8 Weeks of Rental Van Life

8 Weeks of Rental Van Life

Eight weeks. Two experienced campers. One rental Ford Transit cargo van from Hertz. And the great state of California to enjoy.

We’ve all watched the #vanlife videos on Youtube, but those cute singles or couples always own their vehicle. They take out the flooring and the seats and sometimes even cut a hole in the roof for a fan. We’re going to have a temporary vehicle we can’t modify, which may make outfitting it to be livable challenging. On the bright side, this is an amazing short-term opportunity to try van life.

A friend asked me how crunchy granola this vacation was going to be. Let me tell you, this is the Grape Nuts cereal of vacations. We will be sleeping on a mattress in the van, driving to beautiful places, spending time in nature, cooking over a camp stove, and even showering outdoors.

We haven’t left yet (as of the writing of this post). This is the preview for coming attractions. And let me tell you, it’s terrifying and nerve-wracking to pack a suitcase and prepare to fly across the country to a van that may or may not exist. (Remind me to call Hertz on Monday to ask them some pointed questions about their inventory).

We got a great deal on the van (assuming that it is available as planned when we arrive). It works out to be about $29 per day or $1,600 total. Given this is going to be both our lodging and car rental, it’s within our budget. We planned our trip around the dates of the rental. I’m prepared for gas to be up to $7/gallon in the Bay Area, although luckily for us it is a bit lower in price now.

Although I always used to fly without checking a suitcase, for a trip of this length and complexity, being able to fly with bags was key. We booked United Economy flights to San Francisco using the United credit card, which comes with the perk of free first checked bag (a value of $35 per person per flight). The flights were a little less than $500 round trip per person.

I’m documenting my packing list as I wrangle my stuff into bags. I’ll share the complete list in an upcoming post and link it here.

Anything that we can’t fly with (such as a mattress, camp chairs, groceries, water jugs, extra pillows) we’re sourcing either from Facebook Marketplace (this is so cool and I’ll write an upcoming post about it) or Target or Walmart, where we can order curbside delivery.

But enough about the logistics for now. Where are we going? It’s more of a mood board of inspiration rather than a fixed itinerary, but it goes something like:

  • Monterey
  • Point Lobos National Seashore
  • Big Sur
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Yosemite (if the Wawona wildfire is more fully contained and the valley is less smoky)
  • Mammoth Lakes
  • Eastern Sierras
  • Ancient Bristlecone Pines
  • Joshua Tree National Park

I’ve been privileged enough to spend time in many of these places before and I am so excited to be going back! I’m looking forward to sharing my experience (good or bad) of staying in a rental van and touring some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. More soon!


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