USA Recreational Vehicle Travel
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RV Travel - introduction
By Jerrold VanNocker

Allison is retiring; we are now ready to start our USA trips and the Traveling In The USA website, but how best to do it? Would it be best to rent a vacation home for four months each year in a different location of the country and use it as a base? Perhaps, extended stay hotels would be a better option? Or, maybe it would be better to buy an RV and travel around the country?

In this column I am documenting our on-going look at USA RV travel. We have not bought an RV yet, we may never buy one but we remain intrigued with the possibilities. I hope our pro and con look at RV travel and lifestyle will help others in considering their own RV future. Soon, I expect to be interviewing RVer's to get their first person experience.

The RV option

While I never have run the numbers but in my head, I figured the RV option is not necessarily the cheapest way to travel the USA, particularly if you buy an expensive RV unit.  By traveling off season and doing extended stays it looks to me as it might be possible to average $50-$70 a night at USA hotels. When you add the cost of campsites with the cost of the RV and possibly a tow vehicle, etc you might find it will take 10 years + of traveling by RV to beat the hotel cost.  A lot of the economical value of the RV is determined by the frequency of use; the more it is used the more economical it is to have. Also, how you use the RV will effect how much it will cost you; camping sites can sometimes be free. One should also keep in mind hotel cost will likely increase year by year while the RV cost are fixed at purchase.

Starting our Search

So here we were, in the cold of February, checking out a Grand Rapids, Michigan RV show. We were considering an RV primarily because we would get to have our own bed to sleep in no matter where we traveled.  We were torn between the ideas of having a large stationary RV, to use as a second home and have it towed to a new location each year, or getting a smaller trailer we would tow here and there.  We needed to see for ourselves what the RV living options were, imagine ourselves living in one of these things and how the travel lifestyle might play out for us.  After we paid the hefty entrance fee (fees for shows range from free to $15 depending on whether held in a parking lot or a stadium) the first trailer we encountered was a $12,000 16 feet trailer. These smaller trailers are sold as camping trailers, I noted the weight at 3450 pounds; my car was not going to pull this thing. The next trailer was a large 5-wheeler unit (GVW of 14,000 lbs.), several slide-outs created a large spacious living area and kitchen space; at $56,000 the unit had a lot of quality extras. On leaving the 5th wheel I glanced at my wife, she had that look, the same look I have seen so many times, the “ I’m hot to buy!” look; the salesmen seemed to notice it too. We spend the next 3 and half hours going through every trailer at the show. Allison insisted we hit all the high end RV’s; me insisting we check out the pop ups and small trailers.

Our thoughts after our first RV show:

  • The cars of today are not tow vehicles. My dad towed a 21-foot Airstream with his 1960’s New Yorker but today you will need a SUV or truck to haul an RV trailer. If we were going to do RV trailer towing we would need to buy a tow vehicle.
  • Allison could see herself living comfortably in a large RV trailer. The smaller trailers did not seem to interest her.
  • We liked the vehicle and RV (Motor home) all in one arrangement but did not like the idea of carting the whole thing around in cities and to out of the way travel destinations. The Conversion Van option was just too small a vehicle for the two of us.
  • Painting up a travel trailer, as an advertisement on wheels for the travel websites seemed a natural fit.
  • I do not like the idea of pulling a large RV around the USA.  I worry the larger RV’s would become rather costly in a number of little ways besides their purchase costs- storage, fuel cost, insurance, maintence, etc.
  • The Grand Rapids RV show was a manufacture sponsored show, some RV’s were being offered at substantial discount. We overheard some individuals stating the show was the best time to buy a new RV, as this is when manufactures provide their top discounts.
  • We needed to do more research.

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