Road Trip: Think Motor Homes are Only
for Retirees and Outdoor Types? Think AgainRVs are
Perfect for Family Travel.
Essence, August, 2005 by Wendy Paris
When I was 8, a friend of my stepfather offered to lend
us a recreational vehicle for a road trip to Florida.
I fantasized about that vacation for months. When the
RV finally arrived, it came with an unexpected perk: The
friend, who worked at a gum company, had stocked the kitchen
with a case of grape bubble gum. On the road, we watched
the Ohio fields rise to the mountains of Tennessee and
Civil War battlefields give way to palm-tree-lined beaches.
Our whole family was together every day. In my memory,
that vacation--complete with bubble gum--rates as one
of our best.
Recreational vehicles have come a long way since then.
Modern RVs have everything from satellite TV, Internet
and global positioning systems (GPSs) to washer--dryers,
queen-size beds and slide-out room extensions. Then there's
the savings. A week's vacation for a family of four in
an RV can cost up to 70 percent less than a cruise or
an all-inclusive air-and-resort package. An increasing
number of young working families are planning RV vacations,
drawn to the savings, freedom and flexibility of having
their own home on the road. This rise in travelers has
led to an increase in RV rental companies and an improvement
in RV campgrounds, making it easier than ever to plan
your trip. "Black families are becoming more aware
of this as a good way to travel," says Anne Shearer
Steele, president of the National African-American RV'ers
Association (NAARVA), a nonprofit with more than 3,000
members. "You can do just about everything in an
RV, as long as the driver pays attention to the road."
Terms You Should Know
you hit the road, learn the lingo. This guide will bring
you up to speed:
RECREATIONAL VEHICLE (RV) Call it a camper, a motor
home or a Winnebago: It's still an RV. These are divided
into two categories--motorized RVs and towables.
MOTORIZED RV The traditional car-condo combo. Generally
20 to 40 feet long, a motorized RV can sleep up to eight
people and has a kitchen, a bathroom, bedrooms and a living
room right behind the driver's seat. Modern RVs often
have slide--outs motorized walls that extend to increase
the size of the rooms when you park. Motorized RVs come
in two types: Type C, with a bed the front cab, is the
most popular. Type A, shaped like a bus, is the biggest
RV on the road. Pros: You travel in the motor home, making
driving time part of the fun. Cons: At your destination,
you have to take your 40-foot home with you to nearby
attractions, which is why some people tow a ar behind
to use on location.
TOWABLE RV An RV that attaches to a car or truck;
you detach it at each campsite. Generally 15 to 23 feet
long, a towable has many of the same facilities as a motor
home, including sleeping room for up to eight. Pros: You
can detach it at your destination, letting you zip around
in your car, Cons: The road-trip part of your excursion
happens in your car, not in your camper.
CAMPGROUNDS Yes, you sleep in your RV, but you
have to park it somewhere. There are more than 16,000
public and private campgrounds in the United States, about
half near national parks and forests. Many campgrounds
have grocery stores, laundry rooms, swimming pools, playgrounds
and game rooms, as well as hookups (see below). Some even
have petting zoos and coffee shops. Campgrounds are rated
like hotels, so research before you book.
HOOKUPS Campgrounds can supply electricity for
your appliances and lights through hookups--big electric
sockets for plugging in RVs. You'll also be able to connect
to a fresh-water supply and find facilities for dumping
The Advantages of RVing
Not convinced? More reasons why motor homes are worth
Cost Cross a car with a condo and what do you get? Savings.
Recreational vehicles rent for $80 to $200 per day, while
towable RVs that you attach to a car or SUV go for $28
to $90. You'll pay about $50 a night at a campground,
including electricity, water and dumping. You'll take
a hit at the gas pump--RVs get 10 to 12 miles per gallon--but
compared with the cost of airfare and lodging for a family
of four, RVs still offer a better deal. Food is one of
the biggest vacation savings in an RV: Doing your own
cooking lets you avoid expensive tourist restaurants.
For additional savings at campgrounds, join a discount
club such as Good Sam Club (goodsamclub.com). You can
also park overnight free of charge at certain WaI-Mart
locations, though there's nowhere to hook up water and
Convenience ,ate airport lines, security clearances and
hotel checkin? Skip it all in an RV. Everything you need
is on your own six wheels.
Control An RV lets you travel how you want, when you want.
Loving Louisiana? Stay as long as you like. Too cold in
Chicago? There's no penalty fee for leaving early. You
do your own cooking, meaning you eat what you please.
Kids (and you) can bring favorite toys, books and snacks
along without worrying about luggage limits. You can bring
your parents and even your pets. It's your choice.
Comfort Ever slept in a luxury yacht? Today's RVs let
you live the yachting life on land. They resemble cabin
cruisers in that every space is utilized, increasingly
with the best facilities available. You'll find RVs with
white leather couches, full bathrooms and kitchen cabinets
so well crafted you'll want them at home. They're surprisingly
comfortable to drive too. Today's motor homes come with
cruise control, power steering, power brakes and plush
seats that look like loungers. But test-drive your RV
before renting, and watch the instructional video; cornering
in a 28-foot-long vehicle takes practice.
Friendliness "Motor-home folks and RV people are
some of the nicest folks in the world," says Steele,
the president of NAARVA, who has made lasting friendships
with people she's met at campgrounds. "You're going
to feel comfortable in a campground. Someone's always
willing to give a helping hand."
Saundra Powell, a reading-lab coordinator in Kansas City,
Missouri, has been RVing with her husband and son for
14 years. "There's a camaraderie around RVers. It's
a community," she says. "There's more interaction
with people than there is in a hotel. When people say,
'Happy campers,' it's true. Campers are happy."
Fun and Adventure "In an RV, you get to experience
different cultures along the way," Powell says. "As
the children start studying history, you can stop and
see all the things they're reading about." Not only
can you tour some of the most dramatic parts of the continent--the
Alaska Highway, California's Pacific Coast, the Nevada
desert--but you're also traveling in a perfect base camp
for hiking, fishing, biking and exploring. You can store
sporting equipment and tow or mount bikes, boats and other
recreational equipment. On an RV vacation, you can explore
the country in the comfort of your own (rented) home.
For more information on renting, trip routing and camping,
check out these Web sites:
NAARVA.COM Info about the National African-American RV'ers
Association, including the national NAARVA rally, July
31-August 7, at Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa
GORVING.COM Testimonials and information about RV types,
dealers, destinations, campgrounds, packing checklists
and a free DVD with info for novices.
FUNROADS.COM Destination descriptions, recipes for cooking
in small spaces, a state-by-state map of RV campgrounds
RVRA.ORG RV info and a state-by-state directory of hundreds
of rental companies.
CRUISEAMERICA.COM The nation's largest rental chain, with
135 centers throughout the United States and Canada.
GOCAMPINGAMERICA.COM A listing of commercial campgrounds.
Wendy Paris is a freelance writer in New York City.
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