How To Plan An RV Trip For The First Time - Updated 2021

How To Plan An RV Trip For The First Time
Joey
Joey
Updated

As we explore new ways to travel the world during the pandemic, RV rentals are slowly, but steadily, becoming a viable option amongst holiday seekers. Due to their convenience, portability, and flexibility in every stay, it is little wonder why some travelers would prefer a road trip in an RV over staying in a hotel.

RV homes can range from ones that are decked out with expensive and fully-equipped indoor facilities, to cozy and budget-friendly amenities for beginners. First-time RV renters have to keep in mind that there are several factors to consider when driving around a mobile home. It is important to think about how well-equipped an RV is, depending on the destination and the activities you would like to add to your itinerary. For a complete guide of what to do and what not to do when planning an RV trip for the first time, check out this article below!

1. Choosing the right RV for your needs

RV travel
Source: Pexels

Depending on what kind of outdoor traveler you are, the RV you choose will play a huge role in your holiday experience. There are different types of RVs, two of which include a motorhome, or one that offers a simple travel trailer. The amenities may seem to meet the same purpose, but the design, functionality, and convenience could vastly differ. When you find yourself researching on how to plan an RV road trip, knowing the three different types and its unique features may come in handy when planning an itinerary.

Class A

Class A RV
Source: Photo by Flickr user dave_7 used under CC BY 2.0

Class A is the conventional type of motorhome that is similar to a coach bus and offers the biggest space, as well as the most luxurious amenities when traveling on the road. Ideal for a family or a group of friends, it is a great option for those who plan to travel with groups for a significantly long time. However, it is a must to note that Class A is not exactly the most practical option for first-time RV renters. This type of motorhome requires mid-level skills in driving large vehicles like buses, ambulances, or trucks, which may be tricky for a newcomer when it comes down to the steering wheel.

Class B

Class B RV
Source: Photo by Flickr user peterolthof used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Class B motorhomes, commonly known as camper or sprinter vans, tend to offer more room for design and structure over luxury. Ideal for those who like to conveniently travel light but in style, this type of motorhome offers more than just the basic amenities, especially with a proper bathroom. Modern-day camper vans are also designed with many sleek interior ideas in mind and frequently incorporate smart living in every aspect of the motorhome. However, camper vans are best for only two people, which are ideal for long weekend road trips, but not suitable for month-long excursions ion the countryside.

Class C

Class C RV
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Motorhomes used under CC BY-SA 3.0

This type of motorhome showcases features that are similar to that of a truck or van. Class C motorhomes are family-friendly and meet the needs of those traveling with children as well. It can be quite generous in terms of space and is usually able to fit in multiple single beds, a dining table, and even a fully functional bathroom. Modern class C camper vans also have models that are eco-friendly and also present options that are cost-effective in terms of its fuel intake.

Travel trailer

Airstream Travel Trailers in Jackson Center, Ohio 13
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user NearEMPTiness used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Travel trailers are one of the most popular types of RVs today. As it comes in many models, sizes, and designs, you can easily find one to rent or buy that fits your needs, and of course, your budget. Known as ‘bumper-pulls’ during the 50s, a travel trailer used to be attached to the bumper of the tow vehicle. Today, it still follows the same principle, only it’s safer and more secure with specially designed hardware. You don’t even have to buy a separate and dedicated tow car. Any truck or car can haul this RV on a road trip. Generally, travel trailers can measure from 13 ft (4m) to 40 ft (12m) in length. Most models are tailored to resemble a bunk home complete with amenities, including bedrooms and a kitchen.

Fifth wheel

Jayco Eagle fifth wheel in Utah
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Flickr: j2davis2005 used under CC BY 2.0

If you need more stability and more space, fifth wheels will be the best RV choice for you. Fifth wheels or ‘fivers’ are popular for those going on longer trips. It is best known for its overhang that’s mounted to the cargo bed of the tow truck. Usually, the space within this overhang is assigned as a bedroom. Having a fifth wheel for your RV trip will guarantee you more space for storage and moving around, a higher ceiling and headroom, much more stable towing, and privacy. Once you reach a stop, you can unhitch your truck from the fifth wheel, leave it at the campsite, and go on a mini trip to sightsee or run errands. Size-wise, fifth wheels can usually sleep up to nine guests.

Truck camper

Modern Truck, Classic Camper Shell - Flickr - dave 7
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user dave_7 used under CC BY 2.0

A truck camper is a type of RV that can be mounted to and unmounted from the cargo bed of the truck, whether it is medium or large in size. These RVs have the convenience of being able to go anywhere pickup trucks can. Many people choose truck campers because of their versatility. You can go dry camping or stay off-grid longer. You can wade through dirt roads, logging roads, and even sandy beaches. Because of this, using a truck camper gives you more options on where to go, what to do, and how long for. As this RV is mounted on the truck, towing an extra vehicle is greatly possible. You can have boats, ATVs, jet skis, and even horse trailers in tow. You can also stay away for a week without hookups because these RVs can hold larger battery banks, solar panels, and generators.

