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LAzGator

Newbie (introduction) - Possible cross country trip next summer

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Hi Folks! Newbie here just looking to introduce myself.  My wife and I had the bright idea that perhaps we should rent a travel trailer next summer to do an extensive 3-4 week RV trip out west.  We're based in South Florida, my wife is a school teacher and I own my own consulting business and am able to work from the road if needed.  Our 14 year old son is fairly serious with his baseball, and next summer is perhaps the last time that we can take off for 4 weeks at a time without interfering with his schedule.

Over the next few months I'm sure we'll generate many questions, but I'd like to ask the following to get us going on the right path:

  • Does anyone have a favorite recommendation for an RV rental source?  RV share, Outdoorsy, etc.?
  • How far would you budget for a days travel?  I'm guessing 6-8 hours maximum?
  • Our truck is rated for 8900lbs (2016 F150 4x4, 5.0 V8, 3.31:1 ratio).  Am I correct in assuming we should probably keep the trailer to about 24-26' and a dry weight of about 5-6000 lbs max?
  • What kind of mpg should we expect towing 6-7000 lbs?  Is 10 mpg about right?
  • Would you recommend we get the trailer close to home, or pick it up somewhere closer to the sites and national parks?
  • How far in advance do we need to think about reserving sites at some of the major sites (Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc.)?

Many thanks for any recommendations and information you can provide!

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Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are happy to help you in any way we may be able.3652-MelbourneMainExterior.png

In my experience, the most common RV rentals are what we call class C motorhomes. There are a few places that rent travel trailers but I don't know of a great availability. I suspect that may be due to the fact that most people who may wish to rent do not have the proper vehicle or equipment to tow a trailer and it requires more skill than to drive the class C.

Outdoorsy is the only travel trailer rental company that I am at all familiar with. There are several class C rentals I know a little about, but with any luck, some of the posters here will know of more. 

The amount of time you should travel is partly a personal thing but I'd never suggest longer than 6 hours because you still have to set up to cook and spend the night each time that you stop. If you travel for 1 day and then sit for 1 that might be OK but you need to have breaks for both the driver and the son. You could pick out some major sites that you wish to see and then work with Google maps or something similar to figure out the distances. 

On what to tow, you need to look at the GCWR (gross combined weight) and the rear axle weight ratings and then check the weights of the travel trailers you are considering. While length is an issue in how it will handle, the weight is most important. Look for the gross weight and the hitch weight and use the maximum as it is the only safe way to plan. You should try to stay around 80% of your truck's maximum rating or below. 

I doubt that you will get as high as 10 mpg if you to close to your maximum weight but if you keep weight down you may get that high. I sure would not plan on any more than that. If you wait to get close to where you want to go before you rent the trailer you may have difficulty getting one. That would also limit the freedom that comes from RV travel. 

If you will be traveling in the peak tourist season you will need reservations if you wish to stay in the major parks but there are commercial campgrounds near most major attractions. The dates you expect to be there are key to how much lead time you will need. 

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When we rented a Class C for three weeks we did it from a local RV dealer who hoped we would then buy one. It was brand new when we picked it up.

I budget drive time for 4 hours. By the time we add in meals, fuel stops, etc. I'm ready to be done driving then even if it's Dave doing the actual driving.

Picking the unit up close to home lets you take it home to pack it so you can determine what actually fits. We then spent the first night in a campground near home so we could go pick up things we missed.

We didn't reserve any sites but that was a long time ago and things have changed a lot in just the last few years. Our last trip was in 2014. We've been off the road since then.

Linda Sand

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Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!

I am not familiar with the companies that assist private owners in renting their RV's, but there are a number of RV dealers and rental companies that rent travel trailers. You have the truck. I would think that renting a trailer would be considerably cheaper than renting a motorized RV which would include mileage fees. You would have to check on the insurance issues with your insurer as far as whether additional liability insurance would be required in either case. If you rent a motorized RV, you will either have to do all your site seeing in it or find other ways to get around the areas you visit (rental car, Uber, commercial tour, etc.). I doubt most RV rental companies will permit you to tow a car behind their RV. 

