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I spent $3,200 for a 2-week van trip. It was worth every penny.

Monica Humphries   

I spent $3,200 for a 2-week van trip. It was worth every penny.
  • I spent two weeks traveling around America's West in a van on a trip that cost $3,200.
  • It's the same I could've spent on far-flung trips, but I'm thrilled it went toward this adventure.

For three grand, I could have wandered the cobblestone streets of Dublin, Ireland.

Or spent my time sinking cash in slot machines in Sin City.

At the very least, I could've saved myself long hours on the road.

I didn't. Instead, I shelled out $3,200 for a two-week van trip.

And it was worth every penny.

The idea for a van trip has been on my mind for years. Since moving to Denver, Colorado in 2021, I've spent most of my weekends outdoors.

In the winter, I'm snowboarding. In the summer, I rotate between camping and hiking. To do those things, I have to drive.

Renting a van felt like a luxurious way to try out van life, a lifestyle that seemingly lets you connect to nature, and one I've long romanticized.

Spending $3,000 might seem like a lot, but it costs about the same as hotels. Plus, it elevated the experience of camping

While some people envision jet-setting to a tropical island and sleeping in luxurious resorts, others dream of leisurely shopping across cities like Paris.

I, on the other hand, visualize hiking in mountains, pitching tents near glacier lakes, and enjoying breathtaking scenery.

But even two weeks in a tent is a little much for me. I wanted a trip that would allow me to explore nature, but I also wanted comfort.

I was set on exploring America's West, and one option was to rent a car and stay in Airbnbs, hotels, and vacation rentals along the way.

Or, I could bring my accommodation with me and rent a campervan.

I eyed renting everything from Mercedes Sprinter vans to rooftop tents. Then, I found Native Campervans, an RV rental company based in Denver.

The rental, unsurprisingly, was the largest cost of my trip. Business Insider received a media rate for the two-week trip. In total, the rental cost a little over $1,000. I rented a Ram ProMaster, the company's largest and most ritzy rental, which would typically cost closer to $2,500.

I rationalized the price by considering how much I would've spent on hotels and Airbnbs for two weeks. If I wanted accommodations that were conveniently near nature, I figured that would average about $200 a night — the same price as the face-value campervan rental. Plus, I'd need to rent a car to travel between Airbnbs.

The campervan was exactly what I was looking for. It was large enough to stand in, and had a comfy bed, heater, and full kitchenette with a sink, stove, and mini-fridge. It was easily enough space for one person for two weeks.

Once on the trip, I encountered plenty of hidden costs

For two weeks, I rotated between parking at campsites, on free public land, in Cracker Barrel parking lots, and at expensive RV parks.

The cost of paying to park my van, along with tasks like showering and filling my van's water tank, quickly added up.

Plus, gas was a major expense. I drove about 3,000 miles through six states and spent $670 on gas.

While I was surprised by some of the hidden costs ($10 for a shower seems like a lot to pay every few days), the trip ultimately felt more affordable than other types of vacations.

That's because I had a full kitchen, which meant I could boil pasta and fry eggs every day — something I can't do in most hotels.

The trip's itinerary was also centered on nature, so a lot of it was affordable. Hiking, for instance, was free since I already had the gear and a National Parks Pass, which grants me year-round access for $80.

I'll admit I did make a few splurges, too. For example, I took a break from driving and rode a train into the Grand Canyon National Park. I also couldn't pass up trying regional foods, like an indulgent date shake in Palm Springs, California.

Ultimately, the van trip led to new experiences and ways to travel for a trip I won't forget

I dropped off my van feeling energized.

The trip let me explore new parts of my home country. I wandered through fields of cacti in Joshua Tree, California; I met friendly faces in Jerome, Arizona; and I was immersed in history in Taos, New Mexico.

Most of the highlights happened spontaneously. I went climbing with strangers in Joshua Tree and stumbled upon an oasis in Arizona's desert.

Moments like these would not have been possible anywhere but from the backseat of a van, which allowed me to be more flexible with my schedule and where I went.

I also left the trip with newfound confidence. I did the entire journey solo, which offered far too many opportunities for reflection and self-growth, and served as a reminder that I can rely on myself.

I likely would've spent about the same on any other trip, but this one taught me more about myself than any other solo vacation I've taken.

And that alone is easily worth $3,000.


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