I saw it on the local news the other night, so it’s official:

RVs are hip.

Well no, they didn’t say “hip” exactly; what they said was that everyone’s clamoring to get one now – or at least rent one – because of fears of coronavirus floating around airplane cabins, hotels, AirBnBs, VRBOs, and other communal travel spaces.

Except for sartorial fashions during my high school years, I’ve never been an “early adopter” of anything.  I’m impervious to trends, as a peek into my current clothes closet will reveal.  With phones and other tech, getting the latest thing seems foolish – I wait until the bugs are worked out… duh.  Nor am I someone who can claim to have “discovered” a band before they made it big.  Even with travel I’m usually late to the game.  By the time I’ve made it to the hottest new destination, it’s passé.  But now, as a long-time owner of a travel trailer, I can finally utter that most hipster of phrases:

I had one before it was cool.

And as heady as my newfound hipness is, as I sit planning a COVID-friendly, social-distance-respecting, mask-and-sanitizer-heavy summertime trip with our home on wheels, I confess that this sudden interest in RVs by the previously uninterested (and sometimes scoffing) public causes me some concern.  I shudder at the thought of every Dom, Rick, and Barry out there on the road with us.  Whether it’s a pull-behind travel trailer like ours, a fifth wheel, or a class A or C motorhome, these things take some experience and know-how to drive and tow safely.

For a primer on these and other types of motorhomes, click here.

Top 10 Weird & Unique RVs - RVshare.com
Source: RVshare.com

Shockingly, in most states, a special driver’s license is needed only when driving the biggest of the big.  That means most RVs you’ll encounter on the highways – even ones that dwarf school buses – will be driven by people with no special training whatsoever.  What makes that bad this summer is that so many of these RVers will be inexperienced newbies.  This concern won’t stop us from traveling – the pull is too strong.  It will, however, necessitate an increased state of vigilance as we roll across the country.

If you’re still determined to join the exalted ranks of the RVer, allow me to give you a few things to think about before you impetuously run out to rent or buy a home on wheels.

1970s Vintage RVs, Free and Funky | Never Idle Journal
Source: Outdoorsy.com

Cost: Whether buying or renting, RVs aren’t cheap.  Some cursory research of summertime (read: more expensive) rentals in my area can run you upwards of $2500 per week, and that doesn’t cover gas (see below).  True, this high end of the price range is for a huge Class A motorhome.  A Class C is about $1500 per week.  If you book a towable, the weekly rate can be a third that price, but of course, you have to have a vehicle that can tow it (see below).  If you’re looking to buy, purchase prices can run the gamut, but I’m pretty sure you won’t come away from a visit to the RV dealership feeling “pleasantly surprised.”

Top 20 Weirdest RVs In The World. You're Never Going To Believe ...
Source: RVshare.com

Tow vehicle:  When we first got our 12-foot Bobbie, our plan was to tow it with our Subaru Forester because, according to the owner’s manual, our car was capable of pulling that much weight.  Officially, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean the Forester towed it well.  Here in Minnesota, we could get by, but we don’t tend to travel in Minnesota.  We like to go into, and often up and over, the mountains, and that’s quite a different thing to towing on the flats.  Even with the gas pedal all the way to the floor, getting Bobbie up a mere foothill was a slow, painstaking process.  In the end, we got a truck.  And don’t be fooled by RVs with “micro lite,” “ultra lite,” or “featherlite” in the make or model name.  How marketers can bestow the word “lite” on a 37-foot, 7000-lb RV and still look themselves in the mirror is beyond me.

Want to meet Bobbie?  Click here.

Bit of a size difference here...
This isn’t going to work.  Source: za.pinterest.com

Towable or drivable:  “But wait,” you’re thinking.  “I’m going to get a driveable RV – perhaps a Class C.  I know my limits, after all.  Who wants to drive a semi?”  True, true.  By getting a driveable motorhome, you avoid the tow vehicle problem as well as some of the handling hazards (see below).  But consider this scenario:

