Thinking about working while traveling in your RV or camper van?
15 tips to get you started.
It has never been easier to pack up your office, your spouse—even your kids—and hit the road for adventure or work—or, as is becoming increasingly popular, both. Getting an Internet signal to your preferred travel vehicle is easier than ever as cell phone signals are more powerful, with a lot more coverage available nationwide. Nowadays, there’s no excuse for missing that scheduled work call—all while you enjoy the view camping in a national park!
Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Contrary to what Instagram and bloggers might show, working from an RV or campervan may not always be glamorous or easy. Ask any full-timer and they’ll agree:
It takes work to work from your camper van or RV.
The extra hassles such as finding reliable Internet, cheap or free camping and planning your work week may add further stress to an already stressful situation. But if you’re set on becoming a digital nomad, just keep in mind that the lifestyle may be more arduous than you’ve been led to believe.
Those thoughts aside, here are a few recommendations, tips and advice for working remotely in your travel trailer, camper van or RV:
Tip #1: Plan and organize your work space
For many, the toughest part of working remote in an RV or camper van is the lack of space available. If you’re the type to have a sprawling desk covered with documents, papers or drawings, then it’ll be an adjustment to work from a picnic table or dinette.
Making the best use of your available space is key for successful remote work, as is efficiently packing and transporting exactly what you need to conduct business. If you don’t need a printer or scanner, don’t take them. But, if you do, find a stable spot that’s out of the way to set up your essential devices.
Tip #2: Invest in good Internet
We can’t stress this enough. Reliable and secure Internet is a must-have for any digital nomad, plus it will be worth it when you can relax by streaming Netflix after work. There are plenty of ways to save when living and working from a camper van or RV, but don’t skimp on the Internet.
Sign up for a high quality Internet plan and consider learning how to use your cell phone as a “hotspot.” A cell phone signal booster (or “wifi signal booster”) is also a smart idea. Many carriers offer “unlimited” data plans, and while that sounds great, they usually have a data cap at around 28 to 30 gigabytes. So if your job requires the movement of a lot of data, you may want to purchase 2 “unlimited” plans, from 2 different carriers, as 1 may work better than the other depending on coverage area.
In addition, always have a backup plan in case your Internet goes down. We recommend scouting out a nearby coffee shop or public library to help you stay connected.
Tip #3: Avoid working from bed
Try not to work from your bed as this can impact your productivity and mix your living and working spaces. Though space is limited, many digital nomads prefer to work from a passenger seat, dinette or wherever they can find an ergonomically-correct position that is both comfortable and productive. For days when the weather is nice, consider investing in a well-made portable folding table to bring outdoors.
Tip #4: Bring a larger monitor
Consider bringing along a larger computer screen than your laptop. Your eyes and back will thank you. Staring at the small screen, hunched over for hours on end, isn’t going to aid in your productivity. It’s also a good idea to have a lamp near your computer as lighting sources in RVs and camper vans can be lacking.
Tip #5: Keep your computer well-maintained
While we’re on the topic of computers, make sure yours is up-to-date and in good condition. Most full-time RVers don’t take along a full desktop machine and instead opt for small, high-powered laptops. Whatever you choose, make sure the computer is reliable and sturdy enough to be handled and moved every day. Life on the road isn’t always easy for technology.
Tip #6: Set a work schedule
Each person’s preferences and needs are different, but many digital nomads have found it helpful to set specific daily work hours and stick to them. This can apply to your work life whether or not you’re working remote from an RV. It’s important to have a routine—not just for you, but also for your clients, customers and employer. Designate a start time and end time, then shut your computer down and walk away.
Tip #7: Have a dress code
Again, every person is different, but many long-term digital nomads and work-from-homers say that it helps not to wear your pajamas while logging time. Get dressed (preferably in clean clothes) and be presentable, as you never know when a coworker or customer may want to video chat. This simple act of changing clothes also puts you in a mindset to work and helps differentiate between your work and life outside of work (which is especially important when you work and live in the same space).
Tip #8: Get rid of distractions
Working from home can be challenging due to the many distractions waiting to pull your attention away from work. Our advice: turn off anything that’s going to beep, ping, chime or alert you to something that isn’t work-related—such as low RV batteries, a personal text message or clock. These will only distract you from the task at hand.
