Traveling is an amazing way to keep yourself grounded and humble. You get to see different parts of the world, then come home to the comfort of your own home reflecting on your ventures and the sights that you saw. But for some of us, traveling can be very expensive. Even just going a few thousand miles could end up costing a few thousand dollars between gas, flights, hotel, and food. And if you want to do that regularly, you better start saving as soon as you get back from your vacation. Well this group of college students had an amazing idea. They decided to buy an old school bus that was about 20 years old and turn it into an RV that they named the Serendipitibus. What they did to this old bus was perfect for their need of traveling, and it had plenty of space for all eight of them! Wait until you see the finished product.
Here is a group picture behind the blood, sweat, and tears that came with turning this old school bus into a usable RV. From left to right you have Amy, John, Dan, Sam, Michael, Nicky K, Rory, and Nick M. They all had an important role in the renovations as well. Amy is a marketer and blogger who handled all social media and blogging of this product. John was the plumber and photographer. Dan was the detail carpenter and house maid. Sam took care of the interior design and was also the videographer. Michael created the roof deck and is the designated sleepyhead. Nicky K is the bus dad and also painter. Rory handled the electrical and managed to be the group optimist. Then there is Nick M who decided he was the dictator of the group.
They found this bus for sale and knew what they had to do. It was about 20 years old at the time of purchase and had been used by a local school district in years past.
The inside wasn’t in the best condition, but they were optimistic about their venture.
Mike, the guy pictured to the right, had purchased the old school bus with dreams of renovating it one day. He didn’t have the time, so he agreed to sell it to these college students. When they told him their plans of renovating it, he felt okay about letting it go.
They knew this bus would be perfect, so they signed on the dotted line and considered it theirs!
Mike offered to give them everything that was inside as well. He had already started collecting old furniture and he had torn out some of the old seats found in the bus originally. He also had started to paint the bus red, but had run out of time.
Now that they had the bus, it was time to start on the design they wanted. They wanted to make sure it would fit all 8 of them comfortably. They started with the plan on the left, but after a lot of debate they ended up with the design on the right. This would give each of them individual sleeping bunks, while still having plenty of space in the common areas.
Because they were going to spend a lot of time in this bus, they decided to bolt down runners to the floor. They contained insulation in between which would help keep out excessive road heat and noise.
For some odd reason, they decided that the best time to lay down the runners would be in the middle of a Midwest winter. Rory and Michael were the ones that had to tighten the bolts underneath the bus.
I bet that was pretty chilly! And from what it sounds like, they are still getting a bit of sass from everyone else who had to help out during this time. But it’s all for a greater good!
They cleared out the inside of the bus as much as they could, then added plywood subflooring. They attached this flooring to the runners with screws and liquid nails.
Now it was time to start adding the furniture and different compartments. They built boxes around the wheel wells and made sure they were insulated really well, which would keep out the added road noise.
Once most of the furniture was framed, it was time to start adding the bunk beds. This was a lot of work and it definitely took its toll on the crew members.
Once the bunk beds were framed, they worked on framing the couches and the kitchen. They had originally put the kitchen on the driver’s side of the bus with a design that included a booth, but decided to change this up a bit. They moved it to the passenger side so they could run the PEX water lines under the driver’s side for the RV hookups.
At first they considered doing gas appliances, but after seeing the amount of fire the stove produced while trying to hook it up, they decided to go with electric appliances instead.
You can see it slowly coming together, one piece of wood at a time.
Next up on the list was installing all of the electrical. This was going to be quite the project!
With the framing all done, they were able to get the wiring where it needed to be without too much of a hassle.
Once the electrical was done, they framed the beds into place. They designed the bunks so they’d be half the size of a queen size bed. Once the beds were framed in, they used Amazon Prime to order 6″ memory foam mattresses, then cut them in half with a hand saw. The beds cost about $80.00 per person and were extremely comfortable.
Anytime they had extra hands offering to help, they’d put them to work by removing the red paint that Mike had quickly thrown up. It was a tedious task, but it was also one of the bigger tasks that had to be tackled.
Once they had removed a lot of the red chipped paint, they started to coat the bus with a white primer.
Once it was completed, they took this bus to the Kentucky Derby. I mean they had beds and a kitchen set up, so why not. While there they found a school bus that was being used by a group of Notre Dame seniors. It wasn’t until this moment that they realized how truly massive the Serendipitibus was.
One thing that they were really proud of is that they didn’t use a single ladder or saw horse during the renovation of this school bus. This included when they were building the roof deck. They did use their apartment garbage can a lot.
Once they got back from the Kentucky Derby, it was time to start painting the interior of the bus.
