There's maybe no mode of travel I know more intimately than the long distance family road trip by RV. I spent three weeks every summer of my childhood in a motorhome with my maternal grandparents, aunt and uncle crossing every region of the continental U.S. and most Canadian provinces. What a tremendous gift I was given, experiencing the vastness, beauty, and history of North America this way! My grandfather was marvelously stoic as he navigated those long distances, and the rest of us took turns sharing the passenger seat up front with road maps and travel games, feet on the dashboard, and our boombox playing Top 40. We passed by fields, plains, forests, deserts, mountains, lakes, oceans, cities, tiny towns with names on water towers, breathtaking landscapes, and wide open spaces. We stayed in all kinds of campgrounds - splurging sometimes for one with a pool and mini-golf. My favorite was Ormond Beach, FL; parked on an oceanside bluff, its sunrises and starry night skies are still emblazoned in my memory.
The bonding we forged as a family with such incredible scenery and adventures as the backdrop shaped my future as a culturally curious world wanderer. But let's be real; close quarters with family for three weeks is a WHOLE LOT of time together, and there was bound to be squabbling - always over the pettiest of things. (Don't bring up around me or my aunt the monkey stuffed animal my uncle won at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. It started the largest fight she and I have ever had.) Each year we cheered like crazy as we returned to my grandparent's street and caught sight of their house and FREEDOM! But I wouldn't trade those RV vacations for anything. Today when I'm driving across state lines (even when alone), I say out loud "3...2...1... YAY!" as I near and pass the state Welcome sign because that's what our whole family would shout each and every time we entered a new state. The travel traditions you create as a family stay with you forever.
Are you thinking of renting an RV this year? There's a lot to consider besides where you want to go! You'll need some honest self-reflection about your family's temperament and ability to travel in close proximity for long drives. Then there's the size and comfort of the RV you're renting because they range from basic to ultra-luxe, and you can self-drive or include a private driver. (None of the RVs below require a special license to drive.) I hope you enjoy this true insider's guide for how to travel by RV!
Nine Muses Travel works with a great North American tour operator who'll:
Customize your route with RV park and hotel reservations
Stock your RV with new bedding, groceries, cooking supplies, toiletries, & more
Organize private touring with local guides
Provide 24/7 emergency concierge support for your vehicle and tours
Include all insurance and park fees
Arrange one way or round trip RV rentals
Offer self-drive or a professional driver (who sleeps in a nearby hotel at night)
Suggest a mix of hotels for nice big beds and a break if feeling too cramped
Put everything with the trip together into one package price
SAMPLE ROUTES FOR ICONIC RV TRIPS
Appalachian Trail: From Georgia to Maine, we can customize a beautiful itinerary for historic, outdoor adventures, or explore a smaller portion of the trail. Read my blog post for more trail ideas!
National Parks of California: Steer clear of Highway 1 and head east instead to Sequoia National Park, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, and Lake Tahoe.
South Dakota, Wyoming & Montana: Their remote and distant sights make a great RV trip for seeing Mt. Rushmore, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Jackson Hole.
Southwest National Parks: Drive from Phoenix to Las Vegas and visit Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Utah's Big 5 national parks.
Canadian Rockies: From Calgary to Jasper you'll have stunning outdoor mountain adventures and include visits to Banff and Lake Louise.
Colorado & New Mexico: More remote and isolated, this route is surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
Pacific Northwest: There are many national parks and recreational areas for RVs between Seattle and Bend for you to explore Olympic Mountains, Crater Lake, Mt. St. Helens, and Columbia Gorge.
Route 66: This historic, fantasy road trip spans Chicago to Santa Monica, and if that drive is too long and you have less time, I recommend starting in New Mexico and finishing in Santa Monica.
PROS TO RV TRAVEL
Long drives are made more comfortable because riders can move around and relax on couches.
You take everything with you and don't need to keep packing and unpacking.
Your family will definitely have a bonding experience.
The vehicle can be used for accommodation in national parks where there are no luxury hotels like Grand Canyon, Bryce, Redwoods, Crater Lake, and Olympic.
Travel luxe by requesting it to be stocked with sheets, toiletries, food, cooking supplies, and more!
When you opt to add your own driver, s/he handles waste hook-ups for you and can do laundry too.
The tour operator will include all the insurance and park fees for the entire itinerary.
This is an ideal way to travel for physically distancing from others while on vacation.
CONS TO RV TRAVEL
If self-driving, you handle the waste management & hook ups on your own.
A professional driver means less privacy until the driver goes to a hotel at night.
RVs can break down and have mechanical issues causing unforeseen delays.
RV parks are not usually luxurious or scenic. They are what you make of them.
RVs can be hard to drive on mountain roads, and some roads have restrictions on vehicle lengths.
Forget Alaska, where you need small planes to cover large distances.
While certainly cozy, space can feel tight when spending nights in the RV.
WHICH RV SIZE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Class A: Large and Luxe
These are the largest and most luxurious types of RVs, including rock star style motorcoaches!
30-45 feet long
Cost ranges from $8,000 - $35,000 per week (can include TOP of the line RVs, touring, hotel/resort lodgings, 24/7 support, insurance, etc.)
Many locations allow for flexibility for pick-up and drop-off.
They're great for families and groups needing up to 5 beds to sleep 4 adults and 2 kids (in bunk beds).
PROS: Satellite TV, gourmet kitchens, lots of rooms and luxurious amenities
CONS: Harder to drive (private driver recommended!), more limited areas in parks, can't tow a car
Class B: Compact Comfort
Smaller and more nimble, these include Mercedes & Winnebago models, 4x4.
12-24 feet long
Cost ranges from $4,000 - $6,000 per week (same inclusions as above)
Pick up and drop off in 25 cities in the Western USA - round trip or one way.
They sleep 2-4 people, depending on the mode.
PROS: Easy to drive and park, high-end amenities (beds, kitchens, restrooms), great for long drives
CONS: Much more limited space inside
Class C: Back to Basics
In terms of overall experience, these RVs are on the lower end for most but are still an option.
20-30 feet long
Cost starts at around $1,500 per week, plus factor in some hotel nights to keep everyone happy.
Pick up and drop off in 120 locations.
These sleep up to 7 people in 4 bedding configurations at night.
PROS: Relatively easy to drive and park, decent room, more availability
CONS: Basic and not luxurious, usually self-driven so more hookup and mechanical frustrations
So are you ready to roll? What style of RV do you envision for your next big road trip? I'd love to hear from you and help you plan the most epic road trip of your life!
Contact me to get your kicks on Route 66 or any North American road with an RV!