Planning an RV Trip: The Complete Guide

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Contributing $114 billion to the U.S. economy in 2019,  RVing is one of the fastest-growing trends inspiring solo travelers, families, and couples to hit the road. RV travel gives you the opportunity to visit areas you might not travel to otherwise. You can drive on your own time, and stay at some of the most majestic places on earth.

Whether you’ve planned an RV trip before or it’s your first time, you’ll learn something from our complete planning guide.

Planning Your Trip

The great thing about planning an RV trip is the endless possibilities of destinations and the flexibility of the trip; you can rent an RV just about anywhere, meaning you can fly to a closer point, or you can leave right from your own home.

When choosing routes and destinations for a first time trip, do your research, and plan to stick to the proven routes; don’t venture off the path too much, especially if you’re not used to driving a motorhome or towing a trailer. Once you’ve tackled a few easier trips, you’ll be more comfortable going off the beaten path.

National and state parks are going to be expensive and the most crowded during the summer months. Try to visit these popular spots on shoulder seasons for a more enjoyable experience. Book ahead to save the most money and make sure you can secure your entry at the time you plan to go.

Transportation

One of the first decisions to make: will you rent or buy an RV? Depending on how often you want to RV, buying one to call your own will be the more cost-efficient option. If you’re renting, you’ll want to rent early, off-season, and get the right size for your companions to get the best deal.

Renting an RV

Renting an RV can be done at rental agencies or dealers. If this is your first time hitting the road, we recommend renting from an agency, such as Cruise America, who will help you choose the right motorhome. Since it’s your first time, chances are you won’t have a towing vehicle or want to tow a trailer; you’re not used to towing, so going with a motorhome will be more comfortable and safer for you on the road.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about renting an RV:

  • Prices will fluctuate based on availability and seasonality.
  • Motorhomes will go between $175 to $275 per night on average for an older model (10 years and older), depending on the Class you rent. Newer RVs run between $150 to $450 per night on average.
  • Trailers are often the cheapest option going between $50 to $125 per night on average.
  • Fifth wheels go between $60 to $150 per night on average.
  • For trailers and fifth wheels, you’ll need to have a vehicle capable of towing safely or you’ll need to rent a vehicle to tow.
  • RV websites like Outdoorsy, RVshare, and others allow you to rent RVs directly from owners. This could be a cheaper alternative depending on your plans.

Want to know more about renting a vehicle when planning your trip? Read our guide to renting an RV and make sure you’re getting the best possible deal for your trip.

Buying an RV

Buying an RV is an investment, no matter the type you decide to get. If you’ve been planning an RV trip and know it’s going to be something you do in the future, purchasing an RV will save you money long-term.

If you’re ready to buy, there are lots of things to consider, read our guide to buying an RV to get started on your next adventure.

Where to Stay

There are three primary places to stay when RVing: RV parks, campgrounds, and boondocking locations. RV parks and campgrounds, including resorts, are the easiest places to book ahead of time for your motorhome or trailer. Book early to save money and ensure you have a place to park for the duration of your trip. The longer the stay, the more you’ll save, too. RV memberships are another great way to save money on parking, but if you aren’t going to RV much, or this is a one-off trip, the investment isn’t worth it.

Boondocking, the practice of camping without any kinds of hookups or other common amenities, is another option but can be a bit trickier. Essentially, this means that you want a place to park and sleep, but you can't just do that anywhere; you'll need to do some research about places that allow overnight parking. The pros of this practice are that it's free and you are truly flexible without needing too many amenities or having to make reservations, but it can be a little nerve-wracking the first time you do it, and you want to make sure you're staying safe.

What to Do

The possibilities of what to do when going on an RV trip are truly endless. If your destination is a large city, a National Park, or a specific attraction, that’s the primary thing you’ll plan your trip around, and from there, it’s about exploring what’s in the surrounding areas.

Many RV parks and campgrounds offer shuttles to help you visit nearby attractions. They’ll also host events and activities, especially on weekends, for you and your family to take part in. If you’re staying at an RV resort, you’ll often find golfing, spas, boating, and other activities included in your stay.

Don't focus all your planning on the destination—RVing truly is about the journey as well, allowing you to discover hidden attractions, restaurants, pit stops, and more that you can stumble upon spontaneously. Take the time to explore, venture off the path, and take in everything around you.

Keep in mind that your trailer, motorhome, or camper is also a place to do things—bring board games, watch movies, cook, and relax.

What to Bring

Like any other trip, bring what makes you comfortable. You’ll need the basics, like clothes and toiletries. If you plan on doing anything specific outdoors, you’ll need the appropriate gear to do so. Depending on the weather, you may want winter coats, rain jackets, waders, or hiking boots. What you bring will be dependent on what you plan to do on the road and at your final destination.

An RV gives you the freedom to bring things you wouldn’t for other kinds of trips, such as food and drinks and pillows, blankets, and sheets. While a hotel room will have most of what you need to spend a few nights, your RV is yours to stock and make comfortable for your needs on and off the road. Because most won’t come fully loaded with what you need, take inventory when you get it to make sure you have things like dishes, glasses, cutlery, pots and pans, toilet paper, and more—if those aren't included, plan to bring the things you'll need.

If your RV comes with a refrigerator, you’ll be able to fill it up with your favorite food to snack on and cook throughout the trip. But don’t over-buy food for the trip. You can always pick up more on the way.

Some emergency items you’ll want in your RV include:

  • Paper map
  • Compass
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlights

If you forget something, you can always stop and pick it up.

Money-Saving Tips

Without proper planning, RVing can add up quickly. Here are some tips to keep your adventure on a budget:

  • Rent your RV and book your parking spots well in advance, especially if traveling in summer months. The further out you book—and the longer—the more you’ll save. This goes for what you want to do when you arrive, too.
  • If you can travel out of season, do it. You’ll often save up to half off the entirety of your trip by doing this.
  • If you need to buy food, drinks, or things you left behind when you arrive at your destination, try and travel farther away from tourist traps to do so. Pit stops, gas stations, and tourist attractions will charge a lot more, especially for the “necessities.”
  • Plan strategically for gas stops. Several apps exist to help you save on fuel along the way. Towing a trailer or driving a motorhome can be expensive; if your ride is fueled by diesel, this could break your budget. 
  • Don’t buy new things for your ride. Use what you have at home, including food and snacks. Also, plan how often you'll eat out during your trip.

Things to Consider

  • Be flexible. Something will likely go wrong—you'll get lost or move at a slower pace than you thought. Embrace these unexpected obstacles, and enjoy the “adventure” it adds to your RV trip. You never know what you might discover on the road or about yourself dealing with it.
  • RVing is not for everyone. Plan a small trip for a few days if it’s your first time hitting the road. If you’ve never shared a small space with family or friends, you may find out it's not for you. Better to take a few days to learn this than anything longer.
  • Have backup plans. You don’t know what the weather may bring. If you’re traveling somewhere where the weather can change at the bat of an eye, make sure to have something to fill the time. Movies, board games, and books are a great way to kill time when the weather keeps you trapped inside.

Planning an RV trip is like planning any other travel adventure. Take the time to understand where you’re going, what you’ll do there, and then plan the rest of the trip around supporting your comfort and enjoyment of what you’ll do when you arrive.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. RV Industry Association. "Annual Report 2019." Page 22. 2019.

  2. RV Share. "RV Rental Prices."

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