RV and Camping Travel Guide

Traveling in a Motorhome or an RV (Recreational Vehicle) is a great way to travel. It allows accommodation in the beautiful campgrounds of North America, and provides an extraordinary and unique experience of family recreation. On an RV trip you can smell the scent of the forest early in the morning, get out of the car and walk a few steps to the river bank or the lake shore, and in the evening, instead of watching TV or clinging to screens, you can sit in front of the fire and view a million stars.

קרוואן במוניומנט ואליan RV in the Monument Valley (Utah/Arizona)

RV and Camping Travel Guide – Tips for RV Rental in the USA and Canada

  • Be sure to reserve an RV before booking flights, since the availability of RVs at various destinations may sometimes cause a slight need to change the trip’s route.
  • RV rental usually costs somewhere between 200$ and 400$ per day. The price usually rises significantly as the date approaches and the availability may become limited. Therefore, if you want to travel in an RV during the summer months, it is recommended place an order many months (even a year) in advance. There is also a significant difference rental price at the height of the season compared to transition seasons, and there are also differences in the rental price between destinations (and of course routes that are not circular will usually cost more).
  • Sometimes the price of a long RV (more than 30 feet) will be less expensive than the price of a shorter RV. However, do not be tempted to rent an RV that is over 30 feet long. Traveling in a long RV can restrict entry to some scenic roads and to some campgrounds. Shorter models with expanding walls (slideouts), provide large internal space and do not limit travel.
  • There are usually two types of RVs for rent: Class A which is an RV that looks like a bus and Class C which is an RV that has an overhang (usually used as a bed – if you are traveling with young children and plan for them to sleep in this bed it is recommended that you bring a bed rail to prevent falling) that extends over the cab. Other types of motorhomes (the small and efficient Class B motorhomes or the trailers and the fifth wheels) are usually less popular or not available for rent.
  • It is usually not possible to rent an RV in the USA and return in Canada, or the opposite.
  • If you want to cross the border with an RV – from Canada to the USA or vice versa, and especially if you want drive from Alaska to the Yukon or vice versa, check ahead of time that the RV company allows border crossing.
  • RV rental companies usually require a rest of at least one night after Transatlantic flights, before renting the RV.
  • Many rental companies are closed on Sunday and on national holidays.
  • Prepare a map of your trip route in Google Maps an add 30% to the number of miles on the map. This is the number of miles you will probably need for your quote.
  • Find out if the rental includes all insurances.
  • Find out how much does the deductible insurance cost, and if possible – purchase an insurance to cover the deductible (which is usually around 1000$).
  • Find out what is the cancellation policy.
  • Ask for the age/years on road of the RV. It is better to rent a new RV (up to two years on the road), but on the other hand, it is not worth spending hundreds of dollars more. Both a new and old RV may have malfunctions, but they will usually be in the ‘home’ (coach) systems of the RV and not mechanical malfunctions in the vehicle body itself. In case of malfunctions you will usually be directed by the RV company to a garage along your travel route in order to fix the RV (if due to this malfunction you will need to sleep in a hotel – you should be compensated).
  • Find out what is the pick-up and return time of the RV. Usually the pick-up time is late (around 13:00) and the return time is early (around 10:00). Consider paying extra for an early pick-up and/or late return (please note that sometimes it is cheaper to pay for an extra day than paying for a late return).
  • Find what the transportation arrangements to the rental location are. If there is no shuttle service you will sometimes need to rent a car, as the rental locations are sometimes far away from the city centers.
  • Find out if the quote includes a set of bedding, utensils and cutlery kits. If not – it is possible to purchase these products at Walmart for a relatively cheap price (these kits are relatively expensive if ordered through the rental company).
  • If you travel in cold areas, and stay in the beautiful campgrounds where there is no electricity hook-up, unless the RV has a gas-fired heating system, you should bring warm blankets or sleeping bags, since the blankets are provided in the rental company’s kits are not usually warm enough.
  • Find out how much does a generator hour costs. You will probably need a maximum of two hours of generator work during the day (during night times operating generators is usually prohibited due to quiet hours).
  • After receiving your RV you will be instructed about all the RV functions. This instruction is usually quite long and may last a few hours.
  • It is highly recommended to check the RV thoroughly (especially check that all the ‘home’ – coach – systems of the RV work well) before leaving the rental station.
  • The RV company will not usually equip you with tire replacement tools.
  • Adapting to an RV trip takes time. There is no point in renting an RV for a trip that is too short (less than 10 days).
  • It is recommended to plan a trip route that includes an average daily travel of no more than 100 miles (preferably with some days with very short drives and some days with longer drives from one destination to the other).
  • To maximize the enjoyment of your RV trip it is recommended to stay, at least on some nights, in the beautiful public campgrounds (in the National and State/Provincial Parks). These campgrounds usually do not have full hook-ups, and have fewer facilities, but are usually much more scenic and less crowded than private campgrounds.
  • When planning your RV trip try to minimize your stay in cities. RV parks in large cities are usually not recommended, and driving (and parking) with an RV in the city center is many times not possible/not recommended. Since you will probably land in a big city – try to rent the RV after your visit to this city (and return it before your visit to the city in which your trip ends).
  • On a long RV trip it is nice (especially on rainy days) to abandon the RV from time to time in favor of a hotel.
  • If you are going on a long RV trip consider renting a bike carrier (from the RV company) and purchasing bikes. At the end of the trip you can try to sell the bikes or donate them (in charity stores such as Salvation Army or Goodwill). The equipment left at the end of the trip, including food in closed boxes, can also be donated at the branches of these stores scattered throughout the USA and Canada.
  • There is usually limited storage space in the RV (except in the new RVs). It is therefore recommended to leave empty suitcases at the rental company branch (possible of course only if the trip is circular, if not consider traveling with duffle bags).
  • In the USA and Canada it is usually prohibited to park for the night by the side of the road outside a designated campground (overnight parking is sometimes allowed at Walmart’s parking lots). In Alaska roadside overnight parking is usually allowed.

