For my traveling while driving to most of the 50 U.S. states, I chose a van as my mode of transportation. This post is for those who may wonder, Why a Van?
I will start off by saying that I will be living out of the vehicle while traveling, for a few reasons. First off, hotels can get expensive. To be able to do this journey I will need to do it on the cheap, so nightly hotel expenses are a no-no. Secondly, ease of camping. Lastly, will meet all of my needs.
My needs on this journey will be: a comfortable place to sleep, a way to cook meals to avoid spending on eating out, a way to store items, a way to go to the bathroom, a way to clean myself, and a way to keep myself in a safe environment.
So what are the options besides hotels?
Why not a tent? Tents are cheap, that's true. You can throw them into any vehicle you already own. I dismissed it for a few reasons. Pain to unload everything, set up, and not very comfy for nightly sleeping (rain, hard ground, etc.). Plus, it might be hard to find a safe place to pitch a tent every single night out on the road. Then undoing everything in the morning and loading it back up again. That is a lot of time wasted unloading, unpacking, repacking and loading up... every single day. Seems like there is a ton of gear needed for this type of set up. Least, to me, anyways. If you were going to a place and staying in one spot a week or two this is would work great. Just won't work for me, I'll be driving to a different place every day. And, not really safe, in my opinion.
Sleep in your car. That's another option, that is for sure. I do have a little car that would be good for sleeping in. And it's good on gas, too. Yet, there are a few other considerations to think about with car camping, at least for me. I wanted to have enough space for cooking, adequate storage, and place for portable potty and ability to shower. I didn't see how all of these things could be accomplished in my small wheels. The biggy deal breaker for me, though, is the fact that you literally have to get out of the drivers seat to get in to the back. If you are stealth camping, that would pretty much give it away that you are sleeping in your car. Also, for safety reasons, you can't easily get into the drivers seat and take off for whatever reason. Car camping in my car might be okay for a night or two here or there, but I'll be traveling for weeks at a time in the future for this journey.
RV, how about this option? I do already own one (still up for sale). It's a class 1995 C model, it's about 29' long. There are good and bad things when I considered this option. True, it has everything in it, a very comfortable queen size bed, nice sized shower, plenty of space, I can stand up in it, tons of storage, 3 way fridge, house battery, generator, heating and cooling, and drives fantastic! All pro's in it's favor. The con's, though, outweighed the pro's for me. It gets 8 mpg, the length makes it hard to get around easily (especially in unfamiliar places), it's tall so you are always concerned about height issues, most of the appliances are inefficient, you would pretty much have to stay at RV parks which are getting more and more expensive, it's too big for me since I'll be doing most of this alone, and it's just a huge thing to be driving for that many miles.
I settled on a van for my mode of transportation. I chose the full van size over a minivan after careful consideration. Reasons were: I did want some level of comfort while on the road. A minivan would give me better mileage, but about all of them didn't have the higher top roof. Plus, they seem to make the minivans anymore on the inside that reduces the interior cargo area with it's molded wall cup holders and such that I couldn't see having anything besides a mattress in the back of one. The gas mileage is better in a minivan, that's true. But for the difference of a few dollars more at gas fill up time, I chose more space instead.
When I was researching for this, I was looking at the differences in interior cargo dimensions to compare and the differences in gas mileage. I was looking at the differences in an Astro minivan, a Dodge Grand Caravan, or full size conversion van.
Van: MPG/ highway back door to seat width height
Astro Minivan 18mpg 7'3" 4'3" 3'7"
Dodge Grand Caravan 24mpg 7' 4'2" 3'9"
Ford E150 w/raised roof 16mpg 9'5" 5'5" 5'2"
These vary slightly with the year models, this is just a general example of the three I was considering this past January.
Let's use my upcoming Texas trip as an example of comparing fuel mileage to comfort. Round trip and places in between, I plan on driving about 1400 miles and will be spending a week on the road. My current van, the Ford E150 gets about 16mpg on the highway. Gas right now in Texas is around $2.35 average (average of a few cities in Texas on Gasbuddy.com), so that will be about $205.62 in gas for this trip. Let's compare that to the Dodge Grand Caravan's gas mileage of 24 mpg. It would only cost $137.08 in fuel costs, $65.53 less than the bigger van.
HOWEVER.. look at the interior room difference. My bigger van choice for the #vanconversion has a full size permanent bed set up at the back, I can stretch out very well back there. I can also stand up when I put my pants on, albeit with a slight head bending, but still. I won't have to worry as much cooking inside with the higher top compared to a low ceiling on a minivan. I can take things with me that I may not otherwise been able to with a smaller vehicle. For example, extra food, water, outdoor furniture or equipment, and the ability to travel with someone without feeling like we are Siamese twins. More space also makes it feel not as crowded to me, feeling claustrophobic makes me anxious. Since I'll be spending about a week in Texas on this first trip, the ability to live comfortably while inside the van is very important! There was no way I would have been able to put a bed across the back of a minivan and lay comfortable, so I would have had to put a bed on the side, and a small one at that, which would have meant it could only sleep one. The bigger van, I can sleep two. Since my daughter is going with me on my Texas trip, and the bf will hopefully go with me to some states, this ability to sleep more than just one is a plus. And when I am traveling alone, the space will be just down right heavenly. I consider the difference in gas prices the cost of having more comfort while on the road.
Everyone should evaluate for themselves what is more important. These are just my own reasonings. Cheers!