With road trips and getting back to nature topping the list of United States travel trends for 2020, renting an RV for vacation has stepped into the spotlight. As a bonus, RVing aids in social distancing as you roll on down the road with all the comforts of home, including a private bathroom. Whether you’re checking out state parks close to home, venturing to one of the 62 national parks around the country or snuggling up to Las Vegas, camping on a RV vacation is fun for the whole family.
Always a fan of road trips, I’ve said many times I wanted to check into an RV rental for my next vacation. Last summer I got the chance. Teaming up with Go RVing, I signed up a couple of girlfriends and started making plans for an epic road trip. It was the first time any of us had traveled in a recreational vehicle or stayed at an RV park. Admittedly, the idea of driving a vehicle roughly the size of an 18-wheeler was initially nerve-wracking. But it didn’t take long to get the hang of it and start having fun. If you’re considering renting an RV for vacation, here’s a complete guide to getting you started on your epic RV trip.
Choosing the Best RV for your Family
When renting an RV for vacation, one of the hardest decisions is choosing the best RV for your group. From pop up campers to massive motorhomes, there are plenty of types of RVs. You’ll want something with enough space to keep all your campers happy.
Here are the four basic RV types.
Class A Motorhomes: This is an all-in-one RV. It typically has a kitchen, dining area, lounge, bathroom with shower and a separate bedroom. Some Class A motorhomes have slide-outs that operate with the touch of a button to expand the interior space while you’re at the campground. These are excellent for families because of the abundant space.
Class B Motorhomes: A Class B is a full size or extended camper van with a raised roof. Smaller than the other types, these are typically outfitted with kitchen appliances along with a dinette that converts to a bed. While this would work for couples, it may be a little cramped for a family.
Class C Motorhomes: Built on a truck chassis with an extra cab extending over the driver’s compartment, Class Cs typically come with a dining area, kitchen and bathroom. Depending on its size, this type of RV could possibly have a separate bedroom. Our Minnie Winnie was a Class C, but large enough to provide a separate bedroom. It also had a slide-out to expand the living space. The area above the driver’s compartment converted to a bed as did the sofa and the dinette.
Travel Trailer: Ranging in size from 10 to 40 feet in length and sometimes called a Fifth Wheel, these RVs are pulled with a truck. Interiors vary based on size. If you’re planning to rent a travel trailer, you’ll need a vehicle capable of towing the load. And you’ll want to read these 9 tips for first-timers towing a trailer.
How Early Do I Need to Book an RV Rental?
The key to getting the RV you want is to book early. With recreational vehicles growing in popularity, there is more demand than supply. Generally, plan on booking months in advance. This is especially true if you’re planning a summer vacation or booking during the holiday season, spring break and other popular family vacation times. Booking early is also the key to saving money on the RV rental.
The hottest trend in RV rentals is the Airbnb model. Companies such as RVShare recruit RV owners who want to make money during the many months of the year when their RV is just sitting in the driveway. It’s similar to an Airbnb host who rents out the spare bedroom or summer house when they’re not in use. By bridging the gap between RV owners and RV renters, this sharing economy model expands the supply of RVs to meet the growing demand.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent an RV?
As for pricing, unfortunately, there is no set price schedule. As Kevin Broom of Go RVing explained, “The cost of an RV rental varies based on factors such as location, time of year, demand, size, amenities, etc. Someone looking to rent can expect to find a range from $80 to $250 per night, though the price could go significantly higher if you’re renting for a popular event (think Burning Man).”
Decide on the options you want and start comparison shopping. Some of the major RV rental companies are:
- RVshare, a sort of Airbnb for RVs. The company connects RV owners with people who want to rent them.
- Cruise America is an employee-owned company with 4,500 vehicles in its fleet.
- El Monte RV, which has been renting RVs for 4 decades, even offers one-way rentals.
- Outdoorsy, which will deliver a camper to the KOA or wherever you want it, so you don’t have to drive it and set it up if you don’t want to.
