The Ins and Outs of Renting an RV

You don’t have to buy a home on wheels to enjoy the experience of camping in comfort

Ever see that classic movie The Long, Long Trailer about newlyweds, played by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, hoping to make the honeymoon last as they travel across country in, well, a long, long trailer?

Class C motorhome at Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Their RV dreams didn’t go exactly as planned but RV travel has come a long, long way since then. Especially with the need for social distancing and a sharp rise in the number of people working remotely, the RV experience is appealing to travelers who never considered it before. From young couples looking for new experiences to parents eager to make memories with their children to seniors enjoying their retirement freedom, people are hitting the road.

Class C motorhomes at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can park your RV at a campsite in a national or state park or a 5-star RV resort. And, if you’re not ready to buy your dream home-on-wheels, no problem! Rentals are available for you. Want to know the ins and outs? Read on…

Airstream travel trailer at The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where Can I Rent an RV?

Renters have two primary options: A major rental company that owns a fleet of its own RVs (e.g. Cruise America) or individuals who rent out their personal RVs when they aren’t using them (e.g. RVshare, the Airbnb of renting RVs).

Class A motorhome at Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What Do I Have to Choose From?

You can rent everything from a tricked out van with no bathroom to a home on wheels complete with kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and all the amenities.

Fifth wheel trailer at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Much Does It Cost to Rent an RV?

Simply put, as much as you want to spend—from a small RV rental to a luxury RV rental. Just to give you a ballpark, I found a drivable RV that sleeps 6 on RVshare.com for $179 a night or $1759 for 7 nights, including taxes and fees.

Class C motorhome at Palo Casino RV Park, Palo, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are There Additional Fees Besides Taxes?

Most of the rentals have a mileage charge and some have a generator fee. At Cruise America, for example, the mileage fee for a 400-mile trip in a standard motorhome was $140. A kitchen kit (your dishes, pots, and pans, etc.) costs $110 if you add that option, though you can skip it and bring your own; the same is true of a personal kit (very basic linens, towels), which costs $60 per kit. With those additions, a four-night rental with a base total of $620 inches up to over $1000 by the time you add standard fees and taxes. And then there’s the damage deposit, though with any luck, you’ll get that back.

Class A motorhome at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How Do I Know What to Rent?

That depends on your needs and your comfort level as a driver. Are you an off-the-grid adventurer happy to rough it or a family of five requiring a bathroom and a shower? More than two people would be cramped in a truck camper or souped-up van while a Class A motorhome can sleep 7 to 10.

There’s an awful lot to choose from out there, but basically, RVs break down into two main camps (no pun intended): towable and drivable.

Towable RVs at Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Towable RVs

  • 5th Wheel: Requires a fifth-wheel hitch in your truck bed and a truck with sufficient towing capacity, a three-quarter-ton or more.
  • Travel Trailer: Attaches via trailer hitch and comes in different sizes, suitable for SUVs and pickups.
  • Popup Camper: Pull it behind just about anything. It expands (i.e., pops up) to give you more space once you reach your campsite.
Motorized RVs at JGW RV Park, Redding, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Motorized RVs

  • Class A: Think “big-as-a-bus house on wheels”
  • Class B: Think “oversized van”
  • Class C: Think “cab over driver”

(Why the smallest RV is a Class B and the mid-sized RV is called a Class C, we have no idea. It’s just one of those mysteries of the universe.)

Fifth wheel trailer at Lost Duthman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise America’s fleet includes large, standard, and compact RVs, as well as truck campers, all of them attached to the truck or chassis cab you’ll need to pull them. RVshare offers both drivable and towable RVs which you’ll rent from the owners. (You’ll need your own vehicle for the towable ones if you drive it yourself; some owners will deliver to the campsite for a fee.)

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

Traveling By RV? Everything You Need To Know Before You Hit The Road.

From finding a campsite to keeping clean

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. 

Class A motorhome at White Tanks Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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 motorhome at Wind Creek Casino, Atwood, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Class A motorhome at Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

RVs at Rain Spirit RV Park in Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Driving Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Walking tour of Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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!

Campground in Glen Canyon National Recreation, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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. 

Sewer connection at a full-service RV park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Dump station for gray and black water disposal © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

RVing puts the world at your doorstep. Wherever your doorstep happens to be!

Considering a Summer Getaway? Tips for Reducing Your Risk during the Pandemic

If you’re looking for a COVID-friendly summer vacation, an RV road trip is a solid way to go

If the coronavirus has you going stir-crazy, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about taking an RV road trip. After all, an RV allows you to travel without exposing yourself to germy airports and hotels.

Your summer vacation plans probably look a little different this year. For many families, that may mean skipping the airport and loading up the RV for a family road trip. If you’re planning a trip before the end of summer, a little advance planning can go a long way toward making your vacation safe and fun for everyone.

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fears about the coronavirus are forcing many people to rethink traditional air travel and hotel stays and look into recreational vehicles as a safer alternative. Some RV dealerships have seen an increase in sales of up to 170 percent and many customers are first-time buyers. In May, peer-to-peer rental service RVshare saw a 650 percent spike in bookings since the beginning of April.

