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  • Calculating the Real Cost of Van Life vs. Hotels for a Road Trip

Summer is quickly coming to a close, so how many more trips can we squeeze in before life starts picking up speed again? When Nathalie and I went on our first trip together, we meticulously calculated the costs between hotel hopping and renting out a van with a bed and all the kitchen supplies needed. We are always trying to save money and have a memorable time, so how can we have both without breaking the bank and not starve? Our answer quickly led us to van life. 

Van life, by far, is a much cheaper option than a hotel. If we were only to calculate the food aspect (which, let’s be real, is the most important), it was clear that we would be saving money by opting out of hotel hopping and jumping into #vanlife. 

Our first ‘van life’ road trip was on the west coast of the United States, where we hiked in Mammoth Lakes, Zion National Park, and Bryce Canyon. We were able to sleep on free land called BLM (Bureau Land Management) and see the most epic views. It’s federal land that is free to everyone. This is your ticket to saving money while on the road and taking in exquisite sights every evening when you’re getting ready for dinner and when you wake up. Just writing this makes me want to plan another road trip right now! It was truly a trip of a lifetime, unplugged throughout the day, taking in nature, and having our home right in our rental car/tiny home on wheels! It took us to (almost) everywhere we wanted to go, and at night it turned into a cozy cocoon where we slept under the stars for free (not including the price of the rental van). 

Lillie, outside the van, about to cook a meal with a gorgeous view.

Both have pros and cons; with hotel hopping, you have to unpack and repack every time you get into a new room, and that relaxed or at-home feeling is minimal because you’re constantly sleeping in a new bed. If you are trying to save money, the hotels you’re reserving probably aren’t the nicest and don’t have the greatest views out of the window. Sure, you might be roughing it a bit with the van and in a small space, but you get homecooked meals every night, sleep under the stars with the most beautiful views, and unlike an RV that is massive and loud when the generator is on, you are truly unplugged, and have everything you need. 

After renting out the most basic van for our first trip and falling in love with it, we thought of some upgrades we would like if we ever had the opportunity to build our own off-grid tiny home on wheels. We wanted there to be a little more sparkle added to it. Four solar panels on top that power lights, a fan, running water, and a big enough propane tank for our stove that lasts us over a month if we use it three times a day every day. We have an outdoor shower hooked up to our van and so much storage you can pack bikes, floaties, games, a table outdoors, and whatever else you want to take on your road trip!

If you’re interested in taking on the adventure and trying out van life for your next road trip, click here to rent our van and experience all the magic we are talking about! 

With love and light,

Nat & Lil 

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