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  1. #1

    Default Sleeping in van for road trip

    Hey there!

    Me and my friend(both girls) are planning about a month long road trip to the west coast(currently in the east coast). We plan to go through Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, South Dakota, and then back home. Our current plan is to buy a cheap van and renovate it so that we can live out of it. How safe is it or two 18 year old girls to do this, and where would be the safest places to stay, and how can we make this as safe as possible? Any and all answers are greatly appreciated, thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Such a plan could be safe, if it is done the right way. Your safest and best places to sleep will be campgrounds. They aren't going to be free, but security will be good, you'll have a place to get out of the vehicle (which is extremely important both for a change of scenery after long drives, and to get space from each other), a place to cook meals, and you'll have restrooms, and frequently showers.

    Your next safest bet is generally going to be truck stops, which are generally well patroled and with lots of lights. Rest areas, on the other hand are typically neither safe or legal options.

    If you're planning to spend a lot of time in major cities, you could really have difficulty finding a safe and legal place, without driving well outside of town.

    I'd say your bigger problem, however, may be financial. How much money do you realistically think you'll have for this trip? You're going to need at least a few thousand dollars for a roadworthy van, more money to renovate it for long term sleeping, plus an emergency and repair fund for any breakdowns you still might have on the road. Add in even more money for taxes, the high insurance rates for 18 year old drivers, and the extra money you'll spend on gas vs. a car, and you're going to need quite a lot of money before you even get out of your own driveway and need money for all the other expenses that come with living on the road for a month.

    That's not to say you can't do a great roadtrip, of course, and safety is always a very important factor. However, there is a whole lot more to it, and you need to make sure you are considering all of the elements for such a grand excursion.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Safety and much more.

    My first question is, why do you want to buy and use a van for this trip? If you perceive it to be the cheapest option, you would do well to take careful note of all the points Michael makes. They are indeed valid.

    Safety is going to depend very much on your maturity and demeanor. As mentioned, campgrounds would be by far your best option. Truck stops are great, but with limited facilities to cook your own meal, entertainment or even to go for a walk.

    Much of my last trip was spent in a van with many of the same safety issues you are facing, solo, senior, female. I was fortunate to buy an excellent van, in very good condition, for a reasonable price. Yet it still ended up needing almost $2000 in maintenance/repairs during this trip.

    Consider carefully whether for a month you would not be better off in a car staying at budget motels. Some of these are cheaper than some campgrounds, especially with the discount coupon books.

    As a final thought, you might like to check out this thread.

    Lifey

  4. #4

    Default

    Thanks Michael and Lifemagician for your post!

    Michael- Yes, we are very aware of the cost for the road trip. We have both been working and saving money since we were 14, and have quite a bit saved up. We have been very realistic on the cost of this trip, so we have the financial part of the trip completely under control. Also, we plan on visiting national parks, so we wouldn't have to worry about cities. The truck stops idea is a good one, we are just slightly worried about how safe they are because people are always talking about how sketchy truckers are(but that could easily be a stereotype).

    Lifemagician- We are thinking it would be cheaper to go in a van because we can put a deep -cycle battery in it, and cook our food inside the van. So we could save money on food and hotel costs. And how did you like your experience traveling in a van? And did you feel safe alone?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,271

    Default

    You don't park back with the trucks in truck stops. They will have you park either in the front lot or a section specifically for RV's.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Roadtripping on a budget.

    Quote Originally Posted by arrbby22 View Post
    We are thinking it would be cheaper to go in a van ...
    Living on the road is not cheap. There are many ways you can reduce the costs, but choosing to live in a van is not necessarily one of them. You need to factor in all the extra expenses including campgrounds and extra fuel (a major factor!). I highly recommend that for safety and comfort reasons, you consider using campgrounds most of the time.

    Two people sleeping in a van can get very hot in summer. You will not want to leave the windows open for security (and mosquito) reasons. You cannot leave the engine and aircon running overnight. Not only would it waste a lot of fuel, but can be deadly.

    Cooking in a van: Unless your cooker has been properly installed and the van properly ventilated,can be both uncomfortable (hot) and dangerous (gasses). Leaving the door open attracts flies and mosquitoes. Doing dishes can be even more challenging.

