How much did it cost to travel the US in a camper van?

I thought it would be interesting to share a little about our spendings from the road trip. It was quite eye-opening for me. The numbers are all real and in all honesty, my hope for this post is that you will be encouraged to hit the road!

We set our hearts on doing a multi-month long road trip back in March 2017. (Wow… that’s almost a year ago!) We had no idea how long we would be on the road, but the one thing we knew is that we need to set a budget. We were blessed to have two stable incomes and arbitrarily we decided to put aside $4k/month for five months, then we would have $20k by August. We knew it would be enough to be very comfortable on the road. Let me just say, that was way more than enough for a five-month road trip in the US!

I was very interested in knowing how much we spent on the road and to see if this road trip is financially worth it after all, so I downloaded an app called Spendee to keep track of every expense. This app is overall pretty simple and user-friendly. It provides various spending categories, custom hashtags for special tagging, and also up-to-date currency exchange. It was especially helpful when we were in Canada.

The app also organizes your spendings in a colorful pie chart. This is a visually appealing feature for me to review all my spendings in a big picture. The snapshot below is the overview of our five-month spendings.

Roadtrip Expense.jpg
5-month spendings on the road (provided by Spendee)


Breakdown in numbers:

  • Dining Out + Grocery : $3483.98 + $1126.47 = $4610.45
  • Van Repairs : $3317.03
  • Gasoline : $1126.47
  • Family : $887.98
    • Spendings for our family, like dining out, gifts
  • Fees : $831.03
    • Parking fees, Violation tickets :(, numerous east coast tolls, permits
  • Shopping : $697.87
  • Others : $ 449.5
    • Shower fees, laundry, haircuts, propane, Ubers (when our car broke down or towed), van improvement stuff
  • Entertainments : $299.11
    • Museum tickets, halloween haunted house, Canoeing
  • Gifts : $186.77
    • Postcards, magnets, gifts for friends

Overall Thoughts: 

  • It took a toll on our pocket to repair the van when it broke down, and we ended up spending the unexpected $3300.  If we take out this cost, our overall expense is just under $10k over five months, which means $2k/mth for the both of us! You know what, that is how much we would pay for rent and utilities in the bay area each month! We literally traded our expensive living cost in the Silicon Valley for travels.
  • So what about the cost of the van and the conversion? We see that as an investment in the long-run. We are hoping that if we sell our little camper van in the future, we would be able to get if not most, half of the investment back. To add to that, we have close to zero spending in lodging, so I also see the cost of the van and conversion as a trade-off to paying for hotels or campsite. And we are now continuing to do weekend trips with the van, hence saving on lodging.
  • Did we really spend that much eating out??? Sadly, the numbers do not lie. Even though we were cooking 70% of the time, you can see how much it cost to eat out!
  • I always say that we cannot buy anymore things for the van because it will not fit, yet guiltily, we cannot resist the REI labor day sales in Washington and our friend’s Columbia Employee Store in Oregon.
  • Shame on us! We got four violation tickets on the road. 😦 Illegal overnight parking, parking too close to fire hydrant, speeding ticket, parking in the tow zone… you name it. I think we paid a good $500-$600 on this. Sigh.
  • Now I am imagining if we didn’t park illegally, didn’t go on a shopping spree, and restraining ourselves from indulging in good food, how much would we be able to save?

Soooo… is it worth it?

All I want to emphasize again is that spending $2k/month for the two of us is less than the monthly living cost in the expensive Silicon Valley (rent, utilities, food…). I don’t know what you think, but I am pretty proud of ourselves to be able to achieve this.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Norm Jang says:

    The best part of your journey across the United States is that you made memories together as husband and wife. Just think of how much closer you are to each other and to God. Great example and inspiration to young people to get out an live.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s