Fudgebudget

Wherein I express myriad incredulities

On RVs

leave a comment »

When I worked at Yellowstone, rangers used to say that rental RVs were the most dangerous thing in the park. Not bears, not bison, not pools of boiling sulphur water – rental RVs.

Unless you have a CDL, are a particularly skilled driver, or have too much money on your hands and don’t want to give it to me, you don’t need to rent an RV. I don’t know when RVs became some weird compulsory angle to our perverted idea of classic Americana, but it’s over. It should stop. Unless you are a hipster who wants to make espresso in a parked Airstream, RVs can die.

Here are some of the myriad reasons that you don’t need to call a rental RV company for your next vacation:

1. Money. Gas is crazy expensive, and those things get like 7 miles per gallon (I’m dead serious, check out the Cruise America FAQ)  for a 55 gallon tank. You will then get 385 miles per tank. At an average cost of $3.79/gallon as of May 30 according to the EIA, you will pay $208 for a tank that will take you the distance equivalent to driving from Los Angeles to Sacramento. So if you are one of those people who harbors a romanticized vision of RVing across the country from, say, Los Angeles to New York, you will driving at LEAST 2,790 miles. That’s approximately 7.25 tanks of gas, or $1,510. And that’s just gas.

2. Money. You will have to find somewhere to park that thing at night and dump the sewage contents. Sleepy Hollow RV Park in Iowa City (which is right off I-80 if you’re taking the express route from LA to New York in your RV) charges $26/night for a standard back-in spot (let’s assume you’re not going all out with the deluxe pull through, which is $34/night), so let’s assume that price for every night you spend in your RV. If you drive 500 miles a day (and that’s a lot of driving and not much getting-out-of-the-car-and-enjoying-America), you will need to spend at least 5 nights in campsites. $26 x 5 nights = $130. We are now up to $1,640 for this vacation, which does not include meals or park admissions or taxes or anything else.

3. Money. Oh wait, you’re going to have to get back home after reaching New York. Now you have to drive back to LA. Going the expedient route, it’s another 5 days and 2,790 miles in the car. Your gas and lodging bill just went up to $3,280, and that STILL doesn’t include meals or park admissions or DVDs so the kids don’t kill each other or the RV itself.

4. Money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to rent an RV from Cruise America? I just priced a standard RV to rent from July 19 – 30 and it was $2,189.00.  That does not include taxes, fuel, or anything. That’s just for the privilege of driving a giant death wagon around for 11 days. Oh, and they also charge for miles – $352 for 1,100 of them. Our trip, at minimum, is 5,580, or almost exactly 5 of their mile allotments, so add $1,785.60 to your vacation tally.

We are now up to $5,065.60, not including meals or entertainment. For your family of 5, you are paying almost $100 per day per person.

5. Safety. Because, yes, there are multiple angles to this argument. There is a reason that park rangers say RVs are so dangerous. How many times have I seen RVs come close to running people off the road? TONS. Parks like Yellowstone are already a little dangerous because small cars will stop without regard for anyone else when they see a bison. An RV is a lot bigger than a Corolla, and losing control of yourself or your vehicle in an RV is scary for you, everyone in the RV, everyone around the RV, and any wildlife that may be present and/or now dead or injured.

6. Space. There’s no hotel room to look forward to at the end of a long day of driving. You’re basically living in a box.

Some solutions to the money, safety, and space problems (because no one likes the jerk who points out a ton of problems without offering a solution):

1. Take the family car, preferably something that gets at least 25mpg on the freeway. I was a kid once, and I remember how small the car would start to feel after a few hours (especially when Mom would put the back of the passenger seat down all the way when you were sitting behind her), but that’s when you find something interesting off the road to go check out and stretch your legs, like historical markers or a scenic viewpoint or a Chevron with a particularly nice candy selection. Do some research ahead of time to find some planned stops so people have something to look forward to. Also, most people have the internet on their phones nowadays, you can look for interesting things to do while you’re already in the car. Anyway, if kids don’t endure any hardship they will find it harder to develop camaraderie with their peers when they go to college.

2. If you plan ahead and use Hotwire or Priceline, or even just take a laptop out on the road with you and find a wifi spot in whatever town you like, you can stay at a hotel with more room than your RV for no more than $60/night almost everywhere. I know because I’ve done it.

3. Invest in a National Parks Annual Pass. It’s $80, and it gets you into any national park or monument with possible discounts for camping. My love for the National Parks Service knows no bounds, and taking in our natural wonders is impossible to over-romanticize, even (and especially) without the RV.

4. Consider camping. It’s cheap, and kids love it. Plus, most camp sites are big enough for more than one tent, which means adults and kids can have their own space.

5. If you’re doing a lot of driving in a park like Yellowstone, don’t make one person do all of the driving if at all possible. Switch off so that everyone has a chance to really take things in, and pull over to get out of the car frequently. This will hopefully prevent the immediate loss of IQ that happens to so many people when there are pretty and impressive things around them, both in RVs and cars alike.

6. Alter your driving habits to be more efficient. Coast as much as you can, don’t accelerate quickly, and don’t speed (especially if you’re brown in Arizona – you’re not being paranoid if someone really is out to get you). I drive a tiny Civic, and lord knows I’m not the person you want to be behind on a long climb, but that’s what passing lanes are for. The last time I drove through mountains I got about 42 mpg, and my Civic isn’t a hybrid.

This is probably the most practical post I’ve made, but between my obvious contempt for rental RVs and my love for roadtrips and our park systems, it felt worthwhile. If you’re just here to watch me be an idiot, the Idiot will be back soon.

Advertisements

Written by fudgebudget

June 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: