I spent 6 days in a camper van in Switzerland with two adults and a toddler. It was a great way to explore Europe for cheap — but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.

I spent 6 days in a camper van in Switzerland with two adults and a toddler. It was a great way to explore Europe for cheap — but I wouldn't recommend it to everyone.

A white campervan is parked in front of a lake near Gruyères, Switzerland.
We kicked off our camping journey at a site outside of Gruyères, Switzerland.
Jordan Erb/Insider
The author stands in front of mountains in Switzerland, wearing a red hat and holding a flower.
I love traveling — so an opportunity to camp in Switzerland was right up my alley.
Jordan Erb/Insider

We realized that finding cheap hotels was going to be difficult when we started searching.

I thought it was a radical idea to try out van life for a week with their three-year-old. Are there three adults and a toddler? In a vehicle? I was wary.

They convinced me that it would be a good way to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, for far cheaper than we’d spend in hotels, so we decided to give it a try.

After living in a van for a week, I thought it was a great way to explore Switzerland, but I don’t think everyone would enjoy it. Here’s what happened and what it was like.

A white Mercedes camper van is parked in front of a range of mountains in France.
The Mercedes Marco Polo is shown here in Annecy, France, about 45 minutes from Geneva, Switzerland.
Jordan Erb/Insider

The best hotels in Switzerland can cost hundreds of dollars a night in the high summer season.

With a van costing about $300 per person for the full six-day trip, my family quickly identified van life as a good alternative to a traditional vacation in hotels.

We rented ours from a van rental company in the United States. After picking up the van in Lyon, France, my aunt and uncle drove it to meet me in Switzerland.

Booking it about two months in advance gave us enough time to plan an itinerary and get ahead of the high cost of travel that seems to be ramping up worldwide.

We only had to get gas once or twice over the course of six days because the Marco Polo came with a full gas tank.

Two stove burners, a pot, and a cup of coffee are seen inside the camper van.
The van came with a hidden stove top, which we used to make our meals (and perhaps more importantly, our coffee).
Jordan Erb/Insider

It was easy to cook food in the van because of the amount of cups, plates, pots, pans, and silverware. I didn’t feel like we needed a full fridge or a microwave because the burner and cooler provided everything we needed.

We cooked soup or boiled water for pasta and had a side salad and loaf of bread. Breakfast was easy: boil water for instant coffee, slice up some fruit for a bowl of muesli, and we were ready.

The inside of the campervan's pop-up roof.
The camper van had a pop-up roof that doubled as a second bed. It felt pretty cramped.
Jordan Erb/Insider

When it was time to go to sleep, the back passenger seats reclined into a full bed, and the roof popped up to reveal a smaller bed. It wasn’t difficult to settle in at night because each sleeping quarter had reading lights and a computer.

I had to climb up onto the bed to get into the upstairs area where I slept.

The area is advertised as being able to sleep two people, but I found it too small to fit one person. With my head facing opposite the entrance, I would hit my forehead against the ceiling at least a few times a night.

The sleeping arrangement wasn’t comfortable and it was a van, not the Ritz. The bed was a bit odd because the passenger seats were reclined all the way back, and the seat belt holsters poked into my family members’ backs.

I had a foam pad on top of my car’s ceiling. After a long day of hiking or eating cheese, having a sleeping pad didn’t take away from a good night’s sleep.

The campervan, with its roof popped up, is seen parked in front of a waterfall in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland.
Lauterbrunnen (shown above) was one of my favorite places to take the van camping.
Jordan Erb/Insider

Living out of a car is not a vacation for people who don’t like being outside, or people who need a lot of personal space or a hotel. It’s cramped and won’t be the best night’s sleep you will ever get.

In close quarters, you can hear everything and feel everything, and people opening and closing the car doors.

I think van life is one of the best ways to explore a country if you’re looking for cheap accommodation that’s nicer than a tent and less expensive than a hotel, where the focus is on the outdoors. Only with people you really like is it recommended.

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