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Weekend Road Trip to Central California (with total cost breakdown)

To ring in the New Year (2022) I decided to do something a little different. I ended up getting a campervan and cruising up to Big Sur from Los Angeles and connect with nature a little bit. Be a nomad, sleep in the van, cook on the beach, whatever I wanted. I’ve seen this company before so I decided to go for it and rented a van, grabbed my dog and hit the roads.

Initial cost: Weekend special

Escape Campervans was having a special, $99 for a weekend pick up and drop off in the same location. I checked the weather and over the course of my trip, 12/31/2021 – 01/03/2022, it was all blue skies on the horizon.

$99 Weekend Special (I declined the additional insurance) 3 days @ $33 a day

$90 prepay for 100 miles/day

$10 propane take rental

$1.50 Vehicle License Fee (3 x .50)

Uber to pick up Van: $39

I grabbed an Uber and headed to the Los Angeles location @ 4858 W Century Blvd near LAX. Check in was quick and I was out of there in about 30 minutes.


Food for the van: $45

The day before I grabbed some waters, champagne (NYE toast), hot dogs/buns and a couple other snacks to have in the car. Now the easy part here with travelling up the California coast, is you don’t really need to stock up. You will be hitting major cities along the way. So at any point you can, grab more essentials for the van or even have dinner at a restaurant along the way.

Grabbed the van, headed home, loaded up and hit the road.

The van was all that I needed. A sofa + table in the middle that converts to a bed. Which was comfortable enough for the night, no complaints really. And in the back on the van was your small makeshift kitchen. Sink, small refrigerator, and little propane powered grill. The big omission is obviously there is no toilet in the van. So, you will have to figure out your bathroom breaks along the way.

My goal was to get up to Big Sur and hike/camp there for a couple nights. The problem was Highway 1 was closed just south of Ragged Point due to mudslides. Since we just had about a week and a half of heavy rains. This didn’t stop me, and I headed North.

I wanted to hang along the 1 highway as much as possible. This trip was not about being in a hurry, more enjoying the trip… getting out of the city and being present. I stopped off in Surf, California and hung out on the beach there for a little bit. There wasn’t much to the area. It was really windy and literally there was only an Amtrak stop. But it was pretty none the less.

Night 1: Camped out NYE in Avila Beach

The best part about getting a campervan is you can *almost* sleep wherever you want. I was going to go to an isolated area by a lighthouse, but it was on a private road. So I found this small street, on the beach and set up camp there. I cooked Split Pea Soup and Italian Beyond Hot Links out the back of the van. Never even made it to midnight to have some Cava, but I slept through most of the night and woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the beach and grabbed a Oat Latte from Kraken Coffee. They also had their annual 'Polar Plunge' off the pier, but since I didn't have a towel or warm place to change back, I decided against it.

Day 2: Explored Pismo Beach & Big Sur

Highway 1 was closed due to the rains, but at about 10:00 am, CalTrans was able to open the road back up. So, after a hike along the cliffs in Pismo, I booked it up to Big Sur. Never made it as north as I had hoped but was able to go for a couple hikes of the road. Hung out and did some whale watching from the cliffs and made it back to Ragged Point to catch the end of the sunset.

Headed back to Cambria after nightfall to grab some dinner and find my parking spot. I elected to camp out in the city vs San Simeon Campground. There are plenty of remote areas that you can safely park and sleep in the van for the night.

this is me whale watching out the campervan on the cliffs of Big Sur

Dinner @ La Terraza: $35

Day 3: Slowly head back to LA

After a morning coffee in Cambria (which was much needed after a COLD night), I started the trek back to LA. Since I needed to return the van early on Monday, I would head home to unpack everything at night. But you do not have to be in a rush.

One cool thing along the coast is riding ATVs on the dunes in Pismo Beach. You can make an appointment day of for as long as you’d like. I elected just for an hour, since I had the dog in the car. Really fun experience and would recommend to anyone on a coastal trip! Check out Steve's ATV rentals.

There are many parks and outlets along the way, so find a nice place and have a picnic out of the back of your van.

Cost breakdown

Gas along the way and to fill up before dropping the van off: $170.76

You prepay for 100 miles per day therefore on a 3 day trip I had 300 miles to use. Going to Big Sur and back I went over. It is $0.30 per mile. So, every 100 miles is $30 essentially. Overage miles cost: $210.90

Coffee and snacks along the way: approximately $35

Uber home: $41

Total cost of the Rental (including overage on miles): $353.39

Gas / Food / Ubers: $365.76

Total cost of the trip: $719.15


It was a great trip. Lots of fun, a brand new experience that I will always remember. The freedom to drive, camp and cook along the way wherever you want was very freeing. But with the extra charges and just expenses along the way, it does add up. So although the “Special” is advertised for $99 for the weekend, when you take into account the extras it becomes quite a bit more. I would definitely recommend anyone to do this type of trip, however, make sure you know financially everything before signing up. Enjoy!

Here is a link for 10% off your rental with Escape Campervans 🙌


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