From Gene Autry to Bugs Bunny, chances are good that you’ve heard someone famous croon out the chorus to the classic Western folk song “Home on the Range.” What those balladeers never realized, however, is just how at home you can actually be on the range—or in the mountains or at the beach—when you travel by motorhome. If you don’t happen to own one of these vacation-condos- on-wheels, don’t despair; a quick Internet search will reveal dozens of RV rental firms that stand ready to make your dream trip a reality.
As with any novel undertaking, however, it helps to get advice from someone who’s been there and done that. With that premise in mind, here’s a quick primer on RVing vacations.
Motorhome travel allows you to explore with all the comforts of home. RVing also makes it possible to enjoy all the things you miss about camping—roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire or gazing up at a star-filled sky—without having to rough it in a tent.
Bang for the Buck
Renting a motorhome can be a good value when compared to the total cost of a cruise or even flying the family somewhere and then paying for a hotel room or two. But be aware that RV rental companies typically charge a small fee per mile driven as well as for such things as generator use and add-ons, including “housekeeping kits” with pots/pans, dishes, utensils, and the like. Even so, renting is still a good way to take the RV lifestyle for a test drive before buying your own rig.
Many rental companies have locations across the U.S., so when you include expenses such as mileage charges and fuel costs, you may actually save money by flying to a city near your destination and picking up the RV there.
Next, decide what size RV would be best suited to your trip. Most RV rental fleets are built around the popular Class C motorhomes (easily recognizable by the sleeping loft above the van-front cab), which generally range from 21 to 35 feet in length and can sleep up to eight people. You also don’t need a special license to drive a Class C motorhome.
Reserve your unit as far in advance as possible to lock in the best rates and make sure you’re able to get the RV model you want.
Need to Know
When you arrive at the rental facility, plan on spending about an hour learning about the RV’s basic systems. A representative will walk you through your rig, explaining how everything works. Take notes, and while you’re at it, ask if the rental company has a hotline phone number you can call if you find yourself stumped on, say, how to fire up the furnace.
While a motorhome is likely to be the biggest vehicle you’ve ever driven, once you account for those larger dimensions, the experience is not unlike driving an oversized car. Take it easy while you adjust to the bigger footprint, slower acceleration, and longer braking distances, and have your co-driver act as an extra set of eyes when turning corners and backing up.
Hitting the Road
Start each travel day by ensuring that everything outside the rig is squared away, including disconnecting electrical cables, fresh water lines, and sewage hoses as well as stowing rooftop TV antennas. Then go through the inside of the coach to make sure the refrigerator door, drawers, and cabinets are latched and all loose items are secured.
Finally, don’t let the space and comfort of your motorhome lull you into a false sense of security. The same safety measures apply here as they do in a car, including using proper car seats for children and seatbelts for everyone else (even those sitting in back). Distracting the driver is also a big no-no.