It feels like only yesterday we were living the dream life traveling around in Dusty our 1993 VW Eurovan. The trip that ended in December brought our family closer together as we explored 3 provinces and 6 States over 3 months. As promised in the blog post “Finding Money for a Family Van Life Trip”,  I am outlining our total expenses for the trip. Our family van life budget for the 3 months we were on the road!

The Breakdown

I have included a full breakdown of our expenses in the the following categories: accomodation, food, eating out, treats, gas, miscellaneous, and unfortunately car repairs. I decided to include the dollar amounts in American and Canadian dollars. Since the Canadian dollar was so bad we really suffered in the US especially when it came to food and car repairs. Luckily I had some additional travel work on the road that helped pay for some of our extra fun along the way.

We used the Trail Wallet Budget app to manage expenses. This is not a sponsored post but we loved the App. We liked that we could put a daily monetary cap on our expenses and that it would show our spending in Canadian and American dollars. The app also easily broke down our spending into categories.

Family Van Life Budget: The cost of living 3 months on the road!


Before I go on… I am a little embarrassed with some of our spending. Truthfully, in the middle of the second month we started to realize that we may not do a trip like this again. We definitely started treating ourselves more than if we were living the van life for a longer period. But, I am happy to say that our second most expensive category is an expense many of you can hopefully avoid if you choose to go on a travel adventure.

Grocery Food

I knew our food would have a large price tag. When I first looked at the dollar amount I thought “How the heck did we spend so much on food?” After taking a closer look, I changed the dollar amount from Canadian to American dollars on the Trail Wallet App. I then realized that in American dollars it did not appear to be so bad and felt just a little bit better.

We spent $2,289.84 CAD or $1,743.09 USD on grocery food. This does NOT include eating out and treating ourselves.

Eating Out

We really tried our best not to eat out but pizza at Joshua Tree and the delicious organic food restaurants in California was too hard to pass up. My one food regret was ordering Chinese food in Las Vegas. It was not a favourable choice for my stomach. We also ate out because of a few work engagements on the road. These were reimbursed to us along with some gas for around $600 USD.

We spent $979.50 CAD or $745.01 USD on eating out. SEE NOTE BELOW.

Note: If you include the $600 USD that was reimbursed to us then the total amount of eating out would be $145.01 USD or $191.00 CAD. I won’t take that $600.00 USD amount off in the gas section to avoid confusion.


Yes, we have 3 different types of food categories. We wanted to know exactly how much we were spending on ice cream, coffees, pastries, smoothies and alcohol. Our van has no A/C and can get extremely HOT in 30C weather. The only real way to cool off is a cold drink or a treat. Sometimes this meant stopping at a local coffee shop or a local ice cream shop. Other times it meant buying a whole pack of Popsicles at the local grocery story. We also used our coffee shop or pub stops to use their internet to upload any content and complete any work we were doing on the road that required a connection.

We spent a total of $518.35 CAD or $394.46 on Treats. I have no excuse for this amount but the need to stay cool.


On our trip we mostly slept in our VW Campervan. We spent a couple of weeks in free camping areas and then also paid for various campsites along the way. We had a few travel work engagements that were covered in a hotel. We also had a couple nights in hotels in Boise and Las Vegas while our Van was getting repairs done. Thankfully a few people put us up along the way especially as we entered the Canadian portion of our trip home. The weather was becoming winter and our heat really was not working well in the Van. But that is a whole other story.

We spent a total of $1,816.37 CAD or $1,381.96 USD on Accommodation.


We drove over 7,800 km on our trip. This is an estimate of our kms as it does not include the day excursions we took and any detours along the route. Gas is not cheap but an unavoidable expense when exploring in a van.

We spent a total of $1,431.74 CAD or $1,088.97 USD on Gas.


Items in Miscellaneous include items like laundry, toiletries, post office deliveries, showers and phone bills. It also includes activities like sandboarding in Oregon, a boat tour in San Francisco and craft materials for the girls.

We also had a bad streak of losing important items on the road. We had to buy new sandals for our girls after leaving their shoes in San Elijo. Barefoot was just often their choice of footwear in the warmer weather. Luckily their shoes were sent to our friend’s house in Washington so we did get them back. I also left my puffy jacket behind which luckily was also sent back to us. No I did not get a new jacket but I tried! But I did have to replace the Diva Cup that was in my pocket in the case. While I love using Diva cups for my period they can cost around $30-$40.

We spent a total of $618.58 CAD or $470.73 USD on Miscellaneous items.

Car Repairs

A tear drops from my eye every time I look at the total amount we spent on car repairs during our trip. Thankfully everything we repaired was because we saw the issue before it became an even bigger problem. To keep it simple, we had coolant and oil leak issues in Idaho, a heater core to fix in Las Vegas and a car starter that needed replacing in BC. We also included car fluids like oil and coolant under car repairs as well.

We spent a total of $2,996.18 CAD or $2,280.06 USD on Car Repairs.

Total Spending for a Family of 4 on a 3 Month Van Life Trip

Drum roll please…. the total amount we spent on the van life as a family of 4 over 3 months was $10,650.57 CAD or $8,160.64 USD.  

I decided to include a pie chart to give you the full visual of our spending.

We would love to hear from you in the comments! What shocked you the most about our spending? Have you lived the Van Life ? What was your budget?

By Annika Mang

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4 thoughts on “Family Van Life Budget: The cost of living 3 months on the road!”

  1. My golly. This is an eye-opener. About $3k USD per month. I’m just me and two old dogs … and haven’t even bought the camper yet! Thanks for the good article. A realistic appraisal of costs is really helpful.

    1. Only around 2000 USD a month and almost 3000 CAD. Im sure just going yourself you could do it alot cheaper! We also splurged sometimes when we did not need to. Let us know if you do end up hitting the road and tell us how it goes!

      1. Thanks for this! I’m curious if you have ever done. The same budgeting at home for comparison? And did you rent your place out or were you paying for rent/mortgage at home too?

        1. Thanks for your comment!
          We do our budgeting at home. I have never compared them but that would be a good idea. We did not have a place when we went travelling so did not have to worry about that extra cost.

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