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First Adventure in an RV, with my family :)


Andrew Mace
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Hello RV’ers

I am looking for some advice.

My family and I (Wife and two girls, five and one years old) are looking to embark on a 2/3 month road trip around America.

We have never driven an RV before and are coming from the UK. So everything is going to be new and exciting for us J

Couple of pointers and you advice please:

Recommendations on where to hire an RV and what size to go for (to fit all 4 of us comfortably).

We were thinking of starting in Miami, hug the bottom of America driving east and follow it to San Diego, up the East coast to San Fran and then head West to Chicago, Washington and finish in New York. So we would do a big loop of the country. How long would this take?

We want to keep costs to a minimum and planned on eating on the RV each day. Any suggestions on how we keep the costs of RV parks down? Is there a pass you can buy that gets you access to them at a discounted rate?

Our youngest daughter needs to be strapped into a car seat, where is best to position this in the RV?

Any other tips on coping with two your children on board and other ways we can save money on the journey?

Thanks

Andrew

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Most of this I can't comment on but 2-3 month is not enough time to do the trip you are thinking. You don't realize how big the US is and how much there is to see. I would talk to fellow Brits who have RVed the US for input on renting and for travel hints.

You will only be able to travel 200-300 miles a day with the children, maybe less. You will probably be renting a Class C and you need to figure the first week will be lost to stocking up, get use to the rig and driving.

When do you plan to do this? If in the summer the southern part of the US can be very hot and humid, better for a winter visit.

Good luck.

 

 

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First of all, let me give you an early welcome to the USA and also to the Escapees RV Club forums! We are happy to welcome visitors from across the pond to our country and encourage you to ask as many questions as you wish and visit as often as you have a question or comment.

I have several thoughts about your plans but first, let me also suggest that you take the time to read another tread on the forums which is discussing a similar plan by a couple from Austraila. They were considering buying the RV because their plan is for 5 months, but have been reconsidering renting one and much of the information will apply to you as well. 

While I would like to encourage you to take this great adventure, I will first ask if you realize how much travel is involved to make that loop, even if you travel by the most direct and fastest routes? The distance you are dealing with comes to 6,250 miles or more than 10,000 km! In 2 months it would mean averaging 210 miles/335 km every day that you are here and that is without diverting to any of the major attractions. If we throw in visits to Grand Canyon Natl. Park, Yosemite Natl. Park,   and Yellowstone Natl. Park, the total mileage rises to more than 7,000miles or 11,000+ km. I would encourage you to plan this trip but trim the distance down to more manageable driving times. That trip would be very tiring for the adults and the children would be impossible. I suggest that you start your plan by determining a few major attractions here that you want to visit, then look to the time of year you plan to come over and work from there. The southern part of the US is best visited in the fall through early spring while the northern states favor summer visits. Do not give up on this plan, just allow us to help you trim it to a more workable route.

We would love to help you develop a good plan for your visit and to help you work out the best routes and costs. Please do not give up on this but allow us to work with you!

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The advice given so far is good but I would like to stress that you need to do a lot of planning.  Where did you want to visit?  Are you looking for natural attractions like State and National Parks or manmade attractions like Disney Land/World, Universal Studios, or a combination of both?  Once you get to a location how are you planning to get around and leave your site?  If you have a Class C you'll need something to leave with and drive around.  If you are planning on unhooking your RV from the campground hookups and then you can add the fun of trying to park it wherever you are going (large parking lots or crowded city streets).  I don't want to rain on your parade but your children are very young and what are you planning to do with them when they get tired or bored?  Your options are to carry them or put them both in a stroller.  That will take up more space and limit your adventures.

If you go east from Miami it will take you about 22,000 miles to get to San Diego and your RV will sink rapidly into the Atlantic before you get 100 yards off Miami Beach.  San Diego is west of Miami by about 2,650 miles.  Buy a good map and compass when you plan.  If you hug the southern and western coasts you'll miss a tremendous amount of America.  Seriously, my suggestion is to pick the top ten things you want to see in one region of the USA and go for that.  When your kids are older and able to appreciate what they are seeing come back and visit us on a larger scale.  Also, don't forget things like medical coverage and insurance.  The UK's National Health coverage should be checked before you leave to see what you will be covered while traveling abroad.  When our kids were little we always had to be aware of close by clinics, hospitals and such and that is within our borders.

It's a huge undertaking and I'd hate to see it ruined by biting off more that is feasible on your trip.  Best of Luck.

Edited by Mr. Camper
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I agree with what Kirk and Mr Camper are telling you. My advice would be to limit yourself to either a East coast trip (start in Miami and work your way north along the east coast, finishing in New York) or a West coast (Fly into San Diego and up through the west coast maybe finishing in Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon). Starting on the southeast coast of the country, driving along the southern border to the southwest corner of the country and then north and back across the northern half of the country in 2 to 3 months sounds more like a torturous race of some type. No time to enjoy locations if you are having to put at least 3-4 hours a day in travel to get further down the road.

Your listing major cities as destinations which if that's your main goal, that is fine. What makes much of the US so neat to travel is the smaller towns and the wonderful variety of state and national forests and parks along with the variety of landscapes and environments.

