RV Travel: On the Road for Less

See how an RV rental can save you money on your next family vacation.

As the economy continues to be in turmoil, many families are scaling back on expenses and expensive vacations, but are still searching for ways to have a memorable family vacation on a budget. Swap out expensive airfare, costly hotel stays and expensive restaurants, and travel in style in a recreational vehicle (RV). Family road trip vacations in an RV are a fun and cost-effective way to enjoy time away from the stresses of life without creating the additional stress of an expensive vacation.

Finding Value

Renting an RV is gaining in popularity once again as the ideal way to travel with children. In a recent study by PKF Consulting, family vacations in an RV were found to be 27 to 61 percent less expensive than any other type of vacation style analyzed. With campgrounds averaging $35 a night versus $150 a night for a hotel stay, and the elimination of costly airfare and restaurants, the study found that families traveling by RV could save an average of $2,500 per vacation.

In 2001, when my boys were young, we rented an RV and trekked across the Midwest from Minneapolis to Mount Rushmore for our summer vacation. Over the course of a week we made dozens of pit stops along the way, swimming in a roadside lake, purchasing cowboy boots and stopping at every interesting tourist spot to see the sights we would have otherwise missed in an airplane. Our boys loved the adventure, and my husband and I loved that we saved nearly $2,000 on our vacation that year.

Eliminating mundane car travel is another benefit of renting an RV, especially for families with children. While driving to fascinating sites and national landmarks throughout the U.S., such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, children can easily entertain themselves for countless hours, making the driving portion of the trip almost as fun as the destination.  

Getting Started

RVs come in nearly every shape and size imaginable, so selecting the appropriate vehicle for your travels is determined by the number of individuals that will be traveling with you, as well as your preferred level of luxury. The standard RV includes a kitchen with a refrigerator/freezer, stove, oven and microwave; plus a dining area, master bedroom, bathroom, shower and a TV/VCR combination. The larger RV you rent, the more luxuries you’ll enjoy.

In most cases, a regular drivers license is all that is necessary to drive an RV. Rentable RVs come in two classes: Class A and Class C. Class A RVs are the larger of the two and can give your family more breathing room while traveling. Class C RVs have many of the same amenities as the Class A, just on a smaller scale. Renting either model starts around $145 per day plus mileage and tax, depending on the size.

Packing for Your Adventure

Most RV rentals come empty, so you’ll need to determine how to stock your home away from home. The minimum basics should include:

Many rental facilities offer a housekeeping package that includes most of the items listed above for roughly $50 per person. Some rental facilities will also offer charcoal grills, lawn chairs, ice chests and more for an additional fee.

Before You Go

Prior to hitting the road, map out your travel route and book a night’s stay at campgrounds along the way that accommodate RVs and have dumping facilities. Visit www.koa.com to find RV campsites and to make your reservations. Keep in mind that you’ll be able to stay on the road longer than in a car since children can more easily keep themselves content and entertained in an RV (unless you already have a car with a television screen or video games).

Meal planning is another consideration, since you’ll be preparing all your meals in the RV’s kitchen or with a charcoal grill or camp stove if you bring these along. Plan three easy-to-make meals for each day of travel, plus snacks and drinks. Load up your drinks in ice chests instead of the RV’s refrigerator to avoid losing energy every time you open the refrigerator door. And remember, you’ll have most of the luxuries of your home kitchen, even an oven, so plan to bake a cake one evening while on the road to celebrate your adventure!

It’s Not About the Destination

While you may not come across white sandy beaches with crystal-clear waters while driving to destinations across the United States, you will discover something lacking in luxury travel: A family closeness you just can’t experience on a plane. An old-fashioned family road trip offers family togetherness, meals shared under the stars and amazing sites you may have otherwise missed while traveling far away from home. And isn't that what an unforgettable family vacation is all about?

Destinations: United States

Themes: Family Travel

Activities: Camping

User Comments

Great ideas. Camping is a great budget-conscious vacation, especially for families wanting to venture out this summer, but still needing to save money. Regarding packing, an extension cord product should be designed for RV power. For safety choosing an extension cord for a recreation vehicle ensures no short outs or even fire.

This is actually something that my boyfriend and I were considering as a vacation alternative to more expensive options. =) I love this idea.