Take five days, three states, two girls, one Jucy camper. Add in two national parks, one state park, one historic driving route, and countless natural wonders (and a few man-made ones, too) and mix well. The resulting road trip is likely to promote extreme happiness, encourage wild wanderlust, and inspire a love of the RV lifestyle.
When Jucy approached me about trying out one of their rides last summer, it seemed like serendipity — my girl Zoe and I were already in the process of planning a road trip to the Grand Canyon to kill time between Britney and Burning Man. The whole camper thing was brand new for this perpetually curious travel blogger — so why not?
We picked up our Jucy at the Las Vegas office, one of three in the United States alongside Los Angeles and San Francisco. While the brightly colored campers are a staple in their native New Zealand as well as in Australia, they are rapidly gaining popularity stateside as well. We quickly understood why.
Jucy’s are essentially retrofitted minivans. They give you most of the features of a traditional RV at a fraction of the size and cost. With a full kitchen in the back, a pop-up sleeping pod on top, and a table and chairs that converts to a second bedroom in the middle, this little guy takes the tiny house movement on the move. Freedom of camping, meet the convenience of glamping.
First let’s talk about that kitchen. On our five-day roadtrip, we ate almost every single meal out of the back of our Jucy. The camper boasts a sink, a mini-fridge, a storage area for pots and pans (with plenty of space for bags of pasta and other items as well), a storage area for plates, cups and utensils, and not one but two gas burner stoves.
So what did we eat? We did one big shop on our first day at a Safeway in Williams, Arizona, and then picked up a few things we needed along the way — like butter or Diet Coke — from gas stations and convenience stores. For breakfast each morning I made oatmeal with a banana and Zoe had yogurt and granola. For lunch we often ate on the go, snacking on fruit, hummus and veggies, hunks of cheddar and water crackers, or my go-to protein snacks of Barnana Organic Banana Bites and Simply Protein Crunch. For dinner we generally made salad and pasta with fresh vegetables, a pre-made sauce, and lean ground beef.
We loved sleeping up in The Penthouse — it was spacious, comfy, and breezy in the August heat, and once we set it up the first night it was simple to pop up and down while converting the camper from day to night mode. That is, until we lost the crank. It’s a mistake that still haunts us and we spent literal hours retracing our steps looking for the five-inch hunch of steel. When we called Jucy road support in the middle of the night, they were polite as can be but informed us it was a $125 oopsie. Ouch.
Worse, they said there was nothing we could get from a local hardware store that would do the same job. For us, with just two more nights left to our trip, it was more of a hassle than anything — we much preferred the convenience and comfort of sleeping upstairs to converting the downstairs into a bed (though I’m sure those traveling in the winter would disagree!) Had we been on a longer trip, I would have requested Jucy to mail the replacement crank to a predetermined location ahead on our route. But moral of the story? Don’t lose the crank and you’ll have two options for where to lay your head at night.
What about on the road? For us, this is where the Jucy really shined. While Zoe did most of the driving, as two fairly tiny girls (I’m 5′ 2″), we both felt super comfortable behind the wheel of our lean green machine — I don’t know if I could say the same for a big ‘ol honking tour bus RV. The other benefit to the JUCY’s compact size is gas mileage, and stress-free parking.
A few other random Jucy plus points — you only need to be 21 to rent, which is amazing in a country where it can be pretty tricky to get your hands on a rental under the age of 25, and additional drivers come at no extra cost, which is a must for road trips like this one.
The only thing the Jucy didn’t have was a bathroom. We really enjoyed staying at the various campsites and RV parks that we chose along the way and we used the showers and bathrooms there, so it just wasn’t really a factor for us. It was a trade off we were happy to make for savings and size!
We started and ended in Las Vegas, and made a big circle around Nevada, Arizona, and Utah in between. Due to our relatively limited time and the fact that we were traveling in peak summer season, we booked campsites and mapped out our route pretty precisely before departure.
A map of our general route reveals we drove about 11.5 hours and 700 miles in “big drives.” I wrote a post about each of the individual days of our road trip, and I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite among them.
