Seattle to San Francisco in an RV

August 23-26, 2019

One way Seattle (Tacoma) to San Francisco (Oakland)

Costs:
RV rental cost for 3 nights: $3 + $25 booking fee
Insurance: $0 (RV insurance covered by ICBC roadstar)
Gas for 900 miles of driving: $7 ($350 gas was covered by the RV rental company and we spent $357)
Accommodations for 3 nights: $0
Flight back to Seatac: $38.50 (I mystery shopped my flight to get it half price)
Parking for 3 nights at Seatac: $17
Public transit and Ubers to/from airports and RV rental spot: approx. $50
Food: this was our only real cost. Having the full kitchen meant we were able to eat approx. 50% of our meals from grocery stores meaning we saved money by not eating out.

Total price for the 3 night road trip from Seattle to San Francisco and flight back: $72.50 each (based on 3 people) plus food and entertainment costs.

After a successful one way relocation deal with Jucy rentals from Vegas to Vancouver in May 2019, I thought I’d try another with a bigger vehicle… a 32′ RV to be exact. I didn’t exactly plan a vehicle this size and was rather surprised but we will get to that later. The relocation deal was fairly last minute but thankfully I had two friends down for the adventure!

We started our trip driving from Vancouver to Seattle (note: if bringing a non Nexus card holder you will have to plan border crossing strategically. But really, who doesn’t have Nexus tho? Apparently one of my friends…)

We opted to leave our vehicle near Seatac airport for easy pick up on our return. I booked us parking through the way.com page for $17 for 4 days (I used a coupon through Honey) which resulted in us getting redirected to some sketchy auto chop shop and then redirected again to another hotel chain to park. Be careful using these offsite airport parking pages if you are on a timeline. I’m not sure it was worth the savings.We planned to take transit to the Apollo RV rental spot in Tacoma and despite the change in parking spots, we figured out the bus directions and had a smooth ride for the first two buses which were direct express buses. The third bus had a ridiculous number of stops planned so we opted to take an Uber for the final leg of the trip from Seatac to the Apollo lot in Tacoma. Note: the Tacoma location of Apollo recently moved. Make sure to confirm the address.We had read terrible reviews about Apollo and lengthy delays at pick up time. We had pre-registered and after a quick tour of the RV and a lesson on emptying the poop chute, we were on our way in less than an hour after we had arrived.When we booked, we had no choice but to book a 6 berth RV as it was the final RV relocation left. Do your research ahead of time. We didn’t. And ended up with a massive RV for our roadtrip.

Shortly after leaving the Apollo lot, we came across a Walmart to load up on some essential items we hadn’t grabbed at the free donation table of leftover items from other Apollo renters.Our first stop was Portland, only a few short hours from Tacoma. The I5 was a nerve wracking experience but wasn’t so bad once I got the hang of it. We realized we hadn’t done much research and weren’t sure where we could park a 32′ RV in Portland.

After googling the bylaws, we decided to park on a residential street just north of downtown, right near the LRT to downtown. We had zero issues parking there other than some dogs barking and waking us up in the morning.

Fuelled on Voodoo Doughnuts, we headed for the Oregon Coast with no real itinerary. There are SO many fantastic places to visit, it was tough to decide but below is a guide of what we did on the coast.- Stopped in Lincoln City hoping to stop for lunch. The city was nothing exciting and we were glad we had picnic stuff.

– Stopped at Boiler Bay state scenic viewpoing and had lunch at a picnic table admiring the view of the coast. Little did we know, it would get much better!

– Depoe Bay – super cute town but no RV parking so we kept going. There was a whale watch centre and lots of whale watching boats we could see. We heard later that whales had been seen right off the shore of town. This would be a place worth stopping and checking out (and I’m sure RV parking could be found if you looked harder, we just drove through)

– Cape Foulweather turnoff. This wasn’t a real signed turnoff so we parked off the side of the road after we spotted whales from the window of our RV – yes, whales! We stopped and watched a few small gray whales feed for awhile and couldn’t believe our luck!

– Devils punch bowl – we couldnt park here and I really wish we had seen it. It is a popular surf beach making parking a nightmare so we kept driving, admiring the beaches for miles.

– We debated whether or not to pay the entry fee to the Yaquina Head state park and turns out my National Parks pass worked at the state park and they gave us free admission! This was an absolute highlight stop! A beautiful outhouse, tidepools, lots of whales feeding (including one who came incredibly close to shore) and other wildlife such as seals. You can’t stay here too long as the kelp flies are guaranteed to make you absolutely crazy! They do have RV parking at this lot and if you’re lucky enough that douche bags in SUVs don’t take them, you may score parking.

– Devil’s churn. Another cool spot my national park pass covered entry to. There are a couple different short trails you can explore which was a great way to stretch out our legs.

– Sea Lion caves. We stopped here as it sounded cool but had a touristy vibe to what should be a natural attraction. We saw some sea lions outside the cave and skipped this attraction.

– Florence – the cheapest gas we found on this whole road trip was at Fred Meyer in Florence. There were some sand dunes behind the store but we drove a bit further into the Sand dunes park to run around and climb the dunes (what a workout!)

– Bandon – The drive from Florence to Bandon was not as beautiful, and the towns were nothing special. We got some Mexican food in Bandon before heading to Humbug state park to catch the sunset.

– Kissing Rock – after some failed attempts at locating an RV park, we saw a couple other RVs parked at Kissing Rock and decided to do the same. We didn’t want to drive too much further and miss the most scenic part of the coast. Kissing Rock was the best spot to wake up to! Truly epic.

