21 Honest Tips to Surviving Van Life as a Couple

If you and your partner are dreaming about becoming a van life couple, this post is for you!

There’s no doubt that the lifestyle is perfect for freedom-loving couples who just want to hit the road and enjoy everything their home country has to offer.

But if you’re new to the van life movement, there’s a few things you need to know first. And as we’ve been a full-time van life couple on-and-off for more than a decade, we have lots of tips for you.

At the moment thousands of couples are ditching normal life, purchasing campervans and going off travelling together.

They may have been inspired by the trend on Instagram and YouTube, or have just always been interested in owning a van. But if they’ve never done it before, it’s not as easy as the #vanlife couples make it seem.

If you’ve only been with your partner a short time or haven’t ever travelled and lived together, how do you think you’ll go living on top of each other in a small space?

Van Life Couple

Becoming a Van Life Couple – Is it Possible?

After travelling together for more than a decade, and living in a van for almost 3 years of that, it’s safe to say that we know each other extremely well and have learnt to survive van life as a couple to near perfection.

It’s not always fairy lights, bohemian filters and #wokeuplikethis like social media portrays, and we’ve had more than our fair share of issues along the way.

But life in a van has made us stronger than ever, and we feel as though with our secrets and tips, it’ll be the same for your relationship!

Here are our top tips on how to survive living in your van with your partner.

Communicate 

Communication is something all couples need to be strong at.  And even more so when you’re living on top of each other 24/7 in an oversized car.

You need to be able to talk through them and sort them out together. 

Things are going to happen that are very personal and issues will come up that you would have never faced before. 

This skill is crucial to surviving van life as a couple.

Working in the van
Writing down where we both want to travel on our trip and what each other would like to see and do.

Make Space and Have Some Time Apart

It is important to respect each other and give yourselves your own space from time to time, especially when you’re trying to live in a van.

For example what we do is in the morning Jarryd will go for a run then come back and stretch/read a book, while I’ll meditate and do my own exercise or perhaps go for a wak.

During the day we might go for separate walks, or head off to take photos without each other.

This gives us time away from one another to breathe and think. And we recommend you do the same.

When you are with someone 24/7 so much tension can rise and it is important to recognise this and do something about it.

If you want to make it for the long-haul as a van life couple, definitely spend a bit of time apart.

Be kind to one another

Life on the road isn’t always dandy. You have moments of frustration and you can take it out on one another.

I know in some situations, words may be said that are not nice. We’ve all done it, us included.

You get frustrated at your partner with a click of the finger, tension has built up over days (or weeks) over something insignificant, and you have not dealt with the problem at hand.

Next thing you know you’re having a full-on argument.

When you notice these things happening, stop, take a breath and talk it through. Be kind to one another, especially because your partner might be having their own frustrations they haven’t shared yet either.

Life on the road isn’t easy, so make sure you’re nice and supportive.

Shower Each Other with Compliments

When someone gives you a compliment, how good do you feel? If you’re like me, you feel on top of the world.

So why not do this regularly to your partner?

Compliment each other on their cooking, on their outfit, on their hair, on their driving, or the way they have organised your trip. Anything you can think of. 

Appreciate one another and learn to accept the compliments and give them back. 

It will help balance the bad times and good times on the road and living on top of each other in the van. 

Van Life with a Partner
Appreciating one another will help you get through the tough times.

Make decisions together

Making decisions on the road together is very important. 

You both have to agree (or disagree) on something and know what direction you are both going. 

Remember, this is not just your road trip. This is both of your road trips.

Go back and forth on what you both want to do. This can be as big as which direction you want to take (north vs south for example), or as small as where you want to stop for a short break.

Get used to talking about what you want to do with each other, then compromising on a decision if you both have different ideas.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media, where we share the real story of what it’s like travelling and living in a van full-time!

Make Sure to Share the duties

Once you hit the open road you’ll find that you naturally develop your own chores between yourselves. One person might be better at the maintenance side of things, while the other is better at cleaning.

That doesn’t mean those roles though have to stay the same forever. Make sure you share the duties!