I would suggest opening google maps or some other route planning website and planning 200 miles every 3-4 days and leave time to see attractions, spend time visiting cool places and build memories with your family of something other than sitting in a seat seeing a lot of highways and traffic. 

Best of luck and hope whatever you decide that your trip is enjoyable for you and your family.  

And when you are in Florida or California, make sure you get to Disneyworld or Disneyland for your 5 year old. That's a wonderful age range for them to get the most of it. It truly is a magical place for 5-10 year olds and it's not so bad on the older folks either other than the pocketbook. My daughter still talks about how much she loved it and she's 20.

 

Edited by CincyGus
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I don't know anything about renting an RV, but might it be possible for them to rent a truck and trailer, either a travel trailer or a fifth wheel? That would give then a place for the car seats and something to drive for sightseeing. Yes, getting used to a trailer big enough for four people will take a couple of days, but so will learning a MH.

I definitely agree with the suggestions to limit the amount of the country you will be able to see in such a short time. Many people follow a plan of driving no more than 200 miles in a day, arrive at the campground by 2:00 pm and stay at least two days.

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28 minutes ago, kb0zke said:

I don't know anything about renting an RV, but might it be possible for them to rent a truck and trailer, either a travel trailer or a fifth wheel?

I have looked before and have not found anywhere that a truck can be rented to use as a tow vehicle.

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Some places to check on RV rentals and rates are:

Cruise America

RV Share

El Monte RV

Outdoorsey

Cruise America is probably the largest of the rental companies in the USA, with El Monte next. RV Share is a company that rents out privately owned RVs and shares the revenues with the owners. I have no experience with any of them but have met people who were renting from them in our travels. 

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12 hours ago, sandsys said:

Maybe a van?

Linda

Cant do a 5th wheel with a van, but yes could be a possibility for a travel trailer.  It will depend on capacity of the rental van.  Most of the rental vans I have seen dont come equipped with hitches.  Have to go more towards the commercial rental market for that.  Penske or Hertz are the ones that come to mind now.

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Don't be put off by the "You can't do that" crowd. If you want it you can make it work. The list of rental companies is good. Start there. Ask the rental companies about seating for kids. Be aware that the US laws for child seats are much less restrictive than in the UK.

Planning is the best part! Refine your list of places you want to see. The kids are likely going to want to do Disney and Universal Studios. It's probably cheaper the rent a big SUV or a minivan and to stay in hotels while you do. Save a few bucks by renting the RV only when you are done in Orlando.

Tourism is the big business in Orlando and you will likely find the cheapest airfares, car rental and hotel prices as a package deal from UK. You might get a good deal on RV rental too.

The drive to San Diego California will take you thru Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. A little research will come up with lots to see and do. It is about 3000 miles from Orlando to San Diego. You will probably end up on the Interstate system, probably I10. That's just like motorway driving in the UK. Probably slightly less traffic especially outside the major cities. 

The West Coast is pretty but VERY crowded especially in summer when schools are out.  Do some research and visit the gold fields, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco the Redwood forests.

LA is a huge city and traffic is a nightmare. The La Brea Tar Pits are good, the Queen Mary as well as the touristy Hollywood Boulevard. If you like aeroplanes the Planes of Fame museum is one of the worlds best.

We are ex-pat Brits who have lived and worked in the US for 35 years and been full time in our RV for 3 1/2 years, feel free to PM us with questions. The link to our blog should be at the bottom of the page we've been to many of the places you will likely visit.

Expect to be driving about 6000 miles. 

Lots of Europeans come and do what you plan on doing, we meet them on the road all the time. Come and enjoy our country.

BnB

 

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2 hours ago, rpsinc said:

Cant do a 5th wheel with a van, but yes could be a possibility for a travel trailer.  It will depend on capacity of the rental van.  Most of the rental vans I have seen dont come equipped with hitches.  Have to go more towards the commercial rental market for that.  Penske or Hertz are the ones that come to mind now.

Be careful with Hertz. When our daughter was ready to pick up her truck for a move they only had one an hour's drive in the wrong direction. When she complained they told her she had a request not a reservation.

Linda Sand

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Thanks all for your reply's super helpful!

Based on the comments we are being more realistic where we plan to cover.

The current plan is land in NY, spend 3 days there, catch the train to Washington spend a few days there and then rent an RV. Head south towards Orlando then head west along to New Orleans and end up in Texas. We plan on spending about 6-8 weeks doing this, so we have lots of time to relax and explore. 

Any times on how to keep the costs down along the way or handy tips.

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I would check out the rental RVs and make a choice on which one is best for you and reserve it well ahead of your arrival in the US, just to be sure that you will have one waiting. Plan to shop for food and other supplies soon after you pick it up and I would suggest a Walmart store for that since those are available nearly everywhere you travel in the USA and they are large stores that sell pretty much everything that you might need. The USA also has a wide range of RV facilities and the price of a night in them ranges quite widely so I suggest that you investigate the possibilities there as well. What each park has to offer is also greatly different. Least costly would be parks from the US Army Corps of Engineers which are usually on lakes and most have water and electricity connections and most are on lakes. On the other hand, there are also RV parks that specialize in families such as Jellystone Park Resorts, that cost significantly more but they have all sorts of activities and attractions for children. While parks like that cost more, families with young children often find that what they offer to the children often makes it worth the price. 

