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Our Guide to Driving Across America in a Camper Van

Crazy Horse, never forget your dreams, traveling couple, adventurous couple, couple travels the world, leisure sprinter van, driving across americaGood ole America. Before embarking on our cross-country road trip, I really hadn’t seen much of my homeland. Drew, on the other hand, had traveled with his family in an RV as a kid, visiting National Parks and other cool places, so by the time we left for our trip he had just 8 more states to see before seeing them all. Now, after spending nearly a year living life on the road, I am happy to say that not only am I finally catching up (now Drew only has 1 left – Vermont – yay!), but we have both come to truly appreciate how much America has to offer.

bridge to usa canada, driving from canada to usa, guide to traveling across america in a camper vanWe showed you how to travel across Iceland in a camper van (and we’re about to do it in Europe!), but if you’re new to life on the road, or perhaps you live abroad, it’s important to note that America has a few more regulations and a lot more regulated land, meaning that it takes a bit more research and awareness to avoid any hiccups along the road. So, without further hesitation we share with you our video and guide to traveling across America in a camper van!:

1. Let’s start with getting the actual camper van itself.

the 7-mile bridge, things to do in the keys, can you bike the 7-mile bridge, the old 7-mile bridge, where is the 7-mile bridge, where to bike in the keys, mr and mrs adventure key west, how many bridges are there in the keysAvailable in all different shapes, sizes and colors, we may be a bit partial, but we believe that our 21-foot Leisure Travel Van, is the absolute most ideal. Not only does it fit into a normal parking spot with ease, but we get just over 20-miles per gallon and 6-foot Drew can stand up perfectly tall inside. I can stand up, stretch my hands above my head and practice yoga, just in case you were wondering.

sprinter van, 21 foot sprinter van, how to live in a sprinter vanWe think the best solution is to purchase one, whether new or used, especially if you are planning to be on the road for more than 6 months. Auto Trader is a great resource for used campers, but if that’s out of the question, Wicked CampersJucy Rentals and Escape Campervans are the best (and coolest) rental companies out there.

wicked campers, rent a van to drive across the us, drive across americaLooking for some more inspiration? Here are some of the raddest and most inspiring vans on the road.

vanagon teal, old teal vw, rent a van to drive across the us, drive across america2. But how do you afford a camper van in the first place, let alone life on the road?! 

giant nickel in canada, where is the giant nickel, giant nickel, cool things in canada, giant moneySTART SAVING NOW. Drew and I both have always been ones to save our money and while we were working our full-time jobs in LA we decided to continue with the trend. We knew we loved our weekend getaways and adventure gear more than that $15 cocktail or that $100 pair of jeans… though, we must admit it was all quite tempting, especially living in Americas most amazing playground!mr and mrs adventure, engagement photos los angeles, heart balloon, heart balloon engagement photos, brittany rouille, city of angels, los angeles engagement photo locations, made in LAWe worked hard, developed a love for one-of-a-kind consignment shop finds and always found a true sense of joy in inviting our friends over before a night out on the town. There are always little ways in which you can save money here and there and, if you keep your eyes on the prize (freedom), it’ll be a piece of cake. Read our post on how we live on $1,000 a month for more insight and ideas.

french meadow bakery and cafe, piece of cake, cake slice, driving across america3. What about hygiene? Like, where do you shower?

First Shower in rv, how to shower when you live in a van , tips for rv life, how to stay clean and liven an rv, mr and mrs adventure shower, adventure couple shower, outdoor shower, sprinter van shower, rv showerThis seems to be the question that all our family members have asked at one point or another. Besides our outdoor shower (which is really only appropriate in so many places) and the indoor shower (which we don’t use because our van only holds 26 gallons of water at a time and we need it to last as long as possible), we have gym memberships at Anytime Fitness!

anytime fitness, how to shower when you live in a vanWith over 2,345 locations through out the US and Canada we never seem to be more than a day away! There are also showers at nearly every campground (keep quarters on hand, many are coin operated, especially in New England) and then there are truck stop showers, though we have never gone to one of those (they are a bit more expensive but you do get a fresh towel).

4. How do you get wifi to write and publish blog posts?

wifi cafe, key west cafe, travel bloggerWe hang out in A LOT of coffee shops and drink A LOT of lattes and tea, and we LOVE every moment of it.