Pop-up camper

JaycoPopupCamper-Backside-2009-11-12
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Korey99 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

If you don’t feel like rolling around highways in huge bulk, a pop-up camper is the right RV choice for you. Pop-ups or expandable trailers are RVs that are compact on the road but have the ability to expand and add more living space once parked. It may seem small but its expandable tent sections have the capacity to house complete motorhome amenities like a full kitchen, a bathroom with a shower and a toilet, and small dining areas. This allows you to enjoy nature and at the same time, be protected from the elements.

Recommended RV rental companies to pick from

Now that you know the different types of RV rentals to pick from, it is time to pick a place to begin your browsing. Here are some preferred RV rental companies that you should definitely check out when deciding on an RV vehicle for yourself:

RVshare Rentals

Website:

Outdoorsy Rentals

Website:

2. Be aware of additional RV fees

RV travel insurance
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mike Mozart used under CC BY 2.0

When venturing off to see new sights in your RV rental, it is best to do thorough research on how costly it might come up to be. Traveling across the country in an RV can be exciting when you’re in the planning stages, but knowing the real cost of renting one, whether it is just for the weekend or a couple of months, is essential. There are many miscellaneous RV fees that renters do not often notice because it is not always shown in the fine print.

After paying the base rent for an RV, putting down an upfront deposit is another factor to consider. Selecting the right insurance depending on the RV you rent and the destination you’re headed to is the next important step. Those who plan to go state-hopping will also have to look out for the out-of-state fees that may possibly require accompanying paperwork in some cases.

In terms of amenities, it would depend on your level of comfort and how much you are willing to spend on extra fees for more comfortable options. Some common add-ons include propane, generators, spare linens, and kitchenware for long term rentals.

3. Having the right licenses for your RV

RV licenses
Source: Photo by Flickr user NCDOTcommunications used under CC BY 2.0

When creating your itinerary, and finding the best way to map a road trip, the most important factor to consider is if you have the right licenses for traveling around in an RV, Some parts of the US are quite strict in terms of updated licenses and valid paperwork when it comes to driving an RV around their territories. In most states, a special license is not required when your RV weighs more than 26,000 pounds (11,793 kg).

Class A RVs, on the other hand, may tend to weigh more than the said weight which would require a special operational license. The best way to approach this is to double-check the licensure rules and driving requirements with each state or country before finalizing any RV rentals.

4. Planning your route for your RV trip

Plan your RV route
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Famartin used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another step to planning an RV trip for the first time is to consider the route you’ll be driving along. Driving an RV is not like driving a car, it is important to remember that RV travel is a slow and leisurely journey that will require you to choose certain overnight stops that are accessible four hours apart to ensure ample rest time.

Things to consider:

1. The height of your RV
One of the most important thing to consider when planning your route is the height of your RV. This will determine your final route, depending on whether you’re able to drive under thoroughfares, bridges, overpasses or through tunnels. The last thing you want is to get stuck and awkwardly navigate your way out of the situation, or worse, cause an accident. If you are not using pop-ups, the height of an RV generally measures between 8 ft (2.44 m) to 14 ft (4.27 m), depending on the model.

2. Road type
Another thing to consider is road type. Depending on the type of RV you have, there are certain roads that should be avoided. For instance, travel trailers drive best on regular tarmac roads while truck campers can comfortably drive off-road terrains. Check what roads drive best for your RV and plan your route accordingly.

3. Traffic
When planning your RV route, we highly recommend avoiding traffic around major cities. You don’t want to get entangled in a heavy traffic flow or cause accidents.

4. Drive during the day
Keep yourself safe and avoid driving at night. Your full attention is required when driving an RV on your first trip, and limited visibility at night paired with tiredness after a long drive could result in an accident. Drive during daylight and try to get to the campground or night’s stop before it gets dark.

5. Map out truck stops and gas stations First-timers should remember to map out truck stops and gas stations en-route between campgrounds so that you always have options of where to fill up your tank. Another tip is to also mark out rest stops that allow you to refuel your propane, as well purchase refreshments and other necessities.

For more ideas and inspiration, do check out our articles on RV routes in the US: - RV & Campervan Rentals For A Memorable Summer In The US - Updated 2021 - Best RV & Campervan Rentals For A Route 66 Road Trip - Updated 2021 - RV & Campervan Rentals For A Cross-Country Trip In The US - Updated 2021

5. Knowing what to pack for your RV trip

Backpacking gear
Source: Photo by Flickr user Marc Levin used under CC BY 2.0

One of the worse things to happen during a long RV trip is forgetting something essential. When you’re off to the wilderness, the basic necessities like food, water, and shelter are simply not enough. Essentials for RV camping trips may also include backpacking gear, first-aid kids, weather-resistant gear, torchlights, and a tool kit.