Along a scenic route in eastern Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RV allows you and your family to get out of the house while maintaining social distancing. It even allows you to avoid places you might feel uncomfortable being in like a hotel or restaurant. With an RV, you can bring everything with you!

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are two types of RVs to consider: a motorhome that combines the living quarters and vehicle in one package and a travel or fifth-wheel trailer.

What should travelers take into account when deciding whether to travel?

Psychologically, people are getting tired, and it’s only natural to want to get away and go out. The first step is ‘How much risk you’re willing to tolerate?’ And that has to do with our own health condition but also the health conditions of the people around you. We have to be able to live with the virus to some degree and manage the risk that we take. A lot of it has to do with thinking of other people and how your actions impact your community. 

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Are some forms of travel safer than others? Is it better to drive or to fly?

I don’t know that we can necessarily say one is less risky. If you’re going on a road trip, for example, and have a large number of other people with you then it defeats the purpose. The larger the group the greater the chance of being exposed to others who may be infected with the virus!

Along Utah Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When we talk about flying, a lot of airline companies have requirements in place for mask wearing, and they do health screening. But the risk of flying with people that we don’t know is higher than the risk of driving in an RV or car with people that we do know and that we live with. Looking at the risk overall, road trips with family members seems to be the safest at this point.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What precautions should a person take when planning a road trip?

The shorter distance you have to travel the better, especially if you have family with young children. You have to think about rest stops and bathroom breaks and where you’re going to be taking those. You have to think about where you’re going to be stopping to eat. The number of stops you make along the way increases the chances of being exposed to other individuals who may be infected.

Schulenburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Given the rise of COVID-19 cases across the country, should travelers be careful about when or where they go?

I think we can safely say that the coronavirus is everywhere, so I wouldn’t say that any place is 100 percent safe. Avoid traveling to areas where the number of cases are on the rise. Definitely look at being flexible in your plans and in your final destination.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here a several additional tips to help make your next road trip memorable—and prepare for whatever may come your way.

Pack smart and make a checklist. To avoid leaving any essentials at home, create a checklist a few weeks before you leave—and add to it as you think of new items.

Woods Hole on Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bring an atlas. Even though you haven’t used one in ages, keeping a road atlas in the RV and car is always a good idea. With an old-school paper map, you don’t have to worry about losing your GPS signal, heading down a non-existent road, or running out of battery. And if you have kids, they may enjoy tracking your travels.

Seaside, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your tires. Before you leave home, inspect the condition of your tires and inflate them to the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.

Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check your emergency kit. If you find yourself stranded, a well-stocked emergency kit could help you get back on the road quickly and safely. Pre-assembled kits are available for purchase, or you can assemble your own kit.

Worth Pondering…

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won, or lasting happiness achieved.

—Maurice Chevalier

RVs Could Be the Answer to Your Summer Travel Plans

The coronavirus is making people rethink what a summer vacation looks like

As the country began locking down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus the entire travel industry was severely impacted. On April 7, the Transportation Security Administration recorded the lowest number of U.S. flyers screened in the agency’s history when it dropped to below 100,000—a 95 percent decrease from the same day in 2019. On May 20, the TSA screened 230,367 passengers, compared with 2,472,123 on the same day last year.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the U.S. Travel Association, domestic and international travelers spent $1.1 trillion in the U.S. in 2019 which supported nine million jobs and generated $180 billion in tax revenue. One-third of coronavirus job losses in the U.S. are connected to the travel industry.

RV Park at Rolling Hills, Corning, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While many summer travel plans have been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus, one form of travel might be a viable way to go: RVs. As of May 19, bookings on RVshare, an RV peer-to-peer booking platform, were up 1,000 percent from early April. Yes, 1,000 percent.

SeaWind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the pandemic has halted most forms of travel, families are looking for safe ways to get out-of-doors after months of home isolation. But for some people—about a million, to be exact—living out of an RV is the norm.

Buckhorn RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many analysts expect summer 2020 to herald the return of the Great American Road Trip as travelers explore destinations closer to home in the comfort of their own vehicle. Mark Wong, an exec at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, told CNBC, “Road trips—the drive market—will be this summer’s trend. Travelers will be more comfortable hopping into their own RVs or rental units than commuting in mass transportation.”

Along Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nicholas Devane, owner of RV rental company Texino, told the LA Times he was doing good business until having to shut down because “I think corona is making people rethink what a vacation looks like. What is their ability to travel without going through airports? Camper vans and RVs are a great way to do that.”

Gulf State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An RVshare survey found that 77 percent of respondents were looking to make travel plans within the next three months. Sixty-five percent of travelers said they want to be in and around nature including locations like a national park (65 percent) or a lake (47 percent).

