If you are planning a road trip on a budget, your most important tool is going to be your vehicle of choice. Not only is it going to be your transport but it can also double as your accommodation, not only saving you a chunk of cash on hotels along the way but allows you to sleep in some stunning places with views and surroundings that money literally can't buy.
Why not just buy a motorhome? Well the problem is with the old, cheaper motorhomes is that unless you are living in it full time and travelling slowly it is only going to cost you a fortune to run. Mrs Mandela, my old motorhome was great for full time living, spending 6 months here and there, but moving her cost a fortune because she would only do about 3kms a litre, on the flat. I know she was a bit ridiculous, OK maybe completely over the top, but even smaller american motorhomes still tend to have 5+ litre engines, and the reality is you probably won't use your on board toilet because it infinitely increases the odds of getting your travel buddies shit all over you when you have to empty the toilets each week. Also your shower will be a waste of space because having full water tanks will add over a ton in weight to your RV, making it even more inefficient, again, only really practical if you are staying somewhere for longer periods of time in your vehicle.
A car on the other hand is far cheaper to run, can potentially have loads of storage and be big enough for a bed. The perfect road trip mobile is going to be one that is big enough for you to lie flat in whilst being fuel efficient. Ideally you want a car big enough to have a bed that doesn't need to be folded away when you drive, but it’s really no biggy if you do have to, a well planned bed frame should only take a few minutes to set up (for our American road trip we had a ’92 Ford Festiva with lay flat front seats and a folding bed frame. Anything is possible!).
Something else to consider is the height of the vehicle from the floor to the ceiling. To make sure you have plenty of storage you will need to have space under your bed, roughly 40cms or so, to fit storage bins and on top of that you will have, say, 10cm for your mattress so already your head space is going to be down by 50cm. The straighter you can sit up in bed, the better.
'Eddie The Eagle' - Eagle Summit
Our first conversion job. Sadly the head gasket went after a few thousand kilometers, further than we expected to get for $300! The bed didn't need to be folded to drive but it did mean the seats were pretty up right. We would fold the seats forward at night which made them great to lean on in bed and enjoy the view out of our open boot.
'Steevie Wonder' - '92 Ford Festiva
Believe it or not, there was a double bed in there and we could both lie totally stretched out. Steevie took us 12,000km over 7 weeks from the west coast of Canada to the Florida keys. His tiny 1.3 litre engine and stupidly cheap fuel in America meant we could drive 500km on $20 of gas. Quite possibly the best car I have ever owned.
'Winstaan' - '98 Ford Windstar
A much bigger soccer mum style family van. Loads of space to both sit up in and for storage under the bed. Also because it was such a long car the bed didn't need to be folded up. Downside was he had a much bigger engine and used about three times more fuel than Steevie Wonder.
'Colin' - '92 Ford Festiva
Seeing as Winstaan decided to die about a week before a planned road trip, the pressure was on to find and convert a replacement. To say Carly was unimpressed to see we had traded the space of a van for another $500 Festiva is an understatement.
However, after smashing out the 3,000km road trip and only spending $150 on gas, she started to warm to him.
Name TBC - LDV Convoy
Our current project; converting a 17 seat minibus into our off grid mobile home for when we are back in the UK.
Watch this space....