It’s the classic American road trip — the only way it could be more quintessential is if Clark Griswold himself loaded up the family and headed to Wally World in a motorhome instead of a station wagon.
RVing across America has huge appeal for solo travelers, couples, groups of friends, and families. Think about it: Logistically, taking a cross-country road trip should be a nightmare. You spend all day on the road, stopping every time you need a snack or a bathroom break, only to pack and unpack your suitcase every night in a new hotel.
In an RV though, you’ve got everything in one package. Need a bathroom break? Have another driver take the wheel at a stoplight. Hungry? Rifle through the kitchen cabinets in the back for some pretzels. Exhausted from a long day of driving? Pull over at the closest Walmart and take a snooze in an actual bed.
Flying is efficient, but doesn’t give you the same experience as driving from place to place. In an RV, you can stop as often as you’d like to take in the scenery or spend a few extra days in a town you didn’t even know existed. In a word, it’s freedom.
Before you hit the road, though, there are a few things you need to think about when you’re planning to drive an RV across America.
What Is The Cost To RV Across America?
The most important thing first: How much is this gonna cost? The short answer is, frustratingly, that it depends. No matter how long you’re planning on being gone, you’ll not only have to total up the nightly campground fee, but the cost of gas and mileage, food, and attractions along the way — thus the wide range of how much the whole thing will set you back. A three-week vacation for a thrifty pair of honeymooners will undoubtedly cost less than a summer-long road trip for two retirees and their three grandchildren. But there are a few ways to tally up your expected cost to RV across America.
First, the nightly campground rate. Depending on what type of year you’re traveling and what kind of amenities you’re after, you can expect to pay somewhere between $10 and $50 per night at each campsite. In most cases, it makes sense to join a membership club that will give you discounted rates at campgrounds across the country. Joining a membership club like Passport America costs just $44 per year but helps you get in the door at 50 percent off listed prices. Think about it this way: In just a few nights, it pays for itself.
Budget-conscious travelers can also save money by cooking inexpensive meals at home. Sites like Pinterest have a range of one-pot dinners that make cleanup a breeze, and leftovers can be frozen or eaten the next day for lunch. All things considered, your food budget won’t be too different from what it is at home, though you may want to pad a little extra if you’re planning on eating out a lot.
Gas will likely be your biggest expense. In addition to RVs getting lousy gas mileage, most rental companies charge a mileage rate that can add up fast. Downloading an app like Gas Buddy before you leave can help you find the cheapest gas stations on the road, leaving you with more money in your wallet for sightseeing and local cuisine.
What to Expect when RVing Across America
If you’re new to RVing, it can seem a bit intimidating at first. Driving an RV across America is a dream for many people, but it’s not a trip that can be taken without preparation.
Before you leave, you’ll want to read up on how to maneuver your RV and perhaps even take it out for a test drive. Make sure you know how tall your motorhome is so you don’t run into any trouble in tunnels or overpasses. YouTube is a great resource for finding instructional videos packed with helpful tips on how to drive and operate your particular RV model.
Even if you’re the spontaneous type, a cross-country RV trip is not ideal for winging it. At the very least, you’ll want to plan a rough route across the country by linking up the cities or sights on your wish list. Be aware that many popular campgrounds book out months in advance. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find a place to hang your hat at the end of a long day on the road, so do yourself a favor and make some reservations.
Must-See RV Parks Across America
No matter which route you’re taking, there are plenty of excellent RV parks across America. But to get you started, here are a few worth checking out:
- Boyd’s Key West Campground (Key West, FL): Beautiful, oceanside campsites at an RV park that’s been family owned for 50 years. Walking distance to the bustling drag of Duval Street, paradise costs as little as $73 per night.
- Ruby’s Inn Campground and RV Park (Bryce Canyon, UT): A homey campground with access to Utah’s spectacular Bryce Canyon. You’ll find horseback riding and guided ATV tours, all with nightly rates as low as $32.
- Aquia Pines Camp Resort (Stafford, VA): Craft beer lovers will love that this RV park an hour south of Washington D.C. boasts an on-site craft brewery, Wild Run Brewing. It’s a bit pricier at $46 a night, but can you really put a price on having a brewery attached to your campsite?
- Tumble Inn RV Park (Marfa, TX): This family-0wned campground is just 1/4 mile east of Marfa, a hip Texas town known for its art scene, food trucks, and of course, the famed Prada Marfa installation. Experience breathtaking desert views and sunsets for $27 a night.
- French Quarter RV Resort (New Orleans, LA): Campsites in major U.S. cities can be hard to come by, by this RV Park is in the heart of the French Quarter, just a 15-minute walk away from New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street. Chow down on gumbo and beignets, then head back to your site for $120 a night.