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVillage offers a place for RVers (and wannabes) to talk to one another. Whether you are considering purchasing an RV for an upcoming vacation, deciding to leave your conventional home behind, or have been on the road for years, about 3,000 crowd-sourced groups are available to field RV-related questions and discussions. Over 11,000 new RVillage accounts were created in the past month alone pushing RVillage to over 220,000 users.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic RVers also use the platform to help plan their next move safely. People are talking to each other and asking what’s open and what’s not open. What are best practices right now if you want to go with your family? Where to avoid? How does social distancing work in the RV?

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Even before the pandemic, the RV industry had been showing significant growth. According to RV Industry Association data, beginning in 2009 RV unit shipments increased year over year through 2017 although the number began dropping in 2018 (down 4.1 percent) and even more in 2019 (down 16 percent). RV retail value was over $20 billion in 2018, the latest year for which a figure was available.

Another benefit of RV travel during a pandemic or any other time is the ability to have everything you need for travel within your own space.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As Sir Richard Burton once put it, “man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.” That being said, traveling around the U.S. isn’t going to be a cakewalk. Different states are in very different stages of easing the pandemic restrictions. Ultimately, we need to know what is going on where. That means don’t travel to an area that has an active shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order. Period! Don’t travel if local communities don’t feel ready to welcome travelers, either.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin

How to Travel Safely As Restrictions Are Lifted?

Interest in RV travel has grown exponentially during the coronavirus pandemic

The travel industry has been profoundly impacted by the uncertainty and anxiety currently enveloping the country. Airlines, resorts, and hotels are now offering discounted prices in order to rejuvenate their bottom lines but thus far the public’s appetite for travel seems to be stuck in neutral. However, there is an alternative to traditional vacations that could ease your concerns about mingling with the masses.

Welcome to the world of RV travel.

RVs at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since early April, RVShare.com, a company that arranges RV rentals between RV owners and the general public, has seen a 650 percent rise in bookings as “long periods of isolation and social distancing have halted most forms of travel” and left people anxious to be on the move again but with personal safety always in mind.

Fishing at Goose Island State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When planning a trip in the next three months, the overwhelming majority of respondents (93 percent) want to avoid crowds, according to RVShare. This wasn’t always the case. The importance of avoiding crowded places when traveling has increased by 70 percent since the pandemic started. Additionally, 84 percent plan to travel with their partner or immediate family instead of friends or extended family.

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“RV travel has been a trend steadily on the rise for years due to RV rentals being more accessible than ever thanks to sites like RVshare,” said CEO Jon Gray. “We expect RVs to continue to gain traction as a preferred method of travel while consumers are seeking flexible options and a unique way to experience the outdoors.”

According to the company’s data, national parks are the preferred destination of 65 percent of their customers.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

TurnKey Vacation Rentals reports that although summer bookings are down from 2019, they’ve seen spikes in bookings over the past two weeks as well as travelers booking beach and mountain retreats for trips. As destinations start to open, there’s increased interest in the Alabama and Texas Gulf Coast and in mountain areas like Asheville, North Carolina and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It is worth noting that these locations are drive-to destinations as travelers now prefer to avoid air travel and stay closer to home.

Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer marketplace that connects families, solo travelers, and travelers of all kinds with trusted RV owners so they can rent an RV to power their road adventures. Their selection spans easy-to-navigate campervans to vintage Airstreams to luxury Class A motorhomes.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers can personalize their trip, customize their itinerary, and choose the price point that fits their budget. In addition to RV rentals being a controlled environment where renters can choose how much or how little they are exposed to others, where they travel, and more. Outdoorsy owners are held to high cleanliness standards and provide clean, sanitized, and germ-free RVs to those new to the RV lifestyle and veteran road travelers alike.

North Beach at Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A survey commissioned during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shows that camping rates very high when Americans and Canadians are asked what they’re looking forward to once life regains some normalcy. Very strong majorities said it would be “reasonable” to have social distancing measures employed at campgrounds and on trails.

Terre Haute KOA, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Performed on behalf of KOA, the “North American Camping and the Effects of Covid-19” survey reached out to 4,000 American and 500 Canadian households for their opinions on how the pandemic affects their plans for camping in the months ahead. The survey is bullish in saying “camping is well positioned to rebound earlier compared to other types of travel once travelers themselves deem it safe to travel again.”

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nearly half (46 percent) of the campers surveyed said they view camping as the safest form of leisure travel in the post COVID-19 world. That percentage jumps to 72 percent when the question is posed to Baby Boomers. They also ranked camping as the safest type of trip, the survey found.

Camping in an Airstream at Lake Pleasant, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the same time, 90 percent of leisure travelers and 95 percent of experienced campers said there should be some measures in place to enforce social distancing. Forty-seven percent of campers and half of leisure travelers “agree that limiting the number of people on a trail is reasonable.” Nearly half (48 percent) of prospective campers thought limiting group sizes would be reasonable.

Stephen Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty-one percent of the campers surveyed said they thought it was safe to camp right now while 54 percent said they thought another month or two should pass before it would be safe.

Bernheim Forest, Krntucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. Sometimes it is better to abandon one’s self to destiny.

—Napoleon Bonaparte