The Resurgence of the American Road Trip
by Lauren Strait
One of the positive things trending in America today amid the coronavirus pandemic is a good old American pastime – a family road trip. Before airplane prices became more affordable for middle America in the 1980s, road trips were the main event for many American families. With the lasting effects of the coronavirus pandemic still unknown, one way to escape the world for a bit all while maintaining proper social distancing is road tripping in a recreational vehicle.
More than 20 percent of Americans surveyed in the summer of 2020 have been more interested in RVs as a recreational travel option, according to the RV Industry Association. About half of those who plan to take RV trips this year said health concerns increased their interest. The best part of this type of travel is the advanced technology, gizmos and gadgets that have made traveling by RV more comfortable, convenient and accessible than ever before.
With cruises cancelled, limited flights, and closed international borders, venturing out RV style can certainly seem like an overwhelming, yet intriguing alternative. The first thing you really need to decide is where you want to go and how far you want to travel away from home. With RV travel, you can openly dream of winding roads, landscapes, and the cities you wish to immerse yourself in, and then find a way to make those dreams come true.
For most families, enjoying the basic concept of “Get Outside” is the number one goal. This means, finding places where they can entertain themselves with the purity and scenic backdrops of nature. The whole family can get involved in destination planning by talking about what types of nature they would like to see – this can be a waterfall, activities by a river, ultimate hikes, or beaches that are on your bucket list. From there, you can get together and research areas that may have these features and map out your trip that way.
Other families talk about places they have always wanted to visit such as National Parks, monuments, places that are close to family members that they don’t get to see often, or even experiences that are only available for RVers, such as becoming a harvest host, which involves free camping on a farm or vineyard in exchange for a day of help harvesting fruits and vegetables.
If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. There are also several apps to help you along with planning. Some highly rated ones include Boondocking, FreeRoam, Campendium, Dyrt and Hipcamp. These apps can help you from navigating roads, to special stops, gas stations, and site seeing along the way to your destination. They can also help find the best RV parks, resorts or off grid sites for your family. Each one has its own unique offering.
One of the blessings of America, especially during times like these, is that anyone with a vehicle can go anywhere. This makes the decision to RV simple – but what type of RV would you like to go travel in?
From renting to buying, there are many options to choose from. Rental options range from companies that own their homes on wheels, like Cruise America, or marketplace platforms where you can find someone else’s RV to rent.
From personal experience, Cruise America makes it easy to rent. “We focus on a ‘no frills’ strategy, which allows for easy use and nothing to break,” said Randall Smalley, executive assistant vice president for global marketing and business development.
Their vehicles are purposely built by their own employed Cruise America teams to withstand vigorous vacation use. They really do keep it simple to make it easy for families to use, drive and operate so the only thing you need to worry about is the fun you plan to have with your home on the road. Their economical family units can hold from three to seven people.
Features of their vehicles include air conditioning, fresh water, toilet, gas cooktop, generator, refrigerator, microwave, shower, beds, kitchenette and a folding table. Plus, all their vehicles are pet-friendly for those who do not want to leave their furry family members behind.
Cruise America’s rental fees range between $50-$150 per day. This includes insurance and third-party liability, which is an added bonus for those who are nervous about accidents that may occur on the road or during your trip.
RV Travel Benefits
There are so many benefits to RV traveling, that are even more attractive during a pandemic like this. First and foremost, let’s have some potty talk. Having a potty to use is one of the highest benefits on my personal list. Effective social distancing requires limited contact with others and limited interactions at rest stops, gas stations and fast food restaurants. Having your own potty eliminates the exposure of using public toilets completely. This pandemic has changed how everyone does business, and in small towns, this can mean either completely shutting down, or not allowing you to come into their stores or restaurants. It is a blessing to have your own potty for that special emergency.
Getting out and into nature has its own benefits. It allows for a true digital detox, especially after all of that Netflix and chilling you have been doing recently in between conference calls and laundry. It gets kids off their gaming systems and allows them to refocus on their surroundings. Research has even proven that environments can increase or reduce stress. Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. In addition, nature helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort. At the end of the day, Richard Louv stated it best when he said, “time in nature is not leisure time; its’ an essential investment in our children’s health, (and also, by the way, in our own).”