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augies coffee redlands, best cafe in california, best coffee shop in redlands californiaInsider Tip: If we park close enough, we are usually able to stream wifi from McDonald’s, Anytime Fitness and most Starbucks’ right from our van!

cafe bassam, giant latte, giant cappuccino, amazing coffee photo, best cafe in san diegoWe also use our iPhones as hot spots but the connection is very, very spotty and our data plan isn’t big enough to allow us to upload photos to the web. Most of the time Drew will drive and I will write posts and ideas in a Word doc until we get to a cafe where I can then put the final touches on everything. Here is a great article on using data safely while traveling.

wifi cafe, key west cafe, travel blogger, coffee waves corpus cristi5. Where do you park the van at night?

adventure mobile, adventure car, how to live in a van, moving into an rv, how to travel america, adventure couple, light drawing, writing with lightWhile most Walmart’s, and Sam’s Clubs are known for allowing vans to park overnight (if there’s a sign that says they don’t, be polite and go ask the manager), we only use these if we find ourselves driving late in the evening, simply in need of a place to rest. Our main go to is “boondocking” in hotels and unrestricted neighborhoods, though we’ve added a hospital, a church, a school and a few Tim Horton’s in Canada to the list.

tampa mural, cool graffiti in florida, driving across americaWondering how many parking tickets we’ve scored? Get ready for it… ONE. In the tiny, Bostonian town of Brookline, where there is a no parking ordinance between 2-6am, apparently there are no street signs for those. 

parking van in a neighborhood, where to park in americaInsider Tip: When parking in a neighborhood (which is what we do most often) it’s important to be very respectful and very quiet. We tend to get ready for bed elsewhere, so when it comes time to park, all we have to do is close the curtains, turn off the lights and crawl (literally) into bed. Oh and bring ear plugs just in case.

Katadin summit, hiking up katahdin, end of the appalachian trail, appalachian trail, highest mountain in maine, hiking couple, adventure couple, travel couple, abol campground, abol bridge campgroundOur favorite place to park? Campgrounds. No tip toeing around, you can sprawl out in nature, hoist up the awning, set up camp, light a nice big campfire, slowdown the time and enjoy each other’s company in some of the most memorable of settings.

best camp ground in america, tucson saguaro camp ground, couple camping, thanksgiving camping, vanlife Katahdin campfire, fire, camp fire6. Get leveling blocks.

Minneapolis lake harriet, leveling blocks, how to level rv, level rv for fridgeNot only is this necessary for not rolling over onto your partner every night, but in order for your refrigerator to function properly the vehicle must be level (more great info on this here). We even mounted levels in various places throughout the car in order to keep our eyes on it and make sure we were helping our fridge run properly, which we had more problems with than you could imagine. You can buy brightly-colored plastic leveling blocks but we opted to make our own from scrap wood – more economical, sustainable and incognito. One ten-foot, 2×8 board cut into four two-foot boards and two one-foot boards.

leveling blocks, diy level blocks, vanlife 7. Check the weather before blazing your trail, and then check it again.

Sequoia national park, alta peak, sequoia hikes, southern california summits, best hikes in california, mount whitney hike Before this trip we lived in LA, meaning it was always sunny, meaning we never, ever had to check the weather, meaning we had to learn the hard way a few times.

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cafe saint henri, coffee in montreal, giant latte, coffee and rain, cafe window view, jean coutu We use the app, “WeatherUnderground,” which always seems to have the most accurate and reliable forecast information. When we see rain on the horizon we prepare for a museum day or a marathon of writing and editing photos in an internet café and if there’s sun, we know we’ll be outside exploring the incredible, new world and people around us.

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dumping station, image of dump station, where to dump an rvWell, thankfully Drew deals with this part, but about every 2 weeks we have to refill our fresh water tank and get rid of any… waste. We search “dump station” on GoogleMaps and look for nearby campgrounds, parks or gas stations (Flying J) that offer these services. The most we’ve ever paid is $15, but we’re pretty sure it shouldn’t cost more than $10, and most times it’s free. One of the worst things we’ve ever seen at a dump-station? A father and son playing with and drinking directly from the hose!!

dump station, what not to do at a dump stationOh WHY!? It’s important to practice the highest form of sanitation at all times. We couldn’t bear watch them any longer.


driving across america in a van, how to pack for a long road trip, packing list for living in sprinter van, how to move into a tiny houseOh dear, the packing, our favorite part… We did a week-long trial run in The Keys before leaving on our Big Adventure, which, if you are able to do so, we highly recommend. We also have a renter’s insurance policy which covers all the items in our van should anything happen. Below is us taking inventory of all our gear just before leaving. (Confession: we maybe wrote down 20 items before getting distracted and never ended up finishing the list):

150221-untitled shoot0017Some of the most useful items we had aboard include: 

An Atlas – did you know that there are still places in America that don’t get service?! If you find yourself driving through Kansas, South Dakota, Montana and surprisingly so, a few more places, you’ll be way glad you dusted off that map and stuffed it in your dash.

