Who wouldn’t love to enjoy freedom and comfort while travelling? Do you yearn to explore wherever the road takes you? Then an RV rental may be the answer to your dreams.
There is absolutely no better way to squeeze the most out of a road trip than to do it by driving in your accommodation: in motorhome, campervan or RV (recreational vehicles)!
What’s the difference between these three- motorhome, campervan or RV (recreational vehicles)? Size and on-board facilities.
What campervans, motorhomes/ RVs have in common is that they are all fabulous options for a roadtrip. They offer a perfect solution for when you want to see a lot, be in a different location daily, or every other day, without having to unpack, repack your suitcase everyday. If you want to expereince some of the freedom of hitting the road and letting it take you wherever your curiosity (or your itinerary) takes you, then driving your lodgings is your answer!
An RV trip is especially convenient for families with clothes and food being right at hand, as well toys and gadgets to entertain the kids on longer stretches.
We’ve rented motorhomes a couple of times (including for our 4 week roadtrip in California-Arizona- Utah) and have our own self-built campervan too, which has taken us across Europe several times.
Here are some top tips if you are considering renting an RV, from our experience, and that of fellow travellers :
1) RV Rental: Price isn’t everything
Motorhomes are a substantial investment for their owners and to mitigate some of these costs, AirBnB-style rentals are popping up. From our expereince, the difference between renting from a smaller provider or a large, well-established provider (albeit both without any major issues), is the reassurance of having a 24 hour customer service back up in a new country, on a different continent with larger operators. This can certainly be worth a premium. A larger provider will also, more likely, have a bigger offering, allowing you to choose a van that is neither too big or too small for your requirements.
The differences between rentals can also come out in the finer details, where the smaller operations may have an advantage: Check how much mileage is included, check insurances and damage waivers. Not all rentals are created equal and these small details can give you a surprising when you come to pick up your rental!
2) Size it right
Choosing the right size vehicle can be tricky. It really depends on three factors: where you intend to go, how much you’ll be in the vehicle and your personal space requirements.
Doing a bit of research in advance on the routes you will be driving is really useful. Roads may have length and weight restrictions, or even if they don’t there may be tricky single track roads where shorter vehicles certainly have an advantage.
Everyone’s need for space is different.
As a family, we are used to compromising on space inside to allow for more adventure. Our principle is going smaller, travelling lighter to go further. We tend to be very active on our roadtrips, so use the vehicle for travelling, cooking and sleeping, eating in if the weather (or bugs) don’t allow us to eat outside. This means we don’t need much internal space and opt (if there is a choice) for the smallest single compartment vehicle. Thus we can get into busier campsites, park in smaller spaces and manoeuvre in tighter spots.
However I never compromise on a fixed toilet and 5 sleeping places and 5 belted seats for us as a family of 5.
The Cruise America C25 was the right size for us- I loved having a fixed bed and descent facilities, but fitting in most car-sized parking spaces (… only because US cars and car parking spaces are big. 🙂 )
Even this way we’ve found ourselves on roads that felt rather uncomfortable in the size of vehicle we were in, or weren’t allowed on certain road sections (like Hetch-Hetchy in Yosemite NP) because our vehicle was too big.
3) Plan an easy first day
On first day of the rental, rein in your ambitious plans and take it easy. Even if you’ve driven an RV before, you’ll be getting used to the dimensions and the handling of the vehicle on the first day.
You’ll want to unpack and stow everything safely to save your sanity for the rest of the journey.
Finally, don’t under estimate the time needed for provisioning! (Especially in a foreign country or new supermarket, finding your favourite staples or being distracted by all the new things on offer, may ad hours to your first shopping… this is experience speaking!)
Friend and travel writer Heather, from Heather on her travels, highlighted this point based on her experience of RVing in Canada too.
4) Stow everything safely
A motorhome feels like a tiny home, that is till you drive away.
It’s all too easy to forget things on counter tops, table tops or not close doors and drawers properly. These can become missiles when having to suddenly break or take a corner slightly faster than a snail’s pace.
Even if you are the most careful driver in the world, you will eventually need to break a bit harder or corner a little quicker…just like you’d do with your car … and bam there goes that water bottle or book or glass. It’s no fun trying to clear up cereals spilt everywhere, even less so when mixed with glass shards and milk.
