A few months ago, Charles and I decided that spending time outdoors, in nature, with the kids, was going to be a huge priority in our lives. We’ve started small – by getting out every weekend and taking the kids (and dogs) hiking on local trails. But we also took it a step further and decided to plan a camping trip (our first one!) to Arkansas. And because I feel like I need to be eased into camp life, we rented an RV for our trip. I thought I’d share our experience with renting an RV for a family vacation here in case it can help any of y’all plan an RV trip or decide if it’s the right option for you!
Renting an RV for a Family Vacation
First off – you have some options when it comes to the type of RV you rent. I can only share our experience with a travel trailer, which is a trailer that you hitch to your vehicle and tow behind you. Another option would be to rent a motorhome. We chose the travel trailer because we wanted to unhook from the trailer once we arrived and explore the area and it was easier to do that with a car than with a motorhome.
You’ll need to know if your vehicle can tow a travel trailer, and you’ll need to have a hitch installed. This is something you need to discuss with the dealer or an expert. You for sure, 100%, absolutely do NOT want to be towing a trailer in an unsafe manner, and if you’re new to this I highly recommend you have an expert take look at your vehicle, your hitch, etc. – and then give you recommendations on what you can tow. We got help and good advice from our local rental place, which is called Campers 4 Rent and is located in Rockwall, TX.
How much does renting an RV cost?
It cost us about $100/night to rent a 20′ trailer that slept six.
There were lots of other costs that went along with our trip and that are relevant to this question. One of those expenses was extra gas (our car burned through about two tanks more than we anticipated). Also, don’t forget campsite fees – and if it’s a holiday, summer, or a popular campsite, be sure to book far in advance. Our campground cost $50 a night, and we were there for a holiday weekend.
You will also need to furnish the RV with pretty much everything, from linens to food to kitchen equipment to toilet paper (although you might check with the dealer or owner on this – they might supply that as it’s a special kind). You’ll also need everything to set up your campsite, like chairs and wood to make a fire and an awning if you don’t have one on the RV or shade nearby.
Also, keep this in mind – you might need to pick it up a day early to pack or keep it a day later to unpack, depending on when you are leaving and returning from your trip. We picked ours up the day we left, but the dealer wasn’t open when we returned so we had to keep it until the enxt day, which added to the cost.
Can you rent an RV with pets?
Yes! You’ll need to check with the owner or the dealer to see what their pet policy is, but we brought our dogs along for the trip. You’ll also want to check the pet policy of the campsite before booking, as not all are pet-friendly.
What do campgrounds provide?
One of the factors that went into choosing our RV was that it had a toilet and a shower. However, we ended up using the campground’s shower and even their bathrooms for most of the trip. They were big, clean, and convenient – and we didn’t have to worry about filling up the tanks from our showers and the toilet (if we had filled them up, we’d have to go to the dump station and clear them out – but the beauty of our rental was they took care of that for us when we returned).
Each campgroup will have different amenities and it’s so important to make sure you are aware of what you need and what will be available.
Some campgrounds will have bathrooms, showers, electricity and water hookups. Others are more primitive and you might not have any of these things.
Bring flip flops if you’re going to be using the camp showers!
Is renting an RV worth it?
In our case, yes. Even if the trip had been bad, I think it would have been worth it because we tried something new and if we never wanted to camp again, at least we would know that!
Here’s the thing – camping is a lot of work. A. Lot. Of. Work. I mean, we basically had to pack the RV, which is like moving into a small house. I did a ton of meal prep to cut down on cooking (and dishes, and washing dishes) on the trip. Then we lived out of it for four days and got it dirty with all our camping adventures and basically just walking in and out. Then we came home and I had to unpack it all. Then I had to do like one million loads of laundry and put everything back away.
But also, it’s super awesome. You get to see the world from a different view. You can stay in places where hotels don’t exist. You can sleep steps away from a lake, under the night stars. Your kids can play outdoors, in the dirt, amongst the trees. What’s not to love about that? (If that doesn’t excite you…it’s ok! But camping might not be for you.).
I think it’s important to be realistic about the work and money that will go into your camping trip before you jump in. Not everyone is cut out for camping and that is totally okay.
It was not a cheap trip. We could have stayed in a hotel for about the same cost. There are definitely ways to camp on a limited budget, but my overall feeling is that RV camping is not an inexpensive past time. It’s also not for the lazy, and to be honest I kind of love lazy vacations.
We wanted to rent an RV to test the waters. If you’re thinking about buying an RV, I would definitely recommend some trips with a rented one before you commit to the expense of your own.
We’ve decided we’ll probably do this a few times a year. My dream is to rent a motorhome and take a couple of longer trips around the US…hopefully that will happen at some point, too! There are so many places to go, so many things to see…I can’t wait to do them all.
Here are a couple RV resources for you if you’re thinkin about renting an RV for a family vacation:
- If you’re in North Texas, Campers4Rent is a great place to rent from.
- RVs not your thing? Here’s my comparison of hotels vs Airbnbs (or most vacation rentals, actually).