If you are use to towing a boat, horse or utility trailer; towing a travel trailer will not be that much different. Since you are talking about a summer trip, you might even consider renting a popup tent or hardsided trailer. That would give you better fuel mileage due to the lower profile. A hybrid or rear slide trailer would give you more room when setup while minimizing the length of the trailer when towing. 

Again, Welcome to the Forum!!

Edited by trailertraveler

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Three or four weeks!!  That's barely enough time to do New England. Cross country in that time frame is long days in the saddle. Call the trip 6,000 miles divided by 28 days is 215 miles every day. With fuel stops, meals, and interesting places you are at least 5 hours behind the wheel. Why not try a shorter distance trip say the Great Lakes or the Great River Road, the Mississippi River from end to end. Or go to 
Paducha, KY visit the Quilt Museum, watch the Saturday night dirt track races, see the murals on the flood walls, visit the Railroad Museum with its simulator then follow the Ohio River byway up into PA. 

We did an Alaska trip in 2001 and we only had nine weeks to complete the round trip. We had to average 180 miles per day. That's not a lot of fun. So we put a lot of miles in the savings account. Left Maine Sunday AM, stopped for a second visit to new grandson in Mass. Wednesday wife and daughter had the Mall of America for all day. Thursday AM left the twin cities Friday afternoon at St Mary's, MT in a campground and ready for Glacier NP on Saturday. Played tourist after that time untill leaving Wall Drug Wednesday AM and pulling into the driveway just after midnight Friday. And yes I did sleep in Saturday.  Our thought was that we could get to most of the lower 48 without much difficult but the trip to Alaska through western Canada was a once in a lifetime. For our 50th wedding anniversary we spent the summer in Alaska and Western Canada. Crossed into Canada mid May and got back into the lower 48 Mid September. Much better to see the sights. 

If you can relax and enjoy this proposed trip then you will want to do more. See you on the road.

Bill

 

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Our three week rental trip started in Minnesota. We took Hwy 2 west following the Burlington Northern tracks all the way to the West Coast then we came back along HWY 30 following the Union Pacific tracks back to Minnesota.

Starting in Florida would make driving all the way to the west coast more than we would want to do in three weeks especially since I wouldn't want to stay south in the summer. Four weeks would at least give you time to go a bit north before heading west but would still make for more long days than I like to travel.

Yes, you can drive that many miles in that time but what's the point of doing it if you don't have time to stop and enjoy the sights along the way?

Linda Sand

 

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On ‎9‎/‎20‎/‎2018 at 5:44 PM, LAzGator said:

 

  • How far would you budget for a days travel?  I'm guessing 6-8 hours maximum?
  • Our truck is rated for 8900lbs (2016 F150 4x4, 5.0 V8, 3.31:1 ratio).  Am I correct in assuming we should probably keep the trailer to about 24-26' and a dry weight of about 5-6000 lbs max?
  • What kind of mpg should we expect towing 6-7000 lbs?  Is 10 mpg about right?
  • How far in advance do we need to think about reserving sites at some of the major sites (Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc.)?

- Before retirement we had 4 week time frames for road trips & the first day's mileage was 672 miles from the house, we stopped at the same place. The second day's mileage got us into the zone but at times fell short so we arrived on the third day. 10 hour drives but pressed for time we were where we wanted to be.

- Sounds about right for such a short trip, and the truck will be disconnected while you sight see so even less stress on the truck as well.

- Doing 60 to 65 will get better mileage than 65 to 70 but overland miles will be less, unless you stop at WalMart, Cabelas, Cracker Barrel, etc for the overnight, then you can push it. Be aware of your experience level when towing AND pushing it though, don't want to see you make the news.