When it comes to a big renovation like this, finding friends with different skills than yours is key. The next big project was building the roof deck. This would be made of steel and would need to be welded together. One of the group’s friends named Mike and his Baja team members offered to weld the entire deck together in exchange for a case of beer. Doesn’t seem like that bad of a deal for either one.
Here they are at work, making sure the deck is very secure. You don’t want anyone falling off while enjoying the views across the United States.
For the flooring, they used vinyl planks which were light, flexible, waterproof, and very easy to install.
Since Sam was in charge of interior design, she really wanted it to stand out. She started to modge podge nine early 1900s maps that she found showing Yellowstone. She stitched them into one large map and printed it so it’d be tiled together across 30 – 11×17 sheets.
Because of the shape of the RV, they needed to find a company that would make them custom cushions for their couch. Luckily a couple of the moms knew how to sew, more specifically Nick W’s mom and Michael’s mom. They spent an entire day sewing the cushion covers while visiting for graduation.
Time for plumbing! If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know how important this is. John started to install all of the plumbing. The plumbing would include fresh and gray water tanks, two sinks, a faucet that could also be used as a shower, an electric water pump, and an external RV hose hookup.
Now that everything had been completed and they were all graduated, it was time to hit the road! But first, they lucked out by getting a sponsorship through a McDonald’s in their area! This sponsorship allowed them to eat at a lot of McDonald’s on their trip, but they also set up a big party to send the group off in style. The party included buying meals for unsuspecting guests. Because it was South Bend’s 150th birthday week, the mayor and news stations were also there.
Putting in a ton of time into this project, they ended up working up until 4am the morning they were supposed to leave. They had to make sure everything was perfect before traveling the United States.
Are you ready for some pictures of the final project? I know I am! This is a view from the middle of the bus towards the back where the bunks are located.
Here is a picture of the finished electrical panel. Rory did a great job on this, making it so there were five house batteries and a Schneider inverter/converter that could be used to charge things such as phones and small electronics, but it would also provide power for the computers, a mini-fridge, the microwave, and don’t forget the AC unit! This counter not only stored the breaker box, but it also had a small area where shoes could be stored.
They chose bright colors to provide a bigger sense of space while inside the RV.
They even installed storage under all 21′ of couches.
They also decided to include six boards that they stored in the back of the bus. These would help fill up the space between the couches creating a MEGAcouch!
They installed outlets at the end of each couch to provide plenty of phone charging space.
Nick W. said about this space, “Books to make us look intelligent and Advil to be realistic.”
In the kitchen, they left enough space where a double hot plate could be used or even a propane camp stove as long as the windows were opened.
A view of the microwave and mini-fridge area. It seems like they thought of everything during this renovation.
This may be the most important drawer in the rebuild. It was designed and built by Dan, and contains all of the liquor!
It’s the perfect height for most tall bottles of hard liquor.
This is the pull out trash can, which is a great idea. It keeps the trash secure, so you don’t have to worry about it spilling when you go around a corner. They also put a cut out hole above the trash for easy disposal.
You can really see Sam’s modge podge skills here. They purchased these doors, along with the kitchen cabinets, at the Habitat Humanity ReStore. These doors were only $2.00 each. If you’re looking to renovate something but want to save some money, check out your local Habitat Humanity ReStore. From a distance the wall looks like it may be made of marble, but it’s just printed maps of Yellowstone. What a cool design feature.
They installed curtains leading up to the bunk beds for added privacy.
Each bunk also has its own set of curtains, and the color helps keeps the sun out when you really want to get some sleep.
The plywood under each bed is also attached to hinges, which provides storage for each person. This helps condense what’s brought on the bus, making it so nobody needed to bring luggage.
The rope handles are provided for easy lifting.
Each person had their own bunk bed, and within the cubby, everyone had their own power outlet.
They also left the original lights that were found in the bus, but they made it so each one had its own switch.
The curtains definitely provide a lot of privacy, which is hard to find on any road trip.
The bathroom has a removable toilet and offers enough space when needed.
They had a small area for group storage. They put a bungee cord on top of the hangers to keep everything from flying off while driving. This storage area also houses the AC unit which is below the shelf. It has a collapsible pipe, which allows for the unit to be slid out towards the bunks on hot days and nights.
There are six compartments for storage along the bottom of the bus, but the roof deck was also used for storage as well. It was perfect for storing bikes.
Here is the group by the San Fransisco Bay.
They even found turn signals that showed the arrow, rather than just being a single color light.
The views they saw across the country must have been incredible.
Those are some pretty fancy pants! They found these at a thrift store and had to buy them. They became their go-to outfit when they stopped at the major tourist spots.
This group of college friends had an amazing trip. They were able to see national parks, major cities, and landmarks, but now their trip has come to an end. Four of them are going onto real jobs, while the other four are securing jobs for themselves. But don’t let that discourage you from making one of these school buses turned RV’s on your own.