After months of isolation, summer travel season is upon us. And as travel restrictions ease up, all signs are pointing to a vacation season defined by the great American road trip. And at the center of it is the humble land yacht: The RV. A whopping 46 million Americans plan to take an RV road trip this summer, according to Ipsos. In an era where hotel stays can cause tremendous anxiety, it makes perfect sense: An RV is basically a motel on wheels, and you alone control the breakfast buffet, guest list, and zip code.
Whether you’re buying an RV or renting, here’s everything you need to know before you hit the road.
First, you need to figure out which type of recreational vehicle is right for you. If you’re looking to rent, you’ve essentially got three options.
Camper vans (aka Class B motorhomes) are the least expensive, most discreet, and the simplest way to ease into the lifestyle, but aren’t usually equipped. This is especially troublesome in the pandemic since many public restrooms are closed. Also, it’s really tough to stand up inside.
Class C motorhomes are recognizable by the cab over the driver and the boxy back. These usually have a toilet, a shower, a small kitchenette with a fridge and stove, and are commonly available as rentals.
Finally, Class A motorhomes are the bus-like behemoths with stuff like TVs, multiple beds, and lounging areas. These tend to cost more than an actual house and are expensive to rent… and operating one for the first time can feel like driving a condo.
If you’re just testing the RV lifestyle for a weekend or even a week or two, renting is probably the best idea. RVShare, the Airbnb of renting RVs, is a good place to start while nationwide companies like Cruise America will set you up with a land yacht.
If you’re buying into the lifestyle for the long run expect to drop an anvil of cash. RVs are in serious demand this summer. If you can find a good deal on a used one that’s also a solid option but be aware that you could be buying someone else’s problem. Like buying any vehicle, check the mileage before buying and get it inspected by somebody who knows what they’re doing. Mold and dry rot can also be problems in older models.
Plan your route, but be ready to change course. You can’t see it all. You should plan a route, sure, but leave yourself open for those spectacular nights beneath the stars.
It’s good to have a rough idea of what you want to do so you can prepare. You don’t want to miss anything that could be really special but at the same time you want to leave room in your plans for the unexpected. That’s what really makes it special. The unknown and spontaneity of it!
Google Maps is an obvious way to plan your trip. Or use a site called Roadtrippers ($29.99/year) which allows you to plan your route and highlights cool stuff to see along the way including roadside attractions. And, to alter your plans on a whim!
Choosing the right campground for your needs
If you’re reading this now, chances are you’re not going to easily find a campsite in a national or state park. They exist, but in the summer of COVID they’re in extreme demand. The likelihood of just rolling up to a panoramic site in Arches without a reservation is basically out of the question. RV Parks and campgrounds are also hot commodities, but might be the safer bet and easier to book.
Having a toilet on wheels means you get to experience the joys of pumping grey water (shower waste) and black water (toilet waste) into the sewer. Your RV should come with the tools to do this but before you hit the road make sure your hose doesn’t have any holes in it (and you carry a spare). Just make sure you’re pumping it in the right place and not going full Cousin Eddie in the storm drain.
As for showering, folks with camper vans are advised to pack baby wipes or a camping shower that can be set up when you stop. If you want a quality shower, campgrounds are your best bet, but some truck stops like Love’s and Pilot Flying J’s have coin showers you can use too.
Prepare for Campground Safety Regulations
Be aware of any safety requirements in place due to COVID-19. Some campgrounds require campers to wear face masks when there’s a risk of contact with anyone outside of the household. Be sure to bring hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and disposable gloves to keep your hands and any surfaces clean during your RV camping trip.
RVing puts the world at your doorstep. Wherever your doorstep happens to be!