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Driven To The Road

Driven To The Road: Why More Summer Travelers Are Embracing Van Life Over Traditional Accommodations

Road trips have long been the crown jewel of American vacations, and it's no surprise, given the country's obsession with car culture. The 1956 Interstate Highway System made road trips more convenient and accessible than ever before, and the following year, Jack Kerouac's On the Road compelled free-spirited youth to travel by almost any wheeled means necessary. But after the global pandemic, the chrome has worn off of many road trip luxuries the travelers of yesteryear took for granted.

Today's post-pandemic travelers are paying more and getting less from an industry that may never fully recover. Hotels often experience cost-cutting staff shortages that can result in room maintenance and upkeep issues, little-to-no housekeeping during a guest's stay, out-of-order elevators and pools, later check-in times, and earlier check-out times. And yet many hotels are booked solid for summer travel, which can lead to significant frustration for hard-working travelers who just want a relaxing vacation with the little time off they have.

For these reasons and many more, a lot of post-pandemic travelers are embracing van life and even car camping. What was a niche industry before the pandemic has bloomed into the mainstream with people converting their cars and SUVs into part-time adventure mobiles. Here are some of the reasons they do it:

1. Flexibility

When you're car camping or vacationing from your van, you can stay in a town or a place as long or as short as you like. You're no longer beholden to the booking system and thousands of other travelers clamoring for reservations. If you are staying overnight in a national forest and want to stay an extra night, you can. There's no one forcing you to leave before a set checkout time. It's a lot more flexible. And if you're in a place and the vibe is off, you can drive down the road and park your car in another spot. You're not stuck in any one place.

2. You Have More Control

In your car or van, you can control everything: your location, your bedding, where you go, and what you do. You don't have to plan too much; you can just go wherever you want. You don't have to worry about loud neighbors or being stuck in a weird-smelling hotel room. You can dial in your car or van to be exactly how you want it.

3. It's Cost-Effective (Once You Have It Setup)

Yes, there's a setup cost, but once you've got your gear how you want it for your vehicle, you can get out there and go on adventures whenever you want. You no longer have to pay hundreds of dollars for a hotel room or Airbnb, instead, you can park your tiny home on wheels in a variety of places. Aside from campgrounds or your friend's backyard, would-be mobile campers can park overnight for free in non-designated sites in National Forests and DNR/BLM land; this is known as dispersed camping. Many public land agencies allow for this kind of camping and often sport a variety of off-grid locations that offer a scenic alternative to your classic roadside KOA. Some states also allow for single overnight stays in rest stops, and when all else fails, many Walmarts also allow for this as well. Apps such as iOverlander can help you find free dispersed campsites that are worth exploring if you're serious about getting into car and van camping.

4. You Have Everything You Need In One Place

There's nothing like getting on an airplane and realizing you forgot to pack an essential item. Fortunately, car campers and van lifers can pack as much or as little as they want in their vehicles. It's like a Swiss Army Knife vehicle; you can be prepared for just about any occasion or adventure and take it all with you.

5. You See More On Your Trip

Because car campers and van lifers aren't beholden to reservations and strict schedules, you can actually see more on your trip. See something that inspires you? Hang out there for a couple of days, and be spontaneous. Make more stops and check out all the weird and awesome nooks and crannies of the corner of the world you're in.

6. See The Non-Touristy, Authentic Side Of Local Life

When you're car camping or vanlifeing, you have the time to take the path less traveled and wander. You can meet the locals and break out of the tourism industry's pre-made path. You can get out there and spend a few days in the small areas that most travelers never see, and you do it with a small footprint.

7. You Get Out More Often

Once you have your car or van kitted out (even if that kit lives in the garage between your adventures), it's much easier to just go somewhere for a weekend. This is one of the biggest appeals of the mobile wanderlust life; once you know how to do it, you want to and will do it more often.

About Camp N Car

Camp N Car makes high-quality modular camping furniture to transform your vehicle into a comfortable home on wheels for a better night's sleep on the road. Camp N Car's products are made in America, at our shop in Port Townsend Washington, by skilled professionals who take pride in their work. We also create world-class custom van conversions for people ready to take their road adventures to the next level. Our employees enjoy a 4-day work week, generous time off allotments, and a work-life balance that gives them the time and means to enjoy the good life. When you buy from Camp N Car, you're putting people over profits, and making a decision to support a company that's changing corporate culture, and building a better world, one car at a time.


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