RV 101 for First-Time Renters

The giant behemoths best known as RVs have long been a part of summer road trips, especially when destination-driven families looking to make good time are stuck behind them. But as COVID-19 forced families to switch up summer vacation plans, RVs, with their personal space and private bathrooms, are suddenly getting unexpected love.

You don’t even need a special license to drive one.

April Cumming of Outdoorsy, a peer-to-peer company that rents out recreational vehicles from other owners (think Airbnb for RVs!), suggests taking a test drive before committing. The greatest hurdle for first-time RVers is the mental hurdle of driving one, she says.

Map out the roads you will be taking ahead of time. Make sure the route you are taking doesn’t have any low-clearance bridges or tunnels that may require extra guidance. You can double check the roads you’re planning to take ahead of time using the All Stays app.

Travel blogger Tonya Prater of Travel Inspired Living and a former full-time RVer, suggests first-timers spend a day or two camping close to home before setting out to make sure you understand how everything works and to make sure everything is working correctly. Also, pack a good surge protector if the RV doesn’t come with one.

When booking a campsite, look for pull-through sites, which are easier to navigate, she says.

Don’t be intimidated by the RV, says Lindsay Parker Williams of Let Me Give You Some Advice and a first-time RV renter. Even though you need a little bit of training on some of the equipment, it was easy to learn, she says.

But she does say families need to be organized. Since RV fridges are typically smaller, she says it’s best to stay organized with meals. Pack a cooler to keep drinks cold and restock with ice every few days. Plan for some inside time with things like games, books and some crafts.

When renting an RV, Jody Halsted of Camping Tips for Everyone who now rents out her own RV, suggests renters remember to ask when the RV was last serviced, when tires were last checked and replaced and what fuel it needs. The last thing families want is for the RV to break down or the tires to blow, she says.

To get your security deposit back, most RVs must be thoroughly cleaned, including waste tanks dumped, she says.


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This article also appeared in Chicago Parent’s July 2020 magazine. Read the rest of the issue here.

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