RV Vacations For Dummies
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If you're planning to buy or rent an RV, congratulations! You're about to embark upon a wonderful way of vacationing. Before you start looking for your RV, here are ten important considerations to ponder.

Also, this Cheat Sheet includes information about toll roads, toll ways, and turnpikes, and other tips for enjoying your RV adventure.

10 questions to ask when selecting an RV

Types and classes of recreational vehicles (RVs), towing requirements, and other equipment needs are important considerations for achieving a great RVing experience.

Here are ten questions you need to answer to narrow down your choices so you can match an RV setup to your lifestyle and needs.

Do I already have part of an RV unit in my driveway?

If you have a pickup truck, depending on its size, you can already handle a travel trailer, truck camper, or maybe even a fifth-wheel. Most SUVs and crossovers can pull a small travel trailer or popup camping trailer.

How many people does the RV need to accommodate on a routine trip?

You find a big difference between a salesperson’s estimate of how many people a vehicle can sleep, versus the reality of the number of adults and kids the unit can comfortably accommodate.

Some people hate making a bed out of a sofa or dinette table night after night during a vacation and breaking it down in the morning. Others don’t want someone climbing over them in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

How will I be using the vehicle?

People who like to stay in one place — say, a high-end RV resort with swimming pools and a golf course — want a more luxurious vehicle than campers who want to set out for the peaceful woods in a national park or forest.

Travelers who dream of stopping at a different campground every night while touring a large region may want ease of setting up camp. Boondockers who want to hunker down off the grid without any hookups for a while need to look for greater capacity in freshwater storage and wastewater holding tanks, and electrical options such as onboard generators or solar panels.

Do I want generous living space or flexible handling, parking, and roadway options?

When you’re deciding on vehicle size, as little as 1 foot in length or 4 inches in width can make a tremendous difference in the long run. Spend plenty of time mentally moving around in the rig’s floor plan or even physically moving around in the vehicle at a dealer or an RV show to assess its livability.

And consider your commitment to learning to drive a vehicle that’s probably larger than you’re used to. Know your size requirements before setting out to look at vehicles, especially if you’re considering a motorhome.

How important is my personal privacy?

Some RVs offer more solid-door privacy areas than others. In particular, the shower and toilet facilities in folding camper trailers or Class B van campers (when they exist at all) may offer minimal privacy, while travel trailers, fifth-wheels, motorhomes, and some truck campers situate those facilities in completely closed-off areas.

Sleeping quarters in many folding camper trailers, truck campers, and even mini-motorhomes may be wide open or shielded with curtains rather than doors.

If you and your passengers aren’t very intimate acquaintances before you take off for vacation, in a smaller trailer or Class B motorhome, you’ll doubtless become best friends after a few days on the road sharing such tight quarters. The plus side is, they’re great for honeymooners.

What kind of fuel do I want the vehicle to burn?

Gasoline is ubiquitous — it’s available almost everywhere — and diesel fuel prices have been substantially higher than gasoline for several years. Diesel engines cost more on initial purchase but less in the long run to operate than gasoline engines. But some people complain about the high cost of oil changes and other maintenance for diesel engines.

On the other hand, diesel engines are generally superior to gasoline engines when it comes to sheer hauling power because they generate more torque. Diesel engines often seem quieter in the RV cockpit than gasoline engines do because they’re positioned in the rear end of many Class A motorhomes.

But many people don’t like the pervasive smell of diesel fuel, and most campground neighbors dislike listening to a Class A’s diesel engine warming up for a half hour before departure while diesel exhaust drifts through their screen door.

If you’re wondering about using an electric vehicle (EV) as a tow vehicle — especially any of the EV pickup trucks that came onto the market in 2022 — we can’t really recommend one at the time of this writing, because towing a trailer of any size cuts almost two-thirds of your battery capacity and range.

Will I be happy with a standard model, or do I want some bells and whistles?

Every year, manufacturers come up with new toys and gimmicks for today’s younger market. High-tech elements — like onboard cellular Wi-Fi routers, computer stations, satellite dishes, electronic navigation  systems, and smartphone remote controls to deploy the awning and turn on your air conditioner before you get back to camp — have joined rear-view backup cameras and slideouts as common optional equipment.

Lots of accessories add to the overall cost (obviously!), but if they improve your enjoyment of the RV experience, then you should consider the expense as you decide what you want and what you’re willing to spend.

How often will I really use an RV?

Some RV owners in cold climates have to winterize and store their rigs for months at a time, while others use theirs year-round, either driving south for the winter, going skiing or winter camping, or just spending time in or near milder climates.

If you think you’ll use your RV only once a year for a two-week family vacation, renting an RV will be much cheaper than buying one.

Where will I store my RV?

City dwellers (like us) must rent storage space elsewhere for our vehicles. Suburbanites can face parking and homeowner association regulations that forbid keeping an RV in their driveway or on the street in front of their house.

If you have a large garage, you may consider a folding camper trailer, smaller teardrop, truck camper, or telescoping travel trailer that’s compact enough to store inside. If you like to visit the same park or campground year after year, you may want to store the vehicle permanently at your vacation spot.

If you’ve got empty land and money burning a hole in your pocket, you may even consider investing in an oversize carport or building a storage garage for your rig.

How much money can I afford to spend?

Budget-conscious travelers and young families often begin by buying an entry-level RV in whichever category they want. With sticker shock being a strong factor these days, more and more manufacturers are offering lower-priced models in all categories.

However, three years of COVID restrictions and supply chain shortages, combined with record-setting RV sales and a national scarcity of qualified RV service technicians, have created havoc in the RV marketplace. Add post-pandemic inflation to the mix and RV prices are higher than ever.

