For years I have wondered at the allure of a family camping trip. Packing and cooking several days’ worth of food, sleeping in a tent and communal bathroom facilities don’t sound like a vacation. However, fond teenage memories of a weeklong trip in Michigan where I ate SPAM, had only nature for a bathroom and portaged a canoe prompted me to rethink it. Somewhere along the way, a bad back and less vacation time pushed camping to the bottom of the vacation wish list … until this summer.
I’ll give O.A.R.S full credit for renewing my interest in camping. My family stayed in tent cabins during our overnight rafting trip on the American River and the experience spurred me on to the next step; arranging a camping trip with friends.
Not ready yet for the tent and organizing all the gear, we tried a Jucy Rentals mini campervan. Good friends and a fabulous, family-friendly campground in Big Sur, California, made it an overwhelming success. We’re already wondering where to book our camping trip for next summer. Any ideas?
It’s hard to miss the attention-grabbing green and purple Jucy mini campervan. At one point my husband said he couldn’t figure out why everyone was staring at us and then remembered we were driving the Jucy.
The Jucy campervans are converted minivans outfitted with a kitchen where the trunk storage is normally located. There’s a sink with a 6-gallon water tank, a refrigerator, two burners (one portable) and storage for pots and pans and cutlery. It’s well organized and very convenient. Our food for 3 days stayed cold the entire trip, even when the campervan didn’t run for 12 hours.
The campervan seats five and sleeps four. The middle bench area has storage, a table and seating. At night, the seats fold down into a bed for two and the other two passengers sleep in the pop-up “penthouse” that has its own ladder. Both areas comfortably fit my 6′ 1″ husband and have thick enough sleeping pads to deter morning backaches.
After breakfast each morning we spent 15 minutes taking down the beds and hand cracking the penthouse down into its cover (some models have an electric operated penthouse). Once finished, you’re ready to go for the day. This time savings is even more apparent when it’s time to go home.
Our rental package included all the kitchen cutlery and pots and pans which was more than adequate for our camp meals. Having two burners made meals a snap and we never had to buy ice to keep the food cold. The only utensils missing were a can opener, BBQ tools and a wine opener if needed.
Jucy Rentals is relatively new in the U.S. and has locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas. It’s still a novelty and at 8 and 11, our kids and their friends thought the Jucy campervan was the coolest vehicle around, validated by all the stares and inquiries we received during our trip.
Big Sur’s jaw-dropping scenery and windy roads pair well with a Jucy campervan because you can maneuver well and the gas mileage is 20+ miles per gallon; comparable to an SUV and much better than an RV. Big Sur is also a very popular camping spot.
After two nights at Big Sur Campground & Cabins we understood why families return year after year. The setting among the redwoods and along the river is almost perfect. Kids float down the river in tubing paths, jump into the river from a rope swing when the water is higher and play on the large playground that entertains toddlers to tweens. The campground also has cabins and hot water – a perk that as a first-time camper I didn’t realize was a perk.
The San Francisco location is not actually in San Francisco. The Jucy office is in San Leandro, 30 miles from the San Francisco airport. You can cab it here, though it will be costly, take BART to the Bayfair station and pay $8-10 to the Jucy office or drive your car and park on the street at your own risk which is what we did and had no problems. The local office is very helpful so call is you have questions. Note they are not open on Sundays.
Know the extra costs. We rented during a promotional period that included all the kitchen utensils and 100 miles per night free. Anything after the 100 miles is $.25 per mile which can add up in the long distance driving in California. Bedding is also an additional cost if you don’t bring your own.
The vehicle comes with two fuel canisters which last an hour each. If you boil water for pasta, you’ll probably use half a canister. If you’re cooking alot, you can purchase extras from the Jucy office or at a local store.
Pack light. The storage area is adequate for a weekend trip but it could feel cramped with large suitcases and four passengers. And besides, no one will notice that you’re wearing the same clothes; they’re all staring at the Jucy campervan.
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Editor’s Note: Jucy Rentals provided Kristi a complimentary rental for review purposes but as always, her opinions are her own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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