Tip #9: Avoid moving on a work day
Once you’re out in nature or on the road, try to set realistic travel and work expectations. For instance, most remote workers don’t recommend trying to conduct business on the same days you travel, but there’s nothing’s wrong with traveling on a Monday and working on a Saturday, providing your employer is onboard with that plan.
Having dedicated driving days allows you to separate these 2 major aspects of your nomadic lifestyle. That way, you can plan to break camp, drive 200 or 300 miles, set up camp, test your Internet connection and be ready to work the next day.
Do your best to avoid breaking camp and traveling on a workday. Save the stress of moving campgrounds for the weekend so that you can concentrate on work Monday through Friday (or whatever days you work).
Tip #10: Be transparent about your lifestyle
Don’t be afraid to be upfront with your supervisor, coworkers and clients that you work full-time from an RV or camper van. This may elicit a few jealous quips, but once they see your good productivity and strong work ethic, they won’t think twice about you working remotely from a camper van.
Tip #11: Keep track of your time zone
When traveling in a camper van or RV, you may frequently cross time zones. You don’t want to miss an important work call by accident, so make certain you know where you are within North America’s 4 time zones (6 if you are in Canada).
Tip #12: Remember to stay light
Keep your loads and weights in mind…always! You don’t want to overload your camper van with non-essential or heavy items such as paperwork which could be digitized. Only pack lightweight items to schlep all over the country.
Tip #13: Be safe
This is a topic that’s not talked about much on blogs and websites offering full-time RV advice. Whether it’s just you or you and a partner traveling together, it may be wise to stash a pipe, baseball bat, large hunting knife or a firearm somewhere in your RV or camper van. Your safety while remote working is paramount. However you choose to keep you safe, make certain you know how to use your chosen defense method. Keep the old Boy Scout motto close to your heart: Be Prepared.
Tip #14: Stay longer at each destination
When balancing travel and work, consider spending more time in each place and less time traveling to and from various camp spots. This may be less appealing if you feel like it’s a big world with lots to see, but remember that you’ve committed to a lifestyle that allows you to take your time seeing as much of North America as you want—on your own timeline—so take your time and really enjoy the experience.
Tip #15: Keep a permanent address
Lastly, it’s a good idea to keep a permanent address on record with the post office so that you can still receive mail (personal or work-related). This is important for tax purposes, since you will be visiting different states while earning money. Having chosen a “home base” state in which you will pay taxes will help simplify your remote life.
Where to work from home in your RV or camper van?
When working from the road, there are plenty of campgrounds and RV parks where you can pay to stay. Many of these locations are even Internet-equipped, so you can pull up, login and start working first thing in the morning.
There are also plenty of great, free campsites out there. Also, the following list of businesses allow—or at least vaguely permit—overnight RV parking (i.e. “camping”), courtesy of the Boondocker’s Bible:
- Sam’s Club
- Camping World
- Home Depot
- Cracker Barrel
- 24-hour fitness centers (Planet Fitness, Anytime Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness)
- Truck stops
- Train station
You can also park at rest areas and along most city streets as long as you don’t see any “No Parking Overnight” signs. Parking on a city street should really only be done for 1 night, however, as law enforcement may notice if you park in the same spot for 2 or 3 nights in a row and cite you for illegally “storing” your RV. Of course, these rules vary by town, city and county.
Why people enjoy working from the road
One of the biggest reasons why many people are taking to the road to live and work is due to congestion and high rents in many of America’s major metropolitan areas. And it’s not just Millennials and young folks either. Semi-retired workers or workers close to retirement are also downsizing and striking out for adventure while they manage accounts, close deals or crunch data in spreadsheets. Outfitting a camper van, conversion van or Class C motorhome to work as your mobile office and home on wheels is achievable.
There’s almost no reason why, in the 21st century, your RV, camper van or travel trailer cannot become your mobile office. If you’ve been bitten by the wanderlust bug, scrape up the courage to hit the road and experience new adventures.
If there’s one thing we at Classic Vans know, it’s vanlife! We’ve bought and sold thousands of RVs and camper vans over the 30-plus years we’ve been in business, and our knowledgeable team can help you find the best van for you to live and work remotely in comfortably.