Never say “never”… to taking an RV on a road trip, that is. Yep, we did it. We rented an RV for spring break and drove to New Orleans to visit my fully vaccinated parents.
It’s always been Charlie’s dream to drive an RV across the country. Somehow Luke found that to be exciting as well…or maybe Charlie has a great way of persuading Luke.
We have been so used to flying somewhere for spring break. But we figured with the pandemic still around and the twins (who are 2.5 years old) not being able to keep their masks on for a long period of time, we figured an RV would be the answer and fun trip for the whole family.
I did a little research on where to rent RVs. At first, I saw a lot of sites on Airbnb-like RV rentals popped up. Although they seemed pretty reasonable, I couldn’t find something that would fit a family of 5. Plus, I didn’t know a lot about RVs so it would be taking a huge risk. Then I stumbled on CruiseAmerica, which is basically the car rental company for RVs. Then I saw that they have two Chicagoland locations. Perfect! I read some reviews and felt a bit more comfortable about them. They have four RV sizes you can rent from and you can get a quote online. We called the O’Hare CruiseAmerica location just to talk to someone to get more information on the rental process, etc. Then we decided CruiseAmerica’s Standard RV, which fits a maximum of 5 people.
We used CruiseAmerica’s website to learn more information on the RV. I also found this very informative and helpful article on USA Today for first timers driving/renting an RV that has 8 tips for newbies like us.
We mapped out our trip to include two days of driving to New Orleans with two nights at RV campsites and two days back with two nights an RV campsites so that Charlie wouldn’t be driving all day.
Overall, we had such a fun and memorable trip. We were not stressed about being on time and there was less worry about getting Covid as we remained in our RV most of the time
What we loved about our first RV road trip
It’s convenient – Renting an RV is fun with kids because they are so excited to be in a bigger space while driving. We loved the convenience of our trip. Although we mapped out our trip and planned on where to go and stay along the way, we were not tied to a strict time schedule. Unlike flying where you have to be at the airport at a certain time to avoid missing your flight, we could be an hour late into our schedule and it was okay.
We only had to pack and unpack once. When we arrived at my parents’ house, we parked the RV in the driveway and took what we needed out of the RV. When we came home to Chicago, we just unpacked everything from it. Unlike flying where you are only limited to a certain number of bags and weight, it was great to just put whatever you need in the RV. To be honest, I think we overpacked the RV.
You can use the bathroom anytime you need. Although we had to stop the RV or park it at a gas station, it was very convenient to not leave the RV and use a public bathroom.
There was plenty of room for storage and food could be stored in a refrigerator. We stocked up on food and snacks for our trip so that we didn’t have to make many stops to refill.
What we learned from our first RV road trip
It’s loud – At first we were annoyed that the RV was very loud while driving where we couldn’t hear each other. Then we found out on our way home that there was a part near the driver seat that needed to be tightened/closed. It made the remaining four hour drive back a little better, but still loud.
It’s a bumpy ride – It is not recommended that you walk around while the RV is driving but at times I had to get up to get snacks/food for the boys. Trust me, it’s hard to keep a good balance. At times, things would fall off the counter or tables. It’s not the smoothest ride.
We overpacked – We brought our blankets and pillows on the RV for sleeping but I think we overpacked. The next time, everyone will have their own sleeping bags, which will make it a lot easier to pack and unpack.
It gets cold – We were on spring break during late March and it got cold in the RV, which thankfully has a heater. The RV is not insulated like a house so it does get very cold at night.
Plan ahead – The USA Today article mentioned calling ahead to secure your spot at the RV campsites. We did so a day or so ahead and were a bit worried we couldn’t find a spot at some. I think we will do a better job of planning on where to stop and secure a spot a week or so in advance. And not all campgrounds are created equal. LOL.
It’s not fuel efficient – The RV takes a lot of gas and only averaged about 9 miles/gallon. So be ready for the high gas fill ups!
Make sure you’ve fu
You can’t just park it anywhere – The RV is a big vehicle. So it takes up multiple parking spots if you need to stop at a grocery story or if you want to venture out in the city.
Our experience with renting from CruiseAmerica
Renting from CruiseAmerica was fairly easy. You can do it online or call and make reservations by phone. The initial rate online does not include the cost of mileage. So although it may look reasonable at first based on rate/day, once you complete your online quote, you need to enter in the mileage where you can see a significant jump.
We picked up our RV at the O’Hare location at a pre-determined time that CruiseAmerica gave us. We had to wait almost an hour to get the RV, which I found a bit frustrating. Maybe they were busy because of the spring rentals so I wasn’t expecting that long of a wait.
Drop off was fairly easy. They inspect the RV and make sure you have emptied out the toilet and that the RV fairly clean.
Overall, I think we would rent from CruiseAmerica again. We’ve learned a few things from our first trip so I think we will be more prepared next time. I’m sharing some pictures of the interior of our RV if you’re curious on how it looks like.