Family Fun In A Volkswagen Camper Van

(Featured image courtesy of Florida Old Scool Campers)

Camping is something a lot of people have been thinking about lately. It’s a great way to get outside with your friends or family while still not being right on top of people. One unique way to go camping is to do it in a Volkswagen camper van.

If you’re live in or are planning on visiting the St. Petersburg/Tampa area, you can rent a Volkswagen camper van from Florida Old Scool Campers. We rented one a few years back, and it’s still a great memory for my family. Here’s a recap of where we went, how the van did and some things you should know before renting.

VW Camper Van

Basics of The Vans

Florida Old Scool Campers has been in business for ten years and began because the owners, Mike and Dixie Phillips, think it’s the best way to travel. Dixie Phillips says her favorite Florida trip is between Flagler Beach and St. Augustine on the state’s east coast.

“A1A is the perfect speed for a VW Bus with the ocean breeze, smell and the view of waves crashing on the beach.” said Dixie.

She also said it’s a great way to practice self-distancing:

“It’s easy to isolate as the bus slides into any standard parking place. You are self contained with everything you need inside the bus.”

All of the vans at Florida Old Scool Campers have names and personalities. We rented Krazy Karl, who is a yellow 1979 Westfalia. Taking Krazy Karl out on the road was an invitation for the other drivers to stare. And he was a blast to drive.

Hula girl on dashboard of Volkswagen Camper Van

VW Camper Van Rules

Since all of the vans are considered vintage vehicles (1979 is vintage??!), there are some rules to renting from Florida Old Scool Campers:

  • Renters cannot take the vans out of the state of Florida.
  • Customers must have full coverage on their personal vehicles to rent (credit card rental coverage doesn’t apply to the vans due to their age).
  • All of the VW buses are standard transmission – so renters must know how to drive a stick shift vehicle for over a year.
  • Thinking of taking the van to The Keys (and who wouldn’t want to)? You must take at least seven days to get down there. It’s 315 miles from St. Petersburg to Key Largo, which is the northern key. Due to the vans’ speed, it’s best to spread that trip out so there’s no damage to the vans.
  • No pets allowed in the vans.

Inside Volkswagen Camper Van

Interior of Volkswagen Camper Van

The interior of the vans was larger than we expected. There are two front seats (the passenger one rotates when at the campsite for more living area seating). Then there’s a back seat that has pillows. All of the seating for all four passengers has seat belts. The rear seat pulls out at night to make a bed.

Once you park and lift the top, you’ll find the van even more spacious. It will give you more headroom and an additional bed at the top. Krazy Karl has a two-burner stove and on-board water tank for the sink. He also (thankfully!) had air conditioning that we used at night when we were sleeping.

Since we were camping, we also used the fire pit at the campsite. But the stovetop came in very handy when it was time to make breakfast or heat something quickly. There was also plenty of storage for us in the cabinets.

What To Bring

All of the vans have almost everything you need to go camping. The vans are thoroughly cleaned after each use, but bringing antiseptic wipes with you is always a good idea.

You’ll need to bring your food. We took our cooler to store the cold food with ice. There is a small ice box on board. 

Renters get sheets and pillows for the beds, but you’re welcome to bring your own as well.

Where to Take a Volkswagen Camper Van

If you’re thinking of visiting an RV park, check to ensure the VW is okay to camp in. Some RV parks don’t let you stay in anything that doesn’t have a bathroom.

Don’t worry about staying at the RV parks, though. One of the best places to camp in Florida is one of the state parks. It’s much less expensive than a high-end RV site and the parks have plenty to do during the day. You can even take the VW out for some site seeing, which you can’t do in a traditional RV.

The catch, though, is that the Florida State Parks can fill up very quickly. Reservations open 11 months before the date you want to stay. So you’ll need to be prepared. Another option is to consider going to one of the less popular parks. That means you might not get to stay near the beach in Bahia Honda State Park or Grayton Beach State Park. But you have a better chance of finding a spot six months from when you want to travel.

Manatee Springs State Park

We chose to take Krazy Karl to Manatee Springs State Park. Located in north-central Florida on the Suwannee River, it’s a great place to camp, hike, kayak on the river and, if you’re there during the colder months, get to see lots of manatees.

Springs at Manatee Springs State Park

Our campsite had a fire pit and a picnic table. Other renters were a mix of families with kids and couples. It’s was peaceful at night and you could walk out on the boardwalk to try to see the stars.

Deer came on the edge of our campsite the first night. There is plenty of mullet and other fish. There are also sturgeon in the river. Be a little careful out there – sturgeon can jump many feet in the water and have injured people in boats. We went out in a rented kayak, and while we saw plenty of sturgeon jumping, they didn’t come close to us.

The other thing to be aware of is snakes. We saw a large group of snakes sunning themselves on a grassy area near the springs. I hate snakes! So I was petrified. However, none of them moved, and the park roped off the place they were so no one could get near visitors.

Kayaking on Swannee River
The adults had their flotation devices in their laps. This was one of our first times kayaking. Now we all wear our life vests the entire time because you never know when an emergency will happen.

The park also has a small concession stand with lunch, drinks and ice cream. In addition to renting kayaks, you can hike, bike, fish and even cave dive while there.

The entire trip was an adventure for our family. It was our first time camping together and we enjoyed getting into nature not far from our home and enjoying the peacefulness. We also loved Krazy Karl – he caught attention on the road and at the park and had plenty of room for our family of three. We can’t wait to experience a trip in a VW camper van again!

Have you ever driven a vintage Volkswagen camper van? What made the experience special?

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