    Staying in motels (sometimes cheaper than campgrounds) does not mean you need to eat out for meals. Shopping at major supermarkets together with carrying a sandwhich maker or similar, you can make great meals in a hotel room.

    There are many more suggestions in this forum.

    Quote Originally Posted by arrbby22 View Post
    And how did you like your experience traveling in a van? And did you feel safe alone?
    In my previous post I included the link, so you may read for yourself.

    There was also a link to roadtrippers whose experience you should keep in mind.

    Do your sums. Make sure you include all possible expenses, such as ice instead of installing a second battery.

    Lifey

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    10,749

    Default Campgrounds for camping.

    Truck stops are good for an occasional overnight stop when they fit into your journey, but you can not set up camp and get the BBQ and chairs out, they are more designed just to get some sleep. In the National/State Parks you can set up camp for under $20 a night and many have a fire pit and table and bench set to each site. You will be safe and surrounded by like minded campers who I have always found to be friendly and helpful and always willing to swap tips and stories, wherever in the world I am. Whenever it's possible, I would personally stay in one of these types of campground for pleasure, safety and relaxation.

    The biggest problem with this is that the NP campgrounds are extremely popular, especially during the summer and unless booked in advance will not guarantee you a site for the night.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,064

    Default

    Dave's point about National Parks campgrounds filling up is something you really do have to think about. While you'll be able to sleep in the van, other than paying for a campground, there aren't going to be a lot of places you can park and sleep within a National Park. Most day-use areas don't allow overnight parking.

    I'm glad to hear you've been saving up, and have thought out the finances. The phrase "buy a cheap van" from your original post is one of those things that typically throws up big flashing warning lights that someone hasn't fully thought out the costs of a trip. That can be an even bigger issue when you're used to living with your parents, and can easily underestimate just how much day to day expenses cost. Without running any specific numbers, I would think you would need a minimum of about $10,000 to do what you are talking about doing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Bonny Hills , Australia
    Posts
    302

    Default Im a Van Fan

    My wife and I have just rebooked a van for a 8 week roadtrip starting in May. On our last trip of 42 days we spent 6 nights in a motel and the rest in camping grounds and RV Parks.

    We spent 3 nights free camping and were woken by the police on of them. The camping and RV Parks price ranged between $10 and $30. With an RV park you have the opportunity for a shower and do some washing.
    We prefer the freedom of a van over renting a car and motelling it too. I like to put the hours in behind the wheel and not restricted in looking for a motel at a certain time, and the freedom of making a meal or having lunch without the cost of take away / fast food.

    We havent stopped at truck stops yet but plan to on our upcoming trip. I think you have been given some really good advice from the other members here as well. HAve you thought of renting a van or maybe buying one that has already been set up. We had a Chevy Astro last trip and a very reliable van. Maybe you can get one already set up.

    John

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Great idea about renting one, John, but the original post said they were both 18. Chances are, no one will rent to an 18 year old, and if they did, the cost would be astronomical.

    Really, we did some cooking in our motel rooms this past summer. Bring a crate with an electric fry pan, some utensils, something to eat on, and a few basic cooking items (salt, pepper, margarine) and you can create some decent "cheap" meals. Most motel rooms also have a microwave oven either in the room or available to guests, along with a small refrigerator. Hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, "hamburger helper" and "Tuna helper", grilled pork chops, fried chicken, and more. Buy some makings for a garden salad and you have a decent, if not perfect, meal.

    For lunches, pick up bread, lunchmeat, and mayo, plus something for the side. Breakfasts are often provided by the motel, though they will vary in what they offer.

    We brought a campstove with us and never used it. Most motels don't have a place to set one up outside, and going to a park after a long day of driving was not even pleasant to us.

    Also, more and more grocery stores are including convenience foods at a fraction of the cost of going out to eat. This past weekend, I parked my students in a shopping center that included three fast food places and a grocery store. I went into the grocery store and bought a small inexpensive salad with dressing and a fork. The same grocery store had deli sandwiches cheaper than Subway's, fried chicken a lot cheaper than KFC, and of course many frozen meals that could have been cooked in the motel microwave. Fresh salad makings and fruit really help the diet and are cheapest at the grocery store rather than picking those up at convenience stores. (Our grocery stores sell bananas for 69c/lb. A convenience store may sell one banana for 69c.)


    Donna

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