Go RVing partners with dealerships and manufacturers within the RV industry to promote the RV lifestyle. The association’s social media channels feature RV owners sharing their personal experiences. It doesn’t hurt to shop around for a dealership that works best for you. The more options you have to choose from, the better.
Once you’ve chosen your RV, a security deposit will be required to secure the reservation.
What Other Costs are Involved?
The basic rental price is just one expense. You may also be charged other rental fees for cancellations, use of the generator and pets. Ask about all possible extra fees before signing the rental agreement.
And then there are the operating costs.
These are big vehicles and that means it takes lots of gas to fill the tank. The model we drove averaged 8 to 9 miles per gallon. At today’s average gas prices, it would cost roughly $90 to fill the tank. Be certain to factor that into your vacation budget to avoid overspending.
Campground fees vary by size, features and the season. Generally, you can expect to pay somewhere between $25 to $85 per night. As an example, our first campground was Endless Caverns in Virginia. Rates there range from $43 to $61 depending on the season. Weekly rates range from $229 to $295. Holiday weekends typically require a 3-night minimum. However, at the Bayfront Campground in Maryland, rates for a bayfront camping spot can reach as much as $85 per night. Luxury RV parks with top amenities up the nightly and weekly rates significantly.
Do I Need Insurance for a Rented RV?
Yes. Most RV rental companies offer insurance and it may be included in the nightly rental rate. For example, Cruise America rentals include three areas of coverage beyond the minimum automobile coverage required by law:
- Supplemental Liability Insurance up to $1,000,000 for USA rentals (Not valid in Mexico)
- Responsibility of up to only $1,500 for Vehicle Loss or Damage per occurrence provided you abide by the Terms and Conditions of the Rental Agreement
- Expense reimbursement plan up to $3,000 in the event of a mechanical breakdown requiring service.
Look for insurance details in the rental agreement. When inquiring with the various rental companies you’re considering, be sure to ask about insurance provisions and options.
Packing for Your RV Vacation
Just like any camping trip, you’ll be packing basic clothes and a whole lot of extra things. Some of the things you’ll need include bed linens and pillows, towels, cleaning supplies, cooking utensils, folding chairs and a portable grill. If you’re driving to the dealership to pick up your RV, it’s no problem to bring these things along. However, if you’re flying across the country to visit the national parks, packing these items can be cumbersome.
Most RV rental companies also rent camping supplies. For a nominal fee, you can pick up a bedding and linen package, kitchen package and more. Be sure to inquire ahead of time to see what is provided in the RV and what you’ll need to supply yourself.
What to Expect When You Pick Up Your RV
Renting an RV for vacation is one thing, learning how to operate it is another. Don’t worry, the rental company will make sure you have the knowledge you need to handle the functions of the RV at the campground and on the road. At pick up, someone walks you through the features of your mobile vacation home. That will include hooking up the electricity at the campground as well as emptying the tanks. You’ll learn the difference between gray water (from the shower and kitchen) and brown water from you know where.
TravelingMomTip: Make a video recording during the instructions to help you remember everything.
Read More: 1 Simple RV Tip to Save You Embarrassment
If you’ve never driven an RV, it’s a good idea to practice in a small area before you hit the road. It’s much better to learn what it means to “allow plenty of space for a right turn” when you’re practicing in an empty parking lot than when you’re driving in the middle of a city. While I was nervous the first few minutes, it wasn’t long before I settled in and became completely comfortable driving Minnie Winnie. Practicing before I tackled the Washington DC Beltway was one of my smartest decisions ever.
Embracing the RV Life
Despite having camped only a few times in my life, embracing the RV life was effortless. While rolling down the road there’s plenty of time for road trip games. And the campgrounds were all about relaxing.
Our first RV resort was the Endless Caverns in Virginia. We spent our days swimming, sunning and hiking. Evenings were spent lighting the campfire, grilling our dinner and sipping wine long past sunset. The remaining nights were at the Bayshore Campground in Rock Hall, Maryland. Here we were treated to the sights and sounds of nature including magnificent sunsets.
And, of course, there were plenty of s’mores!