I NEVER THOUGHT I would love RV living, but when a work project with a documentary film company put me on the road in a recreation vehicle for a three-month stint, I discovered just how incredible an RV trip can be. My summer spent in a 26-foot Phoenix Flyer was one of the best experiences of my life, and it became only the first of many RV adventures.
While RV buzz is spreading, outdated assumptions might be keeping you from the driver’s seat. Don’t let these inaccurate perceptions stand in the way of your own RV experience. To that end, here are nine myths about RVs that need to be debunked.
Myth #1: RVs are big and hard to drive.
Reality: You don’t have to be Mario Andretti or a big-rig driver to be comfortable behind the wheel of many motorhomes or tow vehicles. Even if your day-to-day driving is done in a smart car, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. RVs come in so many sizes, from motorhomes big enough to house a rock band to small, lightweight travel trailers that can be towed behind your family vehicle. Some measure just a bit larger than an SUV, and fuel efficiency and weight are improving every year. It isn’t hard to find a vehicle that fits your budget, your garage, and your comfort level.
As for actually driving one, you’ll want to be mindful of parking structures and bridge overheads and take time when first learning to back up. RV insurance is important to keep you covered, so even if anything does go wrong, it’ll be totally okay.
Myth #2: RVs are only for older people.
Reality: Younger travelers are quickly “discovering” that RVs are pretty amazing. According to an article last year in the NY Post, the millennial generation is hitting the road in record numbers to reinvigorate this $50-billion-a-year industry. Retro is cool again, so whether it’s a folding camping trailer that recalls childhood campfire songs and canoeing trips, or an ultra-sleek Airstream Classic, younger people are finding that RV culture aligns with the remote working setups and choose-your-own-adventure life paths that so many in their 20s and 30s desire. Logging into your job while simultaneously logging miles on the road is freedom in a nutshell.
In my case, the chance to kick off work and get immediately into fun was one of the key benefits of living and working out of an RV. But even for those with more traditional jobs, or families in tow, RV culture makes for the perfect, impromptu hipster getaway. (Plus, those little sinks and fridges are adorable.)
Myth #3: You can’t take an RV to the city.
Reality: Of course, taking an RV to a national park or other natural destination is a classic option, but RVs can be a great way to get around the rest of the country, too. One major misconception is that RVs and city life aren’t compatible. In reality, many cities offer a space where RVs can hook up to services. One of my favorite RV parks was a pretty spot just a few blocks away from the nightlife of Santa Fe — we zipped into town for some city fun, and then drove up into the mountains to eat dinner at an outdoor restaurant and watch the sunset over the Jemez.
But it’s not all campgrounds and RV parks, either. For a small fee, sites like Boondockers Welcome can connect you with private property owners who’ll let RVers camp on their land, and Couchsurfing and other free travel sites can help with more challenging locales. One of the perks of RV travel is how easy it is to reach out and make friends, so don’t skip city stops on your trip.
Myth #4: RVs cramp your style.
Reality: No doubt RVs are cool, but they can also be comfortable. The tiny house movement has already taught us that it’s not about size, but making sure you maximize it. From quaint to grand, the key to comfort is finding the right RV for your needs. Make sure you have enough sleeping spots for everyone to stretch out, and that you decide how long your trips will be before you buy or rent — you might spring for a little extra room if you’re planning longer-term voyages.
Regardless, space is the best part about RV travel. On-board entertainment silences any “are we there yets?” and campsite and RV parks often offer clean showers and gyms, making any potentially tight spaces feel more spacious.
Myth #5: RVs can’t be luxurious.
Reality: Hello! Can you say slide-outs? Flat-screen TVs, dishwashers, and walk-in closets? RVs can be outfitted to go way beyond glamping, so touring Yosemite and having heated marble floors don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Luxury RVs function like tiny mansions on wheels. So if your travel buddies need their daily lattes and full-size showers, that’s no reason to stop you from living the RV life.
Case in point — one of the most expensive models ever made sold in Dubai a couple of years ago for a cool 3 million. Yeah, RVs can do luxury. But don’t worry — there’s one for every budget (more on that in a bit).
Myth #6: You have to be an expert before you go.
Reality: I didn’t know anything when I ventured out for my first trip in an RV, but the learning curve is short and easy, especially with smaller options. Not to mention, a whole RV community is available online to help you out, and in my experience, those within RV circles are friendly and want to help others learn the ropes (or hookups, as it were). Sites like Hipcamp and Campendium help make planning easier, too.
The real benefit of RVs, though, is that they allow you to pick up and go. This makes for the most incredible last-minute escapades — the only skill required is the ability to trade fear for freedom.
Myth #7: RVs are expensive.
Reality: I chose to rent my first RV because it was the most cost effective way for me to make the trip. What I ended up with was a unique experience and a traveling home. Work days could be long and stressful, and it was nice to be able to return to my Phoenix Flyer and have a zone to decompress. Over the months I was on the road, I came to love my RV like my own home, and I even missed it when I got back to New York City.
Top-end RVs can cost as much as the average California bungalow, but you can be on the road for as little as $6,000. What’s more, RVs can be financed, just like cars. Plus, saving money on hotels, rental cars, and airfare adds up in the long run, making the initial investment totally worth it, especially for longer trips.
Myth #8: RVs are only for big adventures.
Reality: While there are people who use their RVs for months-long journeys or to live on the road full time, they’re just as useful for day trips. An RV buddy of mine bought a used truck camper that he takes to Hana in Maui for long weekends with the kids. Some friends I know use their RVs to make day-long festivals more fun and to tailgate at football games. RVs even add a little extra prep space during house parties or serve as a guest cabin when the in-laws come to town. Of course, the best way to use an RV is to roam, but when you can’t hit the highways, they still add value to your day-to-day.
Myth #9: Any trip in an RV is nothing special.
Reality: I’ve traveled the world, but the memories I’ve made during my RV vacations stand out. Like the night at Mother Neff State Park in Texas when a flurry of fireflies swarmed into the darkness like a galaxy of stars.
My RV memories are about stopping along a highway in Colorado to dip into hot springs that look out onto the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies. Cruising through the loamy and lush spaces of the Everglades, snorkeling in warm evening air at Florida’s John Pennekamp State Park. RV experiences are about driving down backroads with the music playing and the highway unfurling in front of you. They are freedom and joy and spontaneity, with all the comfort of a portable apartment. Don’t ever let anyone say it’s just another boring vacation.