#Vanlife Diary: The Prequel

We’ve decided to jump on the #vanlife bandwagon! We purchased a van, fit it with a bed, and are hitting the road, going coast to coast across the United States. I have broken up the trip into three segments. The first segment of the trip runs from August through October and will take us from Florida to California (3,000+ miles). The major stops along the way are scheduled to include Atlanta, Nashville, Chicago, the national parks of South Dakota, and Yellowstone National Park.

The Places We Live VanLife Adventure Segment One Map. Map of the United States with a yellow line highlighting our route from Melbourne, Florida to Chicago, Illinois. Then to Boise, Idaho down to Los Angeles, California. Finally, from LA to San Francisco, California.

Why Van Life?

We are still trying to stick our $200 per week budget. Without decent public transit or easy access to cheap accommodations, this could be pretty challenging in the United States. The average cost of a hotel in the USA is $130 USD per night. This compares with about $40 in Malaysia, $30 in China, and $58 in Australia. The cheapest options seem to be couch surfing which is free-ish and plentiful, but potentially awkward. Another option is house sitting, which you all know I am a huge fan of. Finally, there is the option of camping. Camp sites can be found for as little as $10 per night, and often have electricity, internet, and showers. So we’ll be doing our best to jump between these three options as we make our way across the country.

Then there is transportation. Budget airlines in other countries are also much cheaper than in the states; several of our one-way tickets were in the $30 range. In America, not so much. Trains are just as expensive and the destinations are quite limited. There is the option of taking the bus, but traveling with two passengers starts to really reduce the savings. The average price of gas is $2.54 per gallon ($0.67 per liter). Based on this price, the estimated number of miles, and the gas mileage of the van, I should be able to stay within budget. Fingers crossed.

USA Travel Costs listed with Hotel at $130 USD per night and Gas at $2.54 per gallon. The Places We Live #VANLIFE

Buying the Van

We found our van on Craigslist in Melbourne, Florida. It is a 2013 Dodge Ram Passenger Van with 187k miles and no back seats since it used to be a delivery van. But we didn’t want the back seats anyway, so that was kind of a win. There are several dings and dents and obviously the mileage is a bit high, but it seems to be in working order. After purchasing it, we took it to the Dodge dealership to get it a check up. They said it looked good, minus a bit of a transmission problem when backing up, a faulty tire pressure gauge, and old brake pads. We got the pads changed and called it good.

  • Purchase Price = $3,700
  • Form Fees = $185
  • Temporary Tags = $263
  • Insurance (six months) = $514
  • License and Registration = $400
  • Check Up and Repairs = $580

We are still below my arbitrary goal of $7,000 USD, but Jeez-Louise is this van getting expensive! Thankfully, the selling price was way lower than it deserves. If we can make it around the country without needing any major repairs, we may be able to come out of this without losing much money.  Wish us luck!

Jen posing in front of the new vanlife van. 2013 Dodge Ram Passenger Van in white. #VANLIFE The Places We Live

Pimp My Ride

Once we got the van home, and I had a chance to scream anxiety screams into my pillow for a little while, we started to get pretty excited. The van just needed a few things to get her road trip ready. So, I shopped Mom’s house.

Thankfully, Mom had just about everything we needed. I grabbed a three inch mattress pad, two sets of sheets, three pillows, and a blanket. We pimped out the storage area using milk crates she had in her garage and grabbed some camping gear left over from when my sister and I were kids. I even grabbed an ice cream tub from out of the recycling bin to use as a garbage can. We did end up purchasing a phone charger for $7, but otherwise decided not to purchase anything until we knew exactly what we needed. Minimalism is the name of the game!

Jen and Josh in the new The Places We Live VANLIFE van. Back seat is open with a mattress, brown blanket, pillows, and a stuffed dog.

Ready to Ride

We’re hitting the road tomorrow. It feels like the night before Christmas. I can’t wait to get on the road and start exploring again. I am not sure how I am going to handle the long drives nor how Josh is going to handle sleeping in a van, but hey, that’s half the fun!


4 thoughts on “#Vanlife Diary: The Prequel

Add yours

  1. Your spirit of adventure lives on! You might say you’ll be RVING. We are very happy for you and hope it goes according to plan. We’ll be in Az. for 4 or 5 months this winter…come see us too.


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