In light of coronavirus pandemic, RV travel could experience an uptick
Under normal circumstances, my four kids can find any excuse to squabble in the car.
It could be about the song on the radio. It could be about the placement of a sibling’s foot. No matter the reason — and believe me, the reasons are endless — when our family takes a road trip, they will inevitably and frequently find ways to bicker, fight and repeatedly mutter the ever-popular “I’m bored!”
But during our trip from Austin to St. Louis to visit family earlier this year, before we knew how drastically different our lives would look just a few short weeks later due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was not one single fight over the course of the 14-hour drive.
For that, I thank Minnie Winnie.
Minnie Winnie is the Class C motorhome we rented for the trip from RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace launched in 2013 that allows you to rent RVs for days or weeks at a time from local owners. Having long romanticized the idea of the great American road trip, I relished the opportunity to test out RV life, which I found to be surprisingly easy and convenient, especially for families. Thanks to a fridge we stocked prior to our departure and an in-house bathroom, we stopped only twice, to get gas, en route to St. Louis. Once we arrived in St. Louis, although we could have stayed with family, the kids opted instead to spend each night in the RV, relishing the novelty of our own little house on wheels.
With states beginning to reopen following the nationwide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, some people are viewing RV travel, which makes it relatively easy to avoid crowds and incorporate social distancing, as an alternative to booking flights and staying in hotels. RVshare reports that its bookings have doubled since the week of April 22. In addition, according to an RVshare survey, while 75% of customers do not plan to travel within the next four weeks, 77% are looking to make travel plans within the next three months. Of those who plan to travel, 65% want to be in nature, and nearly all responders said they will avoid any destinations with crowds.
While it may still be too early to travel due to the coronavirus pandemic — of the local and state parks that are open, the majority are for day-use only, for example — here are some tips for RV travel for when the time does come to hit the open road.
Get to know your vehicle ahead of time. One of the benefits of our rental was that we got an in-person walkthrough of our RV — the Minnie Winnie “Wind River” model — when we picked it up. Having a firsthand lesson on everything from learning how to operate the DVD player (of utmost importance to our kids) to how to transform the dinette into a bed was priceless, especially for us tentative RV first-timers.
Pack like you’re glamping. Packing for the family is never fun, but knowing we wouldn’t have to haul luggage from place to place during the trip was a definite plus. Our rental came with bedding, silverware, dishes, towels, toilet paper and pots and pans. In addition to suitcases, I recommend bringing chargers, DVDs, a deck of cards and other games for the kids, and additional blankets and pillows.
Enjoy the journey. Under normal circumstances in our car, we can make the Austin to St. Louis drive in less than 12 hours. But because we were in an RV, something foreign to us, we took our time during the drive. Doing so allowed my husband and me to fully appreciate the road trip vibes that the RV fostered, from the countless games of Crazy Eights to the endless “Harry Potter” discussions to the shocking tranquility that manifested once the kids settled into the soundtrack provided by the hum of the road.
Know your size. Our Wind River model was a 23-footer, which is relatively small in RV terms, and overall I found it easy to drive, especially since it had a backup camera. Navigating gas stations was no problem, but, due to its height, drive-thru fast food places were a no-go.
Reserve campsites in advance. Although it’s always fun to be spontaneous, in the upcoming months, when and if parks reopen for camping, it will be especially important to make a plan and book in advance. In Texas, you can make reservations — once camping is available again — with Texas Parks & Wildlife at tpwd.texas.gov. KOA (koa.com) is another reliable option, as is Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts (campjellystone.com).
RVshare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, launched in 2013 and currently has more than 100,000 vehicles available. To learn more about renting or to book an RV, visit rvshare.com.