Looking to take control over your next family vacation? Tired of cruise ship crowds and airport waits? Do you like the idea of saying goodbye to boring hotels but aren’t sure if you can get into “roughing it?” If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be ready for the ultimate in family vacations: an RV road trip.
You may have seen the “You Can Rent Me, Too” types of advertisements painted on the sides of RVs cruising down the highway. The ratio of privately owned RV versus those that are rented seems to increase in favor of rentals the further west you go. If you live on the East Coast, you may not have seen many of these vehicles on the road. Don’t let this stop you from considering an RV rental as option for that next family getaway.
Renting an RV Rocks
Home While We Roam loves the idea of more families hitting the road in a rental RV. This means more people for us to meet and more stories we get to swap with fellow campers. Just picture you and your family heading across the famous Route 66 to see Cadillac Ranch on your way to Santa Fe. Or maybe you pick up your rented rig in Vegas and drive to the Grand Canyon. RVs are adventure-creating machines, and renting one instead of choosing another hotel room is something you and your family will always remember.
Let’s tackle some common rental questions.
Where can I rent an RV?
Fortunately, there are many services available. A quick Google search will return more than 450 national RV dealerships and rental chain outlets that offer new and safe vehicles for rent. Cruise America Rentals is the nation’s largest rental company. The company reports more than 100 rental centers throughout the United States and Canada. When we’re on the road and we see a rental RV, 99 percent of the time it’s from Cruise America.
An alternative to the traditional rental model is available through RVshare.com. This network of 60,000 RV owners rents out their vehicles to fellow travel enthusiasts, providing an inventory of everything from travel trailers to luxury motorhomes. The peer-to-peer service rents recreational vehicles across North America, and the simple search function on the RVshare.com site makes it easy to find the RVs you want by city and state. Some renters provide RV delivery, eliminating the hassle of traveling to an RV dealership.
The service works both ways. RV owners can sign up with the service to rent out their own RVs, defraying some of the costs of ownership. The business takes advantage of the fact that most family RVs sit idle for approximately 90 percent of the year, constituting a huge pool of potential RV rentals.
What type of RV should I rent?
There are three types of RVs that renters generally offer: Class A and Class C motorhomes, and travel trailers. You should pick based on how large a rig you might need for your family and where you plan to go. Check out this quick summary of RV types:
Travel Trailer: If you have a standard pickup truck, you can consider renting a trailer. In our experience, a camping trailer offers a lot of flexibility. These vehicles can be easier to maneuver into campsites. After setting up camp and unhitching, you can use your tow vehicle to explore the local areas. Remember that pulling a trailer can seem a bit daunting, so if you’re not ready to tow a loaded trailer behind you or you don’t already own a pickup truck that’s equipped to handle the weight of the trailer you have in mind, we’d recommend you focus on a Class A or a Class C.
Class A Motorhome: This is an all-in-one home on wheels. These vehicles are large and boxy, with huge windshields and space for a large family and plenty of lounge areas. Often, these rigs will have two bathrooms, multiple TVs, a full kitchen and lots of bells and whistles.
Class B Motorhome: From the outside, the Class B looks very much like an oversized van. This class is often referred to as the camper van. New Class B vans are easy to park, get better gas mileage than many other RVs, and can easily tow small boats or toy haulers.
Class C Motorhome: This rig is what we’ve seen most often as a rental choice. Sizewise, they’re significantly smaller than Class A motorhomes and are typically built on a full-size van or truck chassis. Often the dinette converts into a bed for extra sleeping space. You’ll find that they have just enough space for your family along with all the amenities you will need, like a full kitchen and full bathroom. The handy over-the-cab feature also serves as sleeping quarters.
Home While We Roam Tip: If you plan to stay in a national park campground, keep your rig at or under 27 feet. Many of these campgrounds were built decades before larger rigs were hitting the road, and most have limited camping options for rigs longer than 30 feet.
Can anyone drive an RV?
Many people shy away from renting RVs because they assume that a special license is required to operate vehicles of this size. Fortunately, you don’t need a special license or certification to drive a rental RV. This means that you’re qualified to operate a rental RV if you know how to operate a regular automobile. Of course, you must possess a valid and current motor vehicle license before you can take the wheel of a rented RV. And you should be mindful of the bigger size of the vehicle you’re driving.
When it comes to towing, here are three areas where a little practice goes a long way.
- Hitching up and unhitching
- Towing a large trailer
- Backing up a trailer
Hitching up your trailer: Take your time hitching up. Make sure you understand how every part of the towing system works. This will save you time and maybe spare you from pinching a finger. Unhitching is simpler because for the most part you just reverse what you did to hitch up.
Towing a large trailer behind you: Slow and steady, as they say. We have avoided many accidents in our travels because we drive the speed limit, and often just a bit under. The right lane is your best friend. Let those vehicles pass you safely. Remember, road trips are about the journey as well as the destination.
Backing it up: Ok, you got us. This one does take some practice, but once you get it, it is really pretty easy. Our number one rule is, work together! The key for the Home While We Roam crew is to work as a team and communicate. Everyone has a job, and everyone keeps their cool during backup. We actually use a cell phone or walkie talkie (if we don’t have cell coverage). One of us is always in the back, giving the directions as a spotter. As the driver, the job is to listen to that backup spotter. Taking this approach makes backing up easy and routine, which will build confidence and allow you to squeeze that trailer into the tightest of spots.
Check out Trailer Life’s tow guides for safe towing tips, hitching basics and vehicle tow limits.
What about insurance?
All RV rental companies require customers to have full coverage. It’s important to check with your auto insurance carrier to verify that your coverage extends to a rental RV. Most RV rental dealers will automatically include insurance in your contract or have it available for purchase.
Home While We Roam Tip: Fuel mileage. It is important to understand what kind of expenses you will be looking at to plan and budget for your trip. However, our advice is once you figure this out, stop worrying about fuel mileage. You just aren’t going to get efficient mileage. To help with the increased fuel costs, we recommend using an app like Gas Buddy to locate the cheapest gas and diesel prices along your route.
How do I find campsites?
Whether you are interested in traveling to the desert, the beach or anywhere in between, it is a good idea to know exactly where you plan to stay before renting an RV. This will help you when deciding what type or size rental is right for you. For example, if you are heading to a national park like Mesa Verde in Colorado, you probably would have figured out that the campsites can be on the smaller side and you need a smaller rig. However, if you are staying in one of the big RV parks outside of Yellowstone, you may find more spacious campsite options, and so you can pick a much bigger rig.
Home While We Roam Tip: On the Good Sam website, use the Find RV Parks & Campgrounds feature to get detailed information about RV parks by name or location. If you prefer hard copy, the Good Sam Guide Series features detailed campground listings across North America, along with maps indicating RV park locations and articles about RV tips and destinations. For help with planning your travel itinerary, check out Good Sam’s Trip Planner or Good Sam Camping App. These tools help you find RV parks along with attractions, services and affiliated Camping World, Gander Outdoors and Overton’s stores along the way. Also included are Pilot Flying J travel center locations.
What should we pack?
When you rent an RV, many of your camping essentials come with it. However, each model comes with different amenities, so be sure to check with the rental company. In general, here are some items you won’t want to forget:
- Outdoor cooking equipment (grill or griddle)
- Lounge chairs
- Bug repellant and/or citronella candles
- Outdoor games and/or sporting equipment
- Lantern and flashlights (with extra batteries)
- Outdoor rug for getting in and out of the RV (helps keep everything clean)
- Firewood (most campgrounds sell firewood)
- Outdoor cooler
- Laundry supplies (if you have access to facilities)
- Cleaning items (kitchen and bathroom cleaner)
- Extra toilet paper (only use RV-grade TP to avoid plumbing issues)
- Bath towels
- Shower shoes or sandals
Consult Good Sam’s RV Travel Checklist for a more detailed list of items to bring. Enjoying both the journey and the destination with your family is something you can’t find in every vacation, and with a rental RV you get the best of all worlds. You get to see all the sights you’ve dreamed of, and you get to enjoy the comforts of a big RV, without committing to the responsibilities and costs that come with purchasing an RV. We hope these tips help make your next RV trip a fun and stress-free adventure, and we hope to see you on the road!
Home While We Roam is an Atlanta, Georgia-based family who love RV life. They’ve traveled more than 15,000 miles around the United States with their Red Winnebago Minnie Plus travel trailer in search of simpler living, deeper family ties and epic adventures! Find them on Instagram @homewhileweroam.