We built our itinerary from the starting point of visiting the Grand Canyon, which we then more or less drove in a big circle around. Originally we assumed that meant going to both the South Rim and North Rim, for which five days seemed like plenty! Though the more research we did (including posting an incredibly fruitful status on Facebook asking friends for suggestions) the more we realized we had other priorities and decided to save the North Rim for another trip. Once we started to grasp the breadth of our options, we started to go a little crazy — suddenly we were aching to see Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Bryce Canyon! Suddenly five days seemed like next to nothing, and we had to seriously reel ourselves back to what we could realistically enjoy in our time frame.
Once we’d slashed our list to the bare minimum and picked where we’d sleep each night, we used the app Roadtrippers to help fill in the journey with silly roadside attractions, notable viewpoints and other small stops along the way. In the end, funny enough, the Grand Canyon was probably the aspect of the trip I was least excited about — the rest of our destinations, I hadn’t even heard of prior to planning (I did vaguely know Route 66 from pop culture, but not anything specific).
One thing to factor in when building an itinerary for a Jucy trip is to check the pickup and drop off times carefully. Pickup and dropoff hours are not the same as opening hours (more on that below) and at the Las Vegas location, Sunday pickups are not available at all, though drop offs now are. So you’ll have to plan your itinerary around that.
What to Pack
This being our first camper trip of any kind, we learned a lot along the way. As first time RVers, especially in a compact RV like this, there was a learning curve to all the packing, unpacking, and organization. If we could do it all over again (and if we have our way, we’ll do it all over again many times!) we’ll aim to pack lighter and smarter and stay super organized and efficient.
Here’s what we wish we’d had, or were grateful for from the get-go.
• Car Outlet: While there is a USB plug built-in to the dashboard, if you want to charge larger electronics like a computer or dSLR camera, I recommend packing a charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter. This model, which I bought specifically for this trip, was noisy but got the job done.
• Auxiliary Audio Cable: Jucy may have some available at their pickup locations, but why leave being able to blast your road trip playlist to chance?
• Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs: If you sleep in The Penthouse you’re basically sleeping in a tent on top of your car. These essentials will ensure you can sleep in even at the brightest and noisiest of campsites.
• Headlamp: Super helpful for converting the camper and cooking dinner when arriving after dark.
• Dish Soap and Sponge: While pots, pans and cutlery are included in the cooking set, something to wash them with is not. We forgot to pick these up on our first grocery run!
• Your Best Friend: You will spend more time together on a trip like this than any other — make sure you pick the right person to share it with. We set expectations ahead of time, which helped ward off any prickly encounters. For example, I asked Zoe ahead of time if she’d mind spending the bulk of the time in the driver’s seat so that I could navigate and do the critical work of keeping up with my social media accounts, taking notes, and culling photos through the long stretches, and she ever so kindly agreed. We were great sports about switching back and forth playing our favorite road trip music for each other, and we both made compromises in the grocery store. In exchange? We made memories that will last a lifetime.
The best part about my bestie? (Well, one of them anyway…) Girl’s got talent! Check out this video she made from our amazing trip.
So what did all this cost us? Yes, Jucy provided me with a complimentary rental in order to write these posts, however, I’m including the cost here for reference. That was the only media comp I received throughout the trip — everywhere else I paid full price just like any other traveler would. This is a breakdown of my personal expenses, so categories like campground fees and groceries represent my half of the total cost, which I split with Zoe. Thus, costs will vary if you do this trip solo or with two or more travel buddies instead of just one.
Camper Cost: $394.50
The cost of the camper varies a lot based on the season and whatever specials Jucy happens to be running at the time. For us the breakdown was $520 for four nights at $130 each, $88 in extra insurance, $110 for early pickup and drop off, and $71 in taxes and fees.
I think JUCY’s pricing is very fair and represents good value with one exception: the early pickup and drop off fees. I don’t see why you have to pay extra to pick up or drop off the vehicle within regular business hours! I hope they will reconsider that in the future.
Campground Fees: $43.02
This broke down to $9 per night at Mather Campground in Grand Canyon National Park, $11.74 per night at Wahweap Campground at Lake Powell, and $10.54 per night Temple RV Park in Utah. The Jucy doesn’t require an electrical “plug in” like most RVs, which means you can select a cheaper regular camping site as if you were driving a sedan and pitching a tent. Keep in mind that there are many options available for free camping — check Free Campsites or Boondocking for ideas.
We filled up three times. One tip: do some research to find out which stations along your route charge an additional fee for using your credit or debit card. I’d never been charged for using a debit card in my life prior to this trip!