Just because you always take the toilet out (yes we recommend getting a toilet for your van), doesn’t mean your partner shouldn’t do it now and then too.

Same with driving, cooking, laundry, cleaning, fixing, etc. Take it in turns to do everything.

If for some reason you find that it’s just easier for one person to take on a specific job, then you find something to do that compliments that. For example if Jarryd is fixing something on the van, I’ll cook lunch at the same time.

Jarryd cleaning the van
The duties of living in a van.

Learn to compromise

Your van isn’t just your mode of transport. It’s your home, your office, your safe space and most likely where you spend the majority of your day.

And when you’re spending every second of that day with another person, you need to start learning to compromise on many things. It’s the secret that many vanlife couples use to power through their relationship.

If you really want to go to the beach but your partner wants to head to the mountains and you don’t have time for both, work out a compromise.

Perhaps you can go to the beach first, but then you can let your partner book an activity that they are more interested.

It’s rare for a van life couple (or any couple really) to both want to do the exact same things all the time. This is where you need to sit down and talk about how you’re going to make it all work.

Take Care Of The Problems As One

Van life doesn’t always go to plan. Things break, roads are closed, you get woken up by rangers at 2am because you were trying to save some money by free camping.

These problems are just part of the experience, and if you’re in a van together, you need to deal with them as one.

Even if you feel uncomfortable or unsure about a situation, be supportive of the other party and try to fix things as best you can.

If you always leave it to one person, tension and frustration can build up.

Repairing Tyre
Sometime things might come up on the road unexpectedly. There may be delays or repairs that need to be done and that is ok. Such is van life.

Exercise together

I know I’ve said to spend time apart (and will talk about it more further down), but exercising and working out together is a great way to build a stronger and healthier relationship.

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy. Perhaps do some couples yoga, or go for a hike or bike ride. Anything that gets you moving.

If one person is fitter than the other, that’s ok. Just make sure you encourage each other. In fact, speaking of encouraging…

Encouragement is Key

When you are travelling in a van together full-time you will learn each others weaknesses and strengths, and you’ll discover what makes the other nervous or excited.

No matter what is happening, make sure you always encourage your partner.

For example, personally, I do not have the mental strength like Jarryd does when it comes to pushing my body. I love hiking, but struggle with long, hard days, where he can charge through them.

I always take a lot longer to climb mountains, but Jarryd is there encouraging me to helping me go a bit further. I really appreciate him for this.

It doesn’t just come down to physical exercise. Encourage each other with hobbies, learning new skills, tackling problems, etc.

Diving Together
Jarryd encouraged me to get into diving. I was really nervous at first, but after some guidance from him now I absolutely love it.

Don’t Blame Each Other for Things

It’s so easy to start playing the blame game, but this one can quickly destroy a relationship.

Even if whatever went wrong was the other person’s fault, do not get angry and start blaming them. Remember that you’re doing van life as a couple. It’s time to work out how you are going to fix the issue together.

Have Time for Yourself Daily to De-Stress

Vanlife isn’t always carefree. It can be stressful too. Which is why you need to have some self-care time.

Every day in the mornings when you get up you should try meditating, exercising or writing in your journal (while having coffee of course

Or perhaps go for a walk and relax by a river, on the beach or in the rainforest and really appreciate where you are. Slow down and think.

This is great for de-stressing and clearing your mind. Everyone needs some personal space sometimes.

Both Jarryd and I do this daily. It took us a while to get into this routine, but stick with it and it becomes the norm (like brushing your teeth). 

Trust us, you won’t look back. We wish we got into this years ago.

Van Life Exercise
I enjoy pilates but Jarryd enjoys running and yoga more. That is ok. We go and do an hour of our own exercises without each other.

Be Part of a Community

The best thing about Van Life is meeting new people, so embrace that. Don’t be shy and make some new friends.

When you get to a campsite, say “Hi” to your neighbours or if you cross paths in the washrooms or on the path.

Or connect with people on social media. For example we use Instagram to try and meet other van lifers.

These people are often lovely and enjoy some company too. You may realise you have things in common and might form a great friendship.