קרוואן בשמורת זאיוןa class C RV

RV and Camping Travel Guide – RV Operating Systems

  • RVs usually have two batteries: one in the engine compartment that functions like in a normal vehicle (and charged while driving) and another that operates the electrical systems of the coach. If during a long overnight parking, the rear (coach) battery is weakened, the main (engine compartment) battery can charge it. If the main battery is weakened, it can be charged by the rear battery.
  • The rear battery operates the following systems: interior lighting of the RV, outdoor lighting near the door, water pump of the kitchen, shower and toilet and the refrigerator (while driving). When parking you can place the operating switch of the refrigerator on operation with electricity only, gas only, or automatic switching between electricity and gas (recommended).
  • If you take your RV on a ferry ride, you will have no power supply from the rear battery, and will also be required to turn off the gas. Thus, while sailing there is no cooling and freezing, and you should be prepare accordingly (one solution could be adding purchasing ice and adding it to the refrigerator).
  • Most RVs have a 110 volt generator, which is powered from the coach, with the help of the rear battery. The generator is fed from the main gasoline tank and does not operate if there is less than a quarter of a fuel tank. The generator allows these systems to operate (without electric hook-up): ceiling air conditioner, oven/microwave. The generator also charges the rear battery. The generator may be noisy.
  • The RV has a gas tank that operates the following systems: cooking stove, partial operation of the refrigerator, gas heating of the coach and of water.
  • The rear battery easily holds for one night use, if lights are not left on for many hours. If you spend two nights or more in one place, you should start the engine to charge the battery (15-20 minutes is usually enough). You can also turn on generator to charge the coach battery.
  • For most RVs, a 30 amp electrical hook-up in the overnight parking lot is enough (a 50 amp connection is usually needed only for large private RVs that have a washing machine, dryer etc.).

