The complete guide to planning an RV trip

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RVing has become increasingly popular over the years, especially amongst solo travelers and families looking to set out on epic adventures. In fact, now is an opportune time for RV travel because you’ll be able to explore while still practicing social distancing. We’ve already seen an uptick in those choosing to road trip this summer, primarily due to the coronavirus.

If you do decide to hit the road in a motorhome or camper trailer, there are several different factors to consider. You’ll have to determine if you want to rent or buy an RV, where to stay, what to bring etc. So check out our guide to planning an RV trip.

(Photo by welcomia/Shutterstock)

Planning your trip

Much like planning for any other sort of trip, you’ll likely have a more enjoyable experience if you take the time to sort out the details of your adventure before hitting the road.

Considerations

Getting ready for an RV trip is much like preparing for any other kind of trip. Taking the time to plan in advance will lead to a less stressful and more enjoyable experience once you hit the road.

Just remember to be flexible and patient. Sometimes things are out of your control, but if you can embrace the adventure, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time.

Also, it’s wise always to have a Plan B. This is true regardless of when/how/where you’re traveling. Things like unexpected weather (oh hey, it’s a blizzard!) can throw your

Lastly, understand that it’s okay to decide that RVing isn’t your thing. Some people plan grand adventures only to realize that they prefer other modes of travel and transportation. Maybe you’ve never shared a small space with travel companions? Perhaps you’d rather travel at a faster pace? Testing the waters with a shorter RV trip first is an excellent place to start.

Decide whether to rent or buy an RV

Deciding whether to rent or buy an RV is primarily a financial decision. Renting a motorhome will almost always be the more economical option unless you plan to spend a lot of time on the road.

Renting an RV

You can rent an RV through rental agencies, like Cruise America, or dealerships. To get the best deal, plan ahead and rent in the off-season if you can.

Also note that there are different types of RVs to choose from, including large motorhomes,  fifth wheels and travel trailers. Motorhomes will run $150 – $200+ per night, while the smaller travel trailers and fifth wheels will cost between $50 and $150+ per night.

(Photo by Arina P Habich/Shutterstock)

If you plan to rent a fifth wheel or travel trailer, be sure to verify that your car has the towing capacity you need.

You could also consider renting through sites like Outdoorsy or RVshare, where you can rent an RV directly from its owner. This may provide additional savings.

Buying an RV

If you decide to buy an RV, just know that you’re making a significant investment. That’s okay if you plan to use it for years to come because, in that case, buying (as opposed to renting) will save you money in the long run.

As always, compare prices from many different outfits to ensure you’re getting the best deal. And consider things like where you plan to travel, what type of trailer or motorhome do you want, and what features you need and want.

Also, consider looking into a used motorhome to save even more.

Where to stay

There are a few options when it comes to parking your RV for the night. First, you can look for designated RV parks. Second, larger, more frequented campgrounds will often have RV spaces. And third, you could find a spot that allows overnight parking.

RV parks and campgrounds will offer the most amenities — you’ll often find things like power hookups, potable water, running showers, etc. But parking isn’t free, so add those costs in while you’re budgeting.

If you choose to park somewhere that allows overnight parking (outside of a designated RV spot), you won’t have to pay a fee. But you’ll also need to make sure you can make do without needing too many amenities.

What to bring

The beautiful thing about RVing is that you’ll have more room to bring the items that’ll make for a comfortable trip. When you’re tent camping, you usually have to limit what you pack to just the necessities. On an RV adventure, you can bring the necessities plus those extra things (like your favorite pillow!) that will truly make you feel at home.

Of course, you’ll need the basics, like toiletries and clothes, along with the necessary gear for any outdoor activities you plan to do. Also, consider the time of year and whether you’ll need gear like rain jackets and/or winter coats.

In addition to your personal belongings, you may also need to bring items like dishes, glasses, cutlery, and pots and pans. Some rentals don’t come fully loaded with those types of things. And if your RV comes with a refrigerator, be sure to stock up on a few of your favorite food and drinks. You can always buy supplies along the way, so there’s no reason to overdo it.

How to save money on RV travel

If you do decide to venture out in an RV (or car!), one way to “save” is to be sure you’re maximizing your gas spending by using one of the best gas credit cards, like:

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and transit
  • Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi: 4% cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including gas at Costco (applies to the first $7,000 per year, then 1% thereafter)
  • Ink Business Cash Credit Card: 2% cash back (2 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) on the first $25,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year

And even though you’ll have all the modern luxuries you’d need right there in your RV, there’s no doubt you’ll hit up a few restaurants along the way. So be sure to read our post on the best credit cards for restaurants, which include:

Also, remember that some of your expenses along the way, like parking or tolls, may code as travel. And if you’re using the right card, that could translate to bonus rewards. These popular cards offer a solid return for travel spending:

Using a rewards earning credit card is a fantastic way to start saving for your next vacation while you’re still on your current adventure.

Also, be sure to ask about discounts available for seniors, AAA or AARP members. And do your due diligence by inspecting the vehicle before you leave the lot (like you’d do with a regular car rental) to ensure there aren’t any issues.

And take a look at sites like Imoova and Transfercar that allow you to book “relocation rentals” at reduced rates. Essentially, rental companies will pay you, in the form of a huge discount, to transport their vehicles when they need a vehicle at a particular location. Rates on these kinds of rentals can be as low as $1 per day.

Do you have any favorite tips for RVing you’d like to share? Comment below and subscribe to our newsletter for more travel ideas delivered to your inbox.

The information for the Costco Anywhere Visa and Capital One Savor has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Meghan Hunter is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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Skooby
2 months ago

I was a full-time RVer for 10 years. The first thing you need to do is actually measure the length of your RV and the height including all rooftop accessories and keep those measurements handy inside the RV. Don’t go by the whatever the manufacturer or dealer tells you. Measure it yourself so you know exactly what campsites you’ll fit in and which overhangs you can maneuver under.