a curtain on the ledge above the driver and passenger seats to keep them out the way. The rest is all down to where you place everything. Just by changing the layout inside your van a few times you can work out what option gives you the best living space. Oh, musical instruments make good space savers too… Dan’s cajon works part time as a table as well as a chair!
If you want to make your van feel more homely, you need to find some cheap second hand carpet or mats to lay down on the floor. This will instantly add warmth and comfort to your new home as well as create an inviting atmosphere.
When we bought our van there were some old carpets left in the back but they were full of dust, so we took them to a local gas station where we used the public vacuum cleaner on them (£3 for 6 minutes). 2 are now used underneath our bedding for extra cushioning and the other is at the van entrance. For £5 we also picked up 3 large throws from a car boot sale, which cover most of the floor as well as a large mat for £3.
Check out our video to see how we travel cheaper!
So as you can see, we’re not completely there yet. There are still a few more important items we need to carry with us in the van to make our journey in Europe easier. Our ‘to buy’ list features all of the items we will be purchasing for the van in the near future. These purchases will help you out a lot while you are travelling on the road so you may want to add them to your list as well.
If you want power for charging your electronics or providing light, then you will need an inverter. They come in different sizes and are available at auto, camping and caravaning shops or online from sites such as Amazon and Ebay.
2. Leisure Battery
You’ll need this to power your inverter without running your car battery flat. Again these are available at auto, camping and caravaning shops and online. Make sure you buy the appropriate cables to attach it to your inverter.
3. Solar Panel
Produce electricity sustainably with a solar panel. While we’re still deciding whether or not we can afford a solar panel on top of our van, we are very keen on the idea to be less harmful to our environment. With a solar panel you have the capability of producing enough power to charge your gadgets, have lights, keep food cold and take a hot shower, depending on the size of it and whether the sun has been out.
4. Mobile internet
If you make a living online, need to make Skype calls or you’re just a social media addict, then a mobile internet stick will help you out a lot. All the phone networks offer them pre – paid or on a monthly plan. Don’t forget though, you still need power to keep your phone/lap-top charged.
5. Water Barrel
Found in camping and caravaning shops as well as some supermarkets, these are great for holding a lot of water for washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc. Water barrels come in many different shapes and sizes and are very handy when it comes to saving money as bottled water is sometimes more expensive than a bottle of Coke here!
So these are some of the budget things we have bought for our van so far and some of the bigger items we will be purchasing in the near future to help our journey become more efficient and sustainable. Follow our budget list of purchases to to start your journey off comfortably and if you feel you need some added luxury, join us in our search for our ‘to buy’ list items without the high price tag!
Are you planning to travel on the road by van and need some advice? Or have you already done so and have some travel tips to share? We’d love to know your thoughts and ideas so leave us a comment below. Thanks! 🙂》》