Try before you buy
One way to test-drive the RV lifestyle is to rent one first. Cruise America rents vehicles for $300 to $700 a week. When you consider what even the cheapest motels might cost, that's a pretty good deal — the Recreational Vehicle Rental Association (RVRA) claims RVs save a family of four "up to 57 percent on vacation costs over other forms of travel." The RVRA also has a search feature for rental facilities.
There are caveats, of course. You're still responsible for fuel, fees, cleaning and damages. Your car insurance won't extend to the RV, but you can buy from the facility or check if your insurance company can add RV to your existing plan on a temporary basis.
Tip: RV rental companies charge high cleaning fees. Be especially vigilant about smoking, kids and pets in the vehicle.
The sky's the limit for where you can go in an RV. You can plan theme trips, such as visiting national parks, or a Napa Valley winery tour.
Campgrounds cost $10 to $50 per night, though the fanciest are up to $200. A guide like Woodall's North American Campground Directory is helpful. You'll probably want campgrounds with full RV plug-ins for water, electricity and sewage. Be sure to book well in advance for peak months and holidays.
The Good Sam Club can make the most of your trip with members-exclusive benefits to more than 1,600 approved campgrounds, some of which have movie theaters, karaoke and other social events. In addition, they offer discounts both at the campground and on equipment or accessories you might need along the way.
Kampgrounds of America has a long history of offering an affordable and family-oriented camping experience, whether you're camping in tents, or luxuriating inside an air-conditioned Class A supermodel.
Tip: The National Parks Service Senior Pass is only $10 and grants lifetime admission to anyone 62 and older to all federal grounds, as well as discounts on camping, boating and other activities.
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