Road Trip North America in a Camper Van

May through August 2011

What am I doing right now, how was it planned, where am I and who am I travelling with?
Finally travelling again. Renee and I decided to do a trip across North America a while ago. Deciding to do it was the easy part, deciding where to go and how was harder.

We both wanted to see Alaska, but time constraints led us to the conclusion that we would skip this US state in favour of seeing more of others. Essentially we decided we would start in Banff where I had been working over the winter and head East to Vancouver, across to Vancouver Island then down into the United States before zig zagging across the United States giving particular emphasis to National Parks and places of notable natural beauty or where a significant food, wine, beer or music event was occurring.

Planning such a distance proved difficult, I utilised Google maps to outline a rough route and highlighted certain attractions as I became aware of them. However at the end of the day we wanted our route and our plans to remain flexible.

Here is what I have created on Google maps so far, best viewed via the Google link, we welcome comments or suggestions. [Please note that we are currently half way though, I’m writing this from Salt Lake City so suggestions on the second half would be most useful – yes, I am a slack-ass]

View Great North American Road Trip in a larger map

Visit my ‘map’ page for Road Trip posts by Location.

Picking what transport was difficult. Initially it was deciding between public transport like planes, trains and busses or a private vehicle. With public transport  we would need to stay in hostels when we arrived and thought we would be more limited to large destinations like cities while we were hoping to go ‘more country’ on this trip.

Having our own vehicle would give us more flexibility on scheduling and destinations and would also fulfill a dream of mine to ‘Road Trip North America’.

I started researching cars until one day I spotted this ‘thing’ which started me off on the camper van idea.

[pe2-gallery class=”alignright” ] What Started the Camper Idea.21.jpgWhat Started the Camper Idea.31.jpgWhat Started the Camper Idea.22.jpg[/pe2-gallery]

I started searching online classified listings for ‘campers’ and one day found this converted school bus located a three hour drive from where I was. It was a long way away but I’d fallen in love, I spent almost an hour on the phone with the owner talking about all its odds and ends.


To cut a long story short the owner sold it to somebody else despite my enthusiasm before giving me the chance to view it. A couple of trips into Calgary in rental cars and a lot of hassle later I became the proud owner of our 1982 Chevy Camper Van. Despite its age it was clean inside and out, serviced and ready to go.

Fuel economy is pretty awful, but this is to be expected on any large old American vehicles and the fuel cost is offset by savings in accommodation and food.

Time Frame & Cost
We’ve roughly given ourselves three months for the trip with two deadlines; to be in Salt Lake City by the 14th of June (Achieved) and to be in Montreal by the first week of August.

  • Week 1             2nd – 8th May                Banff to Vancouver
  • Week 2             9th – 15th May               Vancouver to Seattle via San Juan Island
  • Week 3             16th – 22nd May            Seattle to Portland
  • Week 4             23rd – 29th May             Portland to Glacier National Park via Joseph
  • Week 5             30th May – 5th June       Glacier Park to Yellowstone National Park
  • Week 6             6th June – 12th June      Yellowstone National Park to Salt Lake City
  • Week 7             13th – 19th June             Renee goes to Toronto, Sam updates blog?
  • Week 8             20th – 26th June             Salt Lake City to Arches National Park
  • Week 9             27th June – 3rd July       Arches National Park to Taos Pueblo
  • Week 10           4th – 10th July               Taos Pueblo to Badlands
  • Week 11           11th – 17th July              Badlands to Chicago
  • Week 12           18th – 24th July              Chicago to Kingston
  • Week 13           25th – 31st July             Kingston to Cooperstown via 1000 islands
  • Week 14           1st – 7th August             Cooperstown to Lake Placid to Montreal

As for cost petrol was anticipated as and is proving to be the most significant expense. Aside from petrol costs have been minimal as we’ve enjoyed sleeping and cooking in the van and most of our significant sights have been covered by our $60 National Parks pass.

As an aside while in the Canadian Rockies I became increasingly interested in photography and eventually gave in to the urge and purchased myself a nice 2nd hand Digital SLR camera. So with a little luck along with the usual crap photos I upload I hope to provide you with the odd decent shot too. If you spot one please let me know.


  1. Aimee Tolhopf says:

    Nice to see the blog start. Cant wait for more updates :)

  2. So cool Sam, great plan, we’ll be watching your progress with interest… wish that your route had you coming down to Santa Barbara and we’d take you sailing! In the meantime hope you have fun exploring the Rockies, lovely big old girls they are. Cheers!

  3. Sweet ride Sam! My wife and I did a similar trip for our honeymoon out of a volvo stationwagon (a great way to start marriage is to live out of a car for 8 weeks :-P). We stuck to the States but it sounds like we missed some stuff. Loved your pictures of Angels Landing in Zion. Guess we will have to try again.

    • Hi Dan, thanks for visiting. If you can do 8 weeks in such close proximity you can probably do anything! We loved our campervan, certainly had its moments (hot weather in Utah certainly created a few) but overall was so much fun. There is so much to see, Zion is certainly worth a visit if you’re close again one day, otherwise keep exploring and find somewhere else awesome!