We arrived to JUCY from The Strip and departed to the airport. Uber and Lyft are now in Vegas! Get a free ride of up to $20 with Uber here, and up to $25 with Lyft here — if you and a friend each sign up for a ride in each direction, you could essentially knock this category to near zero.
This total provided four breakfasts, four dinners, and three lunches. We bought plenty of high quality products and produce and had some leftovers that we tried to pass on when we dropped back off at JUCY (we were gifted some pastas, sauces and other condiments by someone dropping off when we were picking up, too.)
Showers and laundry at Wahweap Campground — showers were free at the other locations. Want to save on laundry for a longer trip? Check out my Scrubba Washbag review.
Other Meals: $32.50
This broke down to $6 for a diner lunch on Route 66, $19.90 for a cocktail and dessert at Lake Powell Resort, and $6.62 for an on-the-go lunch at McDonald’s. Obviously, the cocktail and dessert were an indulgence (and mostly an excuse to use good wifi) and could have been cut if we were on a tight budget.
Pricey? Yup. The natural beauty of this area is more than enough to entertain and we could have saved big by forgoing tours and sticking to just the National and State Park entrance fees. But I have no regrets! This broke down to $145 for the Antelope Canyon photography tour, $20 for the frankly undeserved tip we were pressured into giving, $92 for the Glen Canyon rafting trip, $10 for a happily given tip for that, $40 for my half of the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass, and $5 for my half of the Valley of Fire State Park entry fee.
A note on the America The Beautiful Parks Pass: In addition to its modest name, the pass provides unlimited visits to all National Parks for two signed cardholders and up to three of their passengers (a total of four people per vehicle) for twelve months. The entrance to the Grand Canyon is $30 and Glen Canyon is $25, so it was only $25 extra ($12.50 per person) to go for the full pass, which we hope will motivate us to visit even more National Parks throughout the year (I’ve since used it at Joshua Tree)! Camping fees are not covered.
Matching Sequin Visors: $4.40
I think we can all agree this is THE most important category of the entire trip.
Total: $935 each
Not having to pay for hotels and being able to cook the majority of our own meals cut down on costs immensely, though pricey activities and moving quickly added to total. On a longer trip we’d have more days spent hiking and enjoying the relatively affordable parks to balance out our big tour splurges.
We pretty much did the most expensive version of a Jucy roadtrip one can do. Those on tighter budgets should consider traveling November to March when the Jucy rental rates are slashed to $45 a day, searching for free campsites, cooking all their meals, doing their own laundry, and signing up for Lyft or Uber to cut down on cab costs.
Losing that damn crank and not being a little more organized were minor quibbles. Our biggest regret was not having more time! Doing it the way we did meant driving in the dark, having no backup days for bad weather, and not having much down time.
The only solution would have been to just have more time — and we didn’t. That said, plenty of Americans are only able to travel for a week at a time, and this would be a great itinerary to tack onto a weekend in Las Vegas. If we’d had a tad more time and been able to stretch the trip to a full seven nights, we wouldn’t add anything else in — we would have just taken it slower. Ideally, we’d have spent the first night in Williams along Route 66, and then tacked on an extra night each at the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell campgrounds, and perhaps drove all the way back to Nevada to spend our final night in Valley of Fire State Park instead of a random RV Resort.
Overall, this is a trip I will never forget. Not only did I make a million memories with one of my best friends in the world, I also had my eyes opened to both the beauty of our state and national park systems and a new mode of travel that I’m now completely obsessed with. I loved the camper lifestyle, and can’t wait to use it to explore more of the beauty of my backyard in the future.
So, what do you think? Would you drive a Jucy?
Where should my next road trip should be? Spill in the comments below!
Many thanks to JUCY for our sweet ride! As always, you receive my honest thoughts, full opinions and poorly written jokes regardless of who is footing the bill.
Update: Travel Blog Success was merged with Superstar Blogging by Nomadic Matt. It’s an equally impressive course that I plan to take and review eventually — click here to take it yourself!
I rarely stop yacking about how Travel Blog Success helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today — a financially successful and creatively fulfilling travel blog that just celebrated its fourth anniversary. It’s the first thing I recommend to those who write to me for blogging advice, and was instrumental in getting me to where I am now! Our secret member’s Facebook group gives me daily inspiration, feedback, and hearty laughs. Yes, the warmest community in travel blogging is on sale now!