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Peter Greenberg is currently travel editor at CBS TV.


by Margot Black

When it comes to my California Dreamin’ there was often a VW bus involved and a few off-key Mamas and Papas harmonies. Well, I’m glad I can now check my VW road trip off my bucket list.

We had a great experience renting a 1982 VW pop-top Westfalia from Vintage Surfari Wagons but it wasn’t my first choice of dream van, which was a shame. That broke down on someone else’s vacation and we had to substitute for another model. I was bummed but, as soon as our son saw the van, he dubbed it “The Scooby Doo Van” and then so did we.

Although the owners were kind and charming, renting it took an enormous amount of back and forth, via email and phone. Due to their summer inventory, we wound up getting our week-long van rental from a Tuesday to a Tuesday, which made things awkward for my husband who works in the corporate sector. We would have preferred a Saturday to Saturday or Sunday to Sunday.

We cruised around the entire Central Coast of California, staying seaside in San Luis Obispo County while visiting Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, and Cambria, and wound up parking it at the Pismo Coast Village RV Park, since we found the need for a bathroom and hot shower essential. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room to play with so, when it got really cold, and we were holed up inside, it was a bit uncomfortable.

However, the van was great for a family pulling up to the beach and perfect as a short term rental – but now I no longer have the fantasy of owning it.


  • During the summer time, you need to plan ahead as many campgrounds sell out. At Pismo Coast Village RV Park, in Pismo Beach, they had hot showers, bathrooms, a pool, and easy access to the beach and electricity ,which made for easy family living.
  • Pack super light for a family as there is very little storage space, and plan on doing laundry. Additionally, pack blankets and sweaters. We stayed near the water and were really cold at night, even during July.

For food, simple is better. Think Mac & Cheese, peanut butter and jelly, cereal. It’s cute, but compact.

These are old cars – enjoy the journey, be flexible, and don’t try to rush. We did best when we just parked by different beaches each day and used our van as a family command (and nap) center.

We rented our van from Vintage Surfari in Costa Mesa. Prices start at $100 a day, at a three-day minimum. Vintage Surfari Wagons offers restored VW camper buses for rent/hire from Costa Mesa/OC area location. All campers come with updated or newly re-vamped interiors and fresh mechanical upgrades.

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