Where we went, where we stayed, and all the other details you need to know!

It has been a minute you guys! I let busy season get the best of me this year and my blogging routine hit the back burner! After some travel, time with family, and digging my way out of my editing cave I am happy to be back and with one of my most requested blog posts! Today I am sharing our California camper van trip and all the details you need and want to know!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

THE DETAILS

Where we went: We flew into San Francisco and I had an air bnb for us that first night since it got dark early and we wanted to be able to get a good nights sleep before embarking on our trip/getting groceries/etc! Here is our overall route:

San Fran – Big Sur – Yosemite – Lake Tahoe – San Fran

Here is the google maps route for those of you who want a visual!

Van we rented: Travelers Autobarn USA – We LOVED our experience. Pick up and drop off was super simple, the van was clean and ready for us, and we got a quick “how to use” tour by the guy who helped us with pick up! It was such an amazing deal and not super bulky for the small windy roads of Highway 1 and Yosemite!! 10/10 recommend!

The van was perfect size for the 2 of us to sleep, had plenty of storage space, had cabinets with basic cooking materials, a sink, a mini fridge, and a gas stove top! It also has a solar panel and a USB port to charge your phone no matter where you are! To use the bigger chargers (computer chargers/camera battery chargers) you will need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, but some campsites like Yosemite do not have them! We loved the time unplugged and you will too! 🙂

If you rent through this company be sure to add on things like “bedding” to your van! We were fully equipped with everything we needed from sleeping bags and pillows to two folding chairs to sit by the fire! There are options for a portable fan or heater, but keep in mind you will need to plug them both in so I recommend not adding those!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

Campgrounds we stayed: This may differ for you based on how your are camping and if you have a bigger vehicle!
Big SurPfeiffer Big Sur SP – We met some of the nicest people, loved the little community feel, and enjoyed a great hike right from our campsite!
YosemiteUpper Pines in Yosemite Valley – Yosemite Valley is the cutest little villiage! With tons of campsites, a gift shop/convenient store, and the most amazing hiking trails, you will never want to leave! We loved how friendly everyone was, the convenience of the little store when our propane stopped working in our van, and seeing how many people were just out enjoying nature! Plus, there is nothing like waking up to giant rock structures and tall pines! 😉

PRO TIP 1 : Utilize the map of the campground when booking! I got us spots closest to restrooms at every site and we were SO happy with that! No long walks to the bathroom – especially in the chilly mornings!! 😉

PRO TIP 2 : Campsites/National Parks have peak seasons and sites go QUICK! Keep that in mind during the planning process! Specific trails in some areas are not open during the winter months and keep in mind temps based on how you are camping!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

Air Bnbs we stayed: We stayed in Air Bnbs in San Fran because we wanted to start and end our trip on a very relaxed note and a nice long shower! 😉 HAHA. I cannot recommend both of these enough! Both were AMAZING experiences and even better locations! We would stay at both of these again and again! They even had free parking on the street for our big van!
San Fran 1
San Fran 2

Hotels we stayed: We were in Lake Tahoe for 24 hours and since this trip was to celebrate our anniversary, we splurged a little for 1 night of complete relaxation, a comfy bed, Netflix, and room service! NO RAGRETS! 😉 Also, there is nothing funnier than pulling up to valet parking with a camper van hahaha.
Lake Tahoe Hotel: The Ritz

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

THE PLANNING

First things first, the planning process taught me a lot! This was my first time planning a road trip so I had to learn all about mapping out routes, finding gas stations, planning food, stays, etc!! We started planning in June and left for our week long trip in November!

Here are a few steps you can take to make your road trip easier!

  1. Decide a general state(s) you want to go
  2. Dive deeper into specific spots in that state(s) you want to visit
  3. Figure out how long your trip will be – we did 8 days (Friday – Saturday)
  4. If you are flying into your start destination like we did, make sure you coordinate flight time with vehicle pick up time as well as when the sun sets. It can be stressful to navigate something new especially if it is dark so plan accordingly!! I made sure we had plenty of time once we landed to call an Uber, get to the pick up site (before close or dark) and had an air bnb that first night to take the stress off!
  5. Do not over pack your itinerary! There were a few other stops I would have loved to make, but I cannot imagine adding anything else to our trip now that we did it! We had just enough down time to enjoy ourselves and it would have been stressful had we added anything else!
  6. Make a little grocery list so you know what you want to grab!
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

THE BOOKING PROCESS

Booking campsites was a little confusing for me at first, just because I had never done it! My biggest tips are to google phrases like, “camping in Yosemite” and looking at sites like KOA, Hipcamp, or NPS.gov! I then read all about each campsite, what the “busy seasons” were, reviews, and googled images!! We absolute LOVED both campsites we stayed at and will definitely stay there again!

If you have not used Air Bnb before, it is so so easy! Just type in the area you are looking to stay, your dates if you have them, how many people/bed, and any other specific things on your wishlist! You can even get a discount of $55 OFF your first trip HERE!!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

PACKING

My days of being in a long distance relationship with my now hubby has really trained me well! I can travel anywhere for any period of time with a CARRY ON! WOOP! Pack as lightly as possible and only pack key layering pieces! We hit all different types of weather from 25 degrees – 60 degrees, but I know myself and my style so I packed my essentials, 2 pairs of leggings, a few athletic tops (tank and long sleeve), warm jammies, and the absolute basic beauty essentials (ie: contact solution, tooth paste, cleansing wipes, moisturizer, etc!) I had this all in a tiny bag so it was easy to access in the van! I also packed my hiking boots, hiking sandals, a hat, and a light weight coat (I purchase a crewneck sweatshirt from each place I travel so I had one for the trip too)! Also, it’s good to have a small bag for dirty laundry! You do not want to keep throwing sweaty or smelly camping clothing into your clean clothes!GROCERIES

GROCERIES

Here is a short little list of what we purchased before we set out on our trip!

