How To RV Across America - The Ultimate Guide

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Tour America in a Rented RV

RVs have long been associated with the classic, cross-country road trip, and for very good reason – they are inherently well-suited to long journeys with a variety of landscapes and activities.

RVs fundamentally change the experience of going on a road trip across America in two ways: a) you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature as you stay overnight in your RV, and b) with all the creature comforts of home on-the-go.

Suppose, for example, that you rent an RV for a cross-country road trip. Near Yosemite National Park, you can simply pull into a campground that you’ve reserved ahead of time and set up for an overnight stay in the middle of nature. One step outside of your RV gains you entrance into the natural world and a range of interesting wildlife, sights, and activities.

Unlike hotel lodging, which isolates you from your surrounding environment, RVing brings you closer to nature – and unlike traditional camping, RVing lets you enjoy the surrounding environment without having to give up all the comforts and luxuries that you’ve come to expect from a real vacation.

Imagine: you can return from an exhausting hike to your air-conditioned RV and watch a movie on your flat-screen television while seated on a pullout couch in the living area of your RV. If you’re sweaty, you can go for a shower and make use of the private bathroom facilities. The fundamental value of an RV over camping is the provision of true comfort.

So, you’ve decided to rent an RV for your next cross-country road trip – what next?

What is the Cost to RV Across America?

The cost of a cross-country RV trip can vary substantially, depending on the length of the trip, the structure of your route, the average cost to stay overnight in a campground, food and gas and supply costs, RV maintenance expenses, and the costs for various recreational activities, among other things.

Some RV rental companies and platforms (like RVshare) offer 24/7 roadside assistance, which – with the help of some basic tools and equipment – can save you money that you might otherwise spend on basic maintenance services over the course of your road trip.

When renting an RV for a cross-country trip, four costs, in particular, are likely to affect your budget most significantly: the rental rate for your RV, the length of the trip, the distance traveled (a more roundabout route will lead to greater fuel consumption and thus higher fuel costs), and the average cost for lodging every night.

Though you may not be staying in a hotel while you take your RV on a cross-country trip, staying overnight in a campground can be a sizeable cost, with some particularly in-demand campgrounds charging $200+ per night for an RV parking spot. Campground rates vary significantly depending on the season, location, and whether you have discounts through an RV club membership or another source. As such, if you’re on a budget, make sure not to forget about campground reservation planning – if you do not account for campground costs, you could end up outspending your budget very easily.

Popular RV Stops Across America

The RVing community has seen an explosion of growth in recent years, and as the community grows, the variety of destinations that are popular with RVers has become more and more diverse.

The Western National Parks

RV road trips have – for a long time – been popularly associated with travel to the national parks. As you plan your cross-country RV trip, consider visiting the famous national parks out West and in the Mountain region: Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and Zion National Park. If possible, try to stay at a campground with a nice view.

Amusement Parks

If you are bringing along young children (or you just have a desire to ride some rollercoasters!), plan your route so that you can visit world-renowned amusement parks like Disneyworld, Disneyland, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, Hershey Park, and Sea World. Enjoying a bit of structured recreational time can be a great way to break up the constant, independent activity typical of a long cross-country road trip.

Urban Sites

Though many newcomers to RVing don’t think of urban exploration when they think of an RV trip, the truth is that a cross-country RV trip can very easily incorporate city visits. If you have a compact enough RV (van chassis, for example) then you can drive on city streets. When planning a visit to a major city, look to reserve an overnight stay in a campground near the city core so that you can explore at your leisure.

Tips on Driving an RV Across America

As you prepare for your cross-country RV trip across America, consider the following tips.

Join an RV Club

Before you begin purchasing RV supplies and reserving campground stays for your trip, consider joining an RV club first. There are many RV clubs – most with membership fees – and each offers unique benefits to members. Most RV clubs have a network of campgrounds and retailers at which members receive significant discounts. The savings will likely pay for the cost of membership if your trip is particularly lengthy.

Get a Long-Term Rental Discount

Your cross-country road trip will most likely take a few weeks, at least. It is, therefore, worth looking into long-term RV rental discounts. Dealerships (and owners on the RVshare platform) often provide significant discounts to those who are going for a long-term rental, as long-term rentals save RV owners time, effort, and the risk of having to find a new renter.

Structure Your Route to Fit Your Budget

If you are on a strict budget, make sure to plan your route across America beforehand. Roundabout routes can tack on too many extra miles, which will increase fuel consumption and may push you into excess mileage fees on your rental. Further, the longer the route, the more time you’ll have to spend on your trip, which leads to additional campground stays and additional rental days – all of which can overstretch a limited budget.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

With RVshare (and with certain RV rental companies like Cruise America), you get access to a 24/7 roadside assistance line. Customer service representatives will answer any questions you have concerning operation, setup, and even basic maintenance issues with your RV. Of course, you don’t have to rely solely on the roadside assistance line. RVers tend to be a friendly, generous bunch. If you have any questions about RVing, don’t be shy – chat with some of the RVers at your local campground! The RVing community is famously helpful.