- Contact the marquee places that you really want to visit for a Planning Guide or an Informational Packet. (Not sure if budget cuts have eliminated this feature or not, it's been quite awhile that we've only had 4 week time frames). We've done this when planning backcountry excursions and the Packet also contained front country info. For backcountry 6 months from the day of was the earliest that we could book. In the 4 weeks that we had... 3 days out & 3 days back, but going back was more casual so actually was more like 10 days, and the first 3 days we were hauling arse. Reservations were made in two areas and we were free to roam during the remainder which really made the trip more enjoyable, not having a schedule. When we had seen the marquee parks we simply stopped making reservations and traveled on a whim, which we discovered was more to our liking. Clearly, when reservations would be wise, we still make them though. So brainstorm on where you'd like to go and contact them ASAP. Also focus on whether you'll be renting a trailer, or Class B or C, and contact them ASAP as the summer rentals go quick. Happy Trails!

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Why bother dragging a trailer cross country on such a tight schedule?  For what you'll pay for the rental plus the extra fuel and wear on the truck you could stay in a nice pre-cooled motel room each night (pre-cooled is important in the south in the summer).  Plus you can cruise at the posted speed limit instead of 10 mph or more slower with the trailer.

That plus the setup/teardown will save you considerable time each day.

RVs are best suited for leisurely travel, not high speed marathons from one point to the next. 

Edited by Lou Schneider

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We were in the same boat with our boys 4 years ago except were in Vermont. Three weeks 7995 miles. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Arches, Grand Canyon, Bryce, then up through Colorado and home. We owned our TT and stayed an very few campgrounds mostly Wal-Mart. Most campgrounds are not in the right place when you are traveling so far in such a short time. 

We were never able to put such a trip together again with both boys, so a good thing we did it then.

We did a similar trip with our older son when he was 13 or 14, 20 years earlier. 

We would not of had the same trip if we had stayed in motels. Our older son has not gotten more than 150 miles from home in the last 20 years and still talks about the trip. Unfortunately it turned out to be the most enjoyable time we ever had with him. I would miss those memories a lot more than the gas we used or the sleep we missed.

As for trailer size don't push the truck. You are not buying a trailer to stay in for the rest of your life. Leave most of your stuff at home. You are not planning a leisurely trip you are trying to show your son as much of our vast country as you can in a very limited time. I have a one ton diesel truck and my trailer came in at about 8500 pounds. When you are trying to do a lot of miles per day you need more truck and less trailer.

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Folks, these are some incredible pointers and much appreciated!  We have much to think about!

Right now, we are considering picking up an RV in or around some place like Phoenix that is much closer to the sites and seems to have an abundance of options for rentals.  That way, we can push it heading west and not worry about setup, prepping meals, etc., when all we intend on doing is overnighting and getting back on the road the next day.  I've been stockpiling "points" and can cash them in on a few hotel stays on the way out and back.

Thanks again for you input!

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50 minutes ago, LAzGator said:

Right now, we are considering picking up an RV in or around some place like Phoenix that is much closer to the sites and seems to have an abundance of options for rentals. 

Keep us posted on the plan as we are interested in how things go.

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On 9/21/2018 at 4:03 PM, Bill w/bus said:

Three or four weeks!!  That's barely enough time to do New England. Cross country in that time frame is long days in the saddle. Call the trip 6,000 miles divided by 28 days is 215 miles every day. With fuel stops, meals, and interesting places you are at least 5 hours behind the wheel.

Back in 2014, we did a trip from Oregon to New Hampshire and back in 4 weeks.  7,200 miles round trip.  It took us 7 days at 500 mi/day (8 - 10 hours w/few breaks) to get from one coast to the other.  Zero sightseeing - just drive, stop, sleep, and get on the road again.  We spent 2 weeks in NH.  It took several days to get unfrazzeled from the marathon driving, then we did the same thing in the opposite direction .  All in all, budgeting 4 weeks for a cross country trip will give you about 3 or 4 DAYS of quality time.  The rest will be behind the wheel.