When in the Washington DC area, plan to put the RV in one of the RV parks that are outside of the city but located near the Metro rail commuter service as you can ride it into the city and thus avoid the cost and effort of parking the RV. It will get you close to most of the places that you are likely to wish to visit. When you reach Orlando, there are many attractions and also many different RV parks so I suggest that you consider that well in advance and do some price shopping there as well. Our son found that when he took his family, even though Disney's Ft. Wilderness is expensive, they felt that it saved enough in parking and travel time to be worth the extra cost because their children enjoyed it so much.  If you choose Cruise America to rent your RV from, they also have a service to help you locate acceptable RV parks to use as you travel.

We could probably also give better advice if we knew what time of year you plan to be here. Facility availability will vary a great deal from one season to the next. 

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From the UK you can some great stuff on line. Search on Google for each state and Tourist Information. They will have either online or in print a magazine like booklet describing what their state is famous for and what you can do and see. They will send them to you free. Search also for "Things to do" in each city, we always search for "Ten Best things to see in XXXX".

For camping in the US the app RVParky and RV Park Reviews http://www.rvparkreviews.com/ app and website are worth their weight in gold. The Passport America https://passportamerica.com/ camping discount card will soon pay for itself too and is also a good resource for finding campgrounds.

We find no need to make reservations except holiday weekends. 4th of July being the one you will likely be here for, better plan on staying in 1 place the 4th thru the 7th for that one, everywhere will be busy. Great fireworks though!

As Kirk mentioned Walmart will be your friend! They have lots of stuff including camping chairs, RV supplies, food, clothes, pharmaceuticals. Stock up on hats, sun block, insect repellant and bite/sting ointment. (The mosquitoes love fresh British blood!!). They are also airconditioned so if the heat gets to you then you can retreat to the cool!

I think you will find everything in the US considerably cheaper than in the UK. Our relatives come with empty suitcases and return with full ones! 

Have fun,

BnB

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If you have a smart phone, State Lines is a good app to get. It tells you what things are like in each state which can help you decide what to buy where including fuel since different locations add different taxes. For instance, Minnesota does not tax clothing so the Mall of America is a popular stop.

Living History sites are fun for kids as they can see people doing things the old-fashioned ways instead of just listening to you read plaques. When you visit national parks sites, always ask about the junior ranger programs; they have activities for kids to help them experience the sites. For other tourist destinations look online for guides to teachers; they often have puzzles and games for kids although many of those may be too advanced for kids as young as yours.

One purchase I would recommend if you don't already have one is an umbrella stroller. They fold up like an umbrella making them easy to take on public transport but are sturdy enough for your youngest to take a nap in while you continue visiting sites in cities. You might want to check its weight limits in case the older child decides riding for awhile might be good.

Linda Sand

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Lots of good advice on route and location planning has already been given.  I'll address something that hasn't been covered...  What's the largest thing you've driven before?  I've talked to several EU tourists who just had never been in anything larger than a four-door small car, so driving an RV was rather challenging.  Not that you can't do it, but you've got things to learn, such as swinging out on turns rather than turning in when the road starts to turn.  And the swing-out of the overhang behind you.  Things like that may not be obvious or natural.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
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Sounds like an awesome trip!  Just don't plan on running the north route over winter time.  We will be -17 this Thursday night, not good to be in camper.  Waterlines break, and generally the north is just a place to stay away from over the middle of winter.  Summer is wonderful, South Dakota has Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone Park is west of us, and to the north is the Theodore Roosevelt park in Medora, ND.

There is so much to see,  have the family pick spots they might be interested in, and then start setting routes.   Also recommend a really good GPS to help you out in your travels, I bought a DEZL 770 truck GPS to help out with height restrictions.   DO NOT just rely on the GPS, got to watch overhead with a camper, but it helps
The US is big, very, very big compared to what most folks from Europe expect.
As for keeping things cheap - always try to eat at the camper, or backpack with snacks for the kids when on the trails.  Food costs will get very expensive, and when stocking up the camper , always try to get to a bigger grocery store to increase savings.

Plenty of good tips on here!

 

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If you're planning to visit Walt Disney World, make certain you purchase your park passes in the UK. You can get a Disney 14 Day Ultimate Pass for the price of a 7 Day, and while that is probably more than you'll end up using, it's much less expensive per day than tickets you can purchase in the US. Attraction Tickets Direct is the UK's biggest ticket broker, and they often offer value-added incentives. Maybe start there?

With children that young, you're going to want to be able to dip into and out of the parks for some rest time. If you're staying at Fort Wilderness (Disney's campground) there is a LOT to do there to give the children a break from the hectic pace of the parks (it's a lovely campground with superb amenities; you may even see armadillo or deer). There are less expensive campgrounds offsite, but this is one that might be worth the splurge, since your children are so young and a Disney holiday is so demanding. Enjoy! That part of your trip can be truly magical if you plan well and take breaks.

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