Road trip planning is quite different when you’re traveling in an RV, whether it is a rental or one you’ve recently purchased (and haven’t taken on its maiden voyage yet). You need to figure out how to handle it on the road, what the campground situation is, or you’re even trying to decide what size RV to rent or buy.
There are articles on the web that go into the pros and cons of RV ownership/rentals, but I really don’t see the point. The pros and cons seem pretty obvious (tons of savings and easy camping versus easier driving/maneuvering and less worries about the price of gas) and you’ve probably already weighed it out and made your decision. What you really need is some help with road trip planning!
RV Road Trip Planning – Step One
If you don’t have your RV parked in your driveway right now, you’re probably thinking about what size rig you want. Here are some points about each end of the spectrum:
- The larger your RV, the more difficulty you will have maneuvering it. Watch trucks next time you’re out on the road as they take wide turns and rarely back up – that’s going to be you. All RV’s have clearance issues about height, but width and length start to come into play in your road trip planning as you get into larger rigs, creating situations where you can’t go where you want to go sometimes because the road or tunnel or even bridge won’t be able to accommodate you.
- Larger also means more room inside and more amenities like a full kitchen and a larger bathroom. More storage space! Larger/more beds! The bigger the group or family staying in the RV, the more you’ll need to prioritize having enough space for all of you over ease of driving/places that you can go.
- The bigger your rig, the fewer campgrounds you’ll have to choose from. Older campgrounds were built for the smaller models of yesteryear, not for your movable house, so you’ll have to do more preemptive road trip planning to ensure that you have a place to stay/camp every night of your trip. Smaller rigs will have a lot more flexibility.
- High gas prices will hit you hard (as you would guess).
- Smaller will mean that you’ll have a somewhat easier time driving. If you’re not good at maneuvering a car (for instance, you avoid parallel parking like the plague) a smaller RV is probably the way to go. Also, you can go where the larger rigs can’t and have a lot more freedom as a result.
- Freedom is a biggie! Not only can you explore more in a smaller rig, but you’ll also have your pick of campgrounds.
- A smaller RV is a good choice for a couple or a single person who can handle having less space and would prefer more freedom on the road.
- Cost – not only will the price of gas be less of a huge issue (though still nothing to sneeze at), the cost of purchasing a smaller RV and maintaining it will also be reduced. Like a house or anything in life, the more stuff you have, the more it costs to maintain (that’s why I’ll probably never own a beach house, even though I’ve always dreamed of one). Add to that the fact that you can pick and choose your campgrounds when you’re road trip planning (that means in terms of price, too), you can add savings on campgrounds to your bottom line.
If you haven’t purchased your RV already, it’s a good idea to start by renting one that you think will be a good fit. Two well-regarded RV rental companies are El Monte RV Rentals and Cruise America. There’s nothing like actually driving day after day on a road trip to really get a feel for whether that particular RV is what you wanted. Test driving it off of a lot and reading articles/advice is just a starting point. Remember, this will be your home on the road! What matters most is what works for you, not what works for other people.
RV Road Trip Planning – Step Two
On the Road Again…
Learning how to drive an RV is an art, or at the very least, a very special skill. Unless you’re a truck driver for a living, your best bet is to get some intensive training either through your vendor, a book, or a video/DVD.
To get you started, here are some very general road trip planning tips on driving and maneuvering an RV:
- Know your RV’s clearance before you go. That way you’ll be able to know where you can, and can’t, drive.
- Before you turn the key in the ignition, do two things. One, make sure to secure loose items and drawers/cupboards so you don’t have a disaster area in the making. Two, double-check the area around your parked rig – someone may have parked in a bad spot close to you, there may be children playing nearby, etc. and you want to know about all of those hazards before getting behind the wheel. Never rely purely on your mirrors before starting to drive your RV.
- Once you’re on the road, take it slower and more carefully. You won’t be able to stop easily as you would in a car, so give other vehicles plenty of space in front of you and watch out for erratic drivers who may cut in front of you.
- Take all corners, no matter how small or large your RV is, a little wider. Think about how a truck maneuvers around a corner.
- No matter how much you like rock and roll, you’ll be rockin’ in the breeze whenever a large truck flies past you on the highway and will need to hold firm on the wheel to maintain your course.
- Never swerve to avoid something in the road; you can easily lose control of an RV. Either hit it or try to slow down and stop (if it’s safe to do so).
- Pull through in all parking spaces – parking farther away if necessary. It’s very hard to back up an RV safely and your best plan is to avoid it as much as possible.
RV Road Trip Planning – Step Three
The size of your RV will determine how much road trip planning you’ll have to do before you go. If you have a larger rig, there will be fewer campgrounds available to you and you’ll need to scout out which ones you want to spend time in.
Being a planner, I always make reservations, but for those of you who want to travel without a plan, it’s a good idea to create some kind of list of campgrounds to consult and call when you’re ready to camp. There are tons of choices in terms of campgrounds including national parks, U.S. public parks, private campgrounds, and KOA.
Summer is primetime in campgrounds all over the US – if you’re not making reservations, you may not find a place for the night. The same is true of popular leaf-peeping places (like Vermont) in the fall. Worst case scenario? Dry-camping!
Many people say that dry-camping is the reason they got an RV in the first place – that they don’t need a reservation and can just park anywhere for the night (a parking lot or a truck stop). That’s true to a point, but you still need to observe dry-camping (also known as “boondocking”) etiquette:
- Always ask the manager of the truck stop or store for permission. Buy something there as a gesture of goodwill.
- Don’t get too comfy – bringing out your grill and patio furniture sends the wrong message.
- Stay away from where the truckers park – as far out of the way as you can to not cause problems.
- Never stay for more than one night and don’t make a mess/leave garbage.
For more information, an outstanding and complete online RV resource is www.hitchupandgo.com – it has not only links to everything an RV lover needs, it also has RV blogs where you can connect with other RVer’s as well as informative definitions and terms associated with RVing. Talk about thorough!
With these RV road trip planning tips, you’ll be on your way to a great road trip and ready to start enjoying the RV lifestyle!