Tips for RV Travel

illustration of an adult and child inside an RV

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Every summer, my family and I spend two months celebrating each other and the open road in a recreational vehicle. Lately, we've had lots of company. The nation's two biggest RV rental agencies, Cruise America and El Monte RV (which offers AAA members a 10 percent discount), report that rentals are up 30 to 50 percent over a year ago. The reason: RV travel is affordable and you don't have to go through security. Here are some tips to enhance the experience:

Rent the right rig — Consider price (roughly $800-$2,000 weekly), how far you're traveling, and how many people will be sleeping in the RV. Cruise America (800-327-7799) rents Class C units, which are generally 20 to 30 feet long and offer abundant sleeping space by supplementing the usual options with quarters over the cab. They're the best choice for big families. Through El Monte RV (800-367-3687) you can also rent buslike Class A models, which are pricier and roomier (30 to 36 feet) than the Class C, but have fewer beds. They're a good option for small groups on long trips. The Class C may also include a slide-out function that expands the vehicle's width (and thus floor space) by up to three feet when parked—a huge difference.

Drive defensively — No special license is required to drive an RV. Just remember to make wide turns and careful lane changes. Let others pass you. When you hit strong winds, pull off the road. And whenever the RV is on the road, wear a seat belt.

Make a list — Is the antenna down? Did you close storage doors? You don't want to be reminded when your antenna hits an overpass or eggs hit the floor. Make a checklist part of your routine until it becomes . . . routine.

Park it — Overnight options range from cushy resorts to rustic budget outposts. Buy a guide (Trailer Life or Woodall's) or grab one of AAA's CampBooks, which will direct you to the nation's 16,000-plus parks. In peak season, make reservations.

Hooking up is easy — You don't need to be a mechanic to work hookups (electric, sewer). If you can read a manual, put a plug in an outlet, or stick a tube in a hole, you're set. And all RV parks come with helpful neighbors.

Pack with a plan — Space is an advantage to RV travel. But be neat. There's a spot for everything—maps, mugs, Monopoly. Don't miss hidden storage (under the bed). Be sure nighttime necessities are stashed inside—not in outside compartments.

Illustration by Melinda Beck

This article was first published in September 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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