Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.
In April, we made the difficult decision to cancel a giant family reunion trip to Florida. We were SO disappointed, but it got me thinking about alternative ways to vacation and spend time together, especially outdoors.
I’ve been looking at RV and camper van rentals, and envisioning campfires and sunrise hikes in crisp fall air, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how uncomplicated RV rentals can be.
Interested in taking your own outdoor adventure in a rented van or camper? Here’s everything you need to know:
Types of Campers and Camper Vans
There are lots of types of campers and camper vans, but they fall roughly into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. Class A campers are giant buses (think: tour bus) and probably not a great place to start.
Class B and Class C campers, however, are much more manageable. Some are towable, and some are drivable--and the drivable campers and vans are not as difficult to drive as you might think! (Pro tip: most camper vans fall into the Class B category.)
Where Do You Rent an RV or Camper Van?
There are tons of places all over the country to rent RVs and even camper vans. Outdoorsy and RVShare are peer-to-peer rental companies--they’re the Airbnb’s of RVs (and most traditional camper rental companies list on these sites, as well).
You can look for options like deliverable RVs or pet-friendly campers. Two options for more traditional rentals are Cruise America and El Monte RV.
Is There Anything I Need to Know About Renting an RV or Van for the First Time?
Don’t be intimidated by the idea of renting an RV--but definitely do your homework! Here are a few more tips:
1. Watch Your Driving
RVs and camper vans are difficult to park, and most won’t fit well through a fast food drive thru. Stopping takes a loooong time, too--and you can’t take corners nearly as fast as you would in a car.
2. Start Small
Most of these experts I’ve learned from recommend taking things easy the first time you go out. Plan on camping for a weekend, fairly close to home so you can get your feet wet.
3. Get a Walk-Thru
Make sure you get a complete walk-thru of your rental by the owner; ask lots of questions and take lots of notes (you can even video them walking you through important steps like dumping the tanks, turning on the generator, and opening the awning).
4. Bring the Important Stuff
When you’re getting a walk-thru, pay attention to whether or not things like linens, towels, and pans are included in your rental. You’ll also want to make sure you bring a first-aid kit and some basic tools.
5. Download These Apps
Experienced RV’ers recommend a couple of apps: RV Checklist (a checklist to help you remember all the RV things you need before you hit the road) and AllStays (find campgrounds, RV-friendly Walmarts, dump stations, etc.). You can also download the National Parks maps if you want to visit one.
I hope this article has convinced you to go for it--2020 may be known for a lot of not-so-great things, but wouldn’t it be great if it was also known as the year you went camping for the first time? I’m in if you are!