My memories of our first RV experience include a starlit night sky, good conversation around an open fire, and multiple bottles of sparkling wine. The gathering included our daughter, her then fiancé, and her future in-laws who were wintering in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. When we reminisce about this occasion, we laugh about the number of wine bottles, each wrapped in brown paper to conceal its identity, and how in the end we all voted for the same one to be served at the wedding. I also remember the beauty of the desert and the joy of sharing it with our expanding family.
Given our lack of experience with RV travel, it’s surprising things went as well as they did. We rented a vehicle from the closest agency, loaded it up with our stuff, and blithely took off for the desert, where an ideal spot had been reserved for us. Had it been a longer trip without savvy support, things might not have gone as well.
Your New Best Friends Are Standing By
In this era of COVID-19, the popularity of RV rentals has skyrocketed. This is especially true for families wanting to maintain social distance and avoid public restrooms. In response to the number of first-time renters, additional layers of support are available.
Already a leader in customized travel, Austin Adventures’ RV service includes arranging the rental of a suitable vehicle, planning a road trip that incorporates all of your favorite activities, and making campground reservations. They love getting clients off the beaten path, and directions, maps, and anything else you request are provided on a trip app. They’ll even set you up with local guides for rafting, horseback riding, hiking, biking, and fishing.
“My wife Carol and I have had an RV for the better part of the last 25 years,” founder Dan Austin says, “and when we thought back to what tips and tricks meant the most to us, ‘Phone a Friend’ was without a doubt the number one stress reliever. Simply put, each and every guest gets assigned a 24/7 contact to reach out to for simple questions, to eliminate confusion, or just to help navigate the RV world. This has been a huge hit with our travelers.” austinadventures.com/rv-tours-by-austin-adventures
Another option, Tumbleweed Travel Co., offers pre-planned, tried-and-true itineraries in the Western United States and Canada. Founder Brooke Johnson can also create custom RV road trips, including a manageable route, the right vehicle, and recommended campsites. tumbleweedtravelco.com
RV Share, Outdoorsy, and RV Trader are good sites to find privately owned RVs to rent. These almost always have to be roundtrip. rvshare.com, outdoorsy.com, rvtrader.com
If you’re not ready to tackle a long excursion, Cruise America, Road Bear, and other big RV rental companies allow one-way rentals because they have locations across the U.S.
Super Luxe Options
Blacksford, a new RV rental company offering fully-stocked Mercedes-Benz Sprinter adventure vehicles from Winnebago, has an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles; bedding, bath, and kitchen supplies; free Wi-Fi; a free pass to national parks; and 24-hour roadside assistance. Blacksford also curates road trip experiences. Pickups can be arranged at airports in Las Vegas, Denver, and Bozeman, Montana. blacksford.com
Overseas Leisure Group has launched a collection of luxury RV excursions in vehicles ranging from compact Mercedes vans to a top-of-the-line, 45-foot converted coach that includes a “presidential suite on wheels.” An experienced driver can be provided if required. overseasleisuregroup.com
Another option if you want the scenic drive experience without doing the driving: Abercrombie & Kent’s “Tailor Made Road Trips” include a driver-guide, luxury vehicle (RV on request), and a custom itinerary. abercrombiekent.com/tours/luxury-tailor-made-travel/2020/great-american-road-trips-los-angeles-to-the-southwest
Know Your Lane
RVs vary widely, so it’s good to understand your options. Class A motorhomes are the most deluxe models and range from 29 to 45 feet long. These are probably not the best choice for first-time RV drivers. Class B motorhomes range from 18 to 24 feet long and tend to get better gas mileage, but quarters are tight. Class C motorhomes, the Goldilocks of the three, range from 30 to 33 feet long and come with an overhead cabin above the driver.
Overnight options range from “boondocking” (camping without hookups to water, electricity, or sewers) to RV resorts with swimming pools, fire pits, laundry facilities, and other amenities. Private, state, and national parks offer more alternatives. “Wallydocking” is spending the night in a Walmart parking lot when weather or other unforeseen circumstances make it impossible to get to the campground where you have a reservation. “Moochdocking,” also known as driveway surfing, refers to parking on the property of friends or family. walmartlocator.com/rv-parking-at-walmart
Whichever you choose, RVing seems tailor-made for COVID-era travel. I hope you’ll also enjoy good conversation around an open fire and your favorite beverage under a starlit night sky.
Tips for Trips
- Allstays is a good app for finding campgrounds. allstays.com
- When you pick up your rental RV, make a video of the explanation about hookups, black water, grey water, etc. It will come in handy if your mind goes blank at some remote campground.
- Maximize limited storage space by using packing cubes.
- Consider using sleeping bags instead of sheets on pull-out beds.
- Stay connected: bring a global hotspot for Wi-Fi. And because there are few electrical outlets in RVs, bring long power cords.
- Travel safely with an RV GPS that will help you stay aware of low bridges, narrow roads, weight limits, and other critical information.
- Judy Halsted’s site “Camping Tips for Everyone” is chock-a-block with good advice and a sense of humor. campingtipsforeveryone.com/category/camping-tips/rv-camping