 

-Jim

 

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Bill w/Bus and Oregon Jim are dead solid right. Do not even consider doing that trip in an RV from S Florida if you only have 3-4 weeks. From S Florida, you are looking at 5 or so days pushing hard to get to Colorado or Utah so at least 10 days are wasted on the road. Considering the cost of hotels, food, and wasting ~10 days cranking out mile after mile, fly and rent a Class C out West. Getting across the vast Texas wasteland from Dallas to NM or Colo will seem like a week and will exhaust you. I travel in a Toterhome pulling a trailer with Hummer every year from S Louisiana for a couple of weeks at Durango and Moab and head North at Dallas into Oklahoma and I 40 across to Albuquerque just to avoid W Texas. A shorter shot for you would be  I10 but that is desolate as well. Another thing, you cannot rule out flats and blowouts on a trip that long. I carry three trailer spares and assume I will have a flat or blow out. It is brutally hot the entire trip in the summer across the South until you get into the Mtns. Stay on Interstates for access to gas etc. In short, stay out of West Texas.

The West is incredible so get there as quickly as you can and stay as long as you can. Colo Mtns, Mesa Verde, Brice, Zion, Grand Canyons, Moab, Monument Valley, etc are incredible but you know all that.

Good luck and have fun. It will be an incredible trip.  

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I really appreciate the knowledge that you all are passing along.  I kept looking at that trip from Dallas or San Antonio to NM and wondered if that would be a brutal trip, and it sounds like that is the case. 

Right now, we are considering stops in Ocala National Forest, Pensacola Beach (to visit friends), New Orleans, San Antonio and Santa Fe,   and that's probably a week right there!

So now, let me ask this....which of the following would you all recommend:

Option 1 - Fly to destination...say Phoenix, rent a Class C and head out.

Option 2 - Fly to same destination, rent a car/suv and stay in cabins and lodges instead of an RV.

Option 3 - Drive west without a trailer with the ability to push 10 hrs. per day, stay in hotels, hit a few sites along the way, then rent a travel trailer close to the sites.

FYI, we are used to 12 hr car trips as we drive from South Florida to visit family in western part of North Carolina twice per year, although I wouldn't want to do that towing!

Thanks again, everyone.

Edited by LAzGator

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Fly to Phoenix, rent a Class C and head to Sedona as the first stop. I say that because I hate hotels/motels and cost wise a Class C vs hotels/rental car is probably a push. Then up to 4 corners and all the great sites in that area. Mesa Verde is a must among many others such as Moab. Do a jeep or Razor tour on Slick Rock, or both, while there. You might want to rent a jeep for day trips to the parks in the area. 

Sounds like you have dropped the towing idea from S Florida and that is good. Driving from Fla will eat up too much time. As I said in my first post, get there as fast as you can, and stay as long as you can. Nothing between S Fla and Colo is a hair on the behind of the 4 corners area and not worth messing with. AND, the drive through Texas is horrible! To all you Texans, I love Texas. Just hate driving through it. Roads are nice but run through way too much nothing.

Edited by ItalGerBrit
dropped phrase.

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4 hours ago, LAzGator said:

Right now, we are considering stops in Ocala National Forest, Pensacola Beach (to visit friends), New Orleans, San Antonio and Santa Fe,   and that's probably a week right there!

It is really difficult to give you advice without knowing you better. Most of us here prefer RV travel, which is the reason that we are here. If you choose to fly to Phoenix you will bypass all of those places. New Orleans has much to offer if you have never been there and the same is true for San Antonio. Both Santa Fe and Albuquerque also have much to offer and there are things to see and do in between if you wish. If you choose to travel by RV then I'd suggest that you plan to make stops at San Angelo and Ft. Davis to break up the trip. There are many things to see in most places that you will travel through if you get off of the interstate highways and spend a little time there. 

If your priorities are to see the major attractions over great distances, then it would be better to fly and probably to stay in motels/motels since RV travel is a slower pace because you set up camp, cook, and sit around a campfire to enjoy the evenings. If you fly and drive you will see far more and cover more attractions but you will also have less experience of the outdoors. In my view, there is a big difference between just seeing things as compared to experiencing them. For those who have the goal of covering more places in as little time as possible, RV travel is not a good choice. 