Bargain hunters should be aware that RV owners often have a wandering eye and go out hunting for larger, newer models. In snowbird destinations like Arizona, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and South Texas, the used RV market can be cheaper and more bountiful because retirees arrive and trade up, or sell their rigs and move into brick-and-mortar homes.

It’s worth looking for deals in these areas. And remember that, in many cases, interest paid on a loan to purchase an RV may be tax-deductible as is a mortgage on a second home.

Exploring every single mile of Route 66

After an initial Route 66 trip, you may find that you’ve been bitten by the double-six bug, and you want to find even more about and along the old Mother Road.

But the original Route 66 was realigned several times before it was decommissioned, and some parts are confusing and almost impossible to find, as well as to drive.

Tons of websites out there track every single foot of Route 66, making it easier not to get lost. Still, we’re big fans of a little spiral-bound book called EZ66 Guide for Travelers, by Jerry McClanahan. We’ve got a whole shelf of books on Route 66, but this is the one we’re never without, widely conceded to be the very best book on the subject.

The pages are heavy, nearly like cards, and each one contains maps and info for each section of road. It’s even easier to use than to explain, and faster than any phone app. The author lives in Chandler, Oklahoma, and knows the subject better than anyone living. He also gives updates at his website, for the latest info.

Toll roads, toll ways, and turnpikes

Wait, you have to PAY MONEY to drive on this interstate?! What’s up with THAT?” Lots of people don’t know that tolls exist because they’ve never encountered them.

Toll roads, toll ways, and turnpikes (including tunnels and bridges) are often built and maintained — not with tax money from state or federal departments of transportation — but through usage tolls paid by the drivers who actually use them.

If you have a motorhome or are towing a trailer, toll roads will charge you a higher toll than a car normally pays. Toll prices can vary wildly across the country and are usually dependent on whether you have a car or truck, and how many axles are under your vehicle(s) with any trailer attached to it.

Toll roads vary, but most are designed with very few exits over long distances. Instead of truck stops and fast food restaurants sprouting at every exit, toll roads often have a state-run service plaza or oasis placed every 50-80 miles that is set up like an elaborate rest area.

These often have one or more fast food stores, a fuel stop for gas and diesel, and a convenience market sitting just off the side of the road so you can stop and get out again quickly without having to pay an exit toll, or get lost on some frontage road or city street.

The upside is speed and convenience; the downside is that there’s no competing businesses. The state chooses the vendors, the vendors get a captive audience, and there’s no other gas station around to help keep a competitive fuel price at the pump.

You may find human toll booth attendants or automated coin baskets used to collect tolls,  but most up to date tollways now use an electronic pass that stays in your vehicle and registers electronically when you enter and leave the road.

Other systems take a snapshot of your license plate and send you a bill with a picture of your car, along with online payment instructions (don’t pay them with a picture of money — it only ticks off the bureaucrats).

10 personalities that are ideal for RVing

So, is RVing for you? See whether you fit any of these personality types for a good indication:

Garbo gourmets: Alone together, luxuriating in the best that life can offer, these epicures carry their own wines and food, sleep in their own beds, and select their own surroundings by serendipity.

Sportsmen and sportswomen: Skiers, fishermen, surfers, golfers, and mountain bikers get into the heart of the action with all the comforts of home a few steps away.

Weekenders and full-timers: The stressed-out get out of the rat race and into the countryside to leave behind the pressures of the workweek, while full-timers can chuck their houses for good and live almost anywhere they choose for a week, a month, a year, or even longer.

Families: Families think of their RVs as a budget hotel and round-the-clock self-serve restaurants. While visiting relatives and friends, RVers can take along their own beds and bathrooms.

When parked at home, RVs provide an extra guest room with a bathroom. For the kids, RVing means no more “Are we there yet?” or “I have to go potty!” or “I’m hungry!” Everything is here, and there’s room enough for the kids to bring more of their familiar stuff from home.

Ecotourists: Getting back to nature the easy way, ecotourists bird-watch at dawn and spot for wildlife at twilight. Photography and hiking lay very few burdens on Mother Earth.

Sustainability is also a big consideration these days, and RV’s are built with more lightweight mileage-friendly materials, solar panels and lithium batteries, high-efficiency appliances, and smart water-use fixtures than ever before.

Ultimate shoppers: Hitting all the antiques shops, all the estate sales, and the world’s biggest swap meets, shoppers enjoy comfort and style with room to take home all their treasures in the RV.

Pet lovers: Taking Fifi and Fido along for the ride and enjoying their company, animal lovers avoid facing rebellious and destructive pets after a spell of boarding them in a kennel. Many pets love a change in scenery as much as people do, and they seem to enjoy RVing as much as their owners.

Travelers with disabilities: A customized RV can open up the world with familiar and accessible surroundings. Some motorhome manufacturers are starting to offer more handicapped-accessible options on their coaches.

Special-events attendees: Tailgating for a football game or hitting a jazz or arts festival on the spur of the moment, RVing fans sidestep overbooked hotels and restaurants and can invite friends for a meal.

Remote workers and students: The Internet enables people to work or attend classes on the road from almost anywhere, and RVing helps them see the country while they do it.

Chase better weather, visit cultural or historical places, break for lunch by the beach or a mountain stream — all things you can’t do from a third-floor apartment or an office cubicle.


About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Christopher Hodapp and Alice Von Kannon are a husband-and-wife team who’ve had a lifelong love affair with the RV lifestyle. Alice grew up with travel trailers, and Chris traveled and worked out of a motorhome for many years as a commercial filmmaker. Veteran RVers, they’ve explored 44 of the 50 U.S. states so far, staying in literally hundreds of campgrounds and parks.

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