  • You’ve driven for hours, your butt is numb, but finally you’ve arrived!  You pull into your campsite and get all hooked up: water, sewer, electricity, and cable.  If your RV is so equipped, you lower the steps, open the awnings, extend your slide-out, situate your couch, and generally get settled.  A few hours pass.  You become hungry.  Restaurant or grocery shop for dinner?  It doesn’t matter.  Either way, you need to go into town.  Wait.  How will you get there?  Your car has been transformed into your home, and now you have to unhook and restow everything to drive into town, then rehook and set up again when you get back to the campsite.  Same thing for that trailhead you want to go to tomorrow… and that fireworks display on the next lake over the night after that.  Unless you have one of those massive toy haulers or towed your car behind your RV, you will probably end up screaming: Why oh why didn’t I get a towable?!
RV Triple Towing Laws, Pros and Cons
Don’t be this person.  Source: DoityourselfRV.com

Gas: Though gas may be cheap right now, your eyes will still bug out when you see how much fuel it takes to tow even a modest trailer.  I consider myself an environmentalist, and towing a trailer is my biggest show of hypocrisy.  With one eye on the gas gauge and the other on your dwindling cash supply, you will find yourself unusually preoccupied with the prevailing wind direction – and praying for a tailwind – every second you are in motion.

Top 10 Craziest RVs you Have to See - RVshare.com
Source: RVshare.com

Slow driving: In our pre-trailer days, we loved the fact that we could make it to Denver in 13 hours.  One long day of driving and we were in the mountains!  With towing, we make it to about two hours shy of Denver.  Everything is slower when you’re towing, even on the flats.  Some of that is due to more frequent gas fill-ups, and some is owing to the need to avoid the top permissible speeds when towing.  Things get even slower when less-than-ideal weather conditions enter the picture.

Cool Unique Rvs - YouTube
Source: Youtube.com

Handling hazards: Now, I’ve never driven a true motorhome, so I don’t know how much it differs from car driving.  But I can speak to driving while towing, and mark my words: sometimes even sitting in the passenger seat can be terrifying.

  •  Sway: Ah, sway, how I hate you.  Sway is the fishtailing that your trailer can do when you take a curve too quickly, when a big rig passes you at high speeds, or when you’re driving in high wind conditions – especially cross-winds.  The car starts to shake from side to side and you feel like you might flip.  Fun it is not.  You’ll need to buy a sway bar, but that only helps diminish sway, not prevent it entirely.
  • Reversing: Once, in college, I needed to back a borrowed trailer into my narrow driveway to load up for a move.  The driveway happened to be bordered by the house on one side and a retaining wall on the other.  I tried and I tried to back that sucker in, but ultimately – and in red-faced rage – had to leave it to my then boyfriend to finish the job.  Not my proudest feminist moment, but I’m sharing it to illustrate that backing up a trailer is not easy.  Another time, in a moment of reversing frustration, the husband backed in too abruptly at a weird angle and damaged our trailer tongue.  Ironically, we are told the that shorter the trailer, the more difficult it is to back in.  It is something that gets easier with lots of practice (and gobs of patience, and after many shouting matches as one of you backs in while the other stands outside and “assists”), but one summer trip won’t be enough to master it.
  • Maneuverability: tight corners, low bridges, narrow passages, U-turns?  Good luck.
15 Of The Coolest Handmade RVs You Can Actually Buy | Campanda ...
Source: Campanda.com

So yeah, there’s a lot to consider before losing your RVirginity, and these things are just the tip of the iceberg trailer tongue.  But if you decide to embrace the trend and join the cool kids, read this article, double-check your hitch work, drive carefully, and if you do nothing else, stay in the far right lane, especially on an uphill.  See you out there!

And in case you missed it earlier: Until we meet again, dear Bobbie

90 thoughts

  1. Oh I always thought you were a cool kid, but now I have proof. I like your advice on how to drive a RV. That’d be my biggest concern if [when?] we get one. I saw a show on HGTV once about people who were shopping for, then buying, RVs. The rationale for why people bought what they bought was as random as it was weird. Completely fascinating show. Safe travels to you.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Although I don’t like the thought of staying in a hotel right now, I can’t imagine having an RV. I don’t even like car camping. I do love some of your pictures though, the first one of the airstream-car and the yellow tuktuk style are the best!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I have a colleague who ADORES her camper van. She had to sell it and ended up getting a pop-up, which she hated and quickly sold. Just last week she bought another camper van and is in love again. I think there’s a whole group of devotees out there, so you’d be in good company.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Early to bed and early to rise keeps the Travel Architect healthy (that’s probably more down to my exercise regimen, actually), wealthy (I could stand to be wealthier; as Monty Burns says: I’d give it all up for just a dollar more), and wise (wisdom just oozes from my pores, much like you with sweat). 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I can’t really talk, my body clock gets me at 6.30 every goddam morning! And I don’t care how wise you are, it will never ooze out as much as my sweat. 78% humidity today….think about that and me being outside in it for a second 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. The only times I spent any length of time in an RV was a couple of camping trips my family went on in Hawaii (we rented, the bridge wasn’t built at that time 🙂 ). We had a great time. I’ve always admired those adorable little teardrops that can be towed behind almost anything (maybe even that Smart Car in the photo). Basically they just contain a sleeping area and maybe a mini-kitchen at the back. Anyway, we will probably just remain very uncool and wait until it’s safe to stay in hotels and rentals again.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. As somebody with a passing longing for an RV, I appreciate your honesty and shared tips. Really, I would love to find a VW Bus – that would be similar to the RV experience without a lot of the hassle. Off to meet Bobbie next!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Oh esteemed travel guru,

