Insider’s Guide to RV Road Tripping

Recreational vehicles sit somewhere between hotels and tents.

The upside: RV life is autonomous—your quarters travel with you—and allows for spontaneous stops. But then again, RVs need loads of gas and can be tricky to park. In any case, they represent a truly unique mode of transport that’s tailor-made for road tripping.

Here’s your guide to getting started from travel writer Jeannie Ralston:

> How to Rent an RV

Most major cities in the U.S. have a local RV rental firm or a national company such as Cruise America or Road Bear RV. Choices fall generally into two tiers: bigger Class A motor homes (up to 40 feet long), which have diesel engines and look like rock-star buses, and (our choice) smaller motor homes built on automotive frames.

Our 26-footer was relatively easy to maneuver, had enough perks—refrigerator, shower, DVD player—and cost less than a Class A. We found rates running from $180 a day for our rental (which included 850 free miles a week) to $399 and up per day for a Class A motor home.

> Things to Know

Not all automobile insurers cover rented RVs; ours didn’t, so we paid $17 a day for coverage. Also, RVs gulp down gas. Our Freelander should have gotten 8 to 10 miles per gallon, but our mountainous route had us averaging 7 mpg.

On the upside, our RV came with dishes, pots, and cutlery (some companies charge extra for them), which we supplemented with our own special knives and cooking utensils. Bed linens and towels for four of us cost $30.

> Where to Hook Up

Recreational vehicles take up a lot of space and have special needs. They might seem high maintenance, but RVs are pretty easy to deal with if you pick the right places to pull off for the night.

Yellowstone National Park has more than 10 campgrounds that can accommodate RVs; 
Glacier National Park has six with hookup facilities. Note: Not all national parks in the U.S. can accommodate large RVs, so make sure to call ahead.

> Total Costs

The grand sum for our two-week rental—daily fee, insurance, extra mileage, cleaning, and taxes—was $3,650, or about $260 a day for four people. Gas was an additional $1,262.

This insider’s guide appeared alongside a feature penned by Jeannie Ralston entitled “Parks and Recreation.” Both pieces originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Traveler magazine.

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  1. Warren
    September 11, 2014, 12:05 am

    Traveling the United States in an RV is one of the best ways to view the country. If you don’t own an RV renting one is a great way to get out and enjoy the road. Peer to peer rv rentals are becoming a lot more popular these days, the largest peer to peer rental site is this is a good resource if you are looking to rent an RV from a private owner. Lots of times you can save money by renting directly from a private owner.

  2. Cité Caravane
    Québec, Canada
    May 3, 2014, 10:59 am

    Normaly, depending on family’s size. you can do arround 5 days before cleaning the toilet tank, and same using the water tank. Your propane must be good for three weeks for cooking and keeping cold your refrigerator or fot hot showers and the battery will do the rest.

    Here is a proposal price example of a RV rental for a park tour.

  3. jaime
    United States
    March 22, 2014, 1:40 pm

    Good starter list but it would be helpful to address some of the other issues first-timers may run into. Like how to hook up water/electric at camp sites, whether they should bring a generator, how to clean the toilet tank (is this necessary? how often?), common problems drivers encounter on the highways, general safety and maintenance resources.