חניון לילה בחופי קליפורניהa scenic campground along the California coast

RV and Camping Travel Guide – Campgrounds

  • In contrary to the popular belief that an RV trip is more spontaneous than a hotel trip – this is not the case, especially if traveling during the high tourist season (June-August, and in some locations also May, and September-October) when camping sites must be booked well in advance.
  • If you are not 100% sure about your itinerary, and you want to leave some place for spontaneity, you can sometimes make a double booking (book a night at two locations) and only during the trip decide where to actually stay. In this case the charge for one night (usually up to 30$ in a public campgrounds) will go down the drain.
  • It is recommended to stay in the public campgrounds that belong to the National Parks Service or the State/Provincial Parks or National Forests. These are usually much more beautiful and much less crowded than private campgrounds, and they are much less expensive as well. On the other hand public campgrounds usually have fewer facilities (Wi-Fi, pool, showers, washing machines, electricity/water/sewage hook-ups etc.) compared to private campgrounds.
  • In most campgrounds, each party is directed to a site, which is the equivalent of a hotel room. This numbered site includes a car entrance, a picnic table, a fire ring and grill (usually mainly in public campgrounds), and usually also a comfortable surface for setting up a tent. In public campgrounds sites are usually relatively isolated and separated from each other and provide privacy. In private campgrounds sites are usually more cramped.
  • In most campgrounds there are sites only for RVs, there are sites designed only for tents (with different sizes of tent pads) and there are some sites for both RVs and tents. Most sites have a vehicle length (and sometimes width) limit. In some sites it is possible to exit without driving backwards (Pull-Through or Drive-Through sites) and in some sites you must drive in reverse in order to exit (Back-In). All the above information about the specific site you choose can be usually obtained online.
  • In most public campgrounds (and some private campgrounds), it is possible to choose a specific site on the campground’s map when booking. It is worthwhile to study the park’s map and choose the best site – the one that is far away from the main road, away from the toilets, near the lake/river or near the beach. Sometimes it is even possible see a picture of the site when booking it.
  • It is usually not a problem to stay with an RV in a site that does not have electric/water/sewage hook-ups (i.e. dry camping). The battery of the vehicle and the vehicle’s gas tank and generator serve as a substitute for electricity. Regarding water – water can be filled at many gas stations and usually also in the campground itself. The sewage tank can also usually be dumped at the campground. And in worst case scenarios it is also usually possible to drive to a nearby private campground and ask to fill water and dump the sewage there (for a small fee). Such dry camping may be problematic in severe weather (when heating or cooling is necessary) or when staying a long period of time in the same place (without the ability to fill water and dump sewage for a few days).
  • Most campgrounds have ‘quiet hours’ – from early evening to the morning. A generator cannot be operated during these hours.
  • The price for one night’s stay in public campgrounds is usually around 20-30$ and in private campgrounds 50-100$.
  • Some public campgrounds have a booking window in which you can book your stay in advance. This window usually opens 4-6 months before your stay (and in some cases a year before your stay or at the beginning of the calendric year – for the following year). The online booking window usually closes 48 hours prior to the arrival date. In the popular campgrounds (such as in Yosemite NP, on Arches NP, in the Canadian Rockies NPs and more), it is highly recommended to book your site the second the booking window opens (since in many cases there will be no availability minutes after this window has opened).
  • In many campgrounds some sites are saved for a first-come first-served basis. There are also campgrounds in which all sites are non-reservable and first-come first-served. Therefore it is possible to go on a camping trip without making advance reservations, but please note: a. many first-come first-served sites are not suitable for long RVs. b. in order to find availability it is usually necessary to arrive to the campground around check-out hours (usually 10: 00 or 11: 00) and start searching for available sites (a process that may be tedious).
  • Finding availability in private campgrounds us usually easier than in public campgrounds.
  • On weekends it is usually difficult to find availability in the more popular campgrounds. Same goes for public holidays – and especially the Memorial Day weekend and the Labor Day weekend.
  • Payment for some non-reservable and first-come first-served campgrounds may be made is cash only (an exact amount must be deposited into a special box).
  • In most campgrounds there is firewood available for sale (usually in cash only).
  • In most campgrounds, the size of a group allowed in one site is usually limited to 6 people, unless the group consists of parents and their children (in this case the group can usually be larger). Many campgrounds have larger group sites open for reservation.
  • It is usually not a problem to enter public campgrounds 24/7 (check in times to private campgrounds may be more limited). There are public campgrounds (mainly in state parks) that have gates that close at sunset. If you plan to arrive late ask for an access code in advance.
  • Most public campgrounds have an onsite host, usually a retired couple spending summers in the campground and assisting with managing it. In case of questions/problems you should contact the host (the host’s RV is usually located at the camp’s entrance and has a sign on it).
  • Most of the public campgrounds reservations systems are through these sites: reserveamerica.com, www.recreation.gov.
  • The toilets in campgrounds are usually very clean.
  • To protect the wildlife and prevent a situation where bears will be attracted to campgrounds it is mandatory to keep your site clean (many campgrounds have bear lockers for food storage). It is forbidden to leave a cooler unattended and it is forbidden to leave unattended food or trash. Failure to follow these guidelines can harm the wildlife of the area as well as result in heavy fines.

קרוואן באלסקהan RV in Alaska’s Denali Highway

RV and Camping Travel Guide – Terms in the RV world

  • An RV is also called a Motorhome or Rig (not a Caravan which is a common concept for organized RV tours).
  • A site from which you should exit by driving backwards is called a Back-In site.
  • A site from which can should exit by driving forwards is called a Pull-Through or Drive-Through site.
  • A site with hook-up to electricity, water and sewage is called a Full Hook-Up site.
  • Camping with no hook-ups is called dry camping (or self-contained).
  • Public campgrounds roads usually consist of loops (which are circular roads) along which all sites are scattered.
  • Sewage from the toilets is referred to as Black Water. Water that accumulate from the shower and sinks is referred to as Gray Water.
  • Walls that expand to the side in an RV are referred to as Slide-Outs.
  • Walk-In sites are sites in which it is not possible to reach the site with a vehicle (a short hike is needed).
  • Frontcountry sites are sites in which it is possible to reach the site with a vehicle
  • Many campgrounds have Day Use areas besides them that are intended for daily recreation (without an overnight stay).
  • Unserviced sites are sites that do not have hook-ups (these are usually the more scenic and more secluded sites in a campground).

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