I’m in love. We have just returned from a long weekend exploring the California desert in a JUCY campervan and it was amazing! Ever since I first saw these crazy looking green and purple vans on the road during our Arizona-Utah road trip a few years ago I have been dying to check one out. Being national park junkies, we were dying to check off one of our last national park service parks in Southern California, the Mojave Preserve. However, I am not super into roughing it, especially in a place that is in the middle of nowhere, so it continued to sink to the bottom of our to do list. That is until we got the opportunity to rent a JUCY, which was just what we needed for this adventure.
If you follow us on Facebook (and if you don’t, then you should!), you probably saw photos of our weekend road trip. However, for the rest of you wondering what this is all about, let me explain.
What is JUCY?
JUCY started in New Zealand, the land of campervans, in 2001 with the vision to aid travelers in their unique road trip adventures. JUCY is most known for their bright green and purple mini-RV’s. The mini-RV is basically a standard minivan (Dodge Caravan or Chrysler Town & Country) that has been converted into the perfect road trip companion. The Champ, as it is called, has been designed to include everything you need for life on the road. Seats that fold down into a bed, a pop up ‘penthouse’ that acts as second bedroom, under-the-seat storage and a rear trunk area housing a mini kitchen providing everything you need to camp in style. The only thing not included is a bathroom, but with nature as your backdrop you can handle that on your own.
JUCY has thought of almost everything for the mini-RV, making spur of the moment weekend camping trips so much easier. It also means that winter camping is now more of an option. With room to sleep 4 comfortably, this is the perfect addition for most families. What makes JUCY even more accessible is that it drives like a car, since it is a minivan! If you can drive your own vehicle or SUV, the JUCY will feel pretty much the same.
JUCY is even more wonderful because of all of the well thought out details packed inside each van. From the outside it looks just like a regular (albeit very colorful) minivan. Inside it is a whole different ball game.
Standard features include:
- A kitchen sink with 5 gallons of water included
- Two single burner butane stoves
- Mini fridge drawer
- Cutting board, silverware drawer, storage for pots/pans
- Two full size beds, one inside the car and one on the top (not accessible from inside the van)
- Deep storage for your belongings under the seat
- Inside table for cold mornings
Some of the awesome features that we didn’t even realize until we got on the road were:
- Curtains for each of the windows for sleeping
- Automatic open/close buttons for the back doors (which I will warn you now the kids will become obsessed with!)
- 2 USB and 1 car charger for use even when the vehicle is off! This was a huge bonus. I was wondering how I would manage an entire weekend without charging my phone or camera at night.
- DVD player for those long cold nights with nothing to do outside (OK that isn’t often really, but still it’s awesome to have)
- Tons of little storage places (Which means it’s easy to leave things behind in the doors like we did, so take note!)
There were some things that were surprising for us on the inside when traveling with a child. Contrary to your regular vehicle the back seats of the JUCY are really far back. If you have a mini-van already, you might already know about this, but the only seats available in a JUCY during driving are the ‘3rd row’ seats. This is good and bad. Great because the grownups in the front actually get a little time to have conversations on their own and the kids can be noisy in the back without causing too much of a fuss up front. The bad news is, it is difficult to reach your child or give your kid anything during the drive. This means it’s imperative to pack wisely, situating everything the kids need within their reach unless you want to stop constantly!
Additionally, there are three seat belts in the back row, however, for most car seats, only the side two seat belts will be what you need. For car seats that use the LATCH system, only one side of the back seat has the clips needed to latch onto. As far as we could see, the van did not have any behind the seat points for the additional latch. We found our carseat fit snug using just the seatbelt option.
Of course, no matter how awesome the JUCY van is, everyone wants to know how much it is. Overall, I would say that JUCY’s mini RVs are perfect for budget-conscious travelers. They are meant to be comparable in price to a regular rental car, rather than an RV. This means that for just a little bit more than a typical car rental, you can also take care of your accommodation. But more than that, it’s ideal for people who want to get off the beaten track a bit but are not really interested in roughing it or just don’t have all of the supplies needed to camp (i.e those of us more into glamping!).
A typical rental of a JUCY van will cost anywhere from $80-$150 a night depending on the time of year that you rent one. As with rental cars, there are some add-ons to be aware of. Insurance. This is a must. To ensure you have a worry free adventure in the middle of nowhere, make sure to pay for the added insurance coverage. It is not mandatory, but depending where you are driving, I would seriously consider it. At writing, it is a bit hefty at $22 per day, which includes both the collision damage waver and supplemental liability insurance. You can purchase both of these or only one, depending on what might already be covered by your own insurance plan or credit card.
An additional add-on that I feel is instrumental for a carefree holiday is the unlimited miles package. There aren’t many places you could drive the JUCY van on the included 100 miles per day allowance. The reality is that you are getting this van to explore, which in California (and Nevada) means a lot of driving. Currently this is $25 per day for unlimited miles, however JUCY also offers other fixed rate packages (for example, 500 miles for $120) that are useful to explore depending on where you will be going.
Optional add-ons are things like the bed supplies and kitchen set. These are both fixed costs at $100 and $115 per trip. If you live in the area, bring your own pillows, flat sheets, blankets/sleeping bags and you are grand. You don’t need their set really unless you are flying into town and do not have access to your own. We got it for our trip, mostly to check it all out, but ended up adding in our own blankets anyway to make sure we would be warm enough.
The kitchen set add-on is handy for sure, but for the price, you could also easily pack your own cutlery, paper plates, etc. However, it is pretty nice to eat with real dishes while camping! The negative is doing the dishes after every meal.
All of the prices above are quoted for high season, however, JUCY has a great winter deal that includes 100 miles free per day, a free bedding set, free kitchen supplies and much cheaper rates than during high season. This is a perfect time to check out JUCY in anticipation for summer adventures. Death Valley and the Mojave desert will soon to be awash with wild flowers – I know we will be heading back out in a JUCY for flower viewing.
For other times of the year, check out JUCY’s relocation packages (driving a vehicle from one city to another 1-way) and other special offers. Currently, you can rent a JUCY in Los Angeles, San Francisco (Oakland) and Las Vegas. These are three great places to start and end road trips with so much to see around each.
We really loved the JUCY and thought it was the ideal solution for families who want to get out into nature, but not deal with setting up a tent and cooking over a fire. It’s great to not have to worry about the little details of camping or setting up a tent every night since it includes so much of what you need. The price makes it not quite as affordable to as many families as regular car camping, however the ease it provides does make up for it in my opinion. It is also a highly functional road trip companion; driving like a car with economical gas milage as an added bonus.
I especially love JUCY vans as they provide more accessibility for me to adventure with my son on my own. Often times my husband is unable to join on our weekend adventures and I do not have the strength (mental, physical or emotional!) to manage driving all day somewhere, hiking around, setting up a tent, cooking over a stove, packing it all up the next day, adventuring around more and then driving back by myself. With JUCY I feel more confident in my ability to go on quick, off the beaten path adventures on my own. With JUCY you can adventure until you are tired and quickly set up camp for the night. JUCY is perfect for non-campers who want to add a little more nature into their lives. I am definitely sold. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to purchase one for myself!
Have you rented a JUCY before? Did you love it as much as we did?
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**Thank you JUCYUSA for a discounted rental and hooking us up with all the perks to check out. As always however, all opinions are my own!