Edited by Kirk Wood

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I'd recommend flying to Phoenix and renting a Class C.  I think you'd enjoy siteseeing and the national parks better in a RV.  It would be a great experience for your son and also for you if you think you'd might purchase a RV in the future.  This would be a great way to try it out.  Try to stay IN the national parks, if possible. That's the way to really experience them.  If you go the motel/cabin route you'll either be paying mega bucks for a room inside the national park or you'll waste time commuting from an town outside the park and if near the park it will still be very expensive.  The RV would be a lot more relaxing way to travel - no packing/unpacking and you'll have the same bed for the trip. You could still eat a lot of meals out if you don't want to get into cooking.  East breakfast in the RV and pack your lunches, drinks, snacks for your day touring.  It saves a lot of wait time in restaurants at these popular places.  If you get tired when out all day - find a scenic, quiet spot to pull over and take a refreshing nap.

The places from Florida to Texas could be done on another trip and you'll have more time to enjoy them without having to include the far western area.

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On 10/1/2018 at 4:23 PM, 2gypsies said:

I'd recommend flying to Phoenix and renting a Class C.  I think you'd enjoy siteseeing and the national parks better in a RV.  It would be a great experience for your son and also for you if you think you'd might purchase a RV in the future.  This would be a great way to try it out.  Try to stay IN the national parks, if possible. That's the way to really experience them.  If you go the motel/cabin route you'll either be paying mega bucks for a room inside the national park or you'll waste time commuting from an town outside the park and if near the park it will still be very expensive.  The RV would be a lot more relaxing way to travel - no packing/unpacking and you'll have the same bed for the trip. You could still eat a lot of meals out if you don't want to get into cooking.  East breakfast in the RV and pack your lunches, drinks, snacks for your day touring.  It saves a lot of wait time in restaurants at these popular places.  If you get tired when out all day - find a scenic, quiet spot to pull over and take a refreshing nap.

The places from Florida to Texas could be done on another trip and you'll have more time to enjoy them without having to include the far western area.

Thank you for responding.  I like the idea of flying then renting a Class C.  However one thing I have a hard time getting my head around is what to do when you want to go exploring?  In other words, if we did this with a Travel Trailer, and we wanted to take the 17 mile loop through Monument Valley, we unhook the truck and go..... or if there is another hike somewhere, or we want to go into town, etc.  Not having done any of this, these are the things we think about, so if you have any thoughts on using a Class C in these situations (and maybe 17 mile loop is a bad example), please let me know.

Thanks again!

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I have no experience traveling with only a Class C but from what I've read and heard it can be done.  There is parking at trailheads and in towns. There is parking at national park visitor centers for RVs.  For trails you'd have to get there early to get a good parking space. In towns you'd park on the outskirts of large parking lots or in small towns there is street parking although you might have to walk a bit to the store you're heading.  I also hear that some folks rent a car for a day depending on what they want to do.  Personally, I would not like to travel this way all the time but for one vacation it would be doable.  As far as your example of Monument Valley even a big truck would not be advisable to drive the route. We did it in our Jeep. It can be very rough and full of pot holes. It's also narrow.  Most people take the tour.  Stay at Gouldings RV and tours leave from there. 

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A small or standard rental RV is not that big and as 2gypsies mentioned, you should have no problem getting to most places of interest such as the many canyon parks, Mesa Verde, etc. All of the parks are set up for tour buses and have huge parking lots. In Moab, you will want to rent a jeep for the many off-road tours in that area. Rental RVs are all over the 4 corners area so it must not be a problem. 

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It really depends on how small a Class C you are willing to go. We traveled for 1 1/2 years in a 24' Class C with no toad. We mostly ran our errands and saw the sights while traveling from one campsite to another. In our RV we could park in one space if we could back up in a way that let the rear of the RV hang over past the parking spot. That worked well for many sights. In one city we paid two meters so we could park in two spots front to back. In another city we parked next to a loading area where we let the back hang into that area a bit. We drove one road we should not have done so I can't recommend doing that. :) If you really want to do back country driving in Utah I recommend you rent a Jeep. Go; have fun!

Linda Sand

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On 10/1/2018 at 9:59 AM, ItalGerBrit said:

 I say that because I hate hotels/motels and cost wise a Class C vs hotels/rental car is probably a push.

I would rule out ANY solution that involves hotels/motels, as the bedbug epidemic seems to be a "thing" these days.

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