For sustenance, pre-packed meals are more advisable that stopping by restaurants or eateries. Not only is it going to save you money, but it will also help you manage your routes better. Those who must stay connected can bring a Wi-Fi hotspot or a pocket Wi-Fi to ensure that they are online at all times. Another option that luxury travelers could consider is to rent an RV that has a built-in hotspot for the Internet.

6. Booking and exploring campgrounds in your RV trip

Grand Canyon National Park Trailer Village (South Rim) 2784
Source: Photo by Flickr user Grand Canyon Nati... used under CC BY 2.0

If you’re looking to book a popular campground, be sure to do so early in advance. Peak seasons like summer and spring tend to fill out popular campgrounds very quickly. If you’re looking for a quieter RV trip, you may want to consider going off-season, when it’ll be much cheaper to rent RVs and book campgrounds.

Generally, an overnight stay at an RV campground may cost between 25 to 100 USD. The pricing usually depends on the location, size of the campground, and facilities offered. For instance, RV parks near Disneyland California may cost higher because of its ideal location. There are also some dog-friendly RV parks in the US that charge an extra fee per pet. For sites that offer electricity and water provisions, 45 USD is the usual rate.

RV camping can also incur other extra costs. Some of them include firewood which costs around 3 USD to 50 USD, propane refills at 3 to 5 USD, and water and power hookups which vary according to site. An extra unscheduled night of stay may also cost you higher-than-average charges.

First timers should also find out if their RV comes equipped with a 30 or 50 amp to park and plug themselves in the right spot. The ideal situation is to have an easily accessible adaptor to fully hook and charge up your RV, a dump station to process out your waste from your vehicle, and on-site staff to assist you and your many needs. Keep in mind that the most challenging part about setting up camp is tearing it down once more, as it will be tricky to recall every step and approach that you took in getting everything ready for the first time!

7. Other useful tips to know for your first RV trip

Rv nights
Source: Unsplash

Do your research
A little extra research will make for a smoother and better RV trip. For example, knowing the height of your RV can help you avoid routes with tunnels and bridges your RV simply would not be able to drive through.

Go sightseeing
Don’t forget to schedule in some time for sightseeing on your RV trip! Whether it be your destination or rest stop for the night, do some research about things to do in the area and include it in your itinerary. There are also some great attractions en-route too (like all the fantastic and unique stops along Route 66) so you can break up the monotony of driving from campground to campground and check out some sights along the way.

Bring your own food or buy groceries along the way
A great way to cut down on spending on an RV trip is to buy and prepare your own food. Not only is it a healthier option, it is also great for people who have allergies or intolerances so that a reaction can be avoided.

Use apps to help with your trip
Using mobile apps can immensely make your RV camping experience much easier. Gas Buddy is a free app that locates RV-friendly gas stations and tells you where the cheapest places to fill up your tank are. Another app is Copilot RV, a paid navigational app that features specific routing based on your RV, dependable offline navigation, and distraction-free guidance. For those who still need to work while on the road, WiFi Finder will be a useful app for you as it helps you locate fast WiFi wherever you are. Lastly, there’s Allstays Camp and RV App, a paid app that shows you great campgrounds, RV parks, and other services both offline and online.

8. Budgeting

Whether your RV trip is just for the weekend or for months, the smartest way to travel is by budgeting. Once you have a rough idea of what your budget is for the trip, you can keep track of expenses and avoid overspending.

There are several things to consider when budgeting, firstly, there’s the RV rental cost. Prices between RVs can vary, but roughly speaking, Class A RVs range from 175 to 275 USD per night, a Class B may cost between 100 to 200 USD per night, and a Class C goes for 150 to 200 USD per night. Cheaper options to rent are travel trailers, fifth wheels and pop-up trailers which range between 50 to 150 USD per night.

Other things to consider are campground fees (typically 25-100 USD), food supply, activities or sightseeing, gas, and insurance. The most expensive costs of an RV trip (excluding the RV rental) are food, gas, campground fees.

A green light for RV travel

RV travel has always been around, even before the pandemic. Air or sea travel may be suspended for a while, but good old-fashioned road trips are always a possibility. An RV trip with your loved ones is a great experience to embark on, especially if it is your first time. For seasoned travelers, why not change the perspective of going on a holiday by taking a road trip, rather than a plane or cruise? See the best that the great outdoors still has to offer, from the comfort of a stylish and functional RV of your choice.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

Get Trip101 in your inbox

Unsubscribe in one click. See our privacy policy for more information on how we use your data

Still Need Travel Insurance?

You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.

*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101

*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.

 Want to contribute as a Local Expert?
Good things are meant to be shared!