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best apps for bloggers, best apps for travelers, best apps for photos, best apps to have on the roadDouble USB car converter – this plugs right into the lighter hole, which you don’t need anyway, and if you smoke, quitting is another recommendation we suggest 😉

Wifi enabled camera – You know that CRAZY photo you captured of an elk licking your mirror?!… what if you could upload it directly from your DSLR to your phone, allowing you to immediately share your favorite, most incredible photos with your friends and eagerly awaiting Insta followers? We know, awesome right. deer, elk licking salt, funny deer, parc omega deerAn Ollo Clip/ LensBabyGoPro/ DSLR (with wifi) – If you’ve been waiting for a reason to amp up your camera gear, NOW IS THE TIME. You’re probably going to do it eventually, so why not bite the bullet and have all the best gear to capture the endless adventures, beautiful sites and unique people that lie ahead! Read our post on our fave camera gear here.

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Portable battery packs for our phones – there are no outlets in nature and when in cities we find ourselves exploring and Googling things to do and places to see until all our juices have run out. Origaudio’s 10-4 can charge an iPhone up to 6 full times before needing to be recharged and it has 4 USB outlets so Drew and I can charge our phones simultaneously. You’ll also want to read up on these battery-saving tips.

best apps for bloggers, best apps for travelers, best apps for photos, best apps to have on the road, origaudio, best battery pack, best charger for iphone, external iphone charger 10-4A foam roller – a bit random maybe, but brilliant YES. With the amount of hiking, site-seeing, van-sleeping and everything else you’ll most likely be doing, this will become your new best friend. Tip: the 24″ fits perfectly in the “hallway” of our Sprinter van!

At least 1 BPA-free Nalgene water bottle per person – trust us, we live out of these things. Drew’s even glows in the dark so it’s easy to find at night! I place my pink, sparkly one next to his so I know it’s never too far away. WE. LOVE. NALGENE.

glow in the dark nalgene, nalgene waterbottlePaper plates and bowls – they will save you time and water. TRUST US, it’s one of the best tricks we discovered.

van life cooking, paper plates, cooking in a van, how to live in a vanA small folding table and swivel seat – because this:

amazing camping dinner, best camping recipes, best van life cooking,Miscellaneous: Clorox wipes, paper towels, toiletries bag (so it’s easy to go in and out of showering venues), mountain bikes (good for all terrains), thick blanket (for winter), re-chargeable, battery-powered fan (for summer), mini-calendar, cork board for polaroids and ticket stubs (velcro, double sided tape and sticky hooks come in handy for the initial set-up), Chapstick, sunscreen, watercolor paints, travel +art journal, laundry bag (a big one), box of granola bars and case of non-refrigerated almond milk from Costco (lasts for a good while), sun shade for the windshield, long-stem lighter, rags, rubber bands (you’d be surprised), hammock and a couple good books.

Speaking of books, here are a few of our faves: Lonely Planet USA and 36 Hours USA & Canada by Taschen.

favorite travel books, favorite books, best travel books, best road trip booksThe more we travel, the more we see, the more we learn and the more places we want to go! A year on the road, which at one point felt so long, now feels like we barely scraped the surface. The longer we’re in a place the longer we want to stay, so one final word of advice, GIVE YOURSELF MORE TIME because no matter when you finish, the truth is, the “real world” will always be there and there is more to see than you could ever begin to imagine. Go Get em tiger!

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  1. Reply


    January 12, 2018

    Hi guys! So glad I found this, so many great tips! 🙂 My boyfriend and I are going 3 months to the states this summer (we’re from Norway), and are spending 25 days in a camper van fra San Fransisco to Seattle.

    One question I have is about just “camping” anywhere in the forest / along the beach (is this what they call boondocking?). We will of course go to RV sites as well, but prefer not to book too much ahead. Is it ok to do that, or would you recommend not to?

    • Reply

      Brittany Rouille

      January 14, 2018

      Well let us be the first to say welcome to America!! We wish we could be there to meet you guys, we camper vanned all across Norway for 5 weeks last summer! We absolutely loved it. Unfortunately wild camping and All Man’s Right isn’t quite the same in the US, but yes there are certain areas you will definitely be able to Boondock. You guys are going to have such an incredible time!! We boondocked (camping anywhere that’s not an organized camp site) most nights in the US, but in National Parks we would recommend booking any of those as soon as possible because they will fill up (Yosemite especially). Stay in touch write us on Insta! We would love to follow along ❤️

  2. Reply


    December 23, 2017

    This was really helpful, thank you! My partner have done various campervanning trips around Australia but next year we are planning to do a trip from east to west coast of America. I had a quick question (which may seem a little silly). But is it safe to campervan across America? And camp in cities? I find nothing says ‘here are all my valuables’ more than a campervan and find the idea of a walmat car park potentially not safe? Thank you in advance!

