Dear Savvy Senior: Can you write a column on RV travel for novices? My husband and I have been cooped up all spring and summer because of the new coronavirus and would like to take a trip using a rented RV but could use some tips and want to be safe. — Recently Retired
Dear Recently: Recreational-vehicle (or RV) travel has become a popular option among U.S. retirees over the past few decades and is probably one of the safest and most convenient ways to get away this summer.
Because it’s a small home on wheels, RV travel will allow you to distance yourself from crowds of people and reduce your risk of COVID exposure that comes with other forms of travel, i.e. air/train travel, hotel/Airbnb lodging and eating in restaurants. But there are still risks — especially in public places like gas stations, shared restrooms and picnic areas — so exercise caution. If you’ve never traveled by motor home or RV, here are a few tips to consider.
Renting an RV
To help you determine the RV size and model you need for your trip, consider your budget, destination and the number of travelers. If it’s just you and your husband and you’re visiting several locations and driving lots of miles, you may want a smaller motor home with better fuel economy. But if you’re taking other family members or friends, you might want a larger RV with slide-outs and more sleeping areas. See GoRVing.com for a breakdown of all the different types of RVs available today.
To locate an RV rental dealer near you, visit CruiseAmerica.com, one of the largest RV rental companies in the world, or search the Recreation Vehicle Rental Association at RVRA.org. Or use peer-to-peer RV rental sites like RVshare.com or Outdoorsy.com, which are usually a little cheaper.
Rental costs will vary greatly depending on what you choose and how far you drive, ranging anywhere from $50 to $500 per day.
When renting a rig, be sure you get detailed instructions from the owner or rental company on how to use the RV’s systems, including the generator, air conditioning, leveling, slide-outs, electrical and entertainment, as well as how to empty waste tanks and refill fresh water.
You should also know that because of COVID-19, most RV rental companies are vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting their units. But if you want to be extra safe, the CDC offers tips at CDC.gov/COVID19 — type “Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home” in the search bar.
It’s always wise to map out your trip route and reserve your campgrounds in advance, especially now during the pandemic, because some campgrounds and RV parks as well as local, state and national public parks may be closed or operating with restrictions.
A free tool that can help you plan your trip is Road trippers.com, which lets you plot out routes, calculate mileage and travel time, and will identify RV campgrounds, points of interest and restaurants along the way.
You should also consider becoming a Good Sam Club member (GoodSam.com/club, $29 a year), which provides access to its web-based trip planner, camping and fuel discounts, and a copy of the Good Sam Guide Series, which features detailed information on more than 12,000 private RV parks and public campgrounds.
Most RV parks rent spaces on a nightly or weekly basis with rates typically ranging from $30 to $50 per night; however, some in city and country parks may be $10 or even free.
RV parks can also range from rustic facilities with limited or no utility hookups, as are more often found in state and national parks, to luxury resorts with amenities that rival fine hotels.
For first-time RV renters, staying at a fully loaded RV park or campground with full hookups, a dump station and staff on-site is highly recommended. Look at Kampgrounds of America (KOA.com) or ReserveAmerica.com to browse the accommodations.
And for more safe travel tips this summer, visit Coronavirus.gov — click on “specific resources for travelers.”
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.