Are you in the beginning phases of RV trip planning? There are a lot of different things to factor in as you decide where to travel, the possible need of finding an RV, and what to do along the way. If this is your first time planning an RV trip, make sure to make your plan well in advance so you have time to wrinkle out any possible issues. There are a lot of different resources available to help with your RV itinerary as well as different tips and tricks to have a great RV trip.
When we were planning our first extended RV trip, we wondered if it is it cheaper to RV or stay in hotels. The main things to consider when calculating the different between traveling in an RV or staying in hotels is comparing the costs between vehicle rental costs/monthly payments on the RV, fuel costs, food and lodging costs.
We are Full-Time RVers so we do not have to factor in the cost of renting an RV. Renting an RV can be very expensive. We had towed a car behind our 5th wheel so when out exploring we could keep the costs of fuel down. However, since selling our car we’ve decreased our expenses because now we don’t have a loan to pay on. So if you tow a car behind your RV you will need to factor that in as well.
In general, campsites are a lot less expensive than staying in a hotel. This is especially true if you take advantage of boondocking, staying in places that allow free RV parking.
If you are traveling in an RV through an area, there are some places like Walmart, Cracker Barrel and Cabelas that allow free overnight parking. Just make sure to check with each individual store on their policies. Campsites with water, sewer and electric hookups are more expensive but are still usually less expensive than a hotel.
When it comes to fuel costs, driving in an RV or towing a RV is more expensive than driving in a passenger vehicle. Keep in mind the distance and how fast your driving will have a big impact in your fuel budget.
One important thing you need to decide is if you will be going on your road trip in an RV or passenger vehicle. We prefer to travel in our RV but time limitations are important to take into consideration. We have found that we can travel more and spend less in our RV.
Staying at campgrounds is less expensive and it is more convenient to have all your stuff in one place. You do not have to pack up a suitcase every time you move.
We also spend less money on food on our road trips if we have our RV. RV meal planning is much easier than trying to find food to cook out of hotel rooms and definitely less expensive than eating out. We love to check out locally owned restaurants but we also love cooking our meals in our (home) RV.
HOW DO I PLAN AN RV TRIP?
There are a lot of things to consider when planning the dates for your RV trip and where you will go. Are there timely events you want to go to? If so, you will need to plan your trip around that. If not, it is a great time to look at your destination bucket list. It is also important to consider the weather where you will be.
SET A BUDGET
I put this first on the list because it will dictate your overall trip. Setting a budget will determine how far you can drive, your nightly budget for accommodations and activities. Of course boondocking is much less expensive but we also use several apps from our phones to find more affordable options while traveling. Recreation.gov, Campendium, Harvest Hosts, RV Parky are just a few we use. Also, I have the Love’s app on our phone so we can not only look for fuel is stations that are RV friendly but you can also boondock with the semis. But, keep in mind you do not want to take up an area that needs to be used by the semi drivers. What I mean by this is if the truck stop is full and only 1 spot left, drive a bit farther to find a different location. OR, do not take up more than 1 site by extending your slides into another site. Please only take up one spot and leave it cleaner than what you found it. “The Girl Scout Way”
HOW LONG YOU HAVE FOR YOUR TRIP
Next, determine how many days you have for your RV trip. If you are scheduling around work vacation days, you probably will have a shorter trip than if you are working from the road. Deciding how many days in your RV itinerary will help you determine how long you want to spend driving and spending it your destinations. Tips: When traveling with your RV just plan on 2 hours over your drive time. Please drive at a speed that is safe for you and your RV. Don’t dry tired. When you are drowsy, reaction time slows, judgment is impaired, and the risk of a crash increases.
GET AN RV IF YOU DO NOT ALREADY HAVE ONE
We borrowed my parents RV before we purchased our own. Rentals can be expensive, so we decided to TRY IT OUT by borrowing my parents. It was a great way to find out if the RVlife is for you and how you want to travel. RV ownerships does have its expenses but we found it to be much less. Although the RVlifestyle can be challenging at times, we found it much for rewarding.
If you don’t have the option to TRY IT OUT by borrowing someone else’s RV, there are a lot of different places to rent an RV. There are companies you can rent from as well as platforms like AirBNB but for RVs.
Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer RV rental company with 40,000 vehicles listed. RVShare is another peer-to-peer rental site for RVs. These sites work like AirBNB. Prices vary by the individual listings.
The most common company to rent RVs from is CruiseAmerica. It rents Class C RVs in a variety of sizes. The RVs are pretty basic inside, but the rental fees include insurance and third-party liability. There is an additional cost for miles driven.
The average nightly cost to rent an RV is about $150 per night. Higher-end RVs and newer models will be more expensive. Make sure to see if insurance is included. Also, rentals also charge about $0.50 per mile which can add up on a long trip.
PLAN YOUR ROUTE & SET A TIMELINE
Once you have decided how long you are going to be gone, you can get started on all the fun stuff you’re going to see. You will need to determine where you are going, how long you are going to be there and what to see along the way.
I first start with the geographical area we will be covering. The geographical area could be the coastline, a state, states, or the national parks in a certain area.
From there, we decide on what we want to see in that area and how long we will be there. How long you will spend in each place depends on how much you want to see, the activities you want to participate in, and how busy you want your itinerary. Typically, a Google search can tell you what is in that area.
When planning your RV route and timeline, keep in mind the driving distance between locations. Especially in the west, things are a lot farther apart than people think. Plugging in your destinations into Google Maps is an easy way to calculate this.
It also takes time to get the RV ready to move and then getting it set back up at the new campsite. We are not a fan of showing up and getting parked in the dark. Driving around RV parks or any new town in the dark with an RV can be challenging and downright dangerous.
There are a bunch of different RV Trip Planning Apps that can help you with this or you can do it yourself. If you do not want to use an RV road trip planner, you can use Google Maps. Simply add in your destinations to help calculate drive time and the most efficient route. But please keep in mind. Using Google Maps it does not take under consideration the size, weight and height of your RV. If you solely rely on that you may get yourself into a pickle you don’t want to be in. For example, getting into an area of the city that the roads are not wide enough or over hanging tree branches can tear your roof. But on the flip side, you can use the satellite view to look over an area before during your RV into the space.
FIND A PLACE TO CAMP
If you are traveling during the summer or to a really popular destination, you will want to make reservations ahead of time. RV parks and campgrounds do fill up, especially if they are less expensive. State parks and national parks fill up months in advance.
We have always been able to find a spot but if we are making a last-minute reservation, but you can find ourselves at the most expensive RV park OR a not so favorable place.