The reason this is so important as a couple van life survival tip is that while you may have lots of friends at home, you may feel a bit isolated when you’re on the road.

That’s why it’s good to talk to others, not just your partner.

Us Cory Catie
Meeting awesome people on the road is one of the best things about van life.

Be Silly and Laugh at One Another

Living in a van can make some people a little silly and that is ok. Don’t take life so seriously!

When things go wrong, and they will, it is good to laugh at one another and let that craziness out.

This is a must in any relationship

Van life can be silly and funny and trust us there are lots of laughs to be made.

Spend Lots of Time in Nature Together

Nature is amazing and it has been scientifically proven that hanging out in nature is good for your mind and body. 

So go hiking together or find camping spots amongst the trees. 

We love doing this. We listen to the wind in the trees and the birds chirping. Or we find a nice beach to park up at for the day and just relax with the waves breaking.

Campsites among Nature
We love finding campsites among nature. It is so nice.

Create a Playlist Together for the Drive Days

Face it – you’re going to spend a lot of hours just driving between destinations.

So what better way to pass the time than to create a playlist together and enjoy each other’s music. You may not realise the other likes a certain type of music that you like, and you may discover new genres.

You can start conversations and stories about a moment the song reminds you of. 

We always do this and have found out so much about each other. Jarryd put on a ska playlist one day, and I had never listened to ska before. Now I love it! Although I can’t get him into my 80s songs. Doesn’t stop me from trying though, haha!

Best of all you can just sing along at the top of your lungs!

Avoid Getting Hangry

Ok, maybe I’m writing from personal experience. But getting hangry is the worst!

When you are travelling, stop for meal breaks and keep your body fuelled. You do not want to fall in the Hangry zone. 

This is when you will get irritable and take it out on your partner. Avoid this with snacking regularly to stop arguments happening.  

Have Date Nights

Just because you’re a van life couple doesn’t mean you can’t have nice dates!

Get all dolled up and go out from dinner or go bowling or to the movies. Yep, date night!

This is super important makes each other feel special. 

Dates don’t have to be expensive either. You can just have a picnic by the river or enjoy a nice bottle of wine somewhere.

Date with a wombat
Jarryd knew how much I loved wombats so he took me on a nice lunch by the river and then we went looking for wombats in the wild.

Treat Yourselves

 When I say treat yourself, this could be in any area. 

Whether you love a certain face cream or you want a new book or you want a nice massage now and then. Or you could book into a hotel for your anniversary. 

It is good to have a bit of money in your budget to treat yourself on special occassions.

This will keep the tensions low between you both as you are able to splash out on creature comforts now and then.  

Check out our regular budget series to find out just how much we spend while doing van life in Australia.

Start a New Hobby

Pick up a hobby on the road that you have always wanted to do. 

Whether it is with your partner, like dancing, or something individually, like macrame or fishing. 

You can enjoy a hobby together or enjoy each other’s company while doing your own hobby. It’s also good for your vanlife relationship to have things to do that aren’t just driving and sightseeing.

Get a Tripod or a Selfie Stick to Capture Fun Memories

This is something we personally do, and recommend it to all van life couples.

If you’re hanging out somewhere where nobody else is around, how are you going to get a photo of yourself?

With a tripod or a selfie stick, that’s how. 

It’s nice to take lots of photos of you as a couple (and the van of course) in beautiful places, at stunning camps, or at attractions so you can look back on it in years to come.

Pull that tripod out, pop your camera or phone on top of it and there you go. 

Jarryd and I with our selfie stick
Jarryd and I always have a selfie stick or a tripod handy.

I hope these tips above helped with living with your partner in a campervan.

It is not easy sometimes but know this will help you understand and listen to each other.

This is an amazing experience that you will be talking about for the rest of your lives so embrace it.

Have your own thoughts or ideas on how to survive van life as a couple? Leave a reply and let us know!

Happy vanning.

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Hi! We're Alesha and Jarryd, the founders of Van Life Theory! We're currently travelling around Australia in our 2008 Mercedes Sprinter campervan and sharing our best experiences, stories, reviews and adventures as we go along. Make sure you follow along on our Instagram and YouTube!

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