  • Bread
  • Butter
  • Lunch Meat
  • Cheese
  • Soup
  • Apples
  • Cliff Bars
  • Breakfast Bars
  • Oreos
  • Cheeze Its
  • Toilet Paper – you are welcome in advance. We just got a 4 pack and we were very thankful multiple times that we did hahaha.

We picked up little things along the way from gas stations and such, but this was all we really needed!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019
California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

THE TRIP

Day 1 – Flew into San Fran, took an Uber to our van pick up location, picked up Chipotle (LOL) and headed to our Air Bnb!
Day 2 – Woke up early, got groceries (and the necessary Starbucks) and hit the road! All I had on the itinerary was our first destination (Big Sur) and the time we needed to be checked into our campground by! I am sooo happy that I didn’t over plan because we had so many impromptu side of the road stops for insane views, enjoyed walking around Carmel by the Sea and just enjoying Highway 1!
Day 3 – Woke up early, ate some breakfast and set out for a 4 mile roundtrip hike! Then we hit the road to Yosemite (approx 6 hour drive), stopped at a few gas stations, made sandwiches in the van, and got settled in our new campsite!
Day 4 – Woke up, enjoyed insane views, hiked all day, said “WOW” more than I can count, and lived our best lives.
Day 5 – Got up, drove to Lake Tahoe (stopped MANY times for Yosemite views on our drive north!), ate lunch, checked into the Ritz, took a much needed shower, ate room service, and watched a ton of Netflix!
Day 6 – Woke up, checked out of our hotel, and headed back to San Fran! Checked into our Air Bnb, got Chipotle (again, lol) and relaxed since it was POURING RAIN outside!
Day 7 – We were blessed with a sunny day to explore all the best views San Fran has to offer! From the Pink Ladies to the Golden Gate bridge and every shore view in between, we really had the best day exploring together! Alex was a rockstar driving the van through the city!
DAY 8 – Checked out of our air bnb, returned the van, got an Uber to the airport and came home!

WHAT WE WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

  1. We wish we would have known that the elevation of Yosemite would make our propane tank not turn on, but we gathered enough wood to make a fire and had plenty of bread and lunch meat/apples/granola bars! 🙂
  2. I would love to go back in peak season just for more daylight!! The day flies by when you are driving, hiking, etc!
  3. I could have even packed less than I did!
  4. Brought our own pillows! Of course the make shift bed in the van is not comfortable, but that is to be expected! We were camping! However, we wish we would have just brought our own pillows since the ones in the van were super thin!
  5. Planned out more hikes in advance! However, the app below helped a lot!
  6. Wish we would have brought an aux cord lol! We rarely even had a radio station come in, but we had a lot of good convos! 🙂

PRO TIP: Make sure you have all your routes printed out from Google Maps since you will most likely not have any service in the parks so driving to your next destination can be tough when you do not know where to go! 😉

APPS

Whether you are planning a trip or already on one, these apps are great!

OUTDOORSY – This is like Air Bnb but for renting other people’s camper vans, yurts, etc!
HIP CAMP – Also like Air Bnb but for camping, glamping, and RVs!!
ALL TRAILS – This Apps is SO COOL! My sweet friend Liv showed it to me before my trip and it was totally worth paying for the premium version! You can type in ANY place in the world and it gives you the trails nearby, rates them by how hard they are, shows you the distance, AND you can see images other people have taken on said hike/read their experience or advice!! Paying for premium allowed me to download trails and such to see when I had 0 service!!
ROADTRIPPERS– A full road trip planning app! SO FUN!
GAS BUDDY – We could not believe how expensive gas was in some of the most random areas haha! Gas buddy shows you the cheapest gas nearby! 🙂
SIT OR SQUAT – Just tells you bathrooms nearby and rates them by how gross they are hahaha! I do not have this, but it maybe would have come in handy when I had to poop in the woods. #REALLIFE. I’ve never laughed at myself harder.

SOME MEMORABLE MOMENTS

  • We saw a bear! All I wanted in Yosemite was to see a bear haha! We were walking a trail and saw a group of people ahead so we stopped to see what was going on and a 200ish lb bear crossed the trail and climbed all the way to the top of a tree where it stood and ate acorns. I could have watched it forever haha!
  • I ended up photographing a proposal! You can read the story HERE!
  • The same man who designed Central Park also designed the road that goes through Yosemite, south to north! Just a cool fact!
  • My emergency poop in the woods. We were driving through Yosemite and I needed a bathroom so when we finally found one I was thrilled..until it was LOCKED! I had no other choice and I will never be the same hahaha.
  • Alex driving the camper van on windy roads. He is such a champ.
  • We didn’t have radio or anything to listen to for a big chunk of the trip so we made up songs and sang them extremely loud. We still sing them at home now and then! 😉

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and it helps you plan our your first or next road trip however you do it!! This was such a fun and incredible experience for us! We desperately needed the quality time after my busy season and I am so glad we did it before we eventually start a family. So many moments I will never forget, and I just love my hubs so dang much!

California Camper Van Road Trip 2019



California Camper Van Road Trip 2019

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