– We could have driven further the night before but didn’t want to miss the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor, said to be the most scenic part of the Oregon coast. Turns out the fog was so heavy in the morning, we missed most of it anyway.

– Brookings. We stopped in Brookings for a nice hearty vegan friendly breakfast before heading out for a long day of driving. The town was surprisingly quiet for a Sunday in August.

– Our next stop was a bit of a surprise. The agriculture inspection just past California border informed us that there are certain foods/wood we cannot bring into California from Oregon. We passed through quickly with no drama.

– California coast had some stunning views but nothing like Oregon. You definitely want to leave more time to explore the Oregon coast over the Northern California coast.

– Redwoods State Park. Wow. Stop here. Seriously. Amazing huge trees and tons of little hikes of varying distance and difficulty. I loved this spot!

– Eureka. We stopped in this little crack town for vegan ice cream. I was blown away by the number of homeless people in all the towns/cities we stopped in but Eureka truly gets the prize for sketchiest vibe. We got our ice cream and left the urine scented town for fresher air.

– Avenue of the Giants road runs parallel to the 101 but is more scenic. It didn’t add much time or mileage so we did this. We stopped at the drive thru tree, obviously not driving the RV through but watching smaller cars go through. Not sure it was worth the $3 entry without being able to drive through but the bathrooms were clean and the gift shop was amongst the nicest we had seen. One note – the Avenue of the Giants road is very narrow and without a shoulder. Something to consider if you are struggling with driving the beast of an RV. The highway after this gets even worse and more difficult to navigate. Leave yourself A LOT of time and go slow.

– We were all very excited to visit glass beach. An area where broken glass that has been softened and rounded by the salt water is returned to land. A sad reminder of how much garbage is in our ocean but beautiful with the different glass colours. The beach wasn’t as exciting as we had hyped it up to be but beautiful nonetheless.

– Santa Rosa. We had to return the RV to Oakland the following day so after glass beach we ripped down highway 128 from Glass Beach. Again, some very twisty slow spots to consider. Highway 128 was beautiful and full of wineries – a great place to stop if you have more time. The highlight of Santa Rosa was Amy’s vegetarian/vegan drive thru. We couldn’t drive thru but enjoyed a traditional American fast food meal (something as a vegan I don’t get to eat) before parking in the casino lot for the night. We debated about staying closer to our drop off point in Oakland for our final night to avoid rush hour traffic but decided it may be more difficult to find overnight parking there. I’m not sure overnight parking is technically allowed at the casino but we spent enough money in there to have paid to stay in a fancy RV park so they didn’t bother us.

– Vallejo flood and waste water. A gross but necessary part of the trip. Unloading our bathroom waste. We had googled and found this free option to dump our waste. It wasn’t on the direct route from Santa Rosa to Oakland but actually saved us time by going around rush hour traffic. Free poop dumping and avoiding traffic! RV win!

– Oakland. We dropped the RV off at Apollo rentals in Oakland. The drop off was seamless and quick. We were reimbursed for $350 in fuel receipts (we spent $357) and sent on our way. We took a bus to the BART to get to San Francisco. Transit fail. We should have taken an Uber to the BART station. It would have saved us time and cost about the same as 3 x $2.50 bus fare since the station was so close.

– San Franciso. We booked a later flight out of Oakland to allow us a day to explore San Francisco. We kept it pretty chill as we were far more exhausted than we could have imagined and stuck to watching the sea lions at Pier 39 and then drinking our leftover rum in a park on the water.

– Oakland airport. We wanted to get out on the water without paying for a boat cruise aa it was very foggy with low visibility. It turns out, there is a ferry from the ferry terminal in San Francisco that will take you to Harbor Bay, 6 minutes from Oakland airport! This sure beat taking the BART and for 3 people, was cost neutral. The Uber from the habor bay ferry terminal to Oakland airport was only $7.50!

Our flight home was delayed, followed by some parking shuttle drama and a long drive back to Canada but that couldn’t bring us down after an epic road trip!I highly recommend this route and the RV option to anyone looking for a cheap way to see the coast.

Below are some general tips to consider if renting an RV:

– search RV relocation deals on www.imoova.com and keep an eye out for the rare ones that include fuel.
– try booking directly with the RV company to avoid the Imoova booking fee
– make sure you have insurance covering an RV. Most credit card insurance does not. I got RV insurance by upgrading my home car insurance through ICBC to roadstar for $20/year which covers RV rentals
– Check logistics of drop off/pick up spots. They may be far from the airport with no free parking or inconveniently timed with rush hour traffic.
– Leave yourself extra time during drop off and pick up
– Check inclusions and pack accordingly to avoid extra charges for every little thing (linens, camping chairs, toilet paper, toilet chemical)
– If gas is included, don’t lose the receipts! Take photos with your phone as back up.
– Know that anywhere you go is going to take a lot longer and theres may be places you simply can’t go (ie. Driving downtown San Francisco in a 32′ RV didn’t seen like a good idea)
– Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in a day. Driving and navigating an RV is exhausting.
– Download offline maps in Google maps for your entire route. Google will show you points of interest with a little camera icon on the map, even when offline.
– Check out the bylaws of street parking and know some ideas of where you can park overnight (casinos, Walmarts, Home Depots are typically RV friendly) to avoid the expensive RV parks (we phoned one and it was $99/night! Wtf!? We could stay in a motel for that)