Lately tons of people have been packing up and hitting the road to live full-time in a camper van. If you scroll on Instagram or TikTok, you’re likely to see tons of people’s personal renovations and how they make this lifestyle work for them.
We set out to see if all the hype was worth it, and luckily with a new-to-Austin company, Vanish Travel Co, we were able to test out van life without having to make the commitment of buying a van and moving into it permanently. This rental van agency, which also has a New York location, basically allowed us to have a trial to see if van life was worth it – and the best part is the adventure is yours, as you can go anywhere in the US or Canada that you want!
Josie The Camper Van
Being used to driving my small Honda Fit, I’m not going to lie – I was a little nervous about driving a 20-ft-tall Ram 2500 ProMaster. However, driving was surprisingly easy, and Vanish gives you lots of materials and videos to make sure you are prepared and safe before the trip. Our van’s name was Josie, and we had an absolute blast with her. The roads to our campsite were bumpy dirt trails, which can be expected from many sites, but we still felt safe and confident with Josie’s tires. Filling up gas was easy too, though the company does caution drivers to be extra careful at gas stations and to make sure the van will fit. We didn’t run into that issue! We also felt safe driving because each van comes with complimentary roadside assistance.
This van really had everything we could need that we could think of. There was an indoor and outdoor (hot!) shower, a compost toilet, 26 gallons of fresh water, a spacious sink, all the kitchen utensils you need, fans that open for air circulation and a heating system for the nighttime, tons of storage, camping chairs, outlets, coffee and so much more! A dining table easily extends and the bed folds out to a queen size. The kitchen counter extends for extra space too. Vanish offers Avenue A and B vans. Ours was a B and the difference is that avenue A vans only have the outdoor shower. For a video tour and to see more of our trip, you can check out our Instagram.
Planning The Trip
We wanted somewhere that felt secluded in nature, but still close enough to a town and had other people staying there so we felt safe for our first camper van experience. 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery was the perfect place for this, as we felt far enough from the city and all of the other campers and the winery, but could still see signs of life in the distance. The venue also hosts weddings and has a lovely tasting room with vast hill country views. At night it felt very safe and cozy and during the day, the rolling hills and impressive windmills all felt like they came to life around the campsite. They have sites for tent camping, RV camping, van camping and more, with electrical hookup and water if you need it. It was quiet at night and the stars were very impressive. While we recommend 4R Ranch for your camping experience and for a delicious wine tasting, if you are looking for a different kind of setting, Vanish has lots of field guides to help you plan your itinerary.
Planning where to go can definitely be overwhelming, but with Vanish’s field guides and their suggestion to use Hipcamp to book a place we could guarantee was safe, it became pretty easy to decide where to go. Hipcamp is basically like the AirBNB of camping. We narrowed down a lot of places all over Texas through looking at the photos and reviews on the app, but 4R Ranch definitely had the most positive reviews and was most in line with what we wanted, and we knew it’d be cool to stay on a vineyard! The host of the site, Walt, was super friendly, easy to reach, answered all of our questions and made the experience enjoyable.
Josie the Vanish camper van combined with our 4R Ranch campsite made us never want to leave, so I would say this introduction to van life definitely opened my eyes to the appeals of this way of living.
My Vanlife Itinerary
> Pick up your van and leave your car at Vanish with their safe, contactless pickup.
> Drive about 5 hours from Austin to the small German town of Muenster, TX.
> Driving a Vanish van is super comfortable and easy, but they provide you with a how-to video with everything you need to know before as well.
> Vanish even provides you with an awesome playlist before your trip to enhance your travels.
> Fuel up on gas so you can ensure the heat will stay on at night, although it does last quite a while.
> Make it to 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery in Muenster. See the vast windmills and wide open space as you arrive.
> Eat some of the food you brought and spend a night under the stars! There is tons of storage for food and a mini-fridge as well.
> Pro-tip: Download shows and movies if you want to watch something at night as wifi can be spotty at campsites. That’s great, though, as it just enhances the natural camping experience.
> Watch the sunrise over the hills of your campsite at the beautiful 4R Ranch.
> Head into the town of Muenster to explore the shops. Their main street had ample parking and big enough spaces so we didn’t have to worry about parking Josie.
> Explore the coffee shops, boutiques and antique stores around.
> Breakfast at the German diner Rohmer’s Restaurant is served until 11 a.m. This is probably the only restaurant in Muenster, but there are a few other spots not too far.
> Make sure to book a wine tasting before you go! You don’t want to miss your opportunity to try these amazing wines right near your campsite.
> Head to your wine tasting. We opted for the red wine tasting which included five different selections. 4R Winery also has food options, so we got a lunch of pizza, appetizers and tiramisu here.
> Hike around 4R Ranch on their trails.
> Watch the sunset from your campsite.
> Eat the food you brought for dinner. The easy-to-use stovetop and kitchen area made making food a breeze.
> Fire pits are provided at every campsite at 4R Ranch, so you can end your night with s’mores!
> Do a morning hike at 4R Ranch.
> Head out and enjoy the ride back home.
> Stop by Bluebonnet Cafe in Valley View for some delicious breakfast.
> Tidy up the van (even though Vanish has no cleaning fee), collect all of your belongings and return your rental van.
Vanish Rental Center: 979 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX 78702
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Cover photo Gracie Watt
Gracie Watt is a contributor at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and a graduate of St. Edward’s University in Austin, with a degree in Journalism. Watt is also a Lifestyle Producer at NBC-affiliate KXAN’s Studio 512. When she’s not writing, Watt enjoys singing, playing the guitar and doing volunteer work.