    Your missive on RV life and vehicle options is excellent. The photos of bizarre vehicle combinations are only slightly less frightening than the sight of an 80 year man sitting on a phone book while driving a 50 foot land-bound version of the Bismarck on a windy mountain road. To some RV life is the creation of a peaceful hovel in the midst of nature. To others, it is a stereo blasting, beers at 9 a.m., venture into Road Warrior anarchy. Flush out those septic tanks- Gomer and Bobette are coming over for martinis and nachos at 2!
    Somebody fetch my crossbow in case a chipmunk makes a run at the guacamole!

    Ah nature…now throw on some GunsN’Roses and check the Everclear supply. This camping stuff ain’t for the faint of heart!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Selfiehater! You’re back! We’ve missed your priceless insights! So did you finally remember your password for WordPress or did you throw in the towel and create a new one? It doesn’t really matter – we’re just glad you’re back in the comments.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I established a new password and, working with some North Koreans, managed to circumvent the hyper secure Web Press system. I intend to remain a source of critical commentary for the foreseeable future (or until I forget the new password).

        Liked by 2 people

  6. This post is absolutely amazing!!! Like always, so very well written and delightful to read. Like you, I am fairly impervious to trends. I actually take pride in being out of fashion hahaha…. But unlike you, I am not ahead of the curve on RV ownership and I am bummed that I was not. For as much as I love to travel, camp, and hike, you’d think I’d have more foresight in this area. Kudos to you!!! 👍

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Hello!

    Love the topic of this! As you know, I could talk about it all day. The ONLY thing you failed to mention in the post is the superior camping vehicle: the Class B camper. They are usually twenty feet or less, fit into a regular parking spot, have all the features of a big RV, able to set up your campsite in 30 seconds, and when you do venture out, you have your little home with you, so you never forget anything! I know I am a bit biased, but I want everyone to be aware of the JOY a camper van can bring to one’s life!

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Great post, and some very good advice. We hired several different sized RVs before settling on a caravan/towable. We purchased our first basic entry level caravan to make sure it is what we wanted and would use before finally settling on a larger one. We are about to head out on the road fulltime to explore more of our home country, New Zealand (so we will be staying firmly on the left hand side of the road 😆).

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Very informative article about RVs. I was never really a fan of them, but I can definitely see the hype for them especially now.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. Guess I am ahead of the curve. My travel nurse husband and I have been Rving for 13 years, the last 3 years as full-time. I agree someone shouldn’t buy a 41′ foot RV and head out without knowing what they are doing. Hopefully most people will research and learn first. Our first camper was a pop up! And we have Class A now and tow an F150.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I love this! I know what you mean about them suddenly becoming trendy. Starting to think we need one even though I can’t even be trusted to drive my truck alone without denting it…

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Great post! We had a new trailer made in Georgia several years ago and pulled it up here to Alaska. We sold it and made enough money to pay for our gas. We’re getting ready to drive back down this year and purchase another to move our things since my husband is retiring. We slept in the the first one, despite not putting any windows in. The new one will have a few windows and will be a goose neck (the first was not). We’re going to put our mattress up over the goose neck.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. A really interesting read and really interesting reading the other comments too. The post only puts me off the idea of owning / renting one and yet everyone else seems to have been won over. Amusing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I was surprised that this post catapulted to my #1 all-time most popular post. It’s funny – you never can predict what post is going to grab people and what one (usually one you love) sinks to the bottom. Ha ha! Yes, RVing and camping aren’t for everyone. It’s ok – I still like you. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

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