And don’t be tempted to chuck everything up into the bed above the driver, especially a child or two! Adding weight high up has a surprising destabilising effect on your driving and roadholding.
5) Take it easy!
Speed isn’t everything. Our expereince with our last hire, Cruise America’s C25 motorhome was that it loved cruising along at between 50-60 miles an hour, with decent fuel efficiency and great stability on the road. Even gusts of wind or turbulence from overtaking vehicles didn’t shift it much at this conservative speed.
Driving any faster, which we saw lots of other RVs do- rental and owned- and your fuel gauge visibly goes down mile by mile. Fuel efficiency is sacrificed and above 80 mph the roadholding ability start deteriorating.
Part of an RV roadtrip is making the most of the journey, as much as enjoying the destinations. There is beautiful scenery all around, which you get to see so much better from the vantage point of sitting higher up in an RV. A more conservative pace means the driver gets to have better glimpses of this and doesn’t arrive exhausted either. Enjoy the ride!
6) Black is green and green is black
On the subject of fuel: In the US the pump colours are switched compared to Europe: petrol is the black pump and diesel is the green pump. In the Europe most RVs are diesel, while in the US and Canada they are petrol fuelled.
Take note and don’t allow for a costly mix up.
7) Have cash and save
In the US, we found, fuel stations often have a cash and a credit price for fuel. This can mean a difference of $0.1 – $0.6(!) per gallon. Also, to our utter surprise, several service stations, including seemingly international brands like Mobil, didn’t accept either our Visa debit or Mastercard credit card from the UK, Netherlands and Sweden.
Carry enough cash for at least a tank of fuel to save yourself a headache.
8) Take your maps offline
On US our roadtrip we used a combination of paper and digital maps. We had paper maps- a road atlas provided by the rental company and we picked up maps of the state and area at tourist information offices. We used the tourist maps to plan our route and make notes on.
For navigating we used Google Maps. However, one of the biggest surprises for us was how little mobile phone reception we had during our roadtrip across Southern California, Arizona and Utah. Often we’d spend days without a signal decent enough to receive data. Having Google Maps offline, ready for the segments we planned to travel was essential.
Google maps also came in handy for hikes- US trails aren’t as well marked as we’re used to, so having that little extra knowledge that you are on hiking trail (because Google does show a lot of them if you zoom in) was reassuring.
9) Stay wild
The beauty of travelling with your accommodation is that you don’t need to worry about check in and check out times, unless you’ve booked campsites. Campsites are a must every couple of days for emptying waste, refilling water and perhaps hooking up to electrics.
You can, however, stay overnight in places other than campsites, just make sure you use your on-board facilities and not the bushes, observe quiet times and, in general, don’t be a nuisance.
On Federal Land in the US, you can often overnight for up to 3 nights as long as you abide by local and seasonal rules on waste disposal and camp fires. Some supermarkets allow the use of their carparks for overnight stays (Walmart, contrary to common belief, is not one of them). As long as you don’t camp out, you can always find quiet parking spots in towns to spend a night. We spent a lovely quiet night beside a church and I was able to wake up and wander in the beautiful church yard at sunrise.
Look up boondocking for hints and tips…but always remember to stay safe and respect nature!
10) Explore and enjoy the freedom!
F R E E D O M !!!
The best thing about a roadtrip in an RV is that you can let the road take you to new places, spontaneously. You have food, drink and a place to sleep with you. This is as close to freedom as most of us come.
We’d often drive off early to our destination still in our PJs, enjoy the sunrise in the most beautiful locations (allowing the kids to go back to bed if they wanted to), before enjoying a leisurely breakfast and getting properly ready for the day.
One night, we spent in Joshua Tree NP pulled up in a parking bay star spotting, while the kids slept in the warmth of the campervan. We’d pop inside make a hot cupper and come out to enjoy the silence, the stars and the critters sneaking around us all wrapped in blankets in a camping chairs.
Imagine enjoying your freshly cooked meal with views often only afforded to the mega rich. A wonderful lunch enjoyed at the edge of the Grand Canyon, overlooking a beach or watching whale migrating north along the Californian coastline. A sunset dinner among glorious sequioia trees with a snow cover all around… that’s the sort of freedom you get, for not all that much money.
The brown signs along the road are will always fill you with a tinge of excitement… Are they going to tempt you on a little detour?
Do you have any other tips for making the most of a RV roadtrip?
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