    • Reply

      Brittany Rouille

      December 24, 2017

      I’m so glad you found this helpful!! And your question isn’t silly at all, we understand your concern. It is safe to campervan across America, you just need to be aware of where you are a bit. We tend to stay out of cities for the most part, but sometimes you can find quiet/safe neighborhood parking and that can work out just fine. No matter where you are though, in cities our outside of them, you just always need to be aware of your surroundings and FEEL if you think a place is safe, etc. Your intuition is a good compass. Walmarts are usually very safe (we never had a weird experience) and campgrounds are the safest, nice for your peace of mind too. Just like everywhere in the world though, nothing is guaranteed, so you just have to live well, explore happily and always hope for the very best outcome 😉 Stay in touch and we wish you many adventures in the new year!

  3. Reply


    July 6, 2017

    Thanks so much for your awesome story of traveling around the country (well, many countries, it seems now!) We’re planning on a family trek in 2018 and your lead on leasing a travel van was SO HELPFUL! We’d been tossing around the idea of renting a travel camper but the cost was more than many months of mortgage payments! The sleep van has much to recommend it and the company was so helpful when I called for info, despite our plans being a full year away. Your post made this seem to be a “doable” thing…and that’s incredibly helpful for us travel virgins! (we’ve flown before, but never anything of this magnitude!)
    peace and light,

    • Reply

      Brittany Rouille

      July 12, 2017

      Hi Kristy! It’s comments like yours that seriously make us so so happy to be doing what we do!! We are so glad that our experiences can help inspire and EMPOWER you to go and explore our earth!! We hope you have a wonderful time! Where are you from? If we are in America when you are, we would LOVE for our paths to cross 🙂 Wishing you and your family all the best, please let us know if you have any additional questions or concerns. xoxo

  4. Reply

    Fiona Potts

    September 30, 2016

    This has been interesting. My parents did this back in the 1980’s and had a fabulous time. They spent a year touring round USA & Canada and did about 20K miles. They were quite pioneering, as they took their UK van on a tanker over to Canada and returned from Savannah. It sure stood out with the GB sticker on the back! I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels…

    • Reply


      October 4, 2016

      Hi Fiona, what an incredible time the 80’s must have been for campervaning! We could only imagine the stories and memories… makes us smile just thinking about it. What’s funny is that this past February we both got a camper in England to travel across Europe in! We’ve been in Croatia for the past 2.5 months (because our American visas limit us to 90 days in the Schengen countries out of every 180 days), and we stick out like sore thumbs with our GB plates here too! We’re so glad you took the time to write, keep on following along 🙂

  5. Reply

    Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree

    January 28, 2016

    Someday I hope to travel cross country in an RV or van with my husband and I will certainly use your blog as a resource! But when are you planning on traveling to Vermont?! Maybe you are saving the best for last as it is truly a wonderful place to visit (and live). When you do come here, try to plan it around peak foliage season as it is absolutely incredible. Congrats on your upcoming nuptials!

    • Reply


      January 28, 2016

      We very well might be saving the best for last! Especially if we take your wonderful advice and visit during peak foliage 😉 Thank you for taking the time to write, we truly hope you get to travel across the country to experience the freedom and find adventures of your very own.

  6. Reply

    sandra alcazar

    January 13, 2016

    thank you so much for sharing all this useful and amazing info:)! Question: So where did you guys get the interior put in? Did you buy the van like that? or install it all yourselves? bc i am finding sprinter vans that are empty snide..

    I appreciate and insight…I am saving, and protecting to be able to get one by the end of this year! to hit the road solo:) I am a travel physical therapist, so hopefully I can make it happen:)

    muchas gracias:)!!

    • Reply


      January 13, 2016

      So glad you found our information useful! We are happy to hear you will be making the #vanlife plunge soon! You will appreciate every moment and if you want to make it happen, YOU WILL. Our van was outfitted by Leisure Vans but Drew and his dad removed the booth that was in the back and raised the bed in order to create all that storage room underneath. Many people build out their own interiors too (many articles and blog posts about it online), though it takes quite a bit of time, tools and technical skills. Keep searching for the van of your dreams, it’s out there 🙂

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