Renting an RV is one of the leading vacation models in the U.S. right now—in fact, RV rental searches went up 350% from April to May. In a survey conducted by VacationRenter, they found not only the search increase, but that half of their respondents were opting for RV travel rather than flying or cruising in 2020. RV rentals are in high demand, but there are also more options and amenities ready to meet that demand than ever before. From luxe campers to RV resorts situated in close proximity to the country’s best national parks, the RV market is stepping up its game to attract luxury travelers in need of a completely off-the-grid escape. Those travelers are taking rented RVs primarily to national parks, mountain destinations, and the beach, according to VacationRenter’s survey. To answer all our RV queries, we tapped VacationRenter’s head of organic growth, Zander Buteux, who lives full time in a 72-square-foot camper. Here, your beginner’s guide to renting an RV.
Determine Where You’re Going Before Renting an RV
When renting an RV, what’s your first task? Contrary to popular belief, it’s not deciding how much space or what amenities you’ll need, it’s honing in on your destinations and desired route. Where you want to go dictates what provisions you’ll need and the type of RV you’ll want to rent. “Some RVs drive like boats where they slightly rock as you carry down the road,” says Buteux. “Taller vehicles with higher ground clearance often behave this way. So consider the trip you are planning to have and let that dictate the size [of your RV].”
Once you’ve picked a few destinations, look into the kind of RV sites those parks have and the kind of roads you’ll be driving to get there. Towing a too-large RV on narrow roads isn’t relaxing for anyone. When selecting an RV, the Class A RVs are the largest, Class Cs are mid-sized, and Class Bs are the smallest.
“If you rent a Class A and are going through North Cascades National Park, you might have less fun than if you were to choose one of the smaller Class B or C vehicles,” says Buteux.
Choose Your Interiors Wisely When Renting an RV
Once you’ve decided on a Class A, B, or C RV, you can start to bring your personal amenity preferences into the conversation. What are your non-negotiables for an extended RV trip?
“Camper interior designers focus heavily on efficiency,” says Buteux. “While the exterior might look tiny, the interior is likely perfect for its use. Sometimes all you need is a nook the size of a four-person tent to be a happy camper.”
How long you’ll be traveling, and what you’re doing along the way, are important to consider at this juncture. Will you be working on the road? Do you need a space with an appropriate Zoom background? Is this a two-week vacation or a two-month adventure? If you’re just dipping your toe in the water, you can likely start with a smaller vehicle. If you’re jumping in to life on the road, space is your friend.
“Thinking of how many items you will need to pack for a successful trip will also determine the best size for you,” Buteux stresses. He warns of the dangers of overpacking:
“If you overpack, then every time you do anything, you usually need to move close to everything. Make sure every item is considered essential and has an accessible home. If you’re going on a three-week road trip with your partner and you might golf once, leave the golf bag at home and rent from the course if you play.”
Buteux encourages renters to think of how much they pack as a direct correlation to the roads they can drive on. The amount of stuff you need determines the size of your living space which “will also determine what sort of roads you will be able to drive.”
What to Know about RV Dining
“The RV sizes for kitchens range from full dining nooks in a Fifth Wheel Trailer, down to just a bed and some storage in a teardrop trailer,” says Buteux. “For the kitchen-less RVs, you will need to bring your own grill or stove setup. For the ones with kitchens, it will be like you’re at home.”
Are you heading for a campground with grills—or in your packing configuration, do you have room for a portable grill? Or do you want to cook with a traditional oven, microwave, and stove that you’d use at home? Factoring in your eating habits on the road, and how you envision cooking will help you decide what kind of kitchen you need.
And with kitchen supplies, much like anything else on your packing list, you need to consider the “movement of items on the road.” Everything needs to be accessible, especially kitchen tools you need everyday, but still “placed in a tight spot with no room to move,” warns Buteux.
What to Know about RV Hookups
When campgrounds offer a full RV hookup, that typically means hookups for water, electricity, and sewage. An electrical hookup is perhaps the most commonly offered at campgrounds—it’s as simple as plugging in your RV and typically drawing 30 to 50 amps of power. Next is a water hookup, which to be clear, is vastly different than the sewer hookup. The water hookup will provide running water throughout your camper—that means pouring from your sink, in the shower, and allowing your toilet to flush. If you intend to drink the water, you’ll need to verify that it’s from a potable water source before consumption. A sewer hookup, on the other hand, allows you to dispose of waste, which is collected in a separate holding tank under your RV. Some campgrounds will provide a sewer hookup at each site, while others have a main dump station. Finally, there are additional hookup amenities you may find at RV resorts or higher-end campsites, like a cable TV hookup—a nice treat if there’s also strong WiFi at the site.