Those who own or rent an RV can stock it with their own bedding, their own food and personal items to give them the feeling that it’s a safer option than flying, staying in hotels or dining in at restaurants. Plus, this is another way you can stay isolated and properly social distance from others to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
So Why RV Travel Now?
During the middle of a pandemic, why venture out now in an RV for the “Great American Road Trip”? Although many restrictions are still in place, travel is slowly starting up again. People locked down for months want to stretch their legs, see something other than a screen, and reconnect with nature. Here are some reasons why to RV travel:
Visiting National Parks is possible while social distancing. You can avoid big crowds in the great outdoors. The key is keeping a six-foot distance. A good practice at a park is to pretend that other people are grizzly bears and stay away from them. Check the National Park Service’s find-a-park website to see if the park is closed or partially closed (restrooms and food services, in particular), for limits on numbers of visitors, and other rules like mask-wearing.
There is so much to see in America. As an incredibly diverse nation, people from all over the world immigrate here, providing multicultural experiences from coast to coast. Along the back roads and far out farmlands are small towns and attractions that do not get the attention they deserve. Small shops, restaurants, and abandoned sites often get passed by because they are seemingly meaningless. You never know when you could be missing out on the chance to discover a hidden gem among what appears to be a plot of nothingness. With all the different types of landscapes across the country, there really isn’t a bad view. From mountain ranges, to rolling hills, desert cactus to sunny beaches, there is a postcard-worthy view that you will want to capture as the backdrop for your next selfies. And lastly, The National Park System encompasses 419 national park sites in the United States. To get to one of these is not far, no matter where you live in the U.S. They span across more than 84 million acres in each state.
RV travel is quite affordable. With so many people out of work, or experiencing a reduction in income, RV vacationing can stretch your dollar further than you can imagine. Think about how much you typically spend on a vacation. For our family of four, we have to consider airfare, hotel stays, our food budget, our activities budget and then of course all of the little “extras” that we forget to include that tend to arise like an urgent care visit, extra souvenirs, etc. Your daily rental cost for an RV includes your actual travel cost (minus gas), AND your hotel stay (minus an RV resort or campground fee). Your meals include what you bring along with you on the trip (minus an adventure or two of take out at select destinations), and the entertainment can really be a minimal expense, especially when visiting national parks or simply enjoying the surrounding nature. I bet if you did the math, an RV trip could fit into your budget quite nicely.
At the end of the day, we sometimes forget about all the incredible places that are right in our own backyards. Instead of that little Italian restaurant outside of Tuscany, what about venturing off to an American vineyard for fresh wine? While nothing will replace the pyramids in Egypt, another one of the world’s wonders, the Grand Canyon, is within our reach. Living in the United States, we ultimately have the freedom to get out an explore while on vacation, and I think we can all agree that this is something we all need right now. This way of vacationing allows for an upgraded life under the stars. You are in control. You are not on someone’s schedule. You create memories that your children will never forget.
RV Apps to Try
- FreeRoam – Use this app for finding free campsites on public land, as well as a directory of reviews for established campsites. However, its greatest power lies in finding new campsites not otherwise documented.
- Campendium – Featuring tens of thousands of places to camp, from swanky RV parks to free remote destinations, vetted by a team of full-time travelers and reviewed by their 275,000 plus members.
- Hipcamp – This app filters campsites and lodging according to your travel needs, including price, group size, structure type, pet-friendliness, amenities (from toilets to outdoor kitchens), and access to activities such as hiking, fishing, and surfing.
- Dyrt – This is the ultimate camping app, with over 500,000+ user-submitted locations, reviews and tips across the U.S. The platform is free to use on the web, iOS, and Android, with additional functionality available in the paid PRO version
Benefits of RV Travel During a Pandemic
- Your own bathroom
- Your own bedding
- Digital detox
- Reconnecting with nature
- Enjoying the in-between destinations
- Creative camping meals
- Freedom of your own schedule
- It is affordable
Lauren Strait is a freelance travel writer specializing in RV travel. She is also the co-founder of Strait Talk Travel, a family travel blog and resource she maintains with her husband and twin boys.