For the better part of two years, I lived in hotels and spent a fully ridiculous amount of time in a 16 passenger van. I’m not gonna lie – it was one of the better touring experiences I’ve had.
I was lucky the company I worked for gave us pretty free reign with the van. As long as we got to the shows on time, we could go pretty much anywhere we wanted as long as we paid for the gas difference if it was a big deviation. I also had two amazing casts who loved road tripping and were fine with me planning 8,000 stops at weird roadside attractions.
That being said, living in a tour van can wear you down pretty quickly and there are a few things you’ll want to pack to live on one successfully.
If you get even a little bit sick, pack Dramamine. Anytime you don’t have to be driving, you may as well be unconscious. We did a lot of long drives in those vans and you’ll feel the bumps and vibrations of the road a lot more in one of them than a car. I don’t usually get too motion sick, but the first week or so of each tour, I was definitely queasy until my body just stopped fighting the van.
Pepto-bismal and ginger snacks were always in my bag too and my drink of choice at rest stops became ginger ale (ginger is a homeopathic upset stomach remedy). I usually kept saltines in the van too.
Then there’s the great pillow debate – you definitely want one, but what kind? Most of the group favored those horseshoe shaped neck pillows and they are very easy to transport, but personally, I preferred my regular, full sized pillow. It was more of a hassle to drag around, but way more comfortable for whenever I wound up with the full backseat to sprawl across or to lean against the window whenever sharing a seat.
You’ll want a full music playlist on your phone in your Music app, not in an app that requires connecting to WiFi because sometimes you will be in the middle of nowhere without any. That being said, the entire van will love you a little more if your Spotify game is on point or you listen to some great podcasts (on the Dino Train we all loved Serial and the Hobo Princess down in Moonshine Hollow on Thrilling Adventure Hour – the others tolerated Welcome to Night Vale) while driving.
I seriously considered getting a Kindle or iPad while out on tour (evil robot books) because of the convenience, but in the end, I stuck it out with paperbacks. You’ll definitely want something like books to read, crossword puzzles to do. I also watched a ton of movies on my laptop. Everyone sort of goes into their own little bubble in the van, for the most part – not in an unpleasant way, but in a survival way.
I packed a spare pair of headphones and a spare charger cables as well as a spare car charger. A lot of vans have an outlet for a car charger in the rear, which makes life a lot more pleasant on 8 hour drives. If I was sitting in back, I’d usually just leave my phone plugged in until someone asked to use the charger a few hours into the trip. Then I’d be at 100% when they were all starting to run down and mine would usually make it until they were all charged again and the charger was free. Although, if it’s your charger, you can also pull a little rank and point that out if your battery is hovering too close to 0.
Van touring is definitely tied with cruise ships for good work/life balance, especially since the company I worked for was limited by DOT work regulations because of the Penske truck that traveled with us. I sure do miss some of those roadside attraction adventures.