After ending a year that was probably the most isolated in modern history, people thought it was funny when I told them I had organized a three-day van adventure… alone. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling with others because there’s nothing better than having shared experiences and laughs with loved ones. But I also enjoy travelling alone sometimes because I can be on my own agenda and make solo decisions as I go along.
You’re reading a guest post by Carla Bragagnini
So whether you are travelling with others, or alone, like me, here are some lessons I learned after spending three days exploring the local regions of Montérégie and the Eastern Townships with Lazy Camper Van.
1. Plan to trip plan:
Before you set off, start researching the places on your wish list. Trip planning is half the fun! If you are travelling with others, get together and map out your itinerary over some good food and drinks. Search blogs, Instagram, YouTube or even TikTok for some inspiring ideas and visuals of hidden gems along the way. Get creative and enjoy this part!
Check out any special events or festivals taking place during your travels (the local tourism board is the perfect place to start), and research any activities (kayaking, rock climbing, wine tours, etc.), or places worth visiting in advance. I made sure to search for nearby parks, their admission fees and reviews, as well as opening days for places of interest. For example, there was a brewery on my list, but I read online that they were closed on Mondays, as were many other restaurants and tourism hotspots in the region, so I made sure to plan around that. There’s no greater road trip buzzkill than being met with a giant fermé sign.
2. Widen your accommodation search:
In my trip planning, knowing the general direction and budget was a great starting point, as that helped me set some parameters around accommodation and activities. But trust me, you’re already on the right track with a campervan rental, as it opens up a whole world of opportunities, allowing you to simply pick up and go, as you travel from place to place. Personally, I used official campgrounds because I wanted to have space to cook and access to amenities.
In that case, you can try the Sépaq Parks or Parks Canada, but keep in mind, they are more popular in the summer (otherwise, there are plenty of private campgrounds that tend to have more availability). Since you already have a bed on-the-go, there are also plenty of apps and Facebook groups that offer advice for free camping and parking – Quebec’s nature is immense and the options are unlimited. If you are flexible, travelling during the week allows you to skip the weekend travel rush.
3. Leave some room for spontaneity:
For my trip, I didn’t book any accommodation in advance, but I made sure to call campgrounds ahead to check that I had options available in each place, just in case. That gave me peace of mind, as well as the flexibility to be able to make a detour, if I was feeling adventurous. Ideally, you want to have a few things planned but also leave some loose ends to let things unfold organically.
I was hoping to drive up to Frontenac National Park, but decided to spend more time in the Coaticook region instead. If I’d booked the campground at Frontenac, I wouldn’t have been able to follow my road trip impulses. Of course, if you have a better idea of your itinerary and don’t want to leave it up to the fate of the travel gods, go ahead and book your accommodation in advance – only you know what works best for you.
4. Offline maps are your best friend:
Offline maps turned out to be my most valuable copilot, especially since having access to data is one of those things we can’t often control. So whether you want to save your monthly usage or navigate without relying on the strength of the network in remote areas, offline maps will allow you to cruise effortlessly to your next adventure. And just think – you can put all the money you saved into buying road trip snacks along the way!
5. Less is more
The Lazy Camper Van will have all the essentials you need – it will be fully stocked with kitchen amenities and cooking supplies – even down to dishwashing detergent! You will also get a large capacity water tank, so you can stay well hydrated.
For packing, you only need to bring some clothes, bedding (in some cases) and a few extracurricular activities to occupy your time (books, games, instruments, etc.) – though to be honest, from my experience, you’ll be too busy exploring to make time for any of this! For periods of downtime, I was happy to have brought a book, a ukulele and my laptop (special shout-out to pre-downloaded Netflix movies for entertaining me during an evening thunderstorm!).
6. Save your appetite:
In the beginning, I was eager to cook on the road, so I brought many of my food supplies with me, like I would with a camping trip. But I quickly learned that the beauty of a van trip is that you are constantly on the move, covering vast distances and passing many fascinating places and people along the way. And the best part is – you have the freedom to stop wherever you want! So bringing too much food was a real rookie mistake. It turns out that some of the best memories are made stopping at roadside stands, farms, restaurants and markets to sample and pick up fresh and local cuisine. In the end, my overpacking was no big deal, I just managed to somehow return to Montreal with almost as much food as I left with.
7. Think local:
Not only is it a good idea to support local food and drink producers and tourism in general, but it’s also wise to hit locals for advice. If you stop by a cidery, consider asking the gift shop employee if they know a nice beach nearby or ask the receptionist at your campground if they know of any beautiful hikes in the area. People who live in the place you are visiting are usually unofficial tourism experts and likely love sharing the highlights of their region with travellers.
More officially, you can also visit any local tourism office for helpful advice. After I visited the tourism office in Frelighsburg, the staff there sent me to a free art gallery show and introduced me to some of the finest orchards in the region, as well giving me their top picks for stops along the wine route. And don’t forget, before you go, you can reach out to the team at Lazy Camper Van, they are always happy to offer personalized advice to help make your road trip dreams come true.
8. Be present:
Sometimes I caught myself taking a photo of a place before I had really soaked in the experience for myself. I was so used to busy city life that I had to remind myself to breathe and enjoy the moment. A van trip is definitely a bucket list-worthy journey, especially after the year we’ve had, so keep in mind, your only tasks are to slow down, eat good food, get out of your comfort zone and drive your way to the adventures of a lifetime.
If you want to experience the freedom of the camper van travels…
Collaborator @ Lazy Camper Van
Carla Bragagnini is a freelance creative with a background in writing and illustration and a focus on the travel and food sectors.