In these days of social distancing, an RV is the ideal way to see the country and cure cabin fever. Here’s what to know before you hit the road — safely and responsibly. 

The road trip is the quintessential American experience. It conjures up notions of romance and adventure, family vacations and new beginnings. Terms like hot rod, road warrior and Sunday drive owe their existence to our automotive culture. So does recreational vehicle.

In talking about his beloved Route 66, award-winning author and historian Michael Wallis has said, “The journey is part of the vacation experience.” In our fast-paced and overly rushed society, speed seems to count most. We rush along the super-slab interstates, or simply fly over them, and pass by all the small and large towns to get between Point A and Point B. In doing so, we miss most of the fabric of America.

While our faster forms of travel can allow us to spend precious time at cherished destinations, sometimes it’s nice to slow down and see this land from sea to shining sea. Wallis tells Route 66 travelers to “take in spoonfuls of the Mother Road.” Even if a tour of Route 66 is not on your radar, there are great roads, grand cities and towns, magnificent vistas and exciting destinations that are but a road trip away. Take in spoonfuls of America from the comfort of your RV.

Illustration of vehicle towing tiny camping trailer on Route 66
Illustrations: VectorPocket/Getty Images

What Is a Road Trip for You?

The great thing about road trips is that they’re whatever you want them to be. For some, it might be an epic drive through the Rocky Mountains. For others it’s a scenic tour of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Nevada’s Canyon Country or Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim Highway. Road trips can have destinations or just be a chance to get out and away.

Take the Road Trip to the Next Level

What could be better than taking a road trip? How about doing so with the comforts of home right along with you? That’s right: The RV you own — or are thinking about purchasing — is the ultimate road-trip accessory, adding a galley, bathroom and clean, comfortable sleeping arrangements to the spontaneity of a road trip.

Using your RV for even brief road trips adds comfort and convenience, and the more you use it, the greater its value as an investment.

Be Ready to Roll

To be able to hit the road whenever you get the urge, make sure to have your RV ready to roll at a moment’s notice, any time of the year. If you’re fortunate enough to store your rig at home, keep it plugged in, fueled and charged up. Where appropriate, keep your freshwater tank filled about a third of the way and your black and gray holding tanks empty.

Illustration of car and trailer on road with moon, stars and mountains.

Keep enough clothes in the rig to get you through a couple of days in various weather conditions. Keep the fridge on and some essentials stocked in the rig, which you can add to just before leaving or with a quick trip to the store.

Think of each trip as a three-part process: Ready, Use and Recycle. Longer trips take more time and effort to plan than short trips, naturally, but if you work on the idea that you’re keeping your RV ready to roll, the Recycle time and effort are minimal. If you “police” your home-on-wheels as you go, by cleaning up after meals and dumping tanks as needed, there will be just a modest amount of cleanup when you return home. Plug the RV in, and it’ll be ready to go!

Plan your Trip? Not Necessarily!

One of the things we love is getting in the rig and then deciding which direction to drive, finding great things along the way. Many campgrounds can take a last-minute unannounced arrival, particularly during nonpeak times, but if no sites are available, there are alternatives for getting sleep, like a rest stop at a Flying J travel plaza. If you keep your rig ready to roll, you can head out at about a moment’s notice.

Of course, that strategy isn’t for everyone. If you prefer to plan your trip, go for it. Maybe you’re looking to tour the national parks of the Canadian Rockies or the beaches of California’s central coast. There are lots of resources for planning your RV itinerary, including the Good Sam Guide Series and online trip planning for members on the Good Sam website. The Good Sam website can also help you find open Good Sam Parks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Illustration of road with snowy mountainsThink Your RV Is Too Big for Road Trips?

Nonsense! However, the bigger the RV, the more planning you’ll need to do for your trip. In some parts of the country, like New England, many low bridges could be an issue for larger RVs. Cities and towns often won’t have RV parking within city limits, but there are plenty of work-arounds for this too. You might be able to park for the day at a local campground, Walmart, Pilot Flying J (RV parking reservations are available at some locations), Camping World, Gander RV & Outdoors or other large stores (always ask first and support the store).

Then take your towed/tow vehicle, Uber, Lyft or public transportation to the in-town location you wish to visit. Many tourist destinations have big-rig and bus parking, so check ahead to see what’s available.

What RV Is Best for Road Trips?

Really, it’s up to you, but here are some considerations:

  • Where are your travels most likely to take you? If your RV trips are more tours of towns and shops, then smaller and nimbler is better. However, longer trips and more people means a bigger rig is better.
  • How long will your trips be? This is a matter of comfort on longer trips, but the RV should fit into the kind of travel you’re looking to do most often.
  • Fuel economy is one consideration. The biggest custom motorcoach gets 6 miles per gallon, and the nimblest vehicle towing a tiny trailer is probably around 20 mpg, with an average of 13 mpg. Remember, you have your own facilities, and in the age of COVID-19, that’s worth the investment, not to mention the savings on airfare, restaurants and lodgings.

Illustration of road with mountains and pink skyThe Coronavirus Factor

Travel experts point out that social distancing, combined with low fuel costs and extreme cabin fever, will propel people to take more road trips, particularly in RVs. Because there may still be some interaction with people at public places, RVers need to adjust to the “new normal” to reduce the risks of getting or spreading the virus:

  • Have a plan in place to inhibit cross-contamination.
  • Make sure everyone on the trip has a couple of masks along with gloves, soap, sanitizer and sanitizer wipes.
  • After shopping, discard packaging outside the RV and clean items being brought inside.
  • Keep the RV’s interior fastidiously clean.
  • Clothing and other items that may be contaminated should be isolated outside or in an exterior compartment of the RV, according to health guidelines.
  • Disinfectant cleaning wipes like Clorox and Lysol are effective and easy to use during a road trip.

Before you head out, it’s a good idea to check on COVID-19 restrictions at your campground destinations by going to the park websites or calling directly. For the latest advice on COVID-19 protection, visit the CDC website.

RVs make a road trip an experience you’ll remember for a lifetime, so jump in the RV and see the country!

Illustration of round tunnel on mountain road.


Chris DoughertyChris-Dougherty-headshot is technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome. Chris is an RVDA/RVIA certified technician and a lifelong RVer, including 10 years living full time in an RV. He and his wife make their home in Massachusetts and hit the road in their heavy